Static electricity has shocking effect at gas pumps

Static electricity most commonly is experienced when you receive a shock after shuffling your feet across carpet or when your hair stands on end after pulling off your winter hat. But when it’s experienced at a gas pump, that same static electricity can have a much more shocking result — a flash fire.

After investigating 150 reports of fires at gas pumps, the Petroleum Equipment Institute discovered that static electricity can ignite gasoline vapors.

When a driver re-enters his or her vehicle while pumping gas, this creates a buildup of static electricity. If the driver exits the vehicle without discharging the static and then touches the nozzle, the static charge can ignite.

The resulting fire can cause serious harm to the driver, the vehicle, the gas pump, and the surrounding buildings.

Follow these tips to avoid flash fires and stay safe while refueling your vehicle:
  • • Always turn off your engine, even in very cold temperatures.
  • • Never get back in your vehicle while you are refueling. If you need to re-enter your vehicle while the gas is pumping, make sure to exit the vehicle and close the door while touching the metal before touching the nozzle. This will discharge the static from your body.
  • • If a flash fire occurs while you are refueling, leave the nozzle in your vehicle’s fill pipe and alert the station attendant immediately. He or she will be able to turn off the pumps with emergency controls.

How would you build Santa’s insurance policy?

For property and general liability
Santa would need a substantial property and liability policy with a hefty property damage limit. While he and his reindeer fly with finesse, you never know when he’ll tear through a roof, overestimate the size of a chimney, or get a little too curious about pretty Christmas ornaments.

For transportation
We suggest inland marine for Santa’s sleigh with coverage for loading and unloading gifts. In addition, Santa may want roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown; after all, he is on a tight time limit!

For the livestock
From Dasher, to Dancer, to Prancer, all nine of Santa’s reindeer are precious goods. A farm policy might help ensure a replacement if necessary (but we’d rather not even think about that tragedy).

For the business place
Santa will need manufacturing services and E&O coverage for his workshop, a workers’ compensation policy for the elves – if it’s required in the North Pole – and an employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) roll on. Wonder if his EPLI rate should be cut in half because elves are small?

Fancy – but necessary – additions
We’ve all seen it. The random bearded man claiming to be the real deal, taking hundreds of dollars from unsuspecting parents who want the perfect picture for their holiday card. Santa must have identity theft and restoration coverage. And because there are some heartless people in the world and Santa’s a grand celebrity, he’ll need protection for kidnap and ransom.

Because it’s Santa, there’s no need for exclusions for flying objects or breaking and entering. The way we see it, if the stockings are hung, there’s a tree with room beneath, or a plate of cookies out with nobody’s name on it, it’s fair game for Santa to consider it an invitation to hop down a chimney.

If you have other thoughts about coverages Santa needs, share them with us here. We’d love your creative suggestions!

Holiday outings offer lessons in safe event planning

The holiday season is filled with special events — holiday parties, sleigh rides, recitals, and more. But when you are in charge of planning one of these occasions, it’s up to you to make sure every detail is covered so your guests can have a fun — and safe — time.

Each of these special events offers distinct tips to help you plan a safe holiday function:
  1. Holiday party: Know the venue. Before the event, familiarize yourself with the area and determine any important parking details, as well as emergency and safety procedures. Knowing the area also will help you monitor your event for any unsafe or suspicious activities.
  2. Sleigh Ride: Avoid slip and fall hazards. Create a safe path for guests to get on and off the sleigh. Shovel a clear walkway, and use salt to get rid of any ice. If your guests will be walking inside, keep the floor clear of debris, and cover or tape cords and cables to prevent trips. Use mats to prevent guests with wet shoes from slipping on the floor.
  3. Dance Recital: Maintain sufficient lighting. When the lights go up on the stage and down on the audience, exits still should be clearly visible. Use some form of lighting on the stairs or walkways in case someone needs to leave during the performance. For your own event, determine the appropriate lighting to keep your guests safe and accident free.
  4. Art and Craft Fair: Know your vendors. If you are working with external vendors or exhibitors, make sure you understand all aspects of their activities, including safety procedures. Plus, if you plan to have door prizes or a raffle at your event, review all state and federal regulations pertaining to lotteries and gambling.

Classic holiday movie teaches important safety lessons

What better way to brush up on holiday safety than through observation? We’ve compiled a list of six lessons learned from the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. If you haven’t seen this wildly hilarious movie, you still can learn a valuable lesson from the main character, Clark Griswold, who is a walking risk.

Lesson 1: Always check your blind spot
In the opening scene, Clark develops a serious case of road rage on his way to a tree lot. He winds up driving his car beneath a semi-truck’s trailer when he fails to check his blind spot. He escapes, but only to crash his car into a snow bank.

Lesson 2: Ladder safety isn’t for the birds
Clark is determined to have Chicago’s most beautifully lit home. Using no spotter and an unstable ladder, he staple guns his shirt sleeve to the house soffit and eventually falls from his roof – luckily into a nicely padded bed of evergreens.

Lesson 3: Know your policy limits
Shortly before Clark’s fall, he is hanging for dear life from his gutters. When the gutters break from the house’s soffit, an ice “pole” flies from the gutter into his nemesis neighbor’s window, smashing an expensive stereo system. Something like this could feasibly be covered under a homeowners insurance policy with the proper limits since stupidity technically is not an exclusion.

Lesson 4: Keep your attic properly insulated and ventilated

While hiding Christmas gifts in the attic, Clark gets trapped in the freezing cold by his mother-in-law. While it’s not an ideal temperature for anyone trapped in an attic, a properly insulated attic is very cold and can help prevent serious ice damage to your home – and save you a ton in heating costs.

Lesson 5: Don’t overload your circuits or outlets
Clark nearly goes mad trying to determine why his lights won’t work, while the viewer sees an image of clearly overloaded outlets and numerous extension cords in his basement. While Clark eventually gets these lights to work, the real point is that overloading outlets is dangerous. In fact, electrical fires claim the lives of 485 Americans and injure 2,305 each year. This adds up to more than $850 million in property losses annually.

Lesson 6: Properly maintain a fresh-cut evergreen

Realistically you won’t carry a critter into your home via your Christmas tree like Clark did, but it makes for an entertaining fiasco in the movie. What you should do is water your tree every day and keep it away from heat sources to prevent it from drying too quickly. In addition, never leave the lights on overnight or when you’re away from home. As Clark’s family experiences, an over-dry tree can ignite easily.

