Reducing Risks While Taking Care Of Business: Tips To Avoid Distracted Driving

using phone while drivingThe pace of business never seems to stop, and thanks to the convenience of cell phones, many people work on the go, even while they’re driving. Yet cell phone use is one of the most common type of distracted driving, and it claims thousands of lives and causes thousands more injuries every year.

More than a quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use, both hand sets and hands-free, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports. In 13 percent of fatal crashes, the drivers were using cellphones, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. The actual number of cell phone-related accidents is likely much higher, since many states don’t yet compile and report data on cell phone use following a crash.

Employers take up the issue

Recognizing the ethical and liability issues that arise when employees drive while distracted, employers across the country have begun implementing distracted driving policies. Typically, these policies prohibit employees from using cellphones while driving on company time.

In January 2017, the NSC reported that Cargill was the largest privately held company to prohibit the use of mobile devices, including hands-free technology, while an employee is driving on behalf of the company. The ban also covers work related calls while commuting to and from work, even if employees are driving their own vehicles.

“There is a time and place for doing business, and it’s not while you’re driving,” says Melanie Burke, director of health and safety at Cargill, a Minnesota-based privately held company with 150,000 employees around the world.

Even Cargill’s Chairman and CEO David MacLennan is subject to the ban. In announcing the policy to employees in late 2016, MacLennan noted he was 138 days into cell-phone free motoring. “It’s been liberating,” he told employees.

NSC data shows about 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have instituted cell phone bans, and of those, just 1 percent believe the ban affected productivity.

Replace risk, keep productivity

Taking care of business doesn’t mean you have to risk a crash. Here are six ways to keep up with the pace of business without using your cell phone in the car:

* Use an automated response app to let callers know you’re driving and can’t take their call at the moment. These free apps allow you to personalize the response and set your phone to automatically reply with a text message to incoming calls or texts.

* If you’re driving a vehicle outfitted with communication technology, use its “do not disturb” feature to unplug from calls and texts while behind the wheel.

* Use shared calendars to block off times when you’ll be on the road and unable to answer a call. The calendar item will help alert coworkers and anyone else connected to your calendar when you’ll be out of touch and when they might be able to reach you again.

* Remove temptation. A study by AT&T found 62 percent of drivers keep their phones within reach in the car. Put yours away where you can’t see or reach it. You can place it in your purse, briefcase or messenger bag, and place the bag in the back seat. Further reduce distraction and temptation by turning your device off before stowing it.

* If you absolutely must take a call while on the road, pull over in a safe location. If a call comes in while you’re driving, allow it to go to voicemail until you’re safely pulled over, then return the call.

* Be aware of other dangerously distracting behaviors, such as putting on makeup, tying a necktie or eating while driving. Do all your dressing and personal grooming before you leave home, and if you must snack while driving, choose food that is easy to manage, like a granola bar (unwrap it when you’re stopped), rather than something messy like a burger with all the fixings.

“Before we had cellphones, if you had to take a business call while on the road, you would pull over and find a pay phone,” says Burke. “Productivity was fine and business got done. When it comes to time behind the wheel, safety is everyone’s most important job.” – (BPT)

 

5 Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

 

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5 Easy Ways To ‘Charge Up’ Your Recycling Habits

recycling batteriesAmericans generate about 254 million tons of trash annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent figures, and only about one-third of that waste is recycled. For many, one of the main barriers to recycling is not knowing how or where to recycle certain items.

For instance, many household cordless products we use every day are powered by rechargeable batteries. These batteries are not only recyclable, but contain materials that are potentially harmful to the environment if thrown in the trash. In fact, at least 20 percent of people are holding on to their used batteries because they know they shouldn’t be tossed out — but they don’t know where to dispose of them.

You can be part of the solution to reduce waste by learning how to properly recycle the products you use every day. Celebrate America Recycles Day — Tuesday, Nov. 15 — by incorporating the following into your recycling routine.

Check household “recyclable” items.

Aluminum cans and plastic bottles are the most commonly recycled items, but lots of other items found around the house can be recycled, as well. Start recycling plastic bags and paper towels right in your curbside bin. Pin a sign in the kitchen to remind kids they can throw napkins and sandwich baggies in, too.

Designate a separate container for rechargeable batteries from old cordless products and look up the nearest participating collection site so you know exactly where to go when the container is full.

