The "Smart" Way to Ensure Fire Safety

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The mantra of “stop, drop, and roll” is a familiar drill and phrase we repeat as children, but we rarely talk about it or practice it in adulthood. And while children may learn about fire evacuation plans at school, grown-ups might not remember to actually put them into action. With an average of 358,500 house fires per year, fire safety is something everyone should think about—and often.

Home automation devices offer the technology to help safeguard your home against fires. Here's what you can do to stay protected the “smart” way.

Invest in a Monitored Smoke Alarm
Many home security systems offer monitoring services. This means the system is linked to a central monitoring station that receives an alert when a security alarm is triggered and can notify authorities on your behalf. This type of home security system is widely regarded as the safest and smartest choice, but it doesn't have to stop at security.

Many of today’s home security systems allow you to purchase monitored smoke and fire alarms as well. If smoke is sensed an alert will trigger prompting the monitoring station to reach out to the fire department and let them know an alarm is going off in your home. These systems can be set up and managed by your internet service provider.

Utilize Sirens
The telltale chirp of a smoke alarm is a sound everyone is familiar with, especially when the battery is getting low. It may be hard to imagine anyone sleeping through the sound, but why take that chance? Home security systems usually have a siren that sounds at 90 decibels or above, and by linking these sirens to your smoke alarms through home automation systems, you can double up on the alerts.

A good way to utilize these additional sirens is to place one in each bedroom. Even the heaviest sleeper will be jolted awake by the volume.

Let Smart Devices Minimize Risk
Cooking accidents are the leading cause of house fires across the country. While some of these infernos are no doubt the result of grease fires and other cooking mishaps, a concerning number of them are caused by people leaving the oven or other appliances on and forgetting to turn them off. There are a several smart ovens on the market that will regulate their temperature and turn off automatically after a few minutes of inactivity.

However, these smart ovens carry a high price tag. A more budget-friendly option is to invest in a smart outlet plug for your appliances and a motion sensor, and then use a system like If This, Then That (IFTTT) to set up a series of commands. For example, if no motion is detected in the room for a certain amount of time, it will turn off power to the appliance.

There are also smart sensors that can detect sudden, rapid changes in temperature that might indicate a fire. These sensors can be added in conjunction with the rest of these methods to automatically detect potential fires and cut off the appliance in question.

Upgrade Your Smoke Detector
Everyone is familiar with the circular-shaped traditional smoke detectors, but if you want an option with slightly more usability, consider a product like the Nest Protect. Smart detectors offer several advantages over traditional detectors. The first is that it won't give off the annoying chirp when the battery gets low; instead, you'll receive a notification on your phone letting you know it’s time to replace the battery.

Another advantage of these devices is that they can send you a push notification anytime the sensor detects smoke. The sensor itself will also go off, emitting a loud siren, but you can easily silence this from your phone in case the tea boiled over or you burnt some toast. These detectors also detect carbon monoxide in the air, another serious safety risk.

Make Your Batteries Smarter
What's better than a 9 Volt battery? A smart 9 Volt battery, naturally. Smart batteries are relatively new to the smart home scene, but they serve a simple yet ingenious purpose. Smart batteries replace the existing batteries in your smoke detectors and send a notification to your phone when the detector is triggered. These batteries also send notifications when they need to be replaced.

While smart batteries cost a bit more than normal batteries, they're a cost-effective alternative if a smart smoke detector is outside your price range.

Practice Smart Habits
Fire is a constant consideration for homeowners, especially during the colder months when fireplaces are opened up and put to use. In addition to the safety provided by smart home technology, there are a few basic things to keep in mind:

  • Keep spare firewood far from the fireplace. It's easy to toss a few logs onto the hearth for easy access, but it's better to place them well away from anything that might ignite them.
  • If you start cooking something that will take several hours, set a timer on your phone to check on it every half hour.
  • Finally, make sure your fire extinguishers are within easy reach and fully functional.


If you keep a close eye on things, you can nearly eliminate the risk of a fire in your home. Easy access to an extinguisher will let you put out small blazes (like those of an inexperienced cook on the stove), but make sure to get out of your house and call the fire department if you're in danger.

Patrick Hearn is an Atlanta-based tech writer for  XFINITY Home. You'll find him working away in coffee shops or tucked in a corner reading and sipping the latest pour-over.

 

Speak! How to Decode Dog Body Language

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All relationships are about communication. Without the luxury of language, a dog uses physical cues to tell you how he’s thinking and feeling. Avoid getting lost in translation by learning to read a dog’s body language – especially if he’s trying to say, “Back off!”

