Gunning Daily News

Preventing, Spotting and Responding to Natural Gas Leaks

December 15, 2011 1:40 pm

With the winter season here, natural gas usage for heating has increased throughout the region. Southern California Gas Co. urges customers to be aware of potential natural gas leaks.

Leaks in natural gas pipelines can be caused by third-party contractors, hidden corrosion or natural disasters, and can be flammable.

SoCalGas offers these safety tips:

• If natural gas appliances are used in the home or business, it is an indication that natural gas pipelines exist in the neighborhood.
• Most natural gas pipelines are buried underground, but only major pipeline routes are marked above ground with high visibility markers. These markers purposely indicate only the general—not exact—location of major pipelines usually found where a pipeline would intersect a street, highway or rail line.
• Pipeline markers also do not indicate the depth or the number of pipelines in the area. Most lower-pressure lines used to serve residential neighborhoods and businesses are not marked, and could be just inches below ground, which is why it is important to know where they are buried before digging for any reason.
• Be aware of all the possible signs of a gas leak, including a distinct unpleasant smell —the odor additive in natural gas to help identify leaks – a hissing, whistling or roaring sound, a ground fire, as well as dead or dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area over or near a pipeline.
• Even though a distinctive odor is added to natural gas to assist in the detection of leaks, do not rely on sense of smell alone to alert you to a gas leak since there may be occasions when you might not be able to smell the odor additive.

If a leak is suspected:
• Stay calm.
• Don't light a match, candle or cigarette, and don't turn any electrical devices on or off, including light switches, or use any device or equipment that could cause a spark.
• Immediately evacuate the area where the leak is suspected.

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Is It Illegal to Bounce a Check?

December 15, 2011 1:40 pm

There may come a time when your checking account is low. Bills may be due, but your paycheck won't be issued for another few days. Should you still write a check? What if it bounces? Is it illegal to bounce a check? What if you have overdraft protection?

These are all incredibly important questions for anyone on a fixed budget. But the answers are unfortunately not very positive.

Bouncing a check is also known as writing a bad check. And bad check laws generally make the practice illegal.

A person commits check fraud when:
1. Acting with the intent to defraud or deceive;
2. He writes a check;
3. Knowing that there are not sufficient funds; and
4. That the check will not be honored when presented at a financial institution.
Some states also require that the writer receive some sort of benefit or property in exchange for the promised funds.

But what about post-dated checks and overdraft protection?

A post-dated check is generally acceptable so long as you reasonably believe you will have sufficient funds on the designated date. It also probably isn't illegal to bounce a check if it is somehow cashed prior to that date.

Overdraft protection is a bit trickier. Even if the check is still paid, bad check laws may still apply. This is especially true if the check was written knowing that there were no funds. Either way, you'll be stuck with hefty bank fees.

Now that you know that it is illegal to bounce a check, you should also be made aware of the potential repercussions. Check fraud is often a felony, could lead to jail time and fines. Many states also permit civil actions where a plaintiff can recover up to three times the amount of the original check.


Gift-Wrapping Tips and Tricks

December 15, 2011 1:40 pm

Each holiday season comes with its own list of "it" gifts, but the holidays also come with their own set of "it" gift wraps. Whether your gift wraps are inspired by fashion trends or four-legged friends, it's important to keep your wraps as up-to-date as your gifts. Alton DuLaney, former winner of the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper Contest and "Paper Arts" class teacher on, shares the hot holiday gift-wrapping trends for 2011 and offers tips on how to incorporate those ideas into your own gift wraps this holiday season. 

Pleats Please: Place a pleated bellyband around your package for a fresh, modern take on a traditional ribbon. Just a few basic pleats can make your gift look anything but ordinary, but good pleats take precision. 

Bright Lights, Big City: Fluorescent hues are hotter than ever right now in fashion and home décor, and they work perfectly for gift wraps too. Incorporate flashy colors into your gift-wrapping palate and mix and match loud patterns to make your packages pop. 

