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Start at Home to Practice Summer Season Safety


Get your home in bikini-season shape to protect property & finances

SAN MATEO, Calif., May 16, 2007 – Forecasters have predicted wild hurricane and tornado seasons for 2007, and fires and tornadoes already have struck some U.S. locations. With the added hazards of theft or damage during summer vacation, the time is right for homeowners to take action to protect their property from summer losses, said Brad Stroh, co-CEO of free online consumer portal Bills.com.

Stroh reminds homeowners to shape up their property with this checklist:

  1. Read policy coverages. Homeowners’ insurance originated as fire insurance. Today, homeowners' policies still cover losses from fire. Policies usually also cover losses from theft or other incidents. But some homeowners don't realize property might not be covered for losses from flood or earthquake. Consumers in flood-or earthquake-prone areas should consider buying a rider to cover loss from these natural disasters.
  2. Prevent hazards: Spring cleaning regimens should include examining property and correcting avoidable hazards.
    • Clean lint from the clothes dryer's vent line. Laundry appliances cause more than 13,000 fires annually.
    • Check appliance cords for frayed spots and avoid using extension cords. Instead, hire a licensed electrician to install new outlets. Fix outlets that spark, shock or feel hot to the touch.
    • Check and repair leaky dishwasher, washing machine and water heater hoses and valves. Watch for water collecting in crawl spaces or beneath hot tubs.
    • Fix roofs and sidewalks before they present dangers.
  3. Don't leave a home alone: "When you go on vacation, prevent theft," Stroh said. "Do your best to make your home look inhabited when you are gone."
    • Use timers to turn lights and TVs on and off.
    • Put mail and newspapers on hold so they don't pile up (which also can invite identity theft).
    • Hire a house sitter to look in on the house. He or she can set out garbage cans, leave a car parked in the driveway or even rotate yard toys to create the illusion of at-home residents.
  4. Safety at home and away: Well-lighted property is safer. Replace burned-out bulbs in house and garage porch light fixtures. Install motion-sensitive lights to shine on dark corners of the yard or driveway. Be sure the path to the front door is illuminated. "Your home will be more attractive to visitors, safer when you come in late and less alluring to those with mischief in mind," Stroh said.
  5. Prevent and prepare for hazards: Create a to-do list customized for your region. If wildfire is a danger, clear brush and trees from around the home. Today, homeowners and renters alike are wise to have an evacuation kit -- especially those in fire, flood or hurricane areas. Find a comprehensive checklist at http://childparenting.about.com/od/lifeathome/a/familyevacuatio.htm. The Red Cross also offers evacuation tips in the "Get Prepared" section of their Web site at http://www.redcross.org.

"Planning ahead can make this summer go smoothly," Stroh added. "Best of all, you can relax knowing that you have the insurance coverage you need, and the plans in place to handle any emergency."

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The company blogs about consumer finance issues at http://www.bills.com/. Since 2002, Bills.com and its partner company, Freedom Financial Network, have served more than 15,000 customers nationwide while managing more than $350 million in consumer debt. The company's co-founders and CEOs, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, were named Northern California finalists in Ernst & Young's 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

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