Everyone wants to keep their home safe, but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how. Because we’re happy to help, we’ve put together a list of easy ways to reduce damage and theft on your property. If you have other questions or needed further information about any of the points below, please give us a call at 780.448.2298.
How To Prevent Water Damage
Regardless of volume, water becomes a nuisance when it comes into your home unannounced. Leaking roofs and clogged eaves can force rainwater into ceilings and walls; this not only costs thousands of dollars to repair, but it also proves a major safety risk for occupants. The less obvious threat of water leakage from your indoor appliances can also cause severe damage.
Common sources of water damage in homes
- When your basement floods because outdoor pipes froze
- When plumbing connections and hoses wear out
- When connections or hoses on dishwashers and washing machines leak
- When an outdoor sprinkler system is installed water can seep into your ceiling and walls, so make sure your installer is certified
Ways to reduce the risk of water damage
- Check the hoses and connections on your washing machine and dishwasher every few years
- Be sure your new sprinkler is installed and inspected by a professional
- If you buy a new home with a sprinkler system, be sure it has been inspected and guaranteed by the builder
- Before winter arrives, prepare outdoor faucets to prevent freezing by 1) turning off the valve for each outdoor faucet, and 2) drain by opening the external facet that releases the remaining water in the pipe
- Perform maintenance, like removing leaves and clutter from your eaves and downspouts
How to Prevent Break-Ins
Don’t make a thief’s job any easier
No matter why you’re leaving your house or for how long, LOCK YOUR DOORS. Use a lock that cannot be opened unless it’s with a key.
Hide your valuables
If people can see into your house at any point, don’t advertise what’s there for them to take. Keep valuables out of site if you will be leaving for any length of time.
Sounds creates an illusion
If a thief can hear noises from within your home, they’re much less likely to attempt a break-in. Keep a radio on while you’re away, and place it in front of windows that may be easy access points.
Get a little help from your friends
Trusted neighbors can be invaluable. If your neighbors are able to keep an eye out for strangers, that’s great. Before leaving on a trip, leave the keys with a neighbor who can turn your lights and radio on and off, open and close your curtains, water your plants, bring in the paper, mow your lawn, shovel snow, move your car, etc.
Install a home security system
This one’s a no-brainer, especially if you don’t have neighbors willing or able to help look after your home while you’re away.
Keep the shrubbery trimmed near your doors and windows so that they are visible from the street
The more you can see into your home from the street, the more a burglar can be seen from the street while robbing your home. Increase their chances of being caught by whatever means necessary.
How to Prevent Fires
Facts about residential fires in Alberta
- Residential fires cause approximately $51 million worth of damage every year in Alberta
- Out of all the fire deaths in the province, 65% were from residential fires
- Careless cooking is the number one cause of residential fires
- Cooking, candles and smoking, the top three causes of residential fires were responsible for 59% of the home fires in Alberta in 1999, and 54% of total dollar value lost
- Arson accounts for more fires in Edmonton (16%) than in Calgary (10%), whereas smoking causes more fires in Calgary (21%) than in Edmonton (11%)
- In Calgary and Edmonton, fires caused by candles account for the largest dollar value lost, $2.7 million in Calgary and $2 million in Edmonton.
- 43% of the homes that had fires during 1999 had no smoke detectors
- 75% of deaths pertaining to fires are the result of smoke inhalation
Take care as much as possible
Many fires are caused because people are careless. Just take the top three cases of residential fires: cooking, smoking, and candles … all are easily preventable.
Preventing fires throughout your home
- Develop an exit plan that includes several different ways to exit your home in case of emergency
- Sleep with the bedroom door closed. If a fire occurs, your door will help hold back both heat and smoke. If the door feels hot, don’t open it; escape through another door or window.
- Have a meeting area so that you can do easy head counts, i.e. a landmark far away from your home.
- The kitchen is a fire hot spot. Keep an extinguisher in this room at all times, near the exit (away from the stove, where the fire may start).
- If a grease fire starts, DO NOT pour water on it. Instead, cover the pan with a lid or close the oven door.
- Don’t store items in or on your stove, as they may catch fire.
- Place all dishtowels and potholders far away from your stove top. They can catch fire at 400 degrees, and electric coils can reach 800 degrees.
- Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly.
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and outside of sleeping areas (make sure you can detect a fire BEFORE it reaches your bedroom).
- Test every detector at least once a month.
- Replace batteries at least once a year, or more often if the detector makes a chirping sound.
- Install and maintain heating equipment correctly (use a professional).
- Don’t store newspapers or rags (flammable materials) near areas of extreme heat (furnace, space heaters, etc.).
- Only use space heaters when you’re in the room.
- Don’t use extension cords with electrical space heaters. The high amount of current they require could melt the cord and start a fire.
- Avoid using extension cords that are frayed or worn
- Avoid overloading a socket with outlet extensions that are used to accommodate several plugs.
- Ensure that light bulb wattage is appropriate for the fixture by checking the label inside each fixture.
Garage Door Safety
It might not be your primary safety concern, but automatic garage doors are dangerous, and can be deadly to anyone trapped by a closing door (especially young children).
