Prepare for A Summer Outdoors - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Prepare for A Summer Outdoors

Ready for a great summer outdoors?

The summer is just starting to roll, so what better time to head out with family or friends for a weekend in the great outdoors! Camping at a local campground or state park could be just what you need before school is back in session. The birds chirping, the bugs buzzing and the sun beating down on your tent will remind you to be prepared.

It’s the knowledge that we will share with you here that separates the amateurs from the seasoned campers. You want to be a seasoned camper, don’t you? The prepared one that everyone goes to if they need duct tape, dental floss, or any other random item. We will help you become that go-to guy or gal with this simple checklist and some tips from Foremost.com.

Prepared Camper checklist:

  • Tent, tarp and sleeping bags (I’m sure you already knew that)
  • Extra blankets and towels
  • Waterproof matches, pots, pans and utensils
  • A utility knife and rope
  • Hammer
  • Extra stakes
  • Extra chairs
  • Emergency medical kit
  • Plenty of water (for drinking, cooking and cleaning)
  • Cooler packed full of delicious food, snacks and beverages
  • Dish soap and hand sanitizer
  • Duct tape (you can use this stuff for anything)
  • Dental floss (always handy after a dinner of fresh grilled chicken or steak)
  • Ziploc bags (so useful!)
  • Sunscreen/chap stick with SPF
  • Flashlight
  • Warm hat (80% of heat loss occurs through your head. You never know when you are going to get a chilly night)
  • Layers of clothes (no matter what time of year, it’s the easiest and most effective way to control your body temperature)
  • Playing cards/games (just for fun)

Foremost wants you to safely experience all the adventure you can.


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Safety Tips For Bicyclists - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Safety Tips For Bicyclists

Cycling has grown significantly in popularity over the past decade. Towns across the country are adding bike lanes to their roads to become more bike-friendly, and more and more people are ditching their cars and using a bike as their primary form of transportation. According to USA Today, larger cities like Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis have more than doubled their rate of bike commuters since 2014 – and as a cyclist, I can’t help but get excited.

Now, with bike riding growing in popularity across the U.S. – it may be a good idea to brush up on some traffic guidelines to avoid any accidents.

When you purchase a bike, you’re likely not required to take a safety class before you ride it. And, for drivers, the instructors touched on bike safety as part of Drivers Ed, but who remembers details from a course they took in their teens?

My point is, adults aren’t given much guidance when it comes to cyclists and cars coexisting on the roads. And as a bicyclist and a driver, I did some research because honestly, I needed a refresher myself.

Safety tips for DRIVERS:

  • Try to be 3 feet or more away from a bike.
  • Try to pass on the left when possible.
  • Blind spots are always lurking, make sure to watch for bikes.
  • Only pass a bicyclist when your passing lane is free and clear.
  • Look in your mirror for cyclists when you’re parking.
  • Always think of cyclists as equals – remember, they have rights on the road too!

Safety tips for BICYCLISTS:

  • Make sure to ride with the flow of traffic.
  • Traffic signs and signals aren’t just for cars. Stop on red to be safe.
  • Use marked bike paths or lanes if they’re available.
  • Use your arm to make turn signals and take advantage of turn lanes so cars are aware of what you’re doing.
  • Consider using a mirror to monitor the cars behind you.
  • If you’re riding at night or in a storm, make sure to use some sort of flashers.
  • Watch for parked cars.
  • And most importantly – stay alert at all times.

If you’re unsure about your city’s or state’s traffic laws, it doesn’t hurt to look them up beforehand. No matter what you drive, be sure to enjoy the roads out there safely!


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How to Make a Flower Garden - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

How to Make a Flower Garden

If you have been wanting to start a garden, now is the time! The long, sunny days are a great source of energy for plants, making summer the perfect season to start growing flowers. Any home could use a pop of color. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, it can be helpful to cover the basics. From sunlight to soil, there are a lot of choices that must be made in order to create a successful flower garden, but hopefully, this guide will help you through the process with just five easy steps!

  1. Choose a Location
    The first step is deciding where you would like to plant your flower bed. Most people make flower beds along the front or the side of their house, but feel free to get creative with it. You could create a garden around the base of a tree, around your mailbox, or you could use flowers to hide certain objects in your yards such as electrical equipment or pipes. Sunlight is important to consider when choosing a location. Depending on the flowers you choose, they could need up to six hours of sunlight. It is important to read the labels of any seeds or plants that you buy to ensure that the location will be able to provide the necessary amounts of sunlight.
  2. Choose your Flowers
    Different flowers will flourish in different climates and different types of soil. Temperatures and day length plays a key role in the photosynthetic cycle. Depending on what region you live in, some flowers may not be able to grow. The country is divided into climate zones. Research what plants suit your climate zone, or ask for help at a local plant nursery! They will be able to help you choose the right flowers to make your garden successful.
  3. Remove the Grass
    Once you have picked a location, it’s time to prepare the soil. Begin by removing the grassy layer. With a shovel, start digging in the center of the designated area. Continue to lift the sod with your shovel until all grassy parts have been removed. If digging isn’t your style, there is another option! Although it is a longer process, it’s far less labor-intensive. Instead of digging up the grass layer, set newspapers over the entire area. Cover the paper with rich planting soil or compost and, in four or five months, the grass will have died and the area will be rich and ready for soil preparation.
  4. Prepare the Soil
    The next step is to add planting soil on top of the garden bed you have just prepared. When choosing one of the six soil types, consider what types of flowers or plants will be living in the soil. Each plant grows better in a certain type of soil. Be sure to research which type of soil will be best for your flowerbed before you begin planting. Soil does its best when it is loose and breathable. Before you add the soil, break up any clumps of dirt and remove rocks. Lay down six inches of soil. Do not apply too much pressure to the soil; packing it down will increase the density, making it difficult for air and water to reach the roots. Once the soil is down, create an edge with rocks or bricks to separate the garden from the grass.
  5. Plant the Flowers
    Before you begin planting, make sure that the soil is ready. You want the soil to be moist but loose. If you are planting seeds, look at the packet to see how deep they should be planted. Seeds need oxygen to germinate – planting them too deep can inhibit growth. Begin by digging a hole; for most plants, you want the hole to be about ¾ the size of the pot. Once you have taken the plant out of the pot, gently remove and discard the excess dirt from the roots. Set the roots in the hole you prepared, and gently push topsoil back into the hole, but do not press down. The soil needs to remain loose and full of oxygen.

Now that you have your flower garden, remember to take care of it! Some areas may have enough rain to nourish the plants naturally. If you live in a dry area, you will need to water your flowers between rainstorms to make sure that they are healthy.

Happy summer, and happy planting!


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UTV Safety Before You Ride - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

UTV Safety Before You Ride

Off-road vehicles are a thrill, but they can be dangerous if you don’t know how to properly ride them. Did you know, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were almost 94,000 off-road vehicle injuries treated in the emergency room in 2017? That’s why it’s important to understand the dangers and take safety precautions before riding.

Off-road vehicles refer to many different machines, including ATVs, dirt bikes, 4-wheel drive trucks, SUVs, and UTVs. In this article, we’ll focus on UTV safety. They’re utility-terrain vehicles, utility task vehicles, or side-by-sides. They look like a cross between an ATV and a Jeep but trust me, they don’t drive like either one. Before you take one for a ride, remember these safety tips:

Don’t Drink and Drive A UTV

No matter what, never drink and drive. We’ve all heard this many times, but drinking severely impairs your reaction time and judgment. Drugs can also have this effect on your driving. Stay in control, and avoid putting yourself or anyone else in danger.

Understand the Vehicle

It may sound boring, but read the operator’s manual. It’s best to keep it in the vehicle at all times as a reference tool. Another way to familiarize yourself with the UTV is by reading the warning labels. They’re there to point out potential dangers and how to avoid them.

Do a Pre-Ride ATV Check

Check the tires before you head out. No one wants a flat tire! Also, check your fuel level so you know when you will have to fill up again. Do a quick walk around the vehicle and look for anything that may be wrong. This step can prevent a breakdown – you’ll be thankful you did it.

Wear Safety Gear

Always wear over-the-ankle boots, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, a certified helmet, and goggles if your helmet doesn’t have any eye protection. Wearing a protective suit is also something you should consider; it’s optional, but an important precaution, especially if you’re riding alone.

Wear Seat Belts

Even if you aren’t driving far, everyone in the UTV needs to wear a seat belt. Many states require this. A lot of UTV accidents are rollovers, and in some incidents, people have been ejected from their seats.

Practice Driving

Practice, practice, practice! The first time you drive a UTV you will probably want to go fast, but I highly recommend taking it slow. Practice going at a safe speed, taking corners, and adjusting to the way it rides on trails. If the driver is a young teen, be sure they have supervision.

Remember Passenger Safety

Never carry more passengers than the UTV is designed for and make sure they keep their limbs inside the vehicle at all times. There should be handlebars for passengers to hold on to – if a passenger is unable to reach the handles, then they should not be riding. Once all of the passengers are in, make sure the doors are secured and locked shut.

Stay on the Trail

Stay on the trail to help prevent collisions. Tires on most off-road vehicles are meant to stay, well…off the road. They aren’t made for paved roads, and therefore, they will handle differently. If you have to cross a public road at all, double-check for cars both ways and proceed with caution.

Ride Smart

It’s best not to ride alone for many reasons, such as breaking down or getting hurt. If you are riding alone, take extra caution and be prepared. When you ride you should be alert and observant. There may be other riders that aren’t experienced and forget to check their surroundings. Also, do not attempt maneuvers that could be risky – know your limits!

Take a Safety Course

The best advice to give any UTV rider is to take a safety course! Most people learn better hands-on, but there are also online courses available. Anyone younger than the age of 16 must complete a safety course before driving in most states.

Lastly, if you own a UTV, here’s one more important tip to keep in mind. Before you let someone else drive your UTV, help them understand these safety tips and why they’re important. Make sure they know the differences between driving an on-road vehicle and an off-road vehicle. Ride safe!


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It's Hot Out There. Are You Staying Cool - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

It’s Hot Out There. Are You Staying Cool?

It’s Hot Out There. Are You Staying Cool?

All you have to do is turn on the news, or leave air conditioning, to know that it’s hot outside all over our country. I learned firsthand because I spent six hours outside yesterday when the Foremost Chopper visited our office park in Michigan.

This was about halfway through the day. Can you tell that my hair doesn’t cooperate with humidity? I was exhausted at the end of the day and fell asleep well before 10 p.m. and for a person who’s usually up to 11:30, that’s strange. So while I had time to prepare for an afternoon out in the heat, I wasn’t prepared for the heat. Let’s review where I went right and where I went wrong yesterday using the following heat-related illness preventative tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recommends… “Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.”

This was my first failure. While I brought a bottle of water, I rarely drank from it because of that second sentence. I didn’t feel thirsty. If you are outside, remember to keep hydrated, regardless of thirst level. So I’m 0-1.

The CDC recommends… “Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.”

I usually only drink water, so I had this right. My water was also outside with me, so it wasn’t cold. BUT, and it’s a big but, I’ve already mentioned that I rarely drank my water. So I’m saying that I’m 0-2.

The CDC recommends… “Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.”

Well, as you can see in the photo, that dress I’m wearing is both light-colored and loose-fitting. I can also attest that it’s pretty lightweight. I’m 1-3.

The CDC recommends… “If you must be out in the heat, limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.”

