Nov 152012

Fiscal Cliff vs. Home and Office Maintenance

Today, as this newsletter is being written, Americans have their eye on the “Fiscal Cliff.”  Funny thing, before the election it was referred to as Sequestration.  As the Maintenance Guru, I have to admit that I really don’t understand the term sequestration and believe that few people do.  Change the term to Fiscal Cliff an even I can understand what’s ahead.  I have a few suggestions I could toss in the ring for avoiding the Fiscal Cliff but we have people much smarter them me working that problem.  My goal this month is to provide ways to help you can save a few dollars each month forever.  If we all jump off the “Fiscal Cliff,” you and I will at least know we are getting the most from the money we spend on utilities and maintenance.

1. Work on your utility budget by reviewing what you used last December, and pledge to cut that amount by 10%.
2. Conduct the scheduled maintenance reviews on your heating systems to keep them efficient
3. Conduct the scheduled plumbing and appliance inspections.  Remember, this month includes your water heater inspection and the last thing you need going into the holidays is a flooded home.
4. Turn lights off when you are not in the room.
5. Only wash clothes and dishes when there is a full load.
6. Run your ceiling fan when you are in a room and turn it off when the room is empty.
7. Use energy efficient light bulbs.

Getting your family involved is important too.  Remember when your parents nagged you to turn off your lights?  Remember how you responded?  I had a subscriber tell me as a mom trying to make ends meet, she was always looking for ways to save.  She sat her family down and showed them an electric bill from December the year before and challenged them to cut the bill by 10%.  She went on to say that she reminded them to take shorter showers, turn lights off when leaving a room, turn the water off while brushing their teeth so water doesn’t just flow down the drain.  For her part, she would adjust the thermostat when she left the house in the morning and then again when the first person came home after school.  She challenged the family with the promise of a dinner out if they achieved their goal of 10%.  To everyone’s surprise, she saved over 30% on her utility bill the first month.

Turn your personal Fiscal Cliff into your personal Fiscal Windfall by taking a few extra steps to save.  Build habits that last a lifetime, your children will thank you for it one day.


Turkey fryer hazards as reported by UL:

Source Data
UL is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions from the public adoption of electricity to new breakthroughs in sustainability, renewable energy and nanotechnology. Dedicated to promoting safe living and working environments, UL helps safeguard people, products and places in important ways, facilitating trade and providing peace of mind.

Turkey fryer hazards 

  • Many units easily tip over, spilling the hot oil from the cooking pot.
  • If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner or flames, causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
  • Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too may result in an extensive fire.
  • With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • The lid and handles on the sides of the cooking pot get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

Important safety information
If you absolutely must use a turkey fryer, please use the following tips.

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.
Oct 152012

Fire Prevention Week

Fire Prevention Week ended on October 13th.  The following information is published on the Nation Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) web site.  One thing that I hope all of my readers consider is that the statistics that follow do not include a single person who expected to be in them.

The following information was published at NFPA.

Cooking equipment remains top cause of home structure fires according to NFPA report

According to a new report released by NFPA, cooking remains top cause of home structure fires.  U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 371,700 home structure fires annually between 2006 and 2010. These fires caused an estimated average of 2,590 civilian deaths and $7.2 billion in direct property damage yearly.
Based on research by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the report also cited that cooking was the number one cause of home structure fires.  CPSC found that in 2004-2005, for every household cooking fire reported to the fire department, U.S. households experienced 50 cooking equipment fires that they did not report.
Forty-two percent of reported home fires started in the kitchen or cooking area. These fires were the third leading cause of home fire deaths (15 percent) and leading cause of home fire injuries (37 percent).
Other notable findings from the report include:

  • Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths followed by heating equipment and then cooking equipment.
  • 25 percent of all home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom; another 24 percent resulted from fires originating in the living room, family room, or den.
  • Home fires accounted for 73 percent of all reported structure fires between 2006 and 2010.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, on average one of every 310 households per year had a reported home fire.
  • Home structure fires peaked around the dinner hours between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Source Link


Sep 152012

Fall Season Maintenance

September has always been the transition month from summertime maintenance to fall maintenance.  In most of the country, subscribers are feeling the cooler mornings, a reduction in daylight hours, peaceful evenings making it hard to remain indoors.  The blistering summer heat is over and now is the time to get ready for colder weather.  September seems to be the perfect month to leave the windows open and let the fresh air in.  With temperatures staying in the tolerable range, it is easy to turn off the air conditioning let the gentle wisp of Mother Nature run through the house like a welcome kiss from the heavens.

