Be prepared for a home emergency

Be prepared for a home emergency

Schools and many businesses have tornado and other drills designed to ensure safe shelter or evacuation in event of an emergency, and more cities are encouraging residents to prepare for natural disasters. But how many of us give any forethought about what to do in the case of a home repair emergency?

I’m not talking about just the damage caused by storms or fire, but everyday home emergencies, too. Things like furnace or A/C failure in extreme weather; leaking water heaters, washing machines and dishwashers; electrical fire or failure; structural damage due to trees falling; or overflowing toilets.

You know the old saying about haste makes waste, right? Even the most thorough planners out there can get rattled in an emergency and cut hiring corners in the rush to respond.

That’s because in a home emergency, you truly need a fast, smart fix. Some of these repairs are for the obvious, immediate need, but others are necessary because if you leave the small leak or electrical short alone, it can lead to serious problems.

If you have an emergency home repair plan, you’re far more likely to take a measured, smart approach to the solution.

Most of the true emergency calls you’ll face as a homeowner will require a licensed tradesperson, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to hire qualified experts when it comes to jobs like plumbing, heating and cooling, and electricity.

You might think you’ll save money by hiring unlicensed people, but the risk is too great and you could lose money if you have to pay for the same repair twice. For these jobs, find someone who is licensed, insured and bonded.

Before you experience a home emergency:

• Read your insurance and/or warranty policy to understand what coverage you have in the event of a home emergency.

• Establish relationships with service companies — they’re likely to return their regular customers’ calls first.

• Do regular maintenance — which could prevent unexpected problems in your home.

• Know where your water valves are and how to shut the water off.

• Know how to shut off power.

After a problem occurs:

• Call your insurance agent and/or warranty company right away.

• Take photos, so you have documentation of what happened.

• Use Angie’s List to find and call local reputable companies that can help and submit a review so others know who to trust.

• Get at least three written quotes to compare, so you know you’re paying a fair price.

• Don’t skip on checking out references, licensure, etc.

• Never pay cash upfront.

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