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The Washington State Patrol and Washington State Traffic Safety Commission recently published a press release that is a big compliment to Washington drivers:  At 97.5 percent, we top the nation when it comes to seat-belt use!  Overall seat belt use rate has been above 95 percent for seven consecutive years. 

Congratulations, fellow drivers!

Please see below the full release:

Darrin Grondel, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, was very pleased with the federal release of state numbers. “News like this makes me proud to be living in Washington. Safe roadways are a team effort that includes everybody using their seat belts because they know that seat belts save lives.”

Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center estimates that wearing lap-and-shoulder restraints reduces a vehicle passenger’s risk of dying in a crash by 61 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report and table comparing seat belt use rates for all states and territories. The national average in 2011 was 84 percent.

Experts believe that traffic deaths are reduced by good public policy, well-built and maintained roads, and successful education and enforcement efforts.

“Our troopers have placed a very high priority on seat belt violations,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “They see first-hand the results of not wearing seat belts and are extremely motivated to reduce these unnecessary injuries and deaths.”

“I also want to thank the many city, county, and tribal police agencies who’ve joined us in this effort.  It’s only by working together that we can achieve such a positive change of behavior,” Batiste added.

The way states take the observation seat belt survey is changing, so the method will be uniform across the country. This may cause seat belt use rates to change next year.

More information about seat belts can be found in Target Zero, Washington’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.

It takes a village to raise a child – and it takes a 6-foot fence with a locking gate to have an in-ground swimming pool in your backyard.  That’s the building code in most communities and an insurance underwriting requirement.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, in-ground pools may not be as common as above-ground or inflatable pools, but don’t be fooled!  Shallow soft-side or mobile pools may give us a sense of security because they don’t hold as much water.  However, even if the seasonal pool is smaller or more shallow than a permenent structure, it doesn’t mean that it’s safer.  A pool is a pool, and portable pools account for 11% of all pool drownings for children under the age of 5.  Some of these drownings happen in only a few inches of water, and 40% of them happen with adult supervision present!

Whatever water-fun you are enjoying in your backyard this summer, please follow these safety tips to avoid a tragedy.  Multi-layered protection is the key:

1.  Supervision
If there is water, there should be a watchful adult whose full attention is on the kids’ activities in the pool.  Have a phone nearby to be able to call for help quickly if needed.

2. Fencing
If you are not able to supervise, restrict access to the pool.  Consider installing a pool fence with a locking gate, remove access ladders, and cover large inflatable pools with a pool cover.  Drain smaller portable pools after every use.

3. Alarms
Consider setting up pool alarms that alert you when a child approaches the pool.

4. Swimming Lessons
Swimming lessons are a huge factor in children’s pool safety — but don’t assume they are safe because they know how to swim and float.  Constant supervision is crucial!

5. CPR
Know basic CPR so you can help immediately in an emergency.

6. Communicate
Talk with your neighbors, guests and babysitters and alert them about the pool in your backyard.  Teach your children to not play in a friend’s pool when there is no adult supervision.  Talk with your neighbors about pool rules and take turns in watching the youngsters play.
Keep in mind that pools (like trampolines) are considered an “attractive nuisance”.  If an accident happens on your property, even if a neighbor child splashes uninvited while you’re not even home, you can be held liable!  Drowning is the second-largest cause of death for children under 14

This makes pools a significant financial risk!

Even if friends or family members sustain a pool-related injury on your property do not want to sue you, they may be forced to in order to pay medical bills or to make up for lost income.

Homeowner’s insurance helps provide the liability protection you need.  Talk with your insurance agent about the liability limits on your homeowner’s policy, and consider purchasing Umbrella Insurance for additional peace of mind.

For more information on Swimming Pool Safety, please visit www.PoolSafely.gov

Planning to fire up the grill in honor of Independence Day?  You and your human friends may not be the only ones who are looking forward to a tasty morsel.  Whether you own a dog (like most of us on the McClain Insurance Team) or know a dog, please remember to keep your canine friends safe and healthy, especially during the summer months when outdoor cooking and eating abound.