The most common injury is fingers getting caught or crushed in the joints of the door.
Most injuries and fatalities happen when children find access to garage door opening devices and are trapped under a door that does not automatically reverse.
How to prevent garage door injuries
- Injuries can be dramatically reduced with a properly installed door, instructions for all family members, warning labels, and maintenance.
- Test your door regularly. Ideally, your door should actually reverse itself when it touches something as pliable as a roll of paper towels. If your door fails this test, it should be serviced.
- Read and follow all manufacturers’ instructions.
- Educate your children. Teach them how to operate the door, what to do in case of a malfunction, and preventative measures (don’t slide or even walk under a closing door).
- Ensure that your garage door is childproof. Install activation buttons at least six feet above the floor. Keep the remote control up and out of your child’s reach or keep it in a locked car. Also consider retrofitting your door with keypad switches, which discourage use by children.
Preparing for a Hailstorm
The high plains immediately east of the Rocky Mountains (part of which is Alberta) experience the most frequent hailstorms in North America.
Prior to the 1998 ice storm in Quebec, the 1991 Calgary hailstorm was Canada’s most expensive natural disaster, with insured losses of over $342 million.
How to prepare for a hailstorm
- Always have a battery-operated radio in order to listen for hailstorm activity in your area.
- Stay indoors, regardless, even if your personal property is outside.
- If you’re anticipating a hailstorm, store your car in a garage to protect it from damage (if possible). Do not attempt to store your car if the hailstorm has already started, as you could get seriously hurt.
- If you are in your car, pull over to the side of the road and try to get underneath an overpass to shield your car from the hail.
Preparing for a Lightning Storm
In Canada, lightning kills about seven people a year and seriously injures between 60 and 70.
Throughout Canada and the United States, lightning and surge losses cause an estimated $500 million every year in damage due to electrical and electronic equipment.
The foothills and eastern slopes of southern Alberta are among the most lightning prone areas in Canada, with 500,000 lightning strikes per year.
There were 40,000 lightning strikes in one day alone during the infamous Edmonton tornado in July 1987.
What to do during a lightning storm
- Secure/remove anything outdoors that could blow away and cause damage (furniture, tools, etc.).
- Shutter windows and brace outside doors.
- Do not handle any electrical equipment or telephones because lightning could follow the wire. Television sets are particularly dangerous at this time.
- Avoid tubs, faucets, and sinks. Metal pipes can transmit electricity.
- As quick as possible, get into a building or car.
- If you can’t cover yourself safely, get to an open space and squat low to the ground. (In the woods, find an area protected by a low clump of trees—never stand underneath a single large tree out in the open.)
- Avoid tall structures like towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, or power lines.
- Stay away from natural lightning rods such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, or camping equipment.
- Stay away from bodies of water.
- Stay away from rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water.
- If you are in a level field and feel your hair stand on end, this is a sign that lightning is about to strike. Crouch with your feet together, do not lie on the ground. Remove metal objects that are on your person.
If in a car:
- Pull onto the side of the road, but at a safe distance from a tree or something else that could fall.
- Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
Preparing for a Tornado
Canada is ranked second in the world for tornado frequency, trailing only the United States.
Alberta has been hit by 268 tornadoes in the last 17 years; that’s about 16 tornadoes per year. Every 3-4 years Alberta is hit with a tornado that is labeled “strong,” and one in every 30 to 50 years one is classified as “violent.”
Some of the worst tornadoes to hit Alberta include:
Pine Lake, Alberta – July 14, 2000. 300 km per hour, 12 fatalities, 140 injured. 450 people were left homeless and close to 1000 people were displaced due to damaged vehicles. This was the 4th deadliest tornado to ever hit Canada.
Edmonton, Alberta – July 31, 1987. 27 fatalities, more than 300 homes destroyed, $350 million in damage (of which only $250 million was insured). This was one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history.
How to spot tornado warning signs
- Dark, greenish skies; large hail; loud roars, similar to trains.
- Clouds of debris, even if a funnel is not visible.
- Tornadoes usually happen near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
- Tornadoes most often travel from the southwest heading northeast.
What to do during a tornado
If at home:
- Stay in a windowless interior room, storm cellar, or basement (or, the lowest level of your house).
- Stay in the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris.
- Get under a table or bench (or some stable piece of furniture), stay there, and hold on to it.
- Protect your head and neck at all times.
- If you’re in a mobile home, leave immediately and find shelter elsewhere.
If at work or school:
- Go to the basement or to an inside hallway at the lowest level.
- Avoid large spaces like auditoriums, cafeterias parking lots, etc.
- Get under a table or desk (or some stable piece of furniture), stay there, and hold on to it.
- Protect your head and neck at all times.
- Get inside a building as quick as possible.
- If you cannot possible find shelter, lie down in a ditch or low area, or crouch near a strong building.
- Protect your head and neck at all times.
If in a car:
- Don’t try to out-drive a tornado. They can change direction extremely quickly, lifting your car and tossing it through the air.
- Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
- If there is no time to get indoors, leave your car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle.