10 months ago ·
by Jeff Oetting ·
A vacation is a perfect time to spend time with loved ones while creating distance from life’s troubles. A break-in does the opposite. Along with rushing home to figure out what’s missing, feelings of regret will consume the mind. While it’s difficult to prevent a break-in from occurring, do your part in preventing a break-in by following these strategies.
Keep the Home Secure
A home security system protects the house on vacation, but only when the system is on. Along with activating the security system, lock access points. Lock entry doors, garage doors, doors leading to the garage, patio doors, first story windows, and second story windows. Use deadbolts, padlocks, window locks, and door security bars for extra security. Disable automatic functions on the garage door. Don’t forget to seal pet slots and mail slots on entry doors. Lock jewelry, financial information, ID, social security card, and electronics in a safe or unusual hiding space. Never leave money around. Conversely, turn off sprinkler systems, clean storm drains, close curtains/blinds, and change the smoke detector batteries.
Adjust the Thermostat
Why cool or heat a home that’s vacant? It’s pointless. However, the thermostat must be on so the house pipes don’t freeze in the winter or become stuffy in the summer. Set the thermostat four degrees above or below the normal temperature so the house is comfortable upon return.
Maintain Home Occupancy
Burglars immediately notice vacancy when daily routines suddenly stop. To keep burglars at bay, the routines must continue while on vacation. Halt mail delivery and/or have a friend pick up the mail. The same friend can park his/her car in the driveway, water plants, and take the trashcan to the curb weekly. Hire professionals to continue lawn and snow maintenance while away. Keep lights, radios, and televisions on OR set a timer to turn it on at various times of the day.
Don’t Give an Inch
If a burglar ruins a vacation, do everything humanly possible to make the burglar’s job difficult. Besides locking doors and windows securely, don’t leave curtains open because a burglar can view valuables. Never leave ladders on the lawn or spare keys under the mat. The burglar will use these items to enter and exit the home with ease. Don’t leave items on the lawn as these items can shatter windows or pick-lock doors.
Avoid Social Media
It’s exciting to share vacation photos on social media while on vacation, but don’t do it. By default, all profiles are public, and not everyone who is viewing the photos online has good intentions. Consequently, burglars view it as an opportunity to steal valuables from the home. Share those photos online when you return. Additionally, change sharing settings to private or Friends only, never disclose the vacation dates, and delete past posts containing an address or phone number. Disable the GPS on social media accounts too. Besides social media, never vocalize your vacation plans in the email, on voicemail, and on the answering machine.
We want you to be able to enjoy your vacation without worrying about the safety of your home. It’s not fair that you have to worry about these things, but life can be unpredictable. Be sure to follow these steps to ensure your vacation goes well!
12 months ago ·
by Jeff Oetting ·
Gutter cleaning may not be your favorite task on your post-winter to-do list. However, it’s a small task that can prevent costly problems. This should be during the spring and fall months. The last thing you want are downspouts clogged with leaves, which can lead to water damage to your food. Once the water starts pouring over the gutters, it can end up in the basement or crawlspace.
Never attempt to clean gutters while standing on top of the roof! This approach is extremely dangerous. Instead, utilize a ladder that is firmly placed on even ground. To keep the process organized, utilize one bucket for gutter debris and another for the tools needed for cleaning.
Let’s get to the cleaning
- Always wear long sleeves…you don’t want to scratch or cut yourself when cleaning them
- Utilize a small plastic scoop to remove the gunk. You can find one of these at a local hardware store.
- Utilize a plastic tarp. This is to avoid throwing the debris onto your lawn.
- Flush your downspouts with a water hose after clearing the muck. After flushing the downspouts, your visibility should be better to spot any leaks. Once spotted, immediately act to fix them to avoid water damage.
Not a fan of cleaning gutters? That’s fine! You can always hire a professional to do the job for you. The price will depend on the size and height of your home.
Slow Down Clogging
Prevention helps! Your gutters will become clogged. It’s inevitable. That doesn’t mean you can’t slow down the process. You can purchase gutter covers in the form of clip-on grates or mesh screens. This can be a little pricey, with $6-$8/running foot being the average for these covers. They also require a regular maintenance to keep them clear.
We hope these tips help you clear your gutters for the spring. This process should be done before the spring, during the spring, and during the fall as well. Want to learn more about spring cleaning? Take a look at our blog that discusses more than just cleaning gutters!
Our furry friends are our best friends! I think everyone can agree with this statement. Dog walks during the spring, summer, and fall months are amazing and keeps our little friends active and playful. But, what about winter months? During the winter months, we’re more skeptical about giving walks during freezing temperatures which force us to lessen our walks.
You can’t avoid dog walks so you bundle up and make it happen. You’re protected from the cold weather, but, is your dog protected? Ensuring your dog is warm and safe during the winter time is crucial. Here are some tips on how to make that happen.
Tips for Dog Safety
Don’t leave your dog in the car
It’s common to see dogs hanging out in the car while their owner is grocery shopping or making a quick stop before they head home. You may have done it before as well while running errands. You may have even done this during the hot months. Both are BAD ideas! Your vehicle immediately cools down once the car is turned off. Do not leave your pups in their while running small errands…. even if the errand will take a few minutes. You don’t want to take a chance.
Keep your pup on a leash
Seems obvious, right? Believe it or not, this rule is not followed by dog owners as much as it should be. Imagine taking your dog for a walk and they are not on their leash. There’s also inches of snow and let’s say your dog is white. Dogs are more likely to get lost in the winter months because they lose their sense of smell in the snow. This makes it difficult for them to find their way back to you. How easy do you think it will be to find them? Not easy at all! Keep them on a leash in the winter months.
Clean off all snow
After taking your little one on a walk, ensure that you clean them off when returning home. You should never leave salt, antifreeze, snow, or any other dangerous chemicals on them.
Avoid overly shaving
We love seeing our dogs trimmed and adorable looking! However, removing most of their fur during the winter months isn’t recommended. The more fur…..the better!
Purchase warm clothing
Dogs may not be too fond of clothing or booties on them. They may even attempt to take clothing off (which is funny to watch). However, you want a covering to keep them warm and dry, especially on their feet. Booties can prevent cracked paws from salt. This can be extremely dangerous for dogs!
Give walks during the daytime
Simple tip but it’s not followed as often as it should be. We have seen many individuals who give their pups a walk in the late evening or nighttime. The same time temperatures drastically drop! This is not a good idea. It’s best to give your pup a walk during the daytime when it’s not as cold.
We love our furry friends and we want nothing but the best for them. Keeping them warm and safe during the freezing temperatures should be your biggest priority during the winter months.
Business owner? Freelancer? Own rental properties? Have teenage drivers? You’re one of the many people who could use Umbrella Insurance. Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people are prone to sue for financial gain over the most trivial things. Because of this, you should always be prepared for this type of thing.
Umbrella insurance can add an additional $1 million and up to your existing coverage’s. Not bad, right?
Millionaires aren’t the only people who need umbrella insurance, contrary to popular belief of course. You’re always at risk if you fall into any one of these categories:
- Have a teenage driver
- Own a firearm
- Entertain guests in your residence
- Own recreational sports vehicles
- Utilize social media
- Own a home
- Have children parties or sleepovers at your home
- Own pets
- If you breathe (just joking…kind of)
The more of the above-mentioned things that apply to your life, the most at risk you are. Basically, if you’re alive, you’re at risk. This is the sad and harsh reality.
It’s also very important to remember that auto insurance and homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover every single liability there is, as you would expect it to. There are limits to these policies that you need to be aware of. You can do this by having an in depth conversation with your insurance agent.
Having this additional coverage guarantees that you’re ready for any unnecessary lawsuit that comes your way in the future. Having a peace of mind shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, as umbrella insurance isn’t as costly as you would assume for a good coverage.
Feel free to give us a call at 217-345-7063 and speak with an agent on purchasing Umbrella Insurance.
Millions of Americans every year decorate their homes for the Christmas holiday. Some outsource and pay companies to do it, while others enjoy doing it themselves. Who doesn’t enjoy showing off their beautifully decorated home and receiving compliments from passerbys. However, while getting caught up in the Christmas spirit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can become dangerous when you’re not thinking about your safety.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that emergency rooms treat around 14,700 decorating injuries during the holiday season—an average of 240 injuries per day. Most holiday home decorating incidents involved:
- Falls (41%)
- Lacerations (10%)
- Back strains (5%)
Unfortunately, an injury is the least of your problems in this scenario. While there hasn’t been many, there have been a few deaths reported as well.
This couldn’t be any simpler. Having someone to assist you in decorating the outside of your home can reduce your risk of accidents. The other person can hold your ladder while you’re climbing and make you aware of any potential hazards they may notice. Of course, if something were to happen, you have someone there who can call for help immediately.
Watch your set up
As a general rule, ladders should never be placed in front of an opening door. Also, you should always set your ladder on a solid foundation, preferably not in the grass. Setting up a ladder on an unstable surface, or on top of an object to gain a little height, is ALWAYS a bad idea that should be avoided at all costs.
Don’t decorate in bad conditions
Planning to decorate the outside of your home while there’s a snowstorm or rain is a bad idea. This can lead to a number of injuries and unforeseen accidents. The last thing you need is a slippery ladder thanks to rain, or getting knocked off balance by high winds. Plan accordingly.
Watch your step (literally)
Be very attentive when stepping up your ladder. You can do so by:
- Using slip-resistant footwear
- Avoid pulling, leaning or making any other sudden movements on the ladder
- Keep yourself centered at all times
- Utilize the “3-point contact” rule when using a leader. This means two hands and one foot, or 2 feet and 1 hand should always be in contact with the ladder.
Avoid being under the influence
It’s not unreasonable to expect some individuals to be under the influence when decorating the outside of their home. It’s the holiday season and you may drink a small cup of eggnog or wine. That’s fine and all, but make sure you’re not engaging in those activities before you begin decorating the outside of your house. Alcohol and ladders are a bad combination.
Utilize an appropriate ladder
Utilizing the right ladder is just as important. A good rule is to ensure the ladder is able to extend beyond your roofline, approximately 3 feet above. Of course, the ladder should also be able to hold your weight. If you have a single, extension, or straight ladder, it should be propped up at a 75-degree angle for the best results.
We care about the safety of our readers and will continue to write about best practices when doing anything potentially dangerous. Make sure to check out our recent blog on Christmas decoration safety, since that goes hand in hand with ladder safety while decorating.
Christmas time is the happiest time of year where you exchange gifts with loved ones. One part of the Christmas holiday that people love most is seeing the beautiful homes in their neighborhood decorated with Christmas lights. These decorations add to the Christmas spirit! However, those beautiful decorations can cause a lot of trouble and misfortune if you’re not careful.
The National Fire Protection Association stated, “U.S.fire departments responded to an estimated average of 800 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees, in 2012-2016. These fires caused an annual average of two civilian fire deaths, 34 civilian fire injuries and $11 million in direct property damage.” Again, these numbers do not include Christmas trees.
Here are 9 tips to ensure that you and your family are safe around Christmas decorations.
Don’t leave your lights unattended
It doesn’t matter if you’re driving down the street to the local food market or gas station; never leave your home with your Christmas lights on. This may seem tedious, always having to make sure your lights are turned off when you leave. However, you can use light timers and other remote controls that turn off your indoor and outdoor lights. You can even use an automated timer if you’re a forgetful individual.
Lights are not interchangeable
There may not be an obvious difference for most people when it comes to indoor and outdoor lights. However, outdoor lights are sealed against moisture, while indoor lights aren’t. Be sure to check labels when buying lights to see which category they may fall under.
Consider an artificial Christmas tree over a real tree
Christmas trees are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays. Real Christmas trees are beautiful and all, but being that they are dried out, they’re extremely flammable. A recent National Fire Protection Agency report shows that most house fires caused by Christmas trees are caused by natural trees sadly. Now, artificial trees cause fires as well, just not as much as natural trees. One thing to look for in artificial trees is whether or not they come with lights already on them. If so, be very careful and make sure it’s fire resistant if possible.
Ensure outdoor light strings are fastened
High winds and storms during the winter can cause Christmas lights to go flying! Ensure that you decorations are tied to trees, walls, or whatever you prefer to keep them from flying everywhere. This can cause electrical hazards and can lead to accidental fires.
Be Mindful of Extension Cords
Extension cords are often used for outdoor lights. However, placing extension cords outside on the ground where they can become surrounded by rain or melted snow is a bad idea. Keep your extension cords as dry as possible and utilize surge protectors to minimize damage.
Throw Away Old Lights
It’s easy to continue to use old Christmas lights for years upon years. The more modern lights made now days are safer since they are made to help prevent fires. Old Christmas lights can cause major damage. Your best bet is to simply throw them away and spend a few dollars on new lights. Besides, I would rather spend $20 on new Christmas lights than pay for damages caused to my home by a fire.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year….and we want to keep it that way! The last things we need are tragedies and misfortunes that could have been avoided. Be sure to read our most recent blog on ladder safety when it comes to putting up those Christmas decorations.
Do you have children who play sports? Do you play sports yourself? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about children and teens injuring themselves, or worse, while playing sports. It’s not a good situation to be in. As a parent to a child athlete, it’s your job to ensure that you understand the signs of injury and understand how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Injuries from organized and unorganized sports account for 775,000 emergency room visits annually for children aged 5-14 years old. Sports-related injuries are the leading cause of emergency room visits in 12-17-year-olds.” These numbers are too high for our liking.
With that being said, we’ve compiled a list of ways to prevent/recognize these unfortunate injuries.
Sometimes coaches can push children beyond their limits. Believe it or not, grabbing some water or a sports drink may be the last thing on their mind when they’re training. It’s important to tell your children about the importance of drinking at least 16 ounces of water one hour before practice and another 4-8 ounces of water 20 minutes into practice.
Injuries are more likely to happen if you fail to stretch before practice or a game. The objective of a warm-up is to prepare the body for vigorous activity. If you skip this step, you can easily pull or strain a muscle.
Building healthy bones and muscles are crucial for all athletes. Besides, childhood and young adulthood are the bone-building years. Not only does building strong bones help protect against fragile bone diseases, it also helps prevent injury by helping your bones become strong and not so fragile.
Visit the Doctor
It’s best to pay your pediatrician a visit for physical exams (at least once a year), and to talk about sports activities your young one is going to engage in. Pediatricians can offer good tips and direction on staying safe and healthy.
Plenty of Rest
Who doesn’t love a nice rest period after working hard? Professional athletes and entertainers need rest periods just the same as kid athletes. Without rest, your performance will be poor, injuries are more prone to happen, and burn out will be waiting for you around the corner.
Don’t Ignore Pain
Many people tend to ignore minor pain that their children may be experiencing. They simply brush it off as minor soreness. However, discomfort and pain are two different experiences. If your child feels pain, let them know to tell their coach immediately instead of trying to fight through it on the field. Playing through an injury can have long negative affects that can lead to more injury down the road.
Be Cautious During Practices, Too
Many professional athletes are injured before the season even starts. These injuries occur at practices. Be sure that your younger one understands that practice isn’t a “safe zone” and that they should be even more careful during practices as well.
Understand Signs of Concussion
Concussions happen more often than you would think in sports. Football is a sport known to induce the most concussions amongst players. Of course, this can occur in any sport. But, its best to pay extra attention to your children who play Football specifically. The symptoms of a concussion can mimic other problems, like most injuries and sicknesses. But, the following are common signs of a concussion:
- Blurry Vision
- Poor Balance
- Slow Speech
Even if you don’t notice symptoms of a concussion, if your child falls or gets hit, you should keep a close eye on them. According to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, you should rush your child to the emergency room if they experience sever neck pain, horrible headache that won’t go away, vomiting, or disorientation.
We love our children and our number one priority is to keep them safe. The above-mentioned tips can also be applied to adult athletes as well. Enjoy the competitive world of sports even more by knowing that you’re safe!
