Is Your Home An Accident Waiting To Happen?

sprinkler

Carpets, power-cords and sprinklers may not be as harmless as they look.

They are among the household objects responsible for the most garden and home-related Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) claims – along with the more obvious items, such as ladders, chainsaws and hammers.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of dangerous objects, a sprinkler and a bit of carpet aren’t the first things that spring to mind.

But they are responsible for many trips and slips – nearly half of all home injuries are caused by falls and it’s not just those in their early and twilight years that make up those numbers.

People aged between 25 and 64 make up a large percentage of all falls in the home.

Figures released this week by the ACC show gardening was behind 56,282 claims submitted last year – worth a massive $49 million and up from 54,516 the previous year.

A sprinkler was the cause of 52 claims. One unlucky sprinkler user “tripped over the hose, missed step onto path and jarred [their] knee and hip” after just switching on a sprinkler.

Looks like the sprinkler and hose aren’t such an innocent pair after all.

We all know the old adage that more people are injured at home than anywhere else so here’s some advice* from ACC about how to reduce the risks.

*Most of the advice is just a lot of common sense, so we’ve compiled a list of a few things that could strike a cord (not literally, obviously).

How to reduce the risks…

Bathroom

About 40 per cent of homes have dangerously hot water, meaning there are more than 560,000 hot water burns waiting to happen…

The ideal temperature for water is 55°C when it comes out of the tap, and 60°C in your cylinder.

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It needs to be at least 60°C in the cylinder to keep bacteria from growing, which could make you sick.

Get your hot water checked by a registered plumber to ensure it’s at the right temperature.

Electrical cords

Never leave a cord hanging over the edge of a kitchen bench or table where a child could pull the appliance down on themselves.

Laundry

Put dirty laundry in a hamper so it’s not on the floor creating a tripping hazard.

Try not to install cupboards at head-height above the washing machine – hitting your head every time you do a load of washing can’t be good for the old noggin.

Kitchen

Take your time – so often we’re rushing around cooking meals and that’s when injuries happen. Slow down and be safe.

Keep pets and small children away from the kitchen – as much for your own sake as theirs. Pets and kids milling about on the floor are responsible for many a trip in the kitchen (in our house anyway…).

When building or redesigning a kitchen, don’t make the kitchen a travel route to other parts of the house, or the only route to the backyard – you don’t want it to be a ‘high traffic’ area.

Floors

Firmly anchor rugs so they don’t slide or bunch up and cause you to fall.

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Keep clutter and cords out of your way.


Go to the ACC website for more tips on home safety. 

Do you have any helpful tips for avoiding injuries in the home? Or something you wish you had or hadn’t done before you had an injury at home?

Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Chimney…

Fireplace

When was the last time you had a professional look at your chimney or fireplace?

Blocked chimneys can cause chimney fires or carbon monoxide to build up in your home – so it’s not one of those maintenance tasks that you should put to the bottom of the to-do list and subsequently forget about.

The experts say that chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year but I’m willing to bet that for a lot of us it’s been a while since ours had a check-up – if ever, for others.

In our Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist we mentioned the importance of having a professional chimneysweep maintain your chimney and fireplace. Now that winter has reared it’s ugly head and our fireplaces are getting a good workout, let’s take a closer look at what needs to be done.

Chimney experts Complete Chimney Care answer our burning questions (sorry)…

Why do I need my chimney cleaned?

The chimney flue is essentially a household exhaust pipe – funneling away soot, hot ashes, smoke and gases from your home. An annual inspection and clean should be done at least once a year to check for cracks, holes or faults and to remove soot, creosote, birds nests and other blockages.
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Will my house insurance cover chimney fires?

Most insurance companies won’t pay out on claims caused by chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional chimneysweep and been inspected on an annual basis.

My fire is not drawing properly…

This is usually the result of a cold or obstructed flue or insufficient height relative to the ridge of the roof or an adjacent building. Large unnecessary voids at the base of your chimney may also stop the fire drawing properly. Or if you have double glazing or very efficient draught excluders around doors, it may prevent an adequate flow of air for the fire to work correctly.

My fire creates excessive soot…

This can be the result of a lazy and inefficient flue. Your flue may not be the right diameter for the fire or stove, or it may not be properly insulated, meaning fumes do not rise fast enough and soot deposits are created. Excessive soot and tar can be a real fire hazard, particularly if the chimney structure has deteriorated.

I’ve got mortar falling into my fireplace…

Bits of brick or mortar falling down the flue indicate a serious deterioration in the chimney structure. This deterioration normally occurs from the inside of the flue but it might also indicate weakness on the outside of the chimney.

My chimney breast feels hot…

This means that the chimney has deteriorated and may be dangerous. If stains also appear on the chimney breast this is a sign that tar or acids have condensed and are eating into the chimney mortar and brickwork.

I want my chimney removed. Should I do it myself?

Removing chimneys is dangerous work, so the simple answer is no.  A small chimney can weigh around half a tonne, whilst bigger ones can weigh up to eight tonnes. Chimneys built before 1900 are made with lime mortar much of which has now degraded to dust.  Weight is the only thing holding them together. Brick structures are expected to last for 50 years so any buildings older than the 1960’s should be inspected by a professional to make sure they’re safe.

