The Type of Fire Extinguisher Every Home Should Have

A fire is a fire, and a fire extinguisher is a fire extinguisher, right? Well, not quite. There are actually different types of fires and different types of extinguishers that respond best to each one. So, which is right for you?

We’ll get to that, but first let’s look at the five different fire types, as outlined by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association:

  • Class A: Fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, etc.
  • Class B: Fires in flammable liquids, like gasoline, or flammable gasses, such as propane.
  • Class C: Fires in energized electrical equipment, such as appliances or motors.
  • Class D: Fires in combustible metals.
  • Class K: Fires in cooking oils and greases, such as animal and vegetable fats.

Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

For each fire class, there’s a fire extinguisher to match, and it’s important to use the right one. For example, an extinguisher rated for Class B fires only might not be appropriate to use on another fire. In fact, it might even be dangerous.

So, how do you pick a fire extinguisher? Do you need several? A good bet is a multipurpose extinguisher, which typically is rated for Class A, B and C fires and available at home improvement stores. This type of extinguisher is typically good for general living areas and will work on small grease fires, as well. Specialized kitchen extinguishers are available, too. (Note: Class K extinguishers are typically for large commercial kitchens.)

No matter which type you choose, you want:

  • An extinguisher that’s large enough to put out a small fire but not too heavy to handle safely.
  • One that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • One for each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Before you use a fire extinguisher – or try to fight a fire with any method – make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Is the fire small and contained?
  • Are you safe from toxic smoke?
  • Do you have a way to escape?
  • Do your instincts tell you it’s OK?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering “P.A.S.S.” when it’s time to use your extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever.
  • Sweep the hose from side to side. Once the fire is out, remain aware, because it can re-ignite.

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

It’s easy to just put an extinguisher in your kitchen cabinet and forget about it. But, by doing that, you run the risk of it not working when you need it most.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, some need to be shaken monthly, and others need to be pressure tested periodically. Follow the instructions on your specific extinguisher. Also, check regularly to make sure it’s not damaged, rusted or dirty.

Remember, a fire extinguisher won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work, and it won’t help if you can’t get to it, either. So, ensure it’s in an accessible place, not buried in the back of a closet.

Finally, don’t ever forget that sometimes your best bet is not using an extinguisher at all. It’s using your family escape plan to get you and your loved ones out of danger. If there’s any doubt, get out!

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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What Should Go in Your Home Safe – or Safe-Deposit Box?

Spring has arrived, which means it’s time to clean the cobwebs out of the corners, organize the closets and so forth. While you’re at it, don’t forget to revisit the important documents and other items you have in your home safe and in that safe-deposit box at the bank.

What documents do you need to keep? What can your shred? Are your valuable items properly secured?

Wait, what’s that? You don’t have a home safe? Or a safe-deposit box? Well, let’s look at why you may want to get one – or both – and what to keep inside.

Home Safes

Oftentimes these are well suited for safeguarding important documents and valuable things you access somewhat regularly, such as jewelry or watches. Keep in mind that while residential safes help protect against fire and theft, they often aren’t as robust as commercial models. For the best protection in a home safe, select a model that is heavy enough that a burglar couldn’t make off with it, and consider bolting it to the floor. Here are some of the things you may want to keep inside:

  • Insurance policies and your agent’s contact information.
  • Passports, original birth certificates and Social Security cards.
  • Photocopies of passports, credit cards and driver’s licenses, in case they are ever lost or stolen from your purse or wallet.
  • Tax documents and tax returns, from the past six to seven years.
  • A list of your family’s medical information and contacts, including doctors, pharmacies and medications.
  • Investment and banking documents, including billing contact information, as well as emergency cash.
  • Heirloom and other valuable jewelry and watches.
  • Wills and other important legal documents, including wills that list you as the executor.
  • Computer backup disks or drives, or other small electronics you don’t use regularly.
  • Safe-deposit box keys.

Safe-Deposit Boxes
Speaking of safe-deposit boxes, are they an old-fashioned notion or something that’s worth your while? To answer that question, U.S. News & World Report recommends gathering everything you might want to store in a safe-deposit box and then determining whether you feel secure enough storing it all at home.

If not, a safe-deposit box may be a better, more secure option. A bank is more heavily guarded that your home, after all – against theft, fire and other disasters.

If you do decide on a safe-deposit box, here’s what you might want to keep in it:

  • Originals of key documents, such as property deeds, car titles, etc.
  • Valuable collections or family keepsakes that you don’t access very often.
  • Pictures or videos from your home inventory to use for insurance purposes.

