Planning a hotel or motel stay? Think about fire safety

An estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires are reported each year in the United States. Use these tips to ensure that you stay safe during your vacation or business overnight.

PLAN AHEAD
  • Choose a hotel or motel that is protected by both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system. The U.S. Fire Administration provides a master list you can search to find hotels and motels that adhere to life safety requirements.
  • Pack a flashlight and keep it on your nightstand in case you need to escape in the dark.
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF
  • Read the fire evacuation plan carefully. If one is not posted in your room, request one from the front desk.
  • Locate the two exits nearest your room and fire alarms on your floor.
  • Count the number of doors between your room and the exits to assist you in the event of an emergency evacuation.
ESCAPE SAFELY
  • If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.
  • If the fire is not in your room, touch the door with the back of your hand to see if it is safe to leave.
    • If your room door is hot, do not open it. Instead, seal the door with wet towels or sheets. Turn off the fan, heater and air conditioner. Call the fire department to give your location.
    • If the door is cool, open it slowly. Be ready to close it quickly if there are flames on the other side. Take your room key with you in case fire blocks your escape and you need to re-enter your room.
  • Stay low by crawling on the ground, where the smoke is the least dense, to the nearest exit.
  • Always use a stairwell, never an elevator.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Bright idea: Check your holiday lights

Holiday lights can brighten the season – literally and emotionally – but they also present potential risk for fire and shock hazards. Before installing holiday lighting, take extra time to do a safety check to protect people and property.

Holiday lights and other decorative lighting contribute to an estimated 150 home structure fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, with an average of nine deaths, 16 injuries and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 64 percent of the fires.

Reduce the risk of fire and shock from holiday lights by taking these steps recommended by theConsumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Use indoor and outdoor lights that conform with safety standards and that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Use only lights that have plugs containing fuses.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Ensure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
  • Forego electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Check labels before using lights outdoors to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – this could cause stress on the connections that could create a fire hazard.
  • Plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends switching to LED lights to reduce heat and the risk of combustion or burnt fingers. In addition to being sturdier and more resistant to breakage, LED holiday lights last longer and consume 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. It costs only $0.27 to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs compared to $10 for incandescent lights.

A new safety rule for seasonal and decorative lights went into effect in June, allowing the CPSC to remove hazardous seasonal and decorative lights from the market faster and more effectively. If lights do not meet safety standards, the agency can require the manufacturer to recall the lights and can block imports of unsafe lights.

As you inspect newly purchased lights, check for:

  • wires that appear frayed, damaged or inadequate to carry the current according to the manufacturer’s instruction
  • strands that do not remain intact and functioning or pull out of the plug when stretched
  • lights that do not shut off to guard against excess current – such as with a fuse or ground fault circuit interrupter

To report a dangerous decorative or seasonal light, go online to www.SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC’s Hotline at 800-638-2772 or use its teletypewriter for the hearing impaired at301-595-7054.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace, offers additional safety tips for Indoor Lights and Electrical Decor.

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

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

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.

Don’t let equipment breakdown ruin your day

Imagine coming home from a weeklong vacation to find that an electrical outage damaged the air-conditioning compressor, and your AC is out.

Or, you arrive home from work on a Friday after a long, hectic week, planning to settle in to enjoy the latest movies. As soon as you kick off your shoes and click the power button on the remote, you realize something is wrong. You discover that a power surge during a storm earlier in the day has fried your home entertainment equipment.

Sudden and accidental breakdown of your home’s mechanical systems and electrically powered equipment can disrupt the peace and relaxation you enjoy at home. Equipment breakdown insurance can help you manage these unexpected events.

While insurance does not cover wear and tear, it may be available to cover the cost of diagnosing and repairing insured equipment and to reimburse you for additional living expenses when you are displaced by a covered loss.

Your insurance agent can advise you on whether equipment breakdown coverage is included in your homeowner policy or whether you should consider broader coverage available by purchasing an endorsement or policy addition.

You can purchase equipment breakdown insurance that includes coverage for heating and cooling systems or equipment that generates, transmits or uses energy:

  • computer equipment
  • home theater and audio system equipment
  • wine cooling units
  • swimming pool equipment
  • refrigerators
  • other appliances

Also consider coverage that extends to the equipment used in another structure on your premises, such as a pool house or outbuilding.

Equipment breakdown coverage generally excludes coverage for: piping that is part of a fire protective sprinkler system, water piping other than boiler feedwater piping, boiler condensation return piping or water piping forming a part of a refrigerating or air conditioning system; appliances other than those permanently installed; personal electronic devices; software; and pinball machines, arcade electronic games or video gaming systems. It also generally excludes business property, property not owned by the insured and property not at the residence.

