Three ways to take a Home Inventory

The new year is a great time to take stock of your household belongings and update your home inventory. If you experience a fire, theft, or other significant loss, the insurance company will ask for a list of your belongings. This can be hard to remember, particularly during a stressful time. 

A full home inventory makes your claims process easier if you have a loss. 

Here are some different methods you might use:

Video Records
Use the video feature on your smartphone to walk through your home room-by-room and pan over your belongings. Include an audio commentary noting any significant items, and capturing any info about quantity, age, or price that seems relevant. Open cabinets, drawers, and closets to record those contents, and remember to review your basement and garage storage, too.

Make each room or level of your home a separate video to keep file sizes manageable. Label or tag your video files and back them up to the cloud. Or store your videos on a jump drive you’ll keep offsite.

Mobile Apps
You can find several home inventory apps online, including Know Your Stuff created by the Insurance Information Institute. These apps help you track more detailed information, including model and serial numbers, photos, and scans of your receipts and appraisals. Some apps include reporting features that allow you to export your data to PDF or Excel—ideal if you ever have to report a loss.

Mobile apps provide a handy way to update your home inventory on an ongoing basis, as you buy new goods throughout the year. Whenever you make a notable purchase, snap a picture of the item and the receipt right away.

Manual Records
If you’re not a smartphone user, or you just prefer the tangible nature of paper records, you might like the home inventory checklist from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. This printable form helps walk you through the main rooms of your house and includes reminders for miscellaneous items you’ll want to record. 

Whichever method you choose, remember to make copies and store them offsite, in the cloud, in a safe- deposit box, or with a trusted friend. You don’t want your only records kept on a computer or phone that could be stolen or lost. An up-to-date home inventory makes the claims process faster and can provide the verification your insurance company may require for certain high-value items.

Contact an agent near you for more details.

Check homeowner’s policy to protect guests from the Grinch

Every Who Down in Whoville Liked Christmas a lot...But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!

It’s Christmas and you’re hosting the annual family gathering. Everyone’s packages are piled in festive mounds around the tree, and overnight guests have dropped their bags in the upstairs bedrooms. But before it’s time for presents and pie, the whole family heads out for an evening service or an afternoon at the snow hill.

What happens if the Grinch pays a visit while you’re gone and swoops up all the bags and boxes? Who pays for the Xbox from Grandpa to cousin George? And what about the iPad that disappeared from Aunt Alice’s backpack?

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant, Around the whole room, and he took every present!

Theft is a common insurance claim around the holidays. (But so too are fires and water damage from frozen pipes.)  If you have the MILE-STONE® homeowner’s insurance policy from SECURA, your guests’ belongings are covered, should any of these holiday disasters hit.

Check with your insurance agent to ensure your policy offers the same kind of coverage. Some policies include coverage for guests by default, but others require special coverage via a special rider.

Be aware that your homeowner’s policy only covers guests (including relatives staying for an extended period). Items belonging to a paying roommate or tenant would not be covered. 

Take care of your guests and foil any green old Grinch who might come calling this year. Make sure your homeowner’s policy extends to the friends and family visiting your home. Call your SECURA agent to verify coverage today.

He brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

With excerpts from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, by Dr. Suess.

Stay a step ahead — Preventing slips and falls at your business

Slip and fall accidents rank in the top five causes of injury in any season, and they are prevalent during the winter months because of wet or icy floors. Here’s how you can help prevent these types of accidents in the workplace for visitors and employees.

Keep it dry 
Black ice is barely visible to a person’s eye but can form in minutes and makes walking or driving dangerous. These conditions are preventable, so take the following measures:
  • Keep a dry mop near employee and visitor entrances. 
  • Clean, mop, and dry floors continually. 
  • Place non-slip absorbent mats at entrances. 

Clear away snow and ice 
Eliminating slippery surfaces can significantly reduce injuries, so be sure to:
  • Keep adequate supplies of snow and ice removal tools in readily accessible areas. 
  • Shovel and salt as often as necessary to keep walkways clean and dry. 
  • Watch for areas where ice tends to form and remove ice accumulations promptly. 
  • Before cold weather arrives, verify your contract with a snow removal company to keep your parking lots clear of snow and ice. Confirm they are ready to provide service. 
  • Limit walking to designated walkways as much as possible, and discourage taking shortcuts over snow piles and in areas where snow and ice removal is not feasible. 
  • Place quality, beveled edge mats in walking areas subject to water or snow accumulation. Change mats regularly to ensure those in place are dry and serviceable. 
  • Apply a slip-resistant floor treatment in shop areas. 
  • Check which ice or snow-melting chemicals are appropriate for the temperature and surfaces where they will be used, and keep a Material Safety Data Sheet on site in case of an emergency. 
  • Assign hourly checks of walkways. 

Emphasize attentive work habits 
Even when a safe environment is provided, workers need to follow guidelines and take personal responsibility to reduce winter slips and falls:
  • Wear shoes or boots specifically designed to provide traction on wet, slippery surfaces. 
  • Take short steps to maintain your center of balance. 
  • Walk slowly and never run on snow or ice-covered surfaces. 
  • When entering and/or exiting vehicles, use the vehicle for support using three points of contact at all times. 
  • When entering a building, remove snow and water from footwear, which can create wet, slippery conditions indoors.

Yes Virginia, those decorations are dangerous

Part of what makes the holidays special are all the decorations and treats we indulge in this time of year. But some of those holiday traditions can be risky for kids and pets. Here are some watch-out areas:
  • Heavy weighted stocking hangers (the kind you set on top of a mantle) may be pulled down, causing a concussion or broken toes. 
  • Christmas trees are an attractive climbing gym for cats. Make sure it’s well anchored so it can’t tip. 
  • Classic ball ornaments may look like toys to dogs and kids alike, but they’ll shatter into dangerous shards if thrown or bitten. 
  • Shiny, dangling tinsel is an alluring plaything to cats. But if kitty ingests some, the stringy material may get tangled in her digestive tract. 
  • Seasonal plants like holly, mistletoe, and cyclamen can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets. What’s more, lilies are highly toxic to cats and can produce kidney failure, even in small doses.
  • Candles represent a clear fire hazard, particularly when curious kids or animals are nearby. Fake “flameless” versions provide safer ambience. 
  • You’re probably already aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but did you know that even small amounts of xylitol will trigger seizures or liver failure in your pup? Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gum and breath mints as well as diabetic-friendly baked goods. 
Other common holiday dangers: toothpicks in your hors d’oeuvres, chewed holiday light strands, and button batteries, which can burn holes in a child’s or pet’s digestive tract.

Decorate with your kids and furry friends in mind. And be sure to supervise curious pets during holiday parties, lest they drag something hazardous out of the garbage or a visitor’s purse! Take a few simple precautions and ensure this is a season of good cheer.

