Archive for the ‘Home Safety’ Category

Fire Extinguisher Know-How

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Fire Extinguisher Know-How | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County real estate | Barry TwynamHow many fire extinguishers do you have in your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home? Do you know how to use them? Have they been re-charged recently? We are often told that the switch to or from Daylight Saving Time is a good time to check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Maybe it’s also a good time to do something about fire extinguishers.

How Many?

If you have only one fire extinguisher in your home… well, that’s better than none, but ideally, there should be one close to every heat source, or anywhere you might be using an open flame. So, one in the kitchen for sure. One in the family room or living room if you have a fireplace or regularly burn candles. One in the garage, and one near the barbecue. And maybe one extra on each level of your home, just to be safe. It’s a good idea to carry one in each vehicle too.

Learn How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Make sure after equipping the hot spots in your home with extinguishers that each family member is aware of their locations and that they are readily accessible. Keep in mind that extinguishers are intended for use on small fires to prevent them from becoming large and dangerous. Teach each family member how to use an extinguisher with the PASS acrononym:

  • PULL the pin. This will activate the extinguisher for when you squeeze the handle.
  • AIM the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • SQUEEZE the handle to spray. Remember that you will get only about 30 seconds of use.
  • SWEEP or move the nozzle back and forth while spraying at the base of the fire.

Maintaining Your Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are single-use products. After each use, they need to be “recharged” or refilled with the fire extinguishing agent. What many people may not realize is that fire extinguishers, even without being used, will need to be replaced or recharged.   Read about recharging fire extinguishers at Fire Extinguisher 101.   Most fire extinguishers last between 5 and 15 years, and the gauges should be checked once per year. Ask a professional if you are not sure if your extinguisher is still in good working order.

Fire extinguishers used appropriately can save lives and property, preventing a small fire from growing into something that could cause significant damage and tragedy. Well worth the expense of equipping your home and the time it takes to learn about them!

Comments or questions about this article? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIs your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home making you sick? If you find yourself experiencing a variety of symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, a cough that won’t go away, constant sneezing, chronic sore throat, frequent headaches, shortness of breath or asthma, the culprit may be the air in your home.

Indoor air pollution can be caused by a long list of things, including:

  • Smoke, especially tobacco products used indoors
  • Other burning items, such as candles, incense, wood-burning fireplace, gas stove
  • Heating or cooling systems.
  • Off-gassing from building materials (new carpets, new cabinets made of pressed wood, etc.) and other industrial chemicals, such as radon, formaldehyde, fire-retardants, and the like
  • Household chemicals of various types (cleaning supplies, paint, air fresheners, etc.)
  • Personal products such as hair spray, scented soaps, etc.
  • High humidity
  • Poor circulation of fresh air
  • Mould, mildew and dust mites

Winter, when our houses are closed up tight, makes the situation worse. Luckily, there are many things we can do to improve the quality of the air and our health without resorting to camping in the open air in the backyard

1.  No smoking in the house!

2.  Keep your house clean.

  • Vacuum often.
    Choose a vacuum cleaner with strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter to get rid of all sorts of nasty things. Clean your floors and also walls, carpet edges, draperies or blinds, and upholstered furniture at least once a week. Vacuum mattresses every couple of months.
  • Damp mop the floors after vacuuming.
    Use a microfiber cloth and plain water to pick up dust that the vacuum did not capture. Furniture, baseboards, interior doors and cabinets can also be cleaned of dust using just a damp microfiber cloth.
  • Put a large floor mat at every door and have people remove their shoes to keep outside dirt and chemicals from coming in.
  • Consider getting rid of the carpet in your home (a haven for dirt and dust mites). Replace it with natural materials like solid wood, bamboo or cork. Avoid vinyl floor coverings due to their carcinogenic properties.
  • Launder bed coverings and pillows frequently, especially if you have pets in your home.
  • Clean often or replace filters in your furnace, humidifiers and portable air conditioners. Also clean bathroom and kitchen vents.

3. Store household chemicals, such as paint, solvents, glues and pesticides, outside the home.

Items such as these emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful to people and the environment. There’s a reason containers for these products come with the warning to use only in a well-ventilated area.

