Prep your car for travel in winter weather

Smartphones offer drivers a sense of security, with the promise that help is just a phone call away. But especially in extreme conditions, don’t count on your phone alone to keep you safe or to share your location in an emergency situation. Keep in mind that location services are not always accurate depending on network coverage in your location, the cell tower your phone connects to and other variables.

Take additional precautions before winter travel in case you become stranded in your car. Before setting out, tell your family or a friend which route you will be taking. If you become stranded, it’s better in most cases to stay with your car and let rescuers find you. Keep your phone plugged in and fully charged during your trip to better ensure it operates when needed. But if your smartphone location sharing lets you down, your preparations can keep you safe and comfortable while you wait for help.

SERVICE YOUR VEHICLE

Before heading out in the winter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov website outlines items a mechanic should check on your car:

  • Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights – check that all are functioning properly.
  • Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires – make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
EMERGENCY KIT

In addition, carry an emergency kit in your car:

  • a shovel
  • windshield scraper and small broom
  • flashlight
  • battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • water and snack food
  • matches
  • extra hats, socks and mittens
  • first aid kit with pocket knife
  • necessary medications
  • blanket(s)
  • tow chain or rope
  • road salt and sand
  • booster cables
  • emergency flares
  • fluorescent distress flag
IF YOU BECOME STRANDED

If you are broken down or stuck in your vehicle in a winter storm, stay put and wait for help. Consider these tips from the Montana Department of Transportation:

  • Keep calm
  • Indicate to others that you are in trouble if you are on a well-traveled road. Use the signaling devices in your survival kit, emergency lights on your vehicle or raise the hood and tie something bright to your antenna
  • Remain in your vehicle unless you see a house or building within walking distance
  • Run the engine to keep warm, but do it sparingly
  • Check the exhaust pipe of your car to ensure snow has not blocked it. If this happens, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Exercise, clap your hands, move your arms and legs vigorously or do other isometric exercises to keep your circulation going
  • Take turns on watch if possible
  • Stay awake if you are alone
  • Ensure other drivers can see you if you are pulled over. Use hazard lights or auxiliary warning devices such as reflective triangles or flares; place the first one 10 feet from your car, the second 100 feet away and the third 200 feet away. On an undivided road, put one triangle 100 feet in front of your car, one 10 feet behind and another 100 feet behind.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Flue season: Have your fireplace and chimney inspected

Home heating fires are the second leading cause of home fire deaths after cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Fireplaces, chimneys and flues account for a significant number of home heating fires.

Homeowners with a wood-burning fireplace or solid fuel stove or insert can protect your property and your family by having a qualified professional inspect and clean your chimney at least annually to prevent a buildup of creosote.

Creosote is a tarry residue or solid organic compound caused by incomplete combustion of wood that can build up in chimneys and ignite a chimney fire. A heavily used fireplace or stove may require periodic cleaning throughout the heating season. NFPA statistics show that failure to clean creosote from chimneys was the leading factor in 28 percent of the home heating equipment fires between 2007 and 2011.

The U.S. Fire Administration offers a series of videos showing how to safely build and tend a fire. Additional tips for safe fireplace and wood stove use:

  • Equip your fireplace with a sturdy glass or metal screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
  • Inspect your fireplace’s flue prior to use for any obstructions or blockage by using a flashlight and looking up the flue. This also assures that the flue’s damper control is open prior to lighting the fire.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the fireplace or wood stove. NFPA statistics show 53 percent of fires resulting in home heating fire deaths were caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
  • Only adults should build and tend a fire; enforce a three-foot “kid-free zone” around fireplaces and wood stoves.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for inserts. For fireplaces and wood stoves, use only seasoned wood. Green wood increases creosote buildup.
  • Do not burn cardboard, wrapping paper or other rubbish in the fireplace or wood stove.
  • Never use lighter fluid or any flammable or combustible liquids to start the fire.
  • Make sure a fully charged fire extinguisher is nearby and accessible.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors as recommended, change the batteries twice a year, and test them according to manufacturer’s recommendations, usually monthly.
  • Put out fireplace fires before going to sleep or leaving your home.
  • Allow ashes to cool prior to cleaning out a fireplace or wood stove. Ashes that seem cool may contain concealed hot embers for several days after your last fire. Place the ashes in a covered metal container and keep the container outdoors a safe distance away from your home or any buildings.Have fireplace inserts or wood stoves installed by a qualified professional who can meet the established NFPA 211 standard. Never attempt to install them yourself. According to the NFPA, 10 percent of fires involving heating appliances actually involve the ignition of structural members where flues or chimneys pass through a building’s wall.