Cyber Monday internet safety tips

If you’re shopping for gifts online this holiday season, beware of fraud. The risk is significant, especially if you’re shopping under a time crunch and trying to take advantage of special deals. As one member of the SECURA team reports, not all retailers are what they seem:

“I clicked on a Facebook ad for a camping product. The website said they were a startup South Dakota company, so I thought I was supporting a U.S.-based small business. When the product arrived though, it had clearly been shipped from China, and it didn’t work as advertised.

“I emailed customer service (no phone number) and was told I could return the product for a refund. So, I paid to ship it back to their South Dakota address. That’s when customer service stopped answering my emails. I had to report the situation to my credit card to get money back.”

If you’re not shopping with a known retailer, take these steps to protect yourself:
  • Search [website name] + complaints online and scan any results. 
  • Look for a “Contact Us” phone number and try to call. If no one answers during regular business hours, that might be a red flag. 
  • Enter the domain name into the ICANN WhoIs lookup and see if the information (such as country or year established) matches up. 
  • Make sure the purchase page is Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) secured, to protect your credit card information. SSL pages begin with “https” instead of “http.” Or look for a lock icon appearing next to the URL. 

“I think I got lucky that my credit card information wasn’t stolen,” says our team member. “In the end, I was only out the return shipping fee, plus a lot of time and hassle.”

Annual campaign raises more than $21,000 for breast cancer research and awareness

We couldn’t do it without you — our agents, associates, policyholders, and fans. Thanks to your support throughout our eighth annual One by One campaign, we raised $21,384 for National Breast Cancer Research Foundation (NBCF). That means an eight-year total of more than $172,000 given to the cause.

We’re recognizing the loved ones of our agents and community members with the donation to NBCF — see a list of those we honored.

Many of our agents also posted pink photos on Facebook in October to spread awareness. You can see many of them by searching #SECURAOnebyOne when logged into Facebook.

Thank you for helping us make a difference in the battle against breast cancer!

Is your Thanksgiving table a danger zone?

We've all likely experienced that post-Thanksgiving dinner fatigue. Thanks tryptophan! Perhaps it resulted in you being a little slow to clean up after the feast. Or maybe you like to leave the buffet available for guests to pick at throughout the afternoon.

Should you care if your leftovers sit out? Here’s some advice from the experts:

The USDA has identified a “Danger Zone” between 40° – 140° F. At that temperature, they say, bacteria can grow rapidly. So the basic kitchen rule here is “Keep it cold or keep it hot.”

The USDA advises that cooked food must be refrigerated within two hours after you remove it from the heat source. (That window shrinks to just one hour if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving where the temperature tops 90°.) Same goes for cold food. It should be kept at 40° or below or refrigerated after two hours.

When you want to party all night…
So what’s a host to do when planning an open house buffet? Borrow some extra slow cookers, or look for disposable chafing dishes and fuel canisters at discount or party-goods stores. For cold food, you can nest dishes in bowls of ice or keep your serving sizes small and replenish often.

As for that giant turkey you bought, counting on leftovers, slice off the portion you plan to serve and put the rest in the fridge to chill. Portion food into small containers so it can cool down quickly. If you’re worried about hot food affecting the quality of other items in your fridge, use an ice bath to chill things first.

Fact: Reheating food that sat out too long does not make it safe to eat. Sure you’ll kill the bacteria, but you can’t kill the toxins those bacteria released.

Tractor and farm equipment safety on the road

While country music star Kenny Chesney may think it’s fun to be “chuggin’ along” in his tractor — we don’t think it’s so fun being stuck behind it while on the road. The increase in size of farm equipment now allows us little room to see around it.

Some people follow the tractor until it gets to its destination, while others step on the gas and take the risk of passing. Maybe that’s why more than 1,100 farm vehicle-related crashes occur each year in nine Midwest states, resulting in severe or fatal injuries.

A study done by the University of Iowa College’s Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) found that a large factor in these accidents is the lack of lighting on the farm vehicle.

Although there are specific lighting standards, not all states require them by law. But those states that do enforce them found fewer crashes — 11 percent to be exact. So, what can farmers do to decrease the number of farm vehicle crashes?
  • Light up the tractor with headlights, tail lights, turn signals, and reflectors.
  • Mark the tractor with “slow-moving vehicle” emblems.
  • Use magnetic LED lights for older and newer equipment that may not have sufficient lighting.
  • Don’t forget visibility from the side — use lights and reflective tape to show traffic the size of the load being pulled.
Overall, the study done by students at Iowa estimates crashes would decrease from an annual average of 164 to 65 or 60 percent. So in your next “teeny weenie ride,” Kenny — just light up your tractor for good measure.

For more information about farm safety, visit Prevention Connection, our safety resource page:

Do I need special insurance for a customized vehicle?

A vehicle is an extension of your personality and lifestyle. Eco-conscious drivers may opt for a car with clean-burning fuel, a farmer might own a pickup truck, or an executive may drive a luxury vehicle as a status symbol.

Others choose to “accessorize” their ride with custom wheels, decals, or other enhancements to show off their style.

In addition to cosmetic changes, there can be practical added features like a snow plow, winch, or handicap accessibility devices.

But there’s something to consider when customizing a vehicle beyond its original condition. Are those added features covered by a typical auto insurance policy?

Not likely. When you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, your vehicle is covered for physical damage to any original equipment, but typically not for added features — unless you have custom furnishings and equipment coverage.

Custom equipment includes anything that was not in the vehicle when it rolled off the assembly line at the auto plant. In addition to the examples shown above, this might include:
  • Custom grilles, spoilers, side pipes, or hood scoops
  • Murals or graphics
  • Facilities for cooking or sleeping
  • Anti-roll or anti-sway bars
  • Height-extending roofs
  • Furniture, bars, television receivers, or custom carpeting
So make sure to ask your SECURA independent agent about custom furnishings and equipment coverage for any special modifications you've made to your vehicle.

Then, confidently get your show on the road.

Top 6 ways to avoid sweet temptation during Halloween

Mmmmm… Halloween candy can be a Life Saver… not to mention a Snickers, Twizzlers, Tootsie Roll, M&M, and Skittles. And don’t forget the stomachache and those few extra pounds that go along with it all.

It’s fun to see children dressed up and trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. But before long, your kitchen table is mounded high with piles of sugary candy to tempt and tease.

Here are a few ways you can reduce the sweet temptation and have a guilt-free Halloween.

1. Establish rules.
Designate a small container for treats. Your child decides what to keep. Then, develop a plan together for how much and how often candy can be eaten. What do you do with left-over candy that doesn’t fit in the jar?

2. Donate the treats.
Operation Gratitude will accept donations of unopened Halloween treats to be sent to troops serving overseas. Also, check with local food pantries.

3. Contact your dentist's office.
Some dental clinics will "buy back" unopened Halloween treats. Check with your dentist to find out if they participate in a similar program.

4. Bring it to the office.
That’s right; why not have some help consuming those extra calories?

5. Give non-food items.
Consider handing out items like pencils, glow sticks, tiny decks of cards, bookmarks, small containers of play dough, key chains, stickers, and other non-food items as treats. It ensures you won’t be enticed by that half-empty bag of Kit-Kats that’s left over after Halloween.

6. Incorporate fun and fitness.
Challenge kids to skip or hop from door to door, walk backwards, or other energy-burning activities. Maybe even give them inexpensive pedometers and reward the child with the most steps (just don’t reward them with more candy!).

You don’t have to be scared stiff when Halloween rolls around. Besides, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and turning down another helping of pumpkin pie is a whole other story...

Four reasons why you need to check your furnace

The heat is on... We’re not talking about the classic Glenn Frey song (admit it — it's in your head right now); we’re talking about the heat in your home or business.

Furnaces are being fired up all over the country, and it’s vitally important to have your furnace inspected. Why?
  1. Reduce your operating costs
    Routine maintenance helps your furnace run as efficiently as possible. Homeowners should check furnace filters every month, but annual visits from a service technician will keep all the internal parts clean and lubricated.
  2. Avoid costly problems
    Regular maintenance helps uncover small problems before they turn into bigger repairs. A damaged part can put added stress on other internal components. Plus, you’ll pay more if you need an emergency service call. 
  3. Keep your furnace longer
    Dust, corrosion, and friction all increase the likelihood your furnace will fail prematurely. Proper maintenance will extend its life.
  4. Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
    Aside from the main furnace unit, make sure your furnace flue is clear and free of debris or other obstructions. (Some furnace flues extend through the roof while others go out the side of your home.) A blocked flue can cause carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases to accumulate inside your home.

    Even if the flue isn’t blocked, your furnace might not be venting properly due to age or other home improvements you’ve made.
If you haven’t had your furnace serviced in several years, have that done now. A professional technician can detect any ventilation issues or other problems. You also should install a carbon monoxide detector nearby. 

You and your furnace both stand to benefit from regular, yearly service. A well-maintained furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you comfortable...and safe!

Top 6 Work Comp questions answered

Workers’ compensation benefits provide the medical treatment employees need to recover from a work-related injury and return to work safely. Laws vary by state, but employers generally carry work comp insurance for their workers, and it just makes good business sense to do so. 

Here’s what employers and employees need to know:

  1.  Who pays for benefits?
    Employers purchase workers’ compensation insurance, and the insurance company provides benefits if you are injured.

  2. What kind of help will an injured employee receive?
    In general, employees injured in the workplace receive compensation for medical bills, medication costs, and mileage to doctor appointments. Many cases include payments toward lost wages. If you are unable to return to your previous job, you may also receive vocational rehabilitation benefits.
  3. What’s the first step if I’m injured?
    If an injury is a threat to life or limb, call 911 immediately. For less serious injuries, contact a supervisor first. If your employer has insurance through SECURA, call Nurse Hotline (888-333-3334) with your supervisor present. A registered nurse will help assess your condition over the phone and help you determine next steps.
  4. How does the claims process work?
    If you’re the injured employee and need to seek medical treatment after consulting Nurse Hotline, a SECURA claims representative will contact you within 8 business hours to explain the claims process, ask questions, and make recommendations. Employers need not fill out extra paperwork because a call to Nurse Hotline automatically starts the claims process.
  5. How will an employee know when’s the right time to return to work?
    Part of the SECURA claims process is their Return-to-Work program, designed to get injured employees back on track. A claims rep will work directly with the injured employee, their doctor, and the employer to determine appropriate work duties. 

    If the employer is unable to provide light duty work to match any medical restrictions, the claims rep may recommend a transitional return-to-work or temporary placement at a local nonprofit.
  6. Does Work Comp cover emotional distress caused by a traumatic work experience?
    Most work comp benefits only provide physical medical care. But when a workplace incident goes beyond injury to tragedy, it can result in emotional trauma, too. SECURA’s Crisis Care is included with all its work comp policies. If a traumatic incident occurs in the workplace, counseling and psychological support may be available.
If you're an employer, be sure to check out the benefits of SECURA's Work Comp policy — it can provide the best care for you and your employees. And if you're an employee, ask about your work comp benefits and recommend SECURA to your employer.

Warning! Cleaning could be bad for your health

If at first you don’t succeed, try it another way. Right? Not when it comes to household cleaners.

Imagine this: You’re using a common toilet bowl cleaner but just can’t remove a stubborn stain. So you switch to another product, and then another.


Mixing chemicals is dangerous. Combinations of bleach, ammonia, vinegar, or hydrochloric acid can create toxic gases or dangerous acids. You can cause permanent lung damage, chemical burns, or even death.

Read about a Philadelphia area man who died after mixing bleach and ammonia to unclog a toilet, or the British pub worker who nearly gassed himself after pouring two different cleaners down a urinal.

What’s in your cleaner?
  • Ammonia is a common ingredient in multipurpose cleaners, glass sprays, and floor cleaners. Manufacturers (and consumers) like it because it’s an effective chemical for cutting through soap scum, grease, and wax buildup.
  • Bleach is contained in many other products to take advantage of its disinfectant, brightening, and mold-killing benefits. Bleach is commonly found in cleaning sprays, toilet bowl cleaners, and scouring pastes.
  • Hydrochloric acid, found in some toilet bowl cleaners, lime and calcium removing products, and air fresheners, goes by multiple names including muratic acid and hydrogen chloride. So even if you think two products could be used in tandem, you might be mistaken!

One and done
Check the ingredient lists on your cleaning products to ensure you’re not accidentally using these products together.

Better yet, just stick to one at a time. Wipe down an area with clean water, open windows, and make sure drains are running freely before switching to a different cleanser.

What's an endorsement? Confusing insurance terms explained

Endorsements. No, we’re not talking about a superstar endorsing a soft drink, a popular athlete displaying a sporting goods logo on their hat or jersey, or a celebrity behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle. In the insurance industry, an endorsement has a much less glamorous image, yet it serves a very important function.

When you purchase insurance for your home and auto, farm, or business, you will typically receive a base policy that covers common risks like a fender bender, an employee's work injury, or property damage. Enhancements, restrictions, or changes that are made to the original policy document are considered endorsements, and are considered legal and binding.

Some common types of insurance endorsements include:

Added coverage
Say your business is growing and you need to add a vehicle to your commercial fleet. Rather than write up an entirely new policy for a single vehicle, your agent would provide an endorsement to your existing policy to include the additional vehicle. Sometimes coverage is added at no cost as an enhancement to your existing policy, like roadside assistance.

As the name suggests, an exclusion lists items that may be excluded from your coverage. As an example, some insurers will exclude dog bite coverage for homeowners who own a high-risk breed, or limit claims involving asbestos or lead paint for a business owner.

Modification of coverage 
Some endorsements expand an existing policy to increase a liability limit or property value. For example, a homeowner may need to increase their property coverage limit from $100,000 to $250,000 because of a building addition, renovation, or increased property value. 

Administrative changes
Perhaps you have a new mailing address — an endorsement is needed to make sure your policy information is up to date.

Not all endorsements are created equal. Talk with your independent agent if you have questions about your policy and any endorsements you may have or need. Make sure you’re properly covered for when the unforeseen happens.

Tasty for you, toxic for dogs — Foods not to feed your pet

Who can resist those eyes? If you’re a dog owner, you’ve seen the look. Your beloved pet stares down your plate full of food, hoping, wishing, and almost willing you through some canine mind meld to offer a small morsel.

It’s not uncommon to share a few table scraps here and there with your dog or to offer a special treat while preparing a meal. And of course, dogs have been known to help themselves to the occasional snack when their owners are unaware. But do you know about certain foods your dog shouldn’t eat?
What may be considered safe for human consumption is not necessarily safe for your canine friend. Allergic reactions often appear differently in animals than in humans. According to Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian at the U.S. FDA, “Allergies in animals tend to manifest themselves more in skin or ear issues.”

Here’s a quick guide to foods you should avoid feeding your dog:
  • Raw meat
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Currants
  • Fried/fatty foods
  • Moldy foods
  • Onions/garlic/chives
  • Avocado
  • Salty snacks
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol (a sugar substitute found in candy and some peanut butter)
The list goes on. For a more exhaustive overview of foods that are toxic to dogs, check out the Canine Journal website.

And if your pet does get into food it shouldn't, call your veterinarian's emergency phone number to get their professional advice or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Top 5 ways to help your child stay organized for school

What parent hasn’t gotten a call from a teacher asking for the signed release form for the field trip… only to find it stuffed in the child’s backpack next to the forgotten homework assignment?

When the lazy days of summer come to a close and kids head back to school, they sometimes can have a difficult time adjusting to different schedules, structured classroom settings, and the demands of student life. Help yourself and your child stay organized with these five tips:

1. Develop a before-school routine
Need to remember that Alison has piano lessons on Tuesdays and Josh has soccer practice on Wednesdays? Have a calendar that you can quickly reference each morning before heading out the door. List each day’s activities so you can make sure your children don’t show up for music lessons without their song books, or at sports practice without their gear.

2. Develop an after-school routine
Provide a convenient space in your home as a drop-off area for school papers that need your review or signature. Make it a clutter-free zone so materials don’t get lost or misplaced. Help your child form the habit of emptying their backpack as the first thing they do when they arrive home — yes, even before grabbing a snack from the refrigerator.

3. Create checklists and reminders
There is no one system that works for every child. Help your son or daughter discover what works best for them and let them help determine the system. If your child is more artistic, they may prefer a notebook where they can draw, doodle, or use different colored pencils, highlighters, or stickers to keep track of homework assignments and deadlines. If your child prefers technical gadgets, they may opt to keep notes or schedule reminders on a smartphone or tablet. You also may want to check out special apps to download onto their mobile device.

4. Encourage immediate action
If your child needs to remember something at the end of the day, encourage them to text the task to you as a reminder as soon as they can. Need to sign a paper? A simple “Dad, need you to sign something tonight” may be all that’s needed.

5. Provide fuel for thought
Students need fuel to start the day and help them stay focused, energized, and alert. But not just any food will do. Choose high-protein breakfast foods including eggs, omelets, Greek yogurt, and meat to sustain them until lunch time. Try to avoid starchy foods. Research suggests that typical breakfast staples like toast, hash browns, cereal, and pastries are loaded with refined carbohydrates and sugars that can create blood sugar (glycemic) spikes, reduce energy, increase cravings, and cloud thinking. Even supposed “healthy” snacks like granola, trail mix, or protein bars often have substantial amounts of added sugar. Instead, opt for fruit, string cheese, or almonds to satisfy cravings.

By following these tips, you’ll help take some of the stress out of back-to-school for both you and your child.

Now hear this: Cellphones and farm safety

Smartphones are becoming an indispensable part of farming operations. From special apps that control the GPS in your irrigation system to time trackers and weather alerts, farmers are increasingly leveraging the power of technology.

Plus, for farmers who work long hours, smartphones are a valuable link between home and work. From texting a coworker about whether the grain hauler is ready to checking in with the kids after school, cellphones offer an efficient way to stay connected.

But with that convenience comes some added danger. Cellphone use and distracted driving is a major issue, and driving a tractor down the road requires much the same precautions as driving a car, if not more. The need for extra clearance from mailboxes, signs, power lines, and passing vehicles calls for special attention and alertness.

Farming comes with a host of other job site dangers too, and someone looking down at a phone or absorbed in a conversation may not be fully aware of what’s going on around them. Cellphones can be a deadly distraction on a farm, even for workers walking around on foot. They may accidentally walk in front of heavy equipment or into another hazard.

A few farm safety cellphone tips:
  • Heavy equipment. Forbid the use of cellphones while operating ATVs, tractors, or other equipment. Place calls when you’re not moving.
  • Safe zones. Designate cellphone safe zones around the barn where employees (and family members) can use their phones. Alternately, post “no cellphone” zones in hazard areas and traffic paths.
  • Phone breaks. Consider offering sanctioned cellphone breaks (akin to smoke breaks) so farm workers can safely check in with family every few hours.
Of course, cellphones are a great safety tool for farmers working in isolation or remote locations. If working alone in a potentially hazardous situation, call a family member or coworker first and plan a time to check back in.

Drowsy driving is impaired driving

You get in the car, already a little tired and worried about staying alert for the road ahead. You roll your windows down, suck on hot cinnamon candy, turn up the radio, and chug an energy drink. You may think you’re taking precautions, but what you’re really doing is putting yourself (and others) in danger.

When you’re driving, dozing off for even a few seconds can be fatal. The National Department of Transportation estimates drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries each year in the U.S.

A study from the AAA Foundation shows more than a third of drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives, with drowsy drivers involved in an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes.

Drive rested
The best advice is to get plenty of sleep, plan ahead, and avoid driving when you know you’ll be fatigued. But if you’re already on the road and realize you’re too tired to drive, pull over somewhere safe and take a nap. A few tips:
  • Sleeping in a vehicle on the side of the highway is dangerous. If you need to pull over, try to find a parking lot rather than a roadside or off-ramp.
  • When napping at a rest stop, park near the building under the lights for personal security.
  • Larger truck stops and 24-hour gas stations have cameras and lots of activity, which can make them safer places to take a nap.
One more thing: You can’t predict when you’re about to fall asleep. In a AAA Foundation study of drivers who fell asleep and crashed, nearly half said they felt only “slightly drowsy” or “not at all drowsy” just before an accident.

Why “haste makes waste” still rings true

The old adage of “haste makes waste” is a reliable principle for a reason even though the time and expense of doing a job right doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort sometimes. But rushing seldom saves that much time to make a real difference, and it can reflect poorly on you or your work ethic if others take notice.

