Thanksgiving Turkey Preparation Safety Tips You Need To Know

Thanksgiving

ThanksgivingThanksgiving will be here before we know it and chances are you’re already planning your menu. Everyone loves the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and lets not forget the main star…the turkey! But there are a few thinks to keep in mind when preparing your turkey this Thanksgiving.
  • Thawing – There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven.
  • Preparation – After preparing the turkey, thoroughly wash your hands and disinfect utensils or surfaces to avoid bacteria from the turkey spreading to other foods.
  • Stuffing – The safest way to prepare stuffing is to cook it outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you prefer to cook the stuffing in the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a save minimum internal temperate of 165 degrees F.
  • Cooking – Be sure the turkey is completely thawed, and set the oven a minimum temperate of 325 degrees F. Make sure the stuffing, breast, thigh, and wing joint reach a safe minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Rest –  When finished, let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.
As long as you follow the above steps you will have a safe and delicious turkey! If you cook your turkey other ways such as smoker or deep fryer ensure you follow proper instructions for each device and keep a safe distance from your home or other structures. No one needs a homeowners insurance claim during the holidays.

Important Chimney Maintenance Tips You need To Know

chimney maintenance

chimney maintenanceIn spite of the ambiance and relaxation that a fireplace provides, there are also inherent fire dangers. To combat the risk of fire or inhalation of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, it is important for you to make chimney maintenance part of your home maintenace plan. Follow these tips to keep your chimney in good shape and prevent fire hazards.

General Chimney Maintenance Tips

Both metal and masonry chimneys require maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly. At the very least, you should have your chimney inspected annually before each heating season. In addition:

  • Have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to reduce creosote buildup.
  • Make sure your masonry chimney has a flue liner in place to reduce the possibility that the masonry could absorb creosote.
  • Replace damaged liners, as they will allow creosote to accumulate and heat to escape.
  • When hiring someone to reline your chimney, only allow the contractor to use a product that has been tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Specific Chimney Maintenance Tips

There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to limit the risks in your home.

  1. Fireplace inserts—Make sure the vent is connected to the flue of the chimney.
  2. Factory-built metal chimneys—Do not use natural gas, fuel oil vents, well casing, stovepipe or other material in the chimney, as they cannot withstand the heat in the wood burner.

Keep These Precautions in Mind

Do not vent more than one heater or appliance into a single flue, as major complications can arise. If one fuel-burning appliance is connected to a flue and then you attach another appliance, such as a water heater, you are running the risk of various problems. Such problems include heavy creosote accumulation, deterioration of the flue or CO gas drifting into your home.

For additional home maintenance guidance and homeowners insurance solutions, contact us today.

Halloween Doesn’t Need To Scare Your Bank Account

Halloween

Halloween

What do you get when you mix costumes, decorations, and candy? A Happy Halloween!!
Those that have children, probably feel the sting a little more while at the check-out. But Halloween doesn’t need to break the bank.

A few tips to keep in mind to help you save money

  • Buy bulk candy to get the most for your money.
  • Ration out how much you will give each Trick-or-Treater.
  • Buy pumpkins close to Halloween to get the best deal.
  • Make your own decorations – use leaves for stuffing in outside decorations, spray paint cardboard or cereal boxes for DIY headstones, or use cotton balls as cobwebs.
  • Make your own costumes or only buy what you have to.

Halloween Safety Tips

In addition to saving money, your family’s safety is extremely important. Costumes, trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving are all Halloween traditions. But there are also dangers associated with each of those activities.

Costume Precautions

  • Do not let children wear baggy or long costumes, as they are difficult to walk in and can be tripping hazards.
  • Purchase wigs, costumes and accessories that are fire-retardant.
  • Select face makeup and paint that is labeled as “FDA Approved” or “Non-toxic” to prevent allergic reactions.
  • Place reflective tape on your children’s costumes and candy buckets if they are going trick-or-treating at night.

Trick-or-Treat Safety

  • Remind children to walk only on the sidewalk and look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Do not allow children under 12 years old to go trick-or-treating by themselves.
  • Remind children to never approach or get into a car with a stranger offering them candy.
  • Once your children get home, inspect their candy.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

  • Only carve pumpkins on a flat surface with good lighting, such as a kitchen table.
  • Use a pumpkin-carving kit that includes tools appropriate for the task.
  • Place lit jack-o’-lanterns away from flammable objects such as sheets and curtains.

Having a good time does not mean spending a lot of money. Even on a budget you can have a spooky Happy Halloween!

