Preparation Guide for Bay Area Residents

Wildfires

Preparing for wildfires is part of Bay Area life. Photo: American Ratings Corporation ©2018

Wildfire: A Preparation Guide for Bay Area Residents

Wildfires are a yearly threat to Bay Area residents. With our dry, hot summers and abundant open spaces, wildfires can start suddenly and spread fast.

On this page, we’ve collected tips and articles to help you prepare your home and family for wildfire threat. Learn how to create a defensible space around your home and find out what to do when confronted with a fire.

  • Get Started: Wondering where to get started right now? This is what you need to know
  • Find: Find professional help for your fire-related needs
  • Explore: Take a deep dive into Bay Area wildfire resources and articles
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Get Started

Fires devastated much of the North Bay in October, 2017. Photo: Nancy Giovannini ©2017

Defending Your Home Against Wildfires

Creating a defensible space isn’t a one-time affair; rather, ongoing maintenance is required to sustain fire-safe conditions. In addition to clearing away dead growth and pruning shrubs and trees, be diligent about watering, as insufficient irrigation can compromise the integrity of fire-resistant plants. Remember, it’s your responsibility to keep your home and property as fire-safe as possible.

Read the full article.

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Research

WHAT LOCAL EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WILDFIRE

Linda Gottuso-Guay

Manzanita Landscape Construction, Inc.

Harris Ginyard

Statcomm Inc.

Kenny Turnage

K2GC

Lamine Elabed

LW Construction & Handyman Services

David Lorber

Superior Builders & Remodelers

Paul Parker

Mister Sparky

Cause for Hope: Understanding the Landscape Recovery Process Following the North Bay Fires

Cause for Hope: Understanding the Landscape Recovery Process Following the North Bay Fires

SANTA ROSA — In addition to the lost homes and businesses, large portions of the landscapes in Napa and Sonoma Counties were destroyed by the recent North Bay fires, including both private and public areas. However, despite the current desolate appearance of the once-lush North Bay countryside, there is cause for hope—hope that nature can, and will, reverse the damage.

For example, many of the large trees that now appear singed and stressed out will survive and return to their former health. Even if their trunks and branches were badly damaged, most trees’ roots have likely been spared because they’re situated safely underground. In a few months, the winter rains will rejuvenate these roots and, in turn, revitalize the trees.

For this reason, if any trees on your property were damaged in the fire, don’t remove them unless you’re absolutely sure they’re gone. You can check this by peeling back their bark and observing the cambium layer beneath. If you see green or light-colored growth, that’s a good sign. With some judicious pruning and trimming, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to save your trees.

This isn’t the only example of how nature will reverse the damage sustained by the landscape. In areas where the fires decimated much of the vegetative growth, the absence of shade will allow the soil to receive full sunlight exposure. This, combined with the winter rains, will result in a flurry of vegetative growth come spring and a resurgence of many native plants.

Wildlife will also play a role in the landscape’s recovery. The insects will do their part by eating the dead wood and ash left by the fire. The thriving insect population will provide the animals, now returning home or coming out of hiding, with plenty to eat in lieu of the missing foliage. So, even if the landscape seems deserted now, you can expect to see many signs of life in the coming months.

While the destruction wrought by the North Bay fires is heartbreaking, there’s going to be a lot of restoration and rebirth in these areas. It may take some time, but then again, it may happen quicker than you expect. So, be patient. Don’t make any rash decisions about your landscape. Wait to see what the spring brings. In any case, one thing is for certain: The North Bay will regain its former beauty once again.

How to Optimize Fire Safety

How to Optimize Fire Safety

MOUNTAIN VIEW — When it comes to fire safety, staying compliant with code requirements isn’t always as simple as it seems. Here are three tips to help you optimize fire safety in your home or office and avoid costly liability/compliance issues.

Paint smart. If you’re having your home or office painted, make sure the painters completely cover up all sprinkler heads and escutcheons (protective covers for electrical circuit breakers). According to fire code requirements, any sprinkler heads that get paint on them have to be replaced, which, if added up throughout an entire building, can result in a costly expense.

Check licensing. Fire safety protocol requires different licenses for testing different systems. For instance, a c10 license gives a safety inspector the ability to test a fire alarm system, but testing a sprinkler system requires a c16 license. Since both of these systems require routine testing, hiring an inspector that’s only licensed for one can result in a liability issue. That’s why it’s important to ask for proof of adequate licensing credentials.

Keep fire doors clear. Many buildings have fire doors in hallways, so if you’re installing new carpeting, it’s important to pay attention to the carpet’s height. Fire doors must be able to open and shut very easily, so if the new carpet obstructs them in any way, you may have to replace it again.