And there’s a greater consequence than harming your reputation. Hurrying in our personal lives and on the job can be both costly and tragic. Whether stepping on the accelerator at the sight of a yellow traffic light or failing to double-check that the power is shut off before working on an electrical connection, the risk is not worth the potential loss of time, money, and possibly even life.

The law of large numbers suggests that the more you are exposed to certain risks, the more likely you will be involved in a costly or tragic event.

Getting a job done faster is not worth the risk of gambling with your limbs, eyes, or livelihood. Those you love are important enough for you to practice proper safety. If you’re a business owner, the lives of people in your community, your customers, and your employees can be affected too.

Many great innovations about how to improve a job have come from employees. If a worker thinks they know a way to do a job quicker, encourage them to propose their ideas to their boss. Just don’t encourage them to get to the next job more quickly, or be dismissive of safety protocols. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you.

Believe it or not, some leaders suggest that procrastination is sometimes a good thing. Time brings clarity and can calm the impulse to act in haste.

So, don’t rush it. There is a safe and proper procedure for everything.

6 tips for pet safety on the water

A day on (or near) the water is fun for the whole family, your dogs included. But before you take your pup out for a paddle, keep these safety tips in mind:
  1. Start slow. Not all dogs are built for swimming, and puppies aren’t born knowing how to swim. Introduce your pet to the water slowly, starting in shallow water. Never throw or force an animal in.
  2. Surroundings. When playing by a lake or river, check the surroundings before you let your pet roam. Be on the lookout for broken glass, fishing line, algae scum, and underwater currents.  
  3. Pool safety. Provide a ramp or slanted ladder and teach your dog how to climb out of the pool on its own. For small breeds or aging dogs who could fall in accidentally, you might invest in a Safety Turtle — a loud, water-activated alarm your pet can wear on its collar.   
  4. Boating. Get a dog life vest before your next boat or canoe trip. Remember, accidents do happen! Look for a preserver with a good, sturdy handle on the back. That makes it a lot easier to lift a heavy, water-logged, wiggling dog back into a boat. 
  5. Playtime. Swimming can be exhausting. It’s up to you to call an end to playtime and help your pet avoid overexertion. Keep alert when visiting children are playing with your pet. They should respect that your pooch may need more breaks than they do.
  6. Sunscreen. Dogs can get sunburn too — particularly thin-haired breeds. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin and the bridge of the nose. Get a specially formulated pet sunscreen or look for one without zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs. 
Next time you head to a beach, stream, or pool, be sure to take this knowledge with you to keep your furry friends safe on the water.

Top 6 tips to prevent theft from work vehicles

Imagine this scenario: The owner of a small landscape company stopped at a local service station to buy a root beer. When he came out, he noticed his leaf blower was missing. Panicked, he back-tracked to his last customer, thinking the blower might have bounced out of the truck bed. It was nowhere to be found.

He returned to the service station and dug the receipt for his soda out of his pocket, which had the time printed on it. The station attendant looked through the surveillance video during the time of his purchase and saw an RV pull up alongside the truck. When the RV left, the leaf blower was gone. The thieves were never caught.

Recovery of stolen equipment is complicated by poor tracking of serial numbers by owners. Recovered equipment often is sold at police auctions because it cannot be traced back to the proper owners. Follow these tips to help avoid theft in the first place, and to have a better chance of getting it back if something does get stolen.
  1. Make it less attractive. A unique color scheme, like painting all your equipment hot pink, can make it less appealing to would-be thieves. They know you could spot them on your daily customer routes. Honest competitors will refuse to buy them, and thieves will be discouraged by how much harder they are to sell with colors that scream “ownership.”
  2. Keep it out of reach. Low-wall trailers and pickup beds make for easy pickings. Don’t place high-valued equipment where it can be snatched by merely reaching over the side of a truck bed or trailer. Use high-wall trailers or sidewalls where equipment cannot easily be reached. Locked enclosed trailers or pickup toppers are your safest bet.
  3. Use a locking bar. A locking bar or pipe inserted though handles will secure equipment to the trailer. This is especially useful when making those quick runs to a convenience store for a restroom break, snacks, or fuel.
  4. Be street wise when at customer sites. Watch for cars that make multiple passes by your vehicles or trailers, or slow down when passing your trailer. If you feel wary, ask a second employee to watch the truck and trailer, or ask the customer to help.
  5. Work in pairs. Make sure one employee always has the truck and trailer within sight. Two employees working together are always more of a perceived threat than one isolated employee. It can be enough to discourage many would-be thieves.
  6. Photograph every piece of equipment. High resolution photos can document not just the model number, but the serial number, too. Keep duplicate records on your computer. If a theft occurs, you’ll have a record of exactly what was stolen.

Make sure your workers understand the principle of nonresistance if they encounter a thief, and that they have far less control of the outcome if they fight back. It is much easier to replace equipment than an employee.

By following these tips, you have a better chance of keeping your equipment safe and, more importantly, protecting your employees’ well-being.

Look up and live: Avoiding electrocution

According to OSHA, approximately five workers are electrocuted each week, and electrocution causes 12 percent of work-related deaths of young employees. Electrocution is the third leading cause of death for construction workers.

While contact with underground wires accounts for only 1 percent of electrocutions, overhead power lines are much more dangerous. According to the Center for Construction Research and Safety, contact with overhead power lines is the main cause of electrocution for workers who are not electricians.

Approximately 21 percent of these deaths happen when a worker comes in direct contact with the power line, but the remainder of these accidents happen through indirect contact — when machinery or objects touch wires. Some power lines have enough voltage to create an arc between the wire and the object, causing electrocution without physical contact.

To avoid injury, follow these guidelines:
  • Remember that most overhead power lines are not insulated; visible coverings protect the wire from weather only.
  • Before working, look up and around for electrical hazards.
  • Keep all equipment and tools at least 10 feet away from lines.
  • Be careful on or around roofs where electrical service enters a house or where wires might be close overhead.
  • Do not climb or trim trees that are in contact with wires.
  • Opt for fiberglass ladders that do not conduct electricity, and keep them clean and dry.
  • Never carry ladders upright or extended because they can easily fall against power lines.
Buried power lines need attention too. The law now requires contractors and homeowners to call Diggers Hotline at least three days before doing any digging. Stay at least 18 inches away from marked lines if possible and, if not, carefully dig with hand tools instead of heavy machinery.

7 days to digital detox

The average American checks his or her phone 54 times a day, according to research from Deloitte. We’re using them while we’re shopping, eating, watching TV, and yes, driving. We’re even using our phones while talking to family and friends.

Put down the device and become more mindful of the people and experiences around you. Here’s a one-week digital detox to help you dial back your phone attachment.

Delete any apps you haven’t used in the last month. Can’t decide whether you need that app? Ask yourself, would I pay $5 to keep this? If not, toss it.

Check into social media and unfollow people you don’t know all that well. Then go through your email and unsubscribe to any unnecessary lists.

Create a charging station outside your bedroom. (Buy an alarm clock if you use your phone to wake you up.) Power down an hour before you go to bed. Screen lights interfere with your sleep patterns, making it harder to get a good night’s rest.

Go screen-less for every meal you eat today. That means no TV, tablet, computer, or phone.

Resist the urge to look at your phone until you arrive at school or work for the day. If you go out to dinner later, leave your phone in the car.

Don’t look at or post to social media for an entire day. Bonus challenge: Go the entire weekend!

Turn your phone off completely for at least eight hours in a row. (It doesn’t count if you’re sleeping!) Let close friends and family know you’re shutting down and won’t be answering calls.

Redefine what it means to be connected to the world around you. More ideas and inspiration are available at

How to improve ADA accessibility for your event

Organizing a fair, festival, or special event? Ensure all your guests have access to amenities and can enjoy the same experience. Accessibility attracts people with physical limitations or disabilities and their friends and family. Plus, those same modifications are often appreciated by the elderly and parents with small children.

Advance info. Accessibility starts even before people reach your event. Provide information on your website or list a phone number for those who want to know more. Knowing what kind of accommodations will (or won’t) be available can help someone decide whether to attend. The Summer Set music festival’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) page is a nice example.

Clear views. If you’re hosting a concert or other event with ticketed seating, provide the option to purchase accessible seats. Or let guests know you’re offering an accessible viewing area with clear visibility to the stage.

Restroom access. If using portable bathrooms at your event, plan for a few accessible units. These larger stalls also are attractive to parents with small children.

Train your staff.
Provide staff training on assisting people with disabilities. Make sure setup crews understand how to create and maintain accessibility around booths and walkways. Prepare a list of attendee FAQs with a section on accessibility accommodations, and distribute to event personnel.

Resources. Attitude is Everything is a U.K. nonprofit that helps increase fan access to live music. While accessibility laws might differ from those in the U.S., the site is a user-friendly (and inspiring) place to get ideas.

Also, check out National Construction Rentals, which provides a simple infographic on ADA compliance for outdoor events.

More in-depth planning information can be found here:
•    A Planning Guide for Making Temporary Events Accessible to People with Disabilities
•    Accessible Temporary Events, A Planning Guide

7 tips to keep man's best friend safe at the dog park

Off-leash dog parks are a great way for your dog to get some exercise. Just be sure to observe some basic tips to keep your pooch safe:
  1. Stay engaged with your dog. Don’t allow your dog to wander far away, unsupervised, while you chat with the humans. You need to be aware of any anti-social behavior so you can put a stop to it or leave, if necessary.
  2. Save the treats for home. Good smelling treats in your pocket may pose an overwhelming distraction for other dogs. That can be frustrating for other owners, and it puts you at risk. Besides, dispensing treats to your dog can cause others to crowd around, and that could make your otherwise placid pup agitated and aggressive.
  3. Toys for good sharers, only. Skip the toys if your dog is overly possessive. But, if your pup steals or hoards other dogs’ toys, sadly you may need to skip the park altogether.
  4. Respect leash restrictions. Leash your dog in the parking lot. There are too many distractions (and often, too much traffic) at a dog park. You put your pet at risk by trusting he or she will remain calmly by your heels as you return to your vehicle.
  5. Unleash and unharness inside the park. Remove leashes, collars, and other harnesses inside the park. Dogs can get tangled in each other’s gear.
  6. Bring water. If your park doesn’t have an on-site water supply, remember to bring your own. Keep your furry friend safe by providing plenty of opportunities to stay hydrated.
  7. Clean up. This should go without saying, but clean up after your pet. Dog poop can carry diseases and parasites. Mind your manners — and your dog’s health — and keep the play area clean.

Lone worker safety tips

Home healthcare workers, janitors, maintenance and repair staff, delivery personnel, late-night gas station attendants, and security workers have something in common: they often work in isolation. And as businesses try to do more with less, the ranks of lone workers are likely to increase.

These employees face special risks, and employers must do what they can to ensure their safety.

According to OSHA regulations, an employer must visually or verbally account for lone workers during each work shift, at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment. While this requirement is open to interpretation, one basic question can help guide what level of monitoring is appropriate: Based on the risks associated with this job, what is an acceptable amount of time for a worker to wait for help?

A three-pronged approach to isolated worker safety might also help:
  1. Identify the hazards.
  2. Evaluate the level of the risks involved.
  3. Put measures in place to avoid or control the risks.
Just as hardhats, steel-toed shoes, safety glasses, and reflective clothing are common elements of personal protective equipment, a reliable communication system should be considered safety equipment for lone workers. Cell phones or two-way radios may be appropriate for most situations, but if a worker is unable to call for help, a lone worker man-down warning system automatically will send an alarm signal to supervisors at a monitoring station.

Education and experience are probably the most effective ways to ensure the safety of isolated workers. Employers should provide proper training so lone workers will more likely be able to avoid dangerous situations or know how to respond to challenges or emergencies that arise.

How to recycle unusual items

You likely know about recycling cans and bottles, but what about those uncommon items like fluorescent bulbs, half-empty paint cans, or old medications? Read on to learn how to properly dispose of those unusual personal and household items.

Unused or expired medicine and prescriptions
Some medications can be very hazardous to others and the environment. Do not flush old medicines down the toilet or leave them in your cupboard.

  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce drug-related crime
  • Prevent prescription drug abuse
  • Prevent accidental poisoning, especially in children and pets
Many pharmacies will take unused medications. Find a drop-off location near you.

Intact eye glasses and hearing aids
Has your eye prescription changed or have you gotten a newer hearing aid? Donate your unused items to help others see and hear the world around them.

  • Help those in need and others in underprivileged countries enjoy better vision and hearing
  • Reduce waste in landfills
Contact your local Lions Club to learn more about donating eyeglasses, and visit the National Hearing Aid Project to donate a hearing aid.

Household hazardous materials
This includes items like waste oil and filters, drain or oven cleaners, household cleaners, paint, weed killers, herbicides, and pesticides.

  • Avoid environmental hazards and protect scarce natural resources
  • Reduce the nation's reliance on raw materials and energy
Learn more about how to dispose of hazardous waste, and search online for drop-off locations near you.

Lights, bulbs, and ballasts
Many people do not realize that fluorescent bulbs release hazardous chemicals when broken. Proper disposal is important.

  • Keeps mercury-containing products out of waste disposal streams
Many utility companies will accept your old light bulbs, as well as many national retailers including Lowes, Home Depot, IKEA, and most hardware store chains. Other items that should be recycled include holiday lights and extension cords.

Plastic bags and plastic film

One of the biggest pollutants in our landfills and oceans is plastic bags. Additional items include plastic product wrap used to package paper towels, diapers, bathroom tissue, water bottles, electronics, and other items.

  • Conserve energy
  • Keep bags and wrap out of our landfills, streets, and the environment
  • Plastic bags are recycled into many different products, including composite lumber, small pellets, and resin used in a variety of products including new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipes.
Search for local drop-off sites.

