Tips for closing that summertime cottage


If you own a cottage or summer home, September is bitter sweet. For many, this is the time of year when you decide to close the property for the season.

While it can be a sad time of year for those who love the summer heat and everything summer has to offer, it’s important to cherish all the fond memories and to think about how to close your summer home or cottage safely.

The list below offers things to consider when shutting down your vacation home for the winter.

1. Inspect your property – Take a walk around the inside and outside of your property to see if anything has been damaged. Create a checklist based of what you find and decide if it’s something that should be fixed now or when you open your home next spring.

2. Turn off the water – Turn off the water at the main supply point to prevent freezing pipes. Even if you keep your home heated during the winter, this is important in case your furnace fails or the power goes out.

3. Open your faucets and drain all water lines, including your appliances – Even if you turn off the water at the main supply into the home, it’s also important to drain the excess water from the water lines that run to your appliances, sinks, and toilets.

4. Temperature monitoring system – If you heat your home during the winter, consider purchasing a temperature-monitoring system.

5. Water flow monitoring systems – If you choose to leave your water on during the winter, consider purchasing a water flow monitoring system. A water flow monitoring system is attached to your water main and protects your entire house.

6. Empty and clean your appliances
• Refrigerator/freezer – Remove all food and wipe them down with a disinfectant that kills bacteria. After you’ve cleaned it, consider leaving your refrigerator/freezer doors slightly ajar to prevent mold and mildew growth.
• Oven – Like your refrigerator, wipe it down with a disinfectant that kills bacteria and unplug it or turn off the gas.
• Washing machine/dryer – Disconnect the hoses and unplug them. If you want to disinfect your washing machine, consider running a normal cycle with vinegar or whatever cleanser your manufacturer recommends.
• Water heater – Drain your water heater and turn off the gas or switch it to vacation mode.

7. Unplug your appliances and electronics – This tip will protect your appliances and electronics from power surges and lightning strikes.

8. Create a home inventory for your summer home – If you don’t have a summer home inventory, consider creating one. If your summer home was destroyed in a fire or by an early spring tornado, would you remember every possession you had in it?

9. Take your valuables home or consider a security system. Vacated summer homes can become easy targets for thieves during the winter months. If you prefer to leave valuables in the home, consider installing a security system.

10. Inspect your fireplace – If you have a wood burning fireplace that you’ve used for years without cleaning, consider having it inspected and cleaned by a reputable chimney sweep.

11. Partner with your neighbors or local police – If you have neighbors or friends who live near your summer home all year round, consider asking them to check on your home periodically. Also leave contact information with your neighbors or local police. Contact information should include your cell phone number, home phone number, and your e-mail address.

Source: West Bend Insurance

Safety tips for your ‘back-to-schoolers’

back to schoolWhen parents talk about school safety these days, they’re usually referring to the surge in violence at schools. But research shows school-age children are nine times more likely to sustain an unintentional injury—whether on the playground or in school—than to be the victim of violence while at school.

In fact, an estimated 2.2 million children ages 14 and under are injured in school-related accidents each year, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

Accidents can be prevented if parents are on the lookout for potential hazards. To help you keep your kids free from harm, here are some safety tips from SAFE KIDS, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and, if possible, with intersections that have crossing guards.

Walk the route with your children beforehand. Advise them to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields and other places where there aren’t many people around.

Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your children don’t know well or don’t trust.

Be sure your child walks to and from school with a sibling, friend, or neighbor.

Teach your kids — whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school — to obey all traffic signals, signs and traffic officers. Remind them to be extra careful in bad weather.

If your child bikes to school, make sure he wears a helmet that meets one of the safety standards (U.S. CPSC, Snell, ANSI, ASTM, or Canadian). Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.

If your child rides a scooter to school, make sure they wear sturdy shoes, a helmet, kneepads and elbow pads. Children under age 12 should not ride motorized scooters, according to recent recommendations from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Teach children to arrive at the bus stop early, stay out of the street, wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching the street, watch for cars and avoid the driver’s blind spot.

Always remind your children to stay seated and keep their heads and arms inside the bus while riding. When exiting the bus, children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, exit from the front using the handrail to avoid falls and cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus.

Tell your child not to bend down in front of the bus to tie shoes or pick up objects, as the driver may not see him before starting to move.

Be sure that your child knows his or her home phone number and address, your work number, the number of another trusted adult and how to call 911 for emergencies.

Source: Reader’s Digest

Born to be safe: Choosing the right motorcycle gear

Left gloved hand on motorcycle handle bar.

Before you take your motorcycle on the road, it’s important to consider what gear may help you stay safe and comfortable during your ride.

Protective gear serves two purposes: protection and comfort, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Here are some things to consider when choosing the appropriate gear for your ride.

Make safety a priority

Properly fitting protective gear is designed to help reduce injuries in the event of an accident and keep you safe in different driving conditions. Here’s a look at motorcycle gear that can help protect you from head to toe.

Head: Choose a helmet that meets the Department of Transportation’s standards, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration says. The standards are based on criteria the helmet needs to meet to help protect your head in the event of an accident.

Hands and feet: Look for boots that go over your ankle and feature oil-resistant, rubber-based composite soles, says the MSF. For your hands, consider full-fingered motorcycle gloves that fit properly. They may help improve your grip on the handlebars and protect your hands from the elements or from injury in a crash.

Torso and arms: The MSF suggests riders wear abrasion-resistant fabrics or leather to help protect against injury. Riding jackets typically run longer in the sleeves and wider across the shoulders to account for the riding position and should fit comfortably.

Legs: A rider’s legs should be covered and protected in a similar way to the upper body. Look for abrasion-resistant materials that are also wind-resistant, waterproof or have reflective areas to help make you more visible on the road, the MSF suggests.

Dress for the weather

The weather may play a role in what gear you choose for your ride. Consider these tips to stay both comfortable and safe in all sorts of weather.

Hot temperatures: Wear at least one layer to help keep moisture in and your body cooler, and consider adding a jacket for additional protection. Look for apparel with mesh panels to help your skin breathe.

Rain: If you must ride through the rain, choose gear that is breathable and store additional layers in your backpack or saddlebags, suggests Cycle World. The MSF says a yellow or orange rain suit is a good option for comfort and visibility on the road.

Cold temperatures: On the coldest days, it’s important to dress in warm gear. MSF suggests wearing an insulated winter riding suit or choosing multiple layers, with thermal underwear closest to your skin and a windproof layer on the outside. Insulated gloves and boots may help keep your hands and feet warm, too.

Proper motorcycle safety gear can help provide a buffer between you and the environment in which you ride. By planning your attire in advance, you can ride knowing that you’ve taken important precautions for your safety and comfort.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Headed outdoors? Here’s what to know

family camping

Head for the great outdoors in the summer to hike, swim, camp and enjoy the best that nature has to offer. But accidents and illnesses happen, so it’s wise to learn a bit of wilderness medicine.

Be prepared
Preparation can help prevent many outdoor mishaps. It allows you to act purposefully, rather than in a panic. A working knowledge or basic familiarity with first aid is important in case of falls, sprains, bruises, bites, cuts or burns. When appropriate, carry medications and first-aid supplies. If you have a significant medical problem, carry a MedicAlert bracelet or something similar. If you have a pre-existing condition, consult with your physician before undertaking any activity that might put you or your companions at risk.

Anticipate bad weather conditions. Is there a possibility that you will need to spend an unexpected night outdoors? Carry waterproof rain gear and warm clothing, even in the summer. Wear eyeglasses with single-distance focus to decrease the incidence of falls. Organize safety and first-aid supplies so that they can be quickly located.

Prepare a trip plan and leave it in a place (e.g., at the trailhead) where someone will recognize when a person or party is overdue and potentially lost or in trouble. Determine beforehand a plan for getting help in an emergency.

Eating and drinking
To avoid dehydration and exhaustion, take adequate time to eat, drink and rest. Most adult men require 3,500 to 5,000 calories per day to sustain heavy physical exertion, while women require 2,000 to 3,500 per day. Encourage frequent rest stops and water breaks. Have access to at least a 48-hour supply of water. Supplement water with electrolytes. Carry supplies for water disinfection.

Insect repellents
Effective repellents contain the chemicals DEET, Indalone, Rutgers 612, dimethyl phthalate (aka DMP) and/or picaridin.
Apply repellent to the skin (liquid) and clothing (spray). Reapply it after you swim, bathe or perspire excessively. If you are being bitten, apply the repellent again. In windy conditions, repellents evaporate and may need to be reapplied.

Overestimate the protection necessary and use a strong sunscreen. Apply sunscreen liberally one hour before exposure, and keep the skin dry for at least two hours after application. Applying insect repellent at the same time reduces the effectiveness of the sunscreen. In dry conditions, reapply sunscreen every few hours.

• Inspect the body (particularly hair covered areas) for ticks daily. Have a companion check areas of your body that you cannot see.
• Wear smooth, tightly woven fabrics. Keep shirts tucked into pants and trouser cuffs tucked into socks. If you wear mesh clothing or a head net, the mesh size should be less than 0.3 millimeter.
• The best repellent is permethrin applied to clothing, not to skin, because it can be irritating. DEET is also effective on skin or clothing; take care to not apply it to acetate, rayon, spandex and other synthetics.

Other protection
• Cover the head and neck with a full-brimmed hat and a scarf (temperature permitting). Light-colored clothing is less attractive to biting insects than dark clothing; bright colors, particularly yellow and blue, are attractive to bees and wasps.
• Nylon (particularly double-layered) and sailcloth are more difficult for insects to hang on to and are preferable to loosely woven cloth.
• Check clothing often and brush it free of insects; this can be done with the sticky side of adhesive tape.

Source: Costco Connection – May 2018

How to prevent electric shock drowning

jumping boat

Each year, 3,800 people die from drowning.

Electric shock drowning occurs when an electric current escapes boats, docks and lights near marinas, shocking nearby swimmers. There are no visible signs of current seeping into water, which makes this a hidden danger. The electric shock paralyzes swimmers, making them unable to swim to safety.

Prevent electric shock drowning with these safety tips:

Tips for swimmers:

  • Never swim near a boat or launching ramp. Residual current could flow into the water from the boat or the marina’s wiring, potentially putting anyone in the water at risk of electric shock.
  • If you feel any tingling sensations while in the water, tell someone and swim back in the direction from which you came. Immediately report it to the dock or marina owner.

Tips for boat owners:

  • Ensure your boat is properly maintained and consider having it inspected annually. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and equipment leakage circuit interrupters (ELCIs) should be tested monthly. Conduct leakage testing to determine if electrical current is escaping the vessel.
  • Use portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are “UL-Marine Listed” when using electricity near water.
  • Regularly have your boat’s electrical system inspected by a certified marine electrician. Ensure it meets your local and state electrical, fire, and American Boat and Yacht Council safety codes.

Source: Great Lakes Energy Cooperative

Injuries from backyard fire pits on the rise

fire pit

Backyard fire pits have become more common, but experts warn that their popularity carries a growing risk of injuries — especially for children.

Fire pits are nearly ubiquitous in backyards across the country, rated recently as the most popular outdoor design feature by the American Society of Landscape Architects. But the trend comes at a price — at least 5,300 injuries related to fire pits or outdoor heaters were treated at emergency rooms in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That’s nearly triple the 1,900 injuries reported in 2008.

A quarter of the victims are under the age of 5. Many are burned the next day, when abandoned coals are still hot. “Families, especially with young children, need to be aware of the risks,” said Lisa Braxton, public education specialist at the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). “It’s parents’ responsibility to teach safe behavior, but they also must supervise at all times.”

NFPA offers these tips for fire pit safety:

  • Check with your local fire department or municipality to make sure fire pits are allowed in your area. Rules can change on a seasonal basis, as dry or windy conditions can affect safety.
  • Children and pets must be supervised always. Instruct children to stay 10 feet away from the fire.
  • Make sure to alert children of the fire every time it’s lit and remind them of the safety rules.
  • Check manufacturer guidelines for properly extinguishing the fire and be sure to have all the necessary tools.
  • Fire pits can remain extremely hot into the next day. Be sure children are aware of this and supervised until all embers are burned and the temperature returns to normal.
  • If someone suffers a moderate burn, use cool, not cold, water on the burn for 3-5 minutes, then cover with a clean, dry cloth. For serious burns, go to the hospital right away.