Improving Kitchen Fire Safety via Microwave Maintenance

Improving Kitchen Fire Safety via Microwave Maintenance

ANTIOCH — Most homeowners aren’t aware that one of the leading causes of kitchen fires is over-range microwaves. All over-range microwaves have grease filters underneath, both to ensure proper ventilation and to capture fumes and grease particles. When these filters become clogged, they fail to perform effectively and can actually pose a fire hazard. Since the microwave is situated above the stove, if a flame rises while you’re cooking, it can catch a greasy filter on fire and lead to an extremely dangerous situation.

The good news is that over-range microwave filters are easy to maintain. If your microwave has a metallic filter, you can remove it and wash it in soapy water or in the dishwasher (make sure your filter is dishwasher-safe). Allow the filter to dry completely before putting it back. Charcoal filters, on the other hand, can’t be re-cleaned and should be replaced twice a year.

By taking these simple steps to maintain your over-range microwave, you can better ensure optimal fire safety in your kitchen.

Crucial Info on Smoke Detectors

Crucial Info on Smoke Detectors

AMERICAN CANYON — Smoke detectors may be easy to overlook, but doing so can be a fatal mistake. In fact, two-thirds of fire-related deaths in the home are attributable to smoke detectors being inoperative (usually due to dead or missing batteries) or absent altogether. To improve upon this dark statistic, California safety codes now require an improved model of smoke detector to be installed in homes and businesses statewide.

The main feature that differentiates the new smoke detectors from their predecessors is they don’t rely on regular alkaline batteries to function. Instead, each unit is equipped with a built-in, tamper-proof battery that has a 10-year lifespan. This change is aimed at removing human error from the equation, which is expected to reduce the amount of fire-related deaths caused by simple negligence. Once the unit’s 10-year lifespan is up, it can simply be replaced with a new one.

It’s also important to note that there are two kinds of smoke detectors, differentiated by sensor type: ionization and photoelectric. While having either is better than having none at all, photoelectric units are known to have a faster response time, which means they can detect house fires in their early stages. Photoelectric detectors are more expensive than ionization detectors, but considering the stakes, it’s worth investing in this superior option.

Smoke and CO Alarm Tips

Smoke and CO Alarm Tips

OAKLAND — Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors may be easy to ignore, but they can also potentially save your life. Fortunately, there are new models that are simple to use and further improve home safety.

One of the biggest advantages of new smoke detectors is the “hush button” feature. In the past, if you had a smoke alarm that was constantly triggered by cooking smoke or shower steam, the temptation was to simply remove the battery, which would render the unit useless. The new models reduce the nuisance of accidental alarms by allowing you to “hush” it with the touch of a button.

When purchasing a smoke or carbon monoxide detector, it’s a good idea to read and save the directions, as well as register the product with the manufacturer. Most manufacturers have an 800 number that consumers can call if there’s a problem with the unit, and they’ll generally replace a malfunctioning unit free of charge if it’s within the warranty period (typically between five and 10 years).

If you’re still using old, battery-powered smoke and CO alarms, remember to be proactive about changing their batteries. Typically, you should change the batteries in a smoke detector once a year and the batteries in a combination smoke/CO alarm every six months. Whether you need to mark your calendar or set up another type of reminder, a little forethought can go a long way toward ensuring safety in your home.

Replacing Your FPE Panel

Replacing Your FPE Panel

CONCORD — To the average homeowner, one electrical panel might seem as good as another, but this isn’t necessarily true. In some instances, a panel may be out-of-date, or worse, a particular model might be faulty. One such case is with panels made by Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE), one of the main circuit breaker panel manufacturers in North America between 1950 and 1980. In subsequent years, it became apparent that certain flaws in the design of FPE electrical panels posed a safety concern. FPE panels are common in the Bay Area, and while many have already been upgraded, plenty are still out there, which is why it’s important to identify what’s in your box.

The main design flaw in FPE electrical panels is their wiring connections, which are prone to loosening over time due to extreme fluctuations in outdoor temperature. Another problematic feature of the FPE design is the actual pathway the electricity travels through, which is smaller than necessary. Both of these design flaws leave the electrical panel susceptible to overheating.

If you don’t know the model of circuit breaker panel your home’s power is running on, it’s important to look and make sure it’s not an FPE. There are a couple indications that can help you make this distinction. Most obvious is the appearance of the manufacturer name or its acronym (FPE) on the panel box. Another indication is the color of the breakers: they’re usually orange, but sometimes they’re brown or black with white letters. If you’re unsure about the type of electrical panel you have, consult a professional electrician.

Watch this

Lamine Elabed, President of LW Construction & Handyman Services discusses smoke detectors.

Crucial Info on Smoke Detectors

Two-thirds of fire-related deaths in the home are attributable to smoke detectors being inoperative (usually due to dead or missing batteries) or absent altogether. To improve upon this dark statistic, California safety codes now require an improved model of smoke detector to be installed in homes and businesses statewide. Watch to learn more.

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