Additionally, check with your Ayres insurance agent to assure coverage. Visit our website at The Ayres Group.

 

Courtesy of Cincinnati Insurance

Tasting rooms and tours: Consider guest safety first

Most breweries, wineries or distilleries offer tours and a tasting room where guests can enjoy a sample of the product or purchase drinks made on-site. These operations present a different set of exposures than a typical beverage manufacturing facility. If you own a beverage business, closely evaluate your operation to ensure guest safety.

The most common source of liability claims for these businesses are slip-and-fall hazards. To complicate this exposure, many establishments also offer tours that lead guests through the manufacturing side of the establishment, the vineyard or storage areas.

Tours are a terrific way to display your establishment, help guests understand how the product is made and further engage them in your craft. Use caution when creating your facility tour to ensure guest safety.

Here are some items to consider when planning your tour route, tasting room or taproom space:

  • Use nonskid flooring wherever possible, and make sure all spills are cleaned up immediately.
  • While it’s best to have a level flooring surface throughout, if there are changes in elevation, make sure all steps are marked appropriately and are well lit.
  • Ensure that handrails on stairways are secured, that stair treads are a solid surface or that carpeting is properly secured and free of tears.
  • Be sure walkways around the exterior of the establishment (including parking areas) and outdoor gathering areas are in good condition and well lit.
  • Use surveillance cameras where possible.
  • Assign guides for all tours, and train them in safety procedures. Limit the number of guests per tour. Keep guests at a safe distance from operational traffic, moving machinery and hot surfaces.
  • Don’t permit guests to carry food or beverages with them during the tour.
  • Post warnings and liability disclaimers at the tour site and on your website to assure visitors understand potential physical and operational hazards.
  • Provide any necessary safety gear, such as safety glasses or hearing protection.
  • Be sure to follow any state or local safety regulations or health restrictions, including occupancy restrictions for fire evacuation.

By ensuring a safe visit, you protect your business while building customer goodwill. Contact The Ayres Group for more information on specialized insurance solutions for your brewery or distillery.

Keep safe and warm when using space heaters

Many of us use portable electric space heaters to help keep us warm, but they can be hazardous if not used properly. Take precautions to keep your family safe from fire or burns.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an average of 50,100 home heating fires occurred in the U.S. each year from 2008 to 2010. About 900 fires are attributed to portable heaters. While they represent only 2 percent of home heating fires, portable heaters were involved in 45 percent of all heating fires with a fatality.

Before you use an electric space heater:

  • Check to be sure the heater is clean and in good condition. Thoroughly inspect the cord and plug of electrical heaters for damage. You can check whether it is certified by Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Place heaters out of high traffic areas and on a level, hard, nonflammable floor surface – not on carpets, rugs, furniture or countertops.
  • Place the heater at least three feet from combustible liquids as well as flammable items such as draperies, blankets and sofas.
  • Take care when moving around space heaters not to brush up against them or drag loose clothing.
  • Do not use space heaters to thaw pipes, cook food or dry clothing or towels.
  • Keep children and pets away from an electric space heater as accidental contact could result in serious shock or burns.
  • Do not place heaters under desks or other enclosed areas.
  • Never leave the heater operating while unattended or while you are sleeping.
  • Never power an electric space heater with an extension cord or power strip.
  • Never run an electric space heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting.

