Heat wave: How to keep your cool


cartoon of melting monster in a heat wave

Are you ready for the upcoming heat wave? More than 170 million people in the US are now under heat alerts for the coming weekend. Excessive heat is not just an unpleasant nuisance – it can be downright dangerous. The CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, more than 700 people died!

Take steps to prepare and plan for the weekend ahead. Here are some tips we’ve gathered from experts on how to minimize the effects of the heat.

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
  • Take it easy – avoid strenuous activity in the heat.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the early or late part of the day. Stay indoors and out of the sun in the heat of the day.
  • If you don’t have AC, plan activities in public places that are cool: movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls and other air conditioned public or entertainment places. Make a trip to your favorite local swimming hole or pool to beat the heat, but keep an eye out for thunderstorms and make sure you use sunscreen.
  • If you can’t get to a pool, take cool showers or bath. Splash yourself with cool water or soak your feet and ankles in cool water. Apply cold, wet towels on the neck, wrist, groin and armpit.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – drink plenty of water. Keep alcohol intake low – while it might make you think you feel better, alcohol is actually dehydrating. Plain water is the best.
  • Wear loose, cool, light-colored clothing. If you go outdoors, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen!
  • Eat light, easily digestible dinners. Be careful about salty foods. Avoid using ovens or appliances that generate heat. If you cook, use a microwave or outdoor grill.
  • Take care of your pets – don’t let them get overheated or dehydrated.
  • Check in on elderly relatives or neighbors to make sure they are OK.
  • If your power goes out, check with local emergency services to find emergency cooling centers.
  • Never, never, never leave children or pets in a car alone – even for a few minutes.
  • Know the symptoms of and watch out for heat-related illnesses.

Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention. It’s nothing to fool around with.

chart with heat illness symptoms

Reminder: Hurricane season continues through November


hurricane seen from space

All eyes are on the eastern seaboard as Hurricane Florence bears down upon southern states. As of right now, forecasters don’t expect any direct impact on New England, but we’re all watching North Carolina and South Carolina, where widespread mandatory evacuations are in place, the largest peace time evacuation the country has seen. This is predicted to be a multiple-day prolonged flooding event with 12-foot storm surge. See the fascinating infographic on storm surges below, courtesy of CoreLogic.

If you have friends or relatives in affected areas or are just a storm tracker, here are a few resources: Tracking Hurricane Florence: The Weather Channel • Twitter • New York Times
The National Weather Service: Hurricane and Tropical Storm Watches, Warnings, Advisories and Outlooks • Hurricane Preparedness  • Red Cross: Hurricane Safety

While New England folks may dodge this bullet, remember that hurricane season lasts from June through November.

infographic on hurricane strom surge

Handling pet fears in thunder & lightning storms


illustration of frightened cat thinking omg

When the thunder roars and the lightning crackles, there’s a primal satisfaction in being snug and dry beneath a stout roof surrounded by sturdy walls. And that’s just as true for your pets as it is for you and the rest of your family.

To keep your pets safe, keep them inside during bad weather. If you keep animals in a shed, barn or doghouse, make sure your outbuildings are structurally sound and properly grounded. A doghouse isn’t safe in a lightning strike – it’s best to move Rover inside. Cats left outside will often shelter in parked cars or beneath trees, both dangerous options during a lightning storm.

Some dogs and even some cats suffer from thunderstorm phobias. They’re extremely fearful of the stimuli caused by thunderstorms: lightning, thunder, strong winds, and even changes in barometric pressure. If your pet regularly freaks out when it’s bad out (by pacing, drooling, peeing or pooping inappropriately, hiding, or excessive vocalizing or destructive behavior), consult your veterinarian. There are different ways to treat thunderstorm phobia, from behavior modification to medication. It’s important not to reinforce bad behavior: during storms, don’t attempt to punish your pet’s behavior, nor should you try to comfort your pet (this is a hard one to resist).

Keeping your pets calm and dry when the weather is wet and wild isn’t just common sense. It’s as good for you as it is for them – the more stress you can address, the happier you and your fuzzy buddy will be.

For more information:

 

 

Ice dams can be costly. Ventilate & insulate!


