Category Archives: Flood Prevention

As spring approaches, so does the risk of flooding

After what seems like an eternal winter in New England, temperatures are finally beginning to warm up as we approach a dim (but glowing, nonetheless) light at the end of the snowy tunnel. While spring brings the promise of warm weather and longer days, it also brings conditions that will increase the risk of floods. And now that this winter’s unprecedented amount of snow is beginning to melt (yay!), possible flooding should be top of mind.Flooded interior

No matter where you live – urban townhouse, coastal beach house or suburban family-home – flooding can happen anywhere with little or no warning. So, even if you think you live in a safe area, as the snow begins to melt and spring rains arrive, it’s important to be prepared and understand flood risks.

Pro tip: Check out FEMA’s flood hazard maps to find out exactly how risky your community is

Spring into action: Take steps before a flood

  1. If you live in a high-risk area, prepare an emergency kit so you’re ready to go in the event of a flood. Items should at least include:
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable food
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Essential medicines
  • Extra cash
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra change of clothes
  • Important insurance and financial documents

For a full list of recommended items, visit The American Red Cross

2. If you live in a high flood-risk area, also consider having a professional evaluate your home’s furnace, water heater and electrical panel and determine if any modifications need to be made to decrease the chances of water damage

3. Secure your basement as it’s the most vulnerable space when it comes to floods. Begin with checking and sealing any cracks in the foundation to prevent leaks. Check out these comprehensive instructions on readying your basement from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

Stay alert: What to do during a flood

Stay tuned to local broadcast stations (tv and/or radio) for updates on flooding in your area. If you need to evacuate, remember:

  • Shut off all utilities including gas, water and electricity, remember to unplug appliances
  • Do not walk through moving water. Water 6 inches deep is enough to knock you over
  • Do not drive in flooded areas. If you need to, abandon your car and seek higher ground immediately
  • Be aware of evacuation shelters in your area

Remain vigilant: What to do after a flood

  • Only return home when authorities have deemed it safe to do so
  • Before entering, check for downed power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Call the fire department
  • Turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box and avoid downed wiring. The smallest electrical spark could be dangerous
  • Throw away any food and properly dispose of cleaning products, batteries, paint and other chemical-based products that could’ve been damaged by the flood waters. Make sure to wear protective gear (gloves, mask, rubber boots, etc.) when cleaning up
  • Contact your insurance carrier right away if you need to file a claim
  • Download this free e-book from the American Red Cross that covers everything from:
    • Returning to your home safely
    • Protecting your belongings from further damage
    • How to properly file insurance claims
    • How to check for gas/water leaks

Even if floods are few and far between in your area, it never hurts to be prepared. And now that this winter’s snow is beginning to melt, it’s even more important to be aware of the potential dangers of flooding.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

 

 

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

It’s never too late – the big one could be right around the corner.

Following are some basic tips on hurricane preparedness to ensure that you aren’t caught off guard.

  1. Create a “Family Emergency Plan” – creating a Family Emergency Plan ensures that every family member knows how to reach or reconnect with each other.
    1. Post emergency numbers (fire, police, ambulance) by the phone. Teach children how to call 911 for help Identify family meeting places in case you are separated. Choose a place in a building or a park outside your neighborhood. Everyone should be clear about this location
    2. Develop an emergency communication plan. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family’s contact.
    3. Make sure everyone knows the telephone number of this contact.
  2. Assemble an “Emergency Supply Kit” – your emergency supply kit should include basic food supplies and water to keep you and your family going for a minimum of 3 days. In addition, you should have a 30 supply of medications that you or your family members may take.  More information on what to include is listed below.
  3. Make sure that you and family members are aware of evacuation routes and the location of potential emergency shelters in case you feel that it is prudent to leave your home.
  4. Don’t forget about your car!  Your car should be placed in a garage and away from flood waters.  You also should fill your car with gas in the event you need to evacuate.

Remember, forewarned is forearmed – so keep your ears open for potential weather coming your way. Generally hurricanes that impact New England come from the south and you will have several days notice prior to landfall. Check out weather.com or The Weather Channel on a regular basis to stay up-to-date regarding developing weather systems that may impact you.

An Emergency Supplies Kit Should Include:

  • At least a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
  • At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • At least, one change of clothing and shoes per person
  • One blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and a portable radio and extra batteries for each
  • Emergency tools
  • Flashlight, extra batteries
  • Extra set of car keys
  • Credit card and cash
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Find additional safety and preparedness material:

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation provides auto insurance to personal and commercial auto insurance customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They are members of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.

The Big Unchill: Bunker Hill’s Tips on Protecting Your Home from Flooding

Highwater_SignApril showers bring May flowers and potentially a whole lot more. That’s because in addition to rain, the warm weather brings melting snow which is a commonly overlooked cause of flooding and water damage.

According to Floodsmart.gov, all 50 states are flood and flash-flood prone—even the states we think of as being land-locked and bone-dry. Did you know that in flood-prone states like Massachusetts, homes are more likely to be damaged from flooding than fire?

It just takes an inch…

While flash floods make the news and cause everyone to sit up and take notice, an inch or two of flood water can cause extensive damage to your home, so it’s a good idea to understand the dangers of flooding and have a plan.

One of the key things to remember is, if you can safely do so, Stay Put. Don’t wade or drive through flood waters.