1. Beware of corn on the cob and meat with bones
The corn cob and bones can get lodged in a dog’s throat or intestines causing serious problems.  Be sure to keep leftovers away from dogs, and keep the garbage can with its enticing smells in a safe place so that your hungry canine doesn’t help himself to a juicy treat.

2. A tasty treat for a human may be poison for a dog
There is a list of foods and beverages that can be dangerous or even deadly when ingested by a dog.  Chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, avocado, onion and garlic may not seem to be toxic, but they can cause significant gastric upset to your pet — as do “grown-up” beverages like coffee or alcoholic drinks.  Educate children that sharing their treat with their furry friend may reflect their generous heart, but can make the doggie very, very sick.

3. Keep a close eye on poisonous substances
Sweet-smelling liquids such as antifreeze are highly toxic and can result in a slow and painful death if lapped up by a curious pet.  If you suspect that your pet may have ingested a toxic substance, contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435 or visit www.aspca.org.

4. Ban certain blooms
Hundreds of plants can cause mild to severe illness when munched by a pet.  If your puppy is a little too interested in eating his greens, make sure your home and yard are safe.  For a list of dangerous plants, please view the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants.

5. Watch the grill
Curious noses and happy tails are quick to sniff hot grease or knock over a barbecue.  Keep pets away from fire and cooking stations and keep them from snacking off the ground to avoid a belly full of rocks and dirt.

Are you getting ready to celebrate our great nation’s Independence Day? As you prepare for BBQ, friends, parades, and especially fireworks, please keep in mind some safety precautions. In 2011, there were 476 reported fireworks-related incidents in Washington State, 212 of which were physical injuries, and 264 fires that resulted in over $550,000 in property loss.

Consider attending one of the dozens of free public Firework Shows across the state. McClain Insurance is proud to be a partner with the City of Everett for their July 4th Colors of Everett fireworks display.

Looking forward to lighting your own fireworks?  The Washington State Fire Marshal would like to remind everyone of the “3 B’s” of Firework Safety:

Be Prepared:

  • Retail fireworks stands open across the state on June 28th.  Purchase only legal fireworks from approved stands.  Keep in mind that different cities or neighborhoods have different regulations for lighting fireworks.
  • Keep pets indoors.
  • Keep a bucket of water and a hose nearby.  Place used fireworks into the water, and use the hose to extinguish stray sparks.  If it hasn’t rained for several weeks prior to the Fourth in your area, consider giving your garden, shrubs and trees and possibly even your roof a thorough watering leading up to the holiday.  (Considering the dreary June-uary we’ve experienced in Western Washington, the fire alert may be a little lower in our neck of the woods.)
  • Talk with your family – especially young children – about firework safety and appropriate behavior.  Consider alternative patriotic activities, such as crafts, baked goods, or glow-sticks.
  • Check and re-stock your first-aid kit and keep it nearby.

Be Safe:

  •  Have only one designated adult be responsible for lighting fireworks.
  • Light one at a time, move away quickly, and keep at a safe distance until the display is finished. If a firework doesn’t light, wait at least 15 minutes, then an adult should carefully approach it and place it in a bucket of water to soak.
  • Never throw fireworks and never hold them in your hand.
  • Use fireworks only outdoors, launch from a safe, level, fireproof surface, and  away from trees and structures.

Be Responsible:

  • Keep fireworks, matches and lighters out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Clean up used fireworks and debris.

 

 

Prom night is one of the most exciting nights in every High School student’s life!  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous nights.  But with a little preparation, this night of glitz and glam can be safe and extraordinary.  Here are some tips:

1. Make a Plan and Stick With It

Plan an off-the-charts, alcohol-and-drug-free after-party in a safe location.  The availability of good, clean fun will make it easier to say “No” to bad choices.  With a little preparation, prom night can turn into the funnest memory, like, ever!

2. Prepare for Peer Pressure

Yes, there are always the ‘other’ kids who offer temptation.  Parents, talk with your kids about what to say and do when fellow prom-goers drink or use drugs and encourage those around to do the same.  Why not practice “sticking to your guns” with role-play, humor, confidence-boosters, and maybe even incentives?

3. Stay with Friends

Pledge to stick together with your friends, and to look out for each other – especially when going to off-campus parties and events.  Pledge to come and leave with the same group, hold each other accountable, and practice responsible behavior.

4. Focus on your Driving.

Don’t drink, don’t take drugs, don’t let yourself get over-tired.  Even more importantly:  DO NOT DRIVE when you are under the influence of substances.  Keep in mind that distractions – such as texting, music, even excited talking with friends – can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence.

Parents – be sure that “your”group of students has a designated driver, consider hiring a driver or limousine service, or make yourself available to be the chauffeur for the night. 

5. Get home safely.  Live to tell about it.

Need we say more?  Wishing all teens (and parents) a fun, memorable and safe prom season!

 

 

The Office of the State Fire Marshal recently published this handy overview with tips to avoid electrical fires in the home.  Please take a moment to read, and make changes in your home if necessary… It may save lives!

Each year in the United States, electrical faults are responsible for starting more than 28,000 home fires, killing and injuring hundreds of people, and causing over $700 million in property damage. (Electrical Safety Foundation International)

State Fire Marshal Charles Duffy suggests the following guidelines to help ensure that you and your family are safe from shock hazards and electrical fires.

Maintenance

  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed.  Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
  • Identify the circuits in the breaker box. The breaker box usually tells the amperage of each circuit as well as the outlets serviced by the circuit.
  • Avoid overloading outlets. Consider having additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician as needed.
  • Look for telltale signs of electrical problems such as dim and flickering lights, unusual sizzling and buzzing sounds from your electrical system, insulation and circuit breakers that trip repeatedly. Contact a qualified electrician immediately.
  • Overheating, unusual smells, shorts, sparks and sputters are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired.

Proper Use – When using appliances, follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions.

  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Many avoidable electrical fires can be traced to misuse of electric cords, such as running the cords under rugs through doorways or windows, over nails or in high traffic areas.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
  • Do not piggy-back power strips by plugging one into another. Plug each power strip directly into an electrical outlet.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the light fixture.

Prevention

  • Be sure electrical outlets near a wet area have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection.
  • Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory. Only use lab-approved electric blankets and warmers.
  • In homes with young children, install tamper resistant receptacles to prevent electrical shocks and burns.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area.

 

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, training Washington State’s firefighters, and collecting emergency response data.

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Electric fires are covered on a standard homeowner’s insurance policy.  If you have questions about your insurance protection plan, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 425-379-9200.  We’re here to help!

 

How many miles can you go over the speed limit and not get a ticket?

According to a recent PEMCO poll, about half of Washington drivers believe that they can get away with going slightly above the cited limit by taking advantage of the “buffer zone”.  A majority of those “lead-foot drivers” set their “buffer limit” at 4mph above the posted limit, and nine out of 10 Washington drivers admit that they’ve exceeded the speed limit at least once.

Oregon drivers tend to be slightly more liberal with their interpretation of the legal speed limit:  Two thirds of drivers admit to taking advantage of the preceived “buffer zone” and more than half of those add as much as 9mph to the posted limit.

In either state, of those who admit to speeding, a majority say that they’re simply keeping up with the flow of traffic and a smaller fraction say that they speed without even realizing that they’re exceeding the limit.

The question is:  Is there really such a thing as a buffer zone?

You may have snuck by a police officer at 4 or 5 mph above the posted limit – but don’t be fooled.  A police officer can pull over a driver for going even just 1mph above the legal limit.

And this with good reason:  According to the Washington State Patrol, speeding is one of three driving behaviors where motorists are most likely to be killed or injured when drivers violate posted speed limits. Other fatal actions include driving while impaired and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Who is speeding?

An interesting fact revealed by the PEMCO poll indicates that the more you earn, the more likely you’ll speed: Almost 60% of drivers with incomes of $50,000 or more per year admit to sometimes speeding.

The same is true for drivers aged 35 or younger: Almost two-thirds of them acknowledge  speeding on occasion.

While in the past, male drivers have been considered to be more aggressive drivers, research suggests that this trend is starting to shift, according to MSN Money.  Not only are there more women driving powerful cars on the road than there were years ago, but also, more and more women are undergoing similar stresses as men, which may trigger similar driving patterns.

How does it affect your insurance?

Psychologists suggest that buyers tend to purchase vehicles that reflect their personalities.  That’s why, as insurance carriers aim to gauge the risk that a driver represents to the company, they take into consideration not only the vehicle you drive, your driving record and driving experience, but also factors such as your profession or whether you are a homeowner, to determine your insurance rates.

If you have any questions about your car insurance, or would like to get a Car Insurance Quote, please give us a call at 425-379-9200.  We’re here to help!

When speaking of Electronics Recycling, the question of data security is not far behind.  Awareness and vigilance are your best friends when it comes to keeping your personal information safe.  Here are some ways to protect yourself:

Disposing of Old Computers:

Simply deleting files, emptying the Recycling Bin or even reformatting the hard drive won’t do the trick:  Even after all these measures, files can still be accessed and reconstructed by computer-savvy people.  And identity thieves are smart.

After downloading all the files you’d like to keep to a CD, USB Flash Drive or a different computer, consider purchasing or downloading a special software program.  Different options are available:  Some clear the entire hard drive, others allow you to select files you wish to keep.  Some wipe the hard drive once, others overwrite it multiple times.  As a rule of thumb, consider using a program that wipes the hard drive multiple times to ensure that date cannot be retrieved.

Another option is to remove your hard drive and physically destroy it by drilling holes into it.

Many certified electronics recyclers provide Certificates of Destruction for a small fee.  This is especially important for businesses and organizations who handle sensitive customer information.

Disposing of old Cell Phones:

If you consider recycling or donating your cell phone, here is what you need to do:

* Terminate the account service – or the recipient will be able to make phone calls while you are paying the bill.  Confirm with your carrier, and check your bill carefully.

* Delete all of your stored information, including contacts, messages, e-mails, or incoming, outgoing and missed calls.  Check your phone’s manual and follow instructions to do a factory reset.

* The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends the use of special data erasing tools that can be obtained on the internet, such as the Recellular Data Eraser Tool.

* Remove your SIM card and shred it or cut it in half.  For assistance, please contact your service provider or your phone’s manufacturer.

Disposing of old Photocopiers:

Be aware that almost every photocopier built since 2002, especially the high-end machines found in copy shops and those that combine scanning, printing and faxing, contains a hard drive.

While the hard drive is necessary for the speedy processing of jobs, it also automatically stores the data of every page the machine ever photocopied. The problem: If machines are retired without their hard drives thoroughly cleaned, the data they hold may be available to whomever gets their hands on it.

Depending on what you (or your acccountant, employer or doctor) photocopied, your personal information may be jeopardized.  Before using a public or employer’s photocopier, ask whether it contains a hard drive, and what the provider’s security policy is.  In case of doubt, invest in a personal printer/scanner/copier and be sure to clean its hard drive thoroughly according to manufacturer’s directions before retiring the machine.

 

 

For many people, the holidays are a time of parties, gatherings, and open houses.  And indeed, part of the magic of the Season includes being surrounded by family and friends.  If you are hosting, however, your planning shouldn’t stop at the menu and the decor. Having a number of guests at your house increases the potential for injuries or other claims.

If you enjoy having guests over, give your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy a quick look to ensure you are covered for the most common claims situations.  Even if your relatives don’t want to sue you, they may be forced to do so in order to get their medical bills paid.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so be sure to take some basic safety precautions:

Slips and Falls

  • If your driveway or sidewalk are icy, sprinkle sand or salt to reduce the risk for accidents or injuries.
  • Take care that the areas where guests will be walking are properly lit.
  • If there are dangerous areas on your property, mark them clearly or fence them off, especially if your guest list includes children that might enjoy roaming through your yard.

Food Safety

  • When preparing food, wash your hands and equipment often, especially when handling food that’s high in bacteria such as chicken.
  • Choose appetizers and snacks that can handle room temperature, or be sure that foods requiring refrigeration don’t stay out too long.
  • Cook meat, eggs and seafood thoroughly before serving.

Alcohol

  • If you are serving alcohol, be sure to also offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks or virgin cocktails.
  • Stop serving alcohol an hour or two before the party ends.
  • Stop serving guests who appear intoxicated.
  • If a guest had a little too much to drink, call a taxi service to get them home safely.

