When thinking of the cause of a kitchen fire, it is common to think of cooking. But not all kitchen fires start because of cooking hazards. Non-cooking related fires commonly involve refrigerators, freezers or dishwashers. The following tips can help prevent non-cooking related fires from occurring in your kitchen.
- Plug all kitchen appliances, including microwaves, toasters and coffee makers, directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord as it can overheat and cause a fire.
- Use the right outlet for the right appliance. For larger appliances, such as ovens and refrigerators, be sure to only use properly grounded outlets with circuits that match the rating plate on the appliance. If you have older 2-prong outlets in other locations of your kitchen, have a qualified electrician replace it with a properly grounded 3-prong outlet. Do not use an adapter.
- Replace any power cords that become frayed or otherwise damaged. Never use a cord that shows cracks or other damage.
- When moving kitchen appliances, be aware of power cords. Rolling over or pinching power cords can damage them.
- Unplug small appliances when not in use.
- Keep your stove and oven clean. Built up food splatter or grease can later ignite when the stove or oven is turned on for cooking.
- Check and clean stove hoods and filters regularly. If your stove hood vents externally, make sure insects or birds do not build nests or otherwise impede air flow through it.
- Never use a gas or propane oven to heat your home. Not only is this a fire hazard, but it can also give off toxic gases.
What to Do If a Kitchen Fire Flares Up
By exercising caution at all times in your kitchen, you can help reduce the risk of a kitchen fire. But if a fire does flare up, you need to be prepared.
- Your safety should always come first. If you are unsure about whether it is safe to fight the fire, leave the scene, call 911 for help, and let the fire department control the fire.
- If a small fire flares up and you are going to attempt to extinguish it, call 911 for help first. A fire may grow out of control more quickly than you anticipate. It is safer to have help already on the way.
Spring Break is almost here and many of us will hit the air or roadway. Travelers and tourists are a dream for thieves. They typically carry plenty of cash and valuables. They often have smartphones full of personal information. And, they can easily get caught up in the sights and forget to be aware of their surroundings.
While the threat of losing money, jewelry or a camera is bad enough, there’s also the risk of identity theft. Each year, criminal activity related to identity fraud totals $15 billion in the U.S. alone. The cost is more than financial. It can be maddening to try and get everything back in order.
That’s why it’s important to protect yourself, even when you’re on the go. Here are seven ways to do just that, from USA Today, the U.S. Justice Department and even the U.S. Department of State.
- Don’t be scared of cash. You don’t want to carry around too much, of course, because it’s not replaceable. But, unlike credit cards, having money stolen won’t add to your risk of identity theft. You can still use cards, particularly to take advantage of your card’s purchase protection when buying expensive items. Just think about whether the merchant or restaurant is likely to have a secure system. If you do prefer cards over cash, don’t take every single card you own, and do check your statements carefully when you return.
- Watch where you get and keep cash. Use ATMs affiliated with banks you know, if at all possible. Your travel partner should stand behind you to keep others from viewing your PIN. Watch for “skimmers,” too — thieves install these devices on legitimate ATMs and other card readers to capture your information, and they’re hard to spot. If anything looks different about where you swipe your card, avoid that machine. And, once you have your cash, keep it somewhere secure, such as in a front, or hidden pocket with a zipper, or a bag you can wear across your body.
- Lock your smartphone and computer. Our phones and computers are full of personal information, and auto-login features for apps, including financial ones, can be a bonanza for thieves who gain access. Lock your devices with a code only you know, and don’t make it obvious, like “1234.” Also, some phones have a remote-shutdown feature, so you can wipe its contents if it’s lost. Enable this at home, before leaving for your trip.
- Be careful with wireless. Public wi-fi access is convenient, and dangerous. Others on the same free or shared network may be able to see the data, such as passwords and credit card numbers, you transmit. Avoid logging in to financial websites, if possible. If not, stick to encrypted websites (with “https” at the beginning) and log out after each session. Update your password the next time you’re on a secure network.
- Always stay alert. When you’re in public, beware of crowds, disturbances or people “accidentally” bumping into you. These are common ways pickpockets steal items without being detected. Don’t sleep while using public transportation, even long train or bus rides. And, each place you go, locate the nearest exit so you can escape a dangerous situation if needed.
- Use the hotel safe. They aren’t perfect, but storing your passport and other important things in the safe while you’re out and about is far better than leaving them out in your room. It is best to leave some things behind while you’re exploring. Using your passport everywhere for identification, for example, puts you at risk of losing it.
- Don’t forget the home front. While you’re away, burglars could gain access to the personal information you have at home. Stop your mail and newspaper delivery, or arrange for a neighbor to pick it up daily. Leave a few lights on or put them on timers so it looks like someone’s home. And, keep your important documents in a secure place. A home safe is great, or you could even consider a safe-deposit box, if necessary.
By taking just a few precautions, you can increase the likelihood that your trip will be enjoyable, or that it at least won’t end in a financial disaster.
Did you know that a burglary happens every 20 seconds in the U.S., according to the FBI?1
Your home is one of your most valuable possessions, along with everything inside. It is a place you want to feel safe and secure from the potential dangers of the outside world. Employing and engaging in some basic best practices around home security is the first step to help create a secure environment for your loved ones and family.
Consider these tips to help keep you and your family, and your possessions, safe and secure.
- Landscape with safety in mind. As you walk around your property, look for areas that could be potential hiding spots for thieves, who prize the privacy they provide. Try and clear away any overgrown areas.
- Talk with your local police department. Ask your police department to come and inspect your home and property and provide suggestions to increase home security. They can also offer insight on past break-in trends in your area.
- Know your neighbors. Take the time to meet and engage with people on your street and encourage them to watch out for any suspicious activity when you are not home.
- Lighting matters. Lighting can set the right ambiance inside your home, but outdoor lighting can be the difference between your home being targeted – or not – by thieves. Motion-sensitive fixtures can help add security and provide light when needed. Also consider using automatic timers or a smart lightbulb that can be controlled remotely to turn lights on and off in various parts of the house to help make it seem like you are home.
- Avoid advertising that shopping spree. Thieves look for and steal newly-delivered boxes on your front porch, a method called porch pirating, so consider having them delivered elsewhere or requiring a signature for delivery. Thieves may also look at clues provided by your trash or recycling, which may indicate the new computer or flat-screen television inside.
- Set a safety routine. Make sure you establish a routine where you regularly lock all doors, shut windows and turn on your alarm system every time you leave your home. Avoid leaving spare keys outside, under a planter or under a welcome mat, as thieves know most of the potential hiding places.
- Manage visibility. Make sure you can see who is at your front door without opening it. Avoid placing valuables where they will be visible from the street, and do not place your home alarm panel in a place where people can see you arming it from the outside.
- Protect your outdoor valuables. Burglars also target sheds, garages and other outdoor buildings. Secure your grill, lawn mower, bicycles and other outdoor gear.
- Create a plan for when you are away. Hold your mail, stop your papers and ask a friend or neighbor to remove flyers from your property. Arrange for lawn care so you do not advertise when you are away from home.
Not texting is a great start, but there's more to safe driving
Here's the bad news: Distracted driving causes thousands of accidents every year, many of them fatal. The good news? If you're driving, it's 100% preventable.
You've seen them around your city or town. You may know a few of them.
And you might even be one yourself.
Distracted drivers come in all shapes and sizes, all makes and models. And even if you're not one today, you could become one at any moment—in the time it takes you to answer your phone, or check the kids in the back seat.
But before you say, "I can talk on my phone and drive just fine," think about this: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2016 nearly 400,000 people were injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers—and in 2015, more than 3,400 were killed.
It's not just about texting, either. Although that is perhaps the most dangerous distraction, there are many others that can impact how you drive, whether you realize it or not. And they can be just as deadly.
Here are just a few of the things that can distract drivers on the road:
- Talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Grooming (yes, there really are people who apply makeup or shave on their way to work)
- Reading, including maps
- Adjusting the stereo
Younger drivers are the most distracted of all—according to the NHTSA, teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
With distractions more prevalent than ever—nearly 800 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. every month, for example—how can you, and those you love, be safer behind the wheel? Here are a few tips:
- Don't use the phone: This includes texting as well as talking, unless it's an emergency. Even hands-free conversations can take your attention off the road.
- Eat before you leave, or after you get there: Scarfing down that burger with one hand on the wheel means your focus is divided—and you probably don't have as much control over your car as you should. Bonus benefit: Keeping your meals and your driving separate means you're much less likely to get ketchup on your pants.
- Know where you're going: Nobody likes to be lost. But messing around with your car's GPS (or the maps app on your smartphone) while you're moving can lead to something you'll hate even more—an accident.
- Talk to your family about safe driving: Having a conversation with your spouse as they're driving home? That's a perfect opportunity to say, "I'll let you focus on the road; we can talk when you get here." And if you have young drivers in the household, be sure to have a conversation about their phones and other potential issues, such as their passengers—a key distraction for teens.