Protection strategies for holiday shopping

You’re in line when a woman cuts in front of you. You politely tell her that she wrongly took your place; she then threatens to shoot you or anyone else who objects.

It sounds like a violent scene from a movie, but this event happened outside a Toys ‘R’ Us store only last year during Black Friday shopping. The day is filled with anticipation for the best deals and the greatest holiday gifts for our friends and family. But participating in the festivities can be risky on several fronts.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid the perils of in-store holiday shopping:

• Always be aware of the people around you. If activities and behaviors seem to be escalating into a violent or dangerous situation, get out immediately.

• Keep your cell phone handy in the event you need to notify police of an incident.

• Make sure you aren’t followed to your car; thieves have been known to take purchased merchandise from shoppers in parking lots.

• Put your cash or cards away immediately after using them, which will decrease your risk of dropping them – right into the hands of an identity thief. Keep your wallet or purse with you at all times, rather than in a shopping cart or basket.

Or you can shop online. It’s safer, and you can do it in the comfort of your pajamas. Follow these tips:

• Use credit before debit. Credit cards are more likely to cap fraudulent charges if fraud is reported. A thief could wipe out your checking account before you know it, and you might have no recourse.

• Consider using disposable credit cards so your number cannot be traced – and re-used – by identity thieves. You likely can order them through your financial institution.

• Don’t store your credit information on a shopping site. It’s faster the next time you check out, but store sites are big targets for hackers who want your credit information.

• Watch out for spamming ads, deals that are too good to be true, and e-mails from unknown senders claiming they need bank information from you. Do not respond to these solicitations!

More tips to prevent identity theft.

SECURA donates to breast cancer research in honor of loved ones

It started with a desire to do something meaningful. To make an impact in an area that affects millions. And so we launched our annual One by One campaign.

Our promise was to donate to the cause of breast cancer research for every new MILE-STONE® home and auto policy written Aug.1 – Oct. 31. As such, we will give more than $13,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, making our three-year campaign total more than $71,000.

What makes this even more special is that we donated these funds in honor of our agents and community friends. See the list of those honored with the donations for the past three years.

Throughout the campaign, brave women helped us build awareness by telling us about their experiences with breast cancer. Their stories were ones of trials, tribulation, and triumph. We invite you to read their inspirational stories.

This year’s campaign may have ended Oct. 31, but our desire to raise awareness about prevention and early detection of breast cancer perseveres. The battle against breast cancer can be won, by the action of each of us, one by one.

Prepare your vehicle for winter weather

Whether it was the October snowstorm shocking the East coast, this week’s snowfall across parts of the Midwest, or the blizzard pounding Alaska full force — early winter weather is surprising people across the country. If these unexpected signs of winter hit your area today, would you be ready? Follow these tips to prepare your vehicle for whatever weather winter might bring.

In your vehicle:

• Check the tread on your tires and replace them if they are too worn. Good traction is key during winter driving. Also, check your tire pressure often — your tires start to lose pressure as temperatures drop.

• Make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition to handle ice and snow. Use windshield washer fluid that’s intended for cold temperatures.

• Check your antifreeze level and aim for a 50/50 mixture of distilled water and antifreeze.

• Change your oil. Clean engine oil helps protect your motor when you start it in the cold.

• Keep your gas tank at least half full.

• Always keep an ice scraper and shovel in your car, and prepare an emergency kit that includes warm gloves and a blanket.

• Get your car waxed to prevent corrosion from road salt, and wash it throughout winter to get rid of any salt buildup.

When winter weather hits:

• Plan your driving route ahead of time and tell someone your plan.

• Avoid quick stops, turns, or lane changes that could send you skidding across icy roads.

• Always drive with your lights on.

• Clear the snow or ice off your car each time you drive to ensure maximum visibility. Don’t forget to scrape off your lights, roof, and hood.

• Leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to allow enough stopping time.

Six tips to prevent ice damage to your home this winter

Those sparkling icicles hanging from your gutters may look beautiful, but they point to a sign that your roof is headed for disaster.

Icicles come from ice dams, a potentially dangerous blockage formed from melting snow that freezes along the shingle edges and gutters of your roof. As ice builds on these eaves, it can trap water, which eventually will seep through the seams of your roof shingles. That water can then leak into your attic and living area, and cause significant damage.

But if you insulate and ventilate your home properly, you can prevent major repair bills this winter. Here are six steps you can take now to keep ice dams from forming:

1. Make sure your attic floor has the right amount of insulation at the appropriate R-value for your climate to keep heat inside your home. If you’re unsure what R-value you need, visit the U.S. Department of Energy.

2. Add soffit vents if your home doesn’t have them. Air that travels into the attic from the house below carries water vapor that, unless vented away, can condense on the cold insulation, framing, and sheathing.

3. Make sure your attic insulation doesn’t cover any part of your soffit air-intake vents.

4. Have sufficient air-exhaust outlets, also known as gable vents, in your attic. (Peak-mounted ridge vents maximize air flow in the attic areas.)

5. Keep your gutters clean so water can flow easily from your roof. Fall is the best time to remove leaves and debris – before the snow flies.

6. Remove the snow and ice buildup on your roofline before it melts. You can find a snow roof rake at your local hardware store. After a snowfall, remove the first two or three feet of snow above your gutters for best results. Please note that this work can be very dangerous under certain conditions. If you are unsure about the proper procedure for raking your roof, SECURA recommends you hire a professional to do the job.

The legend of SECURA’s haunted grounds

According to legend, SECURA is
haunted. Some claim to hear the screams
of a girl who drowned in a pond on the
property 150 years ago.

“I stopped in late one night at work to pick up something I left on my desk,” a SECURA associate remembers. “The hair on my neck stood on end – like my instinct knew I was being watched.”

Was it instinct? Is there someone – or something – lurking the grounds at SECURA’s corporate office in Appleton, Wisconsin?

Lore has it, 150 years ago (long before the land was SECURA’s), a family was picnicking in this location. A young girl fell into the pond, was trapped in a pipe, and drowned.

Some say that when it’s quiet, you can hear the girl’s screams from beneath the water and her parents’ cries for help from ashore.

Don’t believe what you read? Do a quick Internet search for “SECURA haunted.”

Happy Halloween.

Get the skinny on food safety

Since the beginning of mankind, providing sustenance has been risky, if not downright dangerous. Our ancient ancestors fought off the elements and wild beasts during the hunt, while our not-so-distant relatives faced famine on their farms.

