Home humidity: battles and balance


Home humidity — it’s a seasonal battle. Too little humidity in the winter, and you’re plagued with dry skin, nosebleeds, and separating floorboards. Too much in the summer, and you’re dealing with mold, mildew, and allergens. 

What’s a homeowner to do? 

One easy first step is to get an in-home “hygrometer” or humidity monitor. There are a variety of inexpensive models on the market, designed to measure the moisture in your house. 

Experts say the ideal in-home humidity level should be between 30 to 50 percent. Less than that and your nasal passages get dry. Go higher and you’ve got ideal breeding conditions for mold and dust mites. 

Your humidity monitor can help you know when it’s time to make adjustments. Once you know your humidity level, here’s how to make changes: 

Drying out 
• Air conditioners – Running an air conditioner will help remove humidity from the air in your home. 

• Dehumidifiers – Designed to pull water from the air, these appliances are great for controlling moisture and limiting mold in large damp spaces. 

• Bathroom vents – A modern bathroom fan pulls moisture out of the wettest area of your home and vents it outside. 

Adding moisture 
• Furnace humidifiers – These add-on appliances work in tandem with your home heating system to keep the air from getting too dry. The humidifier adds moisture to the air and the fan inside your furnace circulates it. 

• Portable humidifiers – These stand-alone appliances are used to add moisture to just one room. 

Of course, humidity plays a role in home comfort, too. Raising humidity in the winter can save money on your energy bills because you feel warmer when there’s more moisture in the air. Meanwhile, dryer homes feel cooler in the summer.

Walk it out: Pedestrian safety


“I was about to cross the street when an approaching car pulled all the way over the crosswalk in order to get a good line of sight into crossing traffic. No big deal, I figured, I’ll just duck behind them. Except the driver must have realized she was too far forward and nearly hit me backing up.” – Jaime, from Green Bay 

According to the CDC, more than 460 pedestrians are struck by a car and require emergency room treatment every day in the U.S. On average, one pedestrian will die every two hours as a result of a traffic crash.

Cross at the corner
Wisconsin recognizes a “crosswalk” to be both marked crossings and unmarked lateral crossings at intersections (where a crosswalk would logically be). Pedestrians in Wisconsin have the right of way at both marked and unmarked crossings, unless crossing signals are present. However, the laws vary by state, so know the rules where you live!

Using the crosswalk is the safest option. Nationally, two out of three pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersections. Remember to watch for cars traveling in the lane you’re crossing AND cars that might turn into your lane.

Exercise your rights, with caution
If you step into a crosswalk, traffic is expected to stop for you. However, drivers may not obey the rules or may be distracted. Cross when you have room and time to do so safely. Wait for a gap in traffic if you can. Otherwise, look directly at the approaching drivers as you walk, so you know they’ve seen you and are prepared to stop.

Stay visible
Walking after dark increases the danger. One in three pedestrian deaths occur between 8 p.m. and midnight. Take steps to stay visible, such as carrying a flashlight, wearing a blinking red safety light, and/or wearing reflective clothing.

Choosing sides
Always use the sidewalk if one is available. If not, you should walk facing oncoming traffic (the left side of the street). Walking against traffic means you’re less likely to be surprised by an oncoming vehicle and may have more time to react if the driver doesn’t see you.

Stay attentive
Above all, pay attention to traffic moving around you. It’s never a good idea to walk and text at the same time — but especially not when fast moving cars are nearby.

Gardener diseases: Can you dig it?


Gardening certainly is good for your health. All that fresh air and exercise…  It’s not surprising so many studies show that gardening has both physical and mental health benefits.

But don’t take garden wellness for granted. Soil and plant material can harbor dangerous parasites and fungi. Here are a few garden health dangers and basic steps to protect yourself:

Soil-borne disease: Garden soil, compost, and sphagnum moss can spread diseases, like legionnaire’s disease, tetanus, and sporotrichosis (also called rose gardener’s disease). Wear garden gloves if you have any open cuts on your hands. And if you do nick yourself, take the time to clean and disinfect—even if it’s just a small scratch.