Do your part to protect our world and recycle when possible.

How to properly dispose of an American flag

When your American flag becomes too worn to serve as a proper emblem of our country, it’s time to retire the flag and replace it with a new one. In honor of Flag Day, here’s a quick reminder about how to properly retire and dispose of unserviceable American flags:

Seek local resources
Contact your local veteran services groups such as the VFW, American Legion Post, or D.A.V. to ask about dropping off your flag. Some of these groups will hold an annual flag retirement ceremony as a community service.

Burn safely and respectfully
You may burn a flag to retire it. The flag should be burned completely and the ashes buried. To add the appropriate respect, the VFW recommends all those present come to attention, salute the flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance before observing a brief moment of silence.

Be aware, however, that burning is best for cotton flags. Nylon or polyester flags give off fumes when burned, and these can be hazardous to both observers and the environment.

Cut and bury
The Boy Scouts of America recommends a procedure to cut the flag (never through the blue star field). When that is done, the flag ceases to be a flag and can be disposed of in any proper manner. Other resources suggest burying the flag as a respectful disposal method.

Send off for recycling
You also may send your flag to a recycling group such as Flag Keepers or American Flags Express. This is a safer alternative to burning flags made of synthetic materials. Notably, Flag Keepers also accepts state flags as well as those from friendly foreign governments.

For more information, see The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions.

7 bathroom safety tips for seniors

Bathroom safety is critical for aging seniors. As reported in the New York Times, more than 235,000 emergency room visits can be attributed to bathroom accidents each year. And injury rates increase rapidly for people over 75.

Follow these tips for bathroom fall prevention:

1. Add grab bars
Bathroom grab bars can help an older person or those with physical limitations lift or lower themselves from the tub or toilet. Install these securely by anchoring them to the studs in your walls.

2. Raise the toilet seat
For those experiencing mobility issues, a raised toilet seat can make it easier to use the bathroom. Raised seats with built-in arms provide additional leverage.

3. Improve lighting
Many people need to use the bathroom throughout the night. Install nightlights in the bathroom and adjacent hallway to ensure seniors can see their way around.

4. Lower barriers
Replace traditional tubs with a walk-in shower or tub. Walk-in tubs allow users to enter the bath via a door, without having to lift their legs over a high threshold.

5. Use a chair
For those with balance or dizziness issues, a plastic chair with non-skid legs may be an appreciated addition to the shower.

6. Prevent slips
No-slip bathmats and tub decals are a recommended safety tool for people of any age. But these become particularly important as we age and become less steady on our feet.

7. Accommodate visiting seniors
If you have older relatives who visit regularly, consider purchasing toilet safety rails. Some systems screw into the wall, but portable models are available so you can fold and hide the rails away after a visit.

Visit a home medical store to learn about other bathroom safety aides. Your local charity shops also may have donated equipment in stock. Or, look for home modification programs in your area.

4 overlooked boat maintenance tips

No one should expect to pull their boat out of winter storage and head to the water without first performing some basic maintenance. Batteries need charging, oil needs changing, and belts, hoses, and cables need checking.

But in the excitement, we sometimes forget these other boating maintenance essentials.

1. Regulations and responsibilities

Familiarize yourself with state and federal regulations and changes since last season. Renew registration and insurance if necessary. New boaters should take a boater education course and carry their certification. If you’ll be fishing, carry that license too.

2. Safety equipment
Check the personal flotation devices (PFDs) to ensure they still fit the passengers they were meant for. If needed, recharge or replace fire extinguishers, expired signal flares, and air horns or similar signals. If your boat has an enclosed cabin, replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector. Restock the first aid kit.

3. Trailer

Don’t overlook the trailer. Repack bearings, inspect tires and spare, and tighten lug nuts. Check the safety chains and coupler hitch, and test the lights and turn signals.

4. Tools and parts

Despite your best maintenance efforts, breakdowns can occur, but with the proper tool kit you may still save the day. Allen wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, a spark plug wrench, utility knife, adjustable wrench, vise grip, and long needle nose pliers are essentials. A telescoping magnet is handy for retrieving dropped nuts and bolts.

Cover the tools with a light coat of oil to prevent rust. Bring extra parts that are most likely to fail: spark plugs, fuel filter, fuses, belts, hoses, clamps, shear pins, and light bulbs. Add electrical tape, terminals and connectors, motor oil, and hand wipes.

Following these tips will help you prepare for all but the most serious boat breakdowns and make sure your day on the water is smooth sailing.

3 cheap ways to reduce utility bills without reducing comfort

Too often, energy-saving tips call for sacrifices in comfort or home upgrades that involve a large investment. But here are three suggestions that cost little more than your time:

1. Keep it clean
Nearly every appliance runs more efficiently if it’s clean. Dishwashers, furnaces, air conditioners, kitchen fans, and dehumidifiers all have filters that should be cleaned or replaced regularly so they don’t have to work so hard. Bathroom exhaust fans, clothes dryers, and their vents should be vacuumed so they will run better, too.

Flush the water heater once a year to remove mineral buildup and improve heating. Clean dust off your refrigerator’s condenser coils, and wash the stove’s reflector pans so heat is more efficiently aimed back at your cooking.

2. Go natural
Save on your utility bills during the summer by harnessing the power of nature. Open windows in the morning to take advantage of the cooler air, but make sure to shut them before outdoor temperatures rise above indoor temperatures. Close blinds or shades on sunny windows and avoid using lights that will add heat to the house unnecessarily.

Disable the dishwasher’s heated drying cycle, and hang laundry on the line. Reduce outdoor water use by installing rain barrels. Instead of a really short lawn, cut your grass to three inches with a mulching mower to keep moisture in the soil and reduce the need to water. This also helps reduce weeds by shading out weed seeds and will reduce your need for chemical applications.

3. Stop the leaks

Leaks add up to losses. The U.S. Geological Survey has a tool for calculating the gallons of water wasted each year based on the number and speed of dripping faucets. So if you were ever looking for motivation to stop those drops, this is it.

Air leaks around windows and doors increase summertime cooling costs too, so plug them with caulk or weather stripping.

Making these small energy-saving changes can reap big rewards.

Farming safety: Anhydrous ammonia fertilizer

Although anhydrous ammonia is readily available, fairly easy to apply, and one of the most efficient agricultural fertilizers available, it also is one of the most potentially dangerous chemicals for farm workers. Because of this, it is illegal to hire someone under age 16 to work with anhydrous ammonia, and workers need training in the safe use of this chemical.

“Anhydrous” means “without water,” so this fertilizer is always “thirsty.” Given the chance, it will rapidly mix with any moisture — in the air, soil, or in people. Contact with skin can cause severe chemical burns, cellular destruction, frostbite, and dehydration. Contact with mucus membranes is especially dangerous and could quickly result in blindness, respiratory damage, or death.

