Protecting Your Home and Loved Ones

Protecting Your Home and Loved Ones


Protect Your Home from the Dangers of House Fires

The Most Common Causes of House Fires

  1. Cooking: Unattended cooking is a leading cause of house fires. It is important to stay in the kitchen when cooking, especially when using the stovetop. Keep flammable materials, such as oven mitts and towels, away from the stove. Make sure to pay attention to what you are cooking, and if you need to step away for any reason, turn off the stove or oven. It is also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of any accidental fires.
  2. Heating: Improper use of heating equipment, such as wood stoves and space heaters, can also cause house fires. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and keep flammable materials at a safe distance. If you are using a wood stove, make sure that the chimney is clean and in good repair to prevent a chimney fire. It is also important to turn off space heaters when they are not in use or when you are not in the room with them.
  3. Electrical: Electrical problems, such as faulty wiring or overloaded outlets, can also cause house fires. Make sure to use proper electrical outlets and extension cords, and have your wiring checked regularly by a professional. If you notice any flickering lights or outlets that are hot to the touch, it is important to have them checked out as soon as possible to prevent a potential fire.
  4. Smoking: Smoking is another leading cause of house fires. It is important to properly extinguish cigarettes and to never smoke in bed or while drowsy. It is also a good idea to designate a specific outdoor area for smoking to reduce the risk of a fire inside the home.
  5. Candles: Candles should always be used with caution. Make sure to keep them away from flammable materials and never leave them unattended. If you are using candles, it is a good idea to blow them out before going to bed or leaving the room.

Other Potential Risks

In addition to the common causes of house fires listed above, there are also other potential risks to be aware of. For example, leaving appliances, such as a toaster or iron, on and unattended can be a fire hazard. It is important to turn off and unplug appliances when they are not in use.

Another potential risk is hoarding, which can create cluttered and hazardous living conditions. If you or someone you know struggles with hoarding, it is important to seek help and take steps to declutter and organize the living space to reduce the risk of a fire.

It is also important to be aware of the potential for natural disasters, such as wildfires and lightning strikes, to cause house fires. If you live in an area at risk for these types of disasters, it is a good idea to have a plan in place and to take steps to protect your home. This can include trimming trees and vegetation around the property, installing lightning rods, and having a supply of sand or fire retardant on hand to use in case of a wildfire.

Protecting Your Home and Loved Ones

The average cost per fire incident in the United States is $35,000, according to the NFPA. However, this figure only represents the direct property damages caused by the fire. It does not include indirect costs such as temporary housing, loss of income, or the emotional toll of experiencing a fire. The emotional impact of a house fire can be significant, and it is important to take care of your mental health and seek support if needed.

Tips for Fire Prevention

  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and in each bedroom
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and make sure everyone in the household knows how to use it
  • Create and practice an evacuation plan with your family
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking, especially when using the stovetop
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use when using heating equipment
  • Have your wiring checked regularly by a professional
  • Properly extinguish cigarettes and never smoke in bed or while drowsy
  • Use candles with caution and never leave them unattended
  • Turn off and unplug appliances when not in use
  • Seek help and declutter if you or someone you know struggles with hoarding
  • Take steps to protect your home from natural disasters, such as trimming trees and vegetation and installing lightning rods

By following these tips and being aware of the common causes of house fires, you can help protect your home and loved ones from the dangers of house fires.


Xactimate in Plain English

Xactimate in Plain English

“What do you do again?”

It’s the inevitable question that I’ve had asked many times over the years.  And it’s understandable.  I work in a small niche ($210billion) of the construction world called “Restoration.”  That means I help people who have suffered water and fire damage to their homes and businesses.

“There’s people who specialize in that?”

Yes, there are contractors who do nothing but restoration work.  These contractors are actually my clients.  I help them handle the insurance claim processing and writing damage estimates in Xactimate.

“Exact what?”

Xactimate.  It’s the estimating program used by 90% of the insurance repair industry to quantify property damage and claim settlements.  It’s also where I see people’s eyes start to roll back in their heads.  So let me try to simplify the concept.

