Buying and selling in the temporary normal

With all of this extended time spent homebound recently, many of us have discovered a new truism: if you have to be quarantined, you might as well do it in your dream home.

No matter what — the season, the economy, even a virus — people will continue to buy and sell houses. It’s only the process that changes. And buyers and sellers who can adapt and pivot are the ones who come out ahead.

Fortunately, real estate professionals are already adept at strategies that could prove especially helpful this year, as COVID-19 dominates the news.

Think: technology. Virtual tours will likely increase in popularity. Buyers were already screening houses online before seeing them in person, and a thorough virtual tour could dramatically increase the number of eyes on your property.

A 2018 report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that 46 percent of buyers found a virtual tour very useful, while 74 percent used the internet to search for homes. Among millennials, that figure leaped to 92 percent.

Some other accommodations this year could include:

  • Sellers may request more hand-washing. Another NAR survey, this one in March, found that more sellers were requesting that visitors wash their hands or use sanitizer. (Some may also request the use of booties, a commonplace request already.)
  • Open houses may limit the number of people inside a home at one time – which probably makes for a more pleasant walk-through anyway.
  • Technology can also aid in brokering a deal. Already, contracts are regularly sent via email and signatures can be gathered online. Expect more of this.
  • Those who attend open houses in the coming months are more serious buyers, as the tire-kickers have opted to stay at home.

Get some social distance with a bike ride.

It’s commuting and fitness melded together: Faster than walking and as much exercise as jogging. It lets you enjoy the scenery, which, depending on your time in quarantine, could mean a lot.

If you aren’t already a regular rider, you’ll want to ease yourself into cycling. Begin with half-hour rides every other day or three days a week. And practice your basic skills in an empty parking lot. Learn to shift gears without wobbling and to look over your left shoulder while steering straight ahead.

When you take to the roads, always ride with traffic, ride in the street on the right. Use hand signals and obey all the traffic rules.

Buying a bike
If you decide that you like riding, you may want to get a new bike. Be sure to shop for one that suits your normal riding distance. Traditional 3-speeds are good for short rides, and 10-speeds are best for longer rides. Then there are all-terrain bikes that provide an all-purpose alternative.

When riding to work, put your belongings in a backpack or tie them down in a basket or rear carrier. Carry a tool kit to fix flat tires.

You’re never too old to take up cycling and benefit from it for the rest of your life. Studies at the University of California at Davis compared three forms of exercise: Jogging, bicycling and tennis. Middle-aged sedentary men were assigned to one of the three activities for 30 minutes a day three times a week. After 20 weeks, the joggers and cyclists had an equal improvement in endurance, and both groups lost a substantial amount of body fat.

When riding after dark, make sure you have lights on the bike, reflective tape on your helmet, and wear light-colored clothing.

How do we move on from coronavirus and get back to work?

Today we know every member of the workforce is extremely valuable because when we went home in March, everything fell apart.

The stock market (and our retirement savings), our incomes, companies, and a good slice of our dreams, at least in the short term. Not to mention our friends and family who suffered with the virus that has been the top of our minds.

But now that we see the end of the virus in sight, what do we do?

People have different ideas

Harvard Business Review recommends the following:

  1. Test every worker — Open the parking lots and make sure every person is well.
  2. Certify patients as ready to work (and not shedding virus.)
  3. Employers, retailers, restaurants, even friends and neighbors insist on verification that each person is virus free. Everyone maintains social distancing.
  4. States would optimize the plan.

Meanwhile, the Imperial College of London says stringent controls will be required to keep people safe.

They suggest: Impose social distancing every time admissions to intensive care units spike. Relax when they fall.

Their advice is to do this until a vaccine is discovered, possibly 18 months. So schools would close and social distancing practiced in two month blocks, with one month off.

Meanwhile, until a vaccine is available, everyone mostly stays in quarantine, minimizing social contact.

Under this model, we just accept that restaurants, cafes, sports, gyms, theaters, malls cruises, and airlines basically shut down.

A dour existence in which we live the pandemic daily?

Not everyone is so downbeat.

Most observers think that mass testing is really the main requirement for getting back to work and a social life.

In China, traffic jams and smog are back and sales of housing and cars are ticking upward, according to Foreign Policy.

One problem in China that is slowing a return to growth: People are not spending money, especially on big ticket items. Maybe everyone, everywhere is saving an emergency fund.

