If you’re unfortunate enough to have burglars gaining entry to your house, what can you do to make it as hard as possible for them to steal your valuables? Adrian Flux Insurance Services has put together ten vital do’s and don’ts to help you hang on to your property.
1) Don’t leave car keys hanging up by the door. It’s all too easy for the burglar to pocket them and drive your car away. But make sure you leave keys where they can be easily accessed in case of emergency.
2) Don’t place a file with all your important papers and documents – passports, bank details etc. – neatly under your desk just waiting to be picked up and removed.
3) Don’t hang a calendar up on the wall with the times of your engagements clearly marked. This will tell a burglar when they can expect you back and also when you will be out again in future if they are planning a return trip.
4) Don’t leave your laptop lying around. Find a good hiding place that is easily accessible – then you will be more likely to use it, but not one which is an obvious choice for burglars (such as a desk drawer).
5) Do mark easily removable valuables with a pen or other marking system. This makes it much easier for the police to trace your property. Companies such as Selectamark specialise in permanent marking systems. Alternatively simple UV marking pens can be purchased for a few pence from Crime Prevention Products.
6) Do consider installing a motion detection alarm, especially if you have a large house. Specialist companies can advise on the best alarm for the job.
7) Do think about keeping a dog. Burglars do not like properties with dogs. They are less likely to target you if there’s a barking dog patrolling around the rooms. And once in they will beat a pretty hasty retreat if they are met with snarling jaws.
8) Do keep a list of your valuables. Better still photograph or film every room in your house. It will help you remember what has been stolen and prove to your insurance company that the item was in situ before the burglary.
9) Do keep suitcases and bags in the loft with handles tied together so that burglars can’t easily use them to remove their stash.
10) Do check your general awareness by looking at this short quiz from the West Midlands Police.
Withthe cost of gas – and therefore heating your home – on the rise, it makes sense to utilise your beautiful, wood burning, fireplace earlier than usual this year. Now, before you run off and ignite that glorious, radiant fire, providing some much needed heat as well as a mesmerising focal-point, we’ve got a few fireplace safety tips to ensure you stay safe;
- Ensure your chimney is clean and clear. The experts at the ‘Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps’ recommend that wood burning fireplaces have their chimney checked and cleaned quarterly, whilst in use. For most of us, a professional clean – before first use – should see us through the season. However, a dirty chimney may be home to a build up of soot, creosote or the remnants of a birds nest and could provide the necessary fuel for a potentially serious, and very damaging, chimney fire. Head over here to find your local, ‘Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps’ certified sweep.
- Make sure your chimney cap is free of issues. While you’re having your chimney swept, ask the sweep to assess the stability of your cap. If it has suffered any damage during the summer, have it repaired or replaced. If you don’t have one, this is a good time to have one installed. Chimney caps prevent birds, rain and other debris from tumbling down the chimney into your fire/house.
- Keep on top of fireplace cleanliness. As with the chimney, a build up of creosote or soot could potentially cause unnecessary and unpredictable hazards. Use a dust mask and rubber gloves whilst cleaning and vacuum up the cool ashes after every burn. Aside from the safety aspects, lots of dark sticky creosote and soot is unsightly, right?
- Choose your fuel wisely. Burning treated woods, such as pallets, crates or painted wood, could potentially expel harmful, toxic fumes, so be careful and be aware of what you ignite. Seasoned hardwoods, such as oak, ash and birch, tend to be more difficult to initially light, but will provide a longer, hotter burn than many softwood substitutes. They are generally, however, more expensive to purchase. Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, are cheaper, but will burn through much quicker. As a recommendation, perhaps try a softwood to start your fire before loading it up with hardwood, to see you through for a few hours.
- Don’t get carried away. Many people, certainly a number of those that we know, have a certain fascination with an open-fire. Perhaps harking back to our ‘hunter-gather’ days. Anyway, regardless of this, don’t let your enthusiasm affect the safety of your fire. Remember this is a controlled fire in an enclosed space, not a bonfire! Don’t load the fireplace up with stacks of wood. If you do you’ll run the risk of the fire burning too hot and a) getting out of control and/or b) causing severe cracks and damage to your chimney. As a general rule, the flames should never reach the opening of your chimney.
- Invest in a metal mesh fire guard. This will prevent any stray embers being spat out from the fire into your living room, and will prevent any possible damage being caused to your flooring. These are essential should you ever leave the fire unattended, even for very small periods. ‘All-enclosed guards’ are a sensible suggestion, particularly if there are likely to be any young children near to the fireplace.