Who doesn’t want to own a home? Owning a home is pretty much on everyone’s list of goals. It can be a great place to build a family, and even if you don’t want to live there anymore, it can become a great investment when being used a rental property. Because of this, you want to ensure that your home is well kept and isn’t in need of small repairs that can lead to pricier repairs.
Here are 4 mistakes to avoid if you currently own a home.
Ignoring Minor Repairs
Of course, no pays attention to a leaky faucet or a constantly running toilet. I mean, why should you? It’s not causing any big issues, right? Wrong. These minor things can cause quite a headache by hurting your pockets. A leaky faucet and a toilet that constantly run can cause a huge increase in your water bill. Tiny cracks in your homes foundation can also lead to bigger cracks that can become costly to repair. Point is, make it your business to handle these issues as soon as you spot them.
Procrastinating on Home Maintenance
Home maintenance is more than fixing small repairs. You must do a thorough check of your home on a monthly basis at the minimum. Many homeowners fail to check crucial places in their home such as the attic, basement, and small crawlspaces. This leads to big price tags when it comes time to finally fix the issue.
Forgetting Appliance Maintenance
Checking appliances are usually overlooked when it comes to home maintenance. When home maintenance is mentioned, most people think about the common things such as interior/exterior cleaning, plumbing, lawn care, painting, etc. They rarely think about the actual appliances in their home. Appliance repairs can be very costly. For example, a dryer’s exhaust vent needs cleaning (the vent on the back or side), not the one you pull out. Too much lint accumulation can cause a fire. That’s the last thing you need. Other appliances that should be checked out include your refrigerator, washer, dishwasher, and more.
Forgetting HVAC System Maintenance
Your HVAC system is pretty much always in use. During the winter months you’re using it to produce heat, and during the summer time you’re using it for air. Since it is one of the most used systems in your home, being aware of maintenance needed on it is vital. Ensure that your ducts are cleaned, and filters are changed frequently.
Be sure to check out our blog on spring maintenance as well to ensure you’re prepared for spring when it rolls around!
Owning a home is a great feeling! You can renovate and add many things to make it more personal to you. However, homes require lots of maintenance to make sure it remains comfortable for your family. The responsibilities of a homeowner should not be taken for granted. Besides, you want your home to be more valuable than when you first bought it, correct?
Consistent maintenance of your home should always be on your monthly to-do list. It will save you lots of money in the long run and is well worth the very little labor and time invested. It’s better to catch small problems before they turn into even more complicated tasks. Once they become complicated tasks, you’ll be at the mercy of the prices of an independent contractor, which can be very expensive.
The exterior may not seem important when it comes to your home interior. But, some things can indeed infiltrate your home if left untreated.
- If you would like your curb appeal to continue to look nice, remove shrubs and dead plants from around your home
- Ensure that all gutters and drains are draining away from your home
- Check for missing and damaged shingles
- Check for cracks in the foundation (if you spot any, you really need to check the severity of them because it can allow termites in your home or lead to larger structural issues later down the line)
- Checking your garages automatic reversing mechanism is a must. An improperly operating automatic reversing mechanism has been linked to many deaths and injuries. This is especially important if you have children.
Attics are usually only used for storing things in most homes, which means they’re highly overlooked when it comes to maintenance. This has proven to be a costly mistake in some cases.
- Check for any leakage which can easily ruin the rest of your home
- Look for any sunlight shining through cracks, this can help identify if your roof needs repair
- Look for signs of rodents that may be living there. This can lead to damaged walls, doors, and furniture from gnawing. Not to mention being exposed to a host of diseases and increasing allergies
The interior of your home is always in your line of sight. You live there!
- Cooling and heating vents should be vacuumed or dusted
- All drains should be unclogged and cleaned
- Carbon Monoxide and smoke detectors should be inspected. Ensure that batteries are changed atleast every 6 months
- Make sure the alarm system is still functioning properly for the safety of your family
The basement is the second most overlooked place in a home, behind the attic, and it happens to be ground zero to a host of problems that can affect your home.