4.  Banish artificial fragrances from your home.

Pine, lemon and flowery scents in cleaners, laundry products and plug-in air fresheners may smell pleasant, but those things are loaded with nasty chemicals that can make you sick. Gases emitted by these products contain VOCs and petroleum derivatives that have been determined to be hazardous and toxic. Instead, look for fragrance-free products. Use natural cleaning products, such as baking soda and vinegar. Stop using aerosol sprays such as deodorants, hair sprays, furniture polish, and air fresheners. Use sliced lemons or vanilla extract dabbed on light bulbs or your furnace filter for a lovely natural smell.

5.  Stop household mould.

Mould occurs in areas prone to high moisture such as kitchens and bathrooms. Use exhaust fans and a dehumidifier to keep the humidity down and the air moving. Keep a healthy level of humidity in your home of 30-50%. Repair any plumbing leaks. If you spot mould on surfaces, treat it and remove it while it’s small and manageable. This article from The Family Handyman tells you how.

6.  Invest in an air purifier.

High-quality air purifiers remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, smoke and other allergens, as well as cooking odors. Some may even remove VOCs. Read what Consumer Reports has to say about these machines.

7.  Increase ventilation in your home.

Fling open all the windows? Sure, if the outside air is fresh – or if it’s not the middle of an Alberta winter! During Alberta’s other seasons, consider using “trickle ventilation”, a special window screen with extra filters that allows fresh air in while filtering out pollutants from both outside and inside the home. Use air conditioning in the summer, if you have it in your home, to move the air and remove mold-causing moisture. Run ceiling fans all year-round for more air-moving experience. Make sure that fuel-burning furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, range tops and the like are vented to the outside well away from windows and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) intakes.

9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam8.  Improve air quality with house plants.

Best air-filtering plants, according to a study done by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America:

Bonus:  These plants are among the easiest house plants to grow, even for those without a green thumb!

9.  Test for radon.

This cancer-causing radioactive gas is colorless and odorless. It is produced through the natural decay of uranium found in soil. It gets into homes moving up from the ground through cracks in the home’s foundation. Granite countertops might also be a problem. Read Health Canada’s article on testing for radon.

Do you have other ideas to improve home air quality? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

How Safe is Your Spruce Grove Home for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

How Safe is Your Spruce Grove Home for Halloween? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamFabric ghosts fluttering from trees, big blow-up monsters, elaborately carved jack-o’-lanterns, orange lights on roof edges… Every year in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region, it seems more and more homeowners decorate their homes for the visits of little superheroes and princesses out to collect treats on that spooky night.

Just how safe is the path to your front door for those little tricksters? And from a homeowner’s perspective, would your liability insurance coverage be adequate in case of an unforeseen accident? I remember witnessing a problem at a friend’s home last Halloween that could have had disastrous consequences. The home is a bungalow whose front door is reached via 4 concrete steps, built at a time when railings on the sides of such porches or stoops were not mandated. The porch luckily drops off into a fringe of shrubs at the front of the house, rather than onto a hard concrete sidewalk. Inevitably, several excited youngsters fell off the steps that night, resulting in some minor bruises and spilled candy. Things could have been so much worse, and I’m pretty sure my friend will be reinforcing those porch edges this Halloween.

Keep visitors safe this Halloween:

Check your fire safety measures

  • When setting up electrical decorations and lights, don’t overload your electrical circuits.
  • Use battery powered flameless candles in jack-o’-lanterns.

Check for obstructions and hazards in your yard

  • If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is out of reach of little hands and well secured so as not to be a tripping hazard.
  • Remove obstacles such as lawn ornaments or garden tools, and rake up wet leaves and other debris.
  • Light up any decorative elements in your yard to avoid people running into them, or make them part of your Halloween tableau by surrounding them with “crime scene” tape.
  • Light up your walkway and keep the path clear. Snow on Halloween is always a possibility in our area, and it goes without saying that snow and ice should be cleared away to prevent injury from falls on slippery sidewalks.

Check your insurance coverage, just in case

Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Movement?

People paint and display a teal pumpkin to show that they are giving out treats that are safe for all kids, including those with allergies. That usually means non-food items, such as stickers, erasers or pencils, small toys and the like.

Protect your home and property too:

  • Keep your pets indoors for their safety as well as the safety of visitors.
  • Place garbage cans inside a building or secure them so they can’t be tipped over.
  • Park vehicles in your garage if possible.

