Equip your farm machinery for safe travel on roads

Traveling on public roads with farm and commercial machinery requires extra precautions because these vehicles are large and carry a wide variety of materials.

If you drive these types of vehicles, follow these guidelines to keep yourself and others safe on the roads:

• Make sure appropriate placards are in place on all machinery, including slow-moving vehicle signs.
• Check all lights and signaling devices to be sure they are working.
• Cover any load that has the potential to throw debris such as grains, gravel, or mulch.
• Balance all loads so the weight is evenly distributed throughout the truck or trailer.
• Properly secure the trailer hitch.
• Use extra caution when entering or exiting roadways to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
• Drive at a slower speed, allowing for better control and more time to react to other vehicles.
• Don’t make sudden stops, accelerations, or turns.

For more information about driving farm vehicles on public roads, visit the National Ag Safety Database.

SECURA shows strong growth in 2011

Despite a challenging year for the insurance industry, SECURA was able to grow stronger in a number of areas, as noted in our recently released Annual Report.

Weather and other natural events had a dramatic impact on insurance companies globally in 2011, and SECURA was no different. As a result, we posted a combined ratio of 106.9 percent, which beat the estimated industry result.

Evidence of our continued growth as a company and long-term profitability can be seen throughout the Annual Report. SECURA’s stability is the direct result of strong agency partnerships, underwriting discipline, and the excellent service we provide to policyholders and agents.

Highlights of SECURA’s 2011 Annual Report include:

• Grew direct written premium (DWP) 7 percent.
• Built assets to an all-time high of more than $785 million.
• Rated “A” Excellent by A.M. Best for eighth consecutive year.
• Ranked number 2 by agents nationwide for Ease of Doing Business (sixth consecutive year as a Top 10 carrier).
• Specialty Lines, which was launched in March 2010, continued to be a huge boon for SECURA, as DWP grew more
   than 135 percent to $10.5 million.
• Commercial, Personal, and Farm-Ag Lines all showed increases in DWP.

You can read the full report at www.secura.net.

Spring training should include safety checklist

Preparations are ramping up for administrators and presidents of recreational softball, baseball, soccer, and other summer sports leagues. Hitting roster and registration deadlines, lining up coaches and saintly umpires (is there a harder, more thankless rec league job?), setting schedules, and any other tasks that come up occupy most of a league administrator’s time. But if you’re a league president or the like, don’t forget to take time to review athletic field conditions for anything that may have changed since last season.

Among the topics on a pre-season safety checklist should be:

  •  Make sure the anchors that hold down
     equipment or goals are properly
     fastened down.
  •  Check for any exposed hardware, such as
     nails, screws, bolts, etc.
  •  Make sure protective padding is in place and secure.
  •  Look to see if any plants, trees, etc., are encroaching onto the field.
  •  Correct any holes, depressions, or trip hazards on the field.
  •  Make sure bleachers are secure, with no holes, sharp edges, loose rails, etc.
  •  Visually inspect all equipment to be used in the game.
  •  Address any unresolved items left from a previous inspection.

Whether it’s an evening recreational softball league or youth soccer program, athletes are depending on league officers to provide a safe environment. Administrative tasks lay the foundation for a smooth start to the season, but don’t neglect that safety checklist. Time spent now can help ensure play is never interrupted by an accident that could have been prevented.

Eight ways to keep your home safe while on vacation

As you prepare for your next vacation, you plan every detail from the travel and hotel accommodations to the sights you’ll see and places you’ll eat. But do you also plan how to keep your house safe while you’re gone?

An empty house can be an easy target for a burglar. The key to deterring a break-in is to make it look like you are home even when you are on vacation.

Follow these steps to protect your home while you’re away:
• Don’t announce your vacation via social media — this will tell potential burglars when you will be gone, making your home an ideal target.
• Lock all doors using deadbolts, and lock your windows.
• Set your interior lights on a timer. This will make it look like someone is home throughout the day.
• Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up any mail, or have the post office hold your mail until you return. Stop your newspaper delivery.
• Depending on the time of year or where you live, ask someone to mow your lawn or shovel your driveway.
• Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway and move the car from time to time.
• Install motion detector lights outside your home.
• Install an alarm system and be sure to set it when you leave.

When you leave knowing your home is safe, you’ll be able to relax and fully enjoy your vacation. And if you’re a SECURA MILE-STONE® policyholder with our Travel Rescuer coverage, you have access to pre-travel information and real-time security intelligence. See your policy or insurance agent for details.

Protect your basement from water damage

With melting snow and rain showers, the signs of spring are a welcome sight…until all that extra water winds up in your basement.

There are two important ways to help protect your home and keep your basement dry:

1. Understand the difference between flooding and water backup and what’s covered by your insurance policy.

Damage from water backup typically is included on your homeowners policy. Water backup occurs when water or water-borne materials back up into your home. This can come through sewers, drains, a sump pump, or related equipment.

Most homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage. Flooding occurs when water enters a home through windows, doors, window wells, or cracks in the foundation. This can be caused by an overflow of rivers or lakes, melting snow, or even excessive rainfall. If you live in a flood zone or have concerns about flood damage, contact your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper insurance coverage.

2. Prevent water damage in your home:

   •   Test your sump pump to make sure it is working correctly. Install a battery-powered back up in case of power outage
       and use an alarm system to detect water in your basement.
   •   Check your foundation for leaks by looking for cracks, moist drywall, or water spots.
   •   Seal your windows and make sure doorways are fitted tight to the frame.
   •   Keep your gutters clear of debris, direct downspouts away from the house, and make sure the landscaping around
       your home is sloped so any water will flow away from the foundation.
   •   Store your items in plastic containers in the basement, and keep them at least one foot off the ground if possible.

Whether your home is threatened by flooding or water backup this spring, take these precautions so you can enjoy the season without the worry of water damage.