Insurance Blog
Items filtered by date: November 2016
Monday, 21 November 2016 16:03

Safety Tips for Black Friday Shoppers

By Trusted Choice Staff Writer

 

The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year.  When it comes to cashing-in on the day’s deals, the motto is “If you snooze you lose.”

Many stores will open at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and some retailers will even open their doors on Thanksgiving eve in hopes that they can entice people out of their post-turkey dinner food coma. For serious bargain-hunters, the day is the ultimate shopping extravaganza that requires a strategic plan, including store maps and item locations, that’s hatched days in advance. Others take a less organized approach, but are still hungry for a deal or this year’s hottest holiday toy.

The combination of too-good-to-be-true deals and shoppers hopped up on copious amounts of caffeine and tryptophan can be dangerous, though. Overzealous drivers can make parking lots a zoo and sleep-deprived shoppers are less likely to pay attention to the road. Unfortunately, Black Friday, which is considered the unofficial start to the holiday season, also brings out thieves, pickpockets, and others who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.

Whether you’re leaving the house at the crack of dawn (or dusk) in search of Black Friday deals or saving your holiday shopping for the last minute, keep these safety tips in mind when navigating the parking lots and wandering the aisles.

On the Road and in the Parking Lot:

  • When backing out of a parking spot, be aware of waiting cars, others who are backing out at the same time, and motorists who speed through lanes.
  • Lock all doors and roll up all windows even when leaving the car for a short period of time.
  • When shopping, keep gifts in the trunk or hidden from view in the interior of the car. Also, put all of your packages in the trunk before departing one parking lot and driving to another. Waiting until your next shopping destination allows others to see packages go into the trunk of your car and then you departing into the mall or store.
  • Avoid parking next to vans and large trucks that block your space from general vision of others.
  • Make a mental note or write down exactly where you park your car to avoid wandering around longer than necessary.
  • During the day, park away from buildings to reduce the chance of dings from car doors or shopping carts. At night, avoid secluded areas and park directly under lights whenever possible.
  • Have your keys in hand when leaving a store. Also, look underneath your car before you reach it; criminals have been known to lie underneath in wait.
  • Bring gifts in the house with you instead of leaving them in the car.

In the Store:

  • Use a credit card to avoid thefts of large amounts of cash that are irreplaceable.
  • Shopping with a single credit card is preferable because it’s easier to cancel one, rather than several, if your wallet or purse is stolen.
  • Keep purses zipped and close to your body. Never leave a purse unattended in a shopping cart where it is more susceptible to theft.
  • Keep a reference list of phone and account numbers for all your credit cards in a safe place at home.
  • If possible, carry keys, cash, and credit cards separate from each other.
  • For freedom of motion and clear visibility, do not overload yourself with bags when leaving a store and returning to your car. It’s difficult to defend yourself with when you’re carry a lot of packages.
  • Use ATMs in well-populated, well lit locations. Do not throw ATM receipts away at the ATM location.
  • Remember there is increased safety in numbers. Avoid walking alone and leave malls and stores well before closing time to assure a more active parking lot. Ask mall security to walk you to your car if you feel you are not safe.

In additions to remembering these safety tips, you should also review your insurance policies with your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage in case an accident or theft does occur. Liability coverage will protect you if you hit another motorist, collision coverage will cover the damage to your car, and comprehensive coverage will insure you for damage by vandals or theft of your vehicle.

Published in Homeowners
Monday, 21 November 2016 15:54

Fry the Turkey, Not the House!


 

Thanksgiving is near and visions of fried turkeys already are dancing in more than a few heads.

Yet even as you are salivating, our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent hastens to caution you. The old joke that men love cooking only if it involves flames and danger is not so funny after an accident. Every year too many folks are harmed and homes are burned due to the combination of large pots of hot oil and big turkeys. Your homeowners' insurance may respond for the fire damages and your health insurance for the emergency room visit, but is that really the new Thanksgiving tradition you had in mind?

Fried turkey can be a great alternative to traditional oven-roasted fare, but be certain to take into account the much higher risk factors. Use a fryer designed specifically for turkeys, rather than jury-rigging other cooking equipment. Once you have the proper fryer, follow a few tips from the experts that can make the difference between taste sensation and flaming disaster: 

  1. Turkey deep fryers should always be placed outdoors, on a flat, preferably concrete surface located a safe distance away from anything combustible. Never use a turkey fryer in the garage, on a wooden deck, or anywhere near the house.
  2. Never leave the fryer unattended. Even after you are finished cooking, do not let pets or children near the unit. The oil in the fryer remains extremely hot for hours after cooking.
  3. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. The best is a Class K wet chemical fire extinguisher. If fire erupts, do not throw water on it. Water cannot extinguish a grease fire and will cause the oil to spatter violently. Use common sense. If the fire is small, use the extinguisher, but dial 911 for emergency assistance before the blaze becomes unmanageable.
  4. Use oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut or canola.
  5. Do not overfill the turkey fryer. If oil spills over?because the turkey is too large or the oil level is too high?flames can engulf the unit and endanger bystanders. Before frying, conduct this test: Put the unseasoned turkey into an empty fryer. Then fill the fryer with water until the turkey is fully submerged. If the turkey fits comfortably, mark the water level. When preparing to cook, dry the fryer thoroughly. Then fill it with oil to an inch shy of your level mark to allow for expansion of the oil as it heats. 
  6. Thaw the turkey completely and dry it with paper towels. Injected marinades are fine, but season the turkey skin with a dry rub. Excess water in a partially frozen or wet turkey will cause the pot to bubble over, resulting in a fire hazard. The National Turkey Federation recommends 24 hours of thawing for every five pounds of bird before cooking in a turkey fryer.
  7. Most turkey fryers do not come with a thermostat, and if left unattended may overheat, resulting in combustion. Turkey fryer thermometers and other accessories are available.
  8. Use heavy oven mitts or well-insulated potholders. The lid, handles, and sides of the cooking pot become very hot, posing a severe burn threat. Protective eyewear is also recommended.

Your Trusted Choice agent at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance always stands ready to offer advice and a comprehensive review of your current insurance coverage and needs. But when it comes to safety, remember: The best claim is the one you never have to make. Whether you’re tending a deep fryer or waiting on the timer to go off on your oven, be safe this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Published in Homeowners
Friday, 18 November 2016 16:05

Don’t Be a Turkey: Home Safety Myths

From Trusted Choice

 

While there may be no place like home for the holidays, Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance agency hastens to remind you that persistent myths about home safety cause unnecessary home dangers. Here are just a few commonly accepted “safety tips” that may be increasing your chance of damage and injury:

  1. Frying turkeys is safe, as long as you use the proper equipment. Even with the best equipment designed specifically for frying turkeys, experts have an extensive list of additional safety precautions. Those include: proper thawing, proper filling, use of protective gloves and eyewear, proper placement of the fryer on a level surface away from flammable areas, and keeping the correct type of fire extinguisher handy.
  2. You can test a smoke detector just by pushing the button. No, that just tests the battery. What about actual detection of smoke or fumes? One recommendation is to put two or three wood kitchen matches together, light, blow out the flame, then hold near the smoke detector to see if it reacts to the smoke.
  3. Stone countertops are indestructible (meaning, they don’t burn or break). While some materials are clearly more resistive to heat and flame, no countertop is totally immune from damage if extremely hot pots are placed on the surface; cracks, scarring and chipping from harsh treatment or certain cleaners can also make render your favorite kitchen upgrade more susceptible.
  4. If you do it yourself, there is no need for an official inspection. Governmental permitting and inspections are intended to verify that materials and techniques are safe and that they comply with local building codes. Even when doing it yourself, check with local authorities on proper permitting and availability of trained inspectors to help assure your “fix-up” doesn’t turn into a “breakdown” or worse.
  5. Basements sustain water damage through the floor. Most water enters a basement from the sides or above. If you want to protect your basement (can you say “man cave”?) and its valuable contents from water damage, then make weatherstripping the windows a higher priority than waterproofing the floor.
  6. New house equipment needs little or no maintenance. While it is true that newer equipment should be inherently safer, the increased amount of electronics in upgraded models makes following the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance procedures even more important. Those electronics also make newer equipment more susceptible to cold weather power outages and brownouts. And a winter holiday when your home is filled with friends and relatives is the exact wrong time to lose your heater.

