Leap Day brings 24 hours of opportunity

There just are not enough hours in the day.

We’ve all uttered that line. But today, it’s strictly forbidden, thanks to imperfect meshing of our 365-day year and the astronomical year.

Using algorithms we don’t fully understand (nor do most of us want to), every four years we get a Leap Day to prevent the Earth from spinning off into a black hole … or something like that.

Leap Day gives extra hours — 24 of them to be exact. But what will we do with them? Below you’ll find a few simple ideas on how to get the most out of Leap Day.

Wake up early. This one is no-brainer. You’re getting extra time; don’t waste it by sleeping in. Make a nice breakfast for loved ones or get in a workout.

Surprise someone with a random act of kindness. Drop off a nonfat latte or tea for a co-worker, pay someone a compliment, help out a neighbor. Even the smallest favors can brighten someone’s day.

Spend extra time outdoors. Go for a walk during your lunch hour. Take the dog to the dog park or drag yourself to the people park and swing on the swings.

Take the scenic route on your way home from work. Stop wondering what’s down that street you never drive. Today, you have extra time. So turn left instead of right. Of course, if you normally turn left then substitute a right…you get the idea.

Call an old friend. Come on, this one is worth it to hear the surprise in their voice when they say, “I haven’t talked to you in ages.” Caution: Do not reply with, “Well, I had some extra time to kill with this whole Leap Day thing happening.”

These are just a few ideas in an infinite list of what to do with your additional 24 hours on Feb. 29. The point is to give Leap Day some added meaning and have some fun. So take the leap and enjoy.

In full disclosure, I may have made up that business about black holes.

How to keep your workers’ compensation premium in check

Once you understand how workers’ compensation premium payments for your business are established, you’ll see you have more control over them than you may think. We broke it down in steps so it’s easier to decipher.

Step 1: Apply the base rate
All businesses in a certain class or market receive a base rate, which has been predetermined by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). The rate then is applied to your business’ payroll to adequately account for the number of employees.

Step 2: Adjust premium based on injuries
Next, you receive an Experience Rating Modification (MOD). This is simply the cost of your actual workers’ compensation claims during the first three of the last four years, divided by the expected losses for your business, which also are predetermined by the NCCI.

If your claim history is average, your MOD will be 1.0, and you’ll pay the base rate. If you have lower claims than average, your MOD will be less than 1.0, and you’ll receive a discount. On the other hand, if you had higher losses than expected, you’ll pay more for your coverage.

Step 3: Influence your MOD, influence your premium
To lower your premium, you need to lower your MOD. And that means you need to improve your claims – the number and the severity. It’s not easy to do, but partnering with the right independent agent and insurance company is a start.

At SECURA, we work closely with our business policyholders to create safety and return-to-work programs. A return-to-work program, designed to get an injured employee back to work in any capacity as soon as medically possible, is the golden ticket.

In fact, nearly 90 percent of injured employees will return to work after four weeks, whereas only 10 percent will return after 12 weeks. That’s why it’s so important to get them back to work quickly. In addition, the employee is likely to have higher morale once he or she is back, and you have the benefit of completed work and lower claim costs.

These programs take time and expertise to launch and run, so speak with your insurance agent or company to get started. For a SECURA agent who can help near you, visit www.secura.net.

The value of a valentine: Insuring your jewelry

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many people are searching for the perfect gift, from flowers and chocolates to diamond earrings and gold necklaces. If you decide on jewelry for your valentine, it’s important to search for the perfect insurance coverage too.

Whenever you purchase a piece of fine jewelry, you should check your homeowners insurance policy to see what is covered. Here’s how you can insure your jewelry:

• A typical homeowners policy will automatically include specific coverages and limits, depending on the policy. Check your policy to see what is covered, such as loss or theft. In these cases, your deductible would apply.

• Schedule jewelry on your homeowners policy. This gives you the broadest coverage for an additional premium. If you choose to do this, it will cover any causes of loss except those that are specifically excluded. This coverage will pay the replacement cost of the item, and no deductible applies.

To make sure you have the proper coverage, bring a very detailed receipt from the purchase or have your jewelry appraised. An insurance appraisal should describe all the particulars of the piece, such as the color and weight of the gold or the cut, color, clarity, and carat weight of the diamond.

You also should have your jewelry inspected periodically. A jeweler will catch small problems like loose stones or worn prongs before they lead to significant damage or a lost stone.

Ask your agent for help understanding your policy if you have any questions.

SECURA’s “A” financial strength rating affirmed

A.M. Best affirmed SECURA’s Financial Strength Rating of A (Excellent) reflecting our excellent ability to meet our financial obligations to policyholders.

A.M. Best Company is a credit rating organization for the insurance industry. Customers use their ratings to assess the financial strength of insurance companies.

“The basis of our mutuality is that we’re focused on remaining a financially stable company over the long term,” said SECURA President & CEO John Bykowski. “Last year was challenging due to increased weather-related claims, but that’s why we’re here. We have the strength and discipline to remain a strong partner for our policyholders, agents, and associates.”

When determining our rating, A.M. Best noted our strong capitalization, long-standing regional business strategy, strong agency selection and long-term relationships, historically profitable underwriting and operating results, conservative balance sheet, effective reinsurance utilization, and improving risk management capabilities.

Super Bowl state of mind can keep your party sanitary

For sports fans, it’s the definition of “the big game.” For casual viewers, a chance to see which ads are setting the standard for comedy and creativity. But for those attending a Super Bowl party, it’s a chance to tackle some indulgent treats.

Snacking is inherently part of the Super Bowl, but the variety of dishes and the longevity of the game can put your guests at risk of food-borne illness.

While the Patriots and Giants will be doing whatever they can to hoist the Super Bowl trophy Sunday night, some of their on-field maneuvers and strategies can help you avoid appearing on the injury report with “flu-like symptoms” Monday morning.

Prepare before game time
The Super Bowl competitors spend two weeks anticipating the big game. You don’t need to prepare your food that far ahead, but it is important that you get an early start and allow time for thorough cooking. Make sure your party preparation team is well-equipped with food thermometers to help determine whether food is properly cooked.

Check the temperature of your food often to make sure it stays hot or cold enough. According to the USDA, the danger zone for bacteria growth is between 40 and 140 degrees. Keep cold foods below 40 and hot foods above 140 degrees.

Quick substitutions
As players are subbing in and out of the game due to fatigue, you should do the same with platters and utensils. Keep raw and cooked products and byproducts away from one another, as well as hot and cold foods. Bacteria are killed as food is cooked but, if uncooked food touches something served raw, the bacteria will live there. Separate hot and cold foods to prevent temperatures fluctuating into the danger zone.

See the trainer
The guys on the field likely will ignore any minor cuts or open wounds, but you shouldn’t. Securely bandage any lacerations, wear clean disposable gloves, and continue to wash your hands with warm, soapy water when preparing or handling food.

Defensive greatness
A strong defense probably will contribute to a Super Bowl winning performance, and an effective defense against bacteria will lead to a championship-caliber party. Unclean hands are one of the leading contributors to the spreading of bacteria. Use utensils and individual plates or bowls for each guest whenever possible. Anyone handling food, even if they are making their own plate, should properly wash their hands. If you are handling food, wash your hands before touching a new product to avoid cross-contamination.