We often rely on our homes to protect us from the perils of the outside world, but what protects our homes? Whether the threat is a natural disaster or burglars, insects, or bacteria, there are a variety of potential dangers facing our homes each day. Take charge of keeping your home (and your family) safe with the help of the excellent Web sites we've included in this guide.
The FBI reports that in 2005 alone, more than two million burglary offenses were committed in the United States. Even the thought of having an unwanted person in your home can be frightening, so we've found some Web sites that can help you learn what you should do to protect your family and your home against criminal activity.
- You'll find an abundant list of Web sites selling home security products. Before you start buying alarm systems and security cameras, check the sites we've listed here to learn how to select the right security system and make other necessary corrections that can improve the safety of your home.
- If you're considering buying a gun to keep in your home, make sure you follow necessary safety precautions. The National Rifle Association has a list of gun safety tips for parents.
For home security tips …
The Discovery Channel
devotes part of its site to its television series It Takes a Thief
, in which two reformed ex-cons demonstrate how burglars operate. Find quizzes and tips about home security and burglary, or use the Home-Security Interactive feature to see if you can find and fix the weaknesses in a home that may be prone to burglars.
The National Neighborhood Watch Program
has a free, downloadable booklet called "Preventing Burglaries—How to Protect Your Home." It provides crime statistics and explains how to secure your home to minimize the chance a burglar will enter.
My Great Home
, a site for manufactured and modular homeowners, teaches you how to keep your home safe from burglars while you are on vacation or away from home for an extended period of time.
To learn about burglar alarms …
Unless you’ve made some interesting pet choices, there's a good chance anything in your home with more than four legs is an unwanted guest. Finding something growing in your home that you haven't planted yourself will likely also be an unpleasant surprise. Whether you’ve got a minor irritant or serious health and structural problem, we’ve found credible Web sites that can help you get rid of it, and sites to help you prevent these hazards from ever getting inside.
- The Web sites in this section offer some preventative measures you can take to stop mold growth in your home but in essence it all comes down to keeping your home as dry as possible inside.
- If you're not comfortable trying to handle a mold problem yourself, you’ll want to make sure that whomever you hire has proper training and experience. Checking for membership in a professional organization like the National Association of Mold Professionals is a good place to start.
For mold prevention and removal …
The Environmental Protection Agency
has an extensive section about mold, including "Mold Basics," information about hidden mold, and guidelines for how to clean up mold and what to wear when doing it.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
has an informative if sparsely designed “Mold and Human Health” section. Click on the “Cleanup and Removal of Mold” link to learn that one of the first steps that must be taken when preparing for mold cleanup is assessing whether the surface where the mold is growing is porous or nonporous. Steps are provided for cleaning mold off both types of surfaces. The “Hiring a Mold Consultant or Contractor” link will lead you to advice about the hiring process if you need a professional.
The Chief Engineers Association of Chicagoland
is a nonprofit organization for those in the field of power engineering and real estate management. In this article, the organization notes that there are differences in mold-resistant coverings and products that stop mold from growing.
For general pest control and prevention tips …
The Natural Resources Defense Council
lists nontoxic alternatives you can use to keep insect and rodent infestations at a minimum while also maintaining the health of the members of your household.
To protect your home against specific pests …
Protect Your Home Against Mosquitoes
is an interactive page from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Move your mouse over the image to read tips about minimizing the presence of mosquitoes in and around various areas of your home.
The Termite Institute
details termite risks across the United States. The site also explains how to select a pest professional and teaches popular methods of handling termite problems.
Natural disasters may be unpredictable but homeowners generally know if the area in which they live is prone to certain types of events. We've selected some Web sites that can help you protect your home against some common natural disasters, severe weather, and other problems.
- In addition to the tips provided by disaster-readiness sites, also check the Web site of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance provider for more advice about keeping your home safe.
- Web sites for major relief agencies generally offer advance preparation tips you can use to get your home ready for a natural disaster. For example, the Web site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teaches you about different types of disasters and hazards, explaining how to prepare for them and what to do during and after a disaster.
- It's also possible to make some preparations in the event of a terrorist attack. LIFELines, a site of the U.S. Navy, explains that many of the preparations you would make in this regard are very similar to how you would prepare for a natural disaster.
- It goes without saying, but protecting your family should come before protecting your home. If a disaster looks as though it will be too severe, the safest option may be evacuating to safer area. Check the Web sites of your local news outlets and your local government for evacuation warnings and instructions.
For sites that review many types of damage prevention …
, a Web site of the Institute for Business & Home Safety, explains how to prepare for floods, freezing weather, winds, earthquakes, and other naturally occurring disasters. You'll learn preventive measures you can take to protect your home as much as possible from these events. Hover your mouse on the “Get Prepared” link for a list of events.
Catastrophe Readiness Clearinghouse
offers publications and Web links that can help you prepare for an array of disasters, including biological and chemical threats and natural disasters. If you want to prepare a safe room in your home and assemble a basic emergency supply kit, this site can serve as a good resource.