Be mindful of these and other common safety misconceptions, so you can spend the holidays celebrating, not frantically redialing your contractor’s emergency number.


When More Than the Turkey Gets Fried

Did you know that a large percentage of home fires occur during the holidays? And while decorations and Christmas trees are major causes, turkey fryers are rapidly becoming a significant cause. According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year deep fryer fires cause an average of:

  • 1,000 home fires
  • Three times the fire damage of other forms of cooking
  • Five deaths
  • Sixty injuries
  • More than $15 million in property damage
Published in Homeowners
Thursday, 03 November 2016 04:42

Manage the "Four C’s" of Winter Fire Risks:

Chimneys. Candles. Cooking. Christmas. Children.

winter fire hazardsThanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve—these holidays mean celebrations, many of them in decorated homes filled with merry-making family members and friends.

Our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents also know that the winter holidays bring greater-than-usual risks of fire in homes.  The National Fire Protection Association reports that, over the course of a calendar year, the 10 worst days for fires in homes fall between December 24 and January 6.

Fortunately, these risks can be reduced with safe practices that address the “five Cs” of winter fires: chimneys, candles, cooking, Christmas trees and children.

Chimneys

Buildup or blockage within a chimney can catch fire. Chimney fires are unpredictable: they can be noisy and fierce, or can smolder undetected.

Common-sense tips:
  • If you haven’t checked or cleaned the chimney in the past two years, don’t use it.
  • Have a pro inspect the chimney for creosote (which is what builds up in a chimney and fuels a chimney fire)
  • Use dry wood. This minimizes creosote buildup.
  • Don’t burn wrapping paper, boxes, trash or Christmas trees.
  • Don’t use liquid to start a chimney fire. Use kindling.

Remember fireplace basics, too: use a screen to contain sparks; and let ashes cool before disposing of them in a metal container.

Candles

Home-candle fires happen on Christmas Day more often than any other day, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Next worst: New Year’s Day and Christmas Eve. How do they start? Half of home-candle fires begin because an item is left near a lit candle. Four of 10 home candle fires start in bedrooms, with bedding, furniture, and curtains igniting.

Common-sense tips:
  • Make sure all candles are out before you leave a room or go to bed.
  • Keep clothing, curtains, furniture, and other flammable items away from candles and flame.
  • Use candle holders that don’t tip over.

Cooking

The National Fire Protection Association notes that 46% of all home fires start in the kitchen.  

Common-sense tips:
  • Keep an eye on what you fry
  • Be alert when cooking
  • Keep things that can catch fire away from cooking area
  • Never leave your cooking unattended
  • Turn off your cooking equipment when you leave the room

Christmas Trees

The National Fire Protection Association notes that 300 home fires start each year with Christmas trees. It’s not just live trees; artificial trees also burn. Three major reasons Christmas-tree fires start: electric malfunctions, heat too close to the tree, and children playing with matches, candles, or fireplaces.

Common-sense tips:
  • Buy a cut tree that has green, fresh needles.
  • Buy a fake tree that is fire resistant.
  • Use a secure stand.
  • Locate trees a minimum of three feet from heat sources such as fireplaces and radiators.
  • Water live-cut trees every day.
  • Use lights listed by an industrial laboratory. Link together, at most, only three strands of bulbs.
  • Throw out lights that have frayed or broken cords.
  • Pull the plug on lights before going to bed or leaving home.
  • When a tree starts dropping needles, it’s time to dispose of it (outside, not in the house, garage or basement).

