Spinout! How to Avoid Them on an Icy Road

Icy road down hill with slippery when wet sign.

If you live in a climate with cold winters, you may run the risk of encountering icy roads. Even if you’re an experienced driver, it’s a good idea to take precautions to help prevent your car from spinning out on slick pavement.

Preparing to drive on icy roads

Winter tires may help give your car additional traction when you drive on snow or ice, Popular Mechanics magazine says. The treads on winter tires are designed to better grip the road while accelerating, stopping or turning.

In some areas, you may be legally required to use tire chains in snowy or icy conditions, even if you have snow tires, Consumer Reports says. In other areas, tire chains may be prohibited. It’s a good idea to check the laws in the areas in which you’ll be driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it’s important to plan ahead before you head out into wintry conditions. You may want to have your car inspected to help ensure your battery’s power is sufficient, your lights are functioning, and your car’s fluids are adequate, the NHTSA suggests. It may also help to practice driving on ice in low-traffic areas, like empty parking lots, before you need to use main roads.

Driving on icy roads

If you encounter ice on the road, drive slowly, the NHSTA says. And be sure to keep plenty of space between your car and the one ahead of you to help give you more time to stop.

Even the most prepared driver can find themselves beginning to spin on a patch of ice. If the front end of your car begins to slide, do not try to speed up or slam on the brakes. Instead, ease your foot off the accelerator and hold the steering wheel until your car slows down, Edmunds says. If the back end of your car starts to slide, turn your steering wheel in the direction of the slide without hitting the brake, Consumer Reports advises. Be careful not to turn the wheel too far, though, as that may cause your car to spin.

To stop, it’s important to use your brakes properly, the NHSTA says. If your car has anti-lock brakes, apply firm and continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes, you’ll typically need to pump the brake pedal to help prevent your wheels from locking.

Of course, it’s always smart to avoid driving in winter conditions whenever possible. If you must drive in the ice and snow, check local weather warnings before leaving and keep the radio tuned to a local channel for the latest traffic alerts. Then, armed with these preparedness tips, carefully begin your drive.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Make Better Home Security Your New Year’s Resolution

new year 2019

Now that 2019 has finally arrived, your home security is going to need some assessment.

A lot can change in a year; crime may have increased where you live, and it’s important to stay on top of the best technology to help you deter that crime. This year make it a personal commitment to make your home safer.  Read on for some tips that could help you.

1. Adjust your security habits
Has your smoke detector been without batteries for a few months?  Is your doorknob a little wobbly?  It’s easy to notice these problems while simply looking past them, thinking a repair is too much effort.  But recovering after your home security is compromised will take far more effort than a quick fix.  Practice good habits, like regularly replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors and start locking all your doors always, even if someone is home. And, of course, now is a great time to invest in a home automation system; this will allow you to keep your home safe from afar.

2. Update your systems
With the new year comes new technology.  You may have security cameras to help protect your home, but it’s possible they’re more than a bit out of date now that it’s 2019. Ensure that your security technology is the absolute best quality; tech updates happen for a reason, and it’s likely that newer models of cameras and automation systems are likely to protect you better than the previous model would.  Consider keeping the same attitude towards other security measures, such as carbon monoxide or fire detectors.

3. Add more features
You can never have too much security.  If you’ve already got an alarm system, consider investing in cameras for the exterior of your home.  And home automation, as mentioned, is a great tool for keeping your home safe and efficient at the same time.  Carbon monoxide detectors are also not present in every home, when they really should be.  Consider purchasing several to keep your family that much safer.

Solucient Security offers homeowners simple, smart, and professionally installed, monitored, and verified security solutions to protect your home. Contact us to learn more.

Fishing’s big freeze: How to stay safe on the ice

ice fishing

During the winter months, a frozen lake can be the center of many outdoor activities, including ice hockey, dog sledding, and ice skating. But another big winter pastime in the United States and Canada is ice fishing.

While this favorite winter sport can be fun, it can also be dangerous. In some cases, serious injury or death has occurred due to unsafe ice fishing practices. So, if you’re angling to stay safe on any icy lake or river, let’s start out by tackling some of the root causes of unsafe ice fishing.

The dangers of ice fishing

Ice fishing injuries and fatalities are usually the result of hypothermia (a condition that dramatically lowers the body’s temperature, causing severe metabolic dysfunction) or vehicle-related accidents. Some of the other common dangers of ice fishing include:

Not dressing properly. Due to the risk of hypothermia, keeping your head, hands, and feet warm and dry is essential.

Not packing adequate equipment. Death from drowning can occur if you’re not wearing a life jacket. Packing the right equipment, such as picks and rope can help you beat the odds.

Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol can slow your reflexes and reaction time, which can be risky in the event of an emergency. Excessive drinking also increases your chances of getting hypothermia, because alcohol constricts blood vessels and lowers body temperature.

Falling through thin ice. Ice doesn’t freeze evenly on the surface of a lake or river, and thin patches can’t always be detected by sight alone. Ice strength is affected by current, wind, and other factors. Thin ice will not sustain the weight of a human, let alone a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), or truck.

Tips for safe ice fishing

Being safe on the ice requires patience and preparation. Here are some practical things you can do to ensure a safer outing:

Bring a friend. Don’t fish alone. Also, make sure friends and family know where you’re fishing and when you plan to return home.

Spread out. Do not drill too many holes in one place. The more holes, the less stable the ice surface.

Wear a life jacket. Life vests have excellent flotation properties in case you fall into the water.

Wear appropriate footwear. Crampons (or creepers) fit on the bottom of your shoes to give you more traction on ice. Spray them with vegetable oil to prevent snow or ice from sticking.

Bring a pair of ice picks or screwdrivers. Keep them in your jacket in case you fall into the water and must pull yourself out. Make sure they have wooden handles so they won’t sink.

Pack a rope. It’s easier to pull someone out of the water with a rope than by the arms.

Avoid snow-covered ice. Snow has insulating properties, which prevents cold air from keeping the ice at freezing temperatures.

Pack a first aid kit and matches. Keep these items in a dry and secure place so they will be usable in case of emergency.

Keep away from shipping lanes. Tankers and barges disrupt the integrity of the ice, even if you’re fishing miles away.

Park your vehicle on dry land. Refrain from parking your car or truck on the ice. The added weight could cause the ice around you to break.

Source: State Farm Insurance

Heating your wintertime home safely

woodpile

There’s nothing better than settling into a warm house while the cold wind blows outside. But, getting — and keeping — your home heated may pose a safety issue if you don’t take the right precautions.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading months for home heating fires are December, January and February. Additionally, some of the methods used to heat your home may expose your family to toxic carbon monoxide levels if they are not used properly.

Follow these tips for heating your home safely when the temperature drops outside.

Furnace

Before the winds of winter roll in, consider having your furnace inspected by a professional, says U.S. News and World Report. This may help lower the chances you will encounter a heating problem during the cold winter months. The professional will look for various problems, including carbon monoxide leaks, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). They may also vacuum out the furnace’s vents and check to see if the furnace’s filter needs replacing, according to HGTV.

The magazine also recommends making sure no furniture is placed in front of your vents so the warm air can flow evenly throughout the room. Finally, changing your air filters on a regular schedule may help to reduce your energy bill because the furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to heat the space.

Fireplace

Before lighting your first fire of the season, consider having your fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a technician will inspect the chimney’s interior and exterior, ensure that it doesn’t contain any combustible deposits and isn’t obstructed. During the cleaning, you can also ask the technician to show you how to inspect the chimney in between visits, suggests HGTV.

When you’re ready to light a fire, be sure to check the fireplace area for anything flammable. The NFPA recommends using a sturdy fireplace screen to stop sparks from flying out of the fire and into the room and keeping anything flammable at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Finally, before you light a match, learn how to safely build a fire.

Space heaters

According to the NFPA, space heaters cause 43 percent of home fires. To keep your family and home safe when using a space heater, make sure you are purchasing a space heater with an Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label, according to the DOE. You may also want to consider looking for a space heater with advanced safety features, including sensors that shut it off in case it overheats or tips over, says Consumer Reports.