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the second full week of April each year. You can avoid and prevent injury by recognizing the signs a dog might bite.

Eyes

  • Direct eye contact  

Ears

  • Ears lying flat, or stuck to the sides of their head could mean a dog is frightened and on alert. If a dog’s ears are standing high or seem to be pushed forward, the dog may be aggressive

Mouth

  • An upturned nose or licking lips (when they aren’t eating) with teeth exposed means the dog could use some space
  • Exposed teeth and curled lips pulled high may mean the dog is aggressive and you should not go any closer or approach the dog

Body/Posture

  • Raised fur between their shoulders or hair that’s raised on the entire length of their back
  • Rigid body posture
  • A stiff and straight tail. (Short, abrupt wags, or wagging at just the tip, could indicate a threat.)


You can find more dog bite prevention tips from the American Kennel Club and the Humane Society of the United States online. It’s important to read about these cues to take from dogs to help keep you safe.

Even the most well-behaved dog can bite if he’s threatened or provoked – and if your dog bites another animal or person, you’ll be held responsible. That kind of lawsuit can get expensive pretty quickly if the injured person has any long-lasting physical scars or impairments.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability, but if you’re concerned about having enough liability protection, consider a PCL policy that offers an extra $1 to $5 million in coverage. An insurance advisor like an ERIE agent can help you find the right coverage that meets your needs and budget.

Can You Guess Our Biggest Driving Distraction?

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Of the more than 172,000 people killed in car crashes over the past five years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers involved was distracted. These statistics come from data analyzed by Erie Insurance housed in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Erie Insurance consulted with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its analysis.

But distracted driving doesn’t just mean being distracted by your cell phone.  ERIE’s analysis found daydreaming or being “generally distracted” (being inattentive, careless, or distracted–details unknown) or “lost in thought” was the number one distraction associated with fatal crashes.

"Some people see driving as a time to relax and unwind and let their minds drift off, but that’s actually one of the worst things you can do,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto, Erie Insurance. “Most people know about the dangers of texting while driving, but daydreaming while driving is an almost invisible distraction – people do it automatically without even realizing the risk.”

The Erie Insurance analysis of police data from 2012-2016 showed the majority of drivers who were distracted were “generally distracted” or “lost in thought.” In fact, police report that 61 percent of distracted drivers were daydreaming at the time of a fatal crash, compared with 14 percent of drivers who were distracted by cell phone use.  Erie Insurance did a similar analysis five years ago and revisited the data to see if the types of distractions had changed over the years. The analysis found the distractions were largely the same.

Bloom said that because FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of the crash, and because people involved in a crash may be reluctant to admit to distracted driving behaviors when being interviewed by police, the numbers are difficult to verify. And they may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.

 

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A DAYDREAM?

To help drivers avoid daydreaming while driving, Erie Insurance reached out to Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an internationally recognized cognitive behavioral researcher. Atchley has studied distracted driving and worked with numerous national safety organizations to reduce it.

“One effective strategy to counteract daydreaming is to keep your mind alert with so-called passive forms of engagement, like listening to a radio show or a podcast,” Atchley said. “The beauty of passive engagement is that your mind will automatically tune it out when it needs to. So, if something out of the ordinary suddenly happens in your environment, your brain won’t even hear what’s on the radio anymore. It will be fully focused on the task at hand.”

Dr. Atchley cautioned against listening to a playlist of songs you’ve heard again and again, which is not recommended. Listening to something too familiar could actually encourage your mind to drift off.

Atchley offers these additional tips to help drivers keep their attention on the road:
 

  • Don’t replace boredom with a distraction. For example, never send or read a text to alleviate boredom. Instead, play verbal road games that help you focus, like “I Spy.” Make it even more effective by saying “I Spy a Distracted Driver” which will help your mind focus even more on the road and defensive driving.
  • Keep your hazard perception skills sharp. This means knowing where to look on the road ahead and watching for situations that may require you to take an action, such as changing speed or direction. Examples include a car entering an intersection or a pedestrian crossing the road.
  • Consider carpooling with another experienced driver. Just as professional truck drivers sometimes enlist a partner to share the driving duties, Atchley says having a co-driver can also work for everyday people. Another experienced driver sitting in the passenger seat next to you can serve as a second set of eyes.And, engaging in light conversation while you’re both looking at the road ahead can help keep your mind alert.

April is dedicated to Distracted Driving Awareness. It’s important to think about all the ways we can be distracted while driving all the time.  “We’re always looking after our Customers; we want to not only insure their cars but also protect their lives,” said Bloom, “so that’s why we’re drawing attention to the dangers of distracted driving, including driving while daydreaming.”

