Tag Archives: Home safety

Piping Up

As with each New Year, 2014 brought hopes for good fortune, opportunity for new experiences…and a polar vortex.

In New England we are accustomed to freezing temperatures,Frozen drainpipe but the crippling, Arctic-like air that swept through the region last week reminded us of the perils of home ownership that may arise in such conditions.  Of these perils, pipe bursts are among the most common and recently have become widespread throughout Massachusetts. Last week 35 people in Lawrence were evacuated from their homes when a pipe burst inside their building. The same issue affected Brigham and Women’s Hospital, causing patients to be moved to other hospitals.

How can you prevent frozen pipes from ruining your New Year? Here’s some useful knowledge and a few helpful tips.

How does cold air cause a pipe to burst?

Before addressing prevention and treatment of burst pipes, it is important to understand why pipes are prone to bursting in cold temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, the ice that forms and expands within the pipe is not the culprit; the burst actually results from the built up pressure between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.

Preventative measures

Now that winter is upon us, here are some suggestions on how to prevent the bursting of pipes in your home:

  1. Wrap your pipes with insulation. Be generous with the wrapping. The more insulated the pipe, the less likely it is to freeze.
  2. Any cracks or holes in the walls or foundation of your house should be sealed in order to minimize pipes’ exposure to cold air.
  3. For plumbing that is hard to reach, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets in order to increase warm air flow to the pipes.
  4. Let the water drip from the faucet in order to alleviate built up pressure in the pipe.
  5. If you are going to be away during a cold
  6. spell, make sure your heat is turned no lower than 55°F.

If you suspect a pipe is frozen, pipe up!
If you turn on a faucet and little or no water comes out, call a plumber. Turn off the main water supply but remember to keep the faucet open. If you are keen on thawing the pipe yourself, apply a small heat source (hairdryer, towels soaked in hot water, etc.) starting at the faucet end. Remember to keep the faucet open. Under no circumstances should you attempt thawing the pipe with an open flame. Exposure to fire is harmful to the pipe.

For additional information on frozen pipe treatment:


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.

Summer Home Maintenance Tips

house cleaningHere’s a punch list of summer home maintenance tips, tailor-made for New England homeowners.

If you’d rather hit the beach than the hardware store, call a pro before those small repairs balloon into bigger expenses. Angie’s List is a good resource or ask for referrals from a friend or neighbor.

Air Conditioners
• Clear the air: Dirt and dust force air conditioners to work harder, waste energy and jack up your electricity bill
• Change your AC filters monthly, especially if you have allergy sufferers at home. If not, it’s fine to change filters once every three months
• Leaves and other debris from outside condensers can block air flow; clean them out of vents

• Clear attic vents of insect and animal nests or other debris
• Make sure vents and attic exhaust fans are in good working order
• Take a good look at your roof line: Check for leaks on rafters and insulation caused by loose or missing flashing

Basement /Cellar
• Check for and seal cracks, repair leaks in walls and floors
• If you have one, make sure your bulkhead entrance is free from leaves and other debris; sweep and repair cellar stairs, paint or re-paint metal bulkhead doors with rust-resistant metal paint
• Check and clean vents and basement windows
• If you have a sump pump, test, clean and lubricate it. If your pump has a backup battery, make sure it’s charged and replace it if necessary
• Sweep floors, toss out junk and other unused items you haven’t touched in two years or so. Click here to read our blog post on a room-by-room guide on how to declutter your home.
• Organize a giant yard sale with friends and neighbors to raise money for a good cause or your local school

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
• Test and replace batteries

Windows & Doors
• Clean windows inside and out with this chemical-free, green cleaner: newspapers and a solution of water and white vinegar will make glass sparkle. For more green cleaning tips, click here or, for something a little more official, the EPA’s website
• If you have older windows and doors, add putty, caulk or weather-stripping where needed
• Clean and install screens for windows and doors

Exterior Walls & Walkways
• Check and repair missing or loose siding or shingles
• Caulk joints and cracks to prevent seepage from winter water damage
• Touch up wood finishes damaged by wet winter weather
• Touch-up painting or re-paint exterior siding and shingles
• Repair crumbling or missing bricks and mortar from walls and walkways

Exterior Plumbing
• Check and turn on outside spigots, sprinkler system and other outside water lines
• Check, connect garden hoses

• Click here to read our post about grill safety
• Check fuel lines and replace propane tank if needed
• Tired of lugging propane tanks—and of running out of fuel when you need it? Hire a plumber to run a grill gas line

• Get the gloves out: Clean out those gutters; hire a pro to clean hard-to-reach places
• Check and repair damage and leaks from winter storms
• Hate cleaning gutters? Installing gutter guards may be a worthwhile splurge

Porches, Patios and Decks
• Powerwash, seal wood decks
• Check wood for rot, replace and seal damaged boards

• Repair damaged soffit panels and flashing
• Repair, replace damaged or lost shingles

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.

The Thrill of the Grill: safety tips to go with your steak tips

GrillingTime to get creative and throw some steaks, tips, corn on the cob, burgers, chicken, shrimp and calamari (yes, squid) on the barbie…along with some Portobello mushrooms and some zucchini strips for the vegetarians among us. You name it; you can grill it…except for beans. I just read something about someone grilling lettuce – I’m not sure how good that is, but why not?

Ready to fire it up? You pulled the cover off the BBQ and peered inside. Now what? Stop and take a few minutes do some quick grill maintenance before you start cooking:

  • Check the tray underneath your grill. Get rid of that old replaceable spill tray from last year, and make sure you always use a clean one before you cook. Too much grease can start a fire under your grill and get out of control quickly.
  • Check the hoses to and from your fuel source. If your grill is powered by natural gas or propane, make sure fuel hoses are attached properly and don’t leak. Not sure? Have a licensed plumber check things out. Remember to always put your fuel line in the “off,” locked or closed position when you turn off your grill burners.
  • If your grill runs on charcoal or wood, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully on how to best proceed. Have a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Clean your grill grates. Use a wire grill brush to get rid of old cooking residue (ew). Let the grill heat up and cook off a bit before you use it.
  • Give it some space. Don’t put your grill too close to your house or on a fire escape. Keep a safe distance–usually at least 10 feet–from wooden and other structures. Check with your local fire department and read the rules for your building association before grilling on a balcony or other small space.

Read more grilling tips on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Gas Grill Fact Sheet: http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/137858/GasGrill_factsheet_2013.pdf

Simple, classic 5-minute Italian marinade: Mix extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, red pepper flakes, chopped fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage and any other herbs from your garden in a bowl. Use separate bowls for meat, poultry, fish and veggies.

Let everything sit and marinade in the oil and herbs for as long as you like, then throw the marinated food (not the oil!) on the grill. Veggies go last. Always stay near the grill and watch what’s going on. Flip as needed.

Have an ice cold drink (Tip: try a half-and-half by mixing lemonade and ice tea over a big glass with ice and some fresh mint) while you wait.

Once your food is done, garnish with a little drizzle of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and some more fresh chopped parsley. Mangia!

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.