Preparation Guide for Bay Area Residents

Wildfires

Preparing for wildfires is part of life in the Bay Area. Photo: American Ratings Corporation ©2020

Wildfire: A Preparation Guide for Bay Area Residents

In recent years, wildfires have affected many parts of the Bay Area. The region’s dry, hot summers and abundant vegetation make it particularly prone to fire.

On this page, we’ve collected tips and articles to help you prepare your home and family for wildfires. Learn how to create a defensible space around your home and find out what to do if wildfire affects your neighborhood.

  • 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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The Bay Area's dry, windy summers make wildfire a serious threat. Photo: American Ratings Corporation ©2020

Defending Your Home Against Wildfires

One of the most critical aspects of fire safety is creating a “defensible space” around your home: a 100-foot radius of property that’s specifically maintained to minimize fire risks. However, defensible space is often misunderstood—a lot of people think it merely consists of clearcutting all trees, shrubs and bushes within 100 feet of their homes, but this oversimplifies the matter. In reality, creating a defensible space involves a specific strategy.

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Learn How to Prevent and Prepare for Wildfire

  • Air Quality Protection During (and After) a Wildfire

    Air Quality

    Even after a wildfire is put out, air quality in the surrounding areas can remain unhealthy for some time.

  • My Go Bag

    Be Prepared

    One way to be prepared and manage your anxiety is to put together a “Go Bag."

  • Firescaping Your Property

    Protect Your Home

    Learn more about firescaping, a combination of landscaping and design practices that can make your home more fire-resistant.

Find

Research

WHAT LOCAL EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WILDFIRE

Terry Barkai

911 Remediation LLC DBA 911 Restoration

Corey Haney

Statcomm Inc.

David Lorber

Superior Builders & Remodelers

Ron Evenich

Evenich Construction, Inc.

Rory Moore

RM Construction

Jeremy Carlock

Got Watts Electric, Solar & HVAC

Fire Damage Restoration Procedure

Fire Damage Restoration Procedure

RICHMOND — During the past few years, wildfires have become an increasing concern in California. In 2020 alone, more than four million acres were burned statewide, along with more than 10,000 structures. If your home was affected by wildfire, you may need to hire a fire damage restoration contractor to handle repairs and remediation. However, before hiring a contractor, it’s good to get a basic understanding of the protocols and procedures involved in performing a proper restoration. Here are some steps a fire damage restoration contractor should perform:

• First, the contractor will clean the entire affected area, whether it’s just one room or your entire house. In addition to wiping everything down, they’ll use vacuums to remove any soot and other residue.

• After cleaning, the contractor will apply an odor-counteractive product like Sentinel to remove any residual odors on top or inside of the affected materials.

• Finally, the contractor will run special machines (typically a hydroxyl generator and an ozone generator) in the affected area to remove any remaining odor molecules. These machines will need to run for anywhere between 12 and 72 hours, depending on the extent and severity of the damage.

2 Fire Safety Tips for Your Home

2 Fire Safety Tips for Your Home

MOUNTAIN VIEW — When it comes to fire safety, even small steps can potentially save your life. Here are a couple of basic fire safety tips for your home:

1. Test fire safety equipment. The simplest way to reduce fire risks in your home is to regularly test and inspect all fire safety equipment. This includes smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers, both of which should be tested monthly and replaced by their respective expiration dates.

If you have older, battery-powered smoke alarms, be sure to replace the batteries one to two times per year. Newer smoke alarms have built-in 10-year batteries, so you don’t need to replace the batteries—just test the units every month and replace them at the 10-year mark. Fire extinguishers typically last between five and 15 years, so keep track of expiration dates and replace them as needed.

2. Close your bedroom door. While this may seem like a strange tip, the facts confirm that closing your bedroom door before going to sleep at night could potentially save your life. More than half of house fires occur between 11pm and 7am, when most people are sleeping. In the event of a fire, a closed bedroom door can reduce the amount of carbon monoxide that enters the room by up to 90 percent, as well as protect against extreme temperature increases.