Top Three Reasons Why People Buy Life Insurance

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Before you can get the life insurance coverage you need, you need to understand why you need it. While there are many reasons to buy life insurance, the most common reasons include:

1. Final expenses: Final expenses refer to any expenses related to someone’s passing. This can include a casket, funeral, preparations, memorial service, cremation and more.

Life insurance for final expenses is worth considering—after all, the National Funeral Directors Association reports that the median price of a funeral with a casket is more than $7,000. Funeral directors say families without enough funds are forced to cut back on the service or ask friends and family for donations. A modest term life insurance policy can unburden your loved ones by taking care of these expenses.

2. Income replacement: Your loved ones depend on your income to meet daily needs for food, medical care, utilities, car payments and much more. There are also future costs like a child’s college education or contributions you would have made toward a surviving spouse’s retirement. If you pass away without a means for replacing your income, their standard of living could be in serious jeopardy. If you have young children, there may be child care costs or home upkeep expenses to consider if your spouse needs to return to work.

How much life insurance you need is based on two factors: your salary and the number of years until you retire. An insurance agent will also account for any other factors such as Social Security benefits, your partner’s income and your savings. Always aim to buy the amount you really need—but also remember that something is better than nothing when it comes to life insurance coverage.

3. Paying off a mortgage: A mortgage is often the biggest single line item in a person’s budget. Could your family afford your home’s mortgage without your paycheck in the picture? If not, an already sad situation would be compounded by their possibly losing the house they love. This could also mean your children could no longer attend a school in their current district or maintain the friendships they currently have.

Life insurance can pay off an outstanding mortgage so your family can enjoy the home they love without the burden of outstanding payments.

 

These are the three most common reasons people purchase life insurance. Yet there are many other reasons for buying life insurance, such as building or leaving an inheritance, saving for retirementprotecting student loan co-signers and more.

Life Insurance=Love Insurance
February is Insure Your Love month and the campaign is coordinated each year by Life Happens. Make sure to connect with your ERIE Agentto insure your love with life insurance.

Cleaning Your House after the Flu

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A-Choo! It’s here…you couldn’t escape the flu. Despite your efforts to prevent it, you’ve found yourself down and out.  Although we can’t wave a magic wand to get you back to 100 percent, we can offer some tips about how to clean your house to get rid of the germs and keep others from getting sick, too.

It’s OK to stay away
In fact, physicians recommend it. The flu can spread when a sick person sneezes, coughs or even talks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Viruses are also spread on hard surfaces, if possible, try to keep the sick person in one room and in one bathroom.

Also, try to use paper cups and paper towels in the bathroom, or use antimicrobial towels (but make sure to wash them daily).

Time to disinfect
When you’re preparing to tackle the infected areas, here are some steps to follow:

  1. Crack a window (even if it’s just a quarter inch) to let some fresh air in.
  2. Get the “sick” laundry in the wash (bedding, pillows, clothing) and make sure to wash it in hot water. Try not to hug the laundry when taking it to the laundry room. Instead, place laundry in a plastic container that you can wipe down or spray with a disinfectant. Then, make sure to wash your hands after touching everything.
  3. Let your mattress air out a little bit (lightly spray with a disinfectant or essential oils/water mix).
  4. Bathroom: deep clean the sink, toilet and faucets. According to physicians from Clorox, it’s important to wipe surfaces so they are visibly wet for four minutes and then dry. If you’re using reusable cleaning cloths, don’t use them in another room and make sure to wash them immediately.
  5. Other surfaces: think TV remotes, door knobs, fridge handles, light switches, table tops, countertops, other electronics like computers or laptops (phew!). The flu viruses can live on these surfaces for up to 24 hours.
  6. Wastebaskets: These were most likely the home to many tissues throughout the illness time period. A good rule of thumb is to empty each day and line the basket with a plastic grocery bag and replace the bag each time. Then, remember to disinfect the wastebasket, too.
     

Additional precautions
If you have an inexpensive toothbrush, consider throwing it away and getting a new one. If it’s an expensive toothbrush, look online for ways to disinfect your toothbrush by soaking it in water/hydrogen peroxide mixtures for at least 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Use disposable towels or try to change towels out daily in the bathroom and kitchen to try to limit the spread of germs. It’s a good idea to continue to do this up to a week after the last person was sick.

If your kids have been sick, consider washing their stuffed animals (or steaming with a steamer if they seem too delicate) and sanitizing plastic toys on the top rack of your dishwasher (to save you some time).

And finally, clean hands are right up there with having a clean house. According to the Centers for Disease Control, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands.

Spring Forward: 5 Facts about Daylight Savings Time

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This weekend, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday. Although we’re losing an hour (and an hour of sleep), we have the promise of Spring ahead. Just think warmer weather and longer periods of daylight. Here are five fun facts about Daylight Saving Time:

 

  1. Daylight Saving Time began in Canada in 1908, however, the first countries to use Daylight Saving Time were Germany and Austria in 1916. The United States began participating in Daylight Saving Time in 1918.
     
  2. Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Hawaii and most of Arizona. U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and American Samoa also don’t observe Daylight Saving Time.
     
  3. Daylight Saving Time begins and ends at 2 a.m. rather than midnight because there is a higher chance that most people are sleeping.
     
  4. The U.S. Department of Transportation is in charge of time in the U.S., including time zones and daylight saving time.
     
  5. Barbeque, golf and candy industries cash in. When Daylight Saving Time was extended from six to seven months in 1986, the golf and barbeque industry brought in an extra $200 million and $100 million respectively for the extra month of daylight. The candy industry cashed in, too, figuring an extra hour of daylight would mean more trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
     

This year, Daylight Saving Time will end on November 4, when you’ll get your hour of sleep back. Until then, enjoy the extra hour of daylight and remember to have an extra cup of coffee ready Sunday morning.

No matter the time of year or hour of the day, ERIE will be there for you. Check out the ERIE Difference.

 

Generations and Driving: We Aren’t So Different After All

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Wanting to drive and getting behind the wheel isn’t a thing of the past.  In fact, the Gen Zs of the world (ages 14 to 17) are excited about learning to drive. Actually, 89 percent to be exact.  The excitement Gen Zs feel about driving is very similar to the way Baby Boomers felt when they were asked about their early driving years.

Erie Insurance recently conducted a national survey* about generational driving habits. From being excited to drive, to what we’re doing behind the wheel, the survey uncovered similarities and differences across generations.  See the full results of the survey and watch the short video below highlighting what different generations are saying about driving and cars.

Video: IIHS Safest 2018 Cars

Thinking about shopping for a new car? Then you’ll want to check out what vehicles are considered the safest to buy.

From small cars and sedans to SUVs and large luxury vehicles, you’ll find 62 of the 2018 models deemed safe by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Each year the safety experts at the nonprofit research and education organization determine which vehicles do the best job of protecting people in the most common kinds of crashes—front, side, rollover and rear—based on ratings in IIHS evaluations. The current list of award winners is smaller than usual because IIHS raised the bar on its test criteria, adding passenger-side crash tests and headlight ratings to their list of considerations.

No minivans, pickups or minicars earned the highest award, Top Safety Pick+, and just 15 vehicles qualified, having good-rated headlights and good or acceptable passenger-side protection in small overlap front crashes. Models from a wider range of vehicle types—47 in all— earned the second-tier award, Top Safety Pick, but no minicars made the cut in that category either.

Hyundai and Subaru lead the way
Leading the pack of manufacturers of the 15 Top Safety Pick+ vehicles are Hyundai Motor Company, which owns the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands and has six awards, and Subaru, which has four. Mercedes-Benz has two, while Toyota, BMW and Ford Motor Company have one each.

The frontrunner among the 47 second-tier award winners is Toyota Motor Corporation with 10 vehicles. Hyundai is the runner-up with nine.

IIHS has awarded Top Safety Pick honors to qualifying vehicles since the 2006 model year. It adjusts the list of winners throughout the year as it evaluates new models. Learn more about the vehicles that are in the winner’s circle by watching the video above or reading the source article at iihs.org.

Insurance Resolutions for the Best Year Yet

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We’ve pulled together some ways to make your life better for you and your family heading into the New Year. Check out our tips to make sure your home, car and family are better protected this year and beyond.

It’s that time of year again. The holiday season is winding down and it’s time to think about how you want to refresh, renew and recharge for the New Year.  We’re talking New Year’s resolutions. Did you know that only 9.2 percent of Americans succeed in their resolutions out of the 41 percent that make them?  We’ll make sure you’re in the 9.2 percent with ideas for making lifestyle changes for you and your family (that don’t involve hitting the gym five days a week).

This year, put an insurance spin on your resolutions. We’ve pulled together simple tweaks and fixes to leave your home, car and family better protected in the New Year.

First up, The Top 5 Driving and Car Maintenance Habits to Break in 2018.