Safety for the campfire chef

Whether it’s a toasted marshmallow or a grilled hot dog, some foods just taste better when they’re cooked over a campfire. When you’re cooking on a campfire, follow these crucial steps to ensure a safe, delicious meal.

Packing the cooler

  • Keep your food in sealed watertight packages. Store meat separate from any other foods to avoid contamination.
  • If you have items that require refrigeration, keep them in the cooler packed with ice and restock the ice frequently. Store the cooler in the shade, and open it as little as possible.

Starting the fire

  • Make sure your fire is away from overhanging tree branches. If you’re creating a pit, circle it with rocks and clear away any nearby brush, grass, or leaves.
  • Keep a bucket of water on hand, and pile your extra wood away from the fire.
  • If you plan to cook with a tripod or grill, set it up before starting the fire to make sure it is sitting on a solid, even base.

Cooking the meal

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before cooking. Bring different utensils to prepare raw and cooked foods, and wash them after use.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked to the right temperature.
  • Bring oven mitts to handle any hot cookware. If you’re cooking your meal directly in the coals (whether in a pot or a tinfoil pouch), use tongs to retrieve the food.
  • Once you’re done eating, store any leftovers and put perishable items back in the cooler promptly.
  •  Never bring a grill or cooking stove inside a tent or camper.
  • When you’re done with your campfire, drown it with water to make sure it is completely out before leaving the campsite.

Camping out in your backyard?

Check with your town officials to see what types of fire pits are allowed, or if you need a permit for a campfire.

For more outdoor cooking safety tips, visit

Child car seat safety hinges on proper installation

The numbers are disturbing. Some quote the percent of child car seats installed incorrectly at 75 to 80 percent. Chat with police officers who conduct child seat safety checks, and a few may put the number as high as 90 percent. For as much as parents are told to review installation of the seats, somehow many are still getting it wrong.

While the biggest tip for parents is to follow the seat manufacturer’s directions, they also should take advantage of car seat safety inspections. Often local police, fire, or sheriff’s departments, state patrol, public health departments, or hospitals will conduct the free safety checks.

Other helpful hints to follow to ensure the safety of children are:

  Install the child seat in the center of the rear seat or opposite the driver (remember to always check this placement with the seat manufacturer’s guidelines).
  Replace child car seats after a moderate accident. While the seat might look OK, it’s best not to take any chances. SECURA and some other insurance companies pay for replacement of car seats after an accident.
  Check the seat expiration date. Located on the seat somewhere should be a sticker noting its expiration date. Like the tip above, the seat might appear OK, but it could be weakened or otherwise damaged due to normal wear and tear, and sunlight. Most seats expire within five to six years of manufacture.
  Consult your state’s standards for child car seats to ensure compliance.
  For children under the age of 13, the safest place to ride is in the back seat.

Visit the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration child safety page to learn more about child seat safety, find an inspection station, or read a new parents safety seat buyers guide.

Keep your teen driver safe on the road

Teenagers cause an alarmingly disproportionate number of accidents due to inexperience, immaturity, a sense of invulnerability, and distracted driving.

It’s important to talk with your teen about these risks. Here are a few statistics to share in your conversation:

  •  Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause
     of death among teens in the United States.

  •  Teen drivers are more likely to be involved in
     a fatal crash where distraction is reported.
     Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s
     eyes from the road for an average of
     4.6 seconds — equivalent to driving the
     length of an entire football field, blind.

  •  Using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol
     concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.

•  Alcohol and drugs play a role in nearly 30 percent of teen driver deaths.

Follow these strategies to help your teen become a smart driver:
  •  Before turning the engine on, turn the cell phone off. Never text, take calls, or make calls while driving.
  •  Limit the number of passengers, as well as night driving, until becoming more proficient on the road.
  •  Keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road.
  •  Maintain a safe speed at or below the speed limit.
  •  Never take risks behind the wheel.
  •  Never use alcohol or drugs, especially before or while driving.

Benefits of being street smart
You often can earn discounts on your insurance premium for safe driving. SECURA offers discounts for staying violation and accident free, and students who maintain a Grade Point Average of 3.0 or higher earn a Good Student Discount on your premium. Talk to your independent insurance agent for more information about the discounts available.

Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Safety Council, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Don’t let ticks kick you out of the woods this summer

Ticks. Their pictures alone are enough to make you itchy. And when you consider all the disease nastiness the little bloodsuckers can carry, you may be rethinking that camping trip.

But come on, you’re not really going to let these little creepers keep you from your favorite summer activities, are you? They’re lazy opportunists who can’t even fly or jump. Their whole diabolical strategy is to sit in a good spot waiting for someone to walk by so they can hitch a ride (and a meal). With some common sense and a sharp eye, you’ll outwit the tick this summer.

Follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Walk this way. Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter.
Tuck. If possible, wear pants instead of shorts and tuck them into your socks.
Meet Mr. DEET. Use repellents that contain 20 percent or more DEET. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency site to see what repellents are registered.
Treat your clothing. Products containing permethrin can be used to treat clothing and provide protection through several washings.
Tick check. Upon returning from any woods or areas with tall grass, perform a tick check using a full-length mirror. Parents should check children as well, especially their hair.
No free rides. By carefully checking pets and gear, you can make sure none of the little buggers hitch a ride into your home. Throwing clothes in the dryer on high heat for an hour will kill any remaining ticks.
Stay vigilant. If you find that a tick has bitten you, watch for symptoms such as a red bulls eye rash followed by a fever. They may be early warning signs of Lyme disease requiring medical attention.

To learn more about ticks, warning signs of the diseases they can carry, and other prevention tips, visit

Build your own first aid kit

By keeping essential items in an easy-to-find first aid kit, you and your family will be prepared in case of an emergency. Whether it’s a minor scrape or an injury that requires a trip to the doctor, a first aid kit will help you be ready to react quickly and effectively.

You can purchase a pre-assembled first aid kit to keep in your home or create your own by including the following items:

•  Bandages and gauze pads in assorted sizes
•  Adhesive tape
•  Instant cold packs
•  Antiseptic wipes
•  Hydrocortisone cream – used to reduce swelling, itching, and redness caused by insect bites, allergies,
   rashes, or other skin conditions

•  Antibiotic ointment – used to prevent infection and speed the healing of wounds
•  Scissors and tweezers
•  Aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers and fever reducers
•  Antihistamine – used to reduce the symptoms of allergies, such as itchy, watery eyes, runny nose,
   and sneezing

•  Soap or hand sanitizer
•  Thermometer
•  Disposable non-latex gloves
•  Blanket
•  Small waterproof flashlight and batteries
•  Candles and matches
•  First aid instruction booklet
•  Emergency phone numbers, including contact information for your doctor, local emergency services, and
   regional poison control center

Check your kit periodically to restock items that have expired and to make sure all batteries are working.