Nowadays we are faced with the risks of food-borne pathogens and the all-too-common kitchen fire. But with some simple measures, we can continue to eat well and safe.

Preventing food-borne illnesses
These precautions can help you avoid illness from the most common food-borne pathogens:
  • • Sign up for free food recall updates or see recent recalls.
  • • Wash your produce and meat thoroughly before consumption.
  • • Cook proteins to the following internal temperatures, recommended by the FDA:
    • • Finfish: 145° F
    • • Beef, veal, and lamb roasts and steaks: 145° F
    • • Ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork: 160° F
    • • Ground poultry: 165° F
    • • Pork: 145° F with a three-minute rest time
  • • Separate raw meets from ready-to eat foods in the grocery cart and at home.
  • • Use separate cutting boards for meat and produce during food preparation.
  • • Keep your meat fresh by storing in a refrigerator that is colder than 40° F and a freezer colder than 0° F.
  • • For more information, visit

Kitchen fire safety
  • • Always check your oven before pre-heating.
  • • Never leave a stove burner unattended.
  • • Keep a working smoke detector and fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
  • • Always follow the recommended cleaning guides provided in your oven manual.
  • • Never try to put out a fire with water.
  • • Don’t put metal dishes or utensils (or foil) in the microwave.
  • • Keep all appliances unplugged when you’re not using them. You’ll save electricity, too!
  • • Don’t keep dish towels or potholders on your stovetop; you never know when you’ve left a burner on accidentally.

Watch for deer while driving this fall

Deer Crossing

Fall is the peak season for deer activity, which means an increased risk of auto-deer collisions.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are 1.5 million auto-deer collisions annually, resulting in more than $1 billion in damage. At SECURA, deer-auto collisions are the fourth most-common auto claims we see, accounting for 3,200 claims annually.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Early detection is key

“I found the lump by mistake.”

“I’ve always performed self exams.”

“They found my tumor about a year and a half before I would have found it myself.”

Inspirational women – women we call our friends and family – have shared with us their stories of breast cancer throughout the past two months. While each tale is different, they are bound by a common thread: early detection.

During October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re reminding women and men about the critical importance of early detection of breast cancer through self examination and annual mammograms. Some women overlook this because they think are too young or there is no family history of cancer. They couldn’t be more wrong.

• In the U.S., one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer.
• While a woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if a mother, sister, or daughter has been diagnosed, 70-80
  percent of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease.
• Even though the most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender and aging, it can strike at any age.

There is hope
Through research, we are detecting breast cancers earlier and finding better treatments. When found in Stage I, breast cancer will be successfully treated in 90 percent of women. What’s more, the mortality rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990. We want to keep the momentum going; let’s find a cure.

On Aug. 1, we launched our annual One By One campaign to give to the cause of breast cancer research. We will give $10 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for every new SECURA MILE-STONE home and auto policy written until Oct. 31, 2011.

Share your story
If you have a story about how breast cancer has impacted your life or would like to read others’ stories, please visit SECURA's Facebook page. One by one, we can win the battle.

Statistics from:

Roadside Rescuer delivers service with ease

David Barran — a SECURA MILE-STONE® home and auto policyholder — carried his Roadside RescuerSM card in the front of his wallet; he wanted to be prepared if he needed the service, which provides roadside assistance.

And that need came sooner than he expected. After stopping for a snack on his way to a nearby golf course, David couldn’t get his car started. When jumper cables didn’t work, he opened his wallet and saw the Roadside Rescuer card.

Quality assistance at every turn
The representative that David spoke with offered support and peace of mind, suggesting ways to get the car started and contacting a reliable towing company.

“Halfway through the conversation, the call was already placed for a tow truck,” said David. “We covered a lot of ground in 10 minutes.”

David worried about how long it would take for help to arrive as he watched the Friday rush hour traffic piling up, but he didn’t have to wait long. The tow truck driver showed up in 25 minutes, jumped the car, and gave him directions to a battery shop less than a mile away. The driver even gave David his number to call in case anything went wrong along the way, promising to return and pick him up. David pulled into the battery shop and, while his battery was being replaced, received a call from another Roadside Rescuer representative checking to make sure he was taken care of.

“That is the kind of help and service you don’t believe is available anymore! I was totally impressed!” said David. “The way the whole thing was handled was super. Everything was more than perfect.”

SECURA’s Roadside Rescuer service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you’re out of gas, locked out, stranded with a flat tire or dead battery, and more. The service is included for vehicles with physical damage coverage on MILE-STONE Gold policies, and is available in our MILE-STONE Basic and monoline auto policies with the purchase of towing coverage.

Protect your home and property from wildfire

Wildfires happen almost anywhere in the country. That’s why having a plan in place to protect your most valuable possessions is critical.

The first step in protecting your home from wildfire is assessing the fire risk. Each home is unique with a different risk of wildfire. Follow these steps to assess the fire risk:
• Learn the history of wildfire in your area.
• Become aware of recent weather and burn restrictions.
• Determine whether your home is easily accessible to fire fighting equipment (is it accessible to equipment or the fire fighters?). Hire a professional to inspect your home for ways to reduce your risk.

    Learn and practice fire safety
    • Build fires away from nearby vegetation.
    • Keep fire pits at a distance from your home and other flammable exposures.
    • Never leave a fire unattended.
    • Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
    • Keep fuel sources, such as brush and firewood, away from your home.
    • Avoid open burning, especially during dry season.
    • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and near sleeping areas.
    • Check smoke detectors monthly.
    • Have an emergency evacuation plan in place.

      Create safety zones around your property
      All vegetation (not just dry vegetation) is potential fuel for a wildfire. Some plants are more flammable than others. Highly flammable plants include pine, eucalyptus, junipers, and fir trees. Knowing the types of plants surrounding your home will help eliminate potential hazards. Remember, the greater the distance between the vegetation and your home, the safer your home will be.

      Keep the volume of vegetation within the first 30 feet surrounding the property to a minimum; this will help eliminate your risk of wildfire. If your home is on a hill, the zone should be extended on the downhill side as fire spreads more rapidly uphill.

      Remove other combustibles from the 30-foot zone. This includes gas grills, propane tanks, and wood piles. Swimming pools, patios, and stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames away from the property.