Once you get the space heater home, it is important to set it up in the room correctly. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends placing the heater on a level surface, out of reach of anything flammable and plugging it directly into the power outlet.

Following the tips above can help make sure your home is safely heated all winter long.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Dashing through the snow? Follow these safety tips

snowmobilng-sault-ste-marie

Michigan boasts some of the best snowmobile riding options in the country, but every year there are multiple crashes on local roads and trails.

For that reason, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has compiled a list of safe riding tips that will help keep riders safe once the snow starts to fly.

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • When possible, avoid crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and tail lights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.
  • Slow down! Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal accidents.
  • Don’t drink – alcohol impairs judgment and slows reaction time. Make it ‘none’ for the trail.

Live to enjoy Michigan’s winter wonderland!

Source: Michigan DNR

How to prep your home for the coming winter

Winter home2

As the temperature drops and the chill in the air turns to frost, it’s time to turn your attention to ensuring your home is ready for winter. Much like your car, your home needs some preparation for the upcoming elements, too. Here are some tips to help make sure your abode is cozy, energy-efficient and safe as Old Man Winter makes his appearance.

Reverse your fans

You may not often think about your ceiling fan blades, but come winter, you should. Turns out, if you switch the direction of the ceiling fan blades to spin clockwise and run on a low speed, you can gently circulate warm air down from the ceiling, according to EnergyStar.gov.

Maintain your chimney

If you have a working fireplace, get your chimneys cleaned and inspected annually by a pro to help decrease the risk of fire from buildup or blockages, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America. These yearly inspections may also help to prevent carbon monoxide intrusion.

Adjust water heater temperature

While making home adjustments, consider lowering the temperature on your water heater. Most are set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit as a default, but some households only need a setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for comfort. A lower temperature may also reduce wear and tear on the pipes, and according to the Department of Energy (DOE), save you as much as $30 per year for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature is lowered.

Tune up that furnace

When it’s time to crank up the heat, you want to be sure it’s running properly. Consult a technician for an annual tune-up before the system requires daily use, says This Old House. If you haven’t already, install (or pay a pro to install) a programmable thermostat that can automatically lower the temperature when people aren’t home. You may save as much as 10 percent a year on heating, according to EnergyStar.gov.

Block drafts

This winter, you don’t want cold drafts making their way into your living room. Use weather stripping, window film and caulk to help control heat loss around doors, windows and baseboards. According to the DOE, a reduction in drafts may save up to 30 percent in energy costs per year. And if your home has storm doors, remove the screens and replace them with the glass panels.

Snow blower ready?

Consult the owner’s manual and give your snow blower a thorough pre-season checkup. Be sure to fill up your blower with fresh gas, unless you have an electric model, and check the tire pressure, says Consumer Reports.

Prevent pests

When it’s cold out, pests may seek shelter in a warm home. And, according to PestWorld.org, a mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime. This means you’ll want to seal any holes and cracks (even the tiny ones) around the exterior of your home to help ensure pests like mice can’t get inside.

Avoid a burst pipe

Water freezing in your home’s pipes may cause serious problems. To help combat this, shut off the water to exterior faucets and drain the lines, FairfaxCounty.gov advises. You’ll also want to insulate any pipes near the exterior walls of your home or in unheated areas like a garage, says the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

With these winterizing tips, your home may be a little cozier and safer, all while you save some money, too. Be prepared for the chilliest time of year, so you can sit back and watch the snow fall from your warm, winter-ready home.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Take to the open road with an auto emergency kit

winter driving2

Emergencies can happen to anyone. Whether you run out of fuel, puncture a tire, or slip off a snowy road, keep a car emergency kit to help you get back on the road safely and quickly.

In addition to the items listed below, a cellular phone is highly advised. Make sure your cell phone is charged every time you get in the car and keep a cell phone charger in your car.

Keep these items in a bag in your trunk. Ideally, we’d suggest a clear, plastic container so it’s easy to see everything.  You can buy a pre-packaged kit or create your own.