The Gift "Bag": Creating budget-friendly wraps doesn't just mean reusing a gift bag someone else gave you—you can also turn paper shopping bags into gift wrap. Add a three-dimensional effect to this inexpensive wrap by cutting out some of the bag's own design elements (such as a cool part of the logo) to use as embellishments.

Flower Power: Replace the typical gift bow with a homemade craft to show the recipient that you took extra time to make the gift special. Those tissue paper flowers kids create during arts and crafts time are a great, inexpensive way to add extra color and dimension to any gift. 

Wild Animal Print: Whether you're gift-wrapping for the "party animal" in your life or your own dog or cat, layer different animal-print wrapping paper, such as leopard, zebra and alligator to create a wild jungle effect. Topping off the gift with real pet treats and toys makes for a great addition to this fun animal wrap.
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Winter Can Be Hazardous: Tips on Preventing Home Fires

December 15, 2011 1:40 pm

The cold weather and winter conditions often bring an increase in home fires as many people use alternate heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or coal or wood stoves to stay warm. Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in this country, and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

As the winter months continue and people look to keep their homes warm with various heating sources, including portable heaters, the Greater NY Red Cross urges everyone to use caution when turning to these heating methods and offers the following safety tips on fire prevention: 

• Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
• Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
• If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
• When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
• Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
• Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
• Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.

Word of the Day

December 15, 2011 1:40 pm

Right of survivorship. A feature of joint tenancy giving the surviving joint tenants the rights, title and interests of the deceased joint tenant. Right of survivorship is the basic difference between buying property as joint tenants and as tenants in common.

Question of the Day

December 15, 2011 1:40 pm

Q: How much, on average, can I expect to spend on home maintenance?

A: Expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows, and routine system repairs and maintenance.

An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Also, adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousands dollars.

Homeowner 101: Exploring the Community Association

December 14, 2011 5:24 pm

It used to be that if you were moving into an apartment or anything but a sophisticated private community or condo complex, you dealt with a property manager or landlord. But I recently learned that today, even modest condo clusters, apartment complexes and entire neighborhoods are ruled by community or homeowners associations.

In a recent post from HALT, a Washington, D.C. based organization aiming to help Americans navigate the legal system with or without a lawyer, the number of community associations has exploded in the past decades, growing from 10,000 in 1970 to a quarter million today.

An estimated 50 million Americans now live within community associations. So if you’re in the market for a condo, townhouse or co-op, there are some important things you should know about your rights and responsibilities if your future home is part of a community association.

HALT says community associations require individual owners, as members of the association, to be bound by contract to a set of rules that is enforced typically by an elected group of members called the board of directors. The board also collects payments from members to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the association.

Community associations can exercise a tremendous amount of control over the residents living within them, including restrictions that dictate things like what color you paint your house, what type of shrubs or flowers you plant in your yard—even what your garbage can must look like.

HALT publishes a checklist for potential tenants and residents bound by community or homeowners associations. The organization advises you to:

Carefully read the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions or CC&Rs. Determine whether or not the requirements and obligations of tenants are compatible with your needs and lifestyle.
• Obtain a copy of the bylaws. Carefully examine the by-laws and any additional rules or documents to be sure you will be a good fit in the association.
• Review the association’s financial status. Determine that the association is financially stable by reviewing its operating budget, reserve account and insurance cover- age. Also find out what your financial role will be—ask how much the assessments (or bills) are and what the process is for collecting and raising them.
• Visit the association and attend a board meeting. Get a sense of what living in an association would be like by visiting the association and talking to members. Also attend a board meeting or review minutes of previous meetings to get a feeling for how the association is run.
• Plan to get involved. Know that this legwork is only the first step. Prepare to stay informed by attending meetings and reading all notices issued by the board of directors once you move in.

Time Is Running Out: Winterize Your Home

December 14, 2011 5:24 pm

Winter is upon us, and if you haven’t already done your prep-work, now is the time. Preparing your home for a frosty season can save you time, money and the headache of dealing with sky-high heating bills. Plus, a well insulated home is environmentally friendly, as it uses less energy, so you’re helping the planet and your wallet. Now that’s a winter win.

