Boating safety: All hands on deck

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in blog

Each time you set out on the lakes and waterways with your boat, take time to review some basic safety tips. First, make sure everyone who drives your boat knows the basic rules about right of way, speed limits, ski restrictions and equipment condition. Improve operating skills by completing a course. Contact the department of natural resources in your state to find boating classes, or contact the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron. For information about vessel safety and other boating resources, visit the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Resource Center Keep in mind: Half of all personal watercraft accidents involve operators with less than 20 hours of experience. Thirty-five percent involve riders under age 21. Follow all U.S. Coast Guard regulations for life jackets and safety equipment. Keep enough air pressure in trailer tires. Low pressure at high speeds causes accidents. Be sure your drain plugs are installed. Many boaters have launched the craft from a trailer with the drains open. Periodically recheck the motor bracket clamps for firmness. A safety chain secured to the boat can keep the motor from falling entirely into the water. Open the hatch or operate the blower before starting an inboard engine. Gasoline fumes are dangerous. Guard against theft; don’t leave your boat, motor or equipment unattended. Take equipment not permanently attached or locked away with you when leaving the boat. Keep firefighting and lifesaving equipment in good condition. This equipment should be readily available. The first few seconds are the most important. Use an electric engraver to label your equipment. Before leaving your boat, be certain stoves, lights or lanterns and switches are turned off and cigarettes extinguished. And remember—no smoking while fueling. Lock your boat onto its trailer and secure the trailer to a fixed object when it is not attached to a vehicle. Tow skiers in open areas away from congested areas, narrow or winding channels or near docks, buoys or floats. Use a wide angle rearview mirror and a second person to act as a lookout when towing a skier. Stop the motor before taking a skier on board. And before you set out, check with us today to make sure you have the property and liability insurance protection you...

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Take a trip … and put it all behind you

Posted by on Apr 25, 2017 in blog

Every year millions of motorists by choice or necessity engage in a widely-practiced highway pastime: towing a trailer behind their car or pickup truck. I’m one of them. Growing up in Northern Wisconsin, I had hundreds of opportunities to tow trailers, boats, travel trailers and anything else you can think of, and over the years I’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to assist the occasional tower. Although towing a trailer isn’t “rocket science,” you should realize there’s more involved than when you’re driving a vehicle with nothing hooked behind. Here are some trailer-towing safety tips: BEFORE YOU GO Before you hook up the trailer, inspect the trailer, hitch and safety chains for excessive wear. Ensure the electrical hookups work for the trailer wiring and brakes. Check tire air, oil, fuel and coolant levels — you should do this before any trip, whether or not you’re towing a trailer. Make certain the vehicle and trailer lights operate. PROPER TRAILER LOADING Load the trailer with heavier items toward the front for proper weight distribution. About 60 percent of the cargo weight should be in the trailer’s front half. This properly places about 10 percent of the loaded trailer weight on the tow-vehicle hitch. PRACTICE DRIVING…ESPECIALLY BACKING If you’re not a trailer-towing rock star, take time to practice before beginning your trip. When backing up, place one hand on your vehicle’s steering wheel at the six o’clock position. To move the trailer’s rear end to the right, turn the steering wheel to the right; to the left, turn left. In more complex towing situations, such as boat launching, use low-range gears for extra power and control. TURNING SUGGESTIONS Allow more room to the inside on right turns since the trailer wheels track to the inside turn path more than will the vehicle wheels. PASSING When passing a slower motorist or changing lanes, signal well in advance and move gradually into the next lane. After passing, allow the trailer or RV extra room before returning to the driving lane. Avoid passing on steep grades, up or down. STOPPING Driving while towing a trailer requires a greater distance to stop. A good rule of thumb: Allow one vehicle and trailer length between you and the vehicle you’re following for each 10 mph of speed. Eliminate panic stops by shifting to a lower gear and pumping brakes lightly to reduce vehicle speed. CLEARANCE Be aware of the height of the trailer you’re towing. It may be taller than the vehicle you’re accustomed to driving. Pay attention to posted height restrictions, especially on side roads, city streets and parking lots. You wouldn’t want to exit the drive-through with more than just your meal. Better to...

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Protecting your identity AND the environment

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in blog

While we know that it’s important to take steps to protect our personal information, it always seems to end up at the bottom of the to-do list. But identity theft is not going away any time soon. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 17 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014 alone. With numbers like this, chances are good that someone you know has been a victim. And you also know how much of a hassle it can be to deal with the aftermath of identity theft. What if you could cross several items off your ever growing to-do list all at once? Did you know that many of the actions that help prevent identity theft also have the added benefits of simplifying your busy life and protecting the environment? 3 ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY Go Paperless – An easy way for thieves to gain access to your personal information is by stealing your mail. Take advantage of the electronic delivery and online payment services that your banks, utilities, credit card and insurance companies offer. If you already pay online, but still receive paper statements, consider turning them off. Not only do you reduce the risk of identity theft, you reduce the amount of paper cluttering your desk and landfills. Eliminate Junk Mail – All of those pre-filled credit card offers that seem to arrive each week are another way for criminals to use your personal information to open new credit accounts. You can take steps to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail that you receive. The Federal Trade Commission website has an entire section devoted to privacy and security, including ways to opt out of unsolicited offers and telemarketing calls. Shred Documents – Believe it or not, criminals routinely sift through the trash of both homeowners and businesses looking for sensitive identity information. One way to prevent this is to shred any documents with personal information after they are no longer needed. While many businesses already shred documents with personal information, homeowners can look for similar services or invest in an inexpensive shredder from the office supply store. In addition to shredding documents, these services also recycle the paper, keeping it from the landfills. So, set aside a few minutes this weekend to reduce the risk of identity theft. Eliminating paper mail will also help simplify your life and have a positive impact on the environment. Then, you can get back to that book or your favorite...

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Preserve your prized jewelry and watches

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in blog

Jewelry and watches have a strong appeal to many people. They can represent sentiment, personal adornment, private assets, family heirlooms and collectible works of art. Because of their unique value, jewelry worn today should be preserved for tomorrow. Consider the following tips to help protect your jewelry: Store jewelry in a clean, protected location, such as a jewelry box. Place jewelry in separated compartments because some metals and gemstones scratch or chip more easily than others. Some boxes include individually padded slots for rings and provide posts for hanging necklaces and bracelets. Consider installing a secured safe within your home to prevent theft. Keep your most precious items or items you wear infrequently in a bank vault or safe deposit box. In addition to preventing theft or misplacement, you may also save on insurance premiums. Prepare an inventory of your watches and jewelry, just as you would all of your property. Take photos and keep purchase receipts. Store a copy offsite. Take extra steps when traveling: Photograph jewelry you plan to take with you in case an item is lost or stolen. Pack jewelry in your carry-on bag, not in checked luggage. Keep your most expensive items with you at all times. Place unattended jewelry in a locked safe or vault under hotel management supervision rather than in your hotel room safe. Examine the condition of each item on a regular basis. Check for loose settings, weak clasps and worn strings. Have any weaknesses or damage repaired as soon as possible. Visit a professional about every 6 months to have your jewelry professionally cleaned and inspected. Schedule a jewelry re-appraisal on a regular basis, about every 3 to 5 years. Jewelry and watches have style and beauty we can admire. Contact Shafer Insurance for more detailed information on how to preserve your collection for generations to...

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Be alert for skimmers and scammers!

Posted by on Mar 8, 2017 in blog

Before you swipe your bank card or credit card to make a payment or complete a bank transaction, be alert for skimmer devices attached inside or over the real card reader. Criminals use skimmers to capture the information from the magnetic strip on credit or debit cards, gaining unauthorized access to consumer accounts. Skimmers have become increasingly prevalent as they are easy to put in place. The skimmer device fits right over or inside the real card reader. When the card is swiped, it passes through the skimmer before going into the real reader. Skimmers have popped up at bank drive-through ATMs, gas stations and other businesses, especially in remote locations or places that are difficult to monitor. There are a few things you can do to make sure your account information stays safe. LOOK BEFORE YOU SWIPE Look for signs of tampering or bulkiness of the card reader you are about to use. If it looks too thick, damaged, loose or just does not look right, report it to the bank or business and use a different machine. Consumers have even reported parts of skimmers coming off the ATM. The FBI offers additional tips and illustrations of what to look for.  If you see someone tampering with or hanging around an ATM machine, report this information as soon as possible to law enforcement or the bank or related business hosting the machine. Sometimes criminals hang around machines to collect information via a Bluetooth connection or wait for an opportunity to add a skimmer or make changes to a machine. PROTECT YOUR CHIPPED CARD Many newer credit cards have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. The chips use a wireless, electromagnetic field to transmit information across short distances. Criminals use small remote skimmers that can be concealed in a pocket to collect information from the RFID chip. With these skimmers, the card need not be physically swiped to compromise the information. The electronic pickpocket need only walk a few feet away from you to collect information from the chip. To prevent information theft, use a card carrier with a lined casing to shield the signal from the card. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation put out a Consumer Alert describing additional measures you can take, such as stacking several RFID-equipped cards together. WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE HACKED If you do fall victim to a skimmer or RFID scam, immediately report it to law enforcement, providing as many details as possible. Contact the security department of your bank or the retailer whose card was compromised. Close the account and put a fraud alert on your credit file. Find additional information to protect your accounts on our identity theft prevention site...

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Add safety to your home fix-it list

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in blog

You’re the weekend warrior: attacking your home improvement projects with gusto. You’re not alone. Millions of Americans attempt home fix-it projects for fun or to save money. Don’t cut corners where safety is concerned. Consider these three scenarios and decide: good idea or bad idea?   Amelia is painting the trim on her house. Her 24-foot extension ladder is in the driveway, leaning against the gutter. Amelia finishes the section she’s working on. Instead of descending the ladder to readjust it, she remains on the ladder and “hops” it, gradually moving it to the right a few inches at a time until she can reach the next section. Good or Bad idea? This is a very bad idea. Amelia could cause the ladder to tip over and fall, and she could sustain serious injury. She should take the time to climb down the ladder to re-position it. Besides, “hopping” the ladder could spill the paint and make a big mess. George is handy. He likes to save money by completing home repair projects himself. Today he is adding a dimmer switch to a light fixture in his dining room. Before he begins work, he goes to the basement and flips the circuit breaker, cutting power to that section of his home. Then he double-checks the circuit with the handy, but inexpensive, tester he bought at the hardware store. Whenever George works with electricity, he also keeps one hand in his pocket. Good or Bad idea? Good idea! All these steps help keep George safe from shock. With one hand in his pocket, George’s arms don’t complete a circuit that leads directly through his heart. A do-it-yourselfer, William is renovating a room in his house. This weekend he’s using a variety of power tools, including a circular saw, to make his job easier. William wants to keep his vision and all his fingers, so he wears eye protection when he’s working and makes sure the blade guard is functioning. William also noticed that his 4-year-old son, Billy, is watching his every move. William stops what he’s doing and finds another family member to take responsibility for Billy. When he pauses to have lunch, William secures all the power tools, unplugs the power cords and shuts the door to the room. Good or Bad idea? Good idea! William is smart. Power tools are a major cause of injuries around the house, and he’s wise to protect himself and his family from potential injury. Children should be kept far away from work areas. Do-it-yourselfers are wise to take all precautions to prevent...

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