Be aware that equipment breakdown coverage offered through your insurer is not a home warranty. Home warranties generally limit covered property or charge additional premiums for each item. Equipment breakdown through a policy feature or endorsement would cover your equipment and personal property for one premium.

Give yourself the peace of mind and convenience of insurance to help manage life’s unexpected events.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group independent agent.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Life insurance: A tale of three automobiles

People have a variety of needs when purchasing life insurance. Term insurance answers some of those concerns, and permanent insurance addresses others. I always ask clients, “Are you concerned about ‘if you die’ or ‘when you die’?”

  • If you are worried about “if you die,” then you’re probably thinking about what happens to your loved ones if you die unexpectedly, or at a time that doesn’t fit with your life plan. In this situation, the conversation should probably start with term insurance.
  • If you are concerned about “when you die,” then you’re probably thinking about when you die after a long and complete life, with concerns for your heirs and assets. When this is the case, I start the conversation discussing permanent insurance.

However, the answer can often be yes to both concerns. So what should you buy first? Let me tell you about a friend of mine with three cars:

  • He drives a small, four-door sedan as his everyday car. It’s leased, and he uses it for basic transportation to and from work and for trips around town. When the car gets too many miles on the odometer, he’ll just trade it in for another one.
  • My friend also has a big sport utility vehicle on hand for when he needs it: family vacations, trips with his son’s lacrosse team, or when he has to haul something or tow a trailer. If he takes care of this SUV, it’ll last a long, long time. In fact, it has already logged over 200,000 miles and is still going strong.
  • Finally, my friend has an old German sports car. This is his baby, his toy. He drives it only once in a while, but each year it’s worth more than it was the year before. I know he plans to keep it forever.

I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to have three cars, but if they do it’s a safe bet that each vehicle serves a different purpose. This is a lot like life insurance  ̶  many people have multiple policies, and usually each policy was bought at a different time during their life and serves a different need. It’s completely reasonable that a person would have both term andpermanent insurance.

First and foremost, a person with no life insurance needs straightforward, inexpensive protection  ̶ for “if you die” unexpectedly. Think of the man with no car  ̶  what he needs most is simple, inexpensive transportation.

A first-time life insurance buyer might not be able to meet all needs right away. Instead, strive to meet the biggest need (basic, inexpensive protection) probably with term insurance. Once your immediate needs are met, you can come back at a later time and work to make your insurance plan more complete with permanent coverage  ̶  just like that family who buys a pickup truck or mini-van for when the car just isn’t enough.

Think about it  ̶  would you ever expect someone to buy a huge SUV or sports car for their first vehicle? Not unless money were no issue…and money is almost ALWAYS an issue. Don’t make that mistake with life insurance.

If you’ve already met your basic needs, then absolutely strive to complete your insurance program. But if you are considering your first life insurance policy, your first goal should probably be to meet your most immediate and basic needs. Your local independent agent can help you examine your needs and set your priorities.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

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

College students, it’s time to take stock of your stuff

If you are among the millions of young adults packing up to head off to college, now is a great time to take stock of all of your electronics, sports equipment, musical instruments and other items that you would need to replace in the event of fire, theft or other hardship.

Most people, not just college students, have no idea how many things they own. While big-ticket items like computers, cell phones and bicycles may come to mind, other purchases may surprise you. Consider how many pairs of shoes you own, clothing or other personal items; $100 here, $100 there, and soon you’ve tallied up thousands of dollars.

It’s important to know that the amount of insurance you have is sufficient to cover your losses. While most college students living in a dorm or other college housing have some coverage under their parents’ homeowners policy, that coverage may be limited to only 10 percent of the coverage for contents (for example, $10,000 on a $100,000 policy).

More importantly, if you are renting a house, condo or apartment, you may need renter’s insurance because your property may not be covered under your parents’ policy.

A first step in determining if you have adequate coverage is to know what you own. These tips can help:

  • While you’re packing, take a video or photographs of the things you’re taking with you.
  • Record descriptions of each item, making note of brand names and serial numbers.
  • As you make new purchases, keep your receipts as a record of costs and dates of purchase.
  • Store your list along with receipts and other documentation in a safe location away from your living space. You may want to consider uploading it to an electronic storage space.

After you have taken an inventory of your personal property, you should have a clearer picture of how much you have and how much it is worth. Next, you will want to make sure you have a sufficient limit of insurance.

Ask your local, independent insurance agent about adding a Student Personal Effects endorsement to your parents’ policy. You may also want to make sure you have replacement cost coverage, so that in the event of a loss your recovery isn’t limited to the depreciated value of lost or damaged items.

