Get Ready For Irene|BrooklynCovered

“No matter where Hurricane Irene makes landfall, if she does so as a Category 4 Hurricane, she’ll be packing winds ranging from 131 to 155 miles per hour. The potential for damage from a hurricane like this is extreme.”

Cue Winston Desmond…Or is it Desmond Winston?

Tony Powell, the original “Soul Man” of the Imus in the Morning radio show has several laugh out loud characters he plays. One of my favorites, (along with Congressman Charles Rangel), is when he imitates a proud Jamaican. When Imus introduces him, he always says, “Everyting irie, I-man, everyting irie.”

Well get ready because Hurricane Irene is coming, and we don’t really want the everything she’s bringing. The National Weather Service is projecting a storm track where Irene will “kiss” Bermuda (talk about your weather cooties).  According to the experts, while the entire east coast will be affected, Irene will probably make landfall anywhere from Miami, Florida to North Carolina.

Yeah, right.

To quote the Weather Girls,  have I got news for you. Based on the rainfall of biblical proportions we’ve “enjoyed” here in the New York Metropolitan area, Irene is coming to New York. Why, you ask? Gee, I don’t know. Maybe she wants to see “Memphis” on Broadway.

No matter where Hurricane Irene makes landfall, if she does so as a Category 4 Hurricane, she’ll be packing winds ranging from 131 to 155 miles per hour. The potential for damage from a hurricane like this is extreme.

Gee, no kidding.

Folks, if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to prepare.

Your home

In  my of recent video posts, I demonstrated, using a little paper house, several of the ways to move water away from your home. Take the time either today or tomorrow to perform the following checks:

  1. Make sure your gutters are absolutely clear of any and all debris. Anything in your gutter will serve to impede the flow of water toward the downspout. You can go to your local hardware store, Home Depot, Lowes and buy mesh-like covers and screens which attach to your gutters. These devices will allow water to flow through and leaves, branches, baseballs, and beer cans to fall off the roof.
  2. Check to make sure your gutters are firmly attached to the roof. And make sure those roof edges are sealed or else water could seep under the shingles and into the house.
  3. Make sure the downspouts are also clear. And install a mesh screen in open downspout openings.
  4. Add at least a 2-3 foot or even longer extension to the end of each downspout not routed directly into your main drain or drywell (And when’s the last time you had them checked or cleaned?). The further away from the building water is carried, the better.
  5. Check the landscaping around your home. Make sure the land, ground or cement which meets the walls of your home slopes away from the house, not towards it. It doesn’t make sense to do numbers 1-4, only to have the water pool around the foundation so it looks like you’re having folks over for a pool party.
  6. If you own the type of home which sits on a slab, and/or has a roof attached to the walls by clips, check to make sure these connections are tight and waterproof. Hurricane Andrew, the Irene of 1992, showed too many people their houses weren’t as well constructed as they thought.
  7. Sump pumps. Every home should have at least one sump pump.  Just one thing – test it/them to ensure operational integrity. In other words, make  sure it/they work.
  8. Inspect your roof and make temporary repairs to loose shingles, cracked tar paper and similar defects. Or, even better, secure a tarp to the roof.
  9. Hopefully, you’ve purchased flood insurance, and are past the normal 30-day waiting period. Should the flood waters rise, the land fall, or the mud slide, you’ll be glad you bought it.

You And Your Family

You and your family must have a family emergency plan. While you’ll find a more detailed list at (click on Get A Kit and Make A Plan), here are some basic ideas:

  1. Each family member should know exactly where everyone will reunite after a disaster.
  2. If you can’t use the first designated spot, make sure you have a backup site where you’ll meet.
  3. Know how to get out of your home and neighborhood. And practice using these escape routes.
  4. Have an out-of-state friend  or relative everyone can call to tell of their well-being and location.
  5. Purchase a water and fireproof security chest or safe and keep copies of your important documents there. When at all possible, keep originals in a safe deposit box.
  6. Make copies of the front and backs of all credit and debit cards, and drivers licenses.
  7. Have emergency cash, if the ATMs are not functioning.
  8. Make sure every family member has a Go Bag. Go to to see what should be in your bag.
  9. Prepare a stash of emergency supplies for your home. For example, non-perishable canned foods, one gallon of water for each person for each day for at least 4 days. Some other items are a first-aid kit, flashlights and extra batteries, whistles, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and feminine hygiene products.

You’ll find videos on preparing for emergencies at Actively use this information and you and those you love will increase your chances of better surviving a local or national disaster.