If not, store these items in your home safe. And, here’s what NOT to put in a safe-deposit box:

  • Anything you may need to access quickly, such as passports, powers of attorney documents, etc.
  • Not only will your money not earn interest in a safe-deposit box, it won’t be protected by FDIC insurance, either.

Remember, putting something in your home safe or a safe-deposit box is more secure than stashing it in your sock drawer, but it doesn’t guarantee anything, either. So, think about having document backups, as well as insurance for your valuable items.

After all, if something is valuable enough to lock up, isn’t it valuable enough to insure, too? Talk to your independent agent about your personal property coverage and about scheduling any high-value items, especially expensive jewelry and collectibles, separately.

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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5 Tips to Help You Care for Your Trees

They’re beautiful. They’re essential. And, left unchecked, they can damage your home, your property and that of others.

They’re trees. And, as with so many things in life, proper maintenance is critical. Keeping your trees healthy will allow you to continue to enjoy them and their benefits – one large tree can supply the daily oxygen needs of four people, according to the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Plus, properly maintained trees are less likely to fall on your home and your car or someone else’s. So, exactly how should you care for your trees? Here are some tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation to help keep trees healthy, identify warning signs and address problems.

  1. Plant the right species in the right place. Proper tree care starts with selecting and planting the right trees for your property. Avoid brittle ones, such as Silver Maples, Lombardy Poplars, Box Elders and Willows. They can produce weak limbs that fall and injure people or property. With a little research and a look around your grounds, you can determine what type and size of trees will do well in your area. Be sure to avoid planting too close to your home, near sewer lines or under power lines.
  2. Inspect often. The sooner you spot a problem, the sooner you can take corrective action – and potentially save your tree. Check them regularly, especially following a storm, and have a qualified arborist inspect them annually. What should you look for? The amount of leaf cover, as well as the color, size and condition of leaves are all signs of a tree’s health. If you notice a substantial change, start keeping a close eye on the tree. It may need to come down soon. Also consider the trunk’s health. A forked trunk or one with cavities, disfiguration or fungi is a weak, and potentially dangerous, trunk. However, if there’s a large amount of sound wood surrounding internal rot, for example, the tree may still be safe. Just monitor it closely.
  3. Prune the right way, at the right time. The first pruning should occur when trees are young, and then at regular intervals as they age. Make the cut outside the branch collar, and never allow trees to be topped. An arborist or your local nursery can provide more guidance.
  4. Remove dead or dying limbs and trees. Don’t sit on this, especially if the branch or tree is threatening nearby structures or people. And, don’t do it yourself, either. Taking down a large branch or tree, maybe even a small one, is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted by an expert. Also address branches that cross or rub, as both can lead to weak spots.
  5. Respect your neighbors. Are your trees a nuisance for or even a threat to your neighbors? Try to address the issue in a way that benefits you both. And, don’t forget to be mindful of being a good neighbor when you’re planting, trimming or otherwise caring for your trees.

Of course, even when you care for your trees to the best of your ability, they may still fall, especially during a storm. What happens then? If the tree was known to be damaged or defective, you may be held responsible for any resulting damages or injuries. So, if you have questions about fallen trees and insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to ask.

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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After the Storm, Is Your Food Still Safe?

The wind is howling. The rain is coming down in sheets. The power goes out for a few hours. And, then everything’s fine – except, maybe, all that food in your fridge and freezer.

The question is: Should you eat it or toss it? The answer: It depends – on a lot of factors, actually. To help you determine the best course of action, here are some insights and guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While the Power’s Out

Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer, if possible. Keeping the doors closed helps keep the cold in, potentially preserving your food for longer. How long? Typically food is safe for up to four hours in an unopened refrigerator and 48 hours in a full, unopened freezer (less if the freezer isn’t full). You can add block or dry ice to either if you think the power might be out for an extended period.

Once the Power Returns

When the lights blink back on, don’t just assume everything is OK. A few checks are in order first, especially if the power has been out for more than four hours. What’s not in order? Taste testing. You should never taste food to determine if it’s safe. Instead, follow these tips.