Preparation is paramount whenever you’re using your fireplace and chimney cleanliness is key. Statistics suggest that there are in the region of 30,000 chimney fires per year, with 9,000 being serious, resulting in severe damage to the home. It’s fair to say that if the chimneys were properly maintained and checked by a professional chimney sweep, many of these incidents could have been avoided.
Having said this, fireplaces needn’t be scary. When done properly and controlled as it should be – alongside sticking to these tips and exercising a good bit of common sense – a glowing fire can be a lovely focal point that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Be sure to enjoy it.
Despite health and safety warnings and campaigns, fireworks still cause numerous injuries and deaths. However, fireworks can provide great fun for all the family as long as everyone follows the right safety procedures. Household insurance specialist, Adrian Flux Insurance Services suggests the following fireworks safety tips for a display at home.
- Plan your firework display. Keep checking the weather conditions, as these can change right up until the last minute and can affect the display and the safety, for example the wind speed and direction can mean a greater distance is needed between the lighting area and where people are watching the display.
- Always buy your fireworks from reputable shops and make sure they conform to British Safety Standards (BS7114).
- Store the fireworks in a secure, closed box out of children’s reach. Don’t put fireworks in your pockets.
- Read the firework instructions carefully and in daylight (or with a torch if necessary). Never use a naked flame!
- Children should be kept well away from fireworks. Teach your children about fire/firework safety.
- Fireworks should only be lit by adults and at arm’s length with a taper.
- Once fireworks are lit stand well back. Keep lighting area and area around fireworks clear. Only the person lighting fireworks should be here.
- Make sure people watching, especially children, are a safe distance from where the fireworks are being lit. As above, this may need to be changed depending on the weather conditions.
- Animals don’t like the noise and commotion around firework night, so they should be kept safely indoors. Make sure they cannot get out of windows and doors and it may be an idea to draw the curtains too. Bare in mind displays take place on various days around 5th November.
- Always wear eye protection and gloves when handling and lighting fireworks.
- Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, well away from fireworks.
- Keep buckets of water nearby in case of emergency.
- Don’t light fireworks under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Never return to a firework once it has been lit or attempt to relight fireworks.
- Direct fireworks well away from spectators.
- If you are having a display at home, warn your neighbours. Especially the elderly or those with pets or young children.
- Sparklers are often seen as being harmless and suitable for children. However, they do burn at very high temperatures. Sparklers should be kept away from young children and children with sparklers should be supervised by an adult. Gloves should always be worn. Sparklers should be held at arms length. When the sparkler has finished, put it into a bucket of cold water immediately and leave it there to cool completely.
Disposing of fireworks
- Never put fireworks, even those that have been used and burnt out, on the bonfire.
- Do not bury fireworks.
- Soak misfired or partly spent fireworks in a container of water where they can not be tampered with and well away from children. Contact the manufacturer or supplier for advice on safely disposing of fireworks.
- Fully fired/spent fireworks should be disposed of according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
There are lots of stories in the media about microgeneration and the feed-in tariff. There’s also plenty about the need to insulate your home – the cavity walls, loft and double (or triple) glazed windows. But you don’t have to shell out hard earned cash to cut the cost of running your home. Here Adrian Flux Insurance Services checks over a few alternative tips to save energy and money.
- Turn appliances off completely – don’t just leave them on standby. If necessary, unplug them. And never leave rechargers (for example, mobile phones) switched on if they’re not charging.
- When cooking, cover pans with lids to reduce the energy used to heat them up (but make sure the food inside doesn’t stick!)
- Turn down your thermostat and turn off heating in unused rooms. If you get cold, try adding an extra layer of clothing (such as a fleece) rather than turning the heating up.
- Only turn on your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
- Avoid using a tumble drier. Dry clothes on the line outside or over a clothes-horse inside.
- Close your curtains at dusk to reduce heat loss through windows and doors (it’ll also stop burglars peering in at your valuables!)
- Make sure any draughts are blocked up – you can make an effective draught-excluder from an old stocking or football sock stuffed with unwanted clothes.
- Turn off taps and fix any leaking ones. A dripping hot water tap wastes energy and in one week you’ll lose enough hot water to fill half a bath. It’s pouring money down the drain!
One popular home improvement is the garden pond. Whether you are considering a natural-looking wildlife pond or a formal raised brick-built water feature, a garden pond can provide a visually pleasing haven of tranquility. After the initial spade work is put in, garden ponds can be a relatively low maintenance area of the garden.
If you have children you need to think very carefully about whether it is wise to have a pond, especially if they are toddlers. It’s safest to wait until they are older before starting a pond project.
