Keep it merry with holiday event insurance

'Tis the season for special events, and the time of year when people are most eager to support a good cause.

If you’re planning to deck the halls with a holiday party or fundraiser, make sure you protect your organization from liability claims with a special event insurance policy and earn yourself a spot on the “nice” list.

Check with your agent if you’re planning any of these common events:

Christmas galas, pictures with Santa, nativity scenes, holiday carolers, craft shows: The list of holiday happenings goes on and on. But before you string the lights and flip the switch on your holiday event, take a moment to check with your agent and make sure you’re covered.

Tree lots: Enjoy the magical moments as families pick their favorite tree or cut their own. It is kind of you to assist in wrapping the tree, but stay clear of loading. Even though you bring good tidings, it may result with a property damage claim.

Wagon and sleigh rides: You can go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house safely with the help of a special event policy. By meeting a few basic guidelines such as proper siding and railings, you can be sure you’re covered as you make your way through the snow.    

Don’t get caught without a SECURA Special Event insurance policy the night before Christmas. Because nothing says holiday humbug like a liability dispute.

Combined effort means a bigger donation to breast cancer research

When we work together, our individual actions have a greater impact. That’s the case with our annual One by One campaign. Our agents, associates, and social media fans came together to help us support the fight against breast cancer.

The independent agents we partner with played a key role in the campaign. From Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, 2014, we donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) for each new MILE-STONE® home and auto policy and Specialty Lines account they wrote.

Our social media fans and followers also joined the campaign by posting photos, sharing quotes, and spreading the message to help us increase funds.

Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we gave nearly $25,000 this year, making our six-year total more than $131,000 to the BCRF.

See a list of those we honored with our donation.

To everyone who participated: thank you for helping us support this vital cause.

5 tips for tractor maintenance in fall

Maintaining your tractor can add years to its life, increase its value, and keep you safer. As the fall work season winds down, take some time to care for your machinery.
  1. Do an inspection 
    Check the tire inflation and inspect all belts and hoses. Replace any belts or hoses that appear damaged or cracked, and replace the seals if any fittings are leaking.
  2. Change the fluids
    Tractor usage is measured in hours, not miles, and most newer tractors are designed to run up to 500 hours before the oil needs changing. That said, plan to change your fluids and filters at least once yearly, even if your tractor doesn’t get that much use. If the tractor is expected to sit all winter, fresh oil prevents corrosion or damage that can otherwise be caused by contaminated fluids.
  3. Get an oil scan
    An oil analysis can pinpoint wear and contamination issues, so you can head off problems before they turn into major repairs. It’s a good idea to get a baseline scan and then have your equipment tested periodically after that. You can get a send-away kit online for about $10-15 per sample.
  4. Clean it, then grease it
    Clean and lubricate your equipment. Make sure everything is thoroughly dry before you put it away, and treat any bare metal with grease or a rust preventative. Look for grease fittings on steering components, brake linkages, and hitch pivot points.
  5. Move it indoors
    Where possible, move equipment indoors. Tractors deteriorate quickly when left outside in the elements. Indoor storage saves money by reducing downtime and repairs. Plus, equipment stored indoors typically has a higher trade-in value. If you can’t put a roof over it, at least cover the seat and instruments, and keep rain and snow out of the exhaust system.
Regular maintenance helps ensure your equipment will be running and reliable when it’s time to get moving again next spring. A good routine maintenance program also can help you avoid safety issues like brake or steering failures or other malfunctions.

Now that's scary: 6 tips for safely carving pumpkins

Hand injuries ramp up during Halloween. Carving jack o’ lanterns is a fun family tradition, but pumpkin carving accidents can cause serious cuts, puncture wounds, and damage to nerves and tendons.

Prevent a trip to the emergency room by following these tips: 

  1. Skip the knife. Kids like to be hands on, so give them a pumpkin to decorate with paint, glitter, or markers, instead of carving.
  2. Supervise. If you’ve decided your kids are ready to carve, supervise carefully and coach them through the process. Encourage them to work slowly and follow the good carving habits listed below. Even teenagers should have a parent present.
  3. Use the right tools. Research shows that the pumpkin carving tools found in holiday kits cause fewer and less severe injuries than regular kitchen knives.* Consumer Reports also gives these kits a thumbs up for effectiveness, without being overly sharp. 
  4. Saw, don’t slice. When carving a pumpkin, saw back and forth with gentle force. Applying a lot of force or trying to make big slices increases the chance of injury.
  5. Cut away. Cut away from the hand holding the pumpkin. Otherwise, the knife could hit a soft spot in the pumpkin and continue right into your hand. Ouch!
  6. Dry off. Simply put, pumpkin guts are slimy and slippery. And that leads to accidents. Keep a good supply of towels nearby so you can keep your pumpkin dry and your grip steady.
Once your pumpkin is carved and ready for the window, place battery operated lights or glow sticks inside. These are safer, longer-lasting alternative to candles.

* The Safety of Pumpkin Carving Tools, Preventive Medicine, 2004, vol. 38, iss. 6.

Teen riders: How to be a good passenger

Teen drivers get lots of advice about how to drive safely and avoid distractions. But you probably don’t hear much about how to be a good passenger.

Most states have restrictions on the number of passengers new teen drivers can have with them in the car. Why? Because passengers can be a serious distraction.

Help keep yourself and the driver safe by being an engaged passenger: 
  • Hang up. Other people’s phone conversations are distracting. If you’re on the phone, the driver can’t plug her ears or walk away. Be considerate and keep your phone calls short and quiet.
  • Be the button pusher. Be the designated person in charge of the phone or navigation system. Help the driver fight distraction by answering their phone for them (if they insist) or managing the playlist.
  • Chillax. Sometimes traffic gets dicey. Keep the screams, the gasps, and the “OMGs!” to yourself. Yelling will not help the driver get through an emergency situation. 
  • Buckle up. In most states, seat belts are required by law. Don’t be the reason your friend gets pulled over by the police. Wear your seat belt every time. Better yet, be the positive peer pressure that makes everyone else (including the driver) wear theirs too.
  • Wait for the right time. Save the tough conversations and potential arguments until you’ve reached your destination.
  • Be aware. There’s a big difference between backseat driving (being critical) and keeping a second set of eyes on the road. Be a good co-pilot by staying aware of what’s going on outside the vehicle.
Truth is, your behavior is just as important as the driver’s behavior when you’re on the road. It’s your job to help them focus.