Dump your stash.

Are you a battery hoarder? Do you have a drawer in the house filled with dead batteries? You aren’t alone. Establish a monthly routine when you sort through the junk drawer and gather up old electronics and used batteries to drop off while running other errands.

A study commissioned by Call2Recycle, Inc. found that an estimated 6.7 billion batteries were sold into U.S. markets in 2014. Of that number, 30 percent were rechargeable batteries available to be recycled. The Call2Recycle program makes it easy to be a responsible battery user with its network of more than 30,000 drop-off locations including retail stores in your own community that you may already visit regularly, like Best Buy, Lowe’s, Sears, Staples, The Home Depot and more. Find a battery collection site near you by visiting www.call2recycle.org/locator.

Buy recycled products.

Recycling gives new life to old products by turning them into new ones. By using recycled materials in their products, manufacturers conserve energy and natural resources and reduce waste in landfills. Checking the labels for products that are recycled and eco-friendly when making a purchase is the easiest way to be a responsible consumer.

Participate in a local community recycling event — or create your own.

Thousands of events are organized nationwide on America Recycles Day to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying products made from recycled materials. Get involved!

Host your own battery-specific recycling drive and invite your community to contribute their battery “hoards.” Your neighbors will thank you.

Take the #BeRecycled pledge.

Take the “I Will Recycle” pledge and commit to incorporating more green activities into your everyday routine. Start by selecting a specific item you use frequently and pledge to recycle more of that item in the future. By starting small, there is a greater chance you’ll continue throughout the year. Your efforts can inspire your family and friends to take the pledge and join you in incorporating environmentally-friendly behavior into their everyday lives.

These eco-friendly activities are simple and easy to incorporate and can help you lead a greener lifestyle, not just on America Recycles Day, but all year. By including one new item into your recycling routine — such as batteries — you can make a positive impact. Not only does this keep batteries out of landfills, but when recycled, valuable materials can be recovered and used in new stainless steel products, such as golf clubs, batteries and other products. – (BPT)

 

Top Ten Tips for Recycling

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Self-employed? Tips To Help You Navigate The Mortgage Process

Sponsored ad content by Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.

When you’re self-employed, you often work harder than anyone else you know. That’s what it takes to be your own boss. While rewarding, it comes with a lot of added responsibility. This is especially true when applying for a mortgage.

“Self-employment can complicate the mortgage process for one very simple but critically important reason,” says Eric Hamilton, president of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance. “Lenders need to know you will have the income to afford a loan payment. This sometimes requires people who are self-employed to provide more detailed information and paperwork than those who are traditionally employed.”

Proof of income

It’s not only good business sense for lenders to know a borrower can afford a mortgage before they make a loan, federal law also requires they do so. The evaluation process typically requires fewer steps for people who aren’t self-employed – those who get a salary for working for another person or company. The lender will review the applicant’s total income, existing debt, credit history and score, as well as other factors, and base the decision on that information.

However, when you’re self-employed, proving your income can be more complex. About 10 percent of people working in America are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you’re among those 15 million people, it can be more difficult for you to document your income and prove you can afford to pay back the amount you’re asking to borrow.

“Lenders may ask self-employed applicants to complete a 4506T form, which allows the lender to look at the applicant’s tax documents, including recent income filings,” Hamilton says. “They will also likely request a professionally prepared profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet for the business to show you have steady income throughout the year between tax-filing times.”

Improving your chances of approval

Fortunately, if you’re self-employed, you can take steps to be better prepared when beginning the mortgage application process. Hamilton and the team at Vanderbilt, which specializes in financing mortgages for manufactured homes, offer some tips:

* Before you apply for a loan, pay off as much debt as possible. Mortgage lenders will consider your debt-to-income ratio, which compares your total income to the total amount you owe.

* Save up a substantial down payment.

* Work to improve your credit score by paying all bills on time and reducing your debt. Payment history and credit-utilization ratio (the total credit you have available compared to the amount you’re actually using) are important factors in determining your credit scores.

“Being prepared before you start a mortgage application and getting your finances in order can help make the mortgage process go much smoother,” Hamilton says. “The mortgage application process is just one step on your journey to home ownership, but it’s an important one.”

To learn more about mortgages for manufactured homes, visit www.VMF.com.

All loans subject to credit approval.

Sponsored ad content by Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.