Children

Perhaps the most unpredictable risks for winter fire are those young people who are, naturally, exploring and experiencing the wonders of the winter world for the first time. Remember that lights and flames are fascinating to children.

Common-sense tips:
  • Watch the wires. Keep kids away from light strands and power cords.
  • Matches, candles, stoves and ovens often get extra use during the holidays, at a time when adults are occupied with cooking, cleaning and entertaining. Stop and ask: “What might draw a child’s curiosity in this house?” Then shield children from those items, physically and through discipline and direction.
  • Put matches/lighters out of children’s reach. Use lighters that have a child-resistant safety feature.
  • Train children to tell an adult if they see matches or lighters.

Our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker agents stand ready to assist consumers with a homeowners insurance claim. The best claim is no claim, though. Use these common-sense practices to prevent home fires.

Published in Homeowners
Thursday, 03 November 2016 04:15

Drive Safely: Give Wildlife a “Brake”

Drive Safely: Give Wildlife a “Brake”

Slow down! Plus six more ways to lower your risk of hitting an animal (and what to do if a collision occurs)

The Humane Society of the United States

Animals are forced to cross roads and highways in search of food, water, cover and mates—placing them in the path of our speeding vehicles. So what can you do? First and foremost, slow down! Keeping your speed in check gives you a better chance of stopping in time if an animal darts into the road.

Read and share our lifesaving tips, especially with younger drivers you know. (Reports suggest that young adults ages 15-24 have the highest injury rate of any age group from car accidents involving large animals.)

  • Follow speed limits.Many animals are hit simply because people drive too fast to avoid them. Taking it slow makes the roads safer for other drivers and pedestrians, too.
  • Watch for wildlife in and near the road at dawn, dusk and in the first few hours after darkness.Keep in mind that where there is one animal, there are probably others—young animals following their mother or male animals pursuing a female.
  • Be especially cautious on two-lane roads bordered by woods or fields, or where streams cross under roads.Most animal/vehicle collisions occur on these roads. Slow down to 45 mph or less.
  • Scan the road as you drive, watching the edges for wildlife about to cross. This will also make you more aware of other hazards such as bicyclists, children at play and slow-moving vehicles. 
  • Don’t throw trash out car windows.Discarded food pollutes the environment and creates a hazard by attracting wildlife to the roads. 
  • Use your high beamswhenever possible.
  • Lower your dashboard lights slightly.You'll be more likely to see your headlights reflected in the eyes of animals in time to brake.

How to help injured animals

Sometimes collisions are unavoidable, no matter how careful we are. Here's what to do if you hit an animal or come across an injured one.

Do not put your own safety at risk.Unless you can move the animal from the road in absolute safety, do not attempt to do so. Use your hazard lights or emergency road flares to warn oncoming traffic of the injured animal. Never attempt to handle a large animal like a deer, or one that could give a serious bite, like a raccoon.

Best way to prevent a crash: Slow down.

Call someone with the proper training and equipment. When you need assistance, call the non-emergency number of the local police department (program the phone number into your cell phone right now so you have it when you need it) and describe the animal's location. Emphasize that the injured animal is a traffic hazard to help ensure that someone will come quickly. Stay in the area until help arrives.

Use heavy glovesto protect yourself or avoid direct handling if you try to rescue a small animal yourself. Remember that the animal doesn't know you are trying to help and may bite or scratch in self-defense. An old towel is helpful if you need to move an injured animal.

Gently coax or place the animal into a cardboard boxand transport him/her to an animal shelter,wildlife rehabilitator, or a receptive veterinarian. If there is a delay, keep the animal in a dark, warm, quiet place to minimize fear and stress.

If you accidentally kill an animal, try to move the animal off the road—but only if you can do so in complete safety. Otherwise, report the location of the animal's body to the local police department, and it will arrange for removal. This will prevent scavengers from being attracted onto the road and eliminate a potential traffic hazard.

Published in Auto Insurance

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