Have you had any problems with your chimney? Did you know the importance of annual checkups or the dangers of a blocked chimney?
Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.
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Burglary: Tips to protect your home

It’s a horrible feeling. Getting home and realising something’s amiss. “I’m sure I didn’t leave that stuff out all over the counter…” “Hang on where’s the laptop?!”

And then it dawns on you: you’ve been burgled.

Your home ransacked. Precious family keepsakes, jewellery passed down from relatives, photos – all snatched by thoughtless thieves.

Burglary by numbers

You can now see the number of burglaries committed in your neighbourhood in a new interactive map, created by the NZ Herald using data released by the New Zealand Police for the first time.

It’s sobering viewing.

Part of Auckland’s Takanini South holds the title of the most burgled residential neighbourhood in New Zealand. Residents there have to make sure they lock up the whole house just to nip to the loo – because burglars will rush in and grab stuff in seconds.

Learning the hard way…

As someone who’s been burgled twice, in two different areas, I know how angry these people must be feeling.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is not to keep precious mementos, such as cards from loved ones or newborn hospital wristbands, in jewellery boxes or anything that a burglar is likely to make a beeline for. These things are worthless to a thief but they’re not going to waste time removing them.

And print out your photos or save them in a dropbox. It may sound like an obvious one but I’m willing to bet a lot of people have snaps sitting on a laptop or phone that aren’t saved anywhere else. We lost hundreds of photos because we had left them on our laptops and SD cards that burglars proceeded to pinch.

It maddens me that I should even have to consider where I’m keeping things in my own home just in case someone decides to help themselves to my stuff but I’d rather be cautious than go through that all over again.

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You can replace possessions but not your family and pets.

Our dog was home the second time we were burgled – we found him in the corner of the living room afterwards and it’s taken him a long time to get over it. I hate to think what happened to him but am so glad he was still there when we got home.

As upset as we were to lose precious family photos and jewellery, the relief that our dog was ok, did put it all in perspective. You can replace most possessions but not your family and pets.


The NZ Police offers this advice for keeping your home safe:

How to protect your home

  • Always lock up. Burglars often enter through unlocked doors and windows or they take advantage of weak locks.
  • Install good quality locks and use them. Check that you will be able to escape easily in a fire or other emergency.
  • Use a reputable locksmith.
  • Lock the front door if you’re in the back garden.
  • Lock your house if you are having a rest or doing something that needs a lot of concentration, such as studying or sewing.
  • Lock away tools and ladders because burglars could use them to break in.
  • Lock garden sheds and your garage if you can.
  • Sensor lights are an excellent security device because they light up automatically if somebody moves nearby.
  • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they don’t provide hiding places for burglars.
  • Keep windows secure.
  • Guard your keys. Don’t have personal details on your keys (such as your name, phone number or address). Don’t leave house keys with your car keys when your car is being serviced.
  • Don’t invite burglars in – never leave notes on a door stating that you are out.
  • When you go away, make sure your home looks ‘lived in’.

Home security checklists

Before you go out:

  • all doors locked
  • garage locked
  • all windows shut securely
  • tools and ladders put away securely
  • spare keys with neighbour (not ‘hidden’)
  • doors clear (no notes on them).

Before you go away:

  • tell your neighbour when and where you’re going
  • cancel mail, paper etc
  • give your neighbour a contact phone number
  • put a lamp on a timer
  • curtains open, blinds up
  • turn telephone ringer sound down
  • lock all doors, close all windows.

Ask your neighbour to:

  • clear your letterbox
  • close your curtains at night
  • use your clothesline occasionally
  • watch your home
  • use your driveway occasionally
  • report any suspicious behaviour.

Identify and mark your valuables

When claiming insurance you must be able to prove you owned any stolen items claimed for. Keep receipts, warranties, valuations and a list of serial numbers in a safe place. Take photographs or videos of jewellery, art works and other precious things. Portable items of high value are the most likely things to be stolen.

Burglars are unlikely to steal items that are permanently marked because they’re hard to sell. Engrave valuable items with your driver licence number, car registration number or phone number.

If you have engraved your valuable property or recorded the serial numbers of items, Neighbourhood Support can provide you with a warning sticker to put on a window. The sticker will discourage most criminals from taking your property because they know there is a greater risk of getting caught or traced if they handle and attempt to sell identifiable goods.

Operation SNAP

Anyone is able to record serial numbers and other unique identifying details of their valuable goods in an electronic database. For more information and to register your goods visit the Operation SNAP website.


Choosing an alarm

Alarms are only a back-up for locks, labels and lists. An alarm system can detect a burglar in action, but it can’t always keep the burglar out.

If you are considering an alarm, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a reliable company. When a security person arrives to inspect your property, ask to see their current Security Technician or Security Consultant Licence or Certificate of Approval. If they don’t have a licence, send them away. The law says they must be licensed.

Get detailed quotes and plans from several reputable alarm companies. Make sure your written contract contains a full service agreement. It must also contain normal warranties for equipment and service.

Don’t be pressured into buying something in a rush, or let a company ‘hard sell’ you an alarm system.