NMLS Disclosure

Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, (http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, Licensed by the NH Banking Department, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking. – (BPT)

 

8 Easy Steps to Understand the Mortgage Process!

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5 Tips To Protect Your Devices From Cybercrime

Your smartphone, your tablet, your computer – they are some of your most important and most used possessions. They are the daily tools you use for research, to connect with others and make purchases. You take them everywhere and fill them with your important, personal information.

And all of that makes them the perfect targets for a cyberattack.

The number of cybercrime incidents in the United States grows each year, and as Americans move into an increasingly digital society – thanks to smart phones, smart cars and smart in-home technologies – cybercrime is expected to grow in frequency again in 2017. Protecting yourself, your family and the vital information on your devices means increasing your focus on your own cybersecurity. That starts with these five tips.

* Recognize you’re not immune. Cyberattacks increase in frequency and severity every year, so don’t make the mistake of believing it can’t happen to you. “It’s important to protect yourself by taking personal responsibility for your data; we can’t expect banks or other institutions to do it for us,” said Jim Karagiannes, Ph.D., professor in DeVry University’s College of Engineering & Information Services. “We lock our doors and take other security measures to protect our home and car. We need to also take precautions with our personal security and information.”

* Don’t store your username, password or credit card information with a website. The convenience makes it tempting, but websites are a popular target for cybercriminals because a successful hack gives them access to hundreds or thousands of files, including yours. Even storing this information on your own computer can expose it in a cyberattack, and if your credit card information is captured, criminals can use it to gather your social security number. That exposes you to identify theft. Keep this information off your devices and, instead, create complex passwords and write down all of your usernames and passwords on a piece of paper that you keep in a safe place, such as a deposit box.

* Use only a credit card, not a debit card, when making online purchases. Using your credit card instead of your debit card allows you to keep better track of the purchases you have made. It also limits the effects of any possible theft to just the one card instead of several. If you have no choice but to use a debit card for an online purchase, do not use your pin number online.

* If it feels like a trick, it probably is. Cybercriminals often engage in “social engineering” or other non-electronic methods to try and trick you into surrendering your data. If you get a phone call about a banking or credit card issue or if your computer tells you to call a number because it just caught a virus, be cautious. Do not divulge any personal history or credit card details. Hang up or ignore the computer-generated notices and call the customer service number of the institution’s website with any questions.

* Replace your existing credit cards with chip cards as soon as possible. Chip cards are becoming the new normal these days, and if your current credit card does not have a silver square chip on its front, consider replacing it quickly. Popularized in Europe, chip cards possess the necessary encrypted information to eliminate delays in the transaction process. Doing so closes the window criminals need to steal your personal information, thus protecting you from identity theft.

You have no intention of abandoning your devices, of course, so protect them. Following the tips above will help better secure your technology and personal information from the threats of cybercrime so you can enjoy your devices with greater peace of mind. – (BPT)

 

Protect Your Devices From Hackers – Don’t Get ‘0wned’

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Hosting Guests? 9 Easy Steps To Prep Your Home

Fast tips to protect your home when hosting guests

dining and living room area preparationHosting friends and family at your home is a guaranteed way to make long-lasting memories.

Not only will your guests be reminiscing about the wonderful chats and laughs you shared, but thanks to some quick tips from Minwax(R) spokesperson, Bruce Johnson, they’ll remember how great your home looked, too.

To prepare your home for guests, no matter how long they plan to stay, consider these 9 easy tips:

Mats and rugs: The sand and dirt on the bottom of guests’ shoes act like 60-grit sandpaper, wearing away your floor’s finish as they move from room to room. Protect your floors with fresh doormats and colorful rugs on each side of your doors. Plus, new rugs add a welcoming touch while instantly refreshing your space.

Fill furniture nicks: Make furniture look new again by filling in marks and scratches the easy way with Minwax(R) Stain Markers(TM). Available in a wide range of wood tone colors, Minwax Stain Markers have a convenient felt tip that delivers stain precisely where you need it, making your worn furniture look virtually new again.

Move fragile objects: Hosting can mean extra activity throughout a home and accidents can easily happen. Rather than a friend accidentally bumping into your grandma’s heirloom porcelain vase, opt to store it for a while. Breakables are best put away when guests are over, especially when hosting large parties.

