Surviving a Winter Road Trip

Winter Driving Safety MinnesotaIn Minnesota, the winter weather can quickly become your worst enemy during any outdoor adventure if you find yourself unprepared and caught in a winter storm. Although summer is the biggest time of year for vacationing, there are many people in this state who enjoy traveling during the winter months to take part in many winter activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, or skiing. If you plan to travel to an area you are unfamiliar with, it may be a good idea to map out the area and check out the forecast prior to travel. This time of year the weather is unpredictable and can get ugly very quickly. Inexperienced drivers or those who are unfamiliar with the area can easily become distracted, get lost, and make poor decisions that will adversely affect other drivers. If you find yourself in this predicament, remain calm and pull your vehicle safely off the road. This will allow you to take a moment to get back on course, and let other drivers continue on without incident.

Winter Driving Safety

Winter storms can cause roads to become extremely dangerous for travel and the normal rush hour traffic can seem even more intolerable as road conditions worsen throughout the day. With daily commuters traveling to and from work, and school in session, there is always increased potential for accidents when impatient drivers are inattentive to what is going on around them. A driver should never attempt to pass another vehicle at an excessive speed, and then cut back in front of that same driver who is using caution. This not only causes the other driver to brake unexpectedly and perhaps start sliding, but debris from the road can be kicked up onto their windshield and make it more difficult to see clearly. Tailgating is always a bad idea regardless of the road condition. It is however, more dangerous when the roads are icy because reaction time is greatly reduced.  Always maintain a safe distance behind another driver. Although your vehicle may be equipped to handle well in wintry conditions, the black ice on some roads is unforgiving to most vehicles. The road ahead may look fine, but it is possible that ice is lurking beneath a layer of sand or salt. If your vehicle has great traction and you don’t worry about the possibility that you may need to brake abruptly, just remember that ice reduces traction by 90 percent. Allowing extra reaction time may not get you to where you are heading as fast as you would like, but it will decrease the potential for an accident that is sure to cause a greater delay on the roads.

Keep A Winter Survival Kit In Your Car

Winter Survival Car KitWhether you are bound for the North Shore or simply making your daily trip to work or school, there are many situations in which the weather can be hazardous and require you to use extreme caution.  With unexpected large snow accumulation, high winds, blowing/drifting snow, and extreme temperatures, it can be a struggle to keep your car on the road to safely make it to your destination. In either case, when you see the warning for a winter weather advisory, prepare for the worst.  If you don’t need to head out during the storm, don’t. If it is unavoidable, be sure that you are well prepared with safety gear such as extra clothing, blankets, scraper/brush, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a stash of foods such as chocolate or meal bars. Winter storm warnings are for your protection.  If you desperately need to travel during a winter storm, please use extreme caution and be aware of these safety tips:  

Vehicle Safety

  • Check the tire pressure and make sure the tread is in good condition
  • Make sure you can see, test wiper blades, have plenty of fluid, get the snow off your car
  • Be prepared with jumper cables in the event of a stalled vehicle
  • Watch for patches of black ice, especially near bodies of water, bridges, overpasses, and high volume intersections
  • Use lower gears, drive at slower speeds, increase your following distance
  • Avoid travel in poor conditions when necessary

Roadside Emergency Tips

  • Skidding –  take your foot off the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want to go
  • Stranded –  stay inside the vehicle, don’t walk for help, keep window cracked when vehicle is running
  • Stuck in Snow – rock the car, move forward and back at least a foot to make an even path
  • In a Ditch – make a call if you are able, stay with the vehicle and keep flashers on

Get instant car insurance quotes or contact one of our Minneapolis Insurance Agents.

Are You Prepared for Another Cold Minnesota Winter??

Prepare for the Coldest Part of Winter

Bundled Up GirlIf you thought that November was cold…Welcome to January, the coldest month in Minnesota!  With average high temperatures in the 20’s and lows around 4 degrees, it is not surprising that nearly half of the home’s energy is used for heating this time of year.   During the winter season not only can energy costs skyrocket, but there is a greater risk for accidental fires in the home.  Alternative heating sources such as propane/space heaters, wood stoves, and fire places are a great way to reduce the fuel costs, but may be an accident waiting to happen if improperly used or maintained.  This type of negligence is the leading cause of fire related deaths during the season.   The cold weather in Minnesota sneaks up on us quickly.  When you get ready to use your furnace, be sure that the filters have been replaced, and it is working properly.  Also, change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors regularly. Taking the necessary precautions to prevent hazardous situations could decrease the risk of fire and prevent the loss of priceless possessions, your entire home, or even the life of a loved one.

If you own your home, Homeowner’s Insurance will protect you in case of a fire.  If you are a renter, some rental properties will be required to carry insurance that covers the dwelling, but you may want to research Renter’s insurance to protect your belongings and to ensure you have a place to stay in case you are displaced due to a fire.

To avoid accidents in the home and keep your family safe while trying to conserve energy, follow some of these tips below for the cooler months ahead:

Winterizing the Home

  • Cover the windows with plastic inside and out to prevent drafts
  • Seal off any air leaks with caulking
  • Check weather stripping around the doors
  • Turn off water valves outdoors and properly drain
  • Clean chimneys chutes, flues, and fire place interior prior to use

 Heating Alternatives

  • Keep flammables away from the heat source
  • Use a heavy duty screen around the fireplace to keep ashes and sparks contained.
  • Be sure to have a working carbon monoxide detector, smoke detectors
  • Never use your oven for heating purposes

Energy conservation

  • Monitor your thermostat
  • Turn space heaters off at bedtime or when you are not at home
  • Keep lights off in areas that are not in use
  • Use LED lights when possible
  • Close doors to rooms that are not in use

If you have any questions on your Home Insurance call (763) 536-8006 or visit DivingRates.com

Trick or Treat! Tips for a Safe Halloween

Carved pumpkin. Halloween Safety Tips.It is that time of year again in the heart of the Halloween Capital of the world, when the little Ghouls and Goblins swarm the streets and run throughout their neighborhoods to join in the Halloween traditions of “trick-or-treating”, attending neighborhood parties, and walking in parades.  To aid in the safety of these little travelers and avoid hazardous situations, make sure your yard is not a danger zone and use caution when driving in residential areas.

Halloween festivities are not confined to just neighborhood children.  Most local taverns and night clubs have costume contests, pub crawls, and other events that draw large crowds.  There are also many large haunted house attractions throughout the state that people will travel to.  Some homeowners continue to have annual parties and decorate their yards with spooky décor as part of the tradition.   Along with these adult activities, there is always potential for tragedy when alcohol is consumed.  It is always wise to have a sober driver to ensure that there are no driving catastrophes caused by carelessness and poor decisions.  More people are hit by cars each year due to inattentive and drunk driving.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the state reached 300 crash deaths in 2013.  Seven people lost their lives and 27 others were seriously injured in drunk- driving crashes during Halloween party weekends in the last five years (2008-2012). “Impaired driving typically rears its ugly head during the Halloween party period, which creates a dangerous environment on our roads and highways,” says Jody Oscarson, DPS Office of Traffic Safety impaired driving program coordinator. “Before you put on your costume and head out for the night, make sure you have a plan in place for a sober way home to avoid the dangers and consequences of driving drunk.” DPS also emphasizes the importance of pedestrian safety on Halloween. Trick-or-treaters and parents should review basic rules. (News Release, Office of Communications, MN Department of Public Safety October 24, 2013)

Halloween Safety Tips

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

  1. Stay in well-lit areas if possible
  2. Carry a flashlight or glow stick, wear reflective clothing
  3. Stay on the sidewalk, and use crosswalks at intersections
  4. Don’t run through yards
  5. Set out in groups or with an adult

Safe Driving Tips

  1. Reduce your speed limit when going through residential areas
  2. Avoid using your cell phone (including hands free)
  3. Never pass another vehicle that has stopped in front of you (many people bring their children from home to home and make frequent stops)
  4. Anticipate larger groups of people in the streets and more congestion in residential areas
  5. Do not drink and drive

Homeowner Safety

  1. Avoid fire hazards by using battery operated lighting, or LED lights inside your carved pumpkins, instead of candles
  2. Remove debris and other potential risks from your yard such as branches, stakes, posts; also, yard tools such as rakes, shovels, and other large items to prevent tripping
  3. Clear walkways and drive paths, have entries well lit
  4. Make sure decorations are secured and pose no threat to visitors
  5. Some addition homeowner insurance may come in handy if you have elaborate decorations, and are planning to entertain friends

From everyone one at Insurance Advisors, Happy Halloween!

