Pipe Break.jpgToday is set to be the coldest day for New York in six years, with high temperatures expected to be only in the low teens.  While we know to bundle ourselves up to keep warm many people forget to check to make sure their pipes stay warm as well.


Ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs.  Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream -- between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end.  Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. 

Here are some tips to help avoid this common cause of winter property damage:


How to prevent frozen pipes

  • Pipes that have frozen in the past or near exterior walls are obvious candidates for special attention.
  • Insulate areas where vulnerable pipes are located.
  • When insulation isn't enough, consider pipe wrappings embedded with electrical coils (heat tape) that provide an outside source of heat.
  • Remove hoses from outside yard faucets. The faucets can't drain properly with a hose attached and will freeze and break if the hose is left attached.
  • During severe cold weather, resist the urge to lower your thermostat to save money while you are gone for the day.
  • Open the doors to kitchen and bathroom cabinets under your sinks so heat from the room will help warm the pipes.
  • Running water doesn't freeze very readily. During severe cold weather, keep a stream of water trickling out of faucets or spouts attached to vulnerable pipes.
  • If you have a sprinkler system, drain all outdoor pipes and turn off the water supply to the system.
  • Know where your main water emergency shut-off valve is located.

Winterizing your home if you'll be away for an extended time

  • Turn off the water supply at the main shutoff valve by the street.
  • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets and open these faucets to drain them.
  • Drain the water heater. Turn off the pilot light on gas water heaters and be sure to turn off the electricity to electric water heaters before you drain them.
  • Use an air compressor to blow any trapped water from the water pipes. Open all faucets and leave them open. This will help keep condensation from freezing and bursting the water lines.
  • Flush all toilets (to empty the tank) and every faucet (to drain water from pipes) in the home, including outdoor faucets.
  • Empty all toilet bowls by siphoning or bailing and sponging. Pour a mixture of food grade antifreeze and water into all toilet bowls and traps of all sinks, showers and bathtubs. Don't drain these traps. The water in them keeps sewer gases out of your house.
  • If your water supply is from a well, switch off the pump and drain it along with the above-ground pump lines and the tank.


What to do if a pipe freezes


  • To prevent a frozen pipe from bursting, open the faucet it supplies with water. Then add heat to the area where the pipe is located.
  • Turn off the water supply to that line.
  • If a pipe does burst, immediately turn off the water to your home.
  • Know where your main water emergency shut-off valve is located.


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firex.jpgIt's finally starting to heat up and summer is right around the corner. USA Today reports that wildfires are a clear and present danger in hot spots around the US. Although we may not be able to escape all of them, we can do everything we can to protect our property and do our best to safeguard against hot areas, and make sure we have a plan to prepare for the worst.

FEMA provides some good pointers.

Practice Wildfire Safety

  • Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
  • Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Ensure adequate accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home - by car and by foot.
  • Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.

Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your home

Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill - use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.

Protect your home

  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.

Plan your water needs

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

For more information, download their Wildfire Preparedness PDF here.

Thanks to an awesome Project Manager of ours here who clipped this article from the Metro for me, I just read about a new program out there called Social Sentry.  If you haven't heard of them yet, I don't doubt you soon will. 

This company recently launched, providing software to companies for trailing their employees' online activity. Their service includes patrolling Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and any other social site they may subscribe to. At this point you may be thinking, "What?! That's an invasion of privacy!" Well, news-flash, if you're posting on these sites, it's already public, and up for grabs. 

It does raise some issues about the grey line. Yes it's public, but all these sites still offer the option of complete and total publicity vs partial privacy (designated to those exclusive "friends and followers"). Why should this company be able to surpass that with their own motive? Does it really matter if Joe Shmo is a crazy partier by night if he's an amazing Manager by day? I guess they're leaving that up to the employer.

A couple tips Metro points out, just "think before you update" because what you say online is public and can be used against you. Just learn from these mistakes:

Obama assassination
The Secret Service is investigating two Twitter users who made threatening comments about President Obama last week.
Facebook negligence
One British worker updated her Facebook status complaining about her company and her manager, forgetting that she was connected to her manager on Facebook. The manager commented on her update saying that she was fired.
Sued for a tweet
A woman with only 22 followers on Twitter tweeted about her moldy apartment and was sued for $50,000 by her landlord. (Ouch!)
Health benefits
One woman took a paid leave of absence because of sickness, posted Facebook pictures of herself in a bikini, and lost her benefits--and her job.
Watch your picture
A teacher used a drunken picture of herself in a pirate costume as her MySpace picture, which was against school policy, and got fired.
Media Brains, an online business directory, just announced a new white paper service to their advertisers FREE until July 1st. Signing up gives them targeted leads. There's still time to participate in the service and get free leads emailed directly to your inbox and saved in the Advertiser Center. Take advantage and add your company's profile!

Here's what separates the most effective salespeople from everyone else. Reproduce this list and distribute it to your entire team.