The household division of Adrian Flux Insurance Services looks at where to find advice about planning, building and maintaining a garden pond, and highlights some of the common mistakes. It’s easy to spend lots of money stocking the pond with plants and accessories so it is worth checking what is covered in your household insurance policy. Some policies cover garden plants and ornaments up to a certain limit as standard, but you may need to get extra cover for high value items.
1) Building a small garden pond is fairly straightforward, but if you’re thinking of building one with a surface area of over two square metres you might want to consult an expert, such as Ponds UK, which specialises in all size of projects from small water features to large reservoirs, or award winning Paul Dyer ,who has branches nationwide.
2) One factor to consider when locating your pond is that it needs a lot of light and shouldn’t be underneath trees. Falling leaves in the autumn can be a big problem for the fish in your pond.
3) Allow for expansion. Most people find that once they start a pond project they soon want a bigger one. If you’ve left space around you can have interlinking pools or enlarge the original one.
4) Don’t forget about drainage for any overflow. Heavy rain can easily flood a small garden pond, so make sure it’s not going to flood into your patio, garden shed or, worse still, your home.
5) If you want to keep the water crystal clear then you are going to need a pump and a filter. These can vary considerably in price from a few pounds for a small pond to several hundreds. Companies like Pond Superstores not only have a great selection of pumps but have all sorts of other pond accessories as well, and Swell UK will answer your phone query.
6) If the expense or hassle of fixing up the electrical supply puts you off then you should take a look at the solar powered pumps that are on the market. These are improving in efficiency all the time and the latest models even have integrated lights
Eventually you’ll get to the fun part of stocking your pond. If it’s a wildlife pond then it’s a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’. Beautiful Britain has useful advice on wildlife ponds.
If your dream is of a well-stocked fish pond then, at the risk of mixing metaphors, the sky’s your limit. Sturgeon Web is the place for sturgeon lovers, and Water Garden apparently hand-picks its decorative Koi carp.
But don’t forget that both wildlife ponds and fish ponds will attract herons. The RSPB says that the least attractive pond to herons is a small one with steep sides and a good covering of lily pads, while the most attractive has gently sloping banks and an open aspect. Some people suggest trying a Suishi Odoshi Japanese deer scarer – if nothing else it will look pretty.
Christmas should be the time of good cheer, festive fun and happy family get-togethers. Unfortunately Christmas also brings with it an increase in accidents in the home and the festive decorations can sometimes provide more than just a little extra sparkle.
According to ROSPA about 1,000 people end up visiting hospital after accidents involving Christmas trees and another 1,000 are hurt either by decorations or while putting them up while 350 are injured in accidents involving Christmas tree lights. The Government warns that people are 50 per cent more likely to die in a house fire over the Christmas period.
Adrian Flux Insurance Services has put together seven star tips on Christmas safety.
- Remember Christmas decorations are not toys. They are not produced to the same safety standards as toys and can have loose parts and trims that can cause a choking hazard to younger children.
- Try to avoid trailing wires across the floor. It may well take a bit more planning to site the tree or other electrical decorations nearer the power socket, but it will save the time and anguish caused if someone trips over and gets badly hurt.
- Clear away unused decorations and boxes as these cause more tripping hazards and can easily be accessed by children and pets.
- If you are putting up high level decorations make sure you use a step ladder or have someone to hold the bottom of a regular ladder. Position the steps or ladder so that you can reach without stretching. Serious accidents can occur by falling awkwardly from even a short height.
- Candles cast a lovely warm festive light but never leave them burning unattended and make sure that they are not near any overhanging decorations or curtains.
- Safety standards on Christmas tree lights are constantly being upgraded so if your lights are quite old it might be time to buy some new ones. If the lights are to be used outside check they are designed for this purpose. Always turn off the lights before going to bed or going out.
- Make sure the Christmas tree is placed in a stable position before starting to decorate. It’s worth taking time to get this right as it can get pretty hectic during the festivities and a slight nudge from an over-excited child could be disastrous.
Going on holiday is an annual institution. It’s a time to relax, unwind and forget the cares of the world. But it’s also a great time for burglars. They know there are lots of empty properties around, and cruise the streets looking for easy homes to target. Worse still, they may also have been monitoring your behavior and waiting for you to leave.
There are some easy precautions you can take to deter burglars. But even the best security measures will not put off a determined burglar, so make sure your home insurance policy is fully paid up and that you have adequate cover. If you are going away for longer than two weeks, it is probably best to check with your insurance company that there are no exclusions likely to kick into action.
In an attempt to cut down the on number of break-ins while property owners are on holiday, Adrian Flux Insurance Services has put together six top tips to deter burglars.
- Make sure you have locked up properlyo look around for windows that may have been left open.
- Don’t leave garden tools outside, not only as they might get stolen but they may help the burglar gain access to your home.