Insurance claims and the property damage industry is largely controlled by, you guessed it, insurance companies.


We call them “carriers” to be more precise, but you probably don’t care about that.  What is important to note is that the carriers have put into place myriad layers of control systems for the sole purpose of… wait for it… saving money.

One of these controls is the standardized, and tacitly mandatory, use of the Xactimate estimating platform.  While contractors are not required to use the program, those that want to get paid DO.

One great analogy is the health care industry.

If there was ever an industry dominated by insurance companies, it’s health care. In order to get paid by your HMO, PPO or whatever, your doctor has to first put everything he does “for you” into a matrix of “codes”.  There’s an entire field of study called Medical Coding, and entire industries specialized in delivering “coding” services.

Every pill and procedure your doctor prescribes has a corresponding CODE in the insurance company database, and a corresponding price.  Without coders, or software that codes, doctors would not get paid by insurance companies.  The same is true of restoration contractors.

Xactimate is essentially a construction coding piece of software.  It gives carriers and their adjusters the ability to quickly create damage estimates which are uniform in pricing and format across the nation.  Half-inch drywall (DRY1/2) and two coats of paint (PNTP2) is the same in New York as it is in L.A..  The pricing database contains thousands of items from paving stones to grain silos. (yes, really)

Contractors who are on the various “preferred vendor” programs are required to use Xactimate to generate their estimates.  And since most adjusters won’t deal with an estimate written in another format, even non-program contractors use it as well.  Show me a doctor who doesn’t use a coding & billing program.

For restoration contractors, it’s more important to know how to write a detailed (complete) Xactimate estimate than it is to know how to build a house.

I know, someone out there is yelling at their computer screen right now, but that’s just the way I see it.  It’s easy to contract out construction.  It’s harder to get paid enough, or on time.

“Why should I care?”

Most likely you shouldn’t care.  Only 10% of homeowners will experience a disaster of some kind every year.  But if you’re one of those who do, it is important to understand the basic building blocks of insurance claims.

If you’ve had a pipe break, or decided that deep frying a frozen turkey in the kitchen was a good idea, you need to know that the amount of your claim settlement will be determined by an Xactimate estimate. [I’ll pause here a moment to let you imagine what happens when twenty pounds of frozen bird gets dropped into five gallons of boiling oil.  Yes, that happens. Every… year]

Who writes the estimate and for whom they write it is very important.  Is the adjuster writing it?  Is the contractor writing it?  Do you have a comfort level with either, trusting that they have your best interests first?  Would you like to have a little more control over the process?

I thought so. That’s why we’re here.

Click Here for 15 minutes of Free Claims Advice

My name is Andy McCabe.  You can call me the Claim Doctor.

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Look for the Good, Coach to the Strengths

AlikaFlowerAfter reading The Long Tail and Killing Sacred Cows, and after sitting down with Beth from Four Winds Coaching yesterday, a core truth stood out to me.

As with all great books, ideas and coaches, they speak about the profound and basic truths.  As a society, we have a tendency to ignore the simple in favor of the more dramatic.  This is partly because we all secretly love drama, but mostly because we are afraid to embrace the simplest truths.  Accepting something as true, you see, means we have to stop ignoring it and start living it.  We have to own it.

That kind of responsibility scares us.

We spend more time trying to improve poor performance, than we do trying to exploit those areas that we truly excel at.  Let’s use a report card example.  If your child brought home a report card with an A, two B’s and a D, what would you spend the next ten minutes talking about? (Hint: D). Why? Because D’s are “bad” or below “average” (whatever average is).  And how much time would you spend talking about the “A”?

So instead taking the opportunity to praise and lift up, most of us would tend to focus on the negative and talk about “how are we going to help you get that D to a B?”  And most of us don’t realize that by trying to “help” our child, what we’re actually doing to sending the message that they aren’t “good enough.”  (Hint: WRONG MESSAGE)

We missed the opportunity to find out what really makes our child tick and where their true talents lie.