College is a time for new and exciting experiences – most of them good – but if you have the misfortune of having your things stolen or destroyed, your inventory of personal property will facilitate the claims process.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Fire danger in the construction zone

Fires are a significant hazard on construction sites. A November 2014 National Fire Protection Association report found that between 2007 and 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 5,120 structure fires in residential properties that were either under construction or undergoing major renovation.

Each year, those fires led to an average of nine deaths, 94 injuries and $265 million in direct property damage. Firefighter deaths and injuries are not included in those statistics.

But proper planning and monitoring can improve your chances of completing a project without incident.

PROJECT PLANNING
Before beginning a construction project:

  • Review the construction site, contemplating adjacent exposures that may affect the project Look at how accessible the site would be for firefighters and their equipment
  • Develop a site-specific fire prevention plan, educating employees about what to do in case of fire
  • Establish a Hot Work Permit program that requires operations involving any sparks, open flames or heat-producing activities to follow safety protocols before, during and after work has been completed.

DURING CONSTRUCTION
Throughout construction, conduct thorough on-site inspections. Trained representatives of your project management team should inspect the site daily and retain all documentation. Inspections should include:

  • Active construction areas
  • Material storage areas, including special consideration for flammable items
  • Construction trailers and temporary structures Site perimeter and adjacent property exposures
  • Mobile construction equipment storage areas

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • All construction trailers, storage trailers and offices should be made of noncombustible material and be at least 50 feet away from the construction site and at least 30 feet from each other.
  • Fire department site access areas must be clearly identified, maintained and unobstructed at all times. Access to fire hydrants or qualified water supplies for firefighting must be readily available whether adjacent to or within the boundaries of the project site.
  • Store all combustible materials safely and consider ordering them as needed to minimize the amount on hand. Spontaneous combustion of paint solvents, oily rags and similar materials discarded with trash can lead to a major loss.
  • Establish and strictly enforce a no smoking policy throughout the duration of the project.
  • Provide fire extinguishers, rated not less than 2A, for each 3,000 square feet of the protected building area. The travel distance from any point of the protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher must not exceed 100 feet per Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. When there are multiple levels, OSHA requires an extinguisher be placed near the staircase on every level.
  • Enforce good housekeeping in areas around permanent electrical installations, preventing accumulation of debris or combustible materials near live electricity. Temporary electrical equipment should have ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Install and activate an automatic sprinkler system as soon as possible after the building shell has been completed.
  • Collect all demolition and construction material as soon as possible. Removal of discarded materials should be done by a qualified disposal service on a regular basis – daily, if necessary –to eliminate accumulation of refuse. Position dumpsters away from buildings. Use metal containers with close-fitting lids for rags. Avoid burning any refuse, but if unavoidable, burn at least 150 feet from buildings. Some jurisdictions prohibit open burning; remember to follow any local burning bans and observe any red-flag warnings in wildfire and forest fire areas.
  • Provide safe temporary heaters. Secure them on a solid base away from any woodwork and keep the floor free of all combustible material. Before leaving, be sure the heater is turned off.

Fire exposures are high and constantly changing throughout the course of construction. Key personnel on site must always know it’s their responsibility to follow fire control procedures. Contractors have a responsibility to make sure that a fire control plan is specific, adequate and – most importantly – executed.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Life insurance may be cheaper than you think

How much does life insurance cost? Probably a lot less than you think. A recent LIMRA study found that 63 percent of consumers polled indicated that life insurance was too expensive, yet 80 percent of consumers overestimate its cost by nearly threefold. LIMRA is a leading insurance and financial services trade association.

Today’s consumers have many sources of data at our disposal. We can research everything from pots to pains, yet many of us make incorrect assumptions about one of the most important and basic decisions concerning our family’s financial future: purchasing life insurance.

Various factors determine your cost for life insurance, the most basic of which are age and health. Generally, your premium is lower the younger you are when you purchase life insurance. Additionally, premiums are lower for healthier individuals, and there are things you can do to lower your insurance costs.

  • Live a healthier lifestyle. Every choice has a consequence. Life decisions regarding tobacco use, food consumption, care for chronic illnesses and driving habits all affect the cost of your life insurance premiums. Making healthy life choices improves your quality of life and can lower your health risk and life insurance premiums.
  • Consider your recreation choices. While jumping out of an airplane may be an amazing rush, skydiving will likely increase your cost of life insurance. Dangerous pastimes such as scuba diving, skydiving and auto racing can adversely affect your risk and increase your premiums.
  • Make decisions based on facts, not fear. When making decisions on purchasing life insurance, make them based on facts. Do your research and know your options. A local independent agent can be an invaluable asset. Your agent can guide you to a plan that best meets your family’s needs and fits your budget.

Don’t just assume that you cannot afford life insurance. Learn the facts, and make an informed decision. Your family’s financial future may depend on it. Contact your Ayres Group Representative today.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com