10 Safety Tips for Your Summer Swims

When the sun is out and the weather’s warm, people flock to the water — whether it’s the beach, a lake, a river or a backyard pool. But, wherever there’s water, there’s also danger.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people drown every day — and two of those are children 14 or younger. Even seasoned swimmers can find themselves in dangerous situations, so brush up on these basic safety tips before your first – or next – summer swim:

Swimming Safety Tips

  1. Consider the swimming level of everyone in your party before selecting a place to swim. Just because swimmers are comfortable in a pool doesn’t mean they can handle swimming in the ocean.
  2. Swim in designated areas with a lifeguard present, and follow any posted warnings or instructions. However, don’t rely on the lifeguard alone. Never leave young children or other inexperienced swimmers unattended or in the care of another child.
  3. Teach children to ask permission before going near the water. If a child is missing, always check the water first.
  4. Young children should wear swim diapers and Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Even still, maintain constant supervision.
  5. Avoid alcohol or drug use during water activities.
  6. Know CPR and other life-saving measures.
  7. Don’t dive into unfamiliar water. You never know what might be below the surface.
  8. In open bodies of water, watch for dangers that just aren’t present in pools. These can include plants and animals, as well as riptides, currents, waves and rapids. If you see someone in danger, reach out to them with a pole or tree branch – anything that extends your reach – or throw them a floating object while someone else alerts the lifeguard. Wading in yourself could put you in just as much danger, so leave the water rescues to the professionals.
  9. Don’t swallow the water, no matter where you’re swimming. It could cause illness.
  10. Check the weather and be aware of changing and potentially dangerous conditions.

If you happen to have a pool on your property (lucky you), you have even more responsibilities. Your pool should be completely surrounded by a locking fence, at least 4 feet tall, and all pools and spas should have compliant drain covers. Keep life-saving equipment, such as life rings and poles, within easy reach. If you have a small kiddie or wading pool, be sure to empty it after each use. A baby can drown in just 1 inch of water.

Summer fun in and around the water is for people of all ages — just keep in mind that some people need more supervision than others, and everyone needs to keep safety in mind at all times. Happy splashing!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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Essential Driving Tips for Extreme Heat

The sun is shining, your shades are on and there’s nothing ahead but miles and miles of enjoyment.

You love being behind the wheel on a nice warm day. But, as the temperatures rise so do your chances of encountering car trouble, bringing your joy ride to a screeching hot stop. To help keep you on the go, follow these tips from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports.

Before Hitting the Road in Extreme Heat

  • Check your cooling system (or have a professional do it). Make sure you have enough coolant in the tank, but also consider having your system flushed and refilled — especially if you can’t remember the last time you had that done. Experts recommend this service about every 24 months. Don’t forget to examine the hoses and belts under the hood, and even your radiator cap. It should be on tight enough to maintain the system’s pressure.
  • Gauge your tires. You should check your tire pressure (including the spare) once a month, before driving. They’re sensitive to heat, which can increase pressure and the risk of a blowout.
  • Test your AC. You don’t want your air conditioning to fail during a warm-weather drive, so have a mechanic take a look if it’s not operating at full-blast.

On the Road (and in the Parking Lot) When the Weather’s Hot

  • Carry an emergency kit. Every car needs emergency supplies. Make sure you have plenty of water in case you get stranded.
  • Remember that it gets hot inside, too. The temperature inside a car can rise incredibly quickly on a warm day. When it’s 90 degrees outside, it can take just 10 minutes for a car’s interior to hit 110 or higher. So don’t ever leave children or pets in a parked car (even in the shade) when it’s warm out, and bring a cooler bag with some ice packs if you’re grocery shopping. You should even be careful when you’re getting into your car after it’s been in the sun. Almost everyone has painful memories of touching a hot seatbelt buckle!
  • Keep kids and pets hydrated. It’s typically warmer in the back seat and cargo areas of SUVs, wagons and minivans, so make sure passengers are getting some air, and bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • Keep your gas tank full (or close to it). Hot weather can sometimes bring power outages, which could prevent you from filling up when you really need it.
  • Have an electric car? Watch the weather. Research has shown that extreme weather — hot or cold — can have a significant impact on the batteries of electric cars. In some instances, your travel range could drop by 40 percent or more.

What to Do If Your Car Overheats

Maybe you skipped a scheduled maintenance check. Or, maybe you’re just having some bad luck. But, when you notice the temperature heading higher than the halfway point on your dashboard indicator, it’s time to start thinking about what to do. These tactics may help:

    • Turn off your AC and turn on your heat. Doing both can help take some stress off your engine.
    • Pull over if it’s safe. If your temperature dial shoots up, or you start seeing water or steam coming from under the hood, call a tow truck. If you see smoke coming from the car, get out and move away if you’re able to do so safely.
    • Be careful when examining the engine. Take care popping the hood, and don’t open the radiator cap when your car is overheating.
    • Add coolant or water only when the car is cool. You’ll have to wait a while, but adding coolant or water to a hot engine can do significant damage.

