7 resolutions for a safer new year

If you’re still deciding on a New Year’s resolution, consider using the year to improve your safety at home or on the road. Try one — or all — of these resolutions to make 2014 a safer year for you and your family:

1.   Review your insurance policy. If you’ve renovated your home, switched cars, or made large purchases, make sure you have appropriate coverage. Talk to your independent agent to know your family and home are protected.

2.   Develop a home inventory. An inventory is a record of the items in your house. You can make a list with brief descriptions of the items, or take a video showing the contents of each room. In case of a claim, you won’t need to remember all your belongings, and your home will be restored faster. Get tips to help create your inventory.

3.   Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Check both regularly to make sure the batteries are working. Learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning.

4.   Create a first aid kit. Keep your kit in an easy-to-find place so you can react quickly in case of emergency. Purchase one pre-assembled, or make one with these items.

5.   Check your home for fire hazards and create an escape plan. Look for flammable materials close to a stove, overloaded electrical circuits, and these other potential hazards. Practice an emergency escape plan with your family, including where you’ll meet outside the home in case of fire.

6.   Build a roadside emergency kit. Be prepared for a flat tire, dead battery, or other vehicle problems by keeping a kit of supplies in the trunk of your auto. Include these items.

7.   Stop distracted driving. The possible distractions while driving are limitless: phones, food, GPS, and more. But by deciding to put everything away before you start driving, you’re making the road safer for yourself and other drivers. See the risks of distracted driving.

3 common misconceptions about renters insurance

Only a few short months ago, a fire in an Allouez, Wis. apartment complex left 107 people displaced. Nobody was injured, but most of the 107 who lost nearly everything in the blaze did not have renters insurance.

While this story hits close to home for us at SECURA, it isn’t the only one we’ll hear this year. So it begs the question: why are renters uninsured so often? Below are the top three misconceptions renters have about their insurance coverage.

My landlord has insurance, so my things are covered.

Yes, your landlord has insurance, but not for you. Their insurance policy will cover the building you reside in should it be destroyed, but it’s your responsibility to purchase an insurance policy for your personal belongings.

I don’t need insurance because I don’t invite risky people or behavior in my place.

But your neighbor might. You can control what happens in your unit. Your neighbors’ visitors – and what they do – are completely out of your control. They might burn candles, use old space heaters, or have pets – all of which are notorious for creating problems, like fires, that impact many renters.

Other risks arise because of the fact that many older buildings have outdated electrical wiring, which is a greater fire risk. In addition, some rental properties could expose you to a significant potential for theft.

Renters insurance is too expensive.

Actually, it’s quite inexpensive, especially if you consider the low monthly premium. In fact, SECURA offers a MILE-STONE® policy for renters, which also insures your auto as part of a package policy. It’s a little less expensive to be covered that way. A typical renters insurance policy covers property, like electronics, clothing, and furniture. You may need additional coverage for jewelry, firearms, silver, etc.

Ask your insurance agent for a quote, or you can find an agent here.

7 tips to make snow shoveling easy and injury free

Snow brings a fresh perspective by dropping a bright, white layer over a house, a neighborhood, a city. But it also brings the inevitable chore: shoveling.

Keeping your driveway and walkways cleared of snow makes it easier to get in and out of your house. Plus, most cities have regulations about timely snow removal. Check your city’s website to see when your sidewalks need to be clear after a snowfall.

Use these tips while shoveling to simplify the job and prevent injuries:

1.   Cover up. Even though you may work up a sweat clearing the driveway, your extremities can get cold quickly. Keep your head, ears, hands, feet, and as much of your face covered as possible.

2.   Shovel when it’s fresh. If you wait until the snow is packed and hardened, it will be more difficult to move.

3.   Push first, then lift. Guide the snow as you shovel, rather than just lifting, to ease the strain on your back.

4.   Lift with your knees. This doesn’t just apply to moving heavy objects. Lift the shovel by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.

5.   Limit the snow in your shovel. Don’t overfill your shovel on every pass. Instead, fill only half the shovel at a time.

6.   Listen to your body. If you feel tired, short of breath, or tightness in your chest, stop and take a break. Learn more about how cold weather affects your heart.

7.   Bring a friend. Invite your spouse, child, or neighbor to shovel with you. You’ll clear the driveway and sidewalks in a fraction of the time — plus, you may just get to enjoy another inevitable part of winter: snowball fight!

 Information from the National Safety Council

Snowplow safety requires planning and good judgment

In snowy areas, it’s second nature: you get up early to plow parking lots so business can proceed as usual. But heavy snowfalls, windy conditions, and full parking lots can all present challenges to plowing safely.

Here’s how it’s done.

Before the job site
Drivers need to be rested and refreshed. Tired employees react slower and make poor decisions. In fact, fatigue is a major contributor to fleet accidents.

Remember the three-point contact rule: Always use two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot to enter or exit the truck cab.

Require reflective safety vests for drivers who leave a truck for any reason, and seatbelts when driving to, at, or from customer sites.

Getting to the job site
When traveling, angle the blade toward the curb to your right. You’re less likely to strike it or a snow bank, pulling your truck into it.

Don’t operate the plow – it creates extra wear-and-tear on the equipment. Make sure it’s not blocking your headlights or vision.

If possible, do not exceed 40 mph. Higher speeds can cause you to lose control easier and create a blinding snow plume behind your vehicle.

At the job site
To spare your equipment – and ensure good reaction time – plow slower than 15 mph. Any faster, and it’s easy to strike a speed bump, manhole cover, grate, or careless driver. Don’t rely solely on your mirrors when backing; look back, just in case an inattentive driver is crossing your path.

Keep up with the storm rather than waiting for the snowfall to finish accumulating. However, sometimes, sending out drivers may not be worth the risk, especially during high-wind whiteout conditions.

Plow areas where there are storm grates and drains first. Do not pile snow near buildings (it can cause water damage), or obstruct key traffic lanes and exits with high snow piles that limit visibility.

Be aware of your clients. Drug and grocery stores, and medical offices have a higher number of elderly customers. Make sure handicap areas and sidewalks are cleared and salted, and do not pile snow next to them. As the snow melts, it can create icy conditions, and the elderly are more likely to break bones in slip-and-fall accidents than younger customers.

Use these tips or share them with your employees to reduce the likelihood of injuries, and equipment or property damage.