      Maintain a secondary zone up to 100 feet away from your home. In this zone, it is best to reduce and/or replace as much of the flammable vegetation as possible.

      What to do after a wildfire
      Check your roof immediately. The roof is especially vulnerable in a wildfire. Embers and flaming debris can travel great distances, land on the building’s roof, and start a new fire. Avoid flammable roofing materials such as wood, shake, and shingle.

      Check the attic for hidden burning sparks or embers. Maintain a “fire watch,” re-checking for smoke and sparks in and around the property for several hours after the fire.

      View our wildfire safety checklist.

      Seven ways to avoid identity theft in a social world

      Cell phones, GPS devices, and immediate access to online communication can provide a sense of security and completeness, allow you to call for emergency help, and offers hours of entertainment and information.

      These technologies also feed identity thieves morsels of information they are eager to devour. With a few precautions, you can rely on electronic devices without being a victim of identity theft. Here’s how.

      1. Do not respond to suspicious texts. Text messages that ask for personal information, like your social security number, debit card PIN, or bank account number are virtually never legitimate. Contact the sender by phone to verify the identity.

      2. Store contacts by first names. By listing contacts as Mom, Hubby, or Home, you’re inviting a thief to contact them for personal information. Thieves can quickly text Hubby to find out, “What’s our bank PIN again?” before he knows your phone was stolen.

      3. Delete sensitive data. If you plan to sell your phone, delete your personal data. If you are unsure how to delete your pictures, passwords, or contacts, bring your phone to your network provider’s retail store and ask for assistance.

      4. Download ringtones from reputable sites. In order to capture personal data, identity thieves create phony sites that claim to offer ringtones and other downloads.

      5. Do not store your home address on your GPS. An identity thief — or burglar — who steals a GPS can find your home and feel comfortable knowing you won’t return if you store your schedule on the same device.

      6. Carry electronic devices separately. A cell phone, GPS, and wallet make a great combination. If you carry all of them together — in a purse, for example — you leave a thief with the needed information to steal your identity.

      7. Do not share too much on social networking sites. A message on a social networking site stating that you will be on vacation for the next two weeks is an invitation to burglarize your unattended home and rummage through your mail and other personal information. Never list a full birth date. This is key information for an identity thief to use to set up false accounts.

      A little ID fraud coverage goes a long way
      Prevention tactics are key in avoiding identity fraud, but anyone can fall victim. SECURA’s Identity Fraud Expense and Restoration coverage provides immediate support if your identity is ever stolen.

      MILE-STONE® Gold policyholders automatically receive our Identity Fraud Expense and Restoration coverage. MILE-STONE Basic policyholders can purchase coverage for less than $3 per month. Contact your independent agent today to add Identity Fraud Expense and Restoration coverage to your policy.

      Four ways SECURA’s ID fraud coverage can help
      • Learn the steps to take in the event a family member dies.
      • Receive advice about measures to take to keep your maiden name protected if you recently married.
      • Obtain assistance reclaiming lost documents if your home is damaged or destroyed by natural disaster.
      • Receive guidance in protecting the identity of active duty military men and women.

      For news, articles, and more ways to protect your identity, visit

      Actual cash value or replacement cost: What’s better for insurance?

      CRASH! From the middle of nowhere, an inattentive driver t-bones you. Fortunately, you and the driver of the other car are not injured. But your 2007 auto is totaled. You only have 30,000 miles on the car.

      After talking with the claims adjuster, you learn that you’ll only receive $11,000 for the total loss. “What?” you think to yourself. “It would cost at least $20,000 to buy that car new!” Yes, and $20 grand minus the $9,000 the auto depreciated is what insurance companies refer to as actual cash value (ACV).

      The simplest definition for ACV is: Replacement cost minus depreciation.

      Replacement cost is the amount of money it costs to replace a damaged item with a new item of like kind and quality.

      Typically, a standard home insurance policy covers the replacement cost of a house. If a house is leveled during a natural catastrophe and the policyholder has adequate coverage, the policyholder likely would receive a claim check for the cost to rebuild (minus the deductible amount).

      As for the contents in a home – computers, appliances, clothing, etc. – that may be a different story. Similar to the standard auto policy, most often personal belongings within a home are insured at ACV which, again, accounts for depreciation.

      Some insurance carriers offer special coverage that gives a policyholder replacement cost for personal property so they can purchase all new items if they are destroyed in a loss. Other carriers allow a policyholder to purchase (usually with restrictions) special coverage that offsets auto depreciation for a certain number of years.

      Ask your independent agent to review your coverages with you to see what your policy covers in the event of a loss.

      Seven ways to keep your computer virus free

      Online pop-ups offer all kinds of tempting deals, but as soon as you click one, the prize disappears - and so does your computer's security. If your computer isn't protected, someone could access your personal information or expose you to a virus that brings your computer to a crashing halt.

      Take these steps to make sure your computer is secure:

      Create a secure password. Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters - just make sure it's something you can remember!

      Use antivirus software. Configure your antivirus software to update automatically so your protection is always current. Also, regularly check for updates for all software you use to eliminate any gaps in security.

      Set up a firewall. A firewall can help secure access control and prevent someone else from remotely taking over your computer.

      Disable JavaScript. Secure your browser by disabling JavaScript for all but the most essential websites. This will help you browse the Internet more safely and eliminate unwanted pop-ups.

      Avoid pop-ups. Never click on a pop-up box without reading it carefully, and don't allow any program to download that you didn't specifically request.

      Watch for suspicious e-mails from your bank. Be wary of e-mails reporting a security concern from your bank or financial institution. Don't log in from the e-mail; instead, visit your bank's website and log in there, and call your bank to confirm the report and alert them to any scams.

      Check the privacy policy. Read a website's privacy policy before entering any personal information, and make sure the site offers a secure connection before giving your credit card information.

      Is your kid college bound? What you need to know about your insurance coverage

      Make a list of the property your child is bringing to college. Do valuable electronics or furniture make the list? Most often they do. We all want to believe our kids lock their personal belongings in their rooms or rental homes all the time, but the reality is they still can fall victim to theft. That includes identity theft.

      So, while we encourage you to remind your child (incescantly, if need be) to lock up her or his valuables, also contact your insurance agent or carrier to learn what’s covered in instances of theft when a student is at college.

      Does SECURA provide insurance protection for my child?
      If you are a SECURA MILE-STONE® policyholder and your child is a full-time student and a member of your household (same permanent address), we offer 10 percent of your personal property limit or $1,000 in coverage (whichever is greater) for personal property stolen from a dorm room or rental home.