Clean hardwood floors Keep your floors looking great for company with Minwax(R) Hardwood Floor Cleaner. It’s an easy to use cleaner that will gently remove dirt and grime, without leaving a soapy film behind.

Protect finishes: A great way to preserve and protect the finish on any of your wooden furniture is with a coat of Minwax(R) Paste Finishing Wax, in either natural or special dark. Rub it on, let it begin to dry, then buff with a soft cloth to a semi-gloss sheen.

Directions: Finicky furnace? Touchy toilet? Microwave with a mind of its own? Ease guests’ stay by posting a small note card with directions for anything that might not be obvious. You’ll make them feel at home!

Set out guest towels: Overnight guests will need to shower and prepare for the day. Set out extra towels and washrags for their use either by the guest bathroom sink or on their bed. Not only is this convenient, but it also encourages guests to wipe up wet messes which will eliminate future mold and mildew growth.

Protect tabletops: To avoid unintended white rings and water spots on wooden surface, apply a coat of Minwax(R) Wipe-On Poly a few days before your guests arrive. Then, set out coasters and trivets for easy use so guests stow drinks safely throughout your home.

Quick Cleanup: No need for a full cleanup after an event, but basic steps can help avoid long-lasting damage. Make sure to visit each room and pick up plates, cups, napkins and glasses. These often have moisture or food under them which can damage furniture (and smell) if left overnight. – (BPT)

 

Preparing for Guests on a Budget!

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Where To Find Rebates, Tax Credits And Rewards For Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

If you’re planning to make some home improvements this year, you’re probably thinking about energy-efficient options, knowing they can save you money in the long run. However, many eco-friendly home improvements that help lower your energy bills can also pay off right away in the form of rebates and tax credits.

Whether you’re considering installing an energy-efficient tankless water heater, putting solar panels on your house, or adding a skylight, chances are you can find a program that will put cash back in your pocket for improving your home’s energy efficiency. Here is where to look for rebates, tax credits and rewards for your energy-efficient home improvements:

Qualifying improvements

When you think of energy efficiency, insulation and appliances probably come to mind. But a number of improvements can help reduce your home’s energy consumption, and many of them qualify for tax credits, rebates and incentives from a variety of sources. The kind of improvements that can make your home more efficient and get you some cash back typically include:

* Solar energy systems (such as solar panels)

* Tankless water heaters

* Solar-powered appliances

* Energy-efficient windows and doors

* Skylights and solar-powered blinds

* Wood or wood-pellet stoves

* Home wind turbines

Manufacturer rebates and incentives

Makers of energy-efficient products and appliances often offer their own rebates to homeowners for making eco-friendly upgrades. If you’re considering an energy-efficient upgrade such as installing new windows, HVAC system or tankless water heater, be sure to ask the retailer or installer about any available manufacturer’s rebates.

For example, now through at least Feb. 15, 2017, you can get up to a $650 rebate on select tankless water heaters from Noritz. The average American household spends nearly 18 percent of its energy use on heating water, at a cost of $200-$600 per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient because they only heat water when you need it, rather than constantly consuming fuel to keep water hot in a tank. To learn more about tankless water heaters and the rebate, visit www.noritz.com.

Federal tax credits

Although many tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements expired at the end of 2016, some are still available. The federal government offers a tax credit of up to 30 percent for home solar energy systems through Dec. 31, 2019, and there’s no upper limit on the credit, according to EnergyStar.gov.

If you’ll be making energy-efficient home improvements, be sure to talk to your professional tax preparer about any credits or deductions that may be available to you from the federal government.

State-level programs

In addition to federal programs, a number of states offer their own incentives to encourage homeowners to make energy-efficient improvements. For example, Alabama allows homeowners to deduct 100 percent of the purchase price and installation costs of a wood-burning heating system. In Minnesota, homeowners can borrow up to $20,000 at 4.99 percent interest to make energy-efficient improvements such as water heaters, lighting, furnaces, air conditioners, insulation, windows, tankless water heaters and more.

You can find a searchable Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org.

Utility company incentives

Many utility companies also offer programs designed to help homeowners reduce energy consumption and save money. Typical programs include free LED or CFL bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs in a home, and rebates or discounts for installing energy-efficient HVAC equipment or programmable thermostats.

The best way to find out what programs your local utility offers is to check out their website or give them a call. You can also find state-specific lists of programs at www.dsireusa.org.

