Imagine an earthquake causes a gas leak in your home, and suddenly gas is leaking throughout your house. Who do you call? 911, of course. But unfortunately, local resources are bound to be overrun anytime there’s an earthquake, windstorm, snowstorm, or other natural disaster. The Dwell Secure apps aims to assist during these adverse events.
“Even if there’s not a natural disaster and there’s just a single big incident, like a large apartment fire, all of the normal local resources will all be busy,” Andrew Leith, a Shoreline, Washington firefighter and founder of the Dwell Secure app.
He realized most people didn’t understand this many years ago when helping the department’s public information officer teach disaster preparedness classes. “I would explain that there are seventeen firefighters on duty in Shoreline where I work to serve sixty thousand people. People had no idea that if the gas was leaking inside your home after an earthquake, we can’t come. When there’s a windstorm or a snowstorm, our response times are significantly delayed,” Leith shares.
Not only are home emergencies dangerous, but the truth is most Americans can’t afford them. Bankrate’s January 2020 Financial Security Index revealed that only 41% of Americans would be able to cover a $1,000 emergency by dipping into savings. The rest of the survey respondents said they either wouldn’t be able to cover it at all or would need to put the expense on a credit card, borrow money from friends or family, reduce other spending, or take out a personal loan.
With the average emergency home repair clocking in at $1,400 according to the iProperty Management report, just one home emergency could leave many American homeowners in a bad spot. Emergency repairs for issues like burst sewer pipes and bad wiring can run around $25,000 and $9,000, respectively.
“It doesn’t have to be a big thing happening at your home,” Leith says. “A water leak seems like a minor thing if you know how to turn it off, but it’s not a minor thing if it leaks for two days. Then it causes tens of thousands of dollars of damage and several weeks of drying your home out and doing all the repairs. And unfortunately, insurance won’t cover all of the damage.”
Clearly, the best way to deal with a home emergency is to prevent one from happening in the first place or to nip it in the bud as soon as possible before the damage gets worse (and more costly).
Some companies understand this issue and are working to combat it
One such app is Dwell Secure, created by Leith to solve this issue. Many years ago when helping teach those disaster preparedness classes, he asked people in the class who knew how to shut off their gas if gas was flowing in their home. Nobody knew. “That’s nobody’s fault,” Leith says. “On a normal day, you call 911 and we show up to turn your gas off. But when the area is inundated with calls, there aren’t enough resources to handle all of those calls. Like we saw in Texas this last winter when all the pipes froze, thawed out, and burst; people didn’t know how to shut off their water and it caused a lot of problems.”
Dwell Secure is a natural extension of Leith’s firefighting career and desire to help people understand how to keep themselves and their homes safe. Born in Seattle and raised in Chehalis, Washington as the fifth of seven kids, Leith grew up working with his hands on farms around the area. When he moved to Seattle after college, he knew a desk job wasn’t for him. He started doing some wildland firefighting and was eventually hired as a firefighter in Shoreline, where he has now worked for over twenty years.
Passionate about his work as a firefighter, it was frustrating to feel like there were people he couldn’t help. “Firefighting has been a fun journey. I work with very cool people who are like-minded and that makes it fun to go to work. It’s different every day, but ultimately we’re there to help people when they call 911. When we’re unable to do that because of the volume of 911 calls, that’s where Dwell Secure comes in. That was the driving force behind this whole thing: get people the knowledge they need when we are unavailable.”
An emergency resource library on your phone
Imagine an emergency resource library at the tip of your fingers, telling you exactly where to locate resources in your home like gas, water, electrical switches, and power. When emergencies like burst pipes, gas leaking, or electrical outlets going haywire happen, you’re able to quickly turn off your water, gas, or power before your home floods or catches fire.
That, in a nutshell, is Dwell Secure. Developed by Seattle Software Developers, the app allows users to create a personalized emergency homeowner’s library to protect their homes from damage — avoiding costly repairs and unnecessary 911 calls. Through the app, they have access to visual information – videos, images, and even an interactive map – that can be shared with partners, other family members, and your house sitter or babysitter to keep your home (and the people in it) protected and safe.
“The app shows a photo of your gas meter, water meter, and electrical panel as well as an aerial photo of the property where you can mark the location of those items. When you touch that location, it shows you the picture you entered of your exact gas meter and there’s a tutorial on how to shut it off. You’ll have the knowledge to secure your own utilities when all the local resources are overrun due to call volume,” Leith explains.
Does your babysitter know how to turn off the gas? Does your spouse know to turn off the power or locate the circuit boards? With Dwell Secure’s easy sharing features, they always will.
Different options for different levels of need
Featuring three different tiers, the app has functionality for many different kinds of users and their needs. With the free tier, users can create the gas, power, and electrical resources and share access with others.
In the basic tier, users can create as many additional resources as they want, such as air filters, smoke alarms, or crawl spaces. The basic tier also unlocks the ability to create custom resources that are personal to your family, such as a safe.
“You can add whatever you want. Say you do some repairs on your roof. You could take time stamped photos of before and after to document the work that was done. You could enter the roofer’s contact information so if there are any more issues with that roof, you can go in the app, open the roof portion, and hit call,” Leith explains. The app’s reminder feature also allows you to add resources like air filters in your furnace and set reminders to change those filters out in six months.
You can share access to these resources with as many people as you want. The last tier, business premium, allows you to create unlimited resources for multiple properties.
Not just for homeowners, real estate agents and management companies can benefit too
The business premium version was created specifically for commercial real estate companies and real estate agents. Commercial real estate companies could benefit from logging the hundreds of different resources all over the entire property in the app – including fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and maintenance rooms. Real estate agents can log resources for each property they’re selling and share that information with potential buyers and new homeowners.
If you own an Airbnb or Vrbo property, you can share all of the information you want guests to know – including Wi-Fi passwords and bicycle combination locks – with access that expires with the end of their stay.
The future of Dwell Secure
Dwell Secure aims to create a knowledge library that actually increases the value of someone’s home. The knowledge base can be transferred from one homeowner to the next, and buyers will understand that when a home comes with Dwell Secure, they’ve invested in safety and protection for their home and family.
“As firefighters we’re in the business of responding and helping people with whatever they need, but when the need is greater than our ability, everyone is going to need to fend for themselves for a few days. Dwell Secure is a way to help homeowners, renters, anyone occupying a dwelling fend for themselves and take care of their own situation. It gives you the knowledge of how to shut things down like your water or gas and take care of your property,” Leith says.
As for what’s next for Dwell Secure?
Leith continues to be excited by the original vision for the app: getting people the knowledge they need to stay safe and protect their properties. He envisions Dwell Secure becoming a very big part of every real estate transaction. “I’m hoping people will be able to set Dwell Secure up and have all the information they need for their new place easily accessible on their phone,” he says.