It’s impossible to prevent every accident or disaster, but there are some simple steps you can take that will go a long way to protecting your biggest investment.
- Know your shut-off valves. Few people know where the emergency shut-off valves are located for gas, water and electricity. Take a moment and find them, and make sure everyone in your house knows where to find them. Pro tip: give the water valve a practice twist, as these shut-offs can get jammed from years of not being used.
- Check your washer and dryer. Worn out rubber hoses in your washing machine can burst, spilling hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water on the floor. If your rubber hoses are more than just a few years old, swap them out for steel-belted hoses (and read this to find other ways to prevent home water damage.) When it comes to your dryer, lint can build up over time in the dryer vent and spark a fire. Luckily, a quick trip to the hardware store and some extra spring cleaning can reduce your risk of these common causes of fire and water damage.
- Plan ahead and find a friend. If you can’t afford a monitored security system, the next best thing is to give the appearance that someone’s home while you’re away. Install lamp timers, keep a radio turned on and tuned to a talk station, and when you’re on vacation, have a friend shovel your walkway or park their car in your driveway. Above all, keep lower-level windows and garage doors closed and all entrances locked.
- Smoke detection protection. Every home should have at least one smoke detector on each floor and test the batteries twice a year. Make it easy and do it right before you adjust your clocks in the fall and spring. Smoke detectors last about 10 years. Each time you get a new one, use a permanent marker to write the month and year on the back. (And don’t forget to test your house yearly for other gases like radon.)
- Prepare for severe weather. Whether your part of the country is prone to flooding, hurricanes or other natural disasters, take a look around and consider upgrades and simple maintenance to help minimize damage from wind and water. In tornado-prone areas, a safe room is always a smart addition to protect you and your family from the storm. And if a renovation isn’t in your budget, consider creating a home emergency kit to keep your family safe or keeping a supply of water on hand.