Insurance Blog
Monday, 31 October 2016 15:21

9 Halloween Safety Tips

9 Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is tonight and many consumers may not realize how scary this ghoulish night might really be for their personal safety, their property…or their pocketbooks. Our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents can help families better prepare for Halloween hazards that may come in disguise or under the cloak of dark. To help families and businesses have a good time and protect themselves against more scary Halloween risks, we are offering the following safety tips:

  1. Prevent Accidents Remove or move lawn furniture, or any other obstacles, to avoid accidents or damage. Ensure your home’s entry is in good condition, free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on your property.
  2. Fire Dangers Prevent fires by making sure pumpkins containing candles are placed at a distance where a child’s costume cannot be ignited or a curious guest may tip it over. Extinguish all candles before going to bed and use battery operated lights wherever possible. 
  3. Costume Safety Be careful with costumes. All disguises should be made from flame-resistant materials and shouldn’t be too long or contain sharp accessories. Try to avoid masks that may obscure vision and try to use hypo-allergenic make-up instead. 
  4. See and Be Seen Encourage each trick-or-treater and adult chaperones to carry a flashlight. Apply light-reflecting material to costumes. 
  5. Don’t be a Scary Driver Drive sober, slowly and even more carefully than usual on Halloween. Watch for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes in the road.
  6. Power in Numbers When walking, travel in groups and cross only at corners and crosswalks—never between parked cars—and stay on well-lit streets. 
  7. Unwelcomed Guests Scare away potential property vandals who often use the chaos of Halloween night to strike by keeping outdoor lights on. 
  8. Pet Safety Keep pets inside. Warn your children to stay away from animals as they go door-to-door. Halloween night can be stressful, even on the friendliest dog or cat or other creatures. 
  9. Candy Inspection Cavities aren’t the only candy-related risks on Halloween. Inspect all children’s treats. Never eat unwrapped items, collect candy only from those you know and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray and/or inspection service. Throw away any suspicious candy.
Published in Homeowners
How to choose a backpack for your child. 
Kids walking home from school


By September 16, National School Backpack Awareness Day, over 79 million students will go back to school. Many will carry a heavy load to school, especially if they’re starting middle school, where they carry more books, supplies, equipment and electronics than before. It seems like they pack their school lockers in their backpacks and carry them to and from school every day. But overloaded backpacks on children can cause pain and injury that often continue throughout adulthood.

In fact, a 2009 University of California study showed that 64% of American students aged 11 to 15 complained of back pain from heavy backpacks, and 21% reported that the pain lasted more than six months. Moreover, experts say 80% of adults have experienced back pain at some point in their lives, and it can start in childhood.

But it’s not just kids’ backs that can be harmed by weighty backpacks.

“Shoulder rotator cuffs and joints, elbows, wrists, hips and legs can be injured by improper lifting or carrying of heavy backpacks,” warns chiropractor Wm. Todd Fisher, DC of Chantilly Chiropractic Center, PC in Chantilly, VA. “Further, a child’s growth plates and the discs in their back and neck can be damaged, setting them up for a lifetime of back problems,” he states.

So what’s the solution? Choose the right backpack for your child’s size and needs. Here are some keys to choosing the right backpack.

Choose Back Safety Over Stylishness

We know kids love to be “cool,” especially tweens and teens. And it’s important to get your kids things they won’t stuff in the back of the closet and refuse to use. But preventing a lifetime of back injuries may mean sacrificing a little style. Moreover, says Dr. Fisher, “Bigger isn’t better, either.” And neither is cheaper.

So how do Dr. Fisher and other experts recommend you choose a backpack? “Start with knowing your child’s weight and height,” he says. “A backpack should never fall more than four inches below the child’s waistline, nor should it be heavier than 10% of their weight.” A backpack that’s too heavy and too low causes the child to bend forward to balance it, leading to neck and back strain. So it should be at shoulder level and never sag away from the body.

