June is National Safety Month, a time intended to raise awareness about maintaining safety at home and at work. Electric and gas malfunctions can be hazardous, so this is a good time to review some safety tips and consider home protection plans for these systems that can provide for a safe environment in a number of ways.

There are many well-documented safety hazards related to gas and electrical malfunctions.

  • According to the National Fire Protection Association’s 2015 Fact Sheet, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,345,500 fires in 2015. These fires resulted in 3,280 civilian fire fatalities, 15,700 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $14.3 billion in direct property loss.
  • Heating equipment was involved in one of every five home fire deaths and was ranked second in cause of home fires, home fire deaths (tied with cooking), and home fire injuries.
  • Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was the fourth leading cause of home fires. This category includes fixed wiring, meters, switches, receptacles, outlets, cords and plugs, and lighting equipment.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-fire-related CO poisoning is responsible for approximately 15,000 emergency department visits and nearly 500 deaths annually in the United States.

While gas and electric utilities nationwide maintain an excellent safety record, there are things you can do to maintain a safe home, such as installing and regularly checking smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers, and mapping out and practicing a family fire escape plan.

There are many websites with useful safety information. For example, Nationwide Insurance offers a great list of electrical safety tips, and the National Safety Council offers comprehensive information about carbon monoxide safety. The American Red Cross also has videos and apps to help prepare for emergencies.

Home protection plans for electrical and gas systems enhance safety in a number of ways.

Proactive attention to a problem: A person with a plan is more apt to call for service on a small problem before the issue becomes worse, and potentially dangerous. Once on-site contractors can check other systems to ensure there are no additional issues and if any are discovered they can be fixed immediately.

Expeditious response: While it can take days for a contractor from the phone book to arrive, a home protection plan company has a defined and short response time. For example, with HomeServe, after calling to report a home repair emergency, the customer receives a call back from a qualified contractor within one hour to agree upon a convenient time for the contractor to arrive at the home to execute the repair.

Careful screening/vetting: Home protection plans provide consumers access to fully-vetted, licensed and insured local contractors. There are physical risks related to allowing a stranger into one’s home, particularly for elderly people living alone. In addition to vetting, Home repair plan companies send email/text verification of who is coming (including a picture of the technician), and they have records of exactly who was sent and what happened on the call.  Calling a contractor out of the phone book provides none of these safety benefits.

In addition to providing safety benefits, having access to a network of fully-vetted, licensed contractors can protect consumers from potentially expensive problems. According to the Better Business Bureau there are many financial risks of using unlicensed contractors including:

  • Quality – Acquiring a license ensures at least a minimal level of competence in that field.
  • Property values – Unlicensed contractors may fail to obtain permits which can ultimately be very costly for a homeowner. “Unpermitted work, especially if it’s not to code, could impact the value of the property and failing to disclose information could lead to liability of the seller. In addition, since an unlicensed contractor rarely has liability insurance or a bond, if any work needs to be re-done, the burden falls on the homeowner.”
  • Injury – If the contractor does not carry workers compensation insurance, the homeowner who hires that contractor becomes the “employer”, and then is responsible for injuries occurring on the property.
  • Damage to third parties – If a contractor is unlicensed and causes damage to a neighboring property or person, the homeowner may be held responsible for the contractor’s actions.

As seen on NBC’s Rossen Reports a hidden camera investigation of plumbers revealed that some plumbers lied about what repairs were needed, grossly overcharging unsuspecting consumers. With a home protection plan company the risk of being overcharged is eliminated.

A partnership with HomeServe brings your customers emergency home repair plans that deliver best-in-class service through an extensive network of rigorously-vetted local contractors. Learn more about how a partnership can benefit utilities and their customers at www.homeserveenergyinsider.com.