      We also cover liability for the student. Let’s say your son or daughter leaves a candle burning in their apartment when they leave for class. While they’re gone, the apartment sustains fire and smoke damage. Your liability policy might come into effect.

      So what about identity theft? If you have our Identity Theft and Restoration coverage, your college student also has those benefits. We encourage you to stress the importance of keeping their debit or credit cards with them or locked up at all times. Another important measure is to have your kids keep their social security cards at your home, locked in a safe location.

      A stipulation for coverage through your MILE-STONE policy is that the student has to be at his or her school residence for 45 days before a theft is covered.

      What if my child is a student but not a member of my household?
      If your student has a permanent address other than yours or receives no financial support from you, he will need his own renters insurance policy, including liability coverage.

      What about my auto coverage under MILE-STONE?
      If your child is a full-time student attending school more than 100 miles from home and does not have an auto, you may be eligible for a discount on your policy. Contact your SECURA agent for details.

      Coverage and services may not be available in all states. Coverages and services described are subject to all the terms and conditions of the policy, including deductibles, exclusions and limits of liability. Not all agents are authorized to sell all types of insurance. Please read the policy carefully.

      Roadside emergency kit checklist

      You packed your luggage, a cooler, a few beach towels — you’re ready for anything on your road trip. But is your car ready for anything?

      If your car is stranded on a road with low traffic or in an area without cell reception, it could be a while before you can reach help. Be prepared for a flat tire, a dead battery, and any number of vehicle-related issues by creating a roadside emergency kit.

      Purchase a pre-assembled emergency kit to store in your vehicle’s trunk, or pack the following items in a bag:

      • Blanket
      • Bungee cord
      • Can of tire inflator and sealant
      • Duct tape
      • Extra fuses
      • First aid kit
      • Flashlight and batteries
      • Gloves
      • Jumper cables
      • Paper towels or rags
      • Pen and paper
      • Phone number of your roadside assistance contact
      • Pocket knife
      • Roadside flares
      • Screwdriver
      • Tire pressure gauge

      One by one, we can win the battle against breast cancer

      Our team of Personal Lines associates don their pink at the start of our drive for
      breast cancer research funds to honor those impacted by breast cancer.
      Millions of women and men are impacted by breast cancer in one way, shape, or form. While the numbers of diagnoses still remain staggering, the mortality rate is beginning to decline. But only slightly.

      There’s still much to be done to bring the number of deaths to zero. Through medical and technological advancements, which only can happen through research, we can achieve that number.

      August 1 marks the launch of our 3rd annual One by One campaign to give to the cause of breast cancer research. For each new SECURA MILE-STONE® home and auto policy written now through Oct. 31, 2011, we will donate $10 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

      Our donation is coupled with an expansive list of honorees submitted by our agency family. These agents have stories. Some are devastating, others uplifting, but all are empowering. We invite you to share your story with us in honor of those you know and love who have been affected by breast cancer.

      Together, we can win the battle.

      Seven steps to safe grilling

      Cooking on the grill is a perfect way to enjoy a summer evening. But all too often, this leads to accidents or fires caused by improper grilling — approximately 7,000 people are injured in grill fires every year.

      Take these seven steps to reduce your risk of injury and property damage while grilling:

      1. Before using your grill, place it at least 10 feet from other objects, including shrubs, bushes, and your house. Believe it or not, a hot grill can melt siding or worse — cause a house fire — if placed too close.

      2. Never leave a grill unattended.

      3. Only use lighter fluid when starting a fire in a charcoal grill.

      4. Before using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to be sure it is working properly. Do not turn on a gas grill with the lid closed.

      5. If you find a leak, turn off the gas. Do not attempt to light the grill again until the leak is fixed.

      6. Do not use a grill inside your home or garage. Doing so could cause a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

      7. Allow grill equipment to cool completely before allowing children or pets near it. A grill remains hot up to an hour after use.

      Take inventory before disaster hits

      With headlines about natural disasters and catastrophic losses hitting the news around the world, everyone is wondering about the safety of their own homes. If a natural disaster struck your home and you lost everything, could you recall what “everything” includes?

      Insurance companies ask you to place a value on what you’ve lost so you can be compensated in a claim. But who can possibly recall every item they own — especially in times of high stress? 

      Create a home inventory
      A home inventory is a list of every item in your home that includes a brief description of each item and its value. This list is an important way to prepare for a disaster, and there are easy ways to create your own:

      • This free online program helps you go through your house room by room to document every item and its value.
      • Videotape your belongings Walk through your house with a video camera, recording each item. Be sure to store the video somewhere other than your home, such as a safe-deposit box.

      If you ever need to file a claim, written documentation of your home inventory will make the process easier and help settle your claim faster. You won’t have to spend days or weeks trying to recall your lost belongings, and you’ll be reimbursed for your losses sooner.

      Remember to update your inventory every year or two to keep the list accurate.

      Agents impress in the office and the community

      Dave Schlichting, SECURA Farm Lines Director (second from left), delivers $5000 to agent Joe Draxler (second from right) to give to his fire department of choice. Also pictured: Bill Hurtgen and Charl Draxler.
      Agent by day, volunteer by night. Joe Draxler of Indianhead Insurance Agency was the winner of SECURA’s Farm Lines contest, giving him the honor of selecting a fire department to award a $5,000 donation.

      Joe chose to donate to the Glenwood City Fire and Rescue, which has been trying to raise enough money for a $24,000 heart defibrillator for several years. With this donation, it will reach it’s goal.

      Not only is Joe a volunteer ambulance driver for the Glenwood City Fire and Rescue Department in his community, he also volunteers in villages outside of the United States. Through an organization called Living Water International, he has helped provide thousands of people with clean drinking water through the installation and upkeep of water pumps.

      Joe’s passion for helping others is a reflection of the type of agents we have as part of our SECURA family. Our connections go beyond the office into the community, and we are pleased we could help this fire and rescue department reach its goals.

      Keep your hot dog cool

      Nine summer pet safety tips

      Dogs are cherished members of many families. Be sure to take precautions to keep them safe during the hot summer months.

      Never leave an animal in the car. Temperatures in a closed car can exceed 100 degrees in minutes, posing a serious threat to a dog trapped inside.

      Keep a water dish near and full. If your dog is outside, a water dish needs to be easily accessible to him or her. Check the dish regularly to make sure it is full.

