5 Tips to keep you safe this Holiday

Christmas carFive Tips That Can Help You Stay Safe During the Holidays

The holidays are meant to be a time for fun and celebration with family and friends. However, the hectic pace of the holidays can also present increased risks, such as overcrowded stores and greater opportunities for thieves to target your valuables and personal information. Here are five simple tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season:
  1. Watch Out for Porch Pirates Theft of packages from front porches and stoops increase as online shopping drives more home deliveries during the holidays. Take advantage of electronic delivery alerts and other protections to make sure your gifts are safely delivered — and received.
  2. Beware of Parking Lot Pilfering While you’re in the mall purchasing gifts for your friends and family, thieves may be roaming through the parking lot looking to steal valuable items in unlocked cars. Shoppers should remember to always lock their doors, park in well-lit areas and hide valuables from plain view.
  3. Protect Your Identity, Both Online and in Stores Before you go shopping, think about how much information a thief would get his hands on if your wallet or purse was stolen. Avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports unless absolutely necessary. When shopping online, be sure to only use a secure website, log off from that site after you have completed your purchase, and monitor your bank accounts and credit card activity regularly throughout the holidays.
  4. Travel Safely
    The holiday season brings a number of unique driving risks. During this time of year, we have difficult weather conditions, limited daylight and drivers in unfamiliar areas. By planning extra travel time and eliminating distractions, you can help ensure safe travels during the holidays.
  5. Prevent a Home Fire – Use Candles Wisely Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Dec. 23. are three of the top five days for home fires caused by candles. Never leave a burning candle unattended, and do not put any candles or open flames near Christmas trees or other holiday decorations that could quickly spark a fire in your home.

Source:  in-sight.travelers.com

Buying a New Car? What is Gap Insurance and do you need it?

New carGap Insurance Rights Your “Upside Down” Car Loan

Everyone’s heard it before…brand new cars instantly depreciate in value as soon as they’re driven off the lot. What you may not realize is that this fact can lead to a big gap in your auto insurance coverage. How? Below is an example scenario.

You buy a new car for $28,000 and sometime later you get into an accident in which your car is totaled. You still owe $23,000 on your loan, but because cars depreciate in value so quickly, the actual cash value—the original price minus depreciation—may only be $18,000 at the time of the collision. Your deductible is $500, which provides you with a settlement of $17,500 from your insurer. However, since you still owe $23,000 on your loan, you’re left with a gap of $5,500 and no car to get from A to B.

That’s where gap insurance comes to the rescue. This coverage can be added to your auto policy at any time while you’re paying off your loan. If your car undergoes a covered total loss, your insurer can cover the gap instead of it being on your tab. The best part is that this valuable coverage is often less than $30 per year.

A new car loses approximately 30 percent of its value within one year of purchase and 50 percent by year three, which means that at any given point before your car is paid off, its actual cash value can be thousands less than what you still owe on it. This situation is called being “upside down” on your loan.

Who needs gap insurance? Consider it in the following situations:

  • Finance a vehicle for at least 60 months
  • Put less than 20 percent down on a new vehicle
  • Lease a vehicle
  • Select a vehicle make/model with a history of high depreciation rates

Many dealerships will offer you gap insurance, but it often costs more than buying it through an independent agent. Protecting such a large investment is worth a call to your agent.

Contact Long’s Insurance Agency today and let us help you protect your new investment!

Source:  State Auto Insurance

7 Dangers of Decking the Halls

In the midst of the holiday season, many families embrace the spirit of the season and festively decorate their homes to celebrate. For most Americans, the holiday season would not be the same without colored lights, Christmas trees, or halls decked with boughs of holly.

Holiday décor is part of what makes the season special, but it is important to take safety precautions when prepping the home for the holidays.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Fires

 

Christmas trees tend to be the focal point of many homes during the holiday season, but a beautiful tree could start a house fire.