How Safe is Your Spruce Grove Home for Halloween? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamOnce you’ve made your home safe, fill up the treat bowls, dress in your spookiest costume, turn on all the lights, and prepare to welcome all the little ghosts and goblins!

Do you have any more tips to add for a safe and fun Halloween? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Terrorism in Our Own Backyard

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Terrorism in Our Own Backyard | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamThe summer of 2015 has not been a happy one for my neighbors in the Fieldstone subdivision of Spruce Grove as two families deal with the aftermath of damage to their homes caused by arson.

Many emotions go through your mind at a time like this: shock, confusion, anxiety, helplessness, anger, and most of all fear. Home means the comfort and security of family, the building of memories, and the collecting of things that spark those memories. Losing one’s home and what it represents, especially through someone’s cruel and monstrous actions, is devastating to contemplate.  After the initial stages of disbelief and outrage, the question becomes “What can we do?”

What can be done by any neighborhood facing a challenge like this?

  • Recognize that the police can only do so much, and it is up to citizens to help themselves. One of the best defenses against this type of attack is developing a strong neighborhood community. Many eyes on the street may pick up on suspicious activity that might lead to catching and punishing the criminals. Get to know your neighbors, and establish a buddy system for watching each other’s property. This can be done on an informal basis, or by setting up a more formal structure through a Neighborhood Watch program with regular meetings and get-togethers. Annual Block Parties are useful for this purpose too, and encouraged and supported by the City of Spruce Grove. Check out the City of Spruce Grove’s Block Party Guide.
  • Report any suspicious activity to the police. Suspicious activity could be anything that feels out of place or doesn’t look right, such as vehicles cruising up and down the street or oddly dressed individuals strolling along at strange times of the day. Call 780-962-2222 to reach Spruce Grove RCMP for non-emergency situations.
  • Clean up the neighborhood. Have residents check their properties for combustible items that could fuel an arson fire, such as piles of old lumber, old rags and newspapers, excess vegetation, readily accessible cans of fuel for vehicles and lawn mowers and other flammable liquids. These items should either be disposed of or secured. If it is possible to do so, store garbage and recycling bins inside a garage or shed, or attach them securely to a building or fence.
  • Light it up. Encourage residents to leave their porch lights on at night. Adding more and stronger lighting all around properties, as well as motion sensors, is also helpful. (These are the lights I am installing on our property, available from Amazon.ca.)
  • Consider investing in security cameras or a monitored security system for your home. Companies like ADT or AlarmForce have been around for a long time and can be counted on to design a system that works for your home and budget. Or, you can go the do-it-yourself route with cameras in every price range monitored through your computer or tablet.
  • Time to update your home inventory for insurance purposes. Check out my blog article “Home Inventory: Do You Have One?” for help in how to create this important document.

Some other articles on home security and safety from my blog:

Fire Safety in Your Home (includes Fire Safety Checklist)
Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System?
Home Security Checklist
Automate Your Spruce Grove Home With Your Smartphone

Fieldstone residents have already moved forward in organizing a community group and are actively working with the police to find and prosecute the individuals responsible for the recent fires. Our hope is that no other neighborhood has to cope with this sort of tragic event.

Comments or questions about this article, or information to add? Please call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

What To Do After Hail Damage From a Storm

Friday, July 31st, 2015
What to do after hail damage from a storm

What To Do After Hail Damage From a Storm | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Did you know that the worst hailstorms in the world occur in the corridor in Alberta between Edmonton and Calgary? 

While hail storms do not happen frequently in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region, they can cause significant damage to both your home and your vehicle. With hail that can reach the size of golf balls falling from the sky, it is not uncommon for hail to break windows, dent cars and damage the siding on your home.

“If you experience damage from a hail storm, call your insurance company immediately. All of the details of the storm and the damage caused will be fresh in your mind,” says Achiel Goossens, Senior Manager of Auto Claims with Aviva Canada.

If you have any questions about the claim process, talk to your insurance broker or insurer. They will be able to guide through the claim process. But, here are some important tips that everyone should follow if they experience damage from a hail storm:

1. Take photos: Photos are your proof that damage occurred. It will also validate your claim and move the claim process along quicker.

2. Record all details: Take note of all the specifics of the hail storm. Write down the time, location, and date of the storm and make note of all the damage that occurred to your home or vehicle.