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.

5 Ways to Vet a Contractor

5 Ways to Vet a Contractor

PETALUMA — Due to the widespread damage caused by both wildfires and flooding, there’s currently a shortage of general contractors in Sonoma County and the surrounding areas. To supplement this shortage, a lot of contractors are coming in from central and southern California, and even from out of state. Unfortunately, in this type of situation, it’s often difficult for homeowners to find a contractor that’s qualified, honest and reliable. That’s why it’s crucial to be diligent about vetting any contractor you’re thinking of hiring. Here are five smart steps:

1. Verify that the contractor has current licensing and insurance on file with the California State License Board (CSLB). You should also see if any complaints have been lodged by former clients. You can do this by visiting the CSLB’s website: www.cslb.ca.gov.

2. Request up-to-date liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance certificates, as well as an additional insured endorsement.

3. Request a list of references that includes both current and past projects. This will allow you to call the contractor’s current and former clients and ask them about their experiences.

4. Expect the contractor to provide a detailed bid that includes an itemized breakdown of construction costs and a written scope of work.

5. Insist on a signed contract and give a deposit of no more than 10 percent of the project’s total cost (as per the legal limit in the state of California).

 

Air Filtration Systems: A Healthy Home Improvement

Air Filtration Systems: A Healthy Home Improvement

SAUSALITO — When it comes to home remodeling, most homeowners are concerned with improving aesthetics or performance. While these aspects are certainly worthwhile, an equally important concern is creating a healthy indoor environment. As building code requirements become increasingly focused on maximizing energy efficiency, homes are becoming more airtight. Unfortunately, while this saves energy, it also increases the risk of unsafe or allergenic particles being harbored within the home. To prevent this, homeowners need to be proactive about maximizing air filtration and ventilation.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by installing a home air filtration system. One good choice is the Lunos™ e2 system, which brings fresh air into the home while removing unwanted pollutants and humidity. The system consists of one or more pairs of corresponding units, one of which exhausts stale indoor air while the other introduces fresh air. With its heat recovery feature, the Lunos e2 employs the heat captured in stale exhaust air to warm incoming fresh air, which saves on home heating costs. Plus, the system runs on very low wattage (0.11 – 0.14 W / cfm, to be specific), doesn’t require a centralized core for ventilation and can be easily retrofitted to an existing home.

Considering the frequency of wildfires in California during the last few years, there’s no better time to install an air filtration system in your home. However, even if you aren’t ready to take this step, you should consider utilizing your current remodeling project to install wiring for future installation. Since the walls are going to be opened up anyway, this easy step will save you a lot of time and money if you decide to add air filtration later.

Achieving Energy Independence With a Battery Backup

Achieving Energy Independence With a Battery Backup

CONCORD — Here in California, energy independence and electrification are becoming popular concepts among homeowners, especially in regard to solar power. During the last year, PG&E began implementing public safety power shutoffs during periods of high wildfire risk. This created significant challenges for affected homeowners, who in some cases were without power for days at a time. Unsurprisingly, this has increased the interest in and demand for energy independence solutions.

But what does it take to achieve energy independence? Many homeowners assume owning a solar energy system is enough, but this isn’t the case. In order to maintain power during an outage, the addition of a battery backup is required. A battery backup stores energy generated by the solar panels, which can be used to power the home during an outage. A battery backup can also be used during peak times of day when electricity is more expensive, thus lowering energy costs. By adding a battery backup to your solar energy system, you’ll rest easy knowing your lights will stay on when the grid goes down.

A great way to maximize the impact of installing a battery backup is to convert your home to all-electric power, also known as electrification. This will ensure you have access to all appliances and amenities in your home during a power outage. To learn more about energy independence, battery backups and electrification, talk to your local, qualified solar contractor.

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 this video to learn more.

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