Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.
Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from "off" to "on." Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.
Outlets and Extension Cords
Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs in unused outlets.
Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.
Electrical Heating Equipment
Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.
Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.
Electricity and Water
A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.
Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.
There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.
Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
MORE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS :
Seller's Pre-Listing Inspection
lEventually, your buyers are going to conduct an inspection. You may as well know what they are going to find by getting there first. Having an inspection performed ahead of time helps in many other ways, such as:
InsideOut Inspections offers a comprehensive Move-In-Ready report to help pre-certify your home. A Move-In-Ready home that has been inspected by us can assure the seller can confirm that there are no major systems in need immediate repair or replacement. It is very similar to a home inspection, but instead of potentially scarring a buyer away from your home we ensure your customer can feel easy knowing his/her house is ready to go! Not only do we provide the initial inspection for the seller, we reinspect the home if any issues we found needed to be taken care of to ensure they were done properly.
The EPA recommends:
The EPA estimates that radon causes thousands of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.
* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2002 National Safety Council Reports.
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas.
You cannot see, smell or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
You should test for radon.
Testing is the only way to find out your home's radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
You can fix a radon problem.
If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
If You Are Selling a Home...
The EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.
If You Are Buying a Home...
The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for their radon test results. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system.
If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the house tested.
If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated into your home during construction to reduce radon levels.
These radon testing guidelines have been developed specifically to deal with the time-sensitive nature of home purchases and sales, and the potential for radon device interference. These guidelines are slightly different from the guidelines in other EPA publications which provide radon testing and reduction information for non-real estate situations.
This guide recommends three short-term testing options for real estate transactions. The EPA also recommends testing a home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy, since a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.
"Indoor radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country. It's important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test, and fixed through well-established venting techniques."
In a world where litigation is the preferred method of resolving even the most minor conflicts, it should come as no surprise to real estate agents that they are increasingly finding themselves named as defendants in lawsuits wherein purchasers of residential real estate are claiming damages as the result of the alleged fraud and/or negligence of one or more of the participants in the transaction.
Aggrieved purchasers of residential real estate are operating in a target-rich environment and have a remarkable array of potentially responsible parties from which to seek financial redress for their claimed grievances. In lawsuit after lawsuit, one finds multiple defendants: the sellers, the sellers’ agent, the sellers’ agent’s broker, the buyers’ agent, the buyers’ agent’s broker, the home inspector, the pest inspector, and so on. The alleged grievances can include multiple counts, as well: fraud, negligence, breach of contract, etc.
Once a lawsuit has been filed and you have been named as a defendant, you can kiss your E&O deductible goodbye, even if you are blameless, which, in the overwhelming majority of instances, you are, because the overwhelming majority of these types of lawsuits is completely devoid of merit. The size of these complaints and the sheer number of their allegations guarantee it. No competent lawyer could possibly read and respond to the vastly overblown pleadings that normally characterize these types of lawsuits for anything close to the typical real estate agent’s E&O deductible.
Therefore, the best strategy is to avoid being named in the suit in the first place. Fortunately, there are a number of effective policies that, if followed, can sharply reduce and even eliminate your exposure to being named in a meritless lawsuit.
Lawsuits resulting from a residential real estate transaction almost always result from a feeling on the buyers’ part that they got less than they bargained for. After they moved into the property, they discovered that it was not all that it was cracked up to be. Sometimes, the alleged defects were present at the time of the home inspection but, for one reason or another, were not discovered during the home inspection. The fact that the alleged defects were not discovered by the home inspector does not automatically mean that the home inspector was negligent or that you were negligent for recommending the inspector -- in fact, far from it.
There could be a number of reasons why the alleged defect was not discovered at the inspection that fall well short of actionable negligence. The defect could be something that is not discovered because its inspection is simply not contemplated by the home inspection, such as a determination of the adequacy of any structural system or component, for example. Such a determination is outside the scope of a home inspection. Or it could be something that is not reported because it was concealed by furniture on the day of the inspection, or was located in an area that was inaccessible. Not infrequently, known defects are deliberately concealed by the sellers. And far more frequently than anyone would imagine, the alleged defect that is the subject of the buyers’ complaint was actually discovered by the home inspector and noted in the inspection report, but not acted upon by the buyers because they did not bother to read the inspection report.
Therefore, when selecting a home inspector for your client, you should bear uppermost in your mind that the home inspector is your first line of defense against a meritless negligence claim.
Top Ten Ways You Can Sharply Reduce Your Professional Liability Exposure:
Speed up your home sale by preparing your home ahead of time using the following tips. Your home inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.
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