May 31, 2011 5:27 pm
By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist
If this is the year you will be taking possession of your first home—or even if you have closed on a home before—congratulations! You and your family are embarking on a new and life-changing experience, and one that should bring you pride and pleasure over the coming years.
In most instances, however, in the days or weeks prior to closing, you will have the opportunity for a final walk-through of the home—affording you an opportunity to be sure everything is in working order and ready for your move-in.
“This is a time to check that nothing has been removed from the home without permission, and that any agreed-upon changes or repairs have been made,” says REALTOR® Ellen Parker in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. “Take the walk-through seriously, and be prepared to be thorough and efficient.”
Parker suggests the following checklist:
• Show up early and leave enough time – This is especially important if you are buying a short sale or bank-owned property because this is the only time you will have to be certain that everything promised is being delivered.
• Make sure nothing has changed – Open and close doors and windows, flush the toilets, turn on all appliances, and inspect the ceilings and basement or crawl space to be sure there has been no leakage and no mold is growing.
• If new construction, be sure everything the developer promised has been done and installed, including landscaping, doorknobs and doorbells, window screens, electrical outlets, fixtures and appliances.
• Heating/air conditioning – Turn on the furnace and air conditioning systems and check the garage door opener to be sure it is working and that you are taking possession of two garage door openers.
• Take a camera – If anything in the house has changed or is missing, make a detailed note and take a picture of the area so you can present it to the seller and/or lender and make any needed last-minute negotiations prior to closing.
May 31, 2011 5:27 pm
By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist
Even though National Electrical Safety Month (May) is over, your RIS Consumer Confidant warns homeowners that with warmer weather and vacations come more outdoor activities and potential distractions that can spell trouble if an unsafe electrical situation or hazard exists.
Local and regional electric utilities across the country have joined together to promote a number of tips to help ensure the safety of everyone when it comes to the most common electrical hazards.
• Always stay away from downed power lines and assume any fallen wires are live and extremely dangerous. Don’t touch anything that may be in contact with downed wires. Call 911 immediately to report downed wires.
• Underground wires are a hidden danger. Never dig around a home or business without checking for underground wires or cables. Some states and municipalities even make you call to notify utility officials before digging.
• When working outdoors, position ladders away from power lines; keep this in mind when painting or cleaning gutters. Even a wooden ladder can conduct electricity. Maintain a minimum 10 feet of clearance from overhead power lines.
• Before using any electrical tool, be sure to inspect it for frayed power cords, broken plugs and cracked or broken sockets. When using an electric appliance outdoors, be sure it is plugged into an outlet that has a weatherproof cover and a ground fault circuit interrupter. Never use an electric appliance near a pool or other wet surfaces.
• Speaking of pools, be sure all electrical equipment for your swimming pool is grounded properly. If you're installing a pool, have it inspected by an official electrical inspector when the job is completed. A ground fault circuit interrupter should be installed on your pool's electrical equipment.
• Don’t let anyone climb utility poles, towers, pad-mounted transformers or trees near power lines. If a kite gets snagged in power lines or in a tree in which lines might be concealed, don't try to free it yourself. If your pet gets stranded on a pole or if your child’s ball or toy goes into an electric substation, don't try to retrieve them.
• If you buy a generator, make sure it is properly installed by a licensed electrician and it includes a transfer switch. Keep in mind that you may also need a town permit or an official inspection.
Keep these electrical safety tips in mind year-round, and if you have any questions, contact your local electrical utility or provider.
May 31, 2011 5:27 pm
Think installing solar panels onto your home is an upfront cost out of your reach? American Vision® Solar is helping homeowners across the country see solar energy in a new light, and learn that taking advantage of solar power is affordable, and provides an incredible return on investment.
Homeowners now have the 'power' to choose to whom they pay their monthly electric bill, and how much they pay each month. It's what American Vision is calling 'Solar as service,' and it's through the company's new Power Purchase Agreement where qualifying customers get the benefits of solar with virtually no investment and avoid the expense of purchasing a system outright. Customers can finance solar panel installation by simply paying a monthly payment—a monthly cost that is guaranteed to be less than a Southern California Edison bill without solar. Over a year period, this monthly savings can equate to more than $1,100 back in your pocket (on average). In fact, over a period of 20 years, the solar panels boast a 469% rate of return on investment!