Sources: MN Department of Public Safety

 

Indoor/ Outdoor Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Here are some things you should be doing to your home and yard before the snow fly’s!  Doing home maintenance to your home can save you some cold hard cash and hopefully keep you from having to call a repair person this winter.

Indoor Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Smoke Alarms

Fall Home Maintenance Tips -  Minneapolis - Insurance Advisors

Replace smoke alarms and not just the batteries. You should always change the batteries in your smoke alarm twice a year, but did you know that after 10 years you should replace the entire smoke alarm unit? Like many devices, smoke alarms can stop working. Keep your family safe by following the manufacturer’s instructions on when to replace your smoke alarm.

Water Heater

Several times a year you should drain the sediment from your water heater. Calcium carbonate and other minerals are produced when the water is heated. This sediment falls to the bottom of the tan and builds up overtime. If the sediment accumulates it can harden, possibly causing the water heater to overheat and it may even explode.

Dryer Lint Vents and Ducts

Clean the lint from your dryer vents. Lint collects in more places than just the dryer vent. As it collects in the ducts and vents it can block air flow causing the motor to overheat and start a fire.

Furnace

Change your furnace filters. replacing your furnace filters monthly can help save you money on your heating and cooling bills. get a tune up for your furnace. yearly maintenance can reduce your energy use.

Lower your thermostat or install a programmable thermostat.  For every degree you lower your thermostat you can save 1 to 3% on heating bills.  Programmable thermostats cost as little as $50 and can save you on average $180 per year in heating costs.

Test run your furnace before heating season begins, you don’t want to find out it’s not working properly when the temperature hits -20 degrees outside.

Heating Vents

Make sure your vents are not blocked so heat can circulate freely and keep your home warm and cozy.  Consider having someone calk the seams and joints where the duct work is connected to prevent air from escaping out causing heat loss.

Check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks

You can purchase an inexpensive test badge or an alarm that will monitor for carbon monoxide on a regular basis.  (Having one may qualify you for a discount on your home owner’s insurance policy)

Air Conditioners

Clean the air conditioning condensing coils and fan blades of debris with a hose.  Covering the AC unit to protect it from the snow in the winter will prolong the life of the unit.

Remover your window air conditioning unit and store it for the winter.  If storing it is not an option, close the vents and cover the unit on the outside of the window to keep the condensing unit free of dirt, debris and snow.

Windows

Consider putting plastic on your windows to keep cold air out.  Put caulk around the window and door frames where the window frame meets the drywall to seal up air leaks.

Water Pipes and Water Heater

By insulating your water pipes and your water heater, you will lessen the chance of frozen pipes and pay less for hot water.  You can purchase foam pipe insulation at the local hardware store.  Putting a water heater blanket on the water heater tank will help keep the heat in the tank and make it work more efficiently.

Outdoor Fall Home Maintenance Tips

  • Turn off the water to exterior faucets.  Disconnect and drain garden hoses for winter storage.
  • Clean the gutters and downspouts of any wet leaves.  This will help prevent those dreaded ice dams!
  • Winterize your Sprinkler System:Turn off the water supply and blow compressed air through the lines to remove any water from them.  This will prevent the pipes from freezing and bu
  • Cover and put away patio furniture.
  • Put a fresh coat of sealer on the deck to protect it from the snow.
  • Drain the mower’s gas tank or let it run out of gas.
  • Drain water fountains, unplug the pumps and prepare them for winter per the instructions in the owners’ manual.
  • By being proactive on the maintenance of the mechanical systems in your home you are also preventing the chance of having to make a claim with your home owners’ policy and this can help keep your insurance rates down.

Contact your agent at Insurance Advisors, Inc to find out what you can do to keep your insurance rates down.

 

Help Curtail Aggression Behind the Wheel

Join Insurance Advisors, Inc and Safeco Insurance in taking a pledge to be a more courteous driver in Drive It Forward Fridays (#DIFF)

SafeCo drive it forward Fridays logoSummer travel season has started, and you have a chance to help make driving in and around Minnesota more pleasant and safer for everyone.