You should also wear gloves and long sleeves when you’re working with rose bushes, pine seedlings, and other plants likely to cause small cuts or punctures.

Mold spores: Be careful when cleaning out old leaves or moldy plant material. Breathing in fungal spores can cause severe respiratory issues.

Decaying plant material can host a fungus that causes aspergillosis, a serious lung disease which can lead to hospitalization and even death. To be safe, wear a face mask when working with compost and old mulch.

Ticks: Take precaution when working in the yard during tick season (roughly mid-May to mid-August), particularly if you live near a wooded area. Tiny deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, a potentially debilitating illness.

Wear light colored clothing so it’s easier to spot any ticks. Wear long pants and sleeves and spray your clothing with a tick repellant that contains at least 25% DEET. And always do a tick check when you come back in the house. In most cases, the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted. 

Animal poop: Always wash your garden fruits and vegetables before eating, even they look clean and even if you don’t use pesticides.  They may have trace amounts of bird poop and other animal feces, which can carry bacteria like listeria, E. coli, and salmonella.

Follow good health habits and take simple precautions to reduce your risk of contracting a “gardener’s disease.”

Genuine leadership, relationships make 2013 an exceptional year


From providing the ideal coverage to offering risk management solutions to assisting policyholders after a claim — we enjoy helping people.

Our commitment to our customers runs throughout the entire company — a dedication instilled by our CEO John Bykowski. During his tenure at SECURA, he has lived those values and inspired everyone around him to do the same.

John and our leadership team’s focus on building relationships and empowering employees helped us achieve strong growth last year so we can remain a stable company for our agents and policyholders. 

And that adds up to a successful year. Read more about our performance, John’s legacy, and our upcoming leadership transition in SECURA’s 2013 Annual Report.

Home, hobby, or business? Protecting your hobby farm



Homeowner or hobby farmer — which side of the fence are you on? It could make a big difference if you aren’t properly insured.

Steve Smits is a hobby farm insurance specialist for SECURA. He says homeowners need to start thinking about hobby farm insurance if the property operates as a business (in any capacity) or grows beyond residential norms.

Ask your agent about hobby farm insurance if you might have exposures like these:

Product or service liability
. Once you start generating revenue from your hobby farm, you’re conducting business activity that probably falls outside the scope of a standard homeowner policy.

Do you take products to a farmers market? Sell pumpkins, eggs, or other goods from a stand in your yard? Business activity like this exposes you to liability for food-based illnesses, property damage, or accidents.
“A hobby farm is a small business. If you’re running a small business without proper insurance, you’re leaving all your assets at risk,” Smits advises.

Livestock liability
. Many homeowner policies include coverage for certain animal liabilities, like dog bites. But as a hobby farm owner, you might not be protected if your goat gets loose and causes a traffic accident or jumps all over a neighbor’s car. And think of the harm a larger animal, such as a frightened horse or a cow could cause with just one kick.

“If the animal has hooves, you probably need extra coverage,” Smits says.

Livestock coverage
. If you have high-value animals, livestock property coverage can provide compensation if those animals are stolen or killed in a storm or vehicle collision.

Farm personal property
. Hobby farmers tend to have tractors, plows, and other large equipment. Talk to your insurance agent about whether you need additional protection for your equipment assets.

Outbuildings
. As a homeowner, your policy may already include coverage for an unattached garage. But hobby farmers tend to have additional buildings like pole barns and sheds that wouldn’t be included in standard homeowner coverage.

“It doesn’t take a lot to protect yourself,” Smits urges. “When some people hear the word ‘farm’ they think that insurance costs will be astronomical. But really, we can help protect a hobby farmer for less than a dollar a day.”

And as with any insurance, keep your agent updated as your property grows or your activities change. It’s always better to know you’re protected than assume you’re covered.

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