Canada's Heart & Stroke Association poses the question: What will your last 10 years look like? It's a short, though provoking clip that reminds us that health choices we make today will dictate the quality of our life later.
If you fear you might be on the path of the person on the right, it's never too late to make some healthy changes. Here's a few places to start. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the results of a study about the Mediterranean diet. The study found people at high risk for coronary artery disease could reduce their risks of stroke, heart attack and death from coronary artery disease by 30% by relying on a Mediterranean style of eating. Learn more about a more about a Mediterranean diet from the Mayo Clinic.
The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s. According to the Autism Society, autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. The prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in 54 boys.
Here are some autism resources for parents, teachers and friends:
The Autism NOW Center us the nation's source for resources and information on community-based solutions for individuals with autism, other developmental disabilities, and their families.
Here are two autism-related video clips that we enjoy. The first clip is by Temple Grandin, perhaps the worlds most famous person living with autism. Diagnosed with autism as a child, she talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.
The second video is an uncle talking with and about his autistic nephew. Its by the Winn Brothers from the What You Ought to Know series.
When you head off to start your work day, bird attacks aren't usually high on your "risk management" list. But the following clips of workers going about their business and fending off angry birds might make you think twice. The enraged birds aren't discriminatory - office workers, mailmen, cops - all equally at risk. We're not sure if this is seasonal revenge by the turkey and goose population who are tired of having their kin folk end up on holiday platters or what, but be warned!
There's a few weeks left to summer and August is a big beach month. One of the most highly touted scare stories each season are the shark attack reports. Here in New England, people may be more nervous than usual in the light of a pretty horrific recent white shark attack off Cape Cod. Thankfully, this encounter between man and beast was not fatal - you can hear the survivor talk about his experience.
It's understandable why these events are riveting - it's the stuff of our nightmares. But should it be? This was the first confirmed white shark attack in Massachusetts in 76 years. For all the media attention they get, shark attacks are pretty rare. Ocean observers tell us that you have more of a risk of dying from a sand hole collapse than a shark attack but you probably aren't having nightmares about sand castles. But maybe you should be.
Another very common hazard at the ocean are rip currents. Beach-goers should be alert for these narrow, powerful channels of water that pull swimmers directly away from a beach. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, sadly illustrated by the recent drownings in Lake Michigan and the Toronto area. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, more than 80 percent of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip current and they account for about 100 drownings per year.
You can learn more about rip currents at the National Weather Service Rip Current Safety site. There's a lot of information, current rip current weather alerts, and safety tips and resources to educate you and your kids.
Great insurer minds think alike - after we posted this, we saw on Twitter that Chubb also featured a blog post on rip tides and currents today! See Catch A Wave, Not a Current.
Posted by Renaissance Group on August 9, 2012 11:24 AM
During a new roof installation, some Florida roofers ran into a surprise when they were tearing up the old one. Make sure that checking your roof is a routine part of maintenance.
Bats have an undeservedly bad reputation in public lore (well, except for Batman) but they are important little critters that keep the insect population down, have a role in pollination and seed distribution, and play other important ecological functions. Because of this, they are a protected species under Massachusetts law, and most other state laws too.
The Massachusetts Wildlife Department offers a useful Homeowner's Guide to Bats that offers information on what to do if a bat gets in your house, signs that a bat colony might be inhabiting your attic, advice for how to get rid of a bat colony that has adopted your home as their own, and other bat-related tips and pointers.
One other note about the video on a different topic from the bats: If you have roofers working on your house, make sure that they use safety harnesses or some type of fall protection! While a work injury would typically fall under workers' comp, as a homeowner, you don't want to take any chances.
The video "23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?" offers a quick and compelling suggestion for a New Year's resolution. Invest 10 minutes in watching the clip - it might be the best thing you do for yourself all year.
This short video clip will walk you through ergonomic best practices for cell phone use. And for safety rule #1: Only hands-free use while driving - and even that, only where allowed.
Check out State Cell Phone & Texting Laws.
With any luck and proper planning, you won't find Thanksgiving as perilous as the turkeys in our video clip do, but be aware that Thanksgving is the leading day for residential fires (PDF), averaging about 2,000 for the day, double or more the number that would occur on an ordinary day.
This new national public service announcement from the NAIC (the National Association of Insurance Commissioners) uses humor to encourage consumers to make sure their insurance policies fit their specific needs. Hint: your local independent agent can help - if you live in New England, find a Renaissance Alliance agent near you.