6 Things You Need to Know for Camping Safety

camping safety

camping safetyCamping is an activity enjoyed by millions of Americans each year. To keep the experience fun and safe there are some basic precautions that every camper should take. We have put together a list of 6 things you need to know for camping safety.

Essentials

Before setting out it is important that you have the following items:

  • A medical kit—It should include a topical antibiotic, bandages, cotton swabs, diarrhea medication, antacids, scissors, tweezers and burn ointment, at a minimum.
  • Flashlights—Bring several, and ensure beforehand that they are working correctly. Carry along some extra batteries as well. You may wish to purchase an LED flashlight; although more expensive, they last much longer.
  • Water—It is never a good idea to drink from natural water sources such as lakes or streams. Bring along bottled water, water purification tablets or a water purifier. If you decide to bring bottled water, figure a gallon per person per day to cover drinking and cooking.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses—Being out in the sun for hours at a time—much less days—can cause irreversible skin and eye damage not to mention the immediate discomfort sunburn will bring to your trip.
  • Waterproof matches— Even if everything else is wet, you can still make a fire.
  • Insect repellant—Not only is sunburn unpleasant, but bug bites can be nasty too.
  • Extra clothing—As hot as it may be during the day, nighttime may be an entirely different story. In addition, should your clothing get wet, you will want dry items to change into.

Tent Placement

It is important to consider the weather while choosing a site to set up camp. Avoid low-lying areas that could flood during a heavy rain. Also, in windy situation avoid setting up your tent under a tree, as possible falling limbs could present a danger. Camping Safety is a priority. 

Animals

  • Never approach or feed a wild animal. While it may look safe, their actions can be unpredictable.
  • If camping in bear country, ensure that all dishes and food are kept at least 200 yards away from where you plan to sleep. Hang cooking utensils and food from a tree while not in use.
  • If you bring along family pets such as the dog, make sure he or she is properly supervised. It is important that your pet does not interfere with nearby campers or indigenous wildlife.

Campfires

Before starting your campfire:

  • Clear the area of overhanging branches and brush.
  • If possible surround the fire pit with rocks and keep a bucket of water nearby.
  • Do not build the fire near the tent(s) or anything else flammable.
  • Never leave a fire unattended and ensure it is completely out before going to bed.
  • Collect firewood from the ground only, never cut into living trees.

Activities

  • Do not hike alone. Bring along a compass, water, snacks, a flashlight, and your cellphone if it operates in that area. The American Red Cross recommends a minimum of four people hike into an unfamiliar remote area, because if one person gets hurt, one can stay with him/her while the other two go and get help.
  • Always supervise children in the water, even if they know how to swim. It is advisable that if the camping site is around water, every camper should know how to swim.

Food Safety

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold—Bring a cooler with a cold source; since it is difficult to keep items hot, it is suggested that you cook them ahead of time, cool them, and transport them cold to be heated up later.
  • Keep everything clean—Bacteria present on raw meat and poultry can easily spread to other foods, called cross-contamination.
    o When transporting raw meat, double wrap or double bag the products.
    o Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat.
    o Never use the same platter and utensils for raw meat and cooked.
    o Always cook all cuts of pork, ground beef and lamb to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. All poultry, hot dogs and leftover meat should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a meat thermometer along with your              cooking supplies.
    o Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dishwashing.

If you are camping for more than one night, you may want to bring the following:

  • Peanut butter in a plastic jar
  • Concentrated juice boxes
  • Canned tuna, ham, chicken or beef
  • Dried noodles and soups
  • Dehydrated foods
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Powdered milk and fruit drinks

Make sure you clean up all trash and belongings when leaving your campsite. Always strive to leave things better than you found them so other will get the chance to fully enjoy the beauty of nature just as you have. These camping safety tips should help ensure you have a fun, safe experience! 

What You Need To Know For Summer Cook Out Safety

Cook Out

Cook OutIt’s getting warmer and you know what that means? It’s time to get out the grills and cook out! As soon as the weather get nice, most families take the cooking duties outdoors. From dinner to family cookouts, fun in the sun includes the gas or charcoal grill. In spite of how great grilled foods taste, gas and charcoal grills account for an average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries and $40 million in property loss each year! (According to the United States Fire Administration). 

We want you to have a great time with your outdoor cook out, but also be safe. Keep reading for some important safety tips. 

Food Safety

  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw and cooked foods separate by not using the same platters or utensils. 
  • Cook your food thoroughly. Cooking on a grill often results in quicker browning of the meat on the outside, but the inside typically remains raw. Use a food thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked properly. 
    • All raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. 
    • All ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 F. 
    • Poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. 

Avoid Grilling Mishaps

  • Don’t let children and pets play near the grilling area when cooking until the grill is completely cool. 
  • Place your grill at least three feet away from other objects including your home, trees and outdoor seating. 
  • Use starter fluid for barbecue grills that use charcoal only. Do not use starter fluid for gas grills. 
  • Check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to make sure it is not leaking and is working properly before using a gas grill. 
  • If you suspect that your gas grill is leaking, turn off the gas and get the unit fixed before lighting. Never use a match to check for leaks.
  • Do not bring your grill into an unventilated or enclosed space such as the garage or inside of your home. This is not only a major fire hazard; it is also a carbon monoxide hazard. 

Cook Out Carefully To Prevent Fires

  • Wear tight-fitting clothing that cannot drape over flames or into pans.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back.
  • Do not place oven mitts, hand towels or hot pads on or near the range.
  • When you are done cooking a meal, double-check to make sure that all appliances are turned off.
  • Unplug portable appliances when they are not in use.
  • When cooking on your range, turn on the vent hood fan to minimize any smoking. 
  • If your gas range does not light on its own, be extremely careful when lighting it.

           If The Event Of A Fire:

  • Turn off the gas or electrical appliance that is fueling the flames, if possible.
  • If the fire is in a pan on your range, cover the pan with its lid or a baking sheet. If this does not work, use a fire extinguisher or sprinkle baking soda on the pan.
  • In the event you are cooking with oil and it catches fire, DO NOT pour water on the flaming pan. This will make the fire worse.

We hope that you take the time to use these simple safety tips to have a great summer cook out season with your friends and family! 

Hearing Loss, Risk Factors and How To Prevent It?

hearing loss

Approximately one in five Americans are deal with some type of hearing loss. Often unavoidable due to the natural process of aging, hearing loss can also result from exposure to loud noises over time.

Types of Hearing Loss

The two most common types of hearing loss are sensorineural and conductive.

Sensorineural

Sensorineural—Also called nerve deafness, this is the most common type of hearing loss, affecting one out of five people by age 55. It usually comes on gradually, but rarely results in complete deafness. People who have this type of hearing loss can hear speech but often have difficulty understanding it, especially with background noise.

There are a range of causes for sensorineural hearing loss, including:

  • Exposure to loud or persistent noise
  • Meniere’s disease (an abnormality of the inner ear)
  • Meningitis, or viruses such as mumps or measles
  • Heredity or birth defects
  • Head injuries
  • Blows to the ear
  • Circulatory problems
  • Allergic and metabolic defects

Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible but can usually be helped with the use of hearing aids.

Conductive

Conductive—This occurs when the ossicles, the three tiny bones of the ear, fail to conduct sound to the cochlea, or inner ear. It can also occur when the eardrum fails to vibrate in response to sound because of a mechanical problem, such as fluid in the ear or disruption of the ossicles.

There are several causes of conductive hearing loss, including:

  • Infection
  • A buildup of earwax
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • A punctured eardrum

People with conductive hearing loss can be treated successfully with medicine or surgery, as well as with hearing instruments. Some people have both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss; these people can be treated with hearing aids as well.

Some other conditions that cause hearing loss or adversely affect people’s hearing are:

  • Presbycusis—This is hearing loss due to normal aging, and therefore most common for elderly people. It is caused as hair cells become old and brittle or are destroyed. Presbycusis is generally a type of sensorineural hearing loss but sometimes can be a conductive hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus—Also known as “ringing in the ears,” it is the sensation of sound that does not exist. About one third of all adults experience tinnitus at some point, and 15 percent of adults require medical evaluation for their tinnitus. It can be caused by a number of factors including earwax buildup, eardrum perforation and ear infections.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Hearing loss is often so gradual that it goes unnoticed by the sufferer and is discovered by family, friends or a routine hearing test. The following symptoms may indicate hearing loss:

  • Nervous tension, irritability or fatigue from the effort to hear
  • The belief that people are mumbling or not speaking clearly
  • Straining to understand conversations in social settings or at work
  • Frequently misunderstanding or needing to have things repeated
  • Watching people’s faces intently when listening
  • Increasing television or radio volume to the point where others complain
  • Recurrent ear infections, constant ear ringing or dizziness

Some people have an increased risk of experiencing hearing loss, such as:

  • Those with a family history of hearing loss
  • People with diabetes, or heart, thyroid or circulation problems
  • Those who are exposed to high noise levels from things like tractors, factory machinery, firearms or power tools, without proper ear protection

Hearing Aids

A hearing aid is an electronic, battery-operated device that amplifies and changes sound to allow for improved communication.

There are three basic types of hearing aids:

  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids fit completely in the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss, but are not usually worn by children because the casings need to be replaced as the ear grows.
  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids are worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic earmold that fits inside the outer ear. BTE aids are used by people of all ages for mild to profound hearing loss.
  • Canal aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two sizes. The In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is customized to fit the size and shape of the ear canal and is used for mild or moderately severe hearing loss. A Completely-in-canal (CIC) aid is largely concealed in the ear canal and is also used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss.

Protecting Your Hearing

It is difficult to protect yourself from hearing loss due to aging or certain other conditions. However, it is possible to protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss. Be aware of the sounds that can be dangerous to your ears and take steps to avoid or reduce them.

  • Keep the volume turned down on your stereo, phone and television.
  • Make sure the noise in your workplace does not exceed federal regulations.
  • Wear earplugs with at least 20 decibels of protection when you are exposed to loud noises.
  • Regular hearing tests can alert you to hearing loss as soon as it starts, allowing you to enact preventative measures.

What Is Two-factor Authentication And Why Is It Important?

two-factor authentication

two-factor authentication

As cyber attacks become more and more common, protecting your data is increasingly difficult. In fact, a study from Juniper Research found that by 2023, cyber criminals are expected to steal an estimated 33 billion records. In light of the growing number of cyber attacks, many companies are turning to two-factor authentication to enhance their cyber security. This is also commonly called 2FA or multifactor authentication. While no cyber security method is foolproof, using two-factor authentication can add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. So how exactly does two-factor authentication work?

What is Two-factor Authentication?

While complex passwords can help deter cyber criminals, they can still be cracked. To further prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to employee accounts, two-factor authentication is key. It adds a layer of security that allows companies to protect against compromised credentials. Through this method, users must confirm their identity by providing extra information when attempting to access corporate applications, networks and servers. Examples can include a phone number or unique security code.

With two-factor authentication, it’s not enough to just have your username and password. In order to log in to an online account, you’ll need another “factor” to verify your identity. This additional login hurdle means that would-be cyber criminals won’t easily unlock an account, even if they have the password in hand. A more secure way to complete two-factor authentication is to use a time-based one-time password (TOTP). A TOTP is a temporary passcode that is generated by an algorithm. Meaning it’ll expire if you don’t use it after a certain period of time. With this method, users download an authenticator app, such as those available through Google or Microsoft, onto a trusted device. Those apps will then generate a TOTP, which users will manually enter to complete login.

Why Two-factor Authentication and Password Management Is Important

As two-factor authentication becomes more popular, some states are considering requiring it for certain industries. It’s possible that as cyber security concerns continue to grow and cyber attacks become more common, other states will follow suit. Even if it’s not legally required, ongoing password management can help prevent unauthorized attackers from compromising your organization’s password-protected information. Effective password management protects the integrity, availability and confidentiality of an organization’s passwords. Above all, you’ll want to create a password policy that specifies all of the organization’s requirements related to password management.

This policy should require employees to:

  • change their password on a regular basis
  • avoid using the same password for multiple accounts
  • use special characters in their password


For additional cyber risk management guidance and insurance solutions, contact us today.

Firework Safety Tips You Need To Know This 4th of July

Firework Safety

Firework SafetyFireworks are a staple of many Fourth of July and other celebrations, but remember to take precautions to ensure your special event is safe and accident-free. Firework safety is crucial to ensure you and you family have a great 4th of July holiday.  

The Risks

Unfortunately, many people do not realize just how dangerous fireworks and sparklers can be—which is a primary reason that injuries occur. Fireworks can not only injure the users, but can also affect bystanders.

Bottle rockets and firecrackers can fly in any direction and may explode on or near someone instead of up in the air. Sparklers are also a huge risk, as they burn at very high temperatures and are often given to children too young to use them safely. All fireworks pose potential risks of burn, blindness and other injury.

Firework Safety Tips for Safe Use

When using fireworks, always plan carefully in advance for who will shoot them and what safety precautions you will have in place. Here are some suggestions to ensure safety and avoid accidents:

  • Use fireworks and sparklers outdoors only.
  • Always have a hose or water bucket handy.
  • Only use fireworks as intended. Do not alter or combine them, and do not use homemade fireworks.
  • Keep spectators a safe distance away.
  • Never give sparklers to young children.
  • Wear safety goggles when handling or shooting off fireworks.
  • Do not shoot fireworks off if under the influence of alcohol.
  • Show children how to properly hold sparklers, how to stay far enough away from other children and what not to do (throw, run or fight with sparkler in hand)—but supervise closely, regardless.
  • Point fireworks away from people, homes, trees, etc.
  • Never try to relight a dud (a firework that didn’t properly ignite).
  • Soak all firework debris in water before throwing it away.
  • Do not carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them from metal or glass containers.

Protection for Your Pets

Like thunderstorms or the vacuum cleaner, fireworks may frighten your family pets. To protect your pets from becoming stressed as a result of loud noises from fireworks:

  • Keep pets indoors away from loud noises in a place that is comfortable to them.
  • Allow pets to go to the bathroom before beginning your fireworks show to prevent accidents.

Important Swimming Safety Tips To Keep Your Family Safe

swimming safety

swimming safetyThe warm weather is here and it’s the perfect time of year to do some swimming. But don’t forget to refresh your memory on swimming safety. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the United States. Knowing how to swim and following these safety tips will help keep you and your children safe. Explain swimming safety to children when young, and reinforce its importance regularly.

Swimming Pools

  • Do not dive unless it’s deep enough to dive safely—it is recommended not to dive head-first in water less than nine feet deep, and not to dive at all into water less than five feet deep. If depth is not posted, ask a lifeguard.
  • Always monitor children, even if lifeguards are present.
  • Always review and follow posted water safety rules.
  • Avoid swimming alone, and make sure your child uses the buddy system if swimming with friends.
  • Never run near a pool—slipping can be dangerous.
  • If you are just learning to swim, stay in an area of the pool where you can stand.
  • Pool toys are not designed to be safety flotation devices—keep life jackets or life rings close at hand.

Lakes and Ponds

  • Wear water shoes to protect your feet from jagged rocks, broken bottles, trash, etc.
  • Be cautious and inch out to avoid unexpected drop-offs.
  • Be careful of weeds, which can trap your feet. If you do get tangled, slowly pull and shake your arms and legs to get loose.
  • Stay away from boats, jet skis and other motorized water vehicles.

 

Oceans

  • Pay attention to water conditions and wave strength. If it seems unsafe, don’t go in the water.
  • Strong currents can carry swimmers away from shore quickly. If you get caught in a current, swim parallel to the shoreline until the water stops pulling you, and then swim straight back to shore. If you cannot safely make it back, tread water and call or signal somebody for assistance.
  • Watch out for jellyfish. If you get stung, find a lifeguard immediately to seek treatment, or call 911 if you have a severe reaction.
  • Never swim alone or at night.
  • Always swim in an area that is easily visible to others.
  • Wear water shoes to protect your feet from jagged rocks, broken bottles, trash, etc.
  • Do not swim extremely far out.

We hope these tips help to keep you and your family safe this summer. 

8 Tips for Keeping Your Home Workspace Clean

home workspace

home workspaceWhether your work-from-home arrangement is temporary or long-term, a clean home workspace can be good for your mental health and well-being. A clean home workspace will help you stay healthy, while boosting work productivity and lowering stress.

The Dirty Truth About Workspaces

On-site offices and other workspaces are often cleaned daily, which means the home office could have more bacteria and germs. Furthermore, you may be sharing the space with family or friends and consuming more food and drinks while you work.

The average desk contains 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. The keyboard and computer mouse can be the dirtiest items as a result of having unwashed hands and eating at your desk.

Keeping It Clean

Continue practicing good personal hygiene habits, and develop healthy and clean remote working habits by trying the following tips:

  • Avoid working from the kitchen. The kitchen is often one of the busiest and dirtiest rooms. It’s important to arrange a designated workspace so you can keep it tidy, helping you remain focused.
  • Get adequate ventilation. Open your windows to let fresh air in.
  • Keep pets away. Separate pets from your computer and other parts of the workspace so items don’t get covered with fur and dander.
  • Avoid eating at your workspace. Crumbs are a common source of bacteria and can easily hide under papers and keyboards.
  • Dust your work surfaces. This includes your keyboard, computer, monitors, lamp and any other workspace items. Do so at least once a week.
  • Declutter your workspace daily. It may be helpful to have a trash can nearby that is emptied daily.
  • Wipe down and disinfect work surfaces. Clean surfaces a couple times each week. If surfaces are visibly dirty, clean with soap and water prior to disinfection. Alcohol-based wipes may be a better alternative for electronics.
  • Stay organized. Once you’ve set up your workspace, keep items organized on shelves, in drawers or in other containers.

Dividing your home between work and relaxation can be a challenge—but keeping your working area clean is one way to make that easier. If you have concerns about your home workspace, talk with your manager.