 

According to the National Fire Protection Assn., Christmas tree fires cause an average of four civilian deaths, 21 civilian injuries and $17.3 million in property damage per year. Though these fires are relatively uncommon, they cause serious damage when they do occur. On average, one out of every 66 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death compared to one death per 144 total home structure fires.

 

Electrical malfunctions are the cause of nearly one-third of Christmas tree fires, and one in every six Christmas tree fires occur because a heat source is too close to the tree. In addition, natural trees are more likely to catch fire than artificial trees, especially if the tree dries out.

 

Checking the lights, being aware of candles and other heat sources and making sure the tree is getting enough water can help prevent Christmas tree catastrophes during the holidays.

Christmas Lights

Decorative Lighting Fires

 

Holiday lights and decorative lighting with line voltage can also become a major fire hazard if proper precautions are not taken. An estimated average of 160 home structure fires are caused by decorative lights annually, with approximately half occurring in December and January. Electrical failures and malfunctions were factors in 69 percent of the fires involving holiday lights.

 

On average, home fires caused by decorative lights cause approximately 8 deaths, 14 injuries, and $8.5 million in property damages.

Wreath

Spray-On Snow

 

Spray-on snow can add a new element to holiday décor, instantly providing a frosty look. However, spray-on snow can contain chemicals, such as methylene chloride and acetone, that if inhaled can cause nausea, lightheadedness and headaches.

 

Long-term, the chemical exposure could be even more serious, as methylene chloride may be a carcinogen.

 

If spray-on snow is part of your holiday decorating routine, try using it in a well-ventilated area. If possible, leave the area after using the product until it has dried completely, and keep children and pets away until the fumes have subsided.

Christmas Lights Box

Christmas Lights Containing Lead

 

Fires are not just the only danger of holiday lights. Researchers have found that four out of five holiday lights tested contain lead. Even more staggering is that 28 percent of these lights contained lead at such high levels that they would be illegal to sell in Europe.

 

Both the bulb bases and wiring insulation have been found to contain lead, which is a known carcinogen and can cause birth defects. However, the casing that contains lead in these lights is typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contains phthalates, which are chemicals that can be dangerous to children. These chemicals, though, are also found in common household dust.

 

The good news is lead-free stabilizers are widely available, and the risk can be minimized if gloves are worn during installation. Hanging holiday lights outdoors may also protect young children from any phthalates caused by the PVC casing.

Christmas candles

Candles

 

Candles cause fires year round, but the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

 

However, fire is not the only danger that comes with lighting candles. Candles, as well as other scented materials such as air fresheners and potpourri can release phthalates and the carcinogen benzene. As a result, hormone disruptions can be ensued.

Hanging lights

Falls

 

Almost 6,000 people are sent to emergency rooms every year due to a fall while decorating for the holidays. Most of these injuries occur as a result of falling from a ladder while hanging decorations, followed by falling off a roof. Other injuries include tripping over a tree skirt or decorations.

 

Being aware of outdoor and indoor conditions that could cause falls is essential for staying safe while decorating for the holidays.

Holly Berries

 

 

Choking Hazards and Unexpected Poisoning

Holiday decorations are often shiny and beautiful, but these decorations can also tempt infants, becoming choking hazards. Small items such as ornaments, tinsel and other decorations can be especially hazardous.

Additionally, holiday plants can be poisonous if consumed. Although it is a common misconception that Poinsettias are the most poisonous holiday plant, these plants are not toxic to humans. Mistletoe, however, is toxic. Eating even a small portion of the plant can cause blood pressure changes, upset stomach, blurred vision and, in severe cases, death.

Decking the halls with boughs of holly can also be dangerous if there are small children around. Consuming enough of those tiny red berries could kill a child.

Keeping holiday decorations, as well as holiday candies and nuts, out of reach of small children, or using fake plants instead of real ones, can help in prevent a trip to the hospital during the holidays.