I was outdoors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so I’m 1-4.

The CDC recommends… “Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat,…sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher…”

I wasn’t wearing a hat, but I was wearing sunglasses and I did wear a broad-spectrum SPF 70 sunscreen. If that is three items, I’m 3-7. 43% is not even close to a passing grade.

So while I was fortunate not to suffer from heat exhaustion, severe sunburn, heat cramps, or worse, hopefully, you’ll learn from my errors—especially if you’re trying to beat the heat while in your RV, on your boat, or PWC. Your safety is important to us.


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Ten Ways to Protect Yourself From the Sun - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Ten Ways to Protect Yourself From the Sun

When my teenage daughter arrived home the other day with a sunburned face, I asked her why she didn’t use her sunscreen. She answered with, “I did Mom! I put it on this morning.” But since she was out all day and never re-applied it, she still got a sunburn.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and those rates are on the rise. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take precautions like these to protect your skin from the sun:

  1. If you can’t avoid the sun altogether, cover it up with clothing. Hats and clothing made of dark, tightly woven materials are best.
  2. Keep in mind that UV exposure is harmful to your eyes as well as your skin, so put on a pair of sunglasses and be sure your kids do, too.
  3. Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Spread it on generously and use the waterproof kind if you’ll be swimming.
  4. Watch the expiration dates on sunscreen. Once it expires, discard and get a new bottle.
  5. Apply your sunscreen early, and unlike my daughter, apply it often, every two hours. If you’re sweating or swimming, apply it, even more, frequently.
  6. Remember to cover those sensitive spots like the tops of the ears, hairline, chest, nose, hands, and feet.
  7. Give up sunbathing, especially if you’re fair-skinned. Avoid sun tanning oils which can enhance ultraviolet rays and worsen sunburn.
  8. Protect your skin all year round, no matter what the weather. Clouds don’t keep the damaging rays from burning your skin, and neither does a winter climate.
  9. Use extra precautions if you take medications like tetracycline, diuretics, or St. John’s Wort. They can make your skin even more sensitive to sunlight.
  10. Avoid tanning beds. They produce UVA rays that penetrate deeper into the skin than the UVB rays of the sun.

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Summer Beach Safety Tips - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Summer Beach Safety Tips

Summer Beach Safety Tips

The first rule for having a fun, carefree day at the beach? Always check the weather before you head out! Follow these beach safety tips to get your summer off to a good start.

Check the weather before you head out. If thunderstorms or rain is in the forecast, we suggest planning your excursion for a different day.

Watch for warning flags. And know what they mean!

Green – calm waters
Yellow – rough but not exceedingly dangerous
Red – swim with extreme caution
Blue / Purple – watch out for marine life, like sharks or jellyfish

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! But not with booze, which will increase your risk of overheating. The CDC also reports that alcohol use is a factor in up to 50 percent of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. So keep it dry.

Save your skin. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and even more often if you’ve been in the water during that time.

Keep a careful eye out for children. They may need your help!


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Protect That Skin You're In—Year-Round UV Safety - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Protect That Skin You’re In—Year-Round UV Safety

July may be UV Safety Month, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to not care about UV safety the other 11 months of the year. Sun safety needs to be considered every day—even if it is cloudy outside.

As the saying goes—your skin is your largest organ, you better take care of it. Doing so is fairly simple, and you can probably recite the following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) without even clicking on the link. Indulge me while I reiterate:

  • Seek Shade. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your skin damage and skin cancer risk, especially if you are outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Cover-Up. Wear clothing to protect any exposed skin, even in the shade. This means a hat with a brim all the way around, sunglasses with UVA/UVB (broad spectrum) protection, and clothing made of a tightly woven fabric.
  • Lather Up. This is the most important, even if you’re in the shade and covered up, you should put sunscreen on before you head outside. Not just any sunscreen, but a broad spectrum protection product with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. Make sure it’s not expired too.

Now just because you’ve done these three things, you’re not in the clear. If you had been, you wouldn’t be nursing that sunburn. You need to reapply. Sunscreen wears off, washes off, and sweats off. Put it on again if you’ve been out for more than two hours. And while being in the shade is good; know that if you’re sitting on a light-colored surface (e.g., water, sand, cement, etc.) you could be getting hit by a reflection of the sun’s rays.

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It's hot. Don't leave your kids in the car! - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

It’s hot. Don’t leave your kids in the car!

I wish I were kidding. As an on-the-go mom, I have sympathy for parents trying to multi-task, but there are certain things that we MUST pay attention to. Leaving the kids in the car while grabbing a snack in the gas station may be a time-saver, but with the extreme heat that can take place across the country, saving time is something you don’t want to test. As a mom, I’m going to give you a blunt reminder during this hot weather:

DON’T LEAVE YOUR KIDS IN THE CAR ALONE—EVER!

Yesterday the temperature gauge in my car read 93 degrees. This is the exact temperature that proves your car can become an oven in high temperatures. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, when it’s 93 degrees outside:

  • After 20 minutes temperatures inside a car = 125 degrees
  • After 40 minutes temperatures inside a car = 140 degrees

It’s also important to remember that your kids’ little bodies are affected by heat more quickly and severely than us adults, so our judgment of temperature is not accurate to that of a child. The stats above may be based on extremely hot weather, but at any temperature, it’s never a good idea to leave your kids in the car alone. Saving a few minutes is far too big a gamble for the priceless cost it could pay. Don’t let those be the few minutes you regret forever.


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Seeking Shelter During a Tornado - Shield Insurance Agency Blog

Seeking Shelter During a Tornado

Tornadoes are some of the most devastating storms anyone can witness – and they’re also a reminder that a disaster can strike quickly, with little warning. What makes these storms extremely dangerous is that they are in a concentrated area, and although they appear to move slowly, tornadoes can have wind speeds up to 100 mph or more. Even if you’re not in the path of the tornado, you still have the chance to get hit with flying debris, which can cause serious injury or death.

It’s hard not to worry about the safety of my own family and consider what I would do if my house is in the path of a tornado. But I counter that fear by telling myself I don’t live in tornado alley, so it can’t happen where I live.

Wrong.

Tornadoes can happen anywhere in the U.S. at any time of the year. According to the National Weather Service, 46 different states experienced a tornado in 2012 with property and crop damage of an estimated $1.6 billion. OK, but the greatest threat for tornadoes is in tornado alley and I don’t live there.

Well, where exactly is tornado alley? It typically includes the plains states from South Dakota down through central Texas. But did you know that as of last year, researchers at CoreLogic Storm Prediction Center have questioned the geography of tornado alley and suggest expanding its footprint? According to their data, only one tornado alley state —Kansas — fell in the top five states for tornado occurrences from 1980 to 2009. The others in the top five were Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Based on that frequency and the severity of the storms, here’s an article from USA Today that illustrates CoreLogic’s suggested “new tornado alley.”

While the new tornado alley doesn’t encompass my home in Michigan, this graphic from the National Weather Service does. It maps the EF5/F5 tornadoes in this country since 1950. See number eight, that tornado’s path was about fifteen miles from my house. Just ask the resilient people of Moore, OK if a tornado can strike the same place twice.

What’s your plan should a tornado strike quickly? Take some time to become “Red Cross Ready” for disasters. Preparing now could be the difference when you only have seconds to respond. For me, I would go to the basement. While it’s completely below ground, it has a few basement windows to get away from. My tornado plan now includes taking shelter in this small bathroom.

We do have plans to do some work on our basement eventually, so I will definitely make it a priority to have a safe place to hide. Where will you take shelter? I can’t reiterate how important it is for you to know where you will go should disaster strike. Your safety is important to us.


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