  1. Knowing that solutions rest with the customer, not the salesperson. The customer knows the issues and understands the problem. What the customer needs is a way to find the solution and put it to work. Salespeople who think of themselves as the only "solution expert" in the room usually don't make it to the next level. Top salespeople make certain the solution meets the customer's requirements. They understand that convincing a prospect to buy comes down to a strong understanding of buyer needs. Then they accept complete responsibility for everything that happens with their customer.
  2. A commitment to improving presentations. Highly effective salespeople hone their presentation skills continually. They make presentations look effortless because they take nothing for granted. Industry hot buttons are constantly changing and effective salespeople keep up with the trends. They make it a priority to stay up to date on buying patterns, up-and-coming trends and innovations in the industry. They focus on what motivates the prospect's buying decision instead of what they want to accomplish.
  3. Embracing new ideas. Top salespeople see change as an opportunity. They know that customers don't have the time to educate themselves about all the products and services being presented to them. They develop reputations as people who can be counted on for new, innovative ideas.
  4. When they make a mistake, they admit it. They don't try to cover it up with excuses. And once they've admitted the mistake, they start working on how to solve the problem.
  5. Asking questions that help prospects uncover their real objections without pressuring. Asking questions also shifts the focus away from the salesperson to the prospect, where it belongs.
  6. Approaching prospects/customers with the attitude of a consultant, not a vendor. Top salespeople recognize they must be experts and authorities in their fields. They invest time to learn their products and services inside and out. They spend hours familiarizing themselves with every single detail of what they sell -- and what their competitors sell.
  7. Setting clear goals and plans to attain them. Highly effective salespeople are both concerned about the customer and concerned about the sale, and manage to keep the two in balance.
Source: John R. Graham, President, Graham Communications, Quincy, MA
See here on businessbrief.com
I'm quickly loving Fred Pryor and the topics he offers workshops on. A couple weeks ago we discussed an upcoming audio conference on how bad attitudes in the workplace can effect an entire office. Coming up next week in New York is a one-day seminar on "Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial People." Whether you're the Controller, Owner, Operations Manager, or anything in between, this seminar promises increased knowledge and confidence in financial planning for your business. Other dates and locations in NJ available too.

Read what he says are the 21 ways you and your organization will benefit in the brochure.

Save 20% by registering online and use this code! #687152

John Haydon wrote a great post on how small businesses and non-profits that have a Facebook page can leverage the Notes application to drive web traffic to their sites.  Here's a snippet if what he says about this: 

Facebook currently lets Profile users import one RSS feed from a blog into their Facebook wall using the Notes application. Here's why this is powerful: 

  • If you have 30 fans who each have 100 friends, your blog post will be seen by as many as 3,000 people. These blog posts appear both on profile walls and on the Home Page news feed.
  • The folks who have added your RSS to their notes have essentially endorsed you to their friends. This type social proof is a big part of what influences consumer buying decisions and which non-profits get support.

Click here to read the rest of his article.

Homeowner Claim Satisfaction

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Claims Magazine came out with an interesting article about homeowner's satisfaction when filing. Policyholders who file auto claims are still generally happier with their experience than are those filing property claims, results of J.D. Power and Associates' yearly Home Claims Satisfaction Study.

When it comes to quality service & customer satisfaction to insurance company's bottom lines, it matters. You may be asking, isn't it possible to get both great value and a decent price? In our opinion, these things aren't mutually exclusive. "Getting what you pay for" really has to with two simple but often misunderstood concepts: QUALITY & VALUE.

On average, customer satisfaction with the home claims experience registers 828 on a 1,000-point scale. Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates said, "Although satisfying home claimants is particularly challenging, it's still crucial for insurance providers to meet the needs of these customers, given the significant impact the experience has on long-term policy retention.... An experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations may foster long-term loyalty, just as a negative experience may drive a customer to shop other insurance companies."

Read the rest of the Claim's article here.
According to NJ Today, in just two weeks since 12 New Jersey counties were made eligible for federal disaster assistance, nearly $5 million has been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist in the recovery efforts.

As of April 15, 4,942 flood survivors had registered for assistance.  Funds awarded to date total $4,977,148 which includes:

• $4,624,655 in Housing Assistance to cover temporary housing, home repairs or replacement

• $352,492 in Other Needs Assistance (ONA) to cover essential personal property losses, subsistence items, medical, transportation or serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance

Twelve Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) are now open in the affected counties of Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Union.  Applicants can get the location of the DRC nearest to their home or business when they register for assistance.

Daily hours at each DRC are 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The DRCs are closed on Sundays. Disaster registrants from any declared county may visit any of the DRC locations for assistance.

To register for assistance, residents should call FEMA's toll-free number, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY/TDD 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired (for relay service, call 711 or 1-800-852-7897) between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m., seven days a week. Multi-lingual operators are available to answer calls during this time. Residents may also register online anytime at www.disasterassistance.gov.

To read more of NJ Today's article, click here.
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In light of the recent travel disruption to most of Europe because of the ash cloud, TOXBOX is generously lifting their $18.99 video broadcasting fee until April 25th. With the ability to have an audience of up to 200 people, this is an incredible deal.

If you don't take advantage of their offer, be sure to check out their other features, which are always free, like live video chat, group chats, and video messaging. I personally would take them over Skype any day of the week.

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