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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Emergency Preparedness, Metro-Detroit Style

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

It’s winter. In Michigan. And my kid just had three snow days in a row. While three days without school in session feels vaguely like an emergency, I suppose it really isn’t. But what about those home emergencies you might experience?

So let’s talk about emergency preparedness, metro-Detroit style. I’ve put together a list of five ways you can be prepared for a home emergency. This way, when a real disaster strikes, you are prepared to act.

1. Locate the Water Main Valve

This is one of those things we should know and remember, but often do not. If a pipe bursts or a washing machine starts to leak, you do not want to waste time digging around your basement looking for this little lifesaver. A quick flick of your wrist and you’ve shut off a destructive force of nature.

Most homes will have this valve in the basement on the “street side” near the water meter. They like to hide it so it may be a little bit of a treasure hunt. Once you find it, maybe make yourself a little sign with an arrow showing which direction is off.

You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in water damage if you can access this valve expediently.

2. Know How to Operate Your Electrical Panel

Back in the 90s, my dad was always muttering about “blowing fuses.” My brother and I didn’t know what this meant, other than the electricity was no longer working. This often happened when a hair dryer or microwave were involved. We really only concerned ourselves if our ability to watch “Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers” was impacted.

In the 70s, when our childhood home was built, the main electrical panels held tiny little fuses that would blow out if a circuit was overloaded. You had to replace the fuse to reestablish the circuit and get your stuff working again. Heaven help us if we ran out of fuses!

Most houses now have electrical breakers that “trip” when the circuit overloads. To reestablish the circuit connection, you find the switch that is tripped and flip it back the other way.

The panel should have each individual breaker labeled for each room or appliance so you can easily find the correct one. If your breakers are not labeled, grab a friend and send them on a reconnaissance mission as you ID which area or appliance each breaker controls. The labels will help anytime you need to complete electrical work in your home.

Remember to always contact a professional for any electrical work that you are unsure about! The Mathematician dabbles in light fixtures and basic wiring in our home, but I won’t touch that stuff with a ten-foot pole. If the Mathematician doesn’t want to mess with it, we call our electrician in to complete the job. Some scenarios are DDIY – don’t do it yourself.

3. Know How to Use a Fire Extinguishers (uh, and have them, too)

Imagine this scenario — your family finishes dinner and you grab your baby’s (or grand baby’s) high chair tray and take it to the sink. You set it on the stovetop while you manage the dishes in the sink. Except one burner was still on. The tray begins to melt and then catches fire. Smelling the smoke, you grab a fire extinguisher from under your sink and quickly put it out.

This scenario (based on a true story) could have been so, so much worse.

You should have several fire extinguishers stationed throughout your home, but most especially in the kitchen. Your entire family should know where the extinguishers are located and how to operate them. You do NOT want to try to figure it out on the fly. A fire is not the time to be reading your fire extinguisher’s manual.

4. Have an Escape Plan

We all know in the back of our brain that fires happen, but we never expect it will happen to us. It’s human nature to push bad possibilities to the dark recesses of our brain so we don’t have to think about them.

You should ensure you have an escape plan and review it with the entire family. How will you exit the home? Where will you meet up?

Make sure everyone knows the quickest and safest route out of your home. Practice this plan with the entire family and pick a specific spot where you can meet outside.

For homes with a second story, consider purchasing a fire escape ladder for bedrooms. We purchased a Kidde Fire Escape Ladder for our bedrooms last year. It is basically a rope ladder that will hang down from your window. Once you get it in place, you pull a ripcord and the ladder will drop down. It is decently compact and fit easily under our bed. I mean, this isn’t a scenario where you tie the bed sheets together, people.

5. Create an Emergency Toolbox

With the chance of snowpacalype, a polar vortex or wind storm, it is important to have a “toolbox” in a certain location that all family members can access. Fill it with flashlights, batteries, water, dry goods, and other necessary items. You can go crazy here with things like the Life Straw, a solar battery, or an arc lighter.

Double bonus points if you make your toolbox into a “go bag” you can grab if you have to leave your home quickly in an emergency.

Make sure you know how to use a gasoline generator before a storm strikes. Same with any natural gas heating device.

Thanks for joining me this week as we explored ways you can prepare for disaster before it strikes. As always, I’m here to help you with all your home questions so reach out if you have any items I can help you with!

Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

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