      Protect pets from the sun. Animals can become sunburned and get skin cancer from sun exposure just like humans. If your pooch has thin hair or exposed skin, a veterinarian may recommend sunscreen. Keep him or her in the shade whenever possible to avoid sunburn and to provide a cool resting spot.

      Avoid hot surfaces. If a surface is hot enough that you need to wear shoes, it is too hot for your dog to walk on it. Hot surfaces can burn paws just like they burn feet.

      Minimize physical activity during the hottest hours of the day. Humans can adjust clothing to the weather, but animals cannot. Keep physical activity to the early morning or evening hours when temperatures are lower.

      Supervise water activity. Water is a great way to cool off, but even dogs can become exhausted and drown. If you own a pool, make sure your dog knows how to get out of it.

      Avoid fertilizer, anti-freeze, and toxic plants. Warmer weather typically means more time outdoors and increased exposure to chemicals. It also means dogs have more contact with poisonous plants.

      Cover windows. An open window poses a falling hazard for any pet who may try to escape. Keep screens or barriers on your windows to prevent falls.

      ID your pet. In the event your dog runs away, it is important that he can be identified. Tags and implanted ID chips are two ways to help others contact you when your dog is found.

      Bottle rockets, firecrackers, and sparklers, oh my!

      Dramatic fire explosions fill the sky, loud pops and cracks sound off, and the smell of sulfur fills the air – here comes the Fourth of July. Fireworks can be a fun way to celebrate, but they also can cause injuries and fires. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), fireworks caused approximately 18,000 fires and 8,800 visits to the emergency room in 2009.

      Celebrate and have a good time, but take precaution to prevent accidents:

      • Always supervise children around fireworks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that children and adults under the age of 20 account for more than half of firework-related injuries every year.

      • Never light fireworks near a home, dry brush, grass, or other flammable materials.

      • Keep a bucket of water or hose close to fireworks for emergencies.

      • Soak fireworks in water before disposing to prevent trash fires.

      • Do not attempt to relight "duds" or fireworks that haven't gone off.

      • Maintain a safe distance from all bystanders and other fireworks before lighting fireworks.

      • Store fireworks according to the instructions on the packaging.

      • Never lean over a firework when lighting, and do not hold any lit fireworks unless they are made to be held.

      • Do not try to make your own fireworks.

      • Observe local laws for firework use.

      Spontaneous combustion results in total loss

      The owners checked the planning list: invitations were mailed; extra inventory was ordered and in; TV, radio, and newspapers ads were running; signage was delivered and hung; and everything was cleaned to a high shine. The last step was to seal the benches in the courtyard with linseed oil, and they'd be ready for their company's anniversary sale.

      Three employees volunteered to finish the wood. They laid cardboard to catch any drips and used rags to work in the oil. When they were done, they rolled the rags up with the cardboard, put both in the garbage, and left for the night.

      Spontaneous combustion sounds like sci-fi movie stuff. For this policyholder it was more like horror. While no one was injured, the fire that started in the garbage can that evening quickly spread and turned all their effort, investment, and excitement into a pile of charred rubble.

      Dispose of oily rags, other materials properly

      Materials that are damp or saturated with oil-based products — rags, clothing, steel wool, cardboard, filters, paint scrapings, etc. — can combust spontaneously. Through an auto-oxidation process, these materials can generate enough heat to start a fire with no flame, spark, or other ignition source.

      NEVER dispose of rags, filters, or any material contaminated with an oil-based product in a regular waste container, garbage bag, or dumpster. Increased heat and lack of air circulation can contribute to spontaneous combustion. Instead, soak the contaminated materials with water and place them loosely inside an approved metal container or hand-wash and air-dry them.

      ALWAYS consult the product label to identify a spontaneous combustion hazard and proper handling procedures. If a product is not in its original container with the label intact and readable, do not use it.

      Products that can self-heat and self-ignite

      Any oil-based products can spontaneously combust if handled improperly. Whether you use these products personally or professionally, make sure you follow all manufacturer's recommendations when cleaning or disposing of anything that came into contact with the product. Below are just some of the substances known to combust:

      • Linseed oil
      • Tung oil
      • Pine oil
      • Paint with drying oils
      • Corn oil
      • Cottonseed oil
      • Soybean oil
      • Menhaden oil
      • Cod liver oil

      Spontaneous combustion often results in total loss.

      House destroyed in four seconds

      It can take six months to build a house. It takes a tornado four seconds to destroy it.
      An EF-2 or EF-3 tornado can have winds ranging from 111 mph to 165 mph. This is enough to level your house and crush your dreams faster than you can read this sentence.

      According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), building codes in areas not prone to hurricanes only meet minimum life safety standards and are made to withstand winds less than 110 mph. Houses built to these codes will struggle to provide protection against even weak tornados.

      A video from the IBHS simulates the effects of an EF-2 or EF-3 tornado on two houses. One is built to codes for areas that are not affected by hurricanes, and one is built to IBHS Fortified standards for protection against stronger winds.

      Take a look at this video. Which house do you want to live in?

      Tips from the IBHS to improve the safety of your house

      Protect your family - install a safe room: A properly built safe room can withstand the impact of a 15-pound 2"x4" traveling at 100 mph and handle the forces of 250 mph winds.
      Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has vast information about safe rooms, including how to install one in your home.

      Protect your home - build to IBHS Fortified standards: These standards will provide better protection for approximately 90 percent of tornado affected areas. However, building to these standards is not a substitute for a safe room.

      The IBHS recommends creating a safe room first and then improving the strength of the home through sheathing walls, and reinforcing roof-wall connections and wall-foundation connections. The safe room provides safety for anyone in the house. Improving the strength of the home's structure will help decrease property damage caused by a tornado.

      Keep in mind that houses are not designed to withstand stronger wind forces associated with EF-3, EF-4, or EF-5 tornados. The National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) states that 77 percent of tornados have wind speeds less than 110 mph, and the tornados that devastated Alabama and Missouri recently only account for one to two percent of tornados that affect the U.S. each year.

      Do you have a safe room or IBHS Fortified house?

      Top five reasons to use a direct auto repair program

      The last thing you need to worry about when you're involved in an accident is what you should do with your car. To ease this stress, many insurers put direct repair programs in place. A direct repair program is a group of automobile repair shops an insurance company trusts to complete repairs in a quality, timely fashion.