To prepare your house for winter, some important steps you should take include:
• Replace or clean filters of forced air furnaces monthly.
• Have your heating system inspected annually by a qualified professional.
• Make sure you are not losing heated air through loose or faulty connections in your home's ductwork.
• Seal windows and doors with weather stripping or caulk.


Scary Weather? The Scoop on Shoveling Snow

December 14, 2011 5:24 pm

Many residents will be doing a fair amount of snow shoveling this season, which leaves some people thinking about all the pain that will come once they’re finally back indoors. However, shoveling snow can actually be good exercise if done safely and correctly.

"Shoveling snow for about fifteen minutes at a time counts as moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk," says Terry Carolan, PT, NCS, ATP, clinical manager at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. "Adults are generally advised to do about 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three to four days a week and shoveling can help provide that—especially during the winter months when both outdoor temperatures and personal motivation tend to drop."

However, snow shoveling, like most types of exercise, does present some physical risks.

Kessler, a leader in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, offers these guidelines:

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

• Avoid caffeine or nicotine, as they can cause extra stress on the heart, especially among individuals with a history of or are at high risk for a heart attack.

• Dress in layers and be sure to wear a hat, gloves, and sturdy, non-skid footwear.

• Do some basic warm-up exercises before shoveling, such as walking for a few minutes or marching in place. Stretch the muscles in your arms and legs. Warm muscles will work more efficiently and are less likely to become injured.

• Try to shovel fresh snow rather than partially melted and packed snow.
- Lift small amounts at a time using your legs, not your back.
- Scoop snow in a forward motion and step in the direction as you throw the snow. Avoid twisting and tossing the snow over your shoulder or to the side.
- If possible, try pushing the snow forward rather than lifting.

• Make sure you have a good snow shovel. Many newer models offer ergonomic features to facilitate lifting and throwing.

• Pace yourself. Take frequent rest breaks and avoid over-exertion.

• Most importantly, if you experience any pain in the chest or arm, shortness of breath or profuse sweating, stop shoveling immediately and seek appropriate medical attention.

Top 10 Things to Consider When Redesigning Your Garden

December 14, 2011 5:24 pm

While winter may not be gardening season, many seasoned gardeners know that planning ahead will provide you with better blooms come spring. Plus, what better way to stay warm this winter than focus on sunny days ahead?

Paul Ellison of Floral & Hardy Gardens design shares his top 10 tips for planning a garden design project.

1. Get references. Before contracting work with a garden designer, speak to previous clients and visit completed projects. This way you can gauge quickly the quality of work, ask the opinion of the owner and see how a project has aged since installation.

2. Agree fixed costs. Always agree fixed costs for the project up-front. With no certainty as to how long a project will take, agreeing to pay day rates can cause the overall price to skyrocket. Make sure that the fixed costs agreed include: a breakdown of design and each phase of the project.

3. Read the small print. Ensure a formal contract is in place and always read the small print; investigate anything you're not sure about before committing to sign.

4. Agree to timescales. Agree estimated project timescales, but do have an understanding that uncontrollable elements, such as the weather, may cause some delays.

5. Make sure construction work is guaranteed. Ensure that all construction work is guaranteed; investigate the type company you are hiring. Generally a limited company will be able to offer better value for money than a sole trader; the larger scale of a limited company means that greater purchasing power can translate into savings on materials- which are passed directly to the client.

6. Choose a company to design and build your garden. Make sure the company you choose is designing and building your garden; many garden designers outsource to independent contractors. The risk is that a larger chain of design and labor is more likely to result in communication issues and differing standards of work.

7. Plan ahead for winter. Consider the ways in which you would like to use your garden throughout the entire year; a good garden designer will not forget the winter months.

8. Consider your needs. Consider the practical side of you garden; do you need storage for children's toys or garden equipment? Be sure to build this into your plan.

9. Discuss future maintenance. Ask about the level of post-project maintenance of a proposed design. Unless you are an avid every-day gardener you will want to ensure your garden requires minimal upkeep.

10. Ask for advice. Seek professional advice before embarking on a project yourself; garden renovation can quickly become complicated. Before attempting complicated landscaping, such as changing landforms and bodies of water, seek professional guidance.