Home

Is Your Smartphone Prepared for Tornado Season?

TornadoWhen I was in high school, a tornado ripped through my rural community, killing a local farmer and part of his herd, twisting massive hardwoods from the earth in which they’d been deeply rooted, and prying roofs off newly constructed dwellings. The scene, upon emerging from the safety of my basement, was both surreal and spooky.

Personal belongings scattered miles from where they belonged.

Home owners in search of a place to stay.

Curious souls rummaging through the rubble.

With the electricity out, we got our updates from a battery-powered radio and from friends.

In the months that followed, life eventually returned to normal for all those families affected by the twister, but it wasn’t without considerable challenges, including identifying what was lost and estimating values.

I can’t help but think the recovery process would have been simpler, and communication much more streamlined, had this twister arrived in the Digital Age.

With smartphones rarely out of reach these days, an abundance of helpful information fits right in your hand. Here are a few planning and preparation apps you might want to load to your mobile device … especially as we enter tornado season.

Red Cross Tornado Warning and Alert App 

When a tornado’s coming, seconds matter. This Red Cross app sends real-time tornado alerts right to your phone, so you can get to safety quickly. It also provides lots of helpful tips on what to do before, during and after a storm strikes. And there’s even an interactive quiz to test your knowledge of all things twister.

Know Your Plan – Natural Disaster App

This app, from the Insurance Information Institute, provides preparation checklists for all major natural disaster types – floods, earthquakes, wind storms, etc. You can even develop your own list for an emergency unique to your area.

DreamVault Home Inventory App

Disasters, by their very nature, come with little notice. It is possible, though, to prepare for the worst. This includes keeping a record of all you own, and storing it somewhere safe. American Family’s DreamVault app enables you to go from room to room, photographing your property and adding notes about its characteristics and value.  You can even upload the receipt. And for safekeeping, all your data is stored in the cloud, where it’s safe from fires, flooding and any other disaster.

While there’s never a good time for a storm or disaster, the Digital Age has certainly made it easier for us to prepare and recover.

So what are you waiting for? Get those apps in hand!

Sick kids won't have to wait

Sick kids can't waitAs an American Family Insurance employee, I am proud of my company’s $1 million pledge to help finish the “Sick Kids Can’t Wait” capital campaign for American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH). As a mom of a kid treated at AFCH, I am simply grateful – because I can see what’s next.

American Family Children’s Hospital will add 26 critical care beds, an imaging center and additional heart services. Twenty-six new beds mean 26 more families to feed and support during their stays.

With current annual fundraising programs and the capital campaign nearly complete, dollars are now freed up to fund patient and family-centered programs.  The possibilities are many: Fellowships, nurse educators and enhancements to AFCH’s ongoing Child Life Services program – or, as I call it, “the concierge of AFCH.”

This program is what knits together patient- and family-centered care.

As a parent of a patient, I am amazed by the Child Life Service programs and happy this will be an area of focus once the capital campaign is complete. This area supports 24-hour playrooms and a teen lounge, a school, Tyler’s Place (play area for siblings) and Positive Image Center (where kids learn to cope with appearance-altering illnesses).

In addition, Child Life Service programs provide family meals, gas cards and lodging during lengthy visits. It also acts as a patient liasion and helps prep young patients or their siblings for their stays in the hospital.    

As the mom of a kid with a chronic illness, I have been this family – more than once. I’ve been the family who gets admitted at midnight after being in the emergency room all evening and there is an offer of a hot meal, laundry service or entertainment for an anxious kiddo.

These services, along with exceptional medical care, make American Family Children’s Hospital the world-class facility it is today. And, with the capital campaign complete, even more can be done to assist patients and their families.

Many have asked if I am surprised by American Family’s $1 million pledge. Not a bit. Since American Family’s original flagship gift ten years ago of $10 million, our employees, agents and retirees have continued to donate money and give their time as volunteers, and board and committee members.  

At a minimum, my son, Jack, visits the hospital quarterly for check-ups. From American Family’s namesake out front to the names of friends, family and co-workers adorning clinic rooms as a result of their donations, I am reminded to be grateful… for world-class care for my Jack; for a company that gives back so generously and supports my dream of what’s next for all sick kids cared for by American Family Children’s Hospital.

Editor’s note: Join our support of American Family Children’s Hospital. Donate to the hospital’s campaign, or get involved with these upcoming fund-raising events:

Wisconsin Dance Marathon
American Family Children’s Hospital Radiothon
Mike and Jessica McCarthy Golf Invitational

Sick kids can’t wait! 

Inspiring, protecting and rebuilding dreams

American Family Insurance 2013 annual reportAmerican Family Insurance inspires, protects and rebuilds our customers’ dreams, as illustrated in the stories featured our 2013 annual report.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences.

Our customer focus starts with you and your relationship with our American Family agents, trusted advisers who care about knowing and meeting your needs. It continues with our employees, who are thoughtful, innovative and dedicated to serving you.

Our financial strength improved in 2013, with policyholder equity increasing to $6.6 billion. Policyholder equity is what we have available to protect you when the unexpected occurs. We anticipate paying more than $3.4 billion for claims incurred in 2013.

But we do more than pay claims. We provide in-car technology to help teens and adults become safer drivers. Our DreamBank in Madison, Wis., continues to inspire visitors by helping them identify and pursue their individual dreams. And, we support communities nationally through sustainability and charitable efforts.