  • Your car could be quickly carried away by floodwaters a mere two feet deep, or the roads ahead could be washed out. If you get stuck and your car stalls out in rising waters, get out immediately, head for higher ground, and wait for help to arrive.
  • Don’t take the chance on foot either: you could accidentally touch downed live power lines, be exposed to sewage, or bump into poisonous water snakes among other hazards. Head to the highest point and wait for help. Keep children away from deadly currents, including culverts and storm drains.

Before a flood…

  • Have a bag packed and ready to go with some cash, changes of clothes, medicines, eye glasses and other essentials for you and your family. Don’t forget to include copies of your insurance policy numbers (with your agent’s contact info) and other important documents.
  • Shut off your gas and water valves and disconnect all your electrical appliances.

After a flood…

  • Toss it out. Food, cosmetics and medicines could be tainted by sewage or other hazards.
  • Don’t slip. The ground and floors can be very slippery with mud and other debris; tread carefully (or better yet, stay away until it’s safe).
  • Be on the lookout for snakes and other animals.
  • Use flashlights to inspect for damage in dark places. Don’t use matches or lighters, candles or open flames until you’re 100-percent sure the gas is turned off and the area is properly ventilated.
  • Use generators outside where carbon monoxide won’t reach dangerous levels.

Other things you can do…

  • Pump it and dump it. A sump pump, properly installed with drain tile, can help prevent your basement from suffering from water damage. Battery powered sump pumps cost around $150-$400 and are a smart bet when the power’s also out. Make sure the water drains away from your house (and your neighbors’).
  • Have a professional fix leaks in your roof, windows and foundation as soon as possible before they cause more damage. Close foundation cracks with masonry caulk and mortar or hydraulic cement.
  • Keep it clear. Maintain those drains and gutters and clean them twice a year (more if yours tend to collect debris).
  • Move your bling. Put your valuables in a safer (higher) location in your home – ideally the second floor if you have one, or attic, where they’ll be safe from all but the most terrible floods.

While most homeowners insurance does not include coverage for flood damage (now’s a good time to check with your insurance agent and review your policy—flood coverage is typically a separate endorsement), if you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or other high-risk area and have a mortgage backed by the federal government, you must have flood insurance to qualify for a mortgage.

Since it usually takes at least 30 days for a policy to go into effect, it makes sense to buy flood coverage well before you think you’ll need it.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Are you getting hosed? (Washing Machine Hoses 101)

washing-machine-and-dryerDoing laundry is often the least-loved and most frequently performed household chore, so it makes sense to give your vastly underappreciated but totally overused washing machine (and hoses) a little TLC this season.

Why?

Because cleaning up after a flood, on top of doing laundry (and folding AND reminding everyone to put their clothes away for the fifth time) is just the absolute worst. And a flood should never happen, because washing machine hose failures are one of the most preventable home related disasters out there.

Don’t let a hose failure happen to you. Here’s what you can do to avoid calling the plumber for an emergency visit (and possibly an expensive clean-up crew as well):

  1. Braids of Steel. Trade up to a better quality water supply hose. Run-of-the-mill rubber supply hoses dry out with age and can easily expand and burst, flooding your home in seconds. Sometimes that old hose will look fine from the outside, but it could be badly deteriorated on the inside, which even the most keen eyes can’t see. That’s why you should consider upgrading from the typical rubber hoses to braided stainless steel lines. They’ll cost you a bit more, but are well worth it (and so are you).
  2. Know where the flow goes. Know where the washing machine water valves are—and check them regularly. When (not if) there’s ever a problem with a water line, you’ll know exactly where to find them—and know how to shut them off quickly. And if you’re remodeling or renovating, make sure you put your water valves in a place that’s easily accessible and they are easy to turn off—a single lever valve may be the way to go.
  3. Shut it off. Talk to your plumber about connecting a shut off valve to your main water line, which could detect any unusual uptick in water flow to or from your home before it turns into a tributary for Niagara Falls. When traveling you may want to consider shutting off your water completely, that way you will never need worry about potential water issues while you are gone.
  4. Don’t get kinky. Make sure you have adequate space between your washing machine and the wall behind it—this will allow your water lines to hang free and prevent kinking which is a another potential factor in causing hoses to burst.
  5. Check it twice. When attaching the drain hose make sure the connections to both the washing machine and the stand pipe are secure. Run a test wash to make sure there are no leaks at either end.
  6. Homeowner, meet dryer vent. Remember to love and cherish your dryer vent and exhaust hose, too. This means making sure you clean them every six months at least. This is in addition to your emptying the lint screen every time you throw a load in to dry. Vacuum and wipe out the vent and connections thoroughly twice a year, and check that your external dryer exhaust hose is in good condition and is clean, too. Built-up dryer lint causes thousands of home fires every year and many preventable deaths. Don’t let this happen to you.
  7. Mark your calendar. Every six months or so, take three minutes to check that your washing machine supply lines (hot and cold water hoses) are properly tightened (not too much!) and in good shape. Check your dryer vent, too, and make sure it’s clear and properly positioned so warm dyer air vents outside unimpeded while you’re at it.

Useful Links:

Real Simple magazine has a series of cool checklists for cleaning and home maintenance. Here’s a link to their “Complete Laundry Room Checklist.”

The Money Pit and HouseLogic are good starting points if you’re looking for complete reference websites for home care and maintenance. We love New England’s This Old House, too. Go, Norm!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.