Energy-efficient home improvements pay off over the long-term by reducing your home’s energy consumption and utility bills. With a little bit of planning and legwork, you can also find rebates, tax credits and incentive programs that will also repay your eco-friendly investment right away. To learn more, visit Noritz.com, www.direusa.org, energy.gov, energystar.gov and irs.gov. – (BPT)

 

How to Make a House Energy Efficient

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Six Factors Driving The Cost Of Your New HVAC System

More than half of homes in the U.S were built before 1980, according to U.S. Census figures. With most home heating and ventilation systems lasting around 20 years, millions of American homeowners will be looking at replacing their HVAC systems this year. If you’ll be among them, understanding the factors that influence the cost of a system could help save you money in the long run.

“The cost of HVAC systems can vary widely, and most people who face replacing a system have never gone through the process before,” says Steve Hoffins, director of marketing, Luxaire, a heating and cooling systems manufacturer. “Sorting through your options can be challenging. However, finding the right system for your home can greatly influence energy efficiency, your home’s comfort and its resale value.”

Here are six factors that affect the cost of installing a new heating and cooling system, and what you should know about each:

The size of your home

You can probably guess that the larger the home, the bigger the system you’ll need to adequately heat and cool it. If a system is too small for the home, it will work harder, be less energy efficient and possibly wear out sooner.

However, too big isn’t better, either. In fact, says Hoffins, “Most homes have heating and cooling systems larger than they actually need.” A system that’s too large for a home can create uneven temperatures, poor humidity control, maintenance problems and a loss of efficiency.

Research can help you identify the size HVAC system that’s just right for your home. You can also ask your product dealer to provide a load calculation and energy analysis for your home.

Energy efficiency

Replacing an HVAC system affords you the chance to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save money over the long term. A quality, energy-efficient HVAC system may cost more than a less efficient one, but you can anticipate recouping the expense, plus additional savings over the lifetime of the system.

System type

From gas furnaces and split system air conditioners to heat pumps and packaged heating and cooling units, there are multiple ways to heat and cool your home. Most people replacing all or part of an HVAC system will opt to stick with the same type of system they’re replacing. However, you may find a different option will work better.

Different types of systems come with different product and installation costs. Before deciding what’s right for your home, research your options and talk to a qualified dealer about benefits and costs of each.

Ductwork

When you’re installing a new HVAC system, it’s important the ductwork in your home works with the type of system you’ve chosen, and that it’s been properly installed and maintained. Improper ductwork can create hot or cold spots in a home, reduce system efficiency and even allow the growth of mold from condensation. An HVAC professional can help you assess if your ductwork is in good shape before you invest in a new heating and cooling system.

Accessories

Certain types of accessories can make your new HVAC function more efficiently and provide you with greater ease of use. If your furnace is 20 years old, chances are good your thermostat is the same age, so you’ll want to replace that, too. Programmable thermostats can be reasonably priced and help enhance the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. Other accessories such as an electronic air cleaner can help enhance the air quality inside your home. You’ll want to carefully consider the accessories you’ll be adding, and factor them into the total anticipated cost of your new HVAC system.

How you’ll pay for it

Replacing an HVAC system costs thousands of dollars. If you don’t have enough cash saved to cover the cost, you may choose to finance all or part of the expense. You could use a credit card, but high interest rates mean you could end up paying thousands more in interest for your HVAC system. Manufacturer or dealer financing may be a lower-cost option. For example, select participating Luxaire contractors offer financing with appealing terms such as deferred interest, no interest with equal monthly payments and convenient monthly payment options.

To learn more about Luxaire home comfort systems, visit www.luxaire.com or follow @LuxaireHVAC on Twitter. – (BPT)

 

How Much does an HVAC System Cost?

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5 Easy Ways To Keep Your Family Comfortable During A Power Outage

Losing power at home is inconvenient. When it happens, the worst part is not knowing if the outage will last for a couple hours, or if it will stretch on for days. But if you take a little time to get organized and round up a few items today, you will be ready to keep your family comfortable when the lights go out.

“This time of year, a variety of causes can lead to a power outage and affect the length of the outage, as well,” says Ed Del Grande, a home improvement TV host, author and syndicated columnist. “Ice storms, high winds and other winter weather can damage transmission equipment and cause an outage. A little preparation can help you get through it safely and comfortably.”