"Numbers don't lie, and we're thrilled to be able to make the up-front costs of solar panel installation more affordable to our customers," says company President Al Alferi. "In this economy, every dollar counts, and with the immediate monthly savings our Power Purchase Agreement offers, homeowners can reap all of the cost benefits of solar power with no initial investment."
Benefits to having 'Solar as service' run deeper than just cost savings. The American Vision Power Purchase Agreement provides customers with 20 years of pro-active monitoring, included maintenance and repair, production guarantee, included inverter replacement and full-system insurance. And, let's not forget the benefit of owning an eco-friendly home, and being a friend to the environment by taking advantage of the sun's brilliant resource.
To learn more about American Vision Solar, visit the company online at http://www.americanvisionsolar.com.
May 31, 2011 5:27 pm
America's hiring managers and recruiters are forecasting healthy job growth for the remainder of this year, according to a new survey by Dice Holdings, Inc., a leading provider of specialized career websites for professional communities. Slightly more than half (51%) of employers and recruiters anticipate hiring more professionals in the second half of 2011 than in the previous six months. These survey results suggest the U.S. labor market remains on a favorable trajectory, particularly when the stronger levels of hiring experienced in the first half of the year are taken into account.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employers have added more than 200,000 jobs per month this year.
Companies expecting a step-up in hiring in the next six months represented a broad spectrum of industries, including energy, technology, telecom, media, Internet, distribution, financial services, consulting and retail.
"The recovery in jobs appears to be broadening to include more industries, more professions and certainly more local markets," says Scot Melland, Chairman, President and CEO of Dice Holdings, Inc. "We see this every day in our businesses as more and more companies return to recruiting and speed-to-hire becomes increasingly important."
The disparity between available jobs and skilled talent has sparked companies to adapt to a more competitive market. Nearly half of the hiring managers and recruiters (49%) say they have started to recruit talent from geographies outside their local market due to talent shortages. This emerging phenomenon was more pronounced for companies headquartered in the East, Midwest and South, as compared to those in the Northeast and West.
At the same time, paychecks are starting to be positively impacted, as 41% of hiring managers and recruiters indicated salaries for new hires are rising, compared to just 29% who felt that way six months ago.
For those planning on making more hires in the second half of 2011, 48% project they will add up to 10% more employees compared with the first half of 2011, while 29% plan to increase hiring by 11-20%.
Half of employers and recruiters noted they are no longer seeing increases in the number of candidates applying for positions. June 2008 was the last time a similar number of employers indicated a change in applicant behavior.
May 31, 2011 5:27 pm
Yield. What an investment or property will return; the profit or income.
May 31, 2011 5:27 pm
Q: What kind of home insurance should I get?
A: A standard policy will do in most instances. It protects against several natural disasters and catastrophic events. However, it will not guard against earthquakes, floods, war, and nuclear accidents. The policy can be expanded to include these disasters as well as coverage for such things as workers' compensation. In fact, the lender may require that you purchase flood or earthquake insurance if the house is in a flood zone or a region susceptible to earthquakes.
You also can increase coverage beyond the depreciated value of personal property such as televisions and furniture by purchasing a replacement-cost endorsement. Home-based business-coverage, once overlooked, is an ever-increasing popular rider. It does not cover liability associated with the business but rather contents such as home office equipment and general liability to cover injuries to clients and employees.
Other considerations: an inflation rider, which increases coverage as the home’s value rises, and getting insurance that is equal to the full replacement value of the home.
Insurance companies usually require an amount equal to at least 80% of the full replacement value. Otherwise, only a portion of the loss would be covered.
May 27, 2011 2:27 pm
As the weather heats up, the risk for fire or electrical related injuries around the house increases with more people grilling outside and trying to stay cool inside.