The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
(FLASH) reviews preparation tips for a variety of natural disasters but is unique in that it also addresses preparations for rip currents, hail, and extreme temperatures. FLASH also includes videos with construction recommendations that can help a home withstand severe weather or other disasters; use the links on the right to find these.
The Weather Channel
’s Web site includes a feature called WeatherREADY that teaches weather safety and home protection practices. The articles in the "Severe Weather Safety
section help you understand what to expect in certain weather and explain what a watch, warning, or advisory entails for each specific condition. After you've learned what to expect, find out how to protect your home in the "Severe Weather Readiness
offers an article titled “Would your home survive a natural disaster?” Learn why building code requirements may not be enough to help your home withstand such an event. Scroll down to the "Flirting with disaster" section of this article to find the most common natural disasters that occur in your state.
To prepare for emergency evacuation …
lists some emergency preparedness supplies you should have on hand, such as water, food, lights, radios, and sanitation supplies that can help you stay safe in the event of a problem.
Web sites that provide overviews of many types of damage prevention are useful if you find your home facing a variety of elements. Often, though, your concerns are more specific and a Web site that goes into greater detail about a certain type of damage is necessary.
- If you're moving, it would be wise to check with other homeowners in your new area to find out the common types of home damage they face. Your realtor or insurance company will also be able to provide information.
- An area's climate can heavily dictate the type of damage common to homes. If you're planning a move and aren't sure of the climate in your new city, use this weather almanac from USA Today as a starting point.
To protect your home against fire damage …
The U.S. Fire Administration
explains how a properly installed and maintained smoke alarm can warn you about fires. Read this article to learn about the types of smoke alarms available, how to maintain them, and where to buy alarms. You'll also find information about smoke alarm recalls and advisories.
Fire Extinguisher: 101
teaches about the various types of fire extinguishers and classes of house fires. Learn how to use and maintain a fire extinguisher, where to place extinguishers in your home, and how to eliminate fire hazards where you live.
To protect your home against water damage …
helps you determine the risk of experiencing a flood on your property, connects you to flood insurance resources, and provides information about cleaning up flood damage.
explains the common causes of water damage in the home. Browse around this site if you're looking for help improving your kitchen, bathroom, or other areas of your home.
To protect your home from storm damage …
has an article titled “Protect your home against a hurricane, without wasting time” that explains what preparations will and won't be useful if a hurricane is coming. The article also teaches you the correct way to protect your windows during a storm.
is part of The Wall Street Journal
network. For homeowners wondering how they can protect their homes from hurricane damage, this article by June Fletcher offers some helpful advice.
The Board of County Commissioners of Citrus County, Florida
, presents “Storm Warning Awareness,” a site that teaches you how to prepare for storms and provides severe weather watch and warning definitions
. You’ll also find links to live satellite images for the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Atlantic. Much of the site's content is local to Citrus County, but the preparation tips and images can be useful to many people along the Atlantic or Gulf coast.
State Farm Insurance
explains the hazards of lightning and how to protect your home from being damaged and yourself from being injured.
To protect your home against earthquake damage …
The Old House Web
has published a list of tips from FEMA about protecting various elements of your home in the event of an earthquake.
A good homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance policy brings peace of mind from knowing you'll have help in the event your home is ever damaged. The sites in this section explain how homeowner’s insurance works, how to select the right coverage for your needs, and how to file an insurance claim should something happen to your home.
- To find insurance companies in your area, try an online directory like YellowPages.com or simply type "homeowner’s insurance" and the name of your state into a search engine.
- Don’t forget to check the legitimacy and record of an insurance company before you buy a policy. You can do this with just a few clicks at the Better Business Bureau Web site.
- The more familiar you are with your insurance policy, the better off you'll be in the event you ever need to file a claim. If there's something you don't understand on your policy, check with your agent or review the company's Web site to see if your questions are answered there.
To learn about insurance …
Insurance Information Institute
details how homeowner’s insurance works, discusses the standard components of a homeowner’s insurance policy, and explains whether policies cover damage caused by natural disasters and other situations. This site also helps you determine how much coverage you need and takes you through the steps of filing a homeowner’s insurance claim.
also teaches the basics of homeowner’s insurance. The site features a "Find an Agent
section that sorts insurance agents by zip code in individual states. Be aware that some zip codes may not be covered.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners
divides its insurance information into life stages: “Young Singles,” “Young Families,” “Established Families,” and “Empty Nesters.” Each of these life stages has a section on either renter’s or home insurance that addresses the special considerations that come with buying adequate coverage for a particular life stage. Look at the "Home" category for the life stage you are researching.
The Consumer Action Website
is a site from the Federal Citizen Information Center that offers advice for making sure your insurance policy includes the right coverage.
presents “Tips for Reducing Your Homeowners Insurance Costs,” an article that teaches you how to save on your insurance rates.
If you need to file an insurance claim …
explains how the process of filing an insurance claim works, and offers some tips to help your claim move along quickly.
The New York Times
notes that some homeowners have experienced problems with their insurance companies after filing a claim, and discusses strategies for avoiding those problems.
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