  • Meat, poultry and seafood: Discard raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood that may have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more. Same goes for thawing meat or poultry, along with tuna, shrimp, chicken or egg salad.
  • Dairy: Toss milk, cream, sour cream, yogurt and soy milk that may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. Butter and margarine are likely safe to keep.
  • Cheese: Discard soft cheeses, such as bleu, Brie, cottage and others, if they may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. Hard cheeses and processed cheeses should be safe.
  • Sauces and condiments: Mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish should go in the trash if they may have been above 50 degrees for more than eight hours. Toss creamy dressings such as ranch, but vinegar-based dressings may be safe to keep. Items such as peanut butter, jelly, relish, ketchup, barbecue sauce and pickles are typically safe.
  • Frozen food: Evaluate frozen (or now partially frozen) items individually. If the food still contains ice crystals, or is has stayed at or below 40 degrees, it should be safe to refreeze.

Prepare for the Next Outage

Not knowing whether or not your food is safe to eat is frustrating, to say the least. These tips will help to further unravel the mystery.

  • Keep appliance thermometers in your refrigerator or freezer. These will help take the guesswork out of determining whether your food has been holding at a safe temperature.
  • Keep a food thermometer handy, too. This will allow you to check individual items.
  • Consider using coolers and ice packs. If power is out for more than four hours, having these handy can help you protect expensive items, such as meats.
  • Have a supply of nonperishable food that doesn’t require refrigeration. And, don’t forget the can opener. Remember, even nonperishable food won’t last forever, so use it or replace it periodically.
  • Store food where flood water is unlikely to reach it. Never eat food that may have come into contact with flood water, unless it is in a completely waterproof container. Even sealed cardboard juice and milk cartons should be discarded.
  • Discard all food that has been near a fire in your home. It can be damaged by the heat, fumes or chemicals used to fight the fire, even if it appears to be OK.

Throwing out food is frustrating, too, so check your homeowners policy. Many provide coverage for food spoilage in such situations. However, because your deductible might be higher than the value of your food, a claim often doesn’t make sense unless you have other damage to your home.

Power outages and other emergencies are already stressful enough. Don’t compound that stress by eating food that could make you sick. If there’s any doubt, just go ahead and throw it out.

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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Navigate Rainy Roadways With Care

It’s just rain – how much impact can it really have on your driving?

The answer: a lot. You’re likely to experience lower visibility, reduced traction and increased difficulty in handling your car both during and after a rainstorm. Add flooding to the mix and suddenly things get much more challenging – and dangerous.

In fact, more than half of flood-related drownings are due to people driving into floodwaters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, never, ever do it. As little as 12 inches of rushing water can carry away a small car, and 24 inches can carry away most any vehicle, according to the National Weather Service, which emphasizes “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” when it comes to both walking and driving into floodwaters.

So, what about when the roads are wet but passable? From the rainy northwest, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) offers these tips for a safer approach to wet weather driving:

  1. Turn on your lights. Rain (and the spray from other vehicles) can significantly lower visibility. Make it easier for other drivers to see you.
  2. Slow down. It’s easy to lose control and hydroplane on wet roads, especially at speeds of about 35 mph or higher. Hydroplaning occurs when your front tires ride on a film of water instead of actually being in contact with the road. If it happens, ODOT recommends taking the following measures: “Ease off the gas, gently apply the brakes and steer straight ahead.” You’re also at risk of splashing water into the engine and stalling it when you drive at high speeds.
  3. Give people more room, and don’t use cruise control. You won’t be able to stop as quickly when the roads are wet – cars need two to three times more stopping distance.
  4. Expect things to be slick, especially if it hasn’t rained for a while. When a fresh rain mixes with engine oil and grease on the road, the combination can produce exceptionally slippery surfaces.
  5. Make sure tires have proper inflation and adequate tread. Both over- and under-inflated tires are dangerous even in normal conditions. As for checking the tread, use the penny test: Insert a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you see his entire head, it’s time for new tires.
  6. Keep up with general car maintenance. Make sure your wipers are functioning and that you replace the blades regularly. Also check your defroster, especially if you don’t use it often.

Remember, driving safely in inclement weather requires caution and patience. Give yourself more time to get where you’re going. If conditions are truly unsafe, pull over to a safe place (or stay home if you can). And, finally, don’t be caught with inadequate insurance coverage, either. Wet conditions make accidents more likely, so before you head out into the storm, make sure you have the coverage you need.

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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Going Solar? Here’s What to Think About First

For decades, solar panels have been going up on roofs across America, meaning that nowadays a roof can help protect you from the elements and help insulate you from rising electric costs. For some, the environmental benefit of renewable energy is an added draw, as is the potential to sell excess power back to the utility company.

Clearly, there are a number of reasons to consider going solar, but it isn’t right for everyone. So, before you start dreaming of $0 power bills, ask yourself these eight questions to help determine if solar power is a good fit for you.