Anhydrous ammonia must be stored and used under high pressure in well-maintained specially made equipment that resists corrosion, chemical reactions, and pressures up to 250 psi. Most accidents happen when transferring ammonia from a storage tank to the applicator tank, so special care must be taken during this process.

Accidents also occur because of overfilling tanks, inadvertently knocking open hose valves, venting pressure release valves too closely to a person, using old or damaged equipment, and overturning tanks while driving.

To help reduce the severity of injuries if an accident does happen, workers should wear proper personal protective equipment:
  • Non-vented goggles at a minimum, but preferably a full-face shield
  • Long, heavy rubber gloves
  • Heavy long-sleeved shirt and pants
  • Chemical-resistant boots
  • Respirator with ammonia cartridges

First aid for exposure to anhydrous ammonia is water — and lots of it. Get away from the source of the ammonia, remove contaminated clothing, and flush skin or eyes for at least 20 minutes. Do not cover injuries with ointments because these will seal in the caustic chemical. Seek medical attention and call 911 for emergencies.

How to safely store gasoline and LP cylinder tanks

It’s the time of year when the use of barbecue grills, lawnmowers, tractors, utility vehicles, generators, and recreational equipment is in full swing, and they all need a power source. Whether a homeowner or commercial business that stores flammable materials, make sure you follow these safety tips.

Home use
  • Store gas in approved containers only — usually less than 5 gallons.
  • Do not overfill — allow some room for expansion.
  • Keep container caps tight and keep out of direct sunlight.
  • Store at least 50 feet away from pilot lights and ignition sources.
  • Keep out of reach of children.
Commercial use
  • Whenever possible, fuel oil, including diesel fuel, should be stored outside of buildings. If buildings are used for storage, they should have cross-ventilation.
  • Above-ground tanks should be kept outside and at least 40 feet from buildings.
  • Gas storage tanks that are above ground should have “FLAMMABLE – KEEP FIRE AND FLAME AWAY” printed on the tank in red.
  • Vent pipes from underground storage tanks should be at least 12 feet above ground level.
  • Fill openings should be equipped with a cover, which can be locked.

Home use
  • Store LP gas cylinders upright and outside on a flat, level surface.
  • Keep any source of fire or ignition away from cylinders.
  • If an LP cylinder is connected to a grill, it must be kept outside in a well-ventilated space.
  • Never attach or disconnect an LP cylinder when a grill is in operation or is still hot.
  • When not in use, turn the LP cylinder valve to the OFF position (clockwise).
  • Replace or recycle corroded or rusty cylinders.

Commercial use
  • Locate cylinders so that safety-relief valves are at least three feet from any building.
  • Provide a concrete or other firm, nonflammable foundation for cylinders.
  • Provide a cover for regulating equipment to keep out rain or sleet.
  • Gas-supply lines should be protected from damage and corrosion.

Common sources of heat are flame, friction, electric sparks, spontaneous ignition, chemical reaction, static sparks, lightning, hot motors, or hot mufflers. Remember that a heat source does not have to be visible to ignite gasoline and other flammable vapors.

Top 3 event planning must-haves

It’s happened. You spoke up at a meeting and somehow ended up as the head of the committee for an annual fundraising event for your favorite nonprofit. Now comes the planning, promotion, recruiting of volunteers, set-up, and all the other details that need to happen.

Before you order that giant striped tent and cotton candy machine, take a step back and make sure the organization you love so much is protected with the following three must-haves:

1. A safety checklist
Your number one priority as an event organizer is not only getting people to show up, but making sure they’re safe while attending your event.

The most common cause of injury at special events is trip hazards. Power cables and extension cords are among the worst offenders.
  • Cover or tape all cords, cables, etc. Mark their positions so your guests can see and avoid them.
  • Keep all walkways clear of cords and debris.
During your event, make sure safety remains a top priority.
  • Maintain sufficient lighting throughout the event.
  • Section off areas where you don’t want people to walk or gather.
  • Monitor your event for any unsafe or suspicious activities.

Download a sample event checklist and incorporate a few simple considerations to make sure your event is successful.

2. Volunteer waivers
Volunteers are not covered under a company’s workers’ compensation policy. This is one reason all volunteers should undergo safety and procedure training. A volunteer waiver will help:
  • Reinforce job expectations and risks.
  • Reinforce that workers’ compensation does not cover volunteers.
  • Volunteers gain a sense of ownership while working for you.
Have volunteers sign waivers before they start working. Find a sample volunteer waiver here.

3. Participant liability waivers
Some events like races or sporting events also should require a participant waiver. A liability waiver serves two purposes: it can prevent lawsuits and protect an organization from the actions of the participant.

To provide the greatest protection, a waiver should include a hold harmless agreement and an indemnification agreement.
Make the waiver is clear and easy to understand, and have an attorney review all waivers prior to use. You should also keep the following in mind:
  • Plan your event prior to creating the waiver. This reduces the possibility that last-minute changes may not be reflected in the document.
  • Each person who participates in the event should sign the waiver.
  • When an activity involves children, both parents/guardians must sign the waiver.
Be aware that local jurisdictions vary with respect to rights that may not be waived. Have your attorney confirm that your waiver meets with all legal requirements.

Planning an event can be fun and very rewarding when all the details are covered. Take advantage of additional nonprofit safety and procedure resources on our Prevention ConnectionSM website.

How to prepare for medical emergencies at work

Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere…including your workplace. Do employees know how to respond if someone has chest pains or suddenly becomes disoriented?

Confusion over roles and responsibilities can delay critical medical care. Take steps to craft a policy and prepare your team for the unexpected.

Consider these recommendations when creating your emergency medical action plan:
  1. If a person is seriously ill or injured, call 911. Make sure employees know that 911 should always be the first call in a life-threatening situation.
  2. Train a team of first responders. Ask for volunteers and provide in-depth training, available from the Red Cross, the National Safety Council, or local healthcare providers. Training may include CPR, use of AED devices, and first aid.
  3. Next, put a system in place so employees can quickly identify and locate the nearest first responder. These people can provide immediate care until emergency medical crews arrive.
  4. Have a designated person in charge of calling a victim’s emergency contact person.
Injuries and non-emergencies
Develop a response plan for injuries that are non-life-threatening as well. If your company has SECURA Insurance as its workers’ compensation insurance provider, the injured employee along with their supervisor should call the 24-hour Nurse Hotline first. A registered nurse will help determine if the injury can be self-treated or if medical attention should be sought. If so, the injured worker will be referred to the nearest medical clinic.

Nurse Hotline is offered as a free benefit for SECURA policyholders and provides fast, expert guidance. It also can help eliminate the hassle of unnecessary and costly visits to the emergency room.

Communicate your emergency response plan several times a year. Make sure any emergency equipment at your facility is in good working order, and build a team of employee volunteers located throughout your facilities who are ready to respond in a crisis.

As always, prevention of injuries should be the main goal. To help, we've provided several free safety program samples on our website here.