And about the earthquake we had earlier, I apologize for making the earth move as I did. Carry on.

A Death In The Family | Brooklyn Covered

A Death in The Family

It finally happened.

My toaster, the first toaster I ever owned, died last week.

Requiem For A Toaster

“Old Toasty” was a black and silver Hamilton Beach / Proctor Silex Model 22208. Series B1699. Type T16. I purchased it back in 1980. Oh yes, 1980. And believe me, we enjoyed good toast. Man, could “Old Toasty” toast.

At least I’ll always have those happy memories of toast so perfectly tanned, all the beautiful people in South Beach cried with shame and jealously.

With no fear of skin cancer.

After all of those years, however, the electric cord and an interior filament finally gave out.  The resulting spitting sparks produced a sound and light show lasting about ten seconds, the likes of which I never want to witness again.

Your toaster died. Who cares?

You may think I’m being overly sentimental about a 30 year-old toaster going to the big scrap metal yard in the sky. Well, if you own a Brooklyn home, condo, or co-op, think again. Just like “Old Toasty,” every appliance and component in your home or building has an expected useful life. And, if you’re not careful, you could find yourself replacing them before their time. Which will result in unexpected costs for repairs, or  an increased monthly maintenance bill.

Think about this: Unless you’ve just purchased a brand-new home, everything in the home you own is already into it’s life expectancy. And if your home is over 80 years old (hello, Brooklyn) the time to plan for component replacement may be sooner than you care to think about.

I recently read  “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components”,  produced in February, 2007 by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Bank of America. The results of this study were based on telephone surveys of people in the trades, home manufacturers, and researchers to learn how long parts of houses should  last. (You’ll find the full study on the National Association of Home Builders website,

Now, remember climate, quality of installation and other factors play a huge role in how long and well home components last. In my opinion, the most important facet in keeping a home in tip-top shape is to do just that – keep it in tip-top shape. Owning a home is not just about watching your big-screen TV’s, entertaining in your home theatres, and backyard barbeques. It’s also painting the house, making sure the landscaping continues to draw water away from the house, checking the roof for damage, and cleaning your gutters and leaders, just to name a few regular chores.

Take the Kink Out Of Your Hoses Before You Spring A Leak

It’s caulking around windows and door frames to create a greater level of energy efficiency in your home, thus saving valuable cooling and heating dollars. Making sure you clean lint filters in clothes dryers, and replacing the metal vent hose. Running the washing machine with just detergent and bleach to clean and disinfect it. Changing the old hoses with new metal-reinforced, high pressure hoses to decrease the risk of blown hoses and the floods which follow.

So, How Long Should Things Last?

Here’s a sample of the expected life of common home components:

  • Countertops:  Natural stone countertops should last about 20 years.
  • Faucets and fixtures have an average life expectancy of 15 years
  • A bathroom shower enclosure should last about 50 years.
  • Different roofing materials will vary greatly in expected life expectancy. Slate copper and clay or concrete roofs last longest – over 50 years. Asphalt shingles about 20 years and wood shakes about 30 years.
  • Aluminum windows should last about 15 to 20 years. I found it a bit shocking to learn wooden windows should last for upwards of 30 years!

Of course, without the proper maintenance like painting window frames and trimming trees so heavy branches don’t land on and crack roofs (yes, I’ve paid several claims for Spanish Tile roofs cracked by falling branches), any component will fail to live up to its expected useful life.

There’s Another Reason To Care

Take a moment and take out the homeowners insurance policy for your Brooklyn brownstone, brick, or frame home. When you look under exclusions, you’ll see losses caused by your failure to properly maintain your insured premises are excluded. This means the only way to repair the damage will depend on you taking money out of your own pocket.

So, if the brownstone or limestone on your exterior wall is chipped, call a company which specializes in this type of restoration. Water from the ruptured pipe in the wall creating a pool in the basement? Call the plumber.

And don’t wait. Do it right away.

You can also enroll in the Neighborhood Housing Services Home Maintenance course conducted at the Bedford-Stuyvesant office on Gates Avenue. There, you’ll learn how to do everything from fixing a leaky faucet to rebuilding a bathroom.* 

So, if you want your appliances and other home components to last as well and as long as “Old Toasty”, it’s time to really pay attention to their care and maintenance.

And don’t worry, we have another toaster. And yes, it’s another Proctor Silex.

Always have a backup.

“Old Toasty” is dead. Long live “Old Toasty.”

* To learn more about NHS’s Home Maintenance Course, call the Bedford-Stuyvesant NHS office at 718-919-2100, or go to their website, .

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