We at Insurance Advisors, Inc are joining Safeco Insurance in asking drivers to participate in Drive It Forward Fridays (DIFF). To take part, drivers can visit www.safeco.com/diff or use the hashtag #DIFF on Twitter to pledge to be a more courteous driver and to share their positive driving actions.

“Helping to promote better driving makes the roads safer for everyone in our community,” said Patty Czock, Vice President, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

A new Safeco Insurance survey found that more than four out of five drivers have experienced others’ aggressive driving behavior, and it impacts them negatively.

Only 36 percent of those surveyed admitted to driving aggressively. Yet, 85 percent describe other drivers as aggressive, and 82 percent said it’s others’ behavior on the road that makes driving a negative experience.

Not all the news is bad. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said that they’d be willing to make at least one change to their own behavior to make driving more pleasant for everyone. So as the summer travel season kicked off, Safeco Insurance launched the Drive It Forward Fridays campaign to encourage drivers to take positive steps to counter negative driving behavior that can be dangerous.

Insurance Advisors, Inc. is proud to support Drive it Forward Fridays and we’ve made our pledge!

School Bus Safety & Awareness

School Bus Safety Tips & Facts

School bus safety awareness.It’s that time of year where the dog days of summer goes from swimsuit clad kids to kids loaded with school supplies and heading to the bus stop!

While Waiting for the Bus

  • Arrive with plenty of time to spare; rushing to catch the bus can lead to injuries.
  • Walk on the sidewalk or if no sidewalk is available walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
  • Always walk to the bus stop
  • Stay six feet from the curb so the bus driver can see you. That’s 3 big steps for most kids.
  • Never speak to strangers and NEVER get into a car with a stranger (Parents inform your kids about the lost puppy/kitten ploy strangers may use to get them in the car)

On the Bus

  • Find a seat right away and sit down
  • Don’t hang out the window or throw things out the window
  • Use your indoor voice on the bus
  • In an emergency, listen to the driver and follow directions

Exiting the Bus

  • When leaving the bus walk six feet away from the door (three big steps)
  • Stay clear of the bus wheels and watch for moving cars
  • Never try to return to the bus for anything you may have left behind, the driver may not see you returning

Drivers Be Alert for Students and Buses

  • If you drive in a school zone during your commute be aware of the schools start and end times. Consider an alternate route to help reduce traffic congestion in the area of the school
  • Follow posted speed limits in school zones.
  • Do not pass a stopped bus if the red lights are flashing and the stop sign is extended
  • Wait for the flashing lights to stop and the bus to begin moving before proceeding

School Bus Facts*

  • School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and prevent injury
  • School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children to and from school
  • School buses keep an estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning

*These facts were provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

If your children ride the bus or walk to school from a childcare provider’s home, you should check with that provider to make sure that they have the proper liability coverage to protect your child in the event something should happen off the child care provider’s property.   Homeowner’s liability coverage is premise only coverage.

By: Chistine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors Inc.

College Student Renters Insurance

As you start to gather all the necessary items your college bound child needs for school don’t forget to think about insurance!

College student with parent looking over handbook.What’s Covered?

Most homeowners’ policies will provide coverage a student’s personal property if the student is living in dorms or university owned housing.  It is usually around 10% of what a parents’ coverage is; if a parents personal property coverage is $100,000, a students’ personal property coverage would be $10,000.

Know what they took to college!

When you and your student pack for college, take the time to make an itemized list and photograph each item, and if available include a copy of the purchase receipt.  This will make the claims process go much smoother if an item is lost, stolen or damaged.

Students living off campus might not be covered by their parent’s homeowner’s policy.    A student can purchase their own renters policy that typically cost about $100 – $150 per year for $15,000 worth of coverage.

Coverage may vary from one insurance company to another, be sure to check with Insurance Advisors, Inc. for exact details of your policy.

By: Chistine Gaffron

Download our free insurance claims process tip-sheet!
Download our free insurance claims process tip sheet.

 

Water Safety

House with a pool in the backyard.Summer means swimming and water sports. With all the fun to be had, don’t forget about water safety!