Posted by Renaissance Group on July 21, 2011 12:42 PM
June 19 to June 25 is Lightning Safety Week. It's good timing because we are approaching the heaviest lightning season. Hopefully, we've already had our fill of extreme weather this year, but there are no guarantees. In an average year, there are 57 fatal lightning strikes, most occurring in June, July and August. There have been 4 lightning fatalities so far this year - three of them occurring during agricultural work and one related to tornado search-and-rescue. The National Weather Service keeps track of lightning fatalities for the current year, as well as for prior years going back to 1959. Last year, there were 29 fatalities, a remarkably low year. The top 5 states for lightning fatalities over the past 10 years are Florida (62), Colorado (26), Texas (24), Georgia (19), and North Carolina (18).
Your odds of being hit by lightning are about 1 in 700,000 - but experts all agree that you should take care not to make yourself a target. For a little motivation, you might visit Human Voltage, a page that NASA compiled to document what happens when people and lightning converge.
"There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.
The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don't want to be caught outside in a storm. Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles are safe options. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are not safe.
When inside, do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, plumbing, and corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe. Also, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.
Lightning Victims: If someone is struck by lightning, they may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and monitor the victim. Start CPR or use an Automated External Defibrillator if needed."
Many healthcare reform provisions are scheduled to kick in sometime in 2011 - some went into effect on January 1. Here are a few resources that outline changes scheduled to take effect in 2011 and what the changes mean to you and your family.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has produced an excellent single-source guide to Health Care Reform and health insurance reform. They've also produced a 9 minute animated video that summarizes and explains Health Reform in simple terms.
Posted by Renaissance Group on January 6, 2011 3:04 PM
If you're in spring cleaning mode and emptying out that attic or cellar, you may be thinking of holding a garage sale or a yard sale. If so, you can get some excellent planning pointers from Best Garage Sale Tips, a comprehensive how-to guide that helps you think through all the details, including a task time line to guide you right up to sale day.
One really important item on your checklist should be to review your homeowners, condo or rental insurance policy to be sure you have liability coverage in case someone is injured while on your property. The general rule of thumb is that your homeowners policy would likely be enough coverage if your yard sale is a one-time event, but if you plan to make a business out of yard sales, you'd better talk that over with your agent. It's a good idea to check in advance of your sale, regardless!
Check out this video on garage sales & insurance from the Insurance Information Institute.
Don't worry - you don't need to understand Russian to get the point of this clever Russian auto insurance ad. It uses fun special effects to make the point that some insurers will go to great lengths to avoid you when you have an auto insurance claim. If you are having trouble finding an insurer that will be there when you need them, that's where your local independent agent can help!
Posted by Renaissance Group on February 26, 2010 10:25 AM
In the post holiday season, we're all looking for ways to tighten our belts to save money in the new year - particularly since the economy continues to be sluggish, with no end in sight. But when making resolutions for the year ahead, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reminds us not to be penny wise and pound foolish by cutting insurance costs in a way that could cause problems later. III advises consumers to avoid the 5 Biggest Insurance Mistakes:
Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding
Selecting an insurance company by price alone
Dropping flood insurance
Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car
Neglecting to buy renters insurance
III elaborates on each of these mistakes and suggests better alternatives.
Other common mistakes that we see, which can cost you money:
Forgetting to keep beneficiaries updated
Not understanding what a policy does and doesn't cover
Buying too much or too little coverage
Forgetting to update coverage to reflect major life changes, such as birth, marriage, new homes
It's Friday before what will be a 3-day weekend for many, so we are feeling frisky ... a good time to add a few wacky insurance ads to our growing ad portfolio. Bizarre as they are, these are actual ads that attracted an almost cult-like following in the Chicago area in the early 1990s. They've proven pretty popular on the Web, too - see why.
Posted by Renaissance Group on October 9, 2009 9:07 AM
The Dutch insurance company Centraal Beheer is well known in Europe for their humorous TV commercials in which the characters are put in precarious positions - the implied message being "Is your insurance up to date? Call us." You can learn more about the company and the commercials on the Wikipedia page for Centraal Beheer's. Here's a sampling of a few commercials:
Posted by Renaissance Group on August 21, 2009 2:20 PM
June 7-13 is Tire Safety Month, an event organized by the Rubber Manufacturers Association to promote safety and to raise awareness about proper maintenance and care. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 600 deaths and 33,000 injuries per year are due to under inflated tires. And in addition to being a safety hazard, tires that are improperly inflated also lower a car's fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports offers tips on tire maintenance.
Conventional wisdom has been to use a penny to measure tire tread for safety, but Consumer Reports notes that based on driving performance in a battery of tests, using a quarter would be a safer gauge:
"It has long been the standard that tires are worn out when their tread depth reaches 1/16 inch (or 2/32 inch as found on standardized tread-depth gauges). The easiest way to measure this, if you didn't have a gauge, was to hold a penny upside down in the tread. If the top of Lincoln's head was visible, you needed new tires. See test results of foul weather comprises with worn-out tires.
But CR's tests show that using a penny is too stingy and that most consumers should consider replacing their tires when the tread reaches 1/8 inch."
In addition to maintaining good tire pressure and tread, the age of your tires can be a safety factor - rubber breaks down over time. Many safety experts suggest replacing tires that are more than 5 years old to avoid the potential for a blowout or tread separation.
Posted by Renaissance Group on June 11, 2009 8:06 AM
If you are one of the more than 8 million households fortunate enough to have a private swimming pool on your property, responsibility for safety comes with the privilege. Each year, 280 children under 5 years old drown every year in swimming pools across the country. For children aged one to fourteen, drowning is the second-most common cause of accidental death. Even if you don't have children, be aware that about a third of all child pool deaths happen at pools where the owners have no children.
Nothing is more important to the safety of a swimming child than the eyes of attentive parents.
Keep a landline phone near the pool, so that if there is an emergency you can call 911 and the operator will be able to instantly trace the call and send help.
Surround your pool with four-sided fencing and a gate that locks.
Never leave children unattended in or near the pool. Drowning takes only a few seconds.
Even when there is a group of adults present, make sure one is dedicated to keeping an eye on any children in or near the pool. Giving one person that responsibility makes it far more likely potential problems are noticed right away.
Make sure your pool is outfitted with approved safety drain covers and an anti-entrapment device to prevent drain entrapment, the often deadly tragedy of a swimmer becoming trapped by a pool drain's suction. Public pools are required to adopt anti-entrapment measures by law, but PSC encourages private pool owners to follow suit.
Take a CPR class to ensure potential drowning victims do not have to wait for paramedics to arrive.
When not in use, keep hot tubs covered and locked.
This is the first summer that the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act will be in place since the law's enactment in December. This law is designed to prevent the tragic and hidden hazard of drain entrapments and eviscerations in pools and spas. Between 1999 and 2008, there were 83 child entrapment incidents reported to the CPSC, including eleven fatality reports, one of them being the one that took 7-year old Virginia Graeme Baker's life in 2002. Under the law, all public pools and spas must comply with federal standards, which is great - but bear in mind that the accident that took Virginia's life happened at a private home. If you are a private pool owner, you may want to voluntarily comply with these standards, too - this news article provides compelling evidence for why.
Check your insurance coverage
In addition to talking every possible safety measure, pool owners also need to ensure that they are adequately covered against any potential risks. If you have a pool or hot tub or are considering adding one or the other, be sure you talk to your agent to ensure that you have appropriate coverage. Here's some advice from the Insurance Information Institute about swimming pool coverage:
Let your insurance company know that you have a ool, since it will increase your liability risk. Pools are considered an "attractive nuisance" and it may be advisable to purchase additional liability insurance. Most homeowners policies include a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability protection. Pool owners, however, may want to consider increasing the amount to $300,000 or $500,000.
You may also want to talk to your agent or company representative about purchasing an umbrella liability policy. For an additional premium of about $200 to $300 a year, you can get $1 million of liability protection over and above what you have on your home. This would also provide added liability protection when you drive.
If the pool itself is expensive, you should also have enough insurance protection to replace it in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster.
Posted by Renaissance Group on May 28, 2009 11:52 AM
With spring in the air, it's a good time to issue a reminder that bicycles are associated with more serious childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles. Every year, about 300,000 kids wind up in the emergency room because of bike injuries. Head injuries can result in serious brain injury or death. Most states have laws about mandatory bicycle helmets - some laws are for all riders. Most pertain to kids under age 18.
If you suffered unreimbursed losses of more than $500 due to severe storm damage, fire, theft, disaster, or loss on your deposits in 2008, you may qualify for a tax deduction. You must be able to document the extent of your loss and if you were compensated by your insurer, you must subtract the amount of compensation from your overall loss. A short clip from the Insurance Information Institute offers more information:
Or you might go right to the source -the IRS provides a variety of publications and tools about available deductions. Here are a few:
Casualties, disasters and thefts - for use in preparing 2008 returns; explains the tax treatment of casualties, thefts and losses on deposits. A casualty occurs when your property is damaged as a result of a disaster such as a storm, fire, car accident or similar event. A theft occurs when somebody steals your property. A loss on deposits occurs when your financial institution becomes insolvent or bankrupt. This publication discusses definition of losses, how to figure the amount of your gain or loss, how to treat insurance and other reimbursements, deduction limits, and any special rules.
