Proactive Protection

The Summer Biking Season is here. Are You Ready?

Safe summer biking tipsOne of my favorite summer activities is bike riding. After a long winter, getting back on my bike is a treat.

I’m not training for competition or trying to see how far I can go. I ride to relax and enjoy the scenery. Exercise is an added benefit.

When it comes to riding, I’m lucky. There are nice, rural roads about five blocks from my home with few cars and trucks to worry about. When riding, I can focus on the scenery and fresh air.

Here are a few common-sense tips get ready for the season: 

  • Take a few moments and get last season’s dirt and crud off your bike and its mechanisms. This helps extend the life of your bike and its components.
  • Inspect your brakes. Brakes not only stop you, they prevent you from going too fast for your comfort level. You don’t want to be going down a hill only to discover you can’t slow down or stop.
  • Inspect the chain, pedals, gears and derailleur. Make sure everything is clean, properly lubricated and functioning properly.
  • Make sure the tires are in good condition, have plenty of tread and don’t show any cracks or other signs of wear. Properly inflate them, too. The last thing you want is to be miles from home with a flat tire.
  • Check the brake and gear shift cables. Cables that are clean, in good condition and at the proper tension make changing gears and braking that much smoother.
  • Don’t forget your helmet and reflective clothing. Riding isn’t a stealth operation – you want to be seen. There are lots of options for bright, reflective neon colors to increase your visibility. When it comes to a helmet, get a good one. You don’t have a $10 head, so why trust it to a $10 helmet.  
  • Remember traffic rules. You have the same responsibilities as auto drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic, use the rightmost lane and signal all turns.

Following these simple tips can give you a summer of great biking. If you’re not comfortable making repairs or adjustments to your bike yourself, most shops offer spring tune-ups by reputable mechanics.

Summer is too short to spend indoors. Give yourself a lift and go for a ride.

Editor's note: Where do you like to ride? Leave a comment and share your dream cycling getaway spot. Enjoy the ride!

Posted by Eric Wolf on Tue, Jun 18 2013 1:31 pm

Safety consulting: A partnership with small business owners

Safety consulting for small business ownersBeing a third-generation agent for American Family, I grew up living and breathing insurance. My father, Kenny Lionberger, was an American Family agent for 47 years. My grandfather, Waldo Lionberger, was an American Family agent before him.

Compared to them, I’m a rookie having been an agent for only two-and-a-half years. Even though I’m relatively new at this, I know a good thing when I see it. And one of the best things I see is American Family’s Loss Control/Safety Consulting program.

When I work with current and prospective customers, there are three things I stress:

  1. American Family's superior products 
  2. Our excellent customer service, and 
  3. Our safety consulting programs for small business owners. 

Many of my customers own and operate wineries. As their businesses grow, they may be expanding their buildings or adding new equipment. When that happens, they often turn to me and American Family’s safety consultants for suggestions on making their buildings and employees safer. They aren’t required to follow the suggestions from our safety consultants, but they do because they know it will make their operations safer and less prone to losses and down time.

No one ever wants a loss or an injury, and this service can help prevent them. Advice from American Family’s safety consultants has gone a long way toward preventing losses and building strong relationships between me and my customers. They know I’m not just trying to sell them something. I'm working with them to be a partner in their businesses and find ways for them to be successful.

Editor's note: Contact your local American Family Insurance agent and ask about our Safety Consulting program

Posted by Raylene Hollrah on Tue, May 28 2013 2:41 pm

Distracted Driving Is Something We Can All Live Without

Distracted drivingAmerican Family Insurance strongly encourages safe driving practices, and we want to lead by example. This spring, we’ve instituted a cell phone usage policy that basically states employees may not use a cell phone or other mobile device to perform work when operating a motor vehicle. Hands-free devices are not encouraged but allowed if for essential company business if not in violation of local laws.

I helped develop that policy after seeing compelling research that provides strong proof that the use of cell phones while driving is a significant distraction to drivers.

To be honest, I thought the few seconds it takes to text, scan a message or have a conversation on a cell phone while driving was relatively harmless. After all, I’m an experienced driver. I was capable of multitasking. I felt I was doing pretty well by limiting where and when I used my cell phone while driving.

After I read the National Safety Council (NSA) research on the hazards of a distracted brain, that all changed.

These were the top three shockers from the report:

Multitasking is a myth. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain switches between one task and another. Brains can do this very rapidly which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time.

The brain not only juggles tasks, it juggles focus and attention. When people attempt to perform two complex tasks at the same time such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus.

Reaction-time switching costs. Research studying the impact of talking on cell phones while driving has identified tangible and measurable slowed reaction times to potential hazards.

Since then, I’ve become very aware of others driving while using cell phones. They’re the ones whose speed is constantly changing, and they sometimes swerve like they’re under the influence. I can pick out these drivers about 90 percent of the time.

Those are just the talkers. People texting and driving are even scarier! All of these drivers increase the possibility of causing a severe injury to themselves and others and I don’t want to be one of them.

If this research was not enough to convince me to change my habits, the new 16-year-old driver in my household is. Setting a good example by staying off my phone is important.