  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.
  • Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone. Even at a public pool or a life guarded beach, use the buddy system!
  • Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and Learn-to-Swim courses.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits based on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.
  • Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water including ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
  • If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.
  • Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.

Prevent Unsupervised Access to the Water

  • Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.
  • Ensure that pool barriers enclose the entire pool area, are at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching and open outward, and away from the pool. The latch should be high enough to be out of a small child’s reach.
  • If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover whenever the pool is not in use.
  • Remove any structures that provide access to the pool, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.
  • Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.

Maintain Constant Supervision

  • Actively supervise kids whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach—designate a responsible adult to supervise.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.

Know What to Do in an Emergency

  • If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • If you own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
  • Enroll in Red Cross home pool safety, water safety, first aid and CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies.

From all of us here at Insurance Advisors, Inc. Have a fun and safe summer in the water!

By: Christine Gaffron

Source: RedCross.org

Homeowners Insurance: Child’s Play can be a Liability

Homeowners Insurance and Playtime

Boy riding his bike.

With summer in full swing the neighborhood streets are filled with children playing. As you send your children out to play be aware of the liability they can present.

If your child somehow causes damage to your neighbor’s property, your homeowners insurance will cover it if your child is legally liable for the damages. If someone is injured on you property your liability coverage or a person umbrella policy should cover the claim.

It’s a good idea to know when other children are playing in your yard and to know where your children are playing if not in your own yard. If a child is injured while playing on your property you may be liable for medical and other expenses. Make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to keep any visitors to your property safe and protect yourself financially with the proper insurance coverage or a personal umbrella policy.

Scooters and battery powered toy vehicles are fun to play with but may not be covered under your homeowner’s policy if someone becomes injured or causes property damage when using them. Check with your insurance agent to ensure adequate coverage for these items.

Inform your agent of any changes to your property. Trampolines and swimming pools may be considered an “attractive nuisance” – a legal principle that makes a homeowner responsible if a child trespasses onto your property and injured on a trampoline or swimming pool. Not all insurance companies will provide you with liability coverage for these items. Protect yourself by adding a fence around your yard with a self-closing, latching gate. Pool alarms provide extra security and protect you from people wanting to “take a dip” without permission.

Even though you’ve provided extra protection, nothing can replace your attentive supervision when children are playing in the yard.

From all of us at Insurance Advisors, Inc. be safe and enjoy your fun in the sun!

Safely Grilling in the Backyard

Summers mean backyard grilling – safely!

Hot dogs on a grill.Just like hamburgers and hot dogs a sizzling grill is a symbol of summer and grilling isn’t just about great food. Backyard barbecues often create treasured memories with friends and family.

Keep in mind, however, that when you grill, you’re literally playing with fire. Thousands of residents each year learn this the hard way, suffering damage to their homes or even serious injuries in grilling accidents.

There’s good news, though: you can prevent grilling accidents by taking some simple precautions. The tips below can help ensure you cook only your burgers – and not your house – the next time you fire up the grill.

Tips for All Grills

  • Your grill, whether gas or charcoal, should be on a level surface outdoors, away from anything that could be ignited by flames (bushes, fences, etc.).
  • NEVER use a grill indoors. Odorless carbon monoxide fumes could kill you.
  • Keep your grill clean and well-maintained. Check parts regularly to determine if replacements are needed.
  • Never leave a hot grill unattended or let children play near it.

Charcoal Grill Tips

From Kingsford.com

  • Do not add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. The flame could travel up the stream of fluid and burn you.
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire.
  • Use flame – retardant mitts and long-handled barbecue tongs, as coals can reach up to 1,000 degrees.
  • To dispose of coals, allow the ashes to cool for at least 48 hours before disposal in a non-combustible container. If you cannot wait 48 hours, carefully place coals individually in a can of sand or a bucket of water.

Gas Grill Tips

From the National Fire Protection Association

  • Check your grill’s hoses for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If you have a leak, and it will not stop after the grill and gas is turned off, have your grill serviced by a professional.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
  • Do not keep a filled propane tank in a hot car or trunk. When getting containers refilled, make that your last stop before going home.
  • Store propane tanks in an upright position, and never indoors.

From all of us at Insurance Advisors, Inc. happy grilling and stay safe this summer!