3. File immediately: File your property damage claim as close to the event as possible. It is easier to file a claim when all the details are fresh in your mind, allowing you to complete the claim process quickly and efficiently.

Following these three easy steps will make your auto or property damage claim significantly easier. No one wants to experience damage from a hail storm, but knowing how to file a claim properly will make the process smoother and ensure that things go back to normal.

More information is available from your insurance broker or at avivacanada.com.

I’m happy to help you answer any home related questions.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

(Content of this article courtesy of www.newscanada.com)

Home Safety Guide for Snowbirds: Monitor Your Home While in the Sun

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Home Safety Guide for Snowbirds: Monitor Your Home While in the Sun | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam When Snowbirds make their way down south for their annual vacation away from our brutal Canadian winters, the last thing they need to worry about is the safety of their Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home.

According to Patrice De Luca, vice president of Marketing and Customer Care for Reliance Protectron Security Services, there are several key steps Snowbirds should take to ensure peace of mind when away from home. The following Protectron home safety tips for snowbirds can help you plan important safety measures before your departure:

  • Suspend your newspaper and mail delivery, or have a neighbour collect them for you.
  • Make sure your home looks lived in. Try not to draw the window treatments in every window.  Leave it looking somewhat natural.
  • Have someone routinely shovel the walk, clear your car off if it snows, or park their car in your driveway if you’re taking yours.
  • Don’t forget garbage collection day. Ask a neighbour to put a bag of garbage at your curb on garbage day so as not to tip off burglars.
  • Set your lights on timers, in various rooms. With some timers, the lights go on and off at different times each day, which means a burglar can’t pick up on a pattern.
  • Look into installing motion sensor lights outside to help deter a burglar. Consider installing them in front and back.
  • Ensure that all your doors and windows are locked and secure. Don’t forget about the garage; make sure the door is secure. For additional security, place a bar or stick of wood in the lower track of your sliding doors or windows.
  • Turn off the water-main and unplug the major appliances as an added precaution.
  • Inform a neighbor when you’re leaving and returning, and ask them to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Leave them a phone number where you can be reached, and a spare set of your keys in case of an emergency.
  • Consider investing in a home security system as it’s a very effective deterrent. A home protected by a monitored security system with visible decals and signs is less susceptible to a break-in than one without a system. Make sure your security system includes a loud inside alarm, detectors at all exterior doors, and motion sensors in the master bedroom and main living areas. The alarm system is linked to a remote monitoring centre that protects your home 24 hours a day against burglars, fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and floods by supervising the temperature, electrical system and points of entry of your home.

Home Safety Guide for Snowbirds: Monitor Your Home While in the Sun | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamFor ultimate control and peace of mind while you’re away, De Luca recommends you look into the new fully interactive wireless security systems like Go!Control where you can arm and disarm your alarm, lock or unlock your front door, control lights and your home’s thermostat at the touch of your smartphone or tablet. You could even have video monitoring and receive alerts to view the comings and goings of cleaning staff or house sitters. More information on protecting your home while you’re away is available online at www.protectron.com.

Another tip when you are leaving home for long periods of time:  Contact your home insurance company and let them know you’ll be away.  Many companies require a vacant home to be monitored or visited every couple of days.  Failure to do this might void your insurance coverage.

Comments or questions about anything related to real estate?  I love to hear from you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.
(Most of the content of this article courtesy of www.newscanada.com)

 

Lights Out: Five Reasons to Consider Installing a Backup Generator for Your Home

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Lights Out- Five Reasons to Consider Installing a Backup Generator for Your Home | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamBackup generators provide peace of mind in the event of extended power outages. Installed directly on homeowners’ properties, backup generators are connected to the electrical panels and supply needed power whenever the utility power is interrupted. Having backup power is particularly important during extremes in temperature when an inability to use furnaces or air conditioning units can lead to dangerous in-home conditions. People living in or thinking of moving to the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region would do well to contemplate the issue. As such, here are five reasons to consider installing backup generators.

Frozen Pipe Headaches

While installing backup generators will cost thousands of dollars per household, the cost could end up being quite the bargain for homeowners in Spruce Grove real estate when considering the headaches and costs associated with damaged pipes. If the power goes out during the dead of winter, for example, Stony Plain real estate owners who do not have backup generators might run the risk of frozen pipes that could burst and lead to costly repair-related expenses.