Experts like Del Grande recommend grabbing an oversized plastic bin and loading it with the essentials so you’re ready when the lights go out.

Ready-to-eat foods

Pull together some non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods. A couple jars of peanut butter and some boxes of crackers can go a long way in keeping your family happy and fed. Also, include some canned goods, like meat, fruits and veggies, along with instant hot cocoa and coffee. Include energy-dense foods like protein bars, dried fruit, peanuts and nuts. Finally, don’t forget the goodies, like fun-size candy bars and chips and salsa. Keep your camp stove or grill in a place where you can easily pull it out, but remember, do your cooking outdoors.

Good lighting

Make sure you have the right supplies to get you through those long nights and brief days of winter, safely. Round up all the flashlights in your home, pull out that battery-operated camping lantern from the garage and get them into one convenient place. Then, the next time you’re at the store, pick up extra batteries so you can keep those lights going throughout the duration of a power outage.

Warm things

Keep a stack of quilts, old comforters, woolen blankets and even sleeping bags handy so you can all snuggle in. Along with these, gloves, scarves, sweaters, fleece and stocking caps can also ward off the chill that will creep in.

Electronics and entertainment

It’s the immutable law of the power outage: It always hits when your device has less than 20 percent battery power. Pick up a couple of rechargeable power banks to keep smartphones and other electronic devices powered up. And don’t get rid of older devices such as MP3 players and personal compact disc players. Use them to play music or an audio book when the lights — and the Wi-Fi — are knocked out. Finally, have some low-tech entertainment at the ready. Books, board games and even a deck of playing cards can help pass the time and maybe even help with family bonding.

Consider investing in a standby generator

A great way to ensure you have safe, reliable backup power in the event of an outage is to invest in an automatic standby generator like those from Kohler. These generators are installed right outside your home, much like a central air conditioner. Once the power cuts out from your utility provider, a standby generator kicks in within seconds, even if you’re not home. That’s because standby generators connect to your existing fuel lines, whether it’s natural gas or propane. So the next time the outage hits, your family won’t be without the furnace, water heater, refrigerator, stove, or anything that runs on electricity, including smartphones and computers.

If you’re interested in learning more about standby generators, KohlerGenerators.com has several resources to help you explore the many options, including videos and sizing calculators, so you can find one that’s right for your home. For additional tips on how to prepare your home for a power outage, visit the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes at FLASH.org. – (BPT)

 

Creative Solution to A Power Outage

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Security In An Insecure World

The year 2016 was devastating for some safe deposit box holders. In New York, thieves cut holes in the roofs of three banks and brazenly emptied hundreds of safe deposit boxes, leaving the victims’ pillaged boxes on the roof and strewn around the vault.

A stealthier thief in Florida picked safe deposit boxes in several banks, emptying the contents without damaging the box or leaving any visible sign of the theft.

These are not isolated incidents. On average, there are between 15-18 robberies or burglaries involving bank vaults every year according to the FBI. Millions of dollars of jewelry, cash, gold and family heirlooms are stolen, leaving devastated box holders dealing with unrecoverable losses.

Still the safest

Despite these occurrences, law enforcement agencies, FEMA, the American Red Cross and AARP all recommend safe deposit boxes to store valuable items, heirlooms and documents. A safe deposit box in a vault is superior to home storage even with a safe. Why? Because a residence is almost 20 times more likely to be robbed than a safe deposit box in a bank. And with rental costs starting at around $30 a year, safe deposit boxes remain one of the best values offered by a financial institution.

Required step

Today, most people who rent a safe deposit box assume the bank or a federal agency insures the contents. This is not true, and unfortunately, too many people learn this the hard way.

A standard homeowners policy provides limited coverage for some items in a box, but excludes losses from flood and other risks. They may also have a high deductible.

Specialty insurance designed to cover and protect everything inside of a safe deposit box – including cash, gold and important papers such as wills, titles, deeds, photos and digital backups, is now available. There is no deductible, and risks such as terrorist attacks, hurricanes and earthquakes are covered.

And because you do not need to identify what is stored inside the box to obtain coverage, you can maintain your privacy.

Protect yourself

Clearly, there are events that no vault or safe deposit box can protect against. However, there are steps you should take. Safe Deposit Box Insurance, LLC (SDBIC), the leader in protecting valuable assets in secure boxes, has developed a secure storage quiz on secure storage options.

