Fire Safety

Fire Safety

Most Common Causes of House Fires

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) collects data from a variety of sources to provide information and analyses on the status and scope of the fire problem in the United States.  Based on their research, in 2017 there were over 1.3 million fires in the United States.  Of these 3,400 people died and 14,670 were injured with a total cost of $23 billion in loss.  The question is: how can we protect ourselves and our homes from fire?  

I have listed the most common causes of house fires and some tips to prevent it from happening to you.

Cooking

Pots and pans boiling over and faulty appliances such as a blender or toaster can cause a fire.  Never leave a hot stove unattended while cooking.  If you must leave the room, have someone come in a take over for you until you return. It is also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher somewhere in the kitchen (I keep mine under the sink).  Different sizes are available at your home improvement store.  Never throw water on a grease fire.  Always cover the flames with a lid.   

Electrical Equipment

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), home electrical fires cause about 51,000 fires annually. These can be caused by frayed wiring on appliances, overloaded and overtaxed power strips, and lack of maintenance on larger appliances such as the clothes dryer.  If you notice fraying on electrical cords, replace the item immediately before it has a chance to spark.  Do not overload power cords or fuses. It’s wise to contact an electrician to add more fuses to your electrical box so keep it from getting overloaded as well as add a whole house power surge protector.  Be sure to clean your dryer lent tray after every load and a couple times a year, clean out the dryer vent.  For tips on how to maintain your dryer click here.     

Smoking

Smoking is not only bad for your health it can be bad for your home.  Did you know that 73% of all house fire fatalities are caused by a cigarette?  If you must smoke, make sure the cigarette butts are completely out because they can stay lit for hours.  If you use an e-cig, make sure to monitor the battery when it is charging and do not put batteries in your pocket.  They can spark and explode when in contact with other metal objects, such as keys, coins, etc.  For more information on how to avoid vape battery explosions click here

Candles

For many burning candles is a no brainer in regards to accidental fires.  If you love the ambiance candles create, consider switching to battery operated LED candles or flameless candles.  For scents, try an electrical scent warmer or diffuser.  When only real candles will do, make sure to keep them away from anything flammable, and never leave them unattended.

Heating 

Winter will be here before you know it.  Portable heaters accounted for 1/3 of all house fires between 2007-2011.  To ensure your space heater will keep you toasty warm all season long, make sure to have it inspected and maintained annually, keep everything at least three feet away from it, always turn off the heater when leaving the room or going to bed.  

Smoke Detectors

Okay, smoke detectors don’t cause fires, but the lack of them can cause a fire to go on longer than necessary.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends a smoke detector outside of every sleeping area and at least one on each floor.  Having one close to the kitchen (but not too close – cooking can cause false alarms) can deter large cooking fires.  When installing follow the manufactures directions, test the alarm once a month, and replace batteries at least once a year or when it starts beeping indicating low battery.  

Pets

Of course we can’t forget our four-legged friends.

For more tips on fire safety click on the links below:

https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safety-equipment/Smoke-alarms/Installing-and-maintaining-smoke-alarms

https://neckerman.com/6-most-common-fire-hazards-in-the-home/

https://turlockvet.com/fire-safety/

Please take a moment to make sure you follow me on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest for other life tips and all things real estate. 

Estate Planning 101 – Part Two

Estate Planning 101 – Part Two

Estate Planning 101

Part Two

Part two of this blog series touches on wills and testaments. 