In Killing Sacred Cows, Gunderson describes the “Consumer Condition” vs. the “Producer Paradigm”.  He argues that our personal success, as well as our success as a species, is largely determined by which paradigm we ascribe to.  It influences how we see and interact in the world.

sacredpieIf you are coming from a place of scarcity, win-lose, fear and dependence, the problems and situations you face in the day-to-day will become tests of your ability to take a piece of someone else’s pie.  But if you change to a mindset of abundance, win-win, faith and inter-dependence, those same “problems” start to become “opportunities” to create more pie.

And who doesn’t want more pie?

Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail explores the world we live in where “blockbuster hits” aren’t where the “big bucks” are.  While it was full of great stuff (and I highly recommend you read it), the one quote that stands out is actually a quote of a quote;

“There are no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.” Raymond Williams 1958.

While we all try to compartmentalize our coworkers, friends and even strangers into neat groups of faceless generalizations, the reality is that no two people are alike.  To put it another way, there is no forest; there are only a bunch of trees.  The approach I use with you should be specialized and different than the approach I use with someone else.

When we use one-size-fits-all solutions to our problems and relationships, we end up doing more harm than good (despite our intentions).

I had coffee with Beth Kuchenreuther of Four Winds Coaching this week.  Despite the fact that she is an amazing listener with a talent for getting people (me) to tell their story, she was actually able to get a couple words in edgewise.  And those words stuck.

Beth said that most managers spend an inordinate amount of time managing the problems; the weakest links in their organizations.  The explained that the energy we (managers) spend “improving” poorly performing employees is wasted. Much like us trying to improve our child’s “D” to a “B”.  We’re missing the opportunity.

“We coach to the strengths of the individual”

Her words hit so hard, I swear the barista looked up from behind the counter.  It was simple, profound and oh-so-hard to admit.  Once I picked my heart up off the floor, I wrote it down:


So how much time do you spend finding the flaws?  What kind of energy do you put into fixing broken systems (or people)?  I don’t know off hand who said it first, but whatever we seek, we will find.  It’s simple and true.

Can you change that?

How about seeking the good? In others AND ourselves.  What about building up the strengths we find in others?  What would that look like?

What Is an Independent Estimator?

It has come to my attention that most people don’t understand just what it is that I do for a living.  I’ll admit that the term “independent estimator” is fairly ambiguous.  It’s not like I’m a plumber or mechanic.  So here is a brief video explaining my role as insurance liaison, property damage claim expert and all-round referee.

The Adjuster Mindset

Insurance adjusters are not the bad guys (or girls).  I’d like to take this opportunity to make the point that insurance adjusters have jobs to do just like you and me.  There are several critical steps in an insurance claim and the adjuster plays a key role in each one.

[An] adjuster… was “repeatedly and severely criticized for using discretion and judgment in evaluating and adjusting claims.” – Jay Feinman Delay Deny Defend  2010

This video should explain things better:

What is this all about?

I’ve been estimating insurance losses for some time now. I’ve worked for several companies, with a myriad of business structures.

I feel I know the restoration industry quite well.  I know what makes it tick, and how to make a good living.

In recent years I’ve noticed a marked trend away from the “in-house” labor model.  It has become too expensive to hire your own carpenters, drywallers and painters.

What has happened is that the industry has leaned more and more on their subcontractors to carry the burden (and risk) of hiring and retaining experienced tradesmen.  And why not? You don’t have to pay your framing sub unemployment benefits when you run out of work do you?

This trend has led to the growth of so-called “turnkey” contractors who are able to handle several or all of the trades required to perform restoration work.  Increasingly, these contractors are being asked by their existing & past customers to handle insurance losses.

Without knowledge of Xactimate or adjusting guidelines, the turnkey contractors are compelled to refer this work to their “restoration” partners.  That is where I come in.

I help the remodel & new construction contractors service the customers they’ve worked so hard to please over the years.  If you’ve remodeled Mrs. Jones’ bathroom and she calls for your help after her washing machine explodes, why would you want to pass that project to someone else?

Let me show you how the system works, and you can show Mrs. Jones why she chose to hire you in the first place.