Sometimes injury numbers don’t tell the story

Organizations with low numbers of on-the-job injuries can be proud of their record.

But number of injuries alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

Safety expert Don Groover, writing in Safety and Health Magazine, points out that, in dangerous situations, luck plays a part.

Groover gives this example: An observer stands below a worker on a high platform. The worker is using a hammer. The hammer falls and misses the observer. There are zero injuries on the job that day but, the fact is, the observer was lucky, not safe. The exposure to danger was still there.

The key is creating a work environment and a safety culture that recognizes exposure, not just injury.

In that example, you could say that the workers were in error, either because of the way the hammer was used or because of the position of the observer. While that might be true, Groover points out that the pool of exposure points is more important.

“A focus on exposures is a radical departure from a focus on hazards or unsafe actions,” Groover writes.

The key is focusing on the factors that cause vulnerability to dangerous situations before the injuries occur or, with luck, don’t occur.

“When a person is exposed, the outcome is out of their control,” Groover says. They could have good luck — or bad.

The significance of safety exposures becomes clearer when seen over time.

Groover gives the example of a worker who climbs on a unit to install a strap on a shipping container. When he steps back, he stumbles and falls five feet. He is uninjured.

He is lucky, and the company has zero injuries but their exposure, when considered across the system, is huge: An employee climbs up twice for each unit loaded. About 25,000 units are loaded per day, equaling 50,000 exposures per day or 18 million exposures per year.

Given this immense number of possible falls, relying on perfect execution each time from employees reveals a much bigger risk than merely calculating injuries per day.

September is National Preparedness Month

A few easy steps can prepare for disaster
No part of the country is immune to natural or man-made disasters.

During September, the Department of Homeland Security joins with national, state, and local agencies to encourage Americans to prepare their homes for disasters of all kinds.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), engaging citizens in disaster preparedness is a critical first step in effective response and recovery efforts.

In other words, if you know what to do when a disaster is predicted, what to do when it occurs, and what to do afterward, you will be in a better position to save yourself and your home before help arrives.

While there are obvious differences in preparing for a hurricane and preparing for a forest fire, there are similarities in preparedness for all types of disasters. You should know where you will go to escape, what your mode of transportation will be, and when you should leave. (It’s never a good idea to let your car be almost out of gas.)

Assemble important documents to take with you including copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account numbers. Use a waterproof container and include some cash.

It may not be necessary to leave your home. Do what you can in advance of a storm or earthquake to make it safer. Remember the basics of survival: water, food, clean air, and warmth.

Consider the amount of water and non-perishable food your family will need to stay in place without power for at least three or four days. Always have extra batteries for portable radios. Also have a backup battery for cellphones.

ADHD teens and car accidents

Teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) are more likely to have a car accident, according to a new study.

According to Allison Curry, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, ADHD teens are less likely to get a license after they become eligible and more likely to have an accident.

Curry’s study compared New Jersey health records to car accidents. Of the 2,500 teens with ADHD, nearly 43 percent had a car crash. About 36 percent of teens without ADHD had a crash, the study found.

Only 12 percent of ADHD teens had been prescribed medication in the month before driving.

The study was reported in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Heat and humidity add up to danger

Emergency rooms see an increase in cases of heat stroke and dehydration in July and August.

The American College of Emergency Physicians gives this advice on how to stay safe in hot weather:

*Check the heat index before going out to work, play or practice and plan accordingly.

*Avoid direct sunlight in the middle of the day. Schedule activities for the early morning or early evening hours.

*Wear loose, light-colored clothes and hats. Dark colors absorb more heat.

*Drink lots of water or sports drinks; about 8 ounces an hour when in the sun in order to avoid dehydration.

*Take frequent breaks in the shade or in air-conditioning to cool off.

Calculate the “apparent temperature” before taking part in activities. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

* At 90 degrees and 50 percent humidity, it feels like 96. At 70 percent humidity, it feels like 106 degrees. Heat exhaustion is likely, so take it easy.

Heat exhaustion can include cramps, heavy sweating, nausea, heart-rate changes and dizziness. Get the victim out of the sun, remove excess clothing and place cool towels on extremities. Fan and give small sips of water.

* At 95 degrees and 50 percent humidity, it feels like 107 degrees. At 70 percent humidity, it feels like 124 degrees. At that temperature and at any higher temperature or humidity, it is extremely dangerous to be outside and heatstroke could occur.

