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How To Be Safe On a Ladder

Several years ago, I climbed a ladder to inspect a roof. When I was done with the roof inspection, I took a step onto the top of the ladder and suddenly the bottom of the ladder started to slide out. I was definitely on my way to a crash landing! Fortunately, my client was there, quickly stabilized the ladder, and probably saved my life.

People fall off ladders all the time, usually with injuries or worse. I know 2 home inspectors that have fallen, one broke his clavicle and another one broke his leg.  According to the American ladder Institute, over 30,000 people each year fall from ladders and get injured. If they had followed basic ladder safety protocols most of these accidents would not have happened.

Although there are a lot of ladder guidelines, here are a few that I feel are the most important. For the complete article and more detailed suggestions, click here: American Ladder Institute

Abbreviated ladder safety suggestions

  • Probably one of the most important things to do is have a second person physically hold the ladder to stabilize it.
  • Always keep at least three points of contact with the ladder, (2 feet, and 1 hand, or 2 hands and 1 foot).
  • Only place the ladder on firm level ground and without any type of slippery condition present at either the base or top support points.
  • Never step on the top rung or step of the ladder.
  • Be very careful not to overreach and lose your balance.
  • Stay off ladders in high winds or storms.
  • Make sure the ladder is in good shape, inspect it first.
  • Wear clean slip resistant shoes.
  • Don’t place the ladder in front of a closed door.
  • Use a rope, a tool belt, or have an assistant convey materials so that your hands are free when climbing.
  • Stay focused.

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Change Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Batteries

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors often don’t function because the batteries are dead. Using the spring and fall time changes as a reminder to change the batteries is not a bad idea. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors save lives! Obviously, if the batteries are dead the detectors are not going to function, possibly putting you and your loved ones in harm’s way.

However, a better approach is replacing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with high quality units. It’s like anything else, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, the best protection for you and your family, as well as your home is a new top-of-the-line combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector system.

There are two types of smoke detection technology: one type is better at detecting slow smoldering conditions, and the other one is best at detecting actual fires. State-of-the-art smoke detectors include both types in 1 unit. Now, take this 1 step further and include a carbon monoxide detector in the same unit. (Carbon monoxide can’t be seen, is odorless, and can be deadly, so a detector is extremely important.)

Take that same unit and add some smart features. A system that I personally have direct experience with is Google’s Nest Protect. It’s an excellent high-quality product! But there are other systems on the market today with similar functionality.

  • They can speak clearly in plain language and warn you as to what the nature of the problem is and where it is.
  • They test themselves on a periodic basis and warn you clearly in plain language before their self-test.
  • The units are interconnected so that if one unit detects a problem all the units tell you about the problem.
  • These units are Wi-Fi connected and periodically report to your phone or other device as to what has been happening with the system over the last 30 days (for example).
  • Get fast alerts on your phone or device when the system detects a problem.
  • When you approach one of the detectors at night the unit automatically illuminates your pathway.
  • You can “hush” the alarm with your phone.
  • You can test the system with your phone

They can be hardwired to your home’s electrical system, or you can purchase them with a lithium battery that lasts at least 10 years ( which meets New York State laws.)

Of course, the system can be monitored by a central station monitoring company.

It is recommended that these units be installed on the ceiling, one unit in each bedroom, and 1 outside of the sleeping area (in the hallway), at least one detector on each level including the basement.

Nest protect detectors are over $100 each.  I personally feel that they are the best. There are many manufacturers that are substantially cheaper and have lots of excellent features so shop around.

For more related information click on this link: https://safeharborinspections.com/

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Do you have the responsibility for the sidewalks along your street?

During our inspections we often see tripping hazards on the sidewalk along the street. Usually, these tripping hazards are caused by tree roots lifting up sections of the sidewalk. We mention it during our inspections and often get asked “whose responsibility is it”?  The answer is it depends on the particular municipality. Many municipalities make it the responsibility of the property owner, and some municipalities take on the responsibility themselves. If you happen to be in a jurisdiction where the property owner is responsible for the sidewalk, and then someone trips and falls, the property owner may have liability and not even be aware of it.

So, if the sidewalk in front of your home or commercial property has tripping hazards, we recommend checking with your local jurisdiction to find out who is responsible. Obviously, regardless of who is responsible, it should be repaired anyway, for safety’s sake.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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Basement Easemend Windows

What is an Egress Window?

An egress window provides a secondary way to get out of a room in the event of a fire.  (It also enables a fireman to get into the room from the outside in the event of a fire.) These windows are required in basement bedrooms and basement living areas according to building code.

Here is a case in point: imagine you are in the basement in a bedroom or family room and there is only one set of steps to get out of the basement.  A fire breaks out near the stairway on the first floor blocking the ability to get out of the basement.  The secondary means of egress enables you to climb out of a window to safety, or conversely, enables a fireman to enter the space and save your life.

There are many specific requirements in terms of size and height and ease of access, one of which requires the window to be at least 5.7 square feet.  By the way, sometimes we see egress windows enabling somebody to leave the building, however there is a steel grate on top of the window well outside the house, which is too heavy to lift, making it impossible to get out.

If you have finished living areas in your basement, including bedrooms, we recommend that you or a general contractor check your local code to make sure you are in compliance with this safety requirement.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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Staircase

Are your Stairs and Handrails safe?

