Insurance Agents Offer Tips For Fire Safety Month

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TRENTON – The Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey Inc. reminds homeowners and renters that October is designated as “Fire Safety” month. Take the time now to review fire safety tips with your family so you will be prepared in the event of a fire emergency. And remember, it also is important to make sure that your home is insured properly before an incident.

Insurers generally recommend that people insure their home for its full replacement cost, which means it is insured under a homeowners policy for 100 percent of the cost of repairing or rebuilding it at the time it becomes necessary. If the homeowner purchases a guaranteed replacement cost endorsement, the full amount would be received to rebuild regardless of inflation.

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“A standard insurance policy, personal property and possessions will be insured for their actual cash value, which is its replacement cost at the time of loss, minus depreciation of its value and any deductible applying to the policy,” says Donna Cunningham, CPIA, newly elected president of PIANJ. “In order to receive full value for property, a policy should include replacement cost coverage, which also protects from both depreciation and inflation. Keeping your homeowners or renters insurance policy up-to-date and making sure all valuable are covered is important protection against tragedies.”

“The best way to practice fire safety is to make sure a fire doesn’t break out in the first place,” says Cunningham. “It’s better to prevent fires than to worry about escaping one. A tragedy such as a fire can happen at any moment. Would you and your family know what to do if a fire started in your home?

You should always be aware of potential hazards in your home. PIANJ suggests starting by keeping these general tips in mind:

  • Every home should have working smoke detectors. Ideally, they should be placed on every floor and in every bedroom.
  • Check all electrical appliances, cords and outlets. Are they in good condition without loose or frayed cords or plugs?
  • Do not run electrical cords under rugs.
  • Make sure lamps and/or night-lights are not touching bedspreads, curtains or other fabrics.
  • Don’t leave the kitchen if the stove is in use. If you have to leave the area, turn the burners off.

In winter, heating overtakes cooking as the main cause of house fires. A primary danger is space heaters, especially the electric ones. “Because they are small, they may seem harmless,” Cunningham says. “But placed close to furniture or curtains, they can be deadly.” Never leave a space heater on when you are not in the room. Do not go to sleep with it on. Use it to warm the bedroom, but shut it off before you climb into bed, advises PIANJ.

Do you have a fireplace? Have the chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year. They also should be kept clean and covered with a screen to keep the sparks from jumping out.

Most importantly, plan a “get out, stay out” plan, advises PIANJ. “Practice fire drills at home,” suggests Cunningham. The place for a safe family meeting spot to go should be decided on now and practiced so everyone will know what to do in the event of an actual fire in the home. “These drills involving your own home are necessary in making a lasting impression that make the difference in the event of a real emergency,” said Cunningham. “Fires are frightening and can cause panic. By rehearsing different scenarios, your family is less likely to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do. Test your plan. Have a drill in the middle of the night.”

Planning and practice that comes with fire safety should be put into place year-round, not just in October. Fire safety for kids should be a lesson not only reinforced by parents, but by child care providers and teachers alike.

PIANJ is a trade association representing professional, independent insurance agencies, brokerages and their employees throughout the state.


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