* At 100 degrees, humidity ranging from 35 percent to 55 percent can cause heat exhaustion. At 100 degrees, humidity of 60 percent or higher puts a person into heat stroke territory.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms include confusion, an altered mental state, unconsciousness and hot, dry skin. Call 911. Do not give fluids, which can cause seizures.

Active shooter safety

Active shooter safety

As the number of active shooters in public spaces rises worldwide, government, industry and educational institutions have focused on training people to act immediately during a shooting.

Remember most active shooters do not have a specific target in mind. They will shoot at random.

The rules:
Run, escape if the path is accessible.
Hide, in less obvious places.
Fight. As resort of last hope, attempt to disrupt, distract or incapacitate an active shooter.
If you believe you have a chance to escape, don’t pause to urge others to follow you. Act immediately. Get out and do not stop of help injured people.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, if you can’t escape, then find either cover or concealment. Cover might protect you from gunfire. Concealment will hide you from the view of the shooter.

When law enforcement arrives, they will be focused on the shooter. They will not have time to help injured people until the threat is over. Officers might shout orders and everyone must be prepared to follow the orders immediately. Officers might push people to the ground to get them out of the line of fire or even out of the way of responders.

As officers arrive, you must put down any items in your hands, raise your hands, and prepare to follow instructions.

Poison Centers are your lifeline in an emergency

Poison Centers are your lifeline in an emergency
Millions of people use the services of a poison center when faced with a poisoning emergency.

Set up to provide expert advice and information to healthcare professionals and the public, the 55 poison centers around the country, are available 24 hours a day, all-year-round. Specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and doctors offer a free and confidential service that includes interpretation services in 161 languages, emergency advice, as well as, the provision of educational materials on poison prevention and treatment.

According to data collected between 1980 and 2008, poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the US. Coming into contact with a dangerous or potentially dangerous substance is called an ‘exposure’ and in 2014, there were about 2.2 million exposures and a call to a poison center every 11 seconds, Almost half of these exposures involved children under the age of 6, though the more serious cases occurred among adolescents and adults.

More than 75 percent of recorded exposures are unintentional and according to the 2015 annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). The top 5 substances that affected adults were analgesics, household cleaning substances, cosmetics/personal care products, sedatives/antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Cosmetics, household cleaners, analgesics and foreign bodies/ toys were among the substances that affected children. Most exposures involve ingesting something harmful but also include inhalation and contact with the skin and eyes. People also call the poison center in the event of insect bites and carbon monoxide poisoning.

One of the roles of poison centers, which are partly financed by congressionally mandated federal funds, is to collect real-time data to help detect possible public health emergencies.

Recent studies have seen a rise in the annual rate of calls to poison centers related to cannabis exposure and an increased risk of unintentional cannabis ingestion and overdose by children. Data collected between 2000 and 2013, show that rates of cannabis exposures in children under the age of 6 in states where medical cannabis was legalized before the year 2000 were more than 2.82 times higher than in those where the drug remained illegal in 2013.

Living longer means planning for later life

With Americans living longer than in the past, planning for long-term care has become a priority.

In March, the results of a Nationwide Retirement Insurance survey revealed that many women over the age of 50 are hiding a big retirement worry from those they love: the fear of burdening family if long-term care is needed. But, it doesn’t have to be such a worry, or such a secret. With planning ahead of time, people can feel secure in their futures.

Some of the issues families must consider:
1. Housing: Will Dad sell the house and move to a long-term care facility if he can no longer live alone? Does he agree? Has he chosen some places he likes? If he does not agree, what are the options for the family?

2. Health care: If mom stays healthy and active, she may avoid the move to long-term care. It could be helpful now, while she is strong, healthy and of sound mind, to create a living will or health care directive that lays out exactly what they want to happen if they get sick and need long-term care. Getting that information on paper and signed can help to protect her and ensure that wishes will be followed if they cannot make those decisions on their own.

3. Legal decisions and planning: There are several documents that are helpful and important in situations where long-term care is a possibility. The first of these is a living will or health care directive, as outlined above. The second is a health care power of attorney. This designates a specific person to make medical decisions if a person cannot make them.

4. Financial planning: Long-term care can get expensive. To reduce this expense and stress, it is important to consider purchasing a long-term care policy that will pay for costs when that help is needed. Having long-term care insurance can lessen the financial impact.