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HFO-TV: Apartment Fire Safety Tips with Ted Stark, USI Insurance


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Welcome back to HFO-TV, I’m Aaron Kirk Douglas, Marketing Director, here today with Ted Stark,
Senior Vice President of Property and Casualty with USI Insurance. Today’s topic is national
fire safety month. Welcome Ted! Thanks Aaron, pleasure to be here. It’s been a while but
I’m glad to be joining you today. Well first off I was wondering if you could
give us some insight into what the leading causes of fires are in structures like apartment
buildings? Yeah, as you mentioned Aaron it is national fire safety month in October.
October really leads into when the fires tend to happen more in residential structures during
this time of year. We’ve got the holidays coming up – obviously holiday decorations,
you of course have the space heaters that are a problem in apartments and single family
homes — but really the leader — and it’s not too suprising — is kitchen fires. That’s
where most of the fires are coming out of the apartment world and one solution that
we’ve been obviously touting out there to our property managers and owners of apartments
is a simple really fix and it’s called a stovetop fire suppression system. It does exactly what
it sounds like — when the area gets too hot it will completely just extinguish just like
a fire extinguisher would the fire. It’s been a great solution they are as inexpensive as
eighteen dollars a unit, no activation fee and it’s something from a return-on-investment
for an owner we really have done the study — no only us but obviously our insurance
carriers that we rely on as well. Does it use the same chemicals that are in
a fire extinguisher? It’s not water based – it’s the same chemicals and it will completely
put it out and really where the return is — is when you think of a fire — the typical
fire even if you can put it out with a fire extinguisher is going to do a lot more damage.
With this one it puts it out immediately and the average damage to an apartment unit is
twenty-five thousand dollars for a fire. With units that have been using this for over a
ten year period of time it’s down to five hundred dollars. The cleanup expense, the
reconstruction has been really — and keep in mind the tenant, I mean, that’s who you
really want to have for the long term. You don’t have to displace them a lot of the time
— they can still live in their quarters — nothing is really damaged and obviously the painting
and some things have to be done but the cost for the owner or property manager has been
really reduced with these systems. Is there another common cause of house or
apartment fires besides the kitchen? As I mentioned earlier, obviously with the
colder months coming up you have the space heaters which you know gets all apartment
owners nervous. The main thing with those is you want to make sure they are compliant
— that you’re not bringing in the sketchy ones — you want to make sure they are able
to turn off when they hit a certain temperature and then obviously if they turn over that
they immediately shut off. What about those oil ones that you see people
get are those safer than the ones that look more like a satellite dish and put out all
the heat? No — actually those are probably more exposure.
Really? The main thing is that you should have guidelines
within your lease. The property manager should be reviewing all of those and just making
sure your tenant is comfortable. But you definitely want to watch what they are bringing in. The
other leader is of course the barbeque grills. Again you want to make sure those are ten
feet away from the structure – never left unattended – and just making sure — again
you want to give your tenant every possible accommodation. But where we have seen it better
in communities is where there is actually a barbecue area where tenants can go have
a nice place and that’s a little bit more controlled. So a weenie roast in the living room is kind
of out of the question? That’s not recommended [laughter] Aside from calling the fire department what
are some of the first things an owner should do when there is a fire? Well you’d be surprised Aaron. People do freeze
up and it is very stressful. I mean obviously the main thing first is life safety. You want
to get all your tenants out of there. It’s good to practice that evacuation — where
they should go in the event of a fire. And make sure the property manager has a count
of everyone to make sure everyone is out of the building. That’s number one. Number two as you said is to call 9-1-1 get
the fire department there. But going down the checklist of course call your insurance
agent at some point. The agent should be involved — they have seen fires they know the steps
but more importantly is really have a list of some good restoration contractors. Your
job as the policy holder is to mitigate that risk, so whether that’s ordering the board-up
of the building or whether that’s calling the restoration to do their work to make sure
that fire is not going to spread out to any of the neighboring communities. So interview
some restoration contractors around your community and have them on call. Some good ones around
Portland are Paul Davis Restoration and Kennedy Restoration — those are two of the top ones
that we have been utilizing in the Portland area. And are there other decisions an apartment
owner can make to help reduce exposure to losses from a fire? What’s really happening right now in the State
of Oregon that a lot of owners and property managers are looking into. Some have already
implemented the ones that are above the curve is requiring renters’ insurance. It’s a good
thing for the renter to have some insurance on their personal property. They do have valuables
in the apartment. But more importantly on the liability. That’s when it comes back to
the owner if that renter does not have any insurance — the owner is going to pay for
that candle that burned and caused twenty-five thousand dollars worth of damage to that apartment.
The owner or the property manager is going to pay for that loss and we all know what
happens. Their premiums will increase and that’s not a good thing for anyone. All right! Thank you Ted. Ted Stark, from USI Northwest Insurance and
I’m Aaron Kirk Douglas signing off. We’ll see you next time on HFO-TV. Thanks for watching HFO-TV. To learn more
about HFO call or visit our website. See new listings, apartment news, videos and more
when you download our apps at the android and iPhone markets.

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