Sometimes the most stylish backpacks lead to serious, long-term musculoskeletal problems in children because they break all of these rules.

Gary Sato, DC, a California chiropractor, Assistant Coach of USC Men's Volleyball and Assistant Coach of USA Men’s Volleyball during the 1988, 1992 and 2012 Olympics, agrees. The father of three, including two teens, he says, “It’s terrible to see kids have back pain that continues into adulthood, so it’s critical that parents convey to them the importance of back care over stylishness.” In other words, this is another area where peer pressure can have long-term health consequences. Besides, you can buy some stylish backpacks and still keep your kids’ backs safe.

What Features Should a Good Backpack Have?

In addition to being high-quality, meaning durable enough to hold heavier loads without excessive sagging and having a reflector, Dr. Fisher suggests backpacks have the following features:

  • Have wide, thick, padded, adjustable, well-made shoulder straps. This type of straps helps keep the backpack on securely and distribute the weight more evenly across the shoulders and back. They also prevent damage to the child’s flesh and muscles from cutting into the shoulders.
  • Be the right size for the child and their uses. Again, bigger is not better, but smaller than needed (like many of the drawstring bags) is not cool, either. Both can be harmful, since kids are likely to overload bigger backpacks, and the poor construction of many drawstring bags makes them inappropriate for heavier loads.
  • Have sternum and hip straps. These straps across the stomach and around the hips help balance the load of the backpacks and stabilize them on your kids’ backs.
  • Have ample compartments. Not only is this a way for kids to carry more delicate items more securely and with less damage (especially if the compartment is padded for electronics), but also the weight of the backpack gets more evenly distributed.
  • Be padded on the back and have air bladders in the right places. Both keep the contents of the backpack from injuring the body and help balance its weight.
  • Have wheels, in some cases, with sturdy pulling handles. Wheels allow backpacks to be rolled, which takes most of the strain off children’s growing bodies. But be careful with these, because wheels often mean users overload them; they have to be lifted to be carried onto the school bus and down stairs. Lifting heavy bags can cause strain, and these can cause other safety issues, too. So make sure your child’s school allows them.
choosing a backpack
 
 

Dr. Sato agrees with these features, adding, “Backpacks should also be breathable so kids don’t sweat while carrying them.” Breathability will help backpacks last longer (since the salt in sweat can break some fabrics down) and not carry odors.

How Should Your Kids Load and Carry Their Backpacks?

In order to choose correctly, you’ll need to know what your child will be carrying and how. In addition to this nifty chart provided by The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA),which shows parents and students how to both pack and wear their backpacks, Dr. Fisher has a few other suggestions. “Backpacks should not be worn lower than four inches below a child’s natural waistline because that forces them to lean forward to balance the load,” he explains. That can cause strain across the child’s musculoskeletal system, including back, neck, hip flexors, ankles and feet.

He adds they should be securely fastened on a child’s body to make sure the backpack is high and close to the body. He suggests children, “stand in front of a mirror after loading their backpack to check posture.” If they find themselves leaning forward, they should remove some of the contents of the backpack. Watch this Boston University video for additional considerations about properly choosing, loading and wearing a backpack.

Also, this video provides additional wearing information, including warning signs the backpack is too heavy. Dr. Sato says it’s OK for kids to carry additional bags if their backpacks are too heavy but, in general, kids should not be overloaded carrying them.

Where Should You Purchase Backpacks?

Start with the school’s supply list to determine what kind of backpack your child is allowed to carry to school. Then go shopping. It’s likely that the more children you have, the more budget-conscious you’ll be. Both doctors agree that this is understandable, but say that it’s just as important to consider your child’s long-term musculoskeletal health when purchasing their backpack. Don’t automatically choose the cheapest option at a discount retailer. That may not be the best backpack for your child’s size or needs.

Moreover, while there are numerous high-end brands to choose from, Dr. Fisher recommends the AirPack brand. Other popular brands are REI, JanSport, L.L.Bean, Kipling, Herschel and North Face. But whatever brand you choose, make sure it meets the criteria above, including those from the AOTA. Dr. Sato recommends that you go in to the retailer, look at backpacks and try them on your child, and then go online to buy them at the best price.

If you follow these strategies for choosing, loading and wearing a backpack, your child is less likely to be injured carrying one.

Published in Blog

Fourth of July Fireworks: Beautiful, Patriotic… and Dangerous

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 60% of all fireworks injuries occur around July 4th. While these loud bursts of light and color add flair to celebrations, it should be remembered that fireworks are explosive devices and must be handled with care. Many communities celebrate the Fourth of July with firework shows they are often managed by professionals and are executed under controlled circumstances, which allows for the safe enjoyment of the show by the public. However, lots of people also celebrate Independence Day with fireworks at private events, like backyard barbecues, picnics and beach parties.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety offers the following tips for safe use of fireworks:

  • Know your fireworks; Read the warning labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • Have a designated shooter to organize and shoot your family show.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks.
  • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  • Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
  • Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
  • Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Never attempt to alter or modify consumer fireworks and use them only in the manner in which they were intended.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

The quickest way to ruin your holiday is to have a friend or family member injured by a mistake with something as volatile as fireworks. You also want to make sure that you’re minimizing the risk to buildings and cars in the area where you celebrate, as mishandled fireworks pose an obvious fire risk. Make sure if you’re using fireworks you’ve got lots of clear space away from houses, garages, etc. Baldwin / Welsh & Parker’s Trusted Choice®independent insurance agents can help you understand the risks you may face if you’re using fireworks as part of your holiday celebration.

We wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July!

Check out these important links for more information:

US Consumer Product Safety Commission

National Council of Fireworks Safety

infographic_summer

Published in Homeowners

Home security is an important topic these days. Unfortunately, a home burglary happens once every 15 seconds in the United States. This translates to a staggering 2.2 billion burglaries each year. Burglars targeting residences will mainly strike during daytime hours when they assume most homeowners are at work. Many people are surprised to learn that the main point of entry for burglars is through the front door. Deadbolt locks help a lot, but they are not enough to deter a determined burglar. A home security system can be a crucial defense against thieves. The best security system for you might take some research – but we hope this guide will help you make the right decision for your family.

 

 

What Are the Advantages of a Home Security System?

Most people purchase home security systems mainly to protect their homes from burglars. In addition to serving as an effective deterrent against property crimes, these systems can also save your home from excessive fire damage and protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. They are typically equipped with several types of sensors that can notify a team of experts of problems around the clock. This way, if you leave an appliance on and it begins to smolder, the security company can have the fire department at your house within minutes to contain any flames.

Another advantage to having this type of system installed in your home is that most insurance companies will reward you for being proactive. They do this in the form of significant discounts on your home insurance policy. These discounts can range from 2 to 20 percent and this can help to mitigate the cost of 24/7 monitoring of your home.


What Features Should I Look for in a Home Alarm System?

When it comes to deciding on a home security system, think “layered security.” Layered security is having more than one type of protection. This can include sensors on the doors and windows that trigger home alarms, alarm services that include security cameras mounted outside your residence, and motion sensors that can turn on lights and activate alarms. Glass-break sensors are also a smart addition, as many wireless sensors will not detect the shattering of glass.

Some features that you can expect the best home security system companies to provide include:

  • Control panels and keypads
  • Smoke and heat detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Motion sensors
  • Wireless window and door sensors
  • Glass break sensors
  • Pressure mats
  • Panic buttons
  • Alarmed screens for your windows
  • Video monitoring
  • Flood monitoring in your basement, bathroom and garage
  • The ability to monitor and control your system remotely

Not all of these features may be important or appeal to you. The best home security system for you is one that offers everything you want at a price you can afford. There are many home security companies out there, so there is no need to compromise and give up a feature you want just because the company you choose does not offer it.

How Do I Select the Best Home Security System Provider?

Hiring a home security system provider is easy; hiring the best home security system provider takes a bit a research. Consumer Reports recently noted that the range of services and costs among home security companies varies significantly. Because you have many options and the prices can vary greatly from company to company, it’s a good idea to make careful comparisons when you shop.

  1. Assemble a list of providers near you. You may want to include both smaller, local companies and large national companies in your list.
  2. Compile a list of features that are important to you. Eliminate any companies on your list that do not offer those features.
  3. Research each of these companies online. Sites such as Consumer Reports and Angie’s List will provide unbiased reviews of the companies you are considering. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure that the companies you are considering are trustworthy. Eliminate any companies that are rated poorly by these sites.
  4. Research price quotes from companies on your list. Keep in mind that there may be additional, less obvious fees such is if you must pay to lease the equipment used each month or if there are added costs if the service alarm is activated.

Based on the rates, narrow you list down to three or four companies and arrange to have each of them come to your house to give you an quoted price for installation and monthly service fees.

An important factor to consider when choosing a home security system is customer support and monitoring. Customer service should be friendly and efficient and the representative who came to your home should have been knowledgeable about what the company does and does not offer.

Home security systems include round-the-clock monitoring and can range from $20 to $60 per month, depending on the company and the features and services you choose.

Beware of Hidden Costs or Pitfalls

Scams and of hidden fees may be charged by one company, but not others. For example:

  • Early termination fees: Some companies will require you to sign a contract for a given number of years. Sometimes this is required of all customers and other times it is offered as a way to get discounts or free installation. Be aware of high early termination fees that are are applicable even if you move out of the house.
  • Promises by a salesperson: Sometimes, less scrupulous sales personnel will make promises to entice you, but if these terms are not in the contract you sign, you could be locked into an agreement that isn’t ideal. Be sure to get all sales agreements in writing and included with your contract.
  • Security company liability limits: If your home is broken into or damaged, your home security company may be liable for a portion of your losses. The liability limit your security company has may cover the deductible on your home insurance policy, or it may be used to cover your entire loss. Some companies have very low limits for how much liability they will pay and you may be agreeing to these low limits when you sign the contract. Be sure to ask about this and read the contract carefully.

Do Not Rely Exclusively on Your Burglar Alarm

While home security systems can alert authorities of an intruder in your home, unless you live next door to a police station, you should not expect the police to arrive instantaneously. Burglars will still have time to grab some belongings and run. This is where layered security comes in. By taking additional precautionary steps, you can minimize your risks.

Some things you can do to keep your property safe include:

  • Always lock your door when you are not at home
  • If you have an alarm system installed, be sure to use stickers on your window or signs on the lawn to alert potential burglars that you are protected
  • Even if you do not have a dog, “beware of dog” signs may give a burglar pause
  • Keep your lawn and front porch clean and well kept, so that the front door to your home is easily visible by passers-by
  • Leave a radio on and tuned to a talk station when not at home
  • When you go on vacation
  • Ask a neighbor put some garbage in your cans and put them out on collection day
  • Put in a stop mail request with the post office
  • Put some lights on timers
  • Avoid advertising that you are on vacation by posting on social networking sites

 

Get Peace of Mind Knowing that Your Home Is Protected

Of course, home security systems are not all created equal. The brands available to you may vary depending on your home’s specifications, and it is possible that one company might better meet your budgetary and some security needs than another. The important thing is that you review everything that your prospective companies offer before making a decision about which is the best home security company for you.

Once you have chosen a home security system and install it in your home, you can breathe a little easier knowing that your family and your possessions are safely protected from the dangers of fire and theft.

And of course, as an additional measure of protection, make sure your insurance is up-to-date and you have the best coverage for your needs. Contact us at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker (BWP) for personal attention.

Published in Homeowners

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