Note that unvented kerosene and gas heaters have been banned in many jurisdictions. Kerosene, gas and propane heaters — anything that uses combustible fuel — present additional risk of death or injury from carbon monoxide poisoning and are not recommended for use in closed spaces.

As an added precaution, check smoke alarms to be sure they are in proper working order before using electric heaters.

Beware of falling televisions

College and professional football season prompts many fans to upgrade their televisions. Where viewing is concerned, bigger is better. But bigger can also be more dangerous, with larger TVs creating unanticipated hazards at home.

More than 17,000 children – one every 30 minutes – are treated in emergency rooms across the country for TV-related injuries every year, and the rate of children being hurt from televisions tipping over has nearly doubled in two decades, according to a 2013 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When families purchase new televisions, they often move their older, bulkier sets to other rooms and place them on bookcases, dressers or small tables that were not intended for televisions. That creates instability. Older cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions are front-heavy, making them more prone to tip over.

To help keep your family safe:

  • make sure the new television is anchored
  • ensure older televisions are anchored or placed on sturdy surfaces

Up to 12,700 pounds of force strikes a child when an l unanchored CRT television (screen size 19-32 inches) topples off furniture, based on a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission test. About 2,100 pounds of force strikes a child when a flat screen television in the same size range falls. This is the equivalent of 10 times the force of two NFL linemen colliding at full speed.

The CPSC examined 51 deaths from 2010 to 2012 involving television tipovers and found:

  • 88 percent were children under 4 years old
  • 60 percent involved either 27- or 32-inch televisions

CPSC estimates that emergency rooms treated 9,800 TV tipover injuries to children younger than 9 each year between 2011 and 2013. Children under 3 accounted for most of the injuries.

On its Anchorit.gov website, CPSC offers these tips to prevent injuries from falling televisions:

  • Place the TV on sturdy furniture appropriate for the size of the TV or on a low-rise base.
  • Secure the TV to the furniture with straps, brackets or braces to prevent the TV from sliding.
  • Mount flat-screen TVs to the wall or to furniture to prevent them from toppling over. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure a secure fit.
  • Place any large, heavy CRT TV on a low, stable piece of furniture. If you no longer use your CRT TV, consider recycling it.
  • Secure top-heavy furniture to the wall with brackets, braces or wall straps.
  • Place electrical cords out of a child’s reach and teach children not to play with them.
  • Remove items from the top of the TV and furniture that might tempt kids to climb, for example, tablet computers, toys and remote controls.

Maximize your family time and minimize time in the emergency room by making sure TVs are anchored and stable.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Words to make a parent nervous: Teen driver

New teen driver. As both the father of a new driver and an underwriter, those words make me nervous. But some proactive discussion among the new driver, his or her parents and your local agent can make the teenage driving years a lot less stressful.

Readiness – First, make sure your teenager is ready to be behind the wheel. Even a delay of six months could allow your teen enough time to be ready for the responsibility of driving.

You set the tone – Your driving habits have an impact on how your child will behave behind the wheel. Set a good example by being a safe, courteous, defensive driver.

Safety first – Make sure that you are providing your teen with a safe vehicle to operate, free of any maintenance issues.

No texting and driving – If your teenager has a cell phone, discuss the dangers of texting or talking while driving.

Obey all traffic laws – Make sure your new driver understands the need to obey all traffic laws, especially driving the speed limit. Remind your teen to wait until all passengers have buckled their seat belts to start the car; seat belts are mandatory in every state except New Hampshire. Check the Governors Highway Safety Association website for more details.

You make the rules – In the first few months, it may be helpful to limit your teen’s driving to areas close to home, then work up to driving longer distances and on the interstate highways. Set a limit on the number of passengers in the vehicle; 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws restricting passenger numbers for young drivers. You may want to set your own rules that are even more restrictive. Consider limiting driving time to daylight hours or lighter traffic times while your teen gains confidence behind the wheel. Again, many states have already enacted daylight restrictions.