Hotel Rental Expense

Extended power outages that occur when the temperature is either too hot or too cold may, if backup generators are not installed, force homeowners with Parkland County real estate to flee to hotels. The costs can certainly add up for power outages that last for weeks at a time. Recent cases of natural disasters across North America have demonstrated that lengthy power outages are a real possibility.

Keep Food Fresh

People with Edmonton real estate who lose power for even a few days can end up losing everything stored in fridges and freezers. They would not only have to dispose of hundreds of dollars worth of spoiled food, but would also have to replace what was lost as a result of the power outage.

Unhooking the Tether

One of the best advantages of installing backup generators is that they automatically turn themselves on whenever there’s a power outage. What this means is that people with Parkland County acreages won’t have to be tethered to their homes. Whether they’re out of town and can’t get back quickly or have to go to work, homeowners can rest assured that their backup generators will provide their homes with the power they need to operate as per usual.

Peace of Mind

Having the power shut off with no warning can be a disheartening experience. Installing backup generators will help to alleviate anxiety or worry in the event of extended power outages. This benefit is all the more important if children or elderly people living on Edmonton acreages are home alone when there’s a power outage.

There are many good reasons for homeowners to consider installing backup generators, and the aforementioned are just five of them.  Please also read my blog post “Should I Buy a Generator?”

I’d be honoured to provide you with any advice on your real estate needs in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, and Edmonton. For a free consultation, please call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here. I look forward to helping you with your real estate needs!

Noisy Neighbours? How to Raise a Noise Complaint in Edmonton

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Noisy Neighbours_ How to Raise a Noise Complaint in Edmonton | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamDespite the fact that Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region as a whole tend to be quiet, situations may still arise where a neighbour is making too much noise. Depending on the circumstances, there are a variety of ways to take action. Here are a few points to consider when you need to raise a noise complaint in Edmonton.

Try Communicating Before Calling the Authorities

There’s a chance your neighbours don’t realize that they’re making too much noise and will reduce the commotion when you open a dialogue with them. A brief, friendly exchange of honest words can do wonders for these types of situations, leading to an understanding that allows both households to enjoy their space. Most of the time, all that needs to happen is a small alteration in noise-making habits, such as reducing the output of a sub-woofer to acceptable levels or agreeing on specific times to allow loud activities. There may be issues with thin floors or walls that make it impossible to prevent the sounds of footsteps and other normal behaviour. Sometimes tenants may have hearing problems, resulting in your neighbour not having the ability to detect abnormal noise levels. If you are uncomfortable with contacting your neighbour face-to-face, leaving a brief, well-intentioned letter is also acceptable.

Ask for Help If the Situation Becomes Difficult

Stony Plain real estate, Parkland County real estate and Spruce Grove real estate are located in safe communities. Nonetheless, there are situations where it’s best to contact the authorities instead of putting yourself in a potentially dangerous or uncomfortable situation. The first person to contact is a landlord or a homeowner’s association who can act as an intermediary that assures your anonymity. If this doesn’t work, you can contact the city of Edmonton by dialing 311 or 780-442-5311 or by faxing 780-442-5311. Pursuing this action should only be taken in the most serious circumstances, when other avenues of fixing the situation have failed.

Know Your Rights Before Launching a Serious Complaint

If the situation with noisy neighbours gets worse, it’s a good idea to know the legal details of noise complaints. Different types of Edmonton acreages and Parkland County acreages have specific standards of noise allowance. Residential noise standards are stricter than non-residential noise limits. Between 10p.m. and 7a.m., the amount of noise that a residence or a business can legally generate is typically limited to 50 decibels in residential zones and 75 decibels in commercial areas. During the daytime, the limits are more flexible, allowing for noise up to 85 decibels for brief periods of time. Sometimes, permits are granted to authorize sound in excess of normal limits. When filing a complaint, a landlord or employee of the city may need proof of these levels of noise in order to be able to act. Noise complaints can result in serious consequences, due to legal ramifications written into many leases that result in eviction, fines and bills.

When it comes to noise pollution, it’s important to know your rights and stand up for them. Having a quick chat to reach a mutually beneficial agreement can solve most issues quickly and cordially. If the situation becomes difficult, dangerous or uncomfortable, seek help to solve the issue anonymously and dispassionately.

