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. In 2017, U.S. fire departments responded to 1,319,500 calls, including 499,000 structure fires – 72 percent – averaging a response every 24 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association. There were 3,400 civilian fire deaths, 77 percent of which occurred in a home. Another 10,600 civilians were injured in home fires. Overall, there was $23 billion in property damage. Heating equipment was ranked second among all home fire deaths, behind cooking, accounting for 15 percent of reported fires. The leading factor in a heating fire was a failure to clean the heating equipment, resulting in 27 percent of heating-related fires. Nearly half of home heating fires occurred in December, January and February. Heating fires resulted in $1 billion in property damage, 1,400 injuries and nearly 500 deaths.
- Electrical failure or malfunctions causing fires accounted for 13 percent of home structure fires, but had the highest number of deaths, 18 percent, and property damage, 20 percent. Nearly 40 percent of electrical fires occurred from November through February.
- Electrical distribution and lighting equipment – including fixed wiring, meters, switches, receptacles, outlets, cords, plugs and lighting – accounted for 10 percent of home fires. Most of these fires originated either in a bedroom, 17 percent, attic or ceiling, 12 percent, or inside a wall or other concealed space, 9 percent. Only one-in-four of these fires occurred between midnight and 8 a.m., but fires occurring at those times accounted for 60 percent of deaths and nearly 40 percent of injuries.
Appliances That Use Heat
Gas and oil furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces and gas ovens produce carbon monoxide. More than 400 Americans die, 4,000 are hospitalized and 20,000 have had to visit an emergency room because of CO poisoning, according to the National Association of State Fire Marshals. More than two-thirds of Americans use CO-producing heating system to heat their homes, and heating systems are responsible for 65 percent of CO-caused deaths. Only 50 percent of Americans have a CO detector in their homes.
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’s a wealth of safety tips at your fingertips – Nationwide Insurance offers a list of electrical safety tips; the National Safety Council offers comprehensive information about carbon monoxide safety; and the American Red Cross also has videos and apps to help prepare for emergencies.
Emergency Home Repair Plan
You also can incorporate an emergency home repair plan to ensure that your gas, electric and heating systems are in good working order.
There are several reasons an emergency home repair plan can fit into your National Safety Month plan:
- 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. 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. With HomeServe, the customer receives a call from a qualified contractor to agree upon a convenient time for the contractor to execute the repair.
- Careful screening/vetting: Home protection plans provide consumers access to licensed and insured local contractors who have undergone drug tests and background checks. HomeServe sends an email/text verification of who is coming, and has 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.
A fully-vetted contractor who arrives at a customer’s home has the added benefit of avoiding “fly-by-night,” unlicensed and uninsured contractors, which can leave the homeowner open to lawsuits or unpermitted work, according to Angie’s List.
- Unlicensed contractors may fail to obtain permits or their work may not be up to code. This could impact the property value or lead to liability if the homeowner sells the property.
- Work that needs to be re-done because it doesn’t meet code standards means the contractor is unlikely to have liability insurance or a bond, and that extra expense will fall on the homeowner.
- If the contractor does not carry workers compensation insurance, the homeowner who hires that contractor – and all their employees – becomes the employer, and is responsible for injuries occurring on the property.
- the homeowner may be held responsible for the contractor’s actions if an unlicensed contractor causes damage to a neighboring property or person.
A contractor vetted by a third party can help homeowners avoid common scams, such as overcharging for electrical work, upselling unneeded services, changing costs mid-job and contractors who don’t have the expertise to properly complete the job or who deliberately use jargon homeowners don’t understand to confuse and overwhelm them.
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. To learn more about how a partnership can benefit utilities and their customers, contact us.