Seek good advice – I found it very useful to have my son sit down with our local, independent agent to discuss the new responsibility of driving and the impact it could have on our family and others. My son seemed to listen more closely to another adult discussing these matters than he would have if I were the person speaking. My agent stressed never drinking and driving, driving defensively, limiting the distractions (including the radio), as well as what to do in the event of an accident or vehicle breakdown.

Think about insurance – My agent also discussed with my son the financial consequences his driving habits could have on our insurance premiums. By obeying all traffic laws and avoiding situations that could lead to an accident, we could avoid any potential premium increase that may result from a moving violation or claim. Other factors that may lower your premiums are to have the teen drive a standard vehicle (avoid the sportier models) and consider higher physical damage deductibles.

By teaching your child to be a responsible driver through discussions and leading by example you can keep your teenager, their passengers and other drivers safe and save money on your car insurance. With this knowledge, you can definitely make your life a little less stressful during those teenage driving years.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Consumer alert: Check your circuit breaker

Millions of Americans may be in danger from defective electrical equipment in their homes, yet may not be aware of the risk. If you reside in a home with electrical circuit breakers and panels installed in the mid-1950s through the early 1980s, have your equipment inspected and replaced, if necessary.

 

During that period, Federal Electric, later known as Federal Pacific Electric Co. (FPE), manufactured electrical distribution equipment, including STAB-LOK circuit breakers and panels. A circuit breaker is designed to cut off the flow of electricity when there is excessive electrical demand or a short circuit, also known as arcing. A defect in the FPE equipment could prevent this from happening, causing a fire.

While STAB-LOK breakers and panels are no longer manufactured, millions are estimated to remain in residences throughout the country. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded an investigation of the equipment in 1983, but due to budgetary constraints the Commission chose not to undertake a full assessment of the STAB-LOK breakers. More information is available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Because of failure rates and questionable Underwriters Laboratories (UL) acceptance testing, The Cincinnati Insurance Company’s Loss Control department recommends that a qualified and licensed electrician replace these circuit breakers and panels with new equipment.

More information about STAB-LOK equipment is available in this investigative report by NBC Bay Area Channel 11. For help in identifying STAB-LOK circuit breakers and panels,

Consumer alert: Check your circuit breaker – The Cincinnati Insurance Companies blog

This loss control information is advisory only.
The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.
Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Construction zones: Expect the unexpected

Work Zone Ahead signs can frustrate drivers on the road when slow traffic affects our daily routine. But we can lose a lot more than just a few minutes if we don’t follow traffic laws for construction areas.

Construction zones can be dangerous for both drivers and workers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in the past five years there were 4,400 deaths and 200,000 injuries in road construction zones. Of the 4,400 deaths, 85 percent were drivers or passengers and 15 percent were construction workers.

When driving through construction zones, follow these tips to help reduce your potential for accidents and other problems:

  • Slow down. Most sites are only a short distance overall and it takes only an extra 25 seconds to cover one mile traveling at 45 mph as compared with 65 mph. Virtually all states increase penalties for speeding through highway construction zones, and many mandate jail time for injuries caused by a driver speeding in a construction zone.
  • Maintain adequate following distance. Allow adequate space for controlled speed changes and stops. Riding the tailgate of the vehicle in front of you will not get you through any sooner.
  • Expect the unexpected! Dedicate your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions – such as changing the radio station – and never use your phone while driving, especially in construction areas. Be wary of the vehicles around you that might suddenly drift, stop or change lanes. Many drivers around you will be looking at the construction activity instead of paying attention to the road.
  • Keep your headlights on. Even during daytime, keep your headlights on to enhance your visibility to workers and oncoming traffic.
  • Change lanes sooner rather than later. Vehicles merging at the last minute is a leading cause of accidents in construction zones.
  • Pay attention to the signs. The signs are there to help alert you to what is to coming. Be sure to observe these signs until after you have left the construction zone.
  • Obey the flaggers. They are there to help ensure that traffic flows safely through the site. Drivers can be cited for not properly following flaggers’ instructions.