Feel free to contact me if you seek information about noise or other home-related problems. Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Should I Buy a Generator?

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
Should I Buy a Generator? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

CC Photo supplied by Falls Avenue Vintage Fashion

Residents of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area shuddered in horror during the last two weeks of December 2013 as ice storms in eastern Canada caused power outages that left people shivering in the dark, not for hours, but for days.  No power meant no heat, no lights, no way to keep food from spoiling, in many cases no water and no way to cook food.  Many of us started thinking about our own dependence on the electric power grid and what we could do if faced with such a disaster.

One solution might be a backup generator run by diesel, gasoline, propane or natural gas that could at least provide power to essential appliances such as furnace, refrigerator, stove or microwave, and the like.  What do you need to know before you purchase one and attempt to install it on your property?

What size do I need?

When it comes to generators, especially those that can run multiple appliances, bigger is better.  Experts suggest anything smaller than 4500 to 6000 watts just won’t get the job done.

First, determine what items you want to run.  Be aware that a generator is not intended to run every electrical appliance in your home and certainly not at the same time, so some choices will need to be made.  Most people would put things like the furnace, fridge, freezer and stove at the top of their lists.  Add your hot water tank if it is electric, and anything else that would cause undue hardship if you had to live without it for a few days.

You need to know how many watts of power are required to run your chosen items, but even more important is the “start-up wattage” – how much power is required when the item is turned on.  For example, a refrigerator might need 800 watts to run, but 2500 watts to start.  A good chart listing the wattages for selected home appliances is published by Plano Power Equipment.  Many appliances in your home should also have this information printed on them.

Add up the amount of wattage needed for all the items you want to run (don’t forget the lights!), and add 25% more to account for error and also to keep the generator running below its maximum capacity.

Remember too that most of these machines, like your vehicle or lawnmower, run on fuel in tanks that have to be re-filled!  Average continuous running time is about 5 to 7 hours.

How do I manage the power?

One thing to remember:  Turn something OFF before you turn something else ON!

A very good article called “Power On” published by GulfCoastNews.com has some great tips for choosing, operating and installing a portable generator.

The author of this article recommends turning on the refrigerator and freezer first, then a few lights and other low-wattage appliances.  Once everything in the freezer is frozen, unplugging it for a while won’t hurt the contents and you can then run other appliances and equipment.

So, can I just plug in the generator?

Uh, no.  What you’re going to need is a “transfer switch”.  The “Power On” article defines a transfer switch as “a manual three-position switching device that allows power to be channeled to the home’s electrical system either from the utility company power lines or from the generator – not both”.   Why is this important?  “Plugging a generator directly into a wall socket instead of utilizing a transfer switch sets up several potentially deadly scenarios: a short-circuit and electrical fire in the home’s wiring when power is restored; a system short-circuit in the generator causing it to catch fire or explode when power is restored; and the possible electrocution of linemen working to restore power in your area.”  Yikes!

Here’s a good idea, from the same article:  “If you are building a new home [or renovating], consider having the contractor install a sub-panel that is already set up for stand-by power. This saves you money because there’s usually no additional installation labor costs and the generator-ready panel eliminates the need for an additional transfer switch box.”

See also “Portable Generator Safety” from FortisAlberta.

How do I go about installing my portable or stand-by generator?

Take a look at this video called “How to Install a Stand-by Generator” from ThisOldHouse.com.  A little more complicated than buying the thing, bringing it home and turning it on, but chances are, if you ever have to deal with what the poor folks in eastern Canada did, you’ll be very glad you made the effort!

OK, I’m sold!  What do I buy and how much will it cost?

Home Depot has a good article on generators on their website, along with links to information on the generators they sell.     Check out also this page from ConsumerReports.org.   If you are a subscriber, you will be able to access the Consumer Reports ratings on generators.

Personal opinion?  If you’re going to do this, go for the best.  For example, Honda’s Premium series of generators (5000 to 6000 watts) cost in the range of $3000.  (View the spec sheets from Scona Cycle.)  Add in roughly another $750 for installing the transfer switch and incidentals and you will be good to go even if the Edmonton area gets hit with a 2-week-long power outage like Ontario’s.

