Ready for snow? Clear the path

By Troy Dohmeyer

Ready for snow? Clear the path

As a property owner, you want to do whatever you can to welcome visitors to your home or business and keep your family, employees and customers safe. Snow and ice on walkways, roadways, driveways and parking lots can present extra challenges during winter months.

Have a plan to stay ahead on snow and ice removal to minimize slips, falls and automobile accidents outside your home or business. Also protect against slip and fall hazards in interior vestibules, entrances and walkways by removing water, placing rugs or adding signage. You may want to contract with a commercial snow removal service for larger properties or businesses.

  • Create a snow removal plan that involves your staff, a contractor or a combination of the two to remove water, ice and snow.
  • Maintain adequate supplies of snow-melt chemicals and sand.
  • Mark all encumbrances and obstructions that may not be visible to snow-removal equipment.
  • Identify emergency equipment such as fire hydrants, standpipes and post indicator valves – cast iron vertical indicator posts designed to operate the control valve of an automatic fire sprinkler system.
  • Contract with a snow removal firm if your employees are not capable of adