Space Heater Safety (Part 1)

Posted on January 26, 2012. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Electric space heaters are an inexpensive way to save on your heating bills during the cold, winter months. But, if not used correctly AND kept away from flammable objects, they have the potential to cause a fire and cause significant damage to your home or business.

Image: PANPOTE / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some tips for staying safe:

  • Keep the heater a minimum of 30″ from any flammable objects. Examples include: wood, paper, rags, and combustible liquids.
  • Set up the heater on the floor, unless it is specifically designed for other locations.
  • Don’t set the heater on combustible surfaces, such as rugs or carpets.

Electric space heaters may seem safer than their propane and kerosene counterparts. But, even they can cause fires, burns and explosions. Remaining aware of hot surfaces and staying on the look out for defective wiring can help you avoid these dangers.

In Part 2, we will look at the dangers of, and maintenance recommendations, for gas and kerosene space heaters.

Adapted from a Risk Management Article provided by Travelers.

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Tis the Season for Holiday Parties . . . and Food Poisoning

Posted on December 13, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , |

The holidays are almost here, which means hauling out the holly, stringing up the lights, and dashing through the snow. The holidays also mean lots of fun, festive parties to celebrate the season. These celebrations usually feature an array of delectable foods and tasty drinks that are dangerous to your waistline, but if you’re hosting a party, you have more to worry about than added pounds or lumpy gravy.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated one in six people in the United States come down with food poisoning every year. And whether you’re preparing the food and drinks for your party yourself or purchasing them, you could be liable if your party guests get sick. Food poisoning doesn’t just happen to bad cooks either. Foods, such as bagged spinach — that’s supposedly pre-washed and ready to eat — can contain E. coli, which is undetectable to even the most well trained chef.

Fortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies cover food poisoning situations in which your guests incur medical expenses or endure “pain and suffering” (i.e. missing work because they’re hovering over a toilet bowl). There are limits to both of these coverages and intentional poisoning is not covered (so don’t try slipping something into your pesky aunt’s pumpkin pie), but most policies provide protection from unintentional food-borne illness.

The best way to avoid a food-poisoning claim is to take the proper precautions when preparing your holiday fare. Here are some tips to ensure your guests leave with leftovers and fond memories, not food poisoning.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat or poultry.
  • Use an anti-bacterial cleaner to wipe down any surfaces, including counters and cutting boards, that come into contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Check the expiration date on foods before using them to cook or offering them to guests.
  • Wash all produce, even the kind that’s “pre-washed,” before using it.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils to stir raw and cooked food.
  • Make sure all foods are cooked to the appropriate temperature. This rule doesn’t apply to just meat and poultry either. Eggs, seafood, and even potatoes can cause illness if they are undercooked.
  • Don’t leave foods that require refrigeration or freezing out for more than two hours.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re unsure about any food – raw or cooked, prepared or homemade – don’t use it.

If you have questions about whether your homeowner’s policy covers food poisoning or any other party-related risk, your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent is happy to answer any of your policy questions. You can even invite him or her to your party, just be sure the food is cooked!

Reprinted with permission from Trusted Choice®.

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Preparing for a Safe Halloween

Posted on October 21, 2011. Filed under: Fun and Games | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Halloween is just around the corner, and many people may not realize how scary this eerie night might really be for their personal safety, their property . . . or their wallets. Here are some tips to prepare for Halloween hazards that may come in disguise or under the cloak of dark.

The following safety tips are endorsed by Trusted Choice(r), the consumer branding program for independent insurance agents and brokers:

  • Prevent Accidents: Remove or move lawn furniture, or any other obstacles, to avoid accidents or damage. Ensure your home’s entry is in good condition, free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on your property.
  • Fire Dangers: Prevent fires by making sure pumpkins containing candles are placed at a distance where a child’s costume cannot be ignited or a curious guest may tip it over. Extinguish all candles before going to bed. Consider using battery operated lights wherever possible. A variety of Jack-O-Lantern lights are available at most stores that sell Halloween decor.
  • Costume Safety: Be careful with costumes. All disguises should be made from flame-resistant materials and shouldn’t be too long or contain sharp accessories. Try to avoid masks that may obscure vision and try to use hypo-allergenic make-up.
  • See and Be Seen: Encourage each trick-or-treater and adult chaperones to carry a flashlight. Apply light-reflecting material to costumes.
  • Don’t be a Scary Driver: Drive sober, slowly and even more carefully than usual on Halloween. Watch for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes in the road.
  • Power in Numbers: When walking, travel in groups and cross only at corners and crosswalks-never between parked cars-and stay on well-lit streets.
  • Unwelcomed Guests: Scare away potential property vandals who often use the chaos of Halloween night to strike by keeping outdoor lights on.
  • Pet Safety: Keep pets inside. Warn your children to stay away from animals as they go door-to-door. Halloween night can be stressful, even on the friendliest dog or cat or other creatures.
  • Candy Inspection: Cavities aren’t the only candy-related risks on Halloween. Inspect all children’s treats. Never eat unwrapped items, collect candy only from those you know and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray and/or inspection service. Throw away any suspicious candy.

Stay safe . . . and BOO!

Printed with permission from Trusted Choice.

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Tax Credits and Group Health Insurance

Posted on September 9, 2011. Filed under: Group Life & Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Are you a small business owner in Austin, Texas, or the greater Austin area, who would like to offer benefits to your employees, but think you can’t afford to do so? We can help you by providing free small group health insurance quotes with five of the largest health insurance providers in the nation. We can also help you calculate your possible tax savings, through the government credits that are currently being offered. We are licensed in the State of Texas and provide: commercial, life and health (for both individuals and groups), home and auto insurance. Contact us today!

*Note: we are not tax advisors, nor do we provide tax services. All information provided will be illustrative. Tax professionals should be consulted to determine actual eligibility for and amount of any applicable credits.

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