Top 5 questions to ask before hiring a contractor

Whether you’re starting a new project or hiring a contractor for repairs, here are five key questions to ask before signing a contract.

1.    Are you licensed?
Licensing helps ensure your contractor will meet area building standards, and proof of licensure is usually required before a contractor can pull permits for your job. Be aware: hiring an unlicensed contractor could void your homeowners insurance, if a claim arises as a result of their work.

2.    Are you insured?
Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance. These policies protect you in case the contractor damages your home or a job-related injury occurs. Your homeowners insurance may be able to help if your contractor isn’t insured, but a claim like that could impact your rates or make it more difficult to obtain insurance in the future.

3.    Can you provide a list of references?
Past performance is a good indicator of future success. Angie’s List offers suggestions on what to ask when talking to a contractor’s previous clients. Also search other online ratings, including social media.

4.    How often will you be on site to oversee the job?
If your contractor is not actually doing the work, you want someone who will be checking in daily. A contractor should serve as a project manager, watching for mistakes, addressing complications, and keeping the job on track.

5.    Have you been involved in any legal disputes regarding a job?

Check with the Better Business Bureau or search local court records. In a perfect world, your contractor won’t have past legal disputes, but construction is a difficult business and things do go wrong. See if your contractor gives you an honest answer and then weigh his or her good referrals against any prior troubles.

Do your homework before you commit. Hiring a qualified, properly insured professional could save you a lot of stress in the long run.

Join our 7th annual One by One campaign

Your one, simple act can inspire hope and provide support for those facing breast cancer: One policy. One share. One like.

We’ve donated more than $130,000 over the past six years and, with your help, we’ll contribute even more. It all gets underway Sept. 1.

Two ways to participate


1. Make SECURA your carrier of choice
We will donate $10 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) during September and October 2015* when we issue new:
  • MILE-STONE® policies
  • Specialty Lines accounts

2. Join us on social media
Like our Facebook page during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we’ll donate $1. We’ll post inspiration, breast cancer statistics, and resources. Share our content, post your photos, and watch our page for other ways to join the fun and increase our donation. You can even win prizes.

facebook.com/securainsurance
#SECURAOnebyOne

Join our One by One campaign and let’s fight breast cancer together.

*NBCF provides help and inspires hope to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services. All policies must be effective within the program period (Sept. 1 – Oct. 31, 2015). Book rolls, renewals, and Special Events policies are ineligible.

Learn the warning signs of drowning & how to prevent it


Drowning looks very different in real life than how it’s portrayed on TV and in movies. That makes it all the more dangerous — it could be easy to miss in reality.

In fact, drowning is the second cause of unintentional death for kids ages 1 to 14. That’s why it’s crucial to learn to recognize the warning signs and protect your loved ones in the water.

Know what to look for 
  • Quiet. The person will be unable to call for help. They won’t wave for help either — their arms naturally will extend to help them lift their mouth above the water. 
  • Glassy or unfocused eyes, or closed eyes. 
  • Staying upright. The person will be vertical, not kicking their legs. 
  • Mouth near the water level. Their head will be low, often tilted back. 

Learn more about the Instinctive Drowning Response.

Take steps to prevent it
  • Swimming lessons. Teach your kids to swim early so they’re comfortable in water, and use life jackets. 
  • Supervision. Choose pools or beaches where lifeguards are present. Even with a lifeguard, you should supervise your kids in the water — drowning can take less than a minute. 
  • Partner up. You and your kids should always swim with a buddy. 
  • Practice safety at your own pool. Use barriers and gates, and create a pool safety kit

Get more water safety tips from the CDC.

Tips for securing loads to your pickup, flatbed, or trailer

Unsecured loads in a pickup, flatbed truck, or trailer can be just as dangerous as an unsecured load on a 53-foot semi-trailer heading down the interstate. When unsecured loads fall from trailers, they can cause cars to swerve, lose control and, ultimately, crash. They also damage vehicles, and can injure or kill others on the roadway. Follow these tips to ensure the safety of yourself and others:

What a truck owner or employee should do

  • Make sure the parking brake is on and wheels are chocked during loading and unloading.
  • Cover any load that has the potential to throw wind-driven debris out of the truck — like gravel, firewood, mulch, or refuse.
  • Balance all loads so that weight is equal in all parts of the truck or trailer.
  • Do not make sudden swerves, stops, or acceleration.
  • Watch mirrors frequently, being aware of passing vehicles, especially large trucks that may create wind pressure and cause a trailer to swerve.
  • Make sure the safety chains are always secured at the ball hitch when trailer towing.
  • Never assume that someone else tied down or secured the load. This is the responsibility of the driver.
  • Never speed.

What an employer should do
  • Maintain a written cargo securement policy that explains how to secure equipment, supplies, and materials when they are transported. Make sure all employees are given a copy of the policy that they signed after reading.
  • Provide illustrations or photos for key equipment. List safe driving practices for transporting a load. Provide hands-on training for everyone hauling a load. 
  • Supply proper equipment for the job, including cargo nets, tarps, bungee cords, straps, chains, and slings with ratchets.
  • Understand that if the combined weight of a truck, trailer, supplies, and equipment exceeds 10,000 pounds, the driver is required to obtain the proper medical certificate, stop at roadside inspection stations, and be compliant with cargo securement regulations for commercial truckers.

Your trucks and trailers are an expensive investment, but for businesses they also are like billboards. How they are used on public roadways can advertise your business reputation and professionalism. Misused, they can advertise the actions of a careless employee, compromising years of hard work made to build a solid business reputation. Protect your investment; train and equip your employees to transport loads and equipment safely. 

Protect your home, right from your phone

Remote control — it’s the latest in home security. New systems use internet, cable, and cellular networks to keep you connected to your house, no matter where you are. Now you can activate an alarm from the road, view video of movement near the back door, or remotely unlock the garage.

With the right setup, you can even control certain utilities and appliances, turn the heat up before you come home, or switch the lights on, all from your smartphone or tablet.

Add up the fees
Get a clear understanding of the fees and contract requirements for these services. Expect a base installation fee, equipment fees, and a monthly service fee. You’ll probably pay extra for services like water detection, fire and smoke monitoring, glass break sensors, and lighting and thermostat controls.

Monthly fees start around $30 to $40 for security services with most national companies. Ask about minimum contract terms and early termination fees, too.

Who calls for help?
Most standard services include central monitoring, meaning the police are notified when an alarm is triggered. Monitoring offers the best protection, ensuring help will be on its way if a break-in does occur. But if you’re concerned about false alarms or want to trim costs, you can choose a service that sends an alert to you instead.

Customer service matters
Pricing and equipment won’t vary widely from one provider to the next, but service will make or break your experience. Check online reviews, but remember that service is only as good as the local dealer in your area.

Watch for scammers
If you have an older security system and are considering updating to a more tech-savvy option, make sure you are contracting with a reputable service provider. Scammers have been known to target homeowners and sell them an updated system, when in reality they are trying to lock them into over-priced, long-term contracts, or worse — tamper with the alarm system so they can return and burglarize the home.

Consider DIY
If you’re even moderately tech savvy, you can set up your own in-home sensors and camera systems with remote monitoring and control. Be aware, however, that do-it-yourself systems don’t include central monitoring (mentioned above), so you’ll still be in charge of calling for help.