Genuine leadership, relationships make 2013 an exceptional year

From providing the ideal coverage to offering risk management solutions to assisting policyholders after a claim — we enjoy helping people.

Our commitment to our customers runs throughout the entire company — a dedication instilled by our CEO John Bykowski. During his tenure at SECURA, he has lived those values and inspired everyone around him to do the same.

John and our leadership team’s focus on building relationships and empowering employees helped us achieve strong growth last year so we can remain a stable company for our agents and policyholders. 

And that adds up to a successful year. Read more about our performance, John’s legacy, and our upcoming leadership transition in SECURA’s 2013 Annual Report.

Home, hobby, or business? Protecting your hobby farm

Homeowner or hobby farmer — which side of the fence are you on? It could make a big difference if you aren’t properly insured.

Steve Smits is a hobby farm insurance specialist for SECURA. He says homeowners need to start thinking about hobby farm insurance if the property operates as a business (in any capacity) or grows beyond residential norms.

Ask your agent about hobby farm insurance if you might have exposures like these:

Product or service liability
. Once you start generating revenue from your hobby farm, you’re conducting business activity that probably falls outside the scope of a standard homeowner policy.

Do you take products to a farmers market? Sell pumpkins, eggs, or other goods from a stand in your yard? Business activity like this exposes you to liability for food-based illnesses, property damage, or accidents.
“A hobby farm is a small business. If you’re running a small business without proper insurance, you’re leaving all your assets at risk,” Smits advises.

Livestock liability
. Many homeowner policies include coverage for certain animal liabilities, like dog bites. But as a hobby farm owner, you might not be protected if your goat gets loose and causes a traffic accident or jumps all over a neighbor’s car. And think of the harm a larger animal, such as a frightened horse or a cow could cause with just one kick.

“If the animal has hooves, you probably need extra coverage,” Smits says.

Livestock coverage
. If you have high-value animals, livestock property coverage can provide compensation if those animals are stolen or killed in a storm or vehicle collision.

Farm personal property
. Hobby farmers tend to have tractors, plows, and other large equipment. Talk to your insurance agent about whether you need additional protection for your equipment assets.

. As a homeowner, your policy may already include coverage for an unattached garage. But hobby farmers tend to have additional buildings like pole barns and sheds that wouldn’t be included in standard homeowner coverage.

“It doesn’t take a lot to protect yourself,” Smits urges. “When some people hear the word ‘farm’ they think that insurance costs will be astronomical. But really, we can help protect a hobby farmer for less than a dollar a day.”

And as with any insurance, keep your agent updated as your property grows or your activities change. It’s always better to know you’re protected than assume you’re covered.

Wet roads ahead

With a winter snow melt and spring rains upon us, drivers will be facing flooded streets and slippery conditions. And it’s not just the water that’s a problem — rain can mix with oil and other debris, making wet roads even more slick than expected.

If you’re driving in a watery world, follow these tips to stay safe: 

1. Choose an inside lane. If pooling water is evident, stick to the inside lanes. Roads are generally constructed so water drains to the side.

2. Avoid flooded streets. Never drive through flowing or standing water unless you can confidently judge its depth. Choose another route if you can. Deep water may flood your engine or even carry you off the roadway. 

3. Turn on your headlights. Remember that headlights aren’t just to help you see; they help other people see you!

4. Keep your distance. You need more time to brake when driving on wet roads. Give yourself time to react by keeping at least two or three car lengths from the vehicle in front of you. 

5. Slow down. If you’re driving too fast in wet conditions, your car can lose traction and start to hydroplane. When you drive at a slower pace, you allow more of your tire tread to make contact with the road. 

6. Know how to recover if you’re hydroplaning. Hydroplaning occurs when the water in front of your car builds up faster than your car can push it out of the way. If that happens, your car can rise up on a thin layer of water and lose contact with the road. If you find yourself hydroplaning, stay calm. Don’t brake or turn suddenly, or you could throw your car into a skid. Ease off the gas until the car slows. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. If you do have ABS, brake firmly and slowly turn your car in the direction you want it to go. 