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Lessons From Calgary: How Prepared Are You For a Disaster?

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Recent catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta has caused many people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region to re-think their own emergency preparedness and to wonder just how well we would survive a disaster of this type.  If you Google “72 hour survival kit”, many worthy sites presenting much useful information appear.  But how many of us have actually followed through on this information to put together an emergency plan, emergency kits and the like?   How do you even get started doing this?

Start with a Plan

A very good site to begin with is GetPrepared.gc.ca.  Download their publication 72 Hours: Is Your Family Prepared? Your Emergency Preparedness Guide.  Detailed instructions guide you through the creation of an emergency plan for your family, and the building of an emergency kit.  Most authorities recommend having enough “stuff” to keep you self-sufficient for 72 hours, the critical time period during which you may need to wait for help from emergency assistance providers, and during which time you may be without essential services of water, power and gas.

Build Your Survival Kit

Your emergency kit may be one you’ve assembled yourself or it may be a commercial one you purchase from an organization such as the Canadian Red CrossTheir basic 72-Hour Disaster Preparedness Kit sells for $59.95 and includes the following items:

  • 1 box of 45 waterproof matches
  • 1 wind-up flashlight/radio/alarm (no batteries required)
  • 1 50-hour candle
  • 1 multi-function knife
  • 1 S.O.S. sign
  • 1 emergency rescue blanket
  • 1 emergency preparedness guide
  • 20 water purification tablets
  • 2 biohazard waste bags
  • 1 collapsible water container
  • 1 whistle
  • 1 pair of work gloves
  • 1 12-hour light stick
  • 1 first aid kit:
    • 1 emergency plastic sheeting
    • 1 duct tape
    • 2 dust masks
    • 1 nylon backpack
    • 2 gauze pads 5 cm x 5 cm (2 in x 2 in)
    • 5 antiseptic towelettes
    • 1 proviodine swab
    • 4 alcohol swabs
    • 2 insect sting relief swabs
    • 10 plastic adhesive bandages
    • 2 fingertip bandages
    • 2 knuckle bandages
    • 1 first aid instruction card
    • 2 adhesive patch bandages 5 cm x 7.5 cm (2 in x 2 in)
    • 1 conform bandage
    • 1 roll of adhesive tape
    • 1 pair of nitrile examination gloves
    • 1 pair of tweezers
    • 1 pair of scissors
    • 12 safety pins

These items are just the beginning, of course.  Most experts recommend that your kit include enough non-perishable food for 72 hours, and at least 4 liters of water per person per day.  Seasoned backwoods campers and backpackers will have lots of other suggestions, such as warm, water-resistant clothing, a small tent and sleeping gear, food preparation equipment including mess kits and a tiny stove that fits in a backpack, and special dehydrated meals.  Whatever goes into your kit needs to reflect your careful consideration of your personal situation:  What would you need to have with you to be safe, comfortable and healthy during those 72 hours?  Study carefully the lists on the GetPrepared.gc.ca site as well as the following sites to devise the exact 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit that works for you and all family members (including pets).

Store your kit somewhere in your home where it’s readily accessible and hope you never have to use it!

Leaving Your Home

What if you had to evacuate your home as so many southern Alberta residents were forced to do?  What do you take with you when you escape?  Well, your emergency kit of course, and a few other essentials:

  • Identification (passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance, wills, financial statements, etc.) Tip:  Scan all these documents onto your computer and then download them onto a memory stick which then goes into your emergency kit.  Check and update your digital records every 6 months.
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Important phone numbers (relatives, work, insurance, doctors, pharmacy, etc.)
  • Extra set of keys (house, garage, storage, lockbox, etc.)
  • Money $$ (cash, including coins, and credit cards)
  • Critical medicines & prescription glasses
  • Personal hygiene items and change of clothing
  • Computer backup
  • You can probably think of a few other easily portable and absolutely essential items.

People who have survived disastrous fires, floods and severe weather events will tell you that one of the hardest things about leaving behind their homes is the thought of losing the tangible evidence of precious and irreplaceable family memories.  These days, technology can help if you plan ahead and take the time to do things like digitizing family photos and then uploading them to online storage services.  Make sure a copy of your home inventory is there too.  (See my blog article “Home Inventory: Do You Have One?”)

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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