Being mindful of the weather — and how to keep your car running smoothly in it — can help make sure you don’t get burned this summer. Have fun and stay safe!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user Paul Keller used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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How to Deal With Road Rage: 5 Do’s and Dont’s

Have you ever noticed that, with roadway anger, it’s always the other guy’s fault? And, it very well could be. The thing is, you can’t control how other people drive. But, you can control how you respond to situations on the road that come across as inconsiderate or even hostile – yes, even when someone cuts you off.

With school getting back in session, the roads are especially crowded this time of year, and that can easily lead to a short fuse, a close call with an aggressive driver or worse. To help you avoid the frustration and danger of road rage – your own or others’ – follow these five dos and don’ts:

    1. Don’t take it personally. When you take the viewpoint that another driver’s actions are a personal insult to you, of course you’re going to get angry. So, take your personal feelings out of the equation. Continue driving as safely and considerately as you can until you can part ways with that rude person who’s tailgating you. Don’t slam on your brakes to teach him a lesson. That’s a good way to make things worse or cause an accident.
    2. Don’t have expectations of others. It’s natural to expect others to behave the way you behave, writes Beverly D. Flaxington of Suffolk University in an August 2012 blog post on PsychologyToday.com. “They should be as careful, considerate and smart behind the wheel as we are,” she writes. However, when you expect a certain behavior on the road and encounter something else, your road rage tendencies can emerge. Lose the expectations and lose the rage, she suggests.
    3. Do practice safe and considerate driving, no matter what others are doing. Always drive with safety in mind, and avoid behaviors and maneuvers that you find annoying when someone else does them. These can include:
      • Tailgating, or braking suddenly to get a tailgater to back off.
      • Using rude hand gestures.
      • Excessive speeding.
      • Weaving in and out of traffic.
      • Passing someone and then slowing down in front of them to let them know you’re annoyed.
      • Cutting in line.
      • Not using turn signals.
    4. Don’t provoke angry drivers. An offended driver can turn dangerous very quickly, so if you see someone “driving angry,” move away as soon as possible — especially if you’re the one who made them angry (even unintentionally). Remember, there’s no fight if you refuse to join in.
    5. Do take measures to protect yourself. Have an angry driver following your every move? Don’t head home, and don’t get out of your vehicle. The driver may be looking for a fight. Instead, head to a well-populated and safe place where you know you’ll receive help, such as a police or fire station. If no such place is nearby, call the police if you feel the situation has escalated to a dangerous point.

While changing the way you think and react behind the wheel isn’t going to make the roads instantly friendlier – those inconsiderate drivers will still be out there – it can help you enjoy a calmer and safer driving experience. And, if you find you just can’t let go of your roadway anger, talk about it in a constructive manner with your spouse, a friend or even in anger management therapy. You might just be surprised by what you find out about yourself – and by how much better you feel, whether you’re behind the wheel or not.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Top image by Flickr user Daniel R. Blume used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 Generic license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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Is It Time to Winterize Your RV?

So, you’re not a year-round RV-er, or, at least not yet. (One can dream!) Which means another RV season is coming to a close.

With cool fall and winter weather on the way, now is the time to make sure your rig will be ready when spring returns and you can hit the road again. These six tips will help:

  1. Check your manuals. A good place to start before performing any RV maintenance is your owners’ manual, including those for the RV itself and the appliances within it.
  2. Get the water out and the antifreeze in. Storing your RV with empty water lines will help prevent damage to your water system due to freezing temperatures. The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) recommends both draining and blowing out your lines and tanks. Afterward, add nontoxic antifreeze (NOT automotive antifreeze) throughout the system, following the directions and specifications in your manual.
  3. Disconnect your battery. If you won’t be driving your RV for at least 30 days, disconnect the negative battery cable. But, make sure to test it every few months, because batteries can lose their charge even when they’re disconnected.
  4. Clean and dry the interior thoroughly. Remove all food from the cabinets and refrigerator, and leave them open after cleaning. Be sure there’s nothing left that might attract critters and insects. Close your curtains or blinds to keep the sun out, and remove all of your clothing and bedding. Don’t ever store a propane tank inside your RV, even over the winter.
  5. Don’t forget the exterior. You’ll want to clean your exterior thoroughly, too. Be sure any awnings are fully dry before rolling them in for the winter. Your tires can be impacted by sunlight and the elements, so keep them inflated to the right pressure and covered for protection. Finally, close all of the doors and windows, and use an RV cover if you have one.
  6. Park in the right spot. Your efforts could be all for naught if you don’t put your RV in the right place after you’ve winterized it. If you leave it too close to trees, it could be damaged by falling branches or sap. High weeds can attract insects and even impact your paint. The FMCA recommends finding a level surface for parking; if one isn’t available, place the front chassis higher than the rear.