As the month of June marks Home Safety Month, McDaniel—a leader in full-service fire suppression, fire alarm and security systems for over 75 years—reminds everyone to be conscious of potential hazards around the home, especially considering these sobering statistics from the National Fire Protection Association:
• Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths in 2003-2006 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
• In 2004-2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,700 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, which caused an annual average of 13 deaths, 120 injuries and $70 million in direct property damage.
• During 2004-2008, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 24,600 fires started by lightning. These fires caused annual averages of 12 civilian deaths, 47 civilian injuries, and $407 million in direct property damage.
"Summer is just around the corner and with warmer weather on the way many people will be firing up their grills outside and cranking up the air-conditioning inside," says Steve Hubick, operations manager for McDaniel. "It's important to always keep safety in mind to avoid accidents or injuries. By following these basic safety tips, you can enjoy a safe summer."
McDaniel offers the following home safety tips to help ensure a safe summer season:
• Be responsible when firing up the grill: First and foremost, propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors and should be placed at least 10 feet away from the home, deck railings and out from under leaves and overhanging branches. Never grill indoors or in a garage. Keep children and pets away from the grill area and never leave your grill unattended. It's also a good idea to keep a spray bottle with water nearby to help keep any flare ups under control.
• Turkey Fryers: When using a turkey fryer, make sure it is only used outdoors, a safe distance (at least 10 feet) from buildings and any other flammable materials. Never use turkey fryers in a garage, on a wooden deck, or under a tree. Additionally, never leave the turkey fryer unattended—if you do not watch the fryer carefully, the cooking oil will continue to heat until it catches fire. Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use. Keep an ABC type fire extinguisher nearby and never use water to extinguish a grease fire.
• Air conditioners and fans: Be sure to check the equipment for frayed wires and keep all cooling equipment clean. Fans can accumulate dust and dirt around the motor, which can cause a fire. Vacuum the fan to keep the motor clean. Air conditioning units should be maintained by a qualified technician. If an extension cord must be used, be sure to use an approved and correctly rated extension cord for use with the particular appliance and location.
• Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors: Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. A carbon monoxide detector should be placed on every level of the home. Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button and be sure the alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). If you follow daylight savings time in your area, when changing the time, it is also a good reminder to install new batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Storm Safety: Lightning associated with thunderstorms generates a variety of fire hazards. The power of lightning's electrical charge and intense heat can electrocute on contact, splitting trees and causing fires. Before a storm, its best to unplug electrical appliances to help prevent power surges. During a storm, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity and stay away from windows, doors, and stay off porches. Also be sure to have a flashlight on hand with extra batteries in case the power goes out. After a storm, check the home for damage and stay clear of downed wires and power lines.
• Flood or water damage: If your home has sustained flood or water damage and you can safely get to the main breaker or fuse box without coming in contact with water, turn off the power. It is also important to remember to never stand in water without wearing protective clothing, such as rubber boots. Remove standing water, wet carpets and furnishings and air dry your home with good ventilation before restoring power. Don't attempt to remove any electrical equipment yourself—it is best to bring in a licensed professional to check your home for damage and make any necessary repairs. Assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged including cable TV feeds. Appliances that have been exposed to water can short and become a fire hazard. Don't operate any electrical equipment that has been exposed to water.
For additional information on home safety tips, please visit the Home Safety Council Web site at: www.homesafetycouncil.org
May 27, 2011 2:27 pm
tXtBlocker, rated by Consumer Reports as the most effective cell phone service for Smartphones, announced recently their top ten tips to keep drivers safe. A 2009 Pew Research survey revealed 75 percent of teenagers admitted to texting while driving—a frightening statistic considering The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration concluded in a September 2010 report that nearly 6,000 people were killed and 448,000 injured in 2009 (latest statistics available) as a result of getting distracted while operating a motor vehicle.
