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05/12/17

Did You Recently Purchase a Home in the Virgin Islands?

You’ve finally made the decision, found the home of your dreams, closed on the property, received your insurance policy and now you’re happy that all of your hard work has given you a beautiful place of your own. Now you might be wondering if there is anything else you can do to protect yourself and your property from damage.  

Let me introduce myself: I’m David Holzmanthe Marshall and Sterling Loss Control Specialist, and I speak to many homeowners each month about protecting their new purchases, and themselves, from potential losses. I’d like to share some of those suggestions with you.

Your new homes may be dwellings for you and your family or they may be long term rental property. Some homes may become short term rental properties that have property managers to handle the details while you are away. Regardless of how you utilize your new home, these suggestions will help you to minimize losses so you can enjoy your new purchase and worry less.

Fire Extinguishers
Make sure that you have at least one fire extinguisher and install it near the main exit door of each dwelling unit in a highly visible location.  I find many homes with fire extinguishers buried behind soap detergent and sponges in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Imagine that you discover that a fire has started in your home near the stove in the kitchen and it is now spreading to the cabinets nearby. You should alert everyone at home to get out of the house immediately to save themselves, first and foremost. Call the fire department next. Then, if the fire has not prevented you from taking action to minimize loss to your property, grab the closest fire extinguisher which is where? If it is installed near the main exit door, you can find it quickly and potentially put out the fire before it does any more damage.  If the extinguisher is under the kitchen sink, you may not be able to access it due to flames or smoke coming from the kitchen.  And remember, if you install it near the main exit door everyone sees it on a daily basis and it is easy to remember where it is when you need it the most and when to get it tested and recharged.

Hurricane Shutters
Make a Hurricane Shutter Installation Plan, print several copies and get them laminated so they are waterproof. The plan should include the following:

  • The location of every hurricane shutter.
  • If they are removable shutters: mark the shutters with a simple code that you describe (or draw) on the plan.
  • If they are permanently installed shutters: describe, in simple terms, how to close each shutter from the inside or outside of your home.
  • A list of the tools or materials needed to accomplish installation or securing of the shutters, and where those items are located.

Keep several copies of your plan at home and give several copies to friends and/or property managers that may be called on to install or close the shutters when you are away from home or incapable of helping. And don’t forget: every year, before hurricane season begins, review your plan, make changes as required and inspect all materials to confirm that they are in good condition and ready to use. 

If you have permanently installed shutters, open them up, make sure they close securely, spray them with fresh water, and when dry, lubricate all moving parts so everything closes easily.  If you have wood shutters, make sure that they are in good condition and install them to see if the wood has warped or rotted. Repair any items that need attention. 

Hurricane and Seismic Ties
Make sure that all structural wood members in your roof are connected to each other, and to your walls, with an approved metal strap. If your home has no ceiling, it is relatively easy to determine if your roof rafters, ridge beam and collar ties are properly connected to each other and the walls. Stand in the center of each room (and porch) and look up: look for metal straps and connectors that connect the ends of each piece of wood to the one it joins or the top of your walls. If you don’t see these structural tie-downs that help hold your roof in place during a hurricane or earth tremor, you can add them yourself or hire a builder to do this for you. Consult with an architect, engineer, qualified building contractor or experienced installer at the local hardware store to help you determine the correct materials to use. You can also find information on the internet to help you accomplish this task. I have seen many roofs that have the proper metal tie downs to walls (or to beams on porches), but many of those same roofs are not properly connected at the ridge and hip rafters.  Once you have completed this task properly, you have significantly reduced the possibility of damage to your roof and the belongings in your home.

Do these three suggestions, which can be accomplished with minimal cost, so that you can attain the peace of mind that comes with the knowing you have improved the safety and protection of your home and family. Call your nearest office with more questions! Our team is happy to help. 


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