So, despite there being some high-profile break-ins, a safe deposit box is still the best place to store your documents, family heirlooms and other valuables. But because nothing is 100 percent foolproof, it’s important to do your research, select the right bank and insure the contents of your box through SDBIC. – (BPT)

 

How To Know That Your Valuables Are Secure In a Safe Deposit Box

A.C.F. Home Inspections has been providing Home Inspections, 4 Point Inspections, Wind Mitigation, Home Owners Network, Monthly home tips news, Water Quality Testing, Radon Testing, Lead Paint Testing and Mold Inspection to home buyers and home sellers in the following areas of Metro Orlando, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake Country Polk, Sumter, Volusia, Brevard and all areas in between since 2001.

4 Easy Ways To Pest-Proof Your Home With The Help From Orlando Home Inspectors

Orlando Home Inspectors a big rat eating its food(BPT) – It’s late and you’re in your favorite, cozy pajamas. You get in bed and pull up the warm comforter. You turn out the light and are just about to drift off to sleep when you hear a noise coming from the attic. You sit up to listen, but it quickly goes quiet again. You lay back down and close your eyes, and just as you fall asleep, the noise is back, this time it’s coming from inside the wall.

You have a visitor — an unwanted visitor.

As much as we all enjoy our cozy homes, they are also the perfect setting for pests like rats, mice and raccoons to snuggle up and escape the cold air, too.

“There’s nothing more unsettling than knowing you and your family may not be the only ones enjoying this season indoors,” said Buck Hempel, manager of wildlife services at the pest control company Terminix. “Luckily, there’s still time to prepare your home to prevent critters from finding their way in.”

Whether you’ve already noticed signs of pest activity or just want more peace of mind at home, use these four preventative tips to eliminate and prevent potential pest infestations.

1. Seal off entry points to stop rodents from squeezing in.

Rodents can enter through holes as small as a dime, and will use any vulnerable opening to get in—from your foundation to your roofline. To keep these unwelcome intruders out, start by checking the perimeter of your home and repairing any small cracks or holes. In order to prevent rodents from chewing through these sealed areas, layer your sealing work by stuffing it first with a metal mesh, such as steel wool, and then sealing it down with caulk. This can also help keep summer pests such as spiders and ants at bay.

Don’t forget to check for gaps around conduit pipes, worn-out door sweeps and garage seals, as well as torn screens behind gables and roof vents. And, avoid leaving your doors open unnecessarily—even between trips to the car for groceries.

2. Secure food sources to eliminate the attraction.

Pests are not picky eaters. Once they find a food source, they are notorious for overstaying their welcome (and inviting friends). While critters can thrive in even the cleanest of houses, homeowners should remove any temptations by sweeping up spills and crumbs immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends storing food in airtight containers made of thick plastic or metal. This is especially important when storing pet food or bird seed in the garage.

3. Clear up clutter in your yard.

Stacks of firewood, old tires or other debris leaning against your exterior walls are a perfect, protected pathway around your house. Leave at least a foot of space between these items and your home, and move mulch away, too. Then, clean out your gutters and remove any dead leaves. Not only do piles of colorful fall foliage make for the perfect autumn Instagram photo, but raking these away from your home can help prevent pests like earwigs and snakes from finding warmth and building nests.

Homeowners with green thumbs should also thoroughly clean out planters before bringing them in for winter, as spiders will often lay eggs at the bottom of pots to hatch next spring.

4. Know when to call in the pros.

As with most home improvement projects, there are great do-it-yourself methods available to prevent pest control issues in your home. However, waiting until it’s too late to call in a certified professional can be dangerous and lead to major damage, costing you money and time. Pest control companies like Terminix offer free pest inspections to assess your home, and if needed, can remove any critters that may have settled in. To keep your family worry-free, they will seal any entry points to ensure winter pests can’t return. – (BPT)

 

Pest Proofing Your Home

A.C.F. Home Inspections has been providing Home Inspections, 4 Point Inspections, Wind Mitigation, Home Owners Network, Monthly home tips news, Water Quality Testing, Radon Testing, Lead Paint Testing and Mold Inspection to home buyers and home sellers in the following areas of Metro Orlando, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake Country Polk, Sumter, Volusia, Brevard and all areas in between since 2001.