  • Flashlight, plus extra batteries
    Jumper cables
    First Aid Kit (band-aides, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream). See First-aid kit checklist.
    Bottled water
    Multi-tool (such as a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife)
    Road flares or reflective warning triangles

Other essentials:

  • Small fire extinguisher (5-lb., Class B and Class C type) in case of a car fire
    Tire gauge to check inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare tire
    Jack and lug wrench to change a tire
    Gloves, rags, hand cleaner (such as baby wipes)
    Duct tape
    Foam tire sealant for minor tire punctures
    Rain poncho
    Nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins, and peanut butter
    Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio
    Spare change and cash
    Maps

For those in wintry areas, add the below items to your emergency kit. (If it’s balmy all winter where you live, be thankful that you don’t need all this stuff!)

  • Blankets, gloves, hats
    Ice scraper
    Collapsible or folding snow shovel
    A bag of sand to help with traction (or bag of kitty litter)
    Blanket
    Tire chains and tow strap
    Hand warmers
    Winter boots for longer trips
    Sleeping bag for longer trips

Source: Farmers’ Almanac

Homeowners’ big decision: Flood insurance coverage

flood

When Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston last August, it dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the city and put entire neighborhoods underwater. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated the damages at $180 billion, and many residents found they are on the hook for repairs to their houses. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, only 17 percent of homeowners in the hardest hit areas have flood insurance.

“It’s one of those things where people think: I’m not susceptible to a flood,” says Fran O’Brien, division president of Chubb Personal Risk Services. They may think since they sit on a hill or are located relatively far from a coastline or a river that they won’t be affected by rising waters.

Alternatively, some people erroneously believe their homeowners insurance will pay for damage due to flooding. While some companies provide coverage for events such as sewer backups, payment for damage from rising flood waters requires a separate policy.

Risk extends past the floodplain. When it comes to who needs to buy flood insurance, the answer is easy for those who live in high-risk areas and have a mortgage. In those cases, a lender may require coverage.

For everyone else, it’s not as clear. “That’s actually a very complex question: Who’s at risk?” says Kate Stillwell, founder and CEO of Jumpstart Insurance Solutions. “The biggest misconception is that floods can only happen in a mapped zone.”

Many Houston residents have discovered the hard way that being in a low-risk area is no guarantee of avoiding flood damage. An analysis from the University of California-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences estimates 53 percent of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurred in areas deemed to have a minimal flood hazard.

Experts say there is no easy way to determine if a homeowner should buy flood insurance. In addition to their location in proximity to waterways, people should consider whether their basement is finished and what other resources they might have to respond to a flooding event.

O’Brien says homeowners may need to use a combination of government and private flood insurance to fully insure their property. While NFIP policies won’t pay for temporary housing or cover loss of income, those may be options with private policies. Other plans may offer only supplemental coverage. -term out-of-pocket costs.

To make sure homeowners get the right type and level of coverage, O’Brien strongly recommends working with a trusted insurance agent or broker. “It’s very, very important that you get good advice,” she says.

In addition to buying insurance, homeowners should inspect sump pumps annually and consider landscaping features that will divert water from a home. Beyond taking those precautions, the only other thing left to do is hope the next record-setting storm doesn’t hit close to home.

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Clean indoor air can help reduce asthma attacks

air cleaner

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 million Americans, including roughly seven million children, have asthma, a number that has steadily risen in recent years.

Asthma is more than occasional wheezing or feeling out of breath during physical activity. It is a chronic condition that can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, fast breathing, and chest tightness, states the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In the 21st century, people spend significant time indoors at home, school or work, and indoor air environments could be triggers for asthma. Improving indoor air quality can help people breathe clearly. The AAFA notes that the following agents can adversely affect indoor air quality, potentially triggering asthma attacks.

Allergens

Allergens such as mold, dust mites, pet dander and fur, and waste from insects or rodents thrive in many homes. Ensuring indoor air quality is high can cut back on the amount of allergens in the air. People with asthma can invest in an air purifier and vacuum regularly, being sure to use a HEPA-equipped appliance. Routinely replacing HVAC system filters can help prevent allergens from blowing around the house. Also, frequent maintenance of HVAC systems will ensure they are operating safely and not contributing to poor indoor air quality.

