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ERIE Stories

A Home Can Be Risky Business

It’s pretty nerve-wracking to have a risk control consultant assess your home. Even if you feel it’s safe. Even if she’s a warm, calming presence with an open smile. Even if she reassures you ahead of time, “Don’t worry about housekeeping!”

Let’s back up a moment.

Laurie Woodward—a senior risk control consultant who recently visited my home—along with her team, have three main objectives:

  • Prevent claims
  • Make sure building insurance values are adequate
  • Recommend changes and improvements to make things safer

Her team mostly deals with businesses, so coming to my abode was an exception for the purposes of this column.

Our first stop was the basement, where Laurie zeroed in on the wiring. Aluminum wiring, commonplace in the 1960s and 1970s, poses a fire risk. So does the even older knob-and-tube wiring, which can’t carry today’s typical electrical load. Our house, built in the late 1990s, had neither. Wiring should be looked at about every quarter-century, so at 17.5 years out, we’re well within the safe zone.

The electrical panel should be clear three feet out so it can be accessed quickly in an emergency. We were good here, too.

Next, Laurie tackled the topic of plumbing. “Old cast iron or galvanized plumbing can corrode over the years,” she cautioned. “If I spot it, I’ll always ask how old it is and who last checked it out. If the answer is ‘Gee, I don’t know,’ I strongly suggest a professional plumber look at it.” Our plumbing was fine—another gold star for our home! I was going to get an A+ rating! However, my overconfidence received a reality check when we came to the furnace.

Every furnace should have a five-foot clearance around it. Ours….didn’t. (Think: Rubbermaid® bins filled with a zillion old kids’ toys, holiday decorations, etc., stacked both tall and wide.)

“Yeah, you may want to clean this out a bit,” Laurie suggested. “It would just add fuel to a fire if something would happen.”

We then approached my husband’s workshop, where he builds everything from Adirondack chairs to wine tables. Laurie wanted to be sure he didn’t paint or varnish indoors and that the wood-burning stove was safely elevated to the manufacturer’s specs. He was good on both counts.

We only got dinged on one more thing. Each floor of a house should have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Our basement was lacking, so we’ll be taking care of that in addition to finding new homes for all those bins.

In the post "8 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Safer," Laurie’s team rounded up their top tips for making your home safer. Check them out—and remember that you’re in good company if your home doesn’t quite make the grade just yet.

An ERIE risk control consultant inspected our columnist’s house. (No pressure, right?) Did it make the (safety) grade? /blog/risky-business Erie Insurance

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of May 2016 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.