Ice on the roof? It could be an ice dam

With significant amounts of snow in many states this winter, ice buildup on your roof can cause damage to your home or building.

An ice dam is a blockage formed from melting snow that freezes along the roof edges and gutters. As ice builds, it can trap water that eventually will seep through the seams of your roof shingles and can cause significant damage to your walls, insulation, ceiling, and other areas.

In these remaining winter months it's all about damage control. If you see ice dams forming, here is what you can do to minimize the potential damage:

Don't risk your life. Unless you've been properly trained, removing an ice dam can be quite dangerous. You are risking severe personal injury to yourself and damage to your roof. We strongly recommend contacting professionals with the proper equipment and roofing experience to carry out this job.

Remove excess snow. If more than a foot of snow falls, remove it by using a roof rake or push broom. Carefully and very lightly sweep the rake or broom down the slope of the roof line. Never pull snow sideways across the roof or it may break off the shingles. It's not necessary to remove all of the ice in the gutters or the ice dam itself, as long as you have removed the snow from the roof.

Bring the heat. Sprinkle the ice buildup with lawn fertilizer that contains urea particles (found at most hardware or home and garden stores). The higher the nitrogen content in the fertilizer, the faster the ice will melt. Don't use driveway salt, which can kill your plants and grass.

Break the ice. Don't allow icicles to hang from the roofline or gutters. They may look beautiful, but you might not realize the significance of the damage that may be occurring behind them. Carefully break them off and keep the icicles away from the foundation of your home.

For more information on ice dams, click here.

SECURA's 2010 top-performing agencies go above and beyond

This week we applaud the efforts of our five top-performing agencies that went above and beyond to grow profitable business with SECURA in 2010.

No. 1 on the list is first-time award winner The McClone Agency, Inc., in Menasha, Wis. Brian McClone was on hand to accept the award from John Bykowski, President and CEO, at an awards ceremony last week at our annual Premier Conference in Florida. The McClone Agency has represented SECURA as an independent agency for 35 years.

Also accepting awards were:

• Tom Berra of the Charles L. Crane Agency Company in St. Louis, Mo., a five-time award winner and partner since 1994;

• Gary Ascher of Coverra Insurance Services, Inc., in Sparta, Wis., a four-time award winner and partner since 1994;

• Mike Larges and Greg Rummel from Emil Rummel Agency in Frankenmuth, Mich., a first-time award    winner and partner since 1953; and

• Frank Maurer and Mike Harrison of R&R Insurance Services in Waukesha, Wis., a five-time award winner and partner since 1976.

In addition, Milo LeBaron III from LeBaron & Carroll, LLC of Mesa, Ariz., accepted the Rookie of the Year Award. LeBaron & Carroll has represented SECURA since 2008.

To earn the prestigious recognition, the agencies met specific criteria based on their premium volume, profitability, growth, retention, and loss history.

Please join us in congratulating these award-winning agencies!

John Bykowski, SECURA's President & CEO, congratulates the 2010 top-performing agents. From left: Gary Ascher, Coverra Insurance Services, Inc.; Tom Berra, Charles L. Crane Agency Company; Frank Maurer, R&R Insurance Services, Inc.; John Bykowski; Brian McClone, The McClone Agency, Inc.; Mike Larges, Emil Rummel Agency, Inc.; Mike Harrison, R&R Insurance Services, Inc.; Greg Rummel, Emil Rummel Agency, Inc.; Milo LeBaron III, LeBaron & Carroll, LLC

Wind chill safety: What you need to know this winter

Northerners aren't the only Americans exposed to bone-chilling weather these days. From Kansas to Arizona, record-breaking low temperatures are making the history books.

It was so cold in Fort Valley, Ariz., last week that it broke a 99-year record by 9 degrees. And in Flagstaff last month temps plunged to -30 Fahrenheit!

Subzero temperatures are dangerous, but add some wind and human tissue can freeze quickly. A wind chill of -20 degrees Fahrenheit will cause frostbite in just 20 minutes.

How cold is too cold to risk going outside? Experts say you need to take extra precautions anytime the wind chill dips below zero. To determine the wind chill in your area, check out this wind chill calculator from the National Weather Service.

If you do need to be outdoors in sub-zero temps, follow these wind chill safety tips:

• Keep all skin from exposure to the wind, including frostbite-prone areas like fingers, toes, ears, and nose.

• If you experience any numbness, get medical help immediately.

• If you must wait for help, slowly re-warm the affected areas.

• If you suspect hypothermia (a drop in body temperature below 95 degrees F), warm the body core before you warm the extremities.

• Warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. Seek medical care immediately!

Keeping teens street smart: Five rules for the road

Teens want to be hip and cool behind the wheel. Parents just want them to be safe. How can we help them be both?

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Inexperience, immaturity, and a sense of invulnerability contribute to a disproportionately high number of accidents among teen drivers.

Teens need to know how to be "street smart" behind the wheel to avoid potentially devastating consequences. Talk about these risks with your teen, and share your expectations with them before you hand over the keys.

There are many common-sense tips parents can share with young drivers, and then there are these non-negotiables:

• Shut your cell phone off while driving. If it has to be on, let your voice mail answer incoming calls. No texting while driving, as this is illegal in many states.

• Always obey the speed limit. No exceptions.

• Maintain a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you.

• Never drink alcohol or use drugs, especially before or while driving.

• Keep both hands on the wheel; watch the road and don't take risks.

What tips do you have for keeping teen drivers smart?

Happy 125th anniversary, Charles L. Crane Agency!

Charles L. Crane Agency Company recently celebrated 125 years in business, making it the oldest independent insurance agency in St. Louis Mo. and the surrounding area. SECURA congratulates the agency for its hard work and perseverance. We're also proud to call Charles L. Crane one of our Premier agencies.

Founded in 1885, the agency has attributed its years of success to "The Crane Way," which is built on the foundation that there is a correct way to do business. The ideals of the business model resonate through the employees, many of which have tenures of more than 40 years.

The service focused approach of the agency speaks for itself. Its relationships with clients span more than 50 years and with insurance carriers more than 100 years. With statistics like that, it is easy to see how they continue to grow and succeed.

Happy anniversary, Charles L. Crane Agency!