In almost every inspection we see stairs or railings missing handrails or balusters (spindles).  I think about it like this: picture someone elderly, and in the dark, in icy conditions navigating from the driveway to the top of the stoop without handrails.  That is when serious falls can happen. Picture someone climbing up the steps to the second floor, losing balance with nothing to hold onto.  Often, basement steps have no handrails or guardrails at all.  Picture a toddler playing on a deck chasing the ball for example, without the proper guardrails.  These conditions are recipes for injuries.  Tripping and falling on stairs is a very common source of injury.

Municipalities typically require guardrails and balusters if the height is more than 30 inches from the ground or floor.  Handrails are typically required if there are more than 3 stair treads (which also translates to approximately 30 inches).  But our advice is to make your house even safer than that which is required by code.  You can’t be too careful!

Handrails should be graspable, in other words, you should be able to grab them securely.  If your hand can’t get around the handrail, it isn’t very safe.

Handrail should be continuous.  You shouldn’t have to remove your hand from one handrail and then find the next handrail when traversing steps.  That could be enough to cause a fall.

The space between balusters should be no more than 4 inches wide to prevent babies’ heads from getting stuck.

There should be a light switch and light at the bottom and top of the stairs.  A single switch should turn on both lights.

Building codes contain a lot of requirements and dimensions, too many to mention here.  But my advice is to take a close look at all of your stairs, landings and balconies to get a gut feel for whether they are safe or not.  If you want to get into the details, there is plenty of information on various websites.  Or get a licensed and qualified carpenter or general contractor to examine all your stairs, landings, balconies, and decks to make sure they are safe.  Think safety, safety, safety!

For more related information click on this link: https://safeharborinspections.com/

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What you should know about Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Like everything else in our technological world, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are getting smarter and better.

In my opinion, the best protection for you and your family, as well as your home is a new top-of-the-line combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector system.

There are two types of smoke detection technology: one type is better at detecting slow smoldering conditions, and the other one is best at detecting actual fires.  State-of-the-art smoke detectors include both types in 1 unit.  Now, take this 1 step further and include a carbon monoxide detector in the same unit.  (Carbon monoxide can’t be seen, is odorless, and can be deadly, so it is extremely important.)

Take that same unit and add some smart features.  A system that I personally have direct experience with is Google’s Nest Protect.  It’s an excellent high quality product!  But there are other systems on the market today with similar functionality.

  • They can speak clearly in plain language and warn you as to what the nature of the problem is and where it is.
  • They test themselves on a periodic basis and warn you clearly in plain language before their self-test.
  • The units are interconnected so that if one unit detects a problem all the units tell you about the problem.
  • These units are Wi-Fi connected and periodically report to your phone or other device as to what has been happening with the system over the last 30 days (for example).
  • Get fast alerts on your phone or device when the system detects a problem.
  • When you approach one of the detectors at night the unit automatically illuminates your pathway.
  • You can “hush” the alarm with your phone.
  • You can test the system with your phone

They can be hardwired to your home’s electrical system or you can purchase them with a lithium battery that lasts at least 10 years.  (Meets New York State laws)

Of course, the system can be monitored by a central station monitoring company.

It is recommended that these units be installed on the ceiling, one unit in each bedroom, and 1 outside of the sleeping area (in the hallway), at least one detector on each level including the basement.

Nest protect detectors are over $100 each.  I personally feel that they are the best.  There are many manufacturers that are substantially cheaper and have lots of excellent features so shop around.

For more related information click on this link: https://safeharborinspections.com/

 

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Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool Safety

As horrible and sad as it is, every once in a while we all hear about a child that drowned in a swimming pool.  More than likely, if the proper protections were in place, the tragedy would have been avoided.  So, the purpose of this article is to address some of the components of swimming pool safety according to New York State rules and is intended to provide the broad strokes pertaining to swimming pool safety.

Please don’t rely on this article as a comprehensive document covering all of the rules and regulations associated with swimming pools.  Much more detail is available at this link and many others on the Internet https://www.dos.ny.gov/DCEA/pdf/PoolsumUC0708.pdf  Please keep in mind that some municipalities have stricter rules so it’s important to check with the authorities to make sure you are in compliance with all local safety rules in effect.  By the way, there is no “grandfathering” for an older swimming pool.  All pools must meet current code.

Here’s the big picture: A proper barrier and gates around the pool, proper alarms, proper electrical safety and anti-entrapment devices inside the pool.

What is considered a swimming pool?  Anything deeper than 24 inches, including hot tubs and spas as well as above ground and inground pools.

  • There must be a barrier completely surrounding the pool at least 4 feet high with self-latching, self-closing gates with child rated locks. The barrier can enclose a larger area than the pool itself.
  • If the house is part of the barrier, there are rules for automatic alarms on doors and windows which are intended to alert people when the doors or windows are opened. There should also be an alarm capable of detecting a child getting into the pool and sounding an alarm.
  • Most swimming pools have suction ports capable of entrapping a child below the surface of the water. These suction ports should be equipped with an anti-entrapment cover which eliminates the hazard.
  • All the electrical components in and around the pool must meet strict requirements for safety and should be installed by a licensed and qualified electrician.

For more related information click on this link: https://safeharborinspections.com/

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