You may have your own way of winterizing your RV. If so, make a checklist and keep it in your RV so it’s always handy when you need it. And, don’t forget to do the same for de-winterizing tasks. After all, you’ll be back in your RV in no time!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user JPC24M used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 Generic license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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Connected Home: Here’s How to Get Started

How would you like to have more control over your home? Increased security for you and your family? Better energy efficiency? Or just more enjoyment out of life?

New technology can help you can achieve all of those things — for less money than you think, and with less frustration, too.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the “connected home” concept. And you’ve probably laughed at some of the more ridiculous-sounding ideas, like internet-enabled refrigerators. But there are real benefits to these connected devices; benefits way beyond surfing the web while you’re looking for a midnight snack.

Here are just a few of the possibilities:

  • Allowing guests or service providers access to your home, without the risk of hiding a key outside, thanks to smart door locks.
  • Seeing what’s going on inside your home, no matter where you are, with web-connected cameras.
  • Relaxing with streaming music in every room of the house at the touch of a button.

The best part? You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.

A new website, www.tryshelter.com, can help you get started — even if you think you don’t know much about technology, or if you’re interested but a little intimidated.

All you need to do is choose the option on the site that matches what you want to achieve, such as “Monitor My Home from Anywhere” or “Manage My Energy Use.” Shelter then recommends devices that fit your goals, explains what they do and includes links where you can purchase them.

They all work together, so you don’t have to worry about buying “connected” devices that don’t connect. And you don’t even have to worry about installation questions, because Shelter has tips to help you on that front as well.

Many of these devices can protect you from the hassle of an insurance claim, too — for instance, alerting you to a water leak when it happens, or helping you stop a minor kitchen flare-up from becoming a full-blown fire. Want to chat more about those benefits? Give me a call.

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Help Your Dog Love Apartment Living

Apartment living can have many advantages: low maintenance, close to work and entertainment, and ease of changing residence. But, if you’re a dog owner, apartment living can present some difficulties. You probably won’t have your own yard for him to play in, and your inside space may be somewhat compact.

However, with enough exercise, stimulation and preventative measures, the difficulties are easy to overcome. Here are some doggone good tips to help you and your pup succeed at apartment living, together.

Stay Active

The first part of keeping a dog happy and healthy inside your apartment is to optimize her experiences outside.

  • Most dogs will do best with walks twice a day and a good run off the leash at least once a week. Active breeds may need more.
  • Vary the routes for your daily walks to open her up to stimulating new smells and experiences. You could also schedule playdates with other dogs in your neighborhood.
  • If you tend to be absent for long hours, consider a doggie daycare or perhaps a midday visit from a professional dog walker.

Stay Stimulated

Boredom and pent-up energy can only lead to one thing: trouble, such as your pup chewing on your favorite pair of boots, your sofa or the floorboards – there goes your deposit.

  • When you only have a few minutes to spare, or the weather outside is frightful, indoor games can provide good mental stimulation. Is there a safe place to play tug-of-war? Can you roll a ball down a staircase or hallway?
  • Keep a variety of chew toys in rotation. Keep half in a toy basket that he can dig through when you’re gone. Keep the rest hidden away and gradually rotate them through his basket so that there’s always something new.
  • Puzzle toys can keep your dog occupied long after you’ve walked out the door. Some are as simple as a hollow toy you stuff with peanut butter. More complex toys stimulate his sense of smell and challenge him to figure out how to open doors to uncover hidden treats.

Stay Comfortable

How much room does your dog need to roam while you’re out of the house? Enough not to feel cramped, but not so much that she can get into trouble.

  • Even in a small apartment, your dog should have her own place, with enough room to stretch out, a comfortable bed or blanket, her favorite toys and access to her food and water bowls.
  • Put latches or clasps on cupboard and closet doors to keep your pup out of the trash can, laundry basket and dangerous chemicals.
  • If needed, keep whole rooms off-limits with dog gates or other blockades, especially if you’re not ready to trust her around carpets and nice furniture.

Your pup’s size and level of energy will affect how well she adapts to apartment living, but active dogs can still thrive if you provide enough exercise and stimulation, as well as a comfortable and safe environment. Many big breeds can even be more sedate than smaller ones.

With the right approach for your pup, there’s no reason you and your dog can’t be perfectly happy calling an apartment home.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Top image by Flickr user Kazuko Oguma used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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