- Similar to the attic, you need to check the entire basement for any dampness in the walls and floors
- Replace and clean filters as needed such as water filters, dryer exhausts, and HVAC system filters
- Drain your water heater as needed to remove any sediment, while also checking for corrosion and leaks
- Locate and have knowledge of how to turn off the main water supply valve
- The floors underneath toilets, sinks, showers and tubs should be checked for leaking water
The kitchen is an obvious place to maintain because majority of your time is spent here. Keeping appliances in tip-top shape will save lots of money and prevent you from buying new ones or paying for repairs.
- Your oven and refrigerator should always be deep cleaned
- Dishwashers and sinks should always be checked for leakage
- Clean the coils on a refrigerator using a coil brush or vacuum to ensure it continues to cool properly. Make sure to unplug the refrigerator before doing so
Feel free to complete additional maintenance on your home as needed. Seasonal maintenance is more specific in terms of what to check. You can find more information on spring maintenance here. Our job is to save you lots of money by informing you of preventive actions that can be taken to do so.
If all else fails, another way to ensure that you’re protected is having home insurance coverage. Even if you already have a policy, it’s always good to look over it annually to ensure it will provide enough coverage for any damages that may occur in an emergency. You can give us a call at 217-345-7063 to go over your coverage or get more information on signing a new policy for new homeowners.
Driving a vehicle is always an activity that should be done with one’s full attention. With the increasing usage of technology, it’s easier to be distracted while driving than it was years ago. Not to mention the fact that vehicles have technology built into them, which can be distractions themselves!
Below are a few car distractions that you should be aware of. Some are obvious while others aren’t.
Newer cars are equipped with lots of entertaining and unique technology. Of course, these systems can be very distracting because of their complexity. Most of these systems require multiple steps to perform functions such as connecting Bluetooth or utilizing your navigation. Some vehicles even allow us to utilize apps and text contacts from our phone. All these features have one thing in common- they take our mind off the road and can cause slower reaction times.
We all appreciate our little furry friends coming along for a car ride with us! They’re usually great travel companions. But, they should be restricted in some way to avoid your view being blocked while driving or other distractions that may occur with them being free in your vehicle. This will save you lots of headache.
Hands-free technology is very common in new vehicles. However, hands-free doesn’t mean distraction-free! While you may have your hands on the steering wheel, mentally, your mind is focusing on giving voice commands or talking to a friend on the phone. This slows down reaction time and the ability to be a defensive driver when needed.
In fact, there was a study done by Brain Research that indicates a significantly lower driving performance when talking on the phone.
We’re all guilty of eating a fast food burger in the driver’s seat. In fact, an Exxon Mobil survey shows that 70% of people admit to having done this before. This takes your focus off the road and shifts it to not dropping or spilling anything on your clothes (or shifts it to how good your burger is…..guilty). Either way, it can wait!
You should always be aware of the passengers in your vehicle. This is especially true for teens. When beginning a drive, you should communicate to your passengers the rules of your car. This sets the tone for the entire car ride to avoid any absurd actions that can distract you from driving.
Running late for a date? An interview? Important meeting? These are common reasons for people doing their grooming in their vehicle while they’re driving. It doesn’t matter if you’re combing your hair, shaving, or putting on makeup, it should be done at home. If you must do it while in a vehicle, pull over somewhere safe and do so. If not, you may not ever make it to where you’re going versus being late and apologizing later.
We had to mention the most obvious distraction. Unfortunately, Childrens Hospital at Vanderbilt reports motor vehicle accidents to be the number one cause of teenage deaths. That’s not a pretty statistic. What activity do most teenagers engage in while driving? You guessed it, texting! You get the point of how deadly this activity can be. Not only in the teenage community, but in the general population as a whole. The text can wait. Trust us.
You’ve ever been driving and spot an accident on the side of the road? Sure, you have! Chances are you probably even slowed down just to take a peak. Well, you were rubbernecking. Rubbernecking causes a little over 15% of accidents. That’s a big enough percentage to have us worry! Your only focus should be on the road and not on getting the details of an accident.
Even the slightest distraction can cause accidents. This is why we wanted to inform you of the obvious and the not-so-obvious distractions. If you can, share this article with anyone who can benefit from it. We encourage to make any teenage drivers that you know to read as well.