Source: NBC News

Here’s the key to avoiding locksmith scams

lock and key

When you need a locksmith, you might go online to find one. But be careful you don’t get duped by a scam, which harms consumers and damages the reputations and bottom lines of legitimate tradespeople.

Here’s how the scams generally work: Scammers create phony online locksmith ads to attract real calls. The ads typically tout a low-price service call—for example, $15 or $19. The address they use may be fake or belong to another business or location. When you call, you are connected to a call center that dispatches unqualified workers. When a worker shows up, they say the job will cost much more than the estimate you were quoted and want you to pay in cash.

To avoid online locksmith scams, it’s best to find a locksmith before you need one. Depending on where you live, ask people you know and trust—your neighbors, friends or family—for a referral. If you live in a condo or apartment building, check with the building owner or management for a contact.

Both the Association of Locksmiths of America (ALOA) and the Society of Professional Locksmiths ( certify locksmiths and provide a member search tool online.

When it comes to your vehicle, make sure you have a roadside assistance plan for lockouts. You have different options when it comes to roadside assistance, and what you choose depends on your personal situation.

Roadside assistance could be included with a leased or purchased vehicle or offered as a technology feature, it may be offered as an add-on to your auto insurance policy, your credit card or cellphone company. Or, you can join an auto club or try an app that offers on-demand service.

Overall, compare costs and pay attention to terms and conditions, restrictions and exclusions. If you are not familiar with how a company vets the locksmiths it sends out, ask for more information.

Source: Costco Connection

Household items that can be dangerous to pets


There’s more to being a pet owner than keeping your furry friend up to date on rabies shots and providing healthy food and treats. Did you know that the screens in your windows and even some plants in your garden may pose a hazard to your pet? Help keep your pet safe in your home by looking out for some of these household items that may be dangerous to your pet.

Don’t let Fido clean your plate

You might want to think twice before sharing food from your plate with your pet. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), human foods that can be dangerous to pets include avocado, chocolate, onions and even milk. A pet that eats the wrong food may experience muscle seizures, vomiting and other symptoms, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Secure window screens

Keeping your pet safe while he watches the world through an open window may require some attention, especially if the window is on the second floor or higher. To help prevent your dog or cat from falling out of a window, the ASPCA recommends installing sturdy window screens and making sure they fit tightly in the window.

Protect your pet from ice-melting chemicals

If snow and ice are in the forecast for your area this winter, don’t reach for the ice-melting chemicals just yet. Ice-melting pellets on your sidewalk or outdoor stairs can get on your dog’s paws if she steps on them. Your pet’s skin and/or paws may develop dryness and irritation, or she could get ill from licking the chemicals from her paws, according to the National Capital Poison Center.

Plant your garden with your pet’s safety in mind

While plants can look pretty in a pot on your deck or in your yard, the ASPCA notes that more than 1,000 plants may be dangerous to pets, including azaleas and sago palms. Talk to your veterinarian about plants you have in your home and yard and how to help protect your pet.

Hazards for pets in the yard may also extend beyond certain plants. Pesticides may be beneficial to pets since they can control pests such as insects, weeds and rodents, but some pesticides may also be harmful if ingested by pets. If you use a lawn service for your yard maintenance, consider mentioning that you have pets so that proper care can be taken if chemicals are applied.

While you can’t always protect your pet from dangers in your home, a little bit of planning and research can help you create a safe and nurturing environment for your furry friend.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Be prepared with an easy-to-assemble summer first aid kit

first aid kit

Spend your Michigan summer having fun, not in the Emergency Department, by making your own summer first aid kit using this helpful shopping list.

Here’s what you need:

Water bottle: The first thing you’ll need to do with a crying kid is clean out any wounds. And while the nearest water source may be too far to walk, you can use your water bottle to treat dehydration, too.

Diphenhydramine: This is probably the most important over-the-counter medication to have in your first aid kit — it’s a first line treatment for insect bites, hives and other allergic reactions that can be deadly. It’s also a great treatment for an attack of seasonal allergies.

Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen: These are standard medicines used to relive pain and fevers, but be sure to add the liquid kind for children.

Nausea medication: As an easy fix for vomiting and carsick kids, nausea medication is something you don’t want to leave home without. You’ll kick yourself for not having it while you clean the vomit out of your car.

Sunscreen: The worst sunburns occur when you least expect it — at sporting events or while playing at the park. Having some 30+ sunscreen always at the ready is a great way to be prepared.

Keep sunblock handy, too, to cover those little spots on ears and neck that hats may not cover. And don’t forget SPF lip balm, a spot many people forget to protect.

Bug spray: The best protection comes from a repellant that contains 30 percent DEET. Insect bites are annoying at best, but at worst they get scratched and infected.

Hydrocortisone ointment: This inexpensive over-the-counter medication will treat almost anything that itches — insect bites, poison ivy, etc. If you stop the itch, the kids won’t scratch, and you reduce the risk of secondary infection.

Clean towel: A nice, clean towel is perfect for setting up your first-aid station while you dress a wound or remove a splinter. It’s also useful for containing bleeding on bigger injuries.

Premade finger splint: Not sure if that finger is broken or not? Just put it in a pre-made finger splint until you get your child to the doctor. You can buy premade finger splints at any pharmacy.

Alcohol wipes: These can be used for sterilizing first aid kit instruments, such as tweezers and scissors. They are also useful for cleaning skin before trying to remove splinters.

ACE bandage: Although a first line treatment for sprains and strains, ACE bandages are also useful for holding bandages in place on bigger wounds and holding splints on fractures.

Small scissors & tweezers: For cutting dressings to the right size, cutting medical tape, opening packages, trimming fingernails and hangnails, etc. Tweezers are great for removing splinters.

One more tip: Keep your first aid kit in your car. You’ll never have to remember to pack it. If you need something while you are at home, just go out and get it. If you have more than one family car, consider making a first aid kit for each car.

Source: Media Planet

Thrill of the grill: Cook safely this summer


It happens every year. The weather gets warmer, more people use outdoor grills – and incidents of grill-caused fires go up. Each year, outdoor grilling causes an average of 8,900 home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Gas grills cause more home fires than charcoal grills, the association adds. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 61 percent of households own a gas grill, 41 percent own a charcoal grill and 10 percent own an electric grill.

Regardless of the type of grill you own, here are 9 BBQ safety tips that will keep you and your home safe for barbecuing season:

1. Grill outside and away from any structures
Charcoal and gas grills are designed for outdoor use only. However, NFPA reports that more than one-quarter (27 percent) of home fires started by outdoor grills began in a courtyard, terrace or patio, and 29 percent started on an exterior balcony or open porch. Pay attention to overhanging tree branches when you set up your grill.

2. Make sure your grill is stable
Only set up your grill on a flat surface and make sure the grill can’t be tipped over. Consider using a grill pad or splatter mat underneath your grill to protect your deck or patio.

3. Keep your grill clean
Remove grease or fat buildup from both the grill and the tray below the grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, allow the coals to completely cool off before disposing of them in a metal container.

4. Check for propane leaks on your gas grill
Before the season’s first barbecue, check the gas tank hose for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose and then turning on the gas. If there is a propane leak, the solution will bubble. Other signs of a propane leak include the smell of gas near the barbecue or a flame that won’t light.

5. If the flame goes out, wait to re-light
If you are using a gas grill and the flame goes out, turn the grill and the gas off, then wait at least five minutes to re-light it.

6. Take care around the grill
Never leave a lit grill unattended. Don’t allow kids or pets to play near the grill. Never try to move a lit or hot grill, and remember the grill will stay hot for at least an hour after use.

7. Be careful with charcoal starter fluid
If you use a charcoal grill, only use charcoal starter fluid. If the fire starts to go out, don’t add any starter fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Consider using a charcoal chimney starter, which uses newspaper to start the fire instead of starter fluid.

8. Wear the right clothing
Clothing can easily catch fire, so be sure your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.

9. Be ready to put out the fire
Have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand next to the grill. Never use water to put out grease fire.

Source: Nationwide Insurance

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