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: