Fireplace Safety

Fireplace and Home Fire Safety

Fireplace Safety TipsWarm, cozy fires are very inviting, especially around the Holidays. We decorate our fireplaces with beautiful ornaments and fragrant pine and of course the stockings that are filled with goodies. Keep in mind, however, you will want to be vigilant about keeping it clean and safe.

The U.S. Fire administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to keep those home fires safely burning. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility.

• Keep Fireplaces clean.
• Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
• Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures the fire receives enough combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
• Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from getting into the room.
• Always use a metal mesh screen if you do not have a glass door. This keeps embers from getting in the fireplace area.
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Use only seasoned, dry wood.
• When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container at least 10 feet away from your home and other buildings. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

Source:  U.S. Fire Administration

By: Jane Williamson

Homeowners Insurance & Your Firearm

Owning a firearm is a major responsibility and requires significant insurance to go along with that responsibility.

Minnesota Homeowners Insurance, Minnesota Firearm SafetyIf you own a firearm, it’s a good idea to know what kind of coverage is available under the standard home insurance policy. You will need to consider both the personal property and the liability aspects of the policy. The property portion of your policy will cover your firearms if they are stolen or destroyed, whereas the liability coverage applies due to the accidental discharge of a firearm causing injury up to the limits of the policy; typically $100,000 to $500,000.

Like many items that are small, valuable and easily transportable, firearms are subject to a limit. In many cases, the firearm sub-limit is $1,000 – $2,500. If you need more coverage than is normally available on the home insurance, you’ll have to look for more specialized coverage. Your options will be to add a “rider” to your existing home policy; or you can purchase a separate, stand-alone policy. Riders are very common for items such as jewelry and antiques. In the case of firearms, you will need to ask your agent just how much coverage you would have. Because of the risk factors associated with firearms, it would be beneficial to purchase an Umbrella policy which provides additional liability protection.

A few tips for firearm storage and safety:

  • Store guns safely and securely to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Guns and ammunition should be stored separately.
  • Use a trigger or cable lock so it can’t be fired.
  • Store unloaded in a lockable container.
  • Don’t store firearms where visible.
  • Don’t store firearms with other valuables such as jewelry or cameras, etc.
  • If you have children, be EXTRA vigilant for obvious reasons.

On average, one Minnesotan dies every day by firearms while others suffer injuries. Firearms are the state’s second leading cause of traumatic brain injury deaths.

Sources: homeinsurance.org/firearms
iinc.org
Minnesota Department of Health

Download our FREE Home Insurance Report!

Minnesota Homeowners Insurance Report

Garage Safety

Is Your Garage Safe?

Garage Safety| Insurance AdvisorsAmericans suffer nearly 21 million preventable household injuries each year, and many of them occur in the garage. That’s because most of the 65 million U.S. garages are cluttered, disorganized and potentially unsafe!

Nearly all homeowners have at least one potentially dangerous item in the garage, including sharp tools and chemicals. What you may not know is that many of the chemicals stored in the garage are highly flammable – and may even be susceptible to spontaneous combustion. If not stored properly, gasoline and oily rags containing linseed oil or turpentine oil can be fire hazards.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the garage is the most common area of origin for home structure fires (20 percent of fires), and oily rags were the most common item to ignite first.

To help you safely store household items that may be flammable or combustible, here are some important safety tips from the NFPA

Gasoline

  • Store gasoline in a tightly sealed metal or plastic container that has been approved by local or state fire authorities or an independent testing laboratory. Never store it in glass jars or non-reusable plastic containers such as milk jugs.
  • Do not use or store gasoline near possible sources of ignition.
  • Fill portable gasoline containers outdoors only, and place the container on the ground before filling.

Oily Rags

  • Keep rags that have absorbed oils, such as linseed oil or turpentine, in a covered. metal can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Be sure the oily rags are thoroughly dried before collection or transport.

Other

  • Make sure pesticides, paint thinner, antifreeze and poisonous products are stored on high shelves out of reach or in locked cabinets.
  • Mount a fire extinguisher & first aid in the garage.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector rated for the garage.
  • Install a smoke alarm.

Sources: MN Safety Council
insurancenewsnet.com

Motorcycle Safety: Rally Time

Motorcycle Insurance| Insurance AdvisorsBikers & Motorists Need to Share the Road

Heavier than normal traffic during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally requires bikers and drivers to share the road for safety, officials with the South Dakota Highway Patrol and Office of Highway Safety caution.

Motorcycle traffic has increased since early summer and likely will continue to be heavy through the end of August. There has already been eight fatal crashes involving motorcycles this year. “Rally Time” puts thousands more motorcycles on the highways. Many of the fatal injury crashes involving motor cycles happen to inexperienced drivers.

The Highway Patrol reminds motorcyclists and motorists alike of the rules for sharing the road. Once again, it pays to follow a few safety tips.

  1. Motorcyclists should ride in single-file lines and avoid crowding he center line or crowding motorists.
  2. Motorists should remember not to crowd cycles. Motorcycles have the same rights on the road as motorists.
  3. Motorists and cyclists should follow the recommended speed limits. Motorcyclists should be especially aware of speed limits on curves.
  4. It is against the law to drink and drive. Motorists and cyclists must be sober when driving.
  5. Motorists, remember to buckle up. It’s the law.
  6. Motorcyclists are encouraged to wear helmets.

plainsman.com

Grilling Safety

Grilling Safety| Insurance Advisors| Plymouth MNEvery year dozens of people are injured and hundreds of fires are reported because of grilling accidents. With the popularity of outdoor cooking, the problem promises to get worse before it gets better.

The leading cause of injuries and fire from gas grills is leaking fuel lines. Improperly connected hoses, cracked or broken hoses, misaligned venturi tubes can release unlit propane that can quickly build up and cause an explosion. Modern gas grills are vented to prevent gases from building up inside cabinets so a slow leak doesn’t pose much of a danger, but turning off the gas at the source (the propane tank) is always the safest strategy.

When it comes to out-of-control gas grill fires, identify the source of the fire. If the fire is the grill itself then carefully turn off the control knobs and let the fire die down.

If the fire is under the grill and you can get to the fuel tank, turn off the tank. This should kill the fire almost immediately. If it does not, or if you cannot get to the tank valve, get away from the grill and call the fire department.

Charcoal presents its own risk due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Burning charcoal produces a lot of this gas. There were over 20 deaths in the US last year alone from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with charcoal grilling.

The leading cause of injury related to the use of lighter fluids, is attempting to relight charcoal. Pouring lighter fluid onto hot coals causes the fluid to quickly vaporize. These vapors can be extremely flammable. Without a strong wind the explosive vapors will not dissipate and will wait around for you to light the match.

Everything has risks. Knowing what those risks are and how to reduce them is key. When cooking outdoors, whether hot and fast grilling, or low and slow barbecue, there are a few things you need to know to make sure nothing goes wrong and how to get the most out of your cooking. There is more to outdoor cooking safety than just fire…continued in next week’s blog.

http://bbq.about.com/

Driving Safety: 5 New Safety Features

Car Safety Features| Insurance AdvisorsThere are 5 new safety features that could be on your next car.

Technology that saves lives – and fuel- is getting better and cheaper. That means it’s no longer confined to luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo. It’s showing up in mainstream vehicles like the Nissan Rogue and Ford Fusion.

“What we see today as slightly elitist technology is changing very, very fast,” said Steven Lunn, chief operating officer for TRW Automotive, which supplies electronics and other parts to car makers.

TRW says its newest radar is a quarter of the price of the model it sold 10 years ago. Its cameras are smaller and cheaper, too, making it easier to put multiple ones on each car.

Here are some up-and-coming features that drivers can expect on their next cars:

• Collision warning with automatic breaking:

New cars have radar and camera systems that warn you, with beeping sounds, of a possible front-end crash. Some even stop the vehicle, or at least slow it enough to make a crash less severe. More sophisticated systems apply the brakes if a car veers off the road and heads toward a moving or fixed object.

Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Infiniti, Volvo and other brands offer automatic braking to avoid a collision, but more automakers will follow soon.

• Advanced cameras:

Auto cameras are showing up on more cars ahead of a government requirement to install backup cameras, which is expected by 2015. But with cameras getting smaller and cheaper, automakers aren’t just putting them on the back of the car anymore. Honda has side cameras that come on automatically when a turn signal is employed, so drivers can spot obstacles while turning. Some car companies are adding cameras that can read wrong-way signs, detect large animals such as deer, and even note the colors of traffic lights.

• Lane Centering:

A camera can follow the road and gently nudge a car – using the brakes – to stay in the center of a lane. Some lane-keeping systems, sound a beep or vibrate the driver’s seat if a camera senses that a car is swerving out of its lane.

• Adaptive headlights:

Audi, Mercedes, Mazda and Acura have adaptive headlights that swivel in the direction the car is going to help drivers see around corners as they turn. And, many cars now have high-beam lights that sense oncoming traffic and dim automatically.

• Stop-start:

By 2025, new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon of gas. One feature will almost be a must-have; a stop-start device that shuts off the engine at a stop light and automatically turns it on when the driver releases the brake. – //insurancenewsnet.com

Mold & Your Home

Having mold present in your home causes a musty odor and can be hazardous to your health.

Black Mold| Homeowners InsuranceIf your home is flooded by a severe storm, a leaky roof or a broken pipe, mold spores could begin to spread due to the excessive moisture. Even though it is not visible, mold can still be lurking on certain objects within the household. Whether or not mold is covered by homeowners insurance often comes down to the source of moisture and the wording of a policy. Most basic homeowners insurance policies exclude coverage of damage caused by mold, fungi, and bacteria. Yet that doesn’t mean a mold claim will be denied automatically.

In most cases, if mold results from a sudden and accidental covered peril, such as a pipe bursting, the cost of remediation should be covered. That’s because technically the pipe burst is the reason for the claim, not the mold itself. Claims are more likely to be rejected if mold is caused by neglected home maintenance; long-term exposure to humidity, or repeated water leaks and seepage.

Moisture prevention is the key

The surest way to avoid having a claim denied is keeping mold at bay in the first place. Preventing mold and eliminating mold when it does occur are critical to protecting the value of your home.

To help prevent mold growth in your home, we suggest following these guidelines:

  • Lower indoor humidity with air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and exhaust fans.
  • Inspect hoses and fittings on appliances, sinks and toilets.
  • Use household cleaners with mold-killing ingredients like bleach.
  • Opt for paints and primers that contain mold inhibitors.
  • Clean gutters to avoid overflow and check roof for leaks.
  • Avoid carpet in wet areas like basements and bathrooms.
  • Remove and dry carpet, padding, and upholstery within 48 hours of flooding.

Generally, if items have been wet for two days or longer, mold has had the opportunity to set in. Other items that are made of more porous material may be at risk of mold infestation sooner than two days.  Remove carpet, wood or laminate flooring as mold can become trapped between the sub floor and the floor covering. Throw away sofas, chairs and mattresses that have sustained water damage. Contact a mold inspector through the help of your Insurance Advisor’s agent.

Warning

Because of the unknown effects to your health, vacate your home during the mold removal process. Never re-enter your mold-infested home without wearing a mask.

Sources: houselogic.com
ehow.com

Lightning Risk Reduction

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Lightning Safety

There is little you can do to substantially reduce your risk if you are outside in a thunderstorm. The only completely safe action is to get inside a safe building or vehicle. You are not safe anywhere outside.

Run to a safe building or vehicle when you first hear thunder, see lightning or observe dark threatening clouds developing overhead. Stay inside after you hear the last clap of thunder. Do NOT seek shelter under trees. If you are camping, go to your vehicle! A tent or picnic shelter are NOT safe places.

Plan Ahead!

Listen to your weather station on your radio or check your cell phone for weather forecasts.  Always have a emergency lightning safety  plan in place especially if you are with a group so you can have extra time to get everyone to a safe place.

If you are stuck outside, avoid water. Seek clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height. Seek ditches, trenches or the low ground. Seek a low, crouching position with feet together with hands on ears to minimize acoustic shock from thunder.

On the Water

The vast majority of lightning injuries and deaths on boats occur on small boats with NO cabin. It is crucial to listen to weather information when you are boating. If you are out and cannot get back to land and safety, drop anchor and get as low as possible. Large boats with cabins, especially those with lightning protection systems properly installed, or metal marine vessels are relatively safe. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces. Stay off the radio unless it is an emergency!

Stopping Activities

In general, a significant lightning threat extends outward from the base of a thunderstorm cloud about 6 to 10 miles.  Thunder can usually be heard at a distance of about 10 miles away depending on background noise. Traffic, wind, and precipitation may limit the ability to hear thunder at that distance. Stop your outdoor activities and go inside a building away from windows and doors and anything that conducts electricity such as corded phones, wiring, plumbing, and anything connected to these.  Above all else, don’t kid yourself – you are NOT safe outside.

www.nws.noaa.gov

Motorcycle Safety: How Was Harry Hurt?

Perhaps the most renowned study of motorcycle accident causes and countermeasures was done for University of Southern California by researcher Harry Hurt. He investigated 900 motorcycle accidents and analyzed another 3600 motorcycle traffic accident reports. The Motorcycle Safety Courses developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation are designed largely to build the skills that the Hurt Study found to be missing in the accident-involved rider. Some of the findings allows us to see some essential things we can do to avoid an accident.

Who hits us?

Motorcycle Safety

Most accidents involve a car violating our right-of-way. Most frequently, the car turns left in front of the motorcycle.

Where do we get hit?

Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with the car not only violating our right-of-way, but often traffic controls as well. Most accidents are on short trips, and occur close to the trip origin.

Why do we get hit?

The main reason is that the driver of the other vehicle does not see us in time to avoid the collision. Alcohol is involved in almost half of the fatal accidents. Most motorcyclists are vigilant with regard to drinking and driving.

Why aren’t we seen?

Conspicuity of the motorcycle is a critical factor; especially from the front of the bike.

How can we be seen?

Wear high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets. Helmets should be white or bright colors during the day and reflective material at night. It also means positioning our motorcycles where we can be seen in traffic.

How else can we avoid accidents? 

Pay attention! Be extra cautious if you have less than 5 months experience. Motorcycle rider courses reduce accidents and injuries by teaching the braking and swerving skills that are necessary. Remember to wear proper eye protection to avoid impaired vision which delays hazard detection.

How can we prevent injuries in an accident?

Heavy boots, jackets and gloves reduce or prevent road rash. Full coverage helmets increase protection and reduce face injuries.

By: Robert Vaughan