7 steps to prevent combine fires

A combine fire during harvest could be devastating. Not only do you risk losing your crop, a fire also could result in costly damages to the combine and other property, and limit your time to complete the harvest.

This year, farmers face an increased risk of fire due to the extreme heat and drought.

Follow these steps for a safe harvest:

Before harvest
•  Do a complete maintenance check of the combine. This includes:
        •  Cleaning the combine to remove any oil, grease, or residue buildup.
        •  Checking the guards, brakes, and safety devices.
        •  Reviewing all working parts for any damage or leaks.
        •  Reading the manufacturer’s instructions.

While operating the combine
•  Use a leaf blower or broom to get rid of chaff, dust, and crop residue on your machinery every 4-6 hours.
•  Carry a fire extinguisher in the cab, plus another that can be reached from the ground. Check these
   extinguishers periodically to make sure they are working properly.
•  Shut off the engine and let it cool for 15 minutes before refueling.

•  Inspect the exhaust system for any leaks or damage, and look for any exposed or deteriorated wiring.
•  Check the following parts of the combine:
        •  Bearings – look for excessive heat or wear
        •  Belts – make sure they have the proper tension to reduce friction and wear
        •  Fittings – make sure they are greased
        •  Fuel, oil, and hydraulic lines
        •  Lubricant levels
•  Clean off the combine at the end of harvest each day.

From vacation to moving day: Is your rental vehicle covered?

You arrive at your destination and head to the rental counter to pick up your reserved car. You’re prepared to hand over payment and collect the keys. And then, they ask if you want to purchase insurance. But do you really need it?

Whether renting a car for vacation or a truck for your move, here are some tips to help you answer the insurance question.

On the road to vacation
Rental car companies offer a variety of insurance coverages, but many of them duplicate the coverage provided by your personal auto policy. 

For example, SECURA’s MILE-STONE® home and auto policy already provides liability coverage for rental cars. If physical damage coverage is included on the policy, this also will apply to a rental car, along with loss of use coverage. It's important to note that if you have a Minnesota MILE-STONE home and auto policy, coverage for liability and physical damage is triggered by your auto’s liability without any deductible.

Before traveling, call your insurance agent to confirm what’s included in your policy. That way, you can compare the options offered at the rental counter, select any you may need, and walk away feeling confident.

Renting a moving truck
Insurance coverage for moving equipment depends on the type of vehicle. SECURA’s policy offers liability coverage for rental trailers, pickup trucks, and cargo vans. Physical damage coverage applies for these only if it is included on the policy.

However, while large rental trucks also have liability coverage, physical damage coverage isn’t available, meaning you would need to purchase additional coverage.

Talk to your agent to find out what’s covered when renting moving vehicles, and work with them to determine any additional protection you may need for the rental period. Ask questions to make sure you’re covered for any mishap while moving, including collisions and theft.

Whether or not you decide to purchase the additional rental coverage, it’s most important that you understand your options and make sure you’re adequately covered.

Monitor bales of hay to prevent spontaneous combustion

When hay is baled and stored at high moisture levels, it can spontaneously combust, often resulting in a total loss of the crop and barn. These hay fires are responsible for hundreds of injuries and deaths each year.

To reduce the fire risk, bale and store hay only when its moisture content is less than 20 percent.

Hay fires generally occur within six weeks of baling, so it is crucial to monitor the temperature during this period. Drill 1/4-inch-wide holes deep into the hay. Tie a thermometer to a string and lower it into each hole, leaving it in place for 10 minutes to ensure an accurate reading.

Monitor hay at these key temperatures:
  •  150 degrees: Monitor temperature daily.
  •  160 degrees: Monitor temperature every
      four hours and inspect the stack. Never
      walk on top of hay that is heating.

Call the fire department and wet the hay at these temperatures:
  •  175 degrees: Move hay away from anything flammable
  •  185 degrees: Flames likely will develop when the hay comes into contact with the air.
  •  212 degrees: Hay is virtually certain to ignite.

Once it reaches 240 degrees, hay treated with certain preservatives emits a deadly hydrogen cyanide gas. Alert the fire department if treated hay reaches temperatures of 160 degrees or above, or if it is burning.

Get the most from your hay crop
Density, air temperature, humidity, and the amount of rainwater the hay absorbed after it was cut all play into how much time it takes a crop to dry. By managing these factors, you’ll protect against hay fires, improving the safety of your crop and your farm.

Help other farmers stay safe by sharing these tips.

Be responsible; dispose of household hazardous waste properly

They appear innocent enough, hiding in the medicine cabinet, basement workshop, or garage. But while it seems simple to just toss them in the trash, careless disposal of household hazardous waste (HHW) can have a devastating impact on the environment, including water quality.

HHW encompasses many items, from cleaners, paints, and chemicals to medications, light bulbs, and electronics. Proper HHW management not only benefits the environment, but many items can be recycled — conserving resources and energy while saving money. Below you’ll find facts and tips related to common HHW items.

•  Car batteries.
Car batteries are among the most recycled products. In most cases, old batteries can be returned to the dealership or store where a replacement battery was purchased.

•  Household chemicals. Chemicals poured down drains can contaminate wastewater treatment and septic systems. They also can harm sanitation workers if carelessly discarded with regular refuse. Contact your local environmental health or solid waste agency for advice on proper disposal.

•  Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL)
. CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs contain mercury. When released into the environment, mercury is easily absorbed into plants and ultimately our food chain. Never discard fluorescent bulbs in the trash. Many hardware stores have recycling bins for the bulbs, which are almost 100 percent recyclable.

•  Medications
. Most expired or unused drugs can be discarded with normal trash, provided precautions are taken, such as removing them from their original containers and mixing them with undesirable rubbish such as cat litter or coffee grounds. First, consult the label for instructions on disposal. Don’t flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless the instructions specifically dictate that. For more tips on disposal of medications, visit www.fda.gov.

To learn more about disposing of HHW and collection locations in your area, visit www.earth911.com.