Don’t become a statistic. Be focused and careful when traveling through construction zones because you’re not only putting your life in harm’s way, but the lives of others.

MORE INFORMATION

National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse

Federal Highway Administration Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

A refresher on water sport and boating safety

Water sport and boating safety

As we enter the start of summer, people will spend more time on the water skiing, boating and riding personal watercraft.

But with more people on the water comes more potential for injuries. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 80 percent of all recreational boating injuries occur from May to September.

The personal and economic costs of boating injuries are high  ̶  in 2013, the Coast Guard counted more than 4,000 accidents involving 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries and nearly $40 million in property damage.

According to the Boats U.S. trade association, 36 percent of boating fatalities involved an accident where someone went overboard, and 18 percent resulted from a collision  ̶  usually with a pier or another boat.

What are the five primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents? Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and defective machinery.

Here are some boating safety tips to prevent you from being injured while on the water this summer:

  • Wear a life jacket – In 2013, the Coast Guard reported 77 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning, and a shocking 84 percent of those victims were not wearing life jackets. Be sure to wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Blow-up mattresses, water wings, foam “noodles” or inner tubes are not a substitute for life jackets.
  •  Avoid alcohol – Whether boating, waterskiing or riding personal watercraft, alcohol greatly increases the risks of an accident, regardless of whether the operator or passengers are drinking. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects are magnified by the summer sun and heat.According to the Coast Guard, where the primary accident cause is known, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in nearly 16 percent of all fatal boating accidents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates alcohol use may be involved in nearly 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation.
  • Use the buddy system if swimming – Make sure someone knows where you are at all times and know the water terrain. Scan swimming areas for drop-offs, and be aware of hidden obstacles in the water.
  • Watch for rip tides – Rip tides can occur along any coastline. Signs of a rip tide include discolored or foamy water that moves in a narrow channel away from the shore. If you find yourself caught in a rip tide, remember to swim parallel to shore until you’re outside the current, when you can swim back in
  • Be Aware of Dehydration – Perhaps the most unrecognized danger to water skiers and personal watercraft riders is dehydration. This is especially common when riding on salt water. Water skiing and riding personal watercraft can be a vigorous physical activity, and it is possible to lose a great deal of water without realizing it. When a person becomes dehydrated, reaction time and awareness are impaired.
  • Don’t Let Cool Summer Winds Fool You – While Frank Sinatra sang glowingly about the “Summer Wind,” there is a hidden danger. Cooling winds on the water can convince water skiers, personal watercraft riders or boaters that they are not receiving much direct sunlight. This is false, and many people sustain skin damage from sunburns.

Follow precautions so you can avoid the emergency room and spend more time outside enjoying the water this summer.

Sources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Water-Related Injuries” (2014)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the United States Coast Guard 2013

– See more at: http://blog.cinfin.com/2015/05/14/water-sport-boating-safety/#sthash.qRXGv7Z9.dpuf

Ayres-Rice Insurance Agency Named #4

Congratulations to the Ayres-Rice Insurance Agency who has been named#4 of the Auto-Owners Insurance
Western Michigan Region Top 10 Agencies! The Top 10 Agencies qualified by showing the greatest increase
in Property/Casualty written premium in 2014.

Tom OlvittThe Top 10 agency representatives met today with Dan &elen, Executive Vice President and Cathy Adcock, Regional Vice President—Western Michigan Region for a luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West in Lansing,
MI.  Agents and officers discussed their triumphs and hurdles in the insurance industry over the past year. After lunch, agents visited the Auto-Owners South Campus for a cake and punch celebration with their
branch associates.

The Top 10 Agents were greeted at the branch by a thunderous applause in appreciation for all of their hard work
over the past year. It truly takes a team to show such amazing results. Auto-Owners would like to recognize
and thank all the employees working in our Top 10 Agencies for their hard work and dedication in helping to write
profitable business with Auto-Owners.

Thank you to all who have contributed to the success of our Top 10 Agencies.
We look forward to a great 2015 with you!

Auto-Owners Insurance Company