- Watch for other distracted drivers: Just because you aren't distracted doesn't mean that other drivers are focused on safe driving. Stay in control and be vigilant—you'll be ready to react when someone else makes the wrong move.
Distracted driving isn't just "one of those things" that happens, like a tire blowout or mechanical failure that isn't anyone's fault. It's 100% preventable—and by committing to avoiding distractions while you drive, you'll help make the road safer for everyone.
Med Pay? PIP? Dec pages? Insurance terms, explained:
With all kinds of different coverages for all kinds of different needs, insurance can be very confusing. And to make it even more challenging, at times it probably seems like insurance websites and policy documents are written in a completely foreign language.
Of course, that's why we recommend working with an independent agent—someone who is on your side during the process and who can explain everything you need to know.
Even if you do work with an independent agent, however, it's good to have a little basic knowledge about insurance. Below are definitions for some common terms that will help you understand your coverage a little better.
General Insurance Terms:
- Actual cash value: This type of coverage pays according to what an item was worth at the time it was damaged—it takes depreciation and wear and tear into account. For example, if you could have sold your couch for about $200 just before it was damaged, that's the actual cash value, even if a similar new couch would cost $1,000.
- Actual replacement cost: This pays the amount it would cost to replace a damaged item with a new one (such as the $1,000 couch above). It does not factor in depreciation or wear and tear.
- Adjuster: A person who works for an insurance company to evaluate losses and settle claims.
- Additional insured: Someone who is not the policyholder, but is still covered by an insurance policy.
- Declarations page: This is what creates a contract between you and the insurance company. It describes who owns the policy, what property is covered and for how much, etc.
- Deductible: The amount you agree to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. For example, if the cost to fix your car is $2,000, but your deductible is $1,000, you would pay $1,000 of the total cost. Typically, a higher deductible means a lower premium.
- Endorsement: This is a change to your insurance policy's coverage, usually made through a special form.
- Exclusion: Something specifically listed in your policy that is not covered by the policy.
- Liability: Your responsibility for injuries or damage to other people or property. You purchase insurance to protect against liability and other risks.
- Loss of use: When damage from an accident or other cause prevents someone from being able to live in their home or drive their car.
- Med Pay (medical payments): This pays for medical expenses for those covered by your policy in the event of an auto accident, regardless of fault. It also covers medical expenses for guests if they are injured on your property, but unless it is a car accident, it usually does not cover injuries someone suffers on their own property.
- Premium: The amount you pay for an insurance policy.
- Subrogation: When an insurance company pays a claim, and then seeks damages from a third party who was responsible for causing the damage or loss. For example, your insurance company might pay for your car to be fixed even though an accident wasn't your fault—and then pursue reimbursement from the person who was at fault.
- Term: The period of time your insurance policy is in effect, usually six or 12 months.
- Umbrella: A policy that provides additional liability coverage. It kicks in after your other insurance policies have reached their coverage limits.
- Underwriting: The evaluation process insurance companies use to determine if they will provide coverage to a customer.
Auto Insurance Terms:
- Aftermarket parts: Vehicle parts made by a different company than the one that manufactured those originally included with the vehicle.
- Bodily injury coverage: Covers expenses for physical injuries, such as hospital bills or medical care.
- Collision coverage: This pays for damage to a vehicle caused by you or someone else covered by your policy.
- Comprehensive coverage: If your vehicle is damaged by something you could not control, such as fire or a tree falling, comprehensive coverage applies.
- PIP (personal injury protection): This pays medical expenses for a policyholder or additional insured, and their passengers, if they are hurt in an auto accident, regardless of fault.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM): Pays for your damages and expenses if another driver is at fault in an accident but does not have enough insurance to cover your costs.
Homeowners Insurance Terms:
- Additional living expenses: Coverage for expenses above your usual living expenses, such as if you have to stay in a hotel because you can’t live in your damaged home.
- Catastrophe: A disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, that impacts a specific area and results in significant damage.
- Flood insurance: Typically, standard homeowners policies do not provide coverage for flooding—it must be purchased separately.
- Home contents: These are the things inside your house that aren't fixed to the structure, such as your furniture, appliances, etc.
- Peril: A specifically defined risk, such as hail, flooding, wind, etc.
- Scheduled personal property: Separate coverage for high-value items, such as expensive jewelry, that exceed the limits of your policy or are otherwise excluded.
If something isn't clear when you're buying or considering insurance, don't be afraid to ask questions! Your independent agent is there to help you get the coverage you need—and make sure you understand it, too.