  1. Does my home even get enough sun?
    You may be surprised – you don’t necessarily need a south-facing roof, as is commonly believed. Professional installers can estimate how much power you can expect from solar panels. They’ll measure shade and determine the optimal arrangement, giving you figures on total available energy.
  2. Can I get tax breaks or assistance to help pay for my system?
    In many instances, yes. From federal tax credits to state and local incentives, including rebates on systems, it’s very common for homeowners to realize savings on the solar installations themselves in addition to their energy bills. Your installer should know about current programs.
  3. Will it be worth my investment?
    Take a look at what you spend on electricity now, as well as your future needs. For example, if you live in an area with inexpensive power, such as from a hydroelectric dam, you might not benefit as much from solar as someone in a remote area with higher electric costs. But, don’t limit yourself to the here and now – think ahead, too. If you have a growing family, your energy costs are likely to grow as well. Conversely, if your kids are almost ready to leave the nest, your costs could be headed down already.
  4. Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance?
    A yearly inspection and regular cleaning will help keep your panels operating efficiently. Be sure to discuss the recommended cleaning schedule with your installer if you plan to own your own system. It will vary depending on the specifics of your locale. If you lease the panels, you likely won’t be responsible for maintenance. Likewise if a third party, such as a utility company, installs, owns and maintains the panels on your behalf – this is often in exchange for discounted electricity rates.
  5. When will I start saving?
    That depends on the option you select. Buying a system yourself means that you’re making a large investment that should pay off over time, while leasing one or entering into a different agreement may provide you with more immediate, but smaller, savings.
  6. How long does a system typically last?
    Depending on the panels you select, you may receive a 25-year or so warranty. Inverters often are guaranteed for 5-10 but may last much longer.
  7. How do I choose an installer?
    Look for positive online reviews, get recommendations from friends and neighbors and check with the Better Business Bureau.
  8. Will solar panels increase my insurance costs?
    Solar panels increase the value of your home, so you may need to increase your home insurance coverage, too. Talk through your needs with us before you install any system so that if your policy doesn’t already cover solar panels you can amend it to include your new system. And, don’t forget to add your system to your home inventory, too.

There are a number of great reasons to go solar, and perfectly valid reasons to stay on the grid, too. Whatever you decide, make a commitment to using energy efficiently and responsibly – that will benefit everyone, as well as the planet!

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need – solar, or otherwise – while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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Identity Protection Tips for Tax Season

What’s the most important number for you this tax season? The amount of your refund? The amount you owe? The number of hours spent poring over all the other numbers?

All of those are pretty important. But, none of them are as important as your Social Security number, at least not in the larger scheme of things.

That’s the number that puts you at greatest risk for identity theft, and, at this time of year, there are plenty of opportunities for potential thieves to nab it. It’s on the W-2 forms you get in the mail. The return you mail (or send electronically) to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Perhaps even in an email between you and your accountant.

If someone does steal your Social Security number (SSN), they can use it for more than just opening new credit accounts. They could file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund, too. You might not even realize it until you go to file your real return.

So, how do you keep your identity safe this tax season? These tips will help:

Safeguard Your Tax Documents

  • As W-2s and other tax documents start arriving in the mail each January, place them in secure storage, whether it’s a home safe or a locked drawer in a desk or filing cabinet, until it’s time to use them. This is also where documents and returns from previous years should be – under lock and key.
  • Help ensure tax documents reach you safely by keeping your address up to date with your employers, financial institutions and other appropriate parties.
  • After seven years, it’s safe to throw out old tax returns and supporting documents, after running them through the shredder.

Use Secure Delivery Methods

  • Never place your tax documents or return in an unsecure outgoing mailbox, even at your office. Use certified mail instead.
  • Dropping off your documents to your tax preparer? Don’t leave them unattended in the car or sitting out on your desk at work.

Protect Your Data When e-Filing

  • No matter if you use an app, software or a website, such as the IRS’s Free File, to e-file your taxes, be sure you do so from a secure network and an updated computer or device. No e-filing at your local library.
  • Your computer or device should already have the latest security software and updates installed, and you should already be using complex passwords (a mix of letters, numbers and special characters). Continue these measures during tax time.
  • If you’re sending tax documents via email, make sure they are password-protected.
  • Encrypt any sensitive data stored on your computer or backup drive.

Don’t Take the Bait

  • Learn to recognize phishing attempts, where thieves email or call and try to trick you into providing personal information. Remember, banks and other financial organizations typically will not request your account number or SSN when they contact you.
  • Keep in mind that the IRS will never attempt to reach you by phone or email, only by mail. If you do receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, don’t click on anything within it.

Know the Signs of Tax-Related Identity Theft

  • If you don’t receive a W-2 or other tax document you were expecting, it may have been stolen from your mailbox. Or, if you receive one you weren’t expecting, such as a W-2 from a company for which you’ve never worked, someone may be using your SSN fraudulently.
  • Envelopes containing your tax documents or returns have been tampered with.
  • The IRS will not accept your return because it already has one for you. In this case, you may need to mail your return (and any payment) instead of e-filing.

These precautions may make it harder for someone to steal your identity – but not impossible. So, what should you do if you become a victim of tax-related identity theft? First things first, contact the IRS at once. You can reach the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. You’ll likely need to fill out and submit the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.

These additional steps will also help:

  • Use the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Affidavit to record details about the crime. Then take it to your local police station and file a report.
  • Make use of your affidavit and police report as you work to close fraudulent accounts, correct your credit reports and more.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports to encourage creditors not to grant new lines of credit in your name without your consent. To do so, contact one credit bureau, which will share the fraud alert with the other two:
    Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    Transunion: 1-800-680-7289
  • Review your credit report for other signs of fraud. This may include inaccurate account information, accounts you never opened and more.

Tax time is probably never going to be fun, even if you never experience identity theft. But, being cautious can certainly help to minimize your risk and your stress – that is, until it’s time to write that check to the IRS.

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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Have Guns in Your House? 5 Things to Keep in Mind

The topic of guns can be very sensitive, but there’s one thing virtually everyone can agree on: Storing them safely is incredibly important, particularly in homes with children or even those where children occasionally visit.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure firearm safety at home – whether you have kids around or not. These five tips are a great start:

  1. Keep ’em locked… Not only should you store your firearms in a locked cabinet, safe or vault, you should also limit who has access to the key or combination – even if everyone in your family is a skilled shooter. In addition, use a gun-locking device so your firearms are inoperable when not in use. (This is not a substitute for appropriate storage, however.)
  2. … and unloaded. Before putting away a gun, first unload the ammunition. Then, the next time you go to take it out of storage, point it in a safe direction and reconfirm that it is not loaded.
  3. Separate guns and ammo. Keep your ammunition under lock and key, too – away from your guns. That way, if an unauthorized person does gain access to your firearms, he/she won’t be able to load them.
  4. Educate your family and others who visit your home. Everyone in your home – family members and short-term visitors alike – should know that there are firearms present. Remind children regularly that if they find a firearm – either in your home or someone else’s – they should alert a responsible adult and never touch or play with it.
  5. Remember “S.A.F.E.” Project ChildSafe educates firearm owners to: Secure your firearms when not in use; be Aware of those around you who should not have access to guns; Focus on your responsibility as a gun owner; and Educate yourself and others about safe handling and storage.
  6. Having firearms in your home can present unique insurance issues as well – both in terms of the value of the guns themselves and your liability coverage. Check with your independent insurance agent to see what your policy limits are regarding personal property coverage for firearms, as well as whether an umbrella policy might be the right option for additional liability protection.

    Whether you have one gun or an entire collection, always aim for safety. Your entire family, as well as your houseguests and neighbors, will thank you for it.

    Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

    Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

    Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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What to Do After a Car Accident in Winter

Freezing temperatures, gusts of wind, patches of ice – winter can be a horrible time to be on the road. And, an even worse time to get into a car accident.

But, with reduced visibility, slick roads and maybe even a reckless driver or two, accidents are bound to happen. So, what should you do if you experience one? Follow these five guidelines to help you stay safe while you wait for help to arrive after a car accident in winter:

  1. Respond calmly. Your first instinct following any car accident may be to jump out of the car and give the other driver(s) a piece of your mind. But, given traffic and road conditions, it may not be safe for you to get out of your vehicle at all (and, it’s never safe to act aggressively toward others). So, stay in your car, take a deep breath, turn on your hazard lights and check yourself and others for injuries. Keep in mind that, if you’re in shock, you may not notice your own injuries at first. If needed, call 911 to request medical and traffic assistance.
  2. Get off the road. If a minor accident leaves your car operable and no one involved requires emergency first aid, make clearing the roadway your next priority. Have all vehicles pull well off the road to reduce the chances of causing another accident. Just proceed with caution, especially if visibility is low. Other drivers on the road need extra time to react to slow-moving vehicles.
  3. If you can’t get off the road, stay in your car. Walking around the roadway is extremely dangerous if other cars are around, particularly with stormy weather and slick roads making it difficult for drivers to respond to unexpected hazards. So, stay in your car and fasten your seatbelt, in case another collision occurs. Wait there for assistance and instructions from emergency personnel. Or, if your car isn’t safe to be in, seek other protection.
  4. Stay visible, stay warm, stay put. Put up warning triangles and road flares, if you have them. Otherwise, tie a bright piece of cloth on your antenna or door handle so your vehicle is visible to others. If you’re running the engine to stay warm (make sure your tailpipe isn’t clogged with mud or snow or you risk being exposed to carbon monoxide), also turn on your running lights. Your vehicle emergency kit, stocked with blankets, extra clothing and more, will come in handy until emergency responders arrive. Because staying put is typically safer than heading out to seek help – you risk getting lost. And, leaving the scene of a serious accident can result in monetary fines.
  5. Collect pertinent details and report the accident. After any accident, it’s important to exchange insurance information with the other driver(s), jot down notes about what happened and even snap a few photos – just be sure not to put yourself in harm’s way in order to do so. Then contact your insurance carrier to file a claim and your roadside assistance service to request help.

And, what if you come across an accident involving others? So long as they aren’t in immediate danger, your best bet is likely calling 911 and letting the appropriate local authorities respond. Pulling over to help could cause additional problems, such as distracting other drivers and causing an accident yourself.

Remember, winter driving can be as unpredictable as the weather. So, keep your phone charged and your gas tank full, and slow down so you have extra time to respond – you need it when the roads are slick!

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Posted in California - Safety, Central - Safety, Mid-Atlantic - Safety, Midwest - Safety, Mountain - Safety, Northeast - Safety, Northwest - Safety, Southeast - Safety | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on What to Do After a Car Accident in Winter

Keep Your Drone In the Sky – and Out of Trouble

The holidays are over, and Santa’s sleigh is back at the North Pole. That doesn’t mean the skies over {states_primary} are empty, however.

Hundreds of thousands, if not a million, drones were likely given as holiday gifts in 2015, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates. That’s a lot of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (the official term) flying around. And, with very real concerns about privacy, liability and legality, there’s the potential for a lot of problems, too.

Whether you or a loved one got a drone over the holidays, or your {cities_primary} neighbor got one and you’re curious about regulations, here are five things to keep in mind for responsible flying:

  1. Practice, practice, practice. Don’t start off with a complicated “mission” right out of the gate. Learn how to maneuver your drone in an open field or empty parking lot. And, never use it in crowded areas, such as near stadiums, no matter how skilled a flyer you become.
  2. Obey the FAA. The agency, which regulates aircraft, says drones must be under 55 pounds and remain under 400 feet of altitude. Furthermore, operators must be U.S. citizens of at least 13 years of age. You shouldn’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you have permission from the airport and control tower. You’ll also need to register your drone, whether it’s brand new or you’ve been flying it for a while.
  3. Keep it personal. You typically don’t need approval to operate your drone as long as you’re using it recreationally – and following the FAA’s general guidelines. But, if you’re flying your drone for a commercial purpose, such as creating a professional video or taking business photos, you need authorization from the FAA.
  4. Limit your risk. Damage caused by your drone could lead to liability costs and fines, so check your homeowners insurance policy or ask us here at {agency_name_short} to see if you’re covered (not all policies cover hobby and model aircraft). And, if you use your drone commercially, remember that your homeowners policy won’t cover that at all.
  5. Be smart. All it takes to operate a drone safely and responsibly is a little skill and a lot of common sense. So, follow regulations and guidelines, and don’t endanger people or invade their privacy. The same goes for wildlife. Finally, if someone else’s drone is impacting you, try talking to them (or the authorities) before taking drastic measures.

Flying your drone responsibly takes a little more effort, and thought, than simply turning it on and taking off. But, you can still have a lot of fun – and get some cool pictures, most likely – while keeping yourself and those around you safe.

So, have fun up there, but always keep in mind what – and who – is down here.

Contact Us! At {agency_name_short}, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at {general_phone}, or send us a note at {email}. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Posted in California - 101, Central - 101, Mid-Atlantic - 101, Midwest - 101, Mountain - 101, Northeast - 101, Northwest - 101, Southeast - 101 | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Keep Your Drone In the Sky – and Out of Trouble