Now is also the time to prepare homes for harsher weather that is sure to follow in the weeks ahead.  Checking exterior areas around the home is important in the final weeks of September.  Be prepared for the surprise drop in temperature.  Review this month’s inspections and conduct the outdoor inspections to include inspecting your foundation, roof, gutters, and winterizing your home.

Of the three, winterizing may be the most important.  Review the checklist closely and protect your home from winter’s fury.  If you disconnect and drain your garden hoses you will save the cost of replacing them should the first freeze come in late September or early October.

Checking roofs and gutters will pay off with the first snow.  Leaves collected in gutters often block downspouts which causes water to back up in the gutter and pour over the sides.  The problem is the inside, not necessarily the outside.  As water pours over the inside of the gutter, it can flood under the shingles or onto and behind the fascia.  Damage is then sustained throughout the winter as snow melts and rain comes continually depositing moisture on and behind the wood.  Then comes the mold, insects, wood rot, and damage to the soffit.  In severe cases, the water can back up into the insulation in the attic and destroy walls and ceilings.  The simple act of cleaning gutters in the fall will eliminate the risk of damage to homes.

Ladder Safety

When was the last time an inspection was performed on your ladder?  We keep the ladder inspection checklist up all of the time.  For convenience we have included it here.

Ladder – Portable
If the answer is “yes” to any of the questions below, make repairs before using the ladder.
General Inspection (all ladders)
1. Are there loose steps or rungs (should not be able to move a rung by hand)?
2. Are there loose fasteners such as nails, screws, bolts, or other materials?
3. Are there cracked, split, broken, rust or decayed uprights or rungs?
4. Are there slivers (metal or wood) on uprights, rungs, or steps?
5. Are there rungs missing?
6. Is grease, oil, or slippery material on steps or rails?
7. Do movable parts jam or scrape when operating?
8. Is the base (non-skid) material missing?
1. Is the ladder wobbly or does it appear to be asymmetrical (not sit squarely on the ground)?
2. Are the hinge spreaders loose or disconnected at both ends on all rails?
3. Is the hinge on each spreader fastened loosely or missing in the center creating a wobbly or loose connection from rail to rail?

Jul 152012

Drought and Wild Fires

The Maintenance Guru read this week that the largest disaster declaration ever issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture took effect on July 13th.  The map above was published at and represents the counties affected.  Drought conditions lead to fires.  Most of our subscribers have been affected in one way or another from the fires that have spread across the country over the past 60 days.  We have no subscribers who have reported personal loss for the fires however, many of our subscribers have reported smelling and seeing smoke daily.
The Maintenance Guru visited his parents in Wyoming last month just as the Russell Camp Fire started.  The smoke could be seen for over 100 miles and because of the drought, it spread quickly.  The Maintenance Guru took his dad up the mountain to check on a mountain cabin that has been in their family for over 30 years.  The cabin was not in the fire line because the wind was blowing favorably at the time.  A 90 degree shift in the wind would most certainly put the family cabin in jeopardy.

Thanks to the quick response of FEMA, helicopter firefighting support, and over 300 firefighters working around the clock, the fire was eventually contained without loss of life.  It will be a long time before the fire is 100 percent extinguished as embers burn underground for months following most forest fires.  The first good snow will most likely extinguish the smoldering underbrush.
When enjoying our wonderful country, please take extra care to extinguish all fires.  Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

Living Conditions at Fire Camp

As a fireman in the United States Air Force, the Maintenance Guru was exposed to fires of all kinds.  Although he was trained in fighting forest fires, he never had the opportunity to apply the lessons he learned in class to an actual forest fire.  Often, people never consider the conditions the living conditions of firefighters during the fire season.  The following pictures were taken in Wyoming with a cell phone as the Maintenance Guru passed the fire command post.  Three hundred firefighters, both men and women, called this camp home.  Most live in small tents pitched on flat ground with food and water provided to sustain life while spending weeks and sometimes months at camp away from home. This camp was located in a safe zone about 15 miles from the fire.  The pictures were taken as the camp was being established.  Fighting wild fires is exhaustingly difficult, dangerous beyond conception, and most firefighters are just thankful to have a tent and a bed roll waiting for them at the end of the day.  These men and women risk their lives daily fighting fires so life and property can be preserved. If you ever get a chance to thank a wild fire firefighter, please do without delay.

The following Fire Safety tips have been published by FEMA at:

Working Together for Home Fire Safety

More than 3,500 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 18,300 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead.

Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm

Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It’s inexpensive protection for you and your family. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. A working smoke alarm can double your chances of survival. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after ten years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.

Use Appliances Wisely

When using appliances follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.

Alternate Heaters

  • Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
  • Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
  • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.

Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers

When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable – they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.

Plan Your Escape

Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out then call for help.

Caring for Children

Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Fifty-two percent of all child fire deaths occur to those under age 5. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.

Caring for Older People

Every year over 1,000 senior citizens die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can’t respond quickly.

Jun 152012

8 Easy Steps to Fireworks Safety

  There just does not seem to be enough time to create good habits when it comes to fireworks.  Each year, home owners lose everything because they were careless or just didn’t know how to store, use, and discard fireworks.  Subscribers at received detailed instructions this month concerning fireworks safety.  Dave Risha, the Maintenance Guru sais that the dangers associated with fireworks can be significantly mitigated with a few simple precautions.

Step 1: Conduct a risk assessment to determine your plan of action in the event that a fire starts. A risk assessment will help you find out all of the possible problems with the storage area, and your methods of storing. Then you can begin the process of making it a safe storage site.

Step 2:Remove sources of ignition from the storage area. Store fireworks away from petroleum based substances like gasoline or kerosene, electric or gas heaters, drain cleaners and fertilizers.

Step 3:Store fireworks in a closed container. Plastic tubs with lids are perfect for keeping fireworks dry and away from possible heat sources.

Step 4:Place fireworks away from other materials that could catch fire easily. It is important to keep them away from cardboard boxes, newspapers, pallets or parked vehicles.

Step 5:Keep exits clear of fireworks. Store fireworks away from doorways, ensuring exits are open and accessible if a fire does start.

Step 6:Test your smoke detector and make sure batteries are fresh and working.

Step 7:Make sure your fire extinguisher works and keep it close to the area where you are storing fireworks. Check to see if the extinguisher is full and the expiration date has not passed.

Step 8: Store fireworks in a secure room or building. You should be able to lock the building or room to prevent children or unwanted intruders from getting to the fireworks.

You Can Take Steps to Reduce Effects of Flood Waters

The Maintenance Guru’s home town of Jacksonville, FL has been the recipient of several inches of rain over the past two weeks.  Tropical Storm Beryl moved through with near hurricane force winds then stuck around for a few days dropping much needed rain in northern Florida, across Georgia and up the Eastern seaboard.  Once it moved out, more rain followed.  For nearly two weeks, rain has fallen in the vicinity of Jacksonville daily.  With hurricane season here, it is time to consider the effects of flood waters and how to mitigate the possible damage due to floods.
There are actions that can be taken to reduce the effects of rain and flood waters within homes and offices.  I found the following article at

Step 1

Things you can do when there is an imminent risk of flood:


  • Clear drains, gutters and downspouts of debris.
  • Roll up area rugs and carpeting, where possible, and store these on higher floors or elevations. This will reduce the chances of rugs getting wet and growing mold.
  • Move furniture and electronics off the floor, particularly in basements and first floor levels.
  • Anchor fuel tanks. An unanchored tank can be torn free by floodwaters, and the broken supply line can cause contamination or, if outdoors, can be swept downstream and damage other property.
  • Prepare an evacuation kit with important papers, insurance documents, medications and other things you may need if you are forced to be away from your home or business for several days.
  • Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh or replace the batteries.
  • Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets will be under water.
  • Place all appliances, including stove, washer and dryer on masonry blocks or concrete at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation

Step 2

Things to do if time allows:

  • Hire a licensed electrician to raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12 inches above the expected flood levels for your area.
  • If flood waters enter the sewer system, sewage can back up and enter your home. To prevent this, hire a licensed plumber to install an interior or exterior backflow valve. Check with your building department for permit requirements.
  • Make sure your yard’s grading (slope) directs water away from the building.
  • Have the installation of your furnace, water heater and other permanently equipment modified so that they are elevated above the expected flood levels for your area.

Step 3

Recover: Things to do after a flood:

  • As soon as it is safe to do so, disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and move it to a dry location.
  • Remove as much standing water as possible from inside the building.
  • Remove water-damaged materials immediately.
  • Ventilate with fans or use dehumidifiers to dry out the house.
  • Acting quickly can increase the chance of salvaging usable materials, reduce the amount of rust, rot and mold that might develop, and limit the likelihood of structural problems.