7. Pull over if you can’t see. You may know your neighborhood roads like the back of your hand, but if rain is coming down so hard that you can’t see at a safe distance, pull off the road and wait it out.  

8. Maintain your tires. As your tires age, the tread wears out and they lose their ability to channel water and grip the road. Keep your tires properly inflated and slow down even more if your tires are near replacement age.

Practice good defensive driving techniques. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and never travel if you can’t safely see the drivers and other obstacles around you.

How the hottest campgrounds play it safe

“Never let insurance be the reason you don’t expand or do something cool.” That’s the advice Jeff Bykowski, SECURA’s Specialty Business Development Manager, has for campground owners. “If you want to grow, you just need to find a partner that will grow with you,” he says.

For Jeff, working with campground owners is just plain fun. Perhaps that’s because SECURA can say yes where other insurance providers can’t. Bounce house, zip line, water trampoline?  

“We can do that,” Jeff says.  

Insure your progress
Campgrounds are always evolving. You start with a swing set, and then you add a tennis court, and then bike and golf cart rentals. The latest trend is manmade lakes and water toys.

“The catch is that many campgrounds have expanded and added new fun activities, but their insurance policy has not always been updated,” Jeff says. “In other words, the campground simply presumes they are insured for ‘everything,’ but the insurance company believes they are simply insuring a basic RV and tent park.” 

As you grow, keep your insurance carrier aware of all the recreational activities you offer to make sure you’re protected.

Double check your coverage
If you’re not working with an insurance company that specializes in campgrounds, check your policy. Here are two common mistakes:

     Inland marine. If you have canoes, swimming rafts, and other water toys, check the inland marine portion of your policy. Most are written with a standard exclusion for waterborne equipment. So even though this coverage has a name that suggests “water,” you’re not actually covered for anything when it’s on the water.

     Property in the open. Did you add a Wi-Fi signal booster recently? Put up a new fence, light poles, or driving range netting? These sorts of things may be automatically included if they are within a designated distance from a specified location. But a campground may have an entrance road a mile long, for example. That means those light poles will be far enough away that they need to be scheduled as property in the open.

Finally, have your insurance agent and your attorney review your participant waiver to ensure it, too, has kept pace with your growth. Waivers help demonstrate that you took appropriate steps to educate your patrons about the possible risks associated with campground activities.

Ladders: Up, up, and safe

Ladders are such commonplace tools that it’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be. Falling from a household ladder easily can cause sprains, broken bones, or worse. Among reported household falls from ladders, one-fifth caused injuries severe enough to require hospitalization.  

Think before you climb. Make sure you:

      1. Choose the right ladder for the job,

      2. Set the ladder up properly, and

      3. Climb safely.

Here are a few reminders:

Choose the right ladder
The right ladder will have a duty rating or maximum load that exceeds the total weight of the climber and any tools that will be carried. Make sure it’s tall enough, too. An extension ladder or straight ladder should extend at least three feet above the upper point of support.

Never sit or stand on uppermost rungs, or you could lose your balance. Safety guidelines say users must stay below the third rung from the top of an extension ladder and the second step of a stepladder.

Step it up right
Stepladders are meant to be used in the open position. Don’t climb a closed stepladder or the back of the ladder.
Straight ladders should be positioned at approximately a 75-degree angle. To see if you have the proper positioning, stand up straight with your toes touching the feet of the ladder as it leans away from you. Extend your arms in front of you. Your palms should touch the top of the rung at your shoulder level.

Maintain three points of contact

When climbing, maintain three points of contact at all times (two hands/one foot or two feet/one hand). This means you shouldn’t carry anything that prevents you from grasping the ladder securely. Carry tools on your belt or bring them up with a tow rope.   

While using a ladder, keep your body centered between the rails. Don’t lean and reach. Never try to move a ladder while standing on it. Climb down and reposition the ladder closer to your work.

Other ladder safety tips:
• Position ladders on firm ground.
• Never place a ladder in front of a door, unless that door is blocked open, locked, and/or guarded.
• Before use, inspect the ladder and do not use if it has loose or missing parts.
• Make sure your site is safe, and don’t use ladders in bad weather or near power lines.

The American Ladder Institute offers free safety training at