      Here are the top five reasons to use one:

      1. The process is easy and convenient – simply select a network, shop, receive an estimate, and schedule repairs in one stop.

      2. Your estimate for repair is approved quickly, often in as little as one day.

      3. You save time and headaches because you're working with quality repair shops, and the claims process is streamlined.

      4. Insurance companies can assist you during stressful times so you receive the best service possible.

      5. Shops in direct repair networks typically are pre-screened to ensure you receive quality repairs that carry warranties, have quick turnaround time, and great customer service.

      Your time is valuable and accidents are stressful. SECURA Insurance introduced SureChoice Repair SM in July 2010. Since then, many customers who were involved in auto accidents relied on the program to speed them through the collision repair process so they could get back to the important things in life.

      Seven tips to keep your family safe in the swimming pool

      Swimming pools can provide a refreshing retreat during the hot summer months, but they can also pose a major risk. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 60 percent of drowning deaths occur in residential pools. Even more unsettling - drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths in children.
      Proactively prevent risk of injury or death from drowning. Keep these pool safety tips in mind:
      Supervise children and use the buddy system. No one should ever swim alone. Always supervise children when around the pool, and adults should use the buddy system (have another person present just in case there is an emergency).
      Keep toys away from the pool when not in use. Toys in the pool area could lure children toward the water, where they can easily fall in.
      Surround the pool with a fence or barrier on all sides. Ideally, the pool should be fenced-in separately from the rest of the yard. If the house acts as the fourth side of a barrier to the pool, install a pool alarm to alert you when someone enters the pool area.
      Install a self-closing, self-latching gate. The latch should be at least 54 inches from the ground to keep it out of small children's reach.
      Do not substitute the ability to swim for fences and gates around a swimming pool. Knowing how to swim does not prevent drowning. Even adults who have the ability to swim can drown in a pool if other factors, such as alcohol, are involved.
      Keep children away from drains and other openings. Drains and other openings in the pool can create dangerous traps for children. Hair and clothing can get stuck in these systems, trapping victims underwater.
      Create a pool safety kit. This should include:
      o A standard first aid kit for minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes.
      o A flotation device for pool rescues.
      o Heavy duty scissors to cut hair or clothing in the event it gets stuck in a drain or filter.
      o A phone to call emergency personnel.

      Safety on the water

      As the temperature rises, so does the itch to go boating. Visions of cool water, the smell of sunscreen, and the rumble of a healthy motor have taken over. Avid boaters have been yearning for this season for months.
      In the midst of the anticipation and excitement, it's easy to forget boating safety measures. Review these tips before you launch:

      • Prepare your boat and know the law
        • Take a boating safety course.
        • Have complete knowledge of the operation and handling of your boat.
        • Make sure your boat is in top operating condition.
      • Have the proper items on board
        • State registration, numbering, and letters.
        • Personal flotation device for each person on board
        • Visual and sound-producing distress signal
        • Fire extinguisher
        • Navigation lights, required from sunset to sunrise
      • Operate your boat safely
        • Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
        • Maintain a safe speed at all times.
        • Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions
        • Maintain focus; most boating collisions are caused by lack of attention.
      • Tell a family member, friend, or neighbor where you are going and when you plan to return.

      Before you choose a policy, choose an insurance agent

      Choosing an agent should be about finding the best options to fit your needs. You'll notice a difference when comparing quotes between independent insurance agents who represent many insurance companies and a multitude of insurance products, and a captive agent who represents one company.
      It can be confusing and time consuming to shop for custom coverages, great deals, or exceptional claims service. An independent agent is an expert advisor who can be your best resource for this.
      There are 37,500 independent insurance agencies in the U.S, according to a 2010 report from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. Each one offers a broad selection of insurance and financial services.
      An independent agent can help you:
      Compare a variety of companies and products to help you find the most effective coverage at the best value. Because an independent insurance agency has access to multiple insurance companies, they are able to offer you competitive pricing.
      Choose your insurance policy among a vast field of offerings.
      Evaluate services offered. Comparing apples and oranges is never easy. Each insurance company offers something slightly unique, and an independent agent can help you sort out which are best suited to your needs.
      Customize coverage for your home or business. An independent agent is an expert in the nuances of policies and coverages, and understands how best to leverage these products to your advantage.
      Navigate claims and other unfamiliar territories. While captive agents are obligated to watch their insurance company's bottom line, independent agents are free to represent you, and advocate on your behalf. They value you as a person, not a policy, and they'll look out for your best interests.

      Unsecure cargo causes more than accidents

      The evidence is everywhere: a cooler on the side of the highway, a mattress in the median, a ladder clacking on the side of a work truck going down the road. Drivers who don't secure their cargo put us all at serious risk.
      Agent Steve Kolb, from Green Bay Insurance Center in Wisconsin, is all too familiar with that risk.
      While driving back to college, Steve's daughter was seriously injured when a piece of particle board broke free from the truck in front of her and crashed through her windshield. Instinctively, she shielded her face, the board nearly severing her left arm, shattering her right hand, and smashing her mouth.
      "It was the worst thing I could imagine hearing — 'Your daughter has been taken by Flight for Life,'" Steve said.
      After five years that included reconstructive surgeries, plastic surgery, a dozen pins in one hand, and intensive physical therapy, Steve's daughter is doing well, has graduated from college, and is working in the microbiology field.

      Lessons from that day linger

      The driver carrying the board did not stop. When he eventually was identified, he had no insurance and minimal assets. Medical bills stacked up quickly, devouring Steve's coverage limits.
      Steve learned that everyone should purchase higher limits for liability, uninsured motorists, and underinsured motorists coverage to have adequate protection for situations like this.
      Another lesson is that we're not in control of all the exposures around us.
      When it comes to vehicles carrying cargo:
      • Never assume a load is secure.
      • Maintain a safe driving distance.
      • Stay alert for debris coming out of dump trucks and garbage trucks.

      Hijacked bank accounts. Now what?