Our dream is to protect more people across the country. A major part of this effort is our strong investment in products, systems and services for customers of our American Family agents.

We are also expanding our reach to consumers who prefer to conduct business using the Internet or call centers. In 2013, we acquired Homesite Group, a direct property insurance company, and helped create AssureStart, a startup direct small-business insurance distributor. They join The General®, a direct auto insurance company we acquired in 2012.

Together, the companies in our American Family group provide options to meet consumers’ varied preference.

Thank you for inspiring us with your dreams ... and for allowing American Family to serve you.

Editor’s note: Read and share the stories from your fellow American Family Insurance customers in our 2013 annual report. Tell us what inspires you about their dreams. 

American Family’s DreamBank: Helping People Realize Their Potential One Dream at a Time

The DreamBrank dream team!Despite blanketing the city in marketing material and advertising, almost every day I’m asked, “What is DreamBank anyway?” Our “elevator speech” answer goes something like this: 

“At American Family Insurance, we believe that your dream is the most valuable thing you’ll ever own, so much so that we opened DreamBank, a community space dedicated to the pursuit of dreams. We invite our community members in to use our interactive tools and technology to discover their dream and then find inspiration to pursue that dream through our calendar of events and expert staff.”

The true answer, though, is much deeper and more purposeful than we could ever explain in a sentence or two. It’s important to note that the universality of dreams is that you’re always the right age, in the right circumstances and functioning in your best interest when you have a dream. This is the platform we’re using to connect with people. We’re not just reaching out to the business community and entrepreneurs – we’re reaching out and connecting with people.

We’re not just hosting field trips. We’re convincing 12 year-old Alexcia that her dream of becoming a doctor is not only possible, but that it’s admirable, noble, and impactful. We’re not just throwing Pinterest Parties. We’re creating a warm, welcoming environment where Wendy, a victim of years of emotional abuse, feels comfortable to express herself and begin re-scripting her internal dialogue.

Our growing community of dreamers consists of thousands of individuals who are working to better their own lives, the lives of others, and the lives of future generations. All by simply pursuing a dream.

So what is DreamBank? It’s many things. It’s a lecture hall, an art room, a contemplative space, a refuge, a dance party, even a place for meaningful conversation that brings clarity through introspection – you name it. The best part is that it’s what you make it – literally and figuratively – not just because you can use these resources at your leisure, but because when you talk, we listen.

Pinterest parties at DreamBankYou said your dream is to run a marathon, so we now have a “Couch to 5K” running club to get you started. You said your dream is to send your children to college, so we enlisted an expert to help you navigate the world of financial aid and standardized test prep. You said your dream is to travel, so we’re hosting events to help you plan and budget for your dream vacation.

DreamBank is the vehicle we’re using to catapult you from “Park” into “Drive.” It’s American Family’s way of bridging the gap between dreams and reality, because, in the words of best-selling author Sarah Ban Breathnach, “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers, but above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” 

Editor's note: Learn more about the American Family Insurance DreamBank, including the latest interactive displays and events, by visiting our website or joining our Facebook community

Maybe, just maybe, winter isn't all that bad

Frozen berries on a tree in winter.As long as I can recall, I haven’t been winter’s biggest fan. As a kid on a working farm, when I carried water to animals through snow as tall as I was uphill both ways, winter felt like an endless and brutal season. When I was 10, I made a deal with Mother Nature; I was allowed to curse the cold, the snow and the ice, but I could never once complain about the summer heat.

I’ve stuck to my word for 32 years.

I’ve now had three decades to reconsider my relationship with winter, and this winter in particular seems like a great time to write it down. Spring, summer and harvest season (I don’t use the “f” word in my house) are a riot of planning, planting, picking, pickling and putting by food from my garden. Some people say that folks in the north cram nine months of activity into our three-month summer. That may be true, but if we had a nine-month growing season, I’d be working in my garden the whole time. So maybe winter is a mandatory rest period I wouldn’t otherwise take.

I like the change of pace winter brings. I also like some of the other changes that happen at our house. Our menu changes as we incorporate more frozen and canned food. I love nothing more than going into the basement in the middle of winter and bringing up garlic, onions, cans of vegetables or fruit jam. We play more games with friends. We watch more movies. We go to plays and all the fund-raising dinners we attend seem to be in the winter months. We don’t make time for these things in the summer, so I’m glad winter makes time for them for us.

Another thing winter does is it slows me down. I’m a “doer,” meaning sometimes I stick a shovel in the soil and start digging, occasionally a little sooner or in a different place than had I planned in advance. So winter’s forced “down time” from the garden helps me sit back and observe my surroundings. It gives me time to reflect on the summer past and the summer to come. It’s also when I get my graph paper and doodle garden beds, pore through seed and plant catalogs and read the magazines I didn’t read when they arrived last summer.

Frozen apples on a tree in winter.Finally, this winter’s “polar vortex” was particularly long and harsh, but this isn’t new. Every winter has a spell of below-zero weather. I have a name for that bitter cold. I call it “bug-killing weather,” and I like to think it’s the reason we don’t have cockroaches the size of my foot or malaria mosquitoes here in Wisconsin.

So on reflection, I’ll continue to curse the cold of winter (and relish the heat of summer) but maybe, just maybe, winter isn’t all that bad – and even has it’s purpose in my life.

Josh Feyen - the Urbane Farmer shares his “raised-on-a-farm” wisdom and writes about urban farming and organic gardening topics on his personal blog, too.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9