 

Source: propertycasualty360.com

 

 

 

 

Front Page: 100 years ago today… A look into our history

100 year blizzardThe biggest blizzard known hit Denver a century ago, in the first days of December, 1913. The snowstorm of historic proportions swooped over Colorado and other western states, leaving a devastating crust of heavy snow 45.7 inches deep in the city.

By Friday, December 5, the city was clambering from under its white mantle, trying to get back to business. Hilarious headlines of the day read, “Schools Are All Closed Until Safety Reigns!” and “Mantle of Shimmering White Stops Activity And Everybody Jollifies!”

The Denver Post, rarely to be accused of understatement, published its “SOUVENIR EDITION OF THE DAY OF THE BIG STORM” and whipped up headlines such as: “No trains… No Schools… No Taxis, No Mails, No Noises, No Deliveries, No Funerals, Nothing But Snow, Snow, Snow and Still Falling…”

Today, most people have experienced a big snowstorm or two, but it may be difficult to imagine how paralyzing a blizzard can be; the amount of snowfall coupled with fierce winds creates drifts that can bury livestock, farmhouses, roads, trains, streets, building entries and vehicles.

“Guard Your Coal Bin” brays a headline. “Downtown stores, hospitals, city institutions are cold today. They find themselves with a limited supply of coal on hand and are forced to be sparing in its use. Every person in Denver who has not at least a week’s supply should watch every pound of coal.”

There was further worry about poor people who could not get out of their homes to buy a few more lumps of coal.

But the main civic problem in 1913 became evident as snow removal got underway. Where, oh where, to put it all?

Any open space became a target for dumping of tons of snow removed from city streets. In the photo below, the state Capitol building can be seen, showing an open area not far from today’s Civic Center Park. Horses and mule teams and wagons, still in common use, were employed for days, clearing up walkways and roads.

Snow removal, 1913 blizzard

Snow removal, 1913 blizzard

The photo below shows that even days afterward, snow removal activity is ongoing on 16th Street in downtown Denver, when sidewalks are clear but only a center track of the street is yet passable.

Wagon teams tackle snow removal.

Wagon teams tackle snow removal.

However, in mountain communities, the situation was more dire. Up to 60″ of snow had fallen in some Colorado communities, as the photo below shows. This is a shot of the corner of Main and Eureka Streets in Central City. Weeks would go by before any regular transportation routes could be renewed.

Central City, 1913

Central City, 1913

 

 

Source:  Denver Post

 

Colder Weather is here: Preventing Frozen Pipes

Frozen PipesWhen water freezes, it expands. That’s why a can of soda explodes if it’s put into a freezer to chill quickly and forgotten.  When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe bursts, water escapes and serious damage results.

Why Pipes Burst

Surprisingly, ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs. It’s not the radial expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the break. Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream — between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end. It’s this increase in water pressure that leads to pipe failure. Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. Upstream from the ice blockage the water can always retreat back towards its source, so there is no pressure build-up to cause a break. Water has to freeze for ice blockages to occur. Pipes that are adequately protected along their entire length by placement within the building’s insulation, insulation on the pipe itself, or heating, are safe.

Regional Differences

Generally, houses in northern climates are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather. However, extremely cold weather and holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes can lead to freezing and bursting.

Water pipes in houses in southern climates often are more vulnerable to winter cold spells. The pipes are more likely to be located in unprotected areas outside of the building insulation, and homeowners tend to be less aware of freezing problems, which may occur only once or twice a season.

Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes. Research at the University of Illinois has shown that “wind chill,” the cooling effect of air and wind that causes the human body to lose heat, can play a major role in accelerating ice blockage, and thus bursting, in water pipes.

Holes in an outside wall where television, cable or telephone lines enter can provide access for cold air to reach pipes. The size of pipes and their composition (e.g., copper or PVC) have some bearing on how fast ice forms, but they are relatively minor factors in pipe bursting compared with the absence of heat, pipe insulation and exposure to a flow of subfreezing air.

When is it Cold Enough to Freeze?

