The holidays are a time of getting together with friends and family, parties and decorations, presents and good things to eat. With so much going on, who wants to think about homeowners insurance? Actually, your homeowners insurance (and especially your theft coverage) plays a pretty big role in your holiday peace of mind, even if you (hopefully) don’t realize it. That’s because the holiday season is also a big season for burglars and thieves, who are just as interested in what’s under your tree (or hidden in your closets) as you and your family members are.
And once the holidays are over, they’re also keeping an eye on your trash. Why? Because they know if they see an old TV or other once-costly item in the trash, there’s a good chance that means you’ve bought a new, better, even costlier item to replace it. They’re also looking for boxes from expensive items like game systems or computers. They even hang out online, visiting social media sites to see what gifts people are talking about. Sound too complex for burglars or thieves? Not at all – it’s their “job.”
Of course, no one wants to have their property stolen, and making sure you take a few simple steps can reduce your risks dramatically:
- Don’t locate your tree in front of a window; it may be pretty, but it also provides a clear view of presents.
- If you go visiting, try to leave an extra car in the driveway and use timers – including ones you can control remotely – to tune lights and TV on and off at different times.
- Put all boxes from new items inside your trash cans, not out in the open where they can be seen.
- Try to arrange for package deliveries when you’re home or have a neighbor look out for them – or better still, request a delivery signature if you can so they can be re-delivered at your convenience or pick them up at the UPS store or nearby Amazon locker location.
- Make sure you have extra theft coverage for “big-ticket” items like jewelry and collectibles that aren’t covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy.
- Try not to post about your holiday plans online, especially if you’re going to be traveling during the holidays – even for the day. Keep your messages private instead or better still, wait until after the holidays to post about what you did.
Having an up-to-date homeowners insurance policy with adequate theft coverage is one of the best ways you can protect yourself, your loved ones and your possessions Once your policy is in place, it’s there hard at work in the background, helping you enjoy your holidays with greater peace of mind.
Frosty, cold weather can put a crimp in the plans of even the most dedicated fitness buffs, and for anyone who’s not 100% committed to physical activity, the lure of cuddling on the couch and avoiding outdoor fitness activities can be almost irresistible. But before you toss in the towel and resign yourself to a winter of hibernation, take heart: There are plenty of ways to stay active outdoors in the cooler weather without suffering discomfort.
- First, make sure you’re healthy enough for cold-weather activities. Cold air can cause additional stress for people with some medical issues like asthma or heart problems, so ask your doctor if exercising outdoors in cold weather is OK.
- Dress in layers. You may feel a chill when you’re first starting out in your exercise routine, but it doesn’t take much to heat up – and all that perspiring can leave you even more chilled than when you began. Dressing in layers lets you adjust to your environment so you stay at an optimal temperature.
- Cover your head and hands. You lose a lot of heat through your head, and your hands – and your ears – are often the first to succumb to the effects of cold weather. Wear a warm hat and gloves, and consider wearing glove liners and a lightweight cap under a heavier hat to wick perspiration away while still providing plenty of warmth.
- Spend extra time warming up. Cold weather means muscles stay stiff longer, and that can lead to injury. Spend a little extra time warming up to ensure your muscles are ready for action.
- Stay hydrated. Everyone knows you need to drink lots of water when being active in the heat, but it’s just as important to drink plenty of water when you’re exercising in the cooler weather. Water isn’t just important for replacing fluids lost to perspiration; it’s also essential for keeping muscles and joints functioning properly, especially when under physical stress.
- Use sunscreen. The sun may not feel hot during the cold weather, but those UV rays are still there, and that means you can still get a sunburn – not to mention increasing the speed of age-related changes in your skin. Using sunscreen also helps prevent skin cancer, so slather it on all exposed areas about 10 to 15 minutes before heading out.
Fitness activities are important for physical health as well as emotional well-being, especially as the days grow shorter. Plan your activities carefully, and you can enjoy your outdoor workout even after the snow starts to fly.
The back-to-school season can be a time of mixed emotions for both parents and kids. Yes, there’s the excitement of new experiences and reconnecting with friends for kids and the benefits of getting back into a more predictable schedule for parents, but there’s also the anxiety that comes from the morning rush, homework hassles, last-minute school projects and other issues that can cause stress to rise, especially in these last few weeks before school starts once more. To keep things calm, here are a few steps you can take now to make heading back to school less stressful and more enjoyable:
- Start shifting sleep schedules at least a week before school begins. For most kids, sleeping schedules shift dramatically once school is out, with later bedtimes that don’t work well with early morning activities. At least a week before schools tarts, have your kids go to sleep and get up a little earlier each day to avoid sleeping problems and fatigue during the first weeks of school.
- Get organized ahead of time. Going back to school is a lot easier when your kids know they have all the supplies they need well in advance. Few things cause more stress and frayed nerves than running out at the last possible moment to buy necessary supplies, so make sure to stock up a week in advance.
- Prepare for a productive homework routine. Having a quiet area dedicated to schoolwork can help your child focus and concentrate. This is a good habit to start while your child is still young, but even teens can benefit by having a space that’s only for their study needs.
- Set expectations early. Talk with your child about morning routines, bedtimes and homework habits before the year begins and avoid lecturing. Instead, keep it upbeat and let them have some input as well.
- Plan some things to look forward to. For most kids, summer is a time of family vacations, hanging out with friends and, above all, freedom. Once fall arrives and schools tarts, things can start to look pretty bleak. Planning a few fall activities to look forward to (like attending local football games or festivals or even a back-to-school cookout or picnic with your child’s friends) can help ease the sting of getting back to work while providing your child with something exciting to look forward to.
There’s no doubt going back to school can be stressful – more so for some kids than others. If your child is habitually anxious, take some time to talk with them and show them your support and understanding. Sometimes knowing mom or dad is in their corner is all it takes to get over those initial feelings of anxiety and start the year with a more positive – and happier – attitude.
When it comes to perfect summer weather, few places can compete with Central Oregon and Bend specifically. With almost 300 days of sunshine each year and average summer temperatures rarely exceeding the mid-80s, Bend and the surrounding Central Oregon region provide the perfect venues for exploring the outdoors. Still, just because the weather may be ideal, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to protect yourself from overexposure to those glorious rays of summer sunshine. Here’s how to stay safe while you’re out and about this season:
- Use plenty of sunscreen. Guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology say the average person needs about a shot’s glass-worth of sunscreen (about an ounce) to adequately cover the body, but if you’re larger than average, you’ll need to use more. And remember: It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
- Stick with creams and lotions. Some research suggests spray-on sunscreens can create a cloud of chemicals that can be inhaled. Using traditional creams and lotions is a better option, and today, there are plenty available that won’t leave you feeling sticky or greasy.
- Know when to apply sunscreen. Ideally, you should apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before heading outside to give it time to penetrate and begin working. Apply it every few hours or more often if you’re sweating a lot or if you go swimming.
- Wear protective clothing. Even with sunscreen, it’s a good idea to wear a hat with a broad brim to protect your head, and even a light-colored long-sleeve shirt can provide you with extra protection from the heat as well as any UV rays that make it through your protective layer of sunscreen.
- Stay hydrated. Your body loses a lot of fluid through the skin on warm days, whether or not the humidity is high – fluids that are required for optimal health and function of all your organs and systems. Keep a water bottle handy and be sure to drink water throughout the day to keep your body replenished and avoid heat-related issues like heat stroke.
- Avoid midday sun exposure. The sun’s rays are at their greatest intensity between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so if you can, try to limit your exposure during those times, or if you must be out, try to stay in the shade and make sure to apply sunscreen regularly.
Let’s face it: When it comes to beautiful summer weather, those of us in Central Oregon are especially lucky. Take advantage of that luck by following a few common-sense health and safety guidelines before heading out to enjoy all our area has to offer.
Summer is ripe with opportunities to enjoy more time outdoors, and few places offer more beautiful places to enjoy nature than Oregon. In fact, the state boasts over 250 parks that host more than 42 million visitors each year. If you plan to go camping in Oregon or elsewhere this summer, here are a few steps you can take now to help ensure your camping experience is safer and more enjoyable:
- Don’t forget the first aid kit. Make sure it’s well stocked before leaving, and include things like bandages, tweezers, painkillers, antacids, anti-itch medications, blister remedies, and snake or insect sting kits. Modify the contents of your kit to suit your camping destination and your activities, and make sure the kit is waterproof, especially if you plan to canoe or kayak for part of your journey. Also make sure your tetanus shot is up to date before leaving.
- Practice food safety. Keep chilled foods in coolers and separate raw and cooked foods with several layers of foil or plastic wrap. Carry hand sanitizer and wet wipes for times when potable water isn’t available.
- Know the safe way to build – and tend – a fire. Sitting by a campfire in the evening and cooking your food over an open flame are two of the pleasures of camping. Unfortunately, a fire that isn’t built or tended properly can quickly get out of control, and every year, hundreds of thousands of acres of forests are destroyed from wildfires gone out of control. Do your part by being aware of weather conditions – don’t have a fire if it’s been very dry or if it’s windy – and when you do have a fire, use designated fire pits when possible and never, ever leave a fire unattended for any length of time. Douse fires well with water, even if you don’t spot any embers. The U.S. Forest Service offers more tips here
- Use care when encountering wildlife. Give wild animals a wide berth whenever possible, and if you’ve brought your pets along, be sure they’re well protected. Pets should also be vaccinated ahead of time to prevent them from picking up a disease that can be passed from one animal to another through droppings and other contact.
- Let others know about your plans. Whether you’re going camping for one night or one month, providing a trusted friend or family member with your itinerary serves as a safety net in case something goes wrong and you can’t alert authorities on your own. For longer trips, schedule “check-in” times and make a plan for alerting authorities if you stray from those times.
As with most things in life, a little careful planning can go a long way toward preventing injuries and other issues that can spoil a fun camping vacation. For more camping safety tips, visit the U.S. Forestry Service camping tips webpage.
About 80 percent of homes in the U.S. have a grill or a smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, and most people use those grills throughout the entire summer, not just on holidays or for family get-togethers. Not surprisingly, the top three most popular foods for barbecue cooking are burgers, hot dogs and chicken, and one of the top reasons grillers say they like to cook outdoors is for that delicious, smoky flavor.
Of course, all that flame-cooked goodness relies on having a fire, and that means you need to be extra careful while you’re cooking on a barbecue grill to prevent those flames from causing fires to your home or outbuildings. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, residential grilling accidents cause nearly a dozen deaths, 100 injuries and about $37 million in property losses every year, with the majority of those accidents occurring between May and August.
If you count yourself among the millions who like to get outdoors and barbecue, here are a few safety tips to consider to reduce the risk of fires and grill-related injuries:
- Most grill fires are caused by gas grills, including propane and natural gas, and many occur because of operator error. If you buy a new grill, be sure to read the manual carefully and follow all instructions when operating the grill, even if you owned a similar one in the past.
- Before firing up a gas grill, check the fuel lines for any signs of cracking or brittleness and replace them as needed.
- Keep kids and pets far away from the grill while it’s hot, including after you’ve finished using the grill to cook.
- Be sure the grill is cleaned well after use to prevent grease fires the next time it’s used.
- Keep a bucket of sand on hand in case of a fire. Sand smothers grease fires.
- Because the majority of grill-related fires start on patios, balconies, porches and terraces, locate your grill far from your home and other structures when cooking.
- Avoid using grills – especially charcoal or wood-fired grills – on windy days when hot sparks are most likely to be carried away by the wind.
Homeowner’s insurance typically covers damage to your home or other insured buildings, damage to your personal property and injuries to your guests, but policy limits can vary considerably. If you plan to cook out this summer, be on the safe side and contact your agent to determine if you could benefit from a little extra coverage before you fire up that grill.
Airbnb use has soared in recent years as more and more people search for low-cost alternatives to traditional hotel rooms that don’t involve the communal living arrangements of a hostel setting. And as a result, many more people have begun using the service to rent out spare rooms and even entire homes and apartments. For many renters and hosts, the Airbnb experience has been nothing but positive. But for others, the experience has been a frustrating and even costly experience.
One of the risks facing people who use Airbnb is that the homes they’re renting are not licensed hotels, which leaves both the renter and the host open to the potential for lawsuits if an injury occurs on the property or if the property is damaged during the stay. Many homeowners who rent out their homes or spare rooms mistakenly believe their homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance coverage will cover the cost of any damages, including injuries that may occur during the stay. But they’re wrong. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies are not designed to cover the commercial use of a private residence; rather, their intent is to provide liability protection for reasonable damages that can occur during normal activities, like having a non-paying guest or another temporary visitor like a repair person or contractor on the premises.
Likewise, those who wind up causing damage during their stay will find their own insurance policies provide no coverage, which leaves them at risk of being sued to recover damages. Airbnb recommends all renters who use the service look into obtaining traveler’s insurance, which may provide some coverage under certain circumstances. But even traveler’s insurance was not initially designed for the Airbnb craze, and before investing in traveler’s insurance, it’s important to speak with your insurance agent to determine if a policy will protect your from damages.
As for Airbnb hosts, some special host insurance products have been developed to provide liability protection for hosts and their homes, but coverage options are still relatively limited. Before advertising your home or apartment for rent on Airbnb or any other service or site, you need to speak with your agent about your insurance options to ensure your assets and property are properly and fully protected. Some Airbnb review sites also recommend asking any potential guest for a copy of their own homeowner’s insurance policy, so your insurance company can pursue reimbursement under that coverage.
Airbnb may seem like a good idea to either make some extra money or to save some money. But without proper insurance protection, you may find out the venture winds up costing you a lot more than you ever expected.