- Burglars don’t like to be watched while they are breaking in, so cut back bushes to make sure there are no hiding places.
- Make your home looked lived in. Find a neighbour who can open and close the curtains, manage the post and clear up rubbish. If this is not possible there are timed switches for lighting on the market and even automatic timed curtain tracks for opening and closing the curtains.
- Move valuables away from the window so the inquisitive burglar won’t be able to assess what you’ve got. If you’ve got some spare time you could even follow this tutorial and make a false book to keep small valuables safe.
- Don’t put a name and address label on your luggage. This not only tells thieves you are not at home but also where to go to get your goodies. A mobile phone number is a better form of identification.
Take a look around at other sites on the web such as Response Electronics and Absolute Security. Although they are primarily selling security devices they do have some good information to offer. And for unbiased advice visit Crime Stoppers who, like Batman, are only interested in fighting crime.
With the Olympics on the not-so-distant horizon, it’s a good time for sports fans to start looking at accommodation near the events. Unfortunately this can come with a high price tag. So it’s a great opportunity to get the caravan off the driveway and visit some of the action around the country, without having to spend an arm and a legon hotels.
With events taking place throughout the country, many established and temporary caravan sites are providing special offers for the Olympic games. Here the caravan insurance specialists at Adrian Flux suggest some of the best caravan sites that are near to the main events.
- There’s so much happening in central London that caravan sites in the surrounding area will be packed out. Early booking is recommended. The Elm campsite is only seven tube stops away from the Olympic park and the main stadium, so it is very central to many of the events. The campsite will also be creating their own ‘sporting village’ atmosphere, by erecting a marquee and TV, so even if you are not lucky enough to have tickets you can still watch the events.
- Another site, Camping 2012, located just off the M25, is also a great location for the 2012 games. It claims to be only 15 minutes from central London, with camping pitches from 20 pounds per night. There is a bus service running to central line train stations to make access to central London even easier. They will also provide a marquee, open daily, with a bar and live coverage of the Olympic events. If you’re unsure about getting from the campsite to the games they’ve made a video diary of the journey.
- There are also many events happening outside of central London. The Lee Valley Water Centre, VeloPark, Hockey and Tennis Centre which are all located along the 26-mile-long Lee Valley Regional Park. The Lee Valley Camping and Caravan Park in Edmonton offers peace and quiet away from the central buzz of the Olympics in London.
- Another sport taking place outside of London is mountain biking, at Hadleigh Farm in Essex. Staying here is a great opportunity to combine your trip to the Olympic games with a seaside holiday. Riverside Village Holiday Park is close to Hadleigh Farm, the seaside and also easily accessible to London.
- The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is hosting some of the men’s and women’s football and is situated right in the heart of Cardiff. However there are plenty of caravan sites that offer affordable and easily accessible accommodation nearby, such as the Llandow Caravan Park is around a 30-minute drive from the stadium. The stadium is particularly special, as it will be hosting the very first event of the Olympic games.
Although E.M Forster’s novel ‘A Room with a View’ is essentially a comment on the repressed culture of Edwardian England, the sentiment of wanting to have a pleasant aspect outside the window still holds true. Any property with an outstanding view and especially those overlooking water command a premium price.
The Household Division of Adrian Flux Insurance Services arranges specialist home insurance for properties throughout the UK both for private householders and landlords. Flux is used to sorting cover for homes that may be just a little bit different from the run of the mill and has got to know where their clients go to find a home with a spectacular view .
- Waterside apartments in marinas offer relaxing retreats for those of the boating fraternity or for ‘would be boaters’ – those who just like to lounge around soaking up the atmosphere. Specialist agencies such as Waterside Properties have a great selection of homes from flats to waterside chalets with integral boathouses.
- A panoramic cityscape takes a lot of beating and night-time views can be breathtaking. For those wanting to live the high life Our Property offers advice on buying a penthouse. Dockland property such as that at Canary Wharf not only has the combined advantage of water and city views but it is right there in the centre of the action for the 2012 Olympics. Excel Docklands handles property in Canary Wharf, Poplar, E14, Isle of Dogs, Millwall, West Ferry, Wapping and Bow, Royal Albert Docks and Wapping.
- As a complete contrast, property in the Scottish Highlands is for those who like the outdoor, rural life – hiking, shooting, fishing, mountain biking or even gentler activities like painting and drawing. Local agencies such as Scottish Highland Properties based in Inverness, Nairn and Dingwall can offer first hand advice and knowledge to would be purchasers including a full rental management service.
- If you’re wondering how prices compare around the country, nationwide property sites like WelcomeHome are a first stop to browse and make comparisons.