One of my most vivid childhood memories of the holidays was the year I knocked over the tree. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. I was maybe four or five years old and went after a toy that had rolled behind the tree. Not knowing any better, I went after it and in the course of my diligent toy retrieval efforts, managed to knock the tree down.
Unfortunately, I broke several ornaments that had a lot of sentimental meaning to my parents, spilled the water in the tree stand and broke a few light bulbs as well. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it scared the heck out of me.
Fast forward several years to when I had children of my own. Not wanting history to repeat itself, I always made sure our tree was secure. In addition to being solidly in the stand, I also used clear fishing line to secure the tree to the handles on the windows behind it. I also kept a close watch on my kids whenever they got to close.
In the years since, I’ve picked up a few other tips to help my family safely enjoy the holidays and not be afraid that someone will get sick or hurt. Some of these also apply to families with dogs or cats.
I’m sure there are things you do around your home to keep children and pets safe. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up that may help this holiday season.
- Avoid decorations that look like food and could tempt little ones (or pets) to try to eahc.
- Limit rich, fatty holiday foods which can easily lead to an upset stomach.
- Holiday plants like holly, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias are poisonous.
- Keep lit candles away from little hands and wagging tails.
- Keep hot pots and pans on back burners to prevent them from being accidentally knocked over and causing a burn.
- Make sure toys are age and ability appropriate and don’t contain small parts that could be a choking hazard.
If you haven’t seen it, there’s also a great article in this month’s @dvisor with additional holiday safety tips for children and pets.
From my home to yours, I wish you all a happy, healthy, joyous – and safe – holiday season!
One 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!
Being 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:
- American Family's superior products
- Our excellent customer service, and
- 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.
For many people, getting an insurance policy is pretty straight-forward. You have something you need insured, you call an agent, he or she takes your application, calculates your payment, the company issues a policy and presto! You’re insured.
That works in some cases, but in many others – especially farms and businesses – it’s more complicated.
I’m one of 13 loss control specialists for American Family Insurance. My job is to go to a farm or commercial business we insure (or want to insure) and assess their current level of safety. After I inspect a property, I’ll go over my findings with our customer – or potential customer – to explain how they can reduce their potential for accidents, injury, and property damage.
I actually do two very important jobs for American Family.
The first is to consult with our largest accounts and help them reach the highest safety level possible in their operations. I look for potentially dangerous conditions and recommend ways to head off a problem before it occurs. If I see something that’s dangerous, I can suggest ways to correct the problem, or, if necessary, suggest replacement equipment that is safer. I can also train a customer’s employees in proper safety procedures and show them how to do their job with safety in mind. This creates a win-win since it reduces their likelihood of a loss, but also bolsters our retention and profitability.
My second job for American Family is to look over a property or business we’re considering insuring. An agent or an underwriter might ask me to see if there is anything that might be unsafe, dangerous, or could cause an injury. My safety review not only benefits the company, but is a real help to a prospective customer. In some cases, I’ve seen unsafe equipment that presented a fire hazard. When I explained it to the prospective customer and told them everything in the building could be destroyed if changes weren’t made, (in one case, the building was filled with antique tractors!) they were very grateful since they never realized the risk was there.
Many times I point out something a prospective customer sees, but didn’t realize was dangerous such as a missing machine guard or hand rail on stairs. I often hear, “I’ve seen it that way for years and never thought it was unsafe. Thanks for pointing it out.” Hopefully, by pointing out an unsafe condition or piece of equipment, I can prevent an injury or loss.
Some people may think, “Why bother? That’s what insurance is for.” Truth is no one wants to see someone injured, equipment damaged or property lost because of unsafe conditions. By working with our customers to identify and correct unsafe conditions, I can hopefully prevent an injury or death and avert an accident that puts someone out of business.
Editor's note: Small business owners, farmers and ranchers can receive free monthly tips and loss control information from American Family Insurance. Sign up for our Business @dvisor email newsletter on our website.
As the fall weather gets cooler and the leaves fall from the trees, I get more and more excited! This means snow will soon be here, and snowmobiling is just around the corner. It also means it’s time for my family’s snowmobiling safety checks.
Even before the snow comes, there is significant work to be done. We have to check over the snowmobiles, make sure all our gear fits: snowsuits, gloves and most importantly, helmets!
As my children grow from year to year, we buy new helmets for them to ensure they fit properly and we never snowmobile without a helmet, not even just going down the trail a little way.
My husband does a detailed inspection of our snowmobiles to make sure they work properly. These inspections include: changing the oil, checking the carbides (or blades on the bottom of the skis), making sure the track has no nicks or tears, checking the sparkplugs and making sure the snowmobile insurance is up to date.
You never know when you are going to need insurance, so making sure you have the proper coverage is very important.
A couple of years ago, my husband was in a snowmobile accident, and he wasn’t even going very fast. He was going around a corner at 20 m.p.h. when his ski caught a rock on the trail and the sled went over. Luckily, he flew one way and the sled the other.
The worst part about it was the kids and I were following him and we came around the corner to find him lying on the ground not moving. It was one of the scariest moments of my life!
He did get up and ended up hurting his knee a little, but the sled was totaled. When we calmed down a little, we called some friends to get us, then promptly called American Family’s customer service center to report the claim. Our agent called back immediately to make sure we were all OK.
An adjuster visited the dealership within a day, and we had a check within three days. My husband was back on a new sled in a week, and we were back on the trails good as new.
It’s important to prepare your snowmobiles and the riders. Go snowmobiling, but do it safely so you can enjoy the wintertime and all its beauty.