"We live in an age where people are constantly trying to contact us and when that call or text is sent to someone operating a vehicle it can have devastating consequences," says Stan Van Meter, CEO of tXtBlocker. "With 70 percent of teens admitting to cell phone use while driving, TXtBlocker is one of the top solutions to prevent cell phone distractions. We encourage all drivers, and especially young drivers, to practice these tips.”
tXtBlocker's Top Ten Driving Tips:
1. Set your phone on vibrate and place in the back seat, glove compartment, or trunk to keep out of reach.
2. While driving in stop-and-go traffic, toll booth lines, and the like, don't use your phone.
3. Select your playlist on your Mp3 player before you start to travel, or while the car is parked.
4. Limit or block other passengers from using their cell phones if it shifts your focus in any way.
5. Be alert and sharp while driving. Avoid driving while eating, combing your hair, etc.
6. Let someone else take the wheel when over-tired, emotional or under the influence of drugs, alcohol or certain medications (read the label).
7. Drive the speed limit.. Even at a speed of 25 mph, the force of a collision is the same as diving off a three-story building.
8. Keep your irritation in check. Drive defensively, not with an attitude.
Leave plenty of space between you and all other vehicles.
9. Stop cell phone distractions with tXtBlocker to keep you and others safe on the road.
TXtBlocker ends dangerous cell phone use on the road by engaging a Smartphone's GPS to determine when you are driving and automatically limits phone calls and texts to "Safe List" contacts and 911. It responds to incoming text and calls, like your personal secretary, politely letting callers know you are driving and you will reply when available later. The service allows customer and administrators to locate phones anytime, create their No-Cell Zones wherever it is important, such as around schools or offices, and more.
For more information visit www.txtblocker.com.
May 27, 2011 2:27 pm
Greater Than AIDS and GYT: Get Yourself Tested, two leading national campaigns committed to reducing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, are teaming up for a second year to encourage Americans to get tested and know their status. In the lead up to National HIV Testing Day (June 27), the scaled-up, month-long cross-promotion brings together major media and leading corporate brands with community organizations and state and local health departments to carry the message on air and on the ground across the nation.
"As we mark 30 years of AIDS, it's worth noting the tremendous progress made in terms of the life-saving treatments now available, but to benefit from these advances one must first know their status," says Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President & Director, Health Communication & Media Partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation, a partner on both campaigns. "Be Greater Than AIDS: Get Yourself Tested is an empowering, uplifting message that makes getting tested an act of pride, not shame."
"Our audience has never known a time without HIV, but through efforts like GYT, we're committed to empowering them to forge a world where HIV doesn't exist," says Jason Rzepka, Vice President of Public Affairs, MTV. "We're proud to join with this remarkable coalition and reinforce regular testing as one way America's youth can be greater than AIDS."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the more than one million Americans living with HIV today, one in five of those infected don't know their status. The CDC encourages all Americans between the ages of 13-64 to get tested on a routine basis as part of their overall health and well-being similar to cholesterol, blood pressure, and other screens.
Elements of the Be Greater Than AIDS: Get Yourself Tested Month promotion include:
• Five-City Summer Concert Tour, in partnership with EMMIS Communications and Radio One, that integrates HIV/AIDS information and testing resources into some of this summer's biggest concerts, including those sponsored by EMMIS and supported by Gilead Sciences in Chicago (Jamboree, 6/4), New York (Summer Jam, 6/5), Los Angeles (Powerhouse, 6/25), and sponsored by Radio One in Miami (SpringFest, 5/28) and Atlanta (Birthday Bash, 6/18). On air promotions in the lead up to the concerts, including DJ call outs and targeted public service ads, will promote testing. Giveaways and other special promotions will support listeners who get tested. An on-site information booth will offer more resources. Additionally, the "Road to the Chicago's Jamboree Concert Testing Tour," conducted in partnership with GYT, is providing free testing at six Chicago-area college campuses throughout May.
• Mo'Nique hosts AIDS radio special and other special programming to promote testing as a routine part of health care. Academy Award winning actress, Mo'Nique, guest hosts a half-hour long radio show about AIDS in America that is being distributed to more than 90 Clear Channel Radio stations throughout the month as part of the company's partnership with Greater Than AIDS. Additionally, MTV, a founding partner of GYT, and other media partners will air targeted public service messages to encourage testing.