Serving alcohol can trigger uncomfortable situations, so when hosting a larger or more formal gathering, you might want to consider hiring a professional bar tender who is trained to recognize signs of intoxication in guests.

Be aware that if a guest leaves your party intoxicated and is involved in an accident, you may be held liable in a lawsuit.  Your insurance may or may not provide coverage in this situation.

Hiring A Service Provider

If you opt to hire a service provider, such as a caterer, bartender or valet for your party, be sure that they are licensed, bonded and insured.  Request to see a copy of the current insurance policy to ensure the coverage is active and includes a liquor liability endorsement.

Protect Your Valuables

  • To limit the potential for damage, move expensive vases or other valuable items, especially if they are displayed in a high-traffic area.
  • Put away jewelry or other small precious items and consider locking doors you don’t want opened, especially if your invitees include guests that you don’t know personally. A scheduled jewelry endorsement will cover your valuable jewelry in case of theft or  ‘mysterious disappearance’.

Consider the Type of Event

Of course, it makes a difference whether you are hosting a relatively small holiday gathering, or your daughter’s Christmas wedding.  If you are hosting a large event, you may wish to invest in a Special Event insurance policy.  Your insurance agent can help you with that.

Please give us a call if you have any questions.  Happy Holidays!

 

As you get ready to spend cozy evenings by the fireplace, be sure to do a little “winter proofing” so you can safely enjoy the Holiday season.

Here are some tips to winterize your chimney and fireplace:

~Invite a chimney sweep over to your house!  Not only will he bring you good luck (don’t forget to shake his hand or blow him a kiss) but he’ll also remove soot and creosote buildup from your chimney so you can safely use it this winter. Have your chimney inspected annually and swept as necessary.

~Screen or cap the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds, and keep branches and leaves at least 15 feet away from the chimney.

~Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoints.

~ Make sure the fireplace damper is opening and closing properly.

~ Choose the right fuel:  Split wood should be well seasoned and have been split for 6 months to 1 year.  Never burn Christmas trees or treated wood in a wood fireplace or wood stove.

~ Keep the hearth clear and install a fireplace screen to catch sparks.

~ Never leave a fire unattended and keep a close eye on children and pets.

~ If you have a woodburning fire stove or fireplace, it’s so much more important to keep your Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Smoke Detectors in good working order! Change the batteries regularly at Daylight Savings Time.

(If you have a furnace, call a HVAC professional to inspect the furnace and clean the ducts.  Change furnace filters monthly.)

For more information on Chimney Fires, please visit http://www.csia.org/
One of our agents witnessed the effects of a chimney fire not long ago: 

A house across the street had finally found new tenants after many months of vacancy. Tragically, less than a week after moving in, the young couple started a fire in the wood fireplace — only to notice an eery glimmer between the bricks and hear a distinctive crackling in the wall.  They did the right thing: They immediately rushed outside and called 911.  The fire department came with no less than six vehicles and was able to contain the fire quickly.  Our agent awoke at 2:00 am to bright lights, running motors, and loud voices.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in the chimney fire.  But there was some structural damage to the house and smoke damage inside the home to the tenants’ furnishings.
Did the young couple have Renter’s Insurance? 

We don’t know….  We hope they did.  A landlord’s insurance policy only covers damage to the structure of the home.  However, a landlord is not responsible for the tenant’s personal property. 

Even if you think you don’t own that much “stuff”, you’ll be surprise how quickly $35,000 or even $50,000 in personal property can accumulate!  A renter’s policy will protect your belongings in case of fire, theft, broken water pipes, and other perils (including smoke damage) and will help replace items that are stolen from your car or while you’re away from home.  Additionally, it provides liability coverage in case you accidentally cause damage or injury to another person.

All that for about $12 to $15 per month!

Here’s a “little different” idea:

If you someone on your gift list is renting but doesn’t have insurance, why not give them a special Christmas present this year?  Aside from the personal property, liability protection, and discount on car insurance that a Renter’s Policy provides, you will give them a priceless gift: Peace of Mind!

Please give us a call to learn more!

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