      Sheryl Baier, a SECURA agent and MILE-STONE Gold policyholder with Vaaler Insurance in Bismark, N.D., was getting ready for vacation with her two daughters when she learned a thief wiped out their bank accounts.
      "We didn't have access to any money, except some change they left so the accounts wouldn't be flagged for being closed," said Sheryl. "It was a really sickening feeling."
      Her bank was able to trace the account activity. The thief transferred the funds from her daughters' accounts to hers, then took all but a few coins and transferred it to an unknown account.
      Typically with this type of fraud, the thief passes the money through several accounts before withdrawing it, often overseas. Fortunately for Sheryl, the bank recaptured the transfer within the week.
      The bank got Sheryl's money back, but ID Theft 911® - a feature of her SECURA home and auto insurance policy - gave back her peace of mind.
      "Their service is excellent. So helpful. I'm glad SECURA offers it," she said.
      Donna Miller was Sheryl's caseworker from ID Theft 911. She and her colleagues have the expertise to help with everything from protecting people's accounts and identities to helping policyholders recover from fraud and identity theft.
      "We take the load off — do the leg work and the paperwork," said Donna. "We want people to be as protected as they can be."
      Since 17 identities are stolen every minute, you can feel confident knowing ID Theft 911 has vast resources to help protect you against and recover from fraud.

      Green comes easy

      There is no "going green" at SECURA. For us, it's about finding ways to live a deeper shade of green. We have had an environmental focus since our inception in 1900, and today, we are only intensifying that focus. Earth Week and Arbor Day are two times in the year that invigorate our dedication to the Earth and remind us to do our part to ensure future generations have a safe and healthy place to grow and thrive.
      This year, SECURA associates joined together in an effort to prove we can work efficiently while reducing our printing. We threw in a dose of competition by hosting a contest to see which department could reduce printing by the largest percentage. Our Personal and Farm Lines team won, reducing print by 39 percent. Marketing was close behind with a 38 percent reduction, and finance with 34 percent. In total, we knocked it out of the park reducing our printing by 10,000 pages in one week.
      Our winning team got to choose a location for an Autumn Blaze Maple Tree to be planted on our grounds on Arbor Day. With the help of Springhetti's, a local landscaping business and SECURA policyholder, we are continuing our journey to make SECURA greener and to do our part in improving the environment.

      10 quick tips for going green at your business

      In honor of Earth Day April 22, here are 10 tips for making your office more green.

      1. Evaluate your lighting: Your lighting accounts for approximately 44 percent of the electricity used in your office, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Invest in energy efficient light bulbs, utilize natural light as much as possible, and turn lights off when you leave a room.
      2. Print less: Reduce the amount of paper you use by printing on both sides of the paper. Recycle toner and ink cartridges and opt to get them refilled, instead of buying new ones when possible.
      3. Go digital: Store your documents electronically instead of printing. E-mail your documents instead of sending a hard copy.
      4. Get computer smart: Set your computer to sleep after short periods of inactivity. Screen savers do not reduce energy. However, some sleep modes can reduce energy use by approximately 70 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Remember to turn your computer off if it's not in use for more than two hours.
      5. Recycle: Place recycle bins in easily accessible locations to encourage recycling. Encourage employees to recycle office items including cell phones, pagers, PDAs, batteries, and computers.
      6. Green clean: Traditional cleaning products can emit toxins and pollution into the air that can induce allergies and sickness. Use green cleaning products to ensure healthier, happier employees and less pollution in your office.
      7. Embrace plants: Position plants around the office to help absorb indoor air pollution and to help clean the air.
      8. Drive less: Carpool, use public transportation, walk, or bike to work. Telecommuting reduces pollution from transportation, oil consumption, and office energy consumption.
      9. Ditch disposables: Use your own coffee mugs, cups, plates, and utensils at work, instead of disposables.
      10. Buy recycled: Recycled office products, especially paper, are becoming more readily available and are simple ways to help reduce your carbon footprint.

      Storm season is here! 5 tips to safeguard your home and family

      Severe storms have been passing through our states, and weather forecasters are predicting an unusually stormy spring to continue across the Midwest. Here are some measures you can take to protect your family and property when a tornado or severe storm strikes:
      Maintain your landscaping. Use shredded bark instead of gravel or rock. This helps reduce damage from flying debris that can damage windows, siding, and automobiles. Remove weak branches or trees that could fall on your house.
      Build an emergency kit. Use a large plastic tote to store a flashlight and batteries, first-aid supplies, portable weather radio, cash, clothing, blankets, extra keys, work gloves, a jug of water, and non-perishable food. Every few months, remember to replace items no longer usable. Store your kit in a safe place such as your basement.
      Create a home inventory. Maintain a record of your belongings in your home and with an online program. In the event of damage from a severe storm, an inventory helps you during the claims process. Prevention ConnectionSM, our online safety resource, is packed with useful information, including, a free program for creating an online home inventory.

      When a storm approaches

      Secure outdoor items. Move your lawn furniture, ornaments, and other objects to a safe place, like a garage or shed, when a high wind or tornado watch is issued. A tornado watch means the weather is favorable for storms to produce tornados. However, if a tornado warning is issued, move immediately to a designated shelter, such as your basement, or a small interior room without windows, such as a bathroom. A warning indicates a tornado is imminent.
      Keep your windows closed. At one time, people thought opening windows during a tornado could help save a house. Now experts agree that you could make things worse by allowing wind and rain into your home.

      Agents succeed with SECURA

      We released our 2010 Annual Report with sincere thanks to our agents for helping make the year both exciting and profitable. Highlights are below, and the full report is available at

      • Following our successful launch last year, we partnered with our agents to write nearly $4.5 million in Specialty Lines direct written premium (DWP).

      • Despite the persistent soft market, we grew our Commercial Lines DWP by 3.4 percent.

      • Personal and Farm-Ag Lines both posted double-digit growth.

      In addition to helping agents drive revenue, we invested in our agency force by:

      • Developing Personal Lines and Claims automation upgrades.

      • Offering convenient, effective training at agencies, our home office, and online.

      • Creating new sales opportunities through our association and group programs.

      • Helping our agents hunt for quality business.

      Industrywide, challenges persist in Workers' Compensation. Medical and indemnity costs continue rising, and while our large-loss frequency declined slightly in 2010, severity was 11 percent worse than expected. Claims volume also went up 7 percent.

      Weather-wise, the first half of the year was fairly typical. Then the storms came, driving property claims up 15 percent and causing losses that outdistanced predictions by $10 million.

      Combined, rising claims costs and high volume contributed to our net loss ratio of 56.7 percent and our combined ratio of 101.4 percent.

      In the end, our strategy to grow incrementally across all our lines yielded 8 percent top-line growth, 6 percent growth in policyholders' surplus, and further proof that we will provide our agents a stable market under any economic conditions.