When should homeowners be alert to the danger of freezing pipes? That depends, but in southern states and other areas where freezing weather is the exception rather than the rule (and where houses often do not provide adequate built-in protection), the “temperature alert threshold” is 20°F.

This threshold is based upon research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois.  Field tests of residential water systems subjected to winter temperatures demonstrated that, for un-insulated pipes installed in an unconditioned attic, the onset of freezing occurred when the outside temperature fell to 20°F or below.

This finding was supported by a survey of 71 plumbers practicing in southern states, in which the consensus was that burst-pipe problems began to appear when temperatures fell into the teens. However, freezing incidents can occur when the temperature remains above 20° F. Pipes exposed to cold air (especially flowing air, as on a windy day) because of cracks in an outside wall or lack of insulation are vulnerable to freezing at temperatures above the threshold. However, the 20°F “temperature alert threshold” should address the majority of potential burst-pipe incidents in southern states.

Mitigating the Problem

Water freezes when heat in the water is transferred to subfreezing air. The best way to keep water in pipes from freezing is to slow or stop this transfer of heat.

Ideally, it is best not to expose water pipes to subfreezing temperatures, by placing them only in heated spaces and keeping them out of attics, crawl spaces and vulnerable outside walls.  In new construction, proper placement can be designed into the building.

In existing houses, a plumber may be able to re route at-risk pipes to protected areas, although this may not be a practical solution. If the latter is the case, vulnerable pipes that are accessible should be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping (which slows the heat transfer), the more insulation the better. It is important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air. Hardware stores and home centers carry the necessary materials, usually in foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves.  Better yet, plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as 1” or 2” thick. The added protection is worth the extra cost.

Cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes should be sealed with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm inside air from reaching pipes under sinks and in adjacent outside walls. It’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes. Electric heating tapes and cables are available to run along pipes to keep the water from freezing. These must be used with extreme caution; follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire, and check to make sure the product conforms to UL 2049. Tapes and cables with a built-in thermostat will turn heat on when needed. Tapes without a thermostat have to be plugged in each time heat is needed, and may be forgotten.

Letting the Water Run

Letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s not that a small flow of water prevents freezing; this helps, but water can freeze even with a slow flow.

Rather, opening a faucet will provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. If there is no excessive water pressure, there is no burst pipe, even if the water inside the pipe freezes.

A dripping faucet wastes some water, so only pipes vulnerable to freezing (ones that run through an unheated or unprotected space) should be left with the water flowing. The drip can be very slight. Even the slowest drip at normal pressure will provide pressure relief when needed.  Where both hot and cold lines serve a spigot, make sure each one contributes to the drip, since both are subjected to freezing. If the dripping stops, leave the faucet(s) open, since a pipe may have frozen and will still need pressure relief.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances.  Call a plumber.  If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house); leave the faucet(s) open until repairs are completed.  Don’t try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame; as this will damage the pipe and may even start a building fire. You might be able to thaw a pipe with a hand-held hair dryer. Slowly apply heat, starting close to the faucet end of the pipe, with the faucet open. Work toward the coldest section. Don’t use electrical appliances while standing in water; you could get electrocuted.

Going on a Trip

When away from the house for an extended period during the winter, be careful how much you lower the heat. A lower temperature may save on the heating bill, but there could be a disaster if a cold spell strikes and pipes that normally would be safe, freeze and burst.

A solution is to drain the water system. This is the best safeguard. With no water in the pipes, there is no freezing. This remedy should be considered even when the homeowner is not leaving but is concerned about a serious overnight freeze.

To drain the system, shut off the main valve and turn on every water fixture (both hot and cold lines) until water stops running. It’s not necessary to leave the fixtures open, since the system is filled mostly with air at that point and not subject to freezing. When returning to the house, turn on the main valve and let each fixture run until the pipes are full again.

Source: Institute for Business and Home Safety. IBHS is a national nonprofit initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters.