It Can Even Happen to an Insurance Agent

Posted by Cathy Johnson In Business Insurance, Personal Insurance
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‘Something Smells Hot…’

I woke up on Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend to the smell of something burning. It was coming from my furnace room. The furnace? The hot water heater? Everything seemed fine. I called my handy person to see if he could come over and check out the furnace & hot water heater. As I was talking to him, the lights in the family room and the furnace room suddenly went out.  A blown circuit! I told the handyman, “I think I have an electrical fire. I’m calling the fire department.” Within minutes, the police and fire department were at our door and we were told to get out of the house. They wanted to know what I smelled and where. Since the power was out in that part of the house, they worked quickly with their flashlights and it only took them a minute to find evidence of a flash fire in my electrical outlet! Further investigation revealed the culprit – a bottle of bleach had been leaking from a shelf above.  After following a stud for some time, the bleach was now leaking over the edge of the shelf directly onto the open outlet box attached to another stud in the open wall.  Nobody will know why had the bleach bottle started leaking at that time.

After finding the cause and verifying that everything else was ok, I was told by the Fire Chief that he was going to give me a lecture. “Fair enough,” I was just thankful my home and family were safe. I was informed that there was too much stored in my furnace room and items were too close to the furnace, which was definitely a fire hazard.  The Fire Chief was a wealth of information, telling me to call if I noticed anything else, to check for possible soot damage, to call my insurance agent if necessary.  I told him my agent already knew, since I was the agent. Lastly, I was asked by the Fire Chief if my smoke detectors had sounded. Thank goodness I could answer that yes, they had.

Needless to say, I spent the remainder of Labor Day cleaning out my furnace room.  I discarded or recycled old paint cans, mineral spirits, cleaning supplies no longer used and anything that could cause spontaneous combustion.  I moved gift wrapping paper and surplus/bulk cleaning supplies to safer areas.

While cleaning I wondered, ‘What if we had been out of town for the holiday weekend as we had been the weekend before?’ ‘What would have happened if I hadn’t woken up in time?’ ‘What else is a hazard in my home?’

It is National Fire Prevention week October 8-14, 2017.  It commemorates the 1871 Great Chicago Fire and Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin, which claimed many lives and property.

Here are several quick items to check to lower the risk of a fire in your home or business:

  • Are your smoke detectors in good working order and placed in the proper areas?
  • Do you have any hazardous materials that should be recycled from your home, garage, or storage shed?
  • Do you have any used cleaning or varnishing rags that could spontaneously combust?
  • Is there a family evacuation plan in place with a meeting place outside determined?
  • Is the dryer vent cleaned out regularly?
  • Are fire extinguishers readily available?
  • Are there any frayed electrical cords or too much plugged into an outlet?
  • Are there any lightbulbs with higher wattage than the socket can handle?
  • Would I even know what I have if everything went up in flames?
  • Are personal possessions photographed/videoed or inventoried?
  • Is important information away from home or in a safety deposit box?

These are just a few questions to ask when looking around your home in order for it to be a safe haven for you and your family.

Oh…and the Fire Chief was clearly not happy when he found out I had called my handyperson before calling the fire department!  You know who I will call first if there ever is a next time! Hopefully, I have taken care of the hazards in my home.

Other Wonderful Resources:

Your independent insurance agent  National Fire Prevention Association


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