• Road to ESSENCE Music Festival: Testing Tour, coordinated by the Black AIDS Institute and Louisiana Department of Health will provide free testing at stops in six cities across the state culminating with three-days of testing at the ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans (July 1-3). The cities providing free testing on the Testing Tour include Shreveport (June 25th), Alexandria (June 26th), Lake Charles (June 27th), Lafayette (June 28th), Baton Rouge (June 29th), and New Orleans (June 30th).
• Community resources and informational content distributed in coordination with the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA), Gilead Sciences, Orasure and others. Greater Than AIDS and GYT promote local HIV testing resources, information about HIV/AIDS and provide informational materials for health centers and organizations to help promote HIV testing via their online stores/toolkits through extensive web and social media platforms.
• "NAPWA founded National HIV Testing Day in 1995," says National Association of People with AIDS President Frank Oldham, Jr., "because we were already seeing that people with HIV who know their status sooner and start treatment with antiviral drugs sooner live longer, healthier lives. Today, 30 years into the HIV epidemic, there is more and more evidence that people with HIV who get tested every year and start treatment as soon as they know their status are also significantly less likely to infect others. It's a tremendous win-win: when we know our status and get into treatment, we protect our own health and we protect the ones we love!"
For more information visit www.greaterthan.org.
May 27, 2011 2:27 pm
Seniors who are on multiple prescriptions can easily encounter problems if they are not taking medicine correctly or if changes in their medical condition require a different dosage or medicine. “One thing to look for is a sudden change in condition,” says Thomas Clark, RPh, MHS, CGP, director of clinical affairs for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and the ASCP Foundation. “That can indicate an older adult is not getting the proper dose of a medication. Many symptoms may be considered drug side effects unless proven otherwise,” he notes.
Many family caregivers don’t know all they need to know about their loved ones’ medications and doctors. That’s what the Home Instead Senior Care® network found when the organization surveyed future family caregivers about their knowledge and awareness of their parents’ important information.
Less than half (47 percent) say they are knowledgeable about their parents’ medical histories in case of an emergency. And, approximately half (49 percent) are unable to name any of the medications taken by their parents each day. Furthermore, 36 percent of those future caregivers don’t know where their seniors’ financial information is located.
“This survey was no surprise to us, since we often are called to assist when families are in crisis,” says Jeff Huber, president and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Home Instead Senior Care network. “We’ve seen the turmoil that such a situation creates and we’ve also witnessed how much smoother it can go when families are prepared.”
That’s why the Home Instead Senior Care network has worked with Humana Points of Caregiving® to develop an information management tool that is described in more detail on the Senior Emergency Kit(SM) website. Part of the Answering the Call(SM) program, the toolkit is designed to help family caregivers keep important information at their fingertips and know who to call in the event of a medical emergency. The program and website include additional resources and links to help family caregivers learn more about how to manage their senior’s medical and financial information.
Medication-related problems can cause, aggravate or contribute to common and costly geriatric problems including: confusion, delirium/hallucinations, depression, dizziness, falls, incontinence, insomnia, loss of coordination, malnutrition/dehydration, memory loss and psychiatric problems. They also can send seniors to the hospital. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) or noncompliance are responsible for 28 percent of hospitalizations of the elderly, the ASCP reports.
In the lives of seniors, these issues also can then lead to decreased quality of life, hip fractures, loss of independence and even death. The issues reinforce the need for seniors and family caregivers to be educated about the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
A root of the problem with seniors and their medications is the sheer volume of prescription drugs that most older adults are taking. “Medication issues are big topics for seniors,” says Clark of the ASCP, who served as an expert source for the Answering the Call program. “According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 80 percent of Americans over the age of 60 use two or more prescription drugs, while 37 percent take five or more,” he explains.
“It’s so important that seniors are monitored and their medications regularly reviewed,” Clark says. “One of our ASCP members analyzed the drug regimen of a man who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and recommended changes to his medication schedule. As a result, his Alzheimer’s symptoms went away, he’s driving again and he’s started dating. These issues can be very serious.”