So what can we do besides put policies in place? Be aware of the risk to yourself and others when you’re distracted. Put your phone on silent when driving, use a hands-free device or, if possible, just pull over off the road. If you’re really passionate, you can contact your elected officials and push them to put laws in place to ban texting and talking while driving.

I’ll be the first to admit this behavior can be hard to change. But it’s safe to say this change is a “good call.”

April is distracted driving awareness month. Join me and commit to safer driving habits - today and every day.

Posted by Bob Ness on Tue, Apr 30 2013 9:45 amBob Ness is a corporate risk and insurance administrator for American Family Insurance.

Pinterest is the place to explore, create and share dreams

Dream room makeover Pinterest sweepstakesI’ve heard the saying a million times. “It’s not the house that makes the home. It’s the love and family inside.”

I truly believe it and live by this philosophy every day. But I’d be fooling myself if I said I didn’t like to dream of awesome things, like a pool for the family, or a bigger closet for my home.

Last year I discovered a girls’ dream: A digital, magazine-like website called Pinterest.  It’s full of endless home ideas. Just like 25 million others who use it, Pinterest is a one-stop shop for discovering and organizing everything I love, and dream about.

I quickly had a dream home created virtually on my own Pinterest page. From pets to recipes, hairstyles to inspirational quotes, Pinterest is a popular place for dreamers to organize everything their hearts desire. Never has it been so easy to browse and collect photos of our dream dinners, family photos or even gardening ideas – all in one place.

These Pinterest dreams inspired American Family Insurance to partner with Better Homes and Gardens for a Dream Room Makeover sweepstakes. What better place to gather decorating and remodeling images for your very own makeover!

Pinterest logoWhether it’s a single-family home, apartment or condo, many Pinterest users already create and pin their dream room ideas on boards dedicated to their homes. Asking them to pin images from Better Homes and Gardens for a chance to win $5,000 is a win-win scenario. They get beautiful ideas for their dream rooms, and American Family provides a chance to make those ideas come to life.

As community manager for American Family’s Pinterest page, I try to imagine what people living out their dreams in a dream home may want from an insurance company. Quite simply, we want to make sure their dreams are protected. So, we share timely safety tips for homeowners and renters on Pinterest.

For example, we’ve pinned information on protecting your home from spring flooding. Take it from someone who lived in a home damaged by water, these tips are worth pinning. As part of our Pinterest sweepstakes, sharing and pinning American Family’s home-related safety tips can earn you two additional entries. (Check out the official rules for details.)

Every day, Pinterest brings to life ideas to inspire my dreams. I love to think about what I would do in my home by browsing through these beautiful images. I also look for practical tips to make my home safe and secure, whether it’s a dream home I hope to have some day, or the one I’m living in today.

So, if you love to dream and have an ultimate dream home in mind, click here to pin your Dream Room Makeover on your Pinterest board. It could win you $5,000 toward making those dreams a reality.

Posted by Lisa Ott on Fri, Apr 26 2013 7:03 amLisa Ott is a social media specialist and Pinterest community manager for American Family Insurance.

Blasted by hail: Learning from indoor storms

IBHS Indoor hailstorm demonstrationI recently attended the first-ever indoor hailstorm. That’s right – an indoor hailstorm! Why? Every year, hail causes billions of dollars in damage to property and crops. An indoor storm like this can be studied in detail to find ways to make hail-resistant structures and reduce the destruction from hailstorms.

It was an amazing experience. Not only were insurance industry representatives like me there, but national media including “The Today Show,” (which broadcast it live). “The Weather Channel,” “Discovery Channel” and “This Old House” were there as well.

This storm was a test created by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IIBHS) to learn how different building materials withstand a hailstorm’s damage. For five minutes and some 9,000 hailstones, the “storm” pelted a house, a car, outdoor furniture and nearby toys. The only thing missing was a thunderstorm.

To deliver the hailstones with the same intensity as a real storm, IBHS engineers designed a series of multi-barreled hail cannons mounted 60 feet above the research center’s test chamber. When the storm started, the cannons were firing hailstones at the rate of 1,800 per minute at speeds up to 76 mph!

IBHS Indoor hailstorm demonstrationThe test structure had different building materials to compare performance. The roof featured asphalt shingles, impact-resistant architectural shingles, metal roofing and metal-over-shingles. Standard vinyl siding and fiber-cement siding were used, as well as vinyl and aluminum windows and aluminum gutters and downspouts. During the demonstration, the entire structure was pelted evenly with hailstones.

IBHS can now study the damage to the different materials. The windshield on the car for example, was shattered, and the test home received significant damage. We also learned while metal roofing does a great job keeping water out and will typically outlast traditional shingles, it shows every little ding from the hail.

American Family supports the work of IBHS because of our commitment to loss prevention. More research is needed to create building materials and techniques that can better withstand damage from storms. Our goal is to make homes safer by building them stronger, not cheaper.

Through our membership with IBHS, American Family helps fund research addressing the impact of hail and other natural disasters, and can lead to the establishment of better building standards. The end result helps manage costs through reduced property insurance losses, which helps keep insurance more affordable for everyone. 

Posted by Bill Eberle on Tue, Apr 09 2013 7:54 amBill Eberle is a product design senior specialist with American Family Insurance.
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