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.