Here in the Northeast, one common and costly headache for homeowners is the problem of ice dams. Are ice dams something that could happen to your home? Here’s a quick summary of the conditions that lead to ice dams: snow buildup on the roof + heat loss from the home + freezing temperatures. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS) explains it this way:

“During freezing weather, heat from your home or business can escape through your roof and melt snow on your roof. The snowmelt can then trickle down to the roof’s edge and refreeze, creating an ice dam that leaves additional snowmelt with no place to go but possibly under your roof.”

This IIBHS infographic offers a visual for how ice dams are formed. They offer tips for reducing your risk of ice dams: Preventing Ice Dams on Homes.

We have a pretty good prior post on the topic: Ice Dams 101: How to handle winter roof hazards. In that post, we talk about how the unsightly icicle buildup is a symptom of a more serious underlying problem that can lead to water damage, rot, mildew and mold. We talk about the importance of a two-fold strategy for dealing with ice dams:

  • First, you need to get rid of the ice dams and minimize the immediate damage.
  • Second, you need to diagnose the underlying problem and take steps to prevent ice dams from forming.

If you have damage to your home from ice dams, you’ll want to contact your insurance agent to report a claim. The Insurance Information Institute explains whether ice dam damage is covered by your insurance policy in their article, Water Damage: What’s Covered; What’s Not. They offer this helpful summary:

 “Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.”

Resources for preventing ice dams

Here are some of the best resources we’ve found to help you learn more about how ice dams happen and how to prevent them from occurring:

Liberty Mutual: Ice dams – tips for preventing ice dams and a series of three excellent videos: Causes, Combats and Cures. These offer detailed explanations about how ice dams form and conditions that lead to them along with methods to combat and correct the problem with insulation and ventilation.

Travelers: How to Identify and Help Remove an Ice Dam

This Old House: Preventing Ice Dams

Housing Technology from the University of Minnesota Extension: Ice Dams

Building and Construction Technology, UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation: Preventing Ice Dams

Winter Pet Care


winter pet care - photo of dogs in a blanket

Here in the frigid depths of January, sometimes all you want to do is hibernate. Just pile the pets on the bed, throw the covers over your head, and snooze until spring. But people (and their pets) aren’t wired like bears and chipmunks: we can’t hibernate, even though the prospect sounds so appealingly cozy. We still have to go to work and the doggos still need to be walked.

Here are some tips to get you and your pets through the freezin’ season:

  • If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. While some breeds of dogs and cats are well-prepared for cold weather, most are not. Limit their time outdoors. Make sure short-haired breeds and smaller animals (who tend to lose body heat more quickly) have a warm coat on in addition to their natural protection.
  • Booties! Is there anything funnier than a dog doing the Big Shoe Dance the first time she is introduced to winter footwear? But beyond being able to laugh at your pet’s wounded dignity, booties serve two vital purposes: they protect tender paw pads from icy sidewalks and they prevent animals from licking road salt and other harmful or even poisonous chemicals (like antifreeze and other de-icers) from their paws.
  • No baths, please! Cats are remarkable self-cleaning little critters. Dogs… not so much. But unless your dog has been rolling in something stinky, try to hold off on the baths during winter. The oils that accumulate in their undercoat are great insulators, and stripping them off with soap leads to one shivering and miserable pupper. If you absolutely must wash your dog, make sure she’s thoroughly dry before letting her outside. Be aware that the last part to dry is the fur closest to the skin, and that’s the bit that most needs to be fully dry to offer the best protection from the elements. Wet fur on a cold day is no fun at all.
  • Make sure your pet has a warm bed, and thoroughly towel them off with a clean dry towel when they come back inside. Nobody wants to curl up for a post-walk nap with wet hair!
  • If your pets live outdoors, make sure they have a safe, warm, dry space to retreat to when the winter winds are howling. Consider using heat lamps in the barn or garage and put down warm bedding (or better yet, a raised and insulated platform) to keep your beasties snug and warm when it’s icy out.

If you follow these simple rules, your pets will stay safe and happy during the cold months. Keep your pets in tip-top shape by staying up to date with vet visits. And look into pet insurance – an affordable pet insurance policy can be a real blessing in the event of an accident or emergency. Contact your local independent insurance agent today to ask about pet coverage.