Fox news just issued their list of The Top Ten Deadliest Stretches of Road in America. To compile this list, they analyzed five years of crash reports to determine which roads had the highest number of deadly accidents. For those of us in New England, the good news is that none of those roads are located here. California has four roads on the list; Florida and Arizona both have two roads on the list; and Texas and Nevada both have one. See a comparison chart of all states auto fatalities and fatality rates.
But New England drivers shouldn't relax. Nearly 60% of all highway deaths occur on rural roads, and two New England states appear on a 2005 report of states with the highest percentage of rural road fatalities:
North Dakota (90%)
South Dakota (89%)
South Carolina (83%)
West Virginia (80%)
If you'd like to check the safety of the roads in your neighborhood or on your commuting route, there's a terrific tool developed by University of Minnesota researchers which allows you to do just that. It combines information from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System with Google Maps to offer a visual representation of traffic safety across the U.S. You can enter an address and view the roads that have the highest number of traffic fatalities in a specified area, or you can view data for your state.
Most dangerous road in the world
As treacherous as some U.S. roads can be, they pale in comparison with Bolivia's Death Road, a 60 to 70 kilometer mountainous stretch between La Paz and Coroico, which is often cited as the most dangerous road in the world. It's been the subject of numerous televised reports - watch a 6 minute clip:
Posted by Renaissance Group on February 17, 2009 9:07 AM
That statistic leads into a topic that we've been planning to introduce: How much do you know about fire extinguishers? If you're like most people, probably not too much. But using the wrong type of fire extinguisher might be more dangerous than not using any fire extinguisher at all. Paul Caret of MEMIC Safety Blog has a great post on fire extinguishers that includes a chart on various types of fire extinguishers and their ratings, along with links o interactive sites that provide information on anything you might need to know about the selection, use and maintenance of fire extinguishers. We particularly liked the animated and interactive fireextinguisher.com, available in English and Spanish.
The Escondido Fire Department offers a quick one-page summary for fire extinguishers in the home, including where to put them, how to maintain them, and when to use them. But have you ever actually used a fire extinguisher? In this short video, Captain Joe Bruni offers a quick demonstration.
If you haven't disposed of that live holiday tree yet, this video is a sobering reminder that now is a good time. Experts say that live trees shouldn't be kept for longer than three weeks, even when properly watered. The best way to dispose of the tree is to recycle it ... either as wood for your own or a neighbor's wood stove or fireplace, or through a community recycling program - some communities offer pickup services and programs that will chip trees to make mulch. This site offers links to Christmas tree recycling options by state.
Posted by Renaissance Group on December 30, 2008 10:01 AM
Many New Englanders are waking up to icy driving conditions today. In light of this, we bring you this noteworthy video clip shot during a January 2007 ice storm in Portland Oregon. One resident awoke to a racket outside his window and captured footage of an unplanned ice-top demolition derby involving at least 15 separate accidents in a span of a just a few minutes.
With experience, an abundance of caution, and good tires, snowy conditions can generally be navigated - but ice is another matter. It's generally best to wait until the sanders and plows have treated the roads before venturing out in ice storms.
Safe winter driving actually starts before a storm and before you even get in your vehicle. Check your tires and your tire pressure, keep your antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and gas tank topped off, and store shovels, scrapers and an emergency kit in the trunk of your car - include a bag of sand or kitty litter to give your car traction if you get stuck. It's also a good idea to ensure that you and any drivers in your family review safe winter driving tips. AAA offers a good list of tips for winter driving. And who should know better than our neighbors to the north? The Canadian Center for Occupational Health & Safety has a comprehensive page of winter driving tips. RoadRagers also offers excellent tips specifically for driving on ice.
Tasty regional dishes have a way of migrating throughout the nation and that's been the story of deep-fried turkeys. What used to be largely a southern dish, much-beloved in Louisiana, has become a popular new way for adventurous chefs to prepare turkey - and no wonder, it's totally delicious.
But this Thanksgiving, L.A. firefighters have a question for the would-be turkey fryers : Your turkey or your life? They've produced some dramatic footage of exactly what can go wrong to highlight these dangers.
You can see that it is a dangerous endeavor. Dangerous enough that Underwriters Laboratories has decided not to certify any turkey fryers with their trusted UL Mark. If you decide to fry that bird regardless, please read the linked article to get some safety tips from the fire experts of the LAPD.
Thanksgiving fires are common
You don't have to be frying a turkey to run into trouble on Thanksgiving - cooking fires nearly double on the holiday, occurring more than twice as often as any other day. According to the United States Fire Administration, Thanksgiving sees an average of 4,300 residential fires resulting in 15 deaths, 50 injuries and over $27 million in property damage each year. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your home this year - to prepare for a safe holiday, take a minute to review some best practices for cooking safely issued by the U.S. Fire Administration.
Posted by Renaissance Group on November 25, 2008 1:15 PM