Mold can be mitigated by reducing moisture in a home. Moist environments in the kitchen and bathroom may promote mold growth. Ventilation is key to keep mold at bay.

Tobacco smoke

Thirdhand smoke, or THS, may be unfamiliar to many people. A 2011 report published in Environmental Health Perspectives says THS is an invisible combination of gases and particles that can cling to clothing, cushions, carpeting, and other materials long after secondhand smoke has cleared from a room. Studies have indicated that residual nicotine levels can be found in house dust where people smoke or once smoked. Studies have indicated that smoke compounds can adsorb onto surfaces and then desorb back into air over time.

Keeping tobacco smoke out of a home can improve indoor air quality and personal health.

VOCs

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are gases released from commonly used products. These can include paints and varnishes, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, new furniture, and new carpet. People with asthma may find that VOCs can trigger attacks. Airing out items, reducing usage of products that are heavily scented and choosing low- or no-VOC products can help. Making cleaning products from baking soda, vinegar and liquid oil soap also can keep indoor air quality high.

Homeowners who plan to renovate their homes can consider using the appropriate specifications for HVAC systems to promote good indoor air, as well as address any other potential problems that may be compromising indoor air quality.

Source: Metro News Service

Winter preparations: Tips for protecting your home from winter damage

Winter home2

Freezing temperatures, ice, snow and wind can cause severe damage to your home and property. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, here are some areas to evaluate to help protect your home:

Build-up of ice and snow on your roof

Ice dams occur when heat from a house escapes the attic and warms the roof. Snow on the roof melts and then refreezes, causing a ridge of ice to form and trap water on the roof. This water can leak into the home, causing major damage. Safeguard your roof by:

  • Thoroughly cleaning gutters in the spring and late fall. Clogged gutters may allow ice to form and back up under the roofline.
  • Making sure proper attic insulation is in place, keeping your house warm, but your attic cool – reducing snow melt on the roof.
  • Ensuring continuous ventilation of attic air, which should be only 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside.
  • Make sure heavy ice and snow build-up on your roof is removed. This can cause seepage or even a collapse. If snow accumulation is significant, hire a professional to “shovel” the roof.

Plumbing inside and outside

Plumbing located within exterior walls or unheated crawl spaces is most vulnerable to freezing or bursting. Protect your pipes by:

  • Making sure all interior pipes are insulated or have wall insulation around them, especially in vulnerable areas such as attics, crawl spaces and along outside walls.
  • Using weather-resistant insulation to protect exterior pipes.
  • Making sure cabinet doors under sinks are kept open during a heavy freeze to allow heat to circulate around pipes.
  • Hiring a professional to winterize the outdoor sprinkler system and remove all residual water, which can freeze and cause pipes to burst.
  • Disconnecting exterior hoses from their faucets and install frost-free hoses and hose bibs.

Fireplaces, furnaces and heating systems

Improper use or poor maintenance of heating systems can cause fire, puff-backs and smoke damage. Wood burning fireplaces and stoves are among the worst culprits when it comes to winter house fires. Follow these fire preventive measures:

  • Clean chimneys and flues on fireplaces and stoves annually.
  • Use a fire screen to control flying embers and burn only seasoned hardwood to reduce the potential for creosote buildup. Place ashes in a metal container and remove from the house immediately. Never put ashes in or near the trash.
  • Service furnaces and boilers at least once a year.
  • Keep portable space heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable objects, such as window treatments, furniture and bedding. Do not use extension cords to power the unit.

Emergency access

Severe weather could impact access to your home in the event of a fire, medical or other emergency. Take these measures before a winter storm to ensure fast and easy access:

  • Make sure your house number is clearly marked in a conspicuous area at the front of the home.
  • Contract a snow removal service that guarantees removing the snow from your driveway after every six inches of accumulation.
  • Place a large marker near a fire hydrant. Clear away surrounding snow.

Source: Chubb Insurance

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