Wills are important. They insure your final wishes are implemented.  Having a will is not just for the wealthy as many believe.  It is often presumed that everything will automatically go to their spouse in the event of their death.  This is not always the case. In the state of Texas, if you die without a will, your estate will automatically transfer to your next of “blood” kin.  In other words:

  • If you are single w/o children – your entire estate will transfer to your sibling(s), parents, or nieces and nephews depending on the statute.
  • If you are single w/children – your children will inherit your estate.  If they are underage, they could be sent to live with their nearest blood relative and that person would be in charge of their inheritance until they are of age.
  • If you are married w/o children – your spouse will inherit the community property (what you have acquired as a married couple), and your next of kin (sibling, parent, etc.) would receive your personal property (things you acquired before marriage or solely in your name depending on the statute).
  • If you are married w/children – your spouse would receive the community property and only receive one-third of your separate personal property and a life estate (the right to use the property until his or her death).  The remainder would be inherited outright by the children of the deceased.
  • If you are married w/o children – your spouse would be entitled to the community property and your entire personal property, but if the deceased has siblings or parents, the surviving spouse is only entitled to half of the personal property.  The remainder would be passed off to the parents, siblings, or decedents of siblings as set forth by the statute.

As you can see, dispersing of one’s property is not as cut and dry as we would like to believe.  It really is in your loved ones best interest to have a decree in place so there is no confusion or conflict. If you would like research further, click on the link for a more thorough explanation: Texas Estate Codes.

A will and testament allows you to name a guardian for your children if the other parent is unfit or deceased, how long you wish to remain on life support (if at all), how you want your remains to be handled, and of course who or what will receive any personal property or money.

It is best to consult with a qualified attorney.  Estate attorneys are well versed in the state’s laws regarding community and personal property and can make recommendations if you decide to set up a trust for your heirs or for handling complicated business or personal issues. 

If your instructions are fairly cut and dry, there are websites and software options that make it easy to do it yourself for a fraction of the cost.  Legal Zoom and Quicken WillMaker Plus are two highly rated do-it-yourself will and testament options.

I welcome all comments and questions.  Please follow me on social media and subscribe to the blog by filling out my contact card.

 

Estate Planning 101 – Part One

Estate Planning 101 – Part One

Part One

The idea of estate planning can be unnerving.  It is difficult to think about our own mortality and the mortality of our loved ones.  This however is a topic that should be addressed.  Many do not know what needs to happen once a person dies.  For this reason, listed below are a few hints to assist you in getting your affairs in order.  This will insure that your family will not have the added stress of making decisions for (and paying for) your funeral, divvying up your worldly possessions, and most importantly the guardianship of your child(ren). 

First contact a trusted attorney to insure that you have a will and a medical living will in place. (Will blog this topic in the near future.)

Part One of this blog series will address the cost and options for a funeral.

The average cost of a funeral was $7,000+ in 2017.  This includes funeral planning, permits, the burial, viewing, embalming, and transportation to the burial site.  This amount may not include a higher end casket, flowers, headstone, or catering.  Costs can easily be in excess of $10,000. 

Here are few things thoughts to consider:

  • Shop around.  Funeral homes have different rates and may include different services for the same cost.
  • Casket Selection.  An average caskets cost $2,000, but the selection can easily be as much as $10,000.  If this is not a priority, simply ask the funeral director for economical options.  Funeral law states the director must show you what options the company has and the price before showing you the actual casket. 
  • Burial Vaults or Grave Liners are not required by law and funeral directors may not disclose.  Although, many cemeteries require some kind of outer burial liner to keep the casket from shifting in the future.
  • Burial or Cremation.  Being cremated reduces the cost by thousands of dollars.
  • Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial saves money on embalming services, hair/makeup, and viewing costs at the funeral home.
  • Go green.  Green funerals usually means a simple biodegradable wooden box instead of a casket, and no embalming.  This allows the body to decompose naturally and return to the earth. 
  • Space Services.  Go into space with a space burial.  For a fee Space Services can fit lipstick size container of ashes to free space on rockets already being launched with satellites.  The ashes will orbit Earth for years or centuries until the vessel returns back to the atmosphere and incinerates.

It is a good idea to begin saving up for the inevitable.  Consider setting up a dedicated savings account and share the access with your executor to insure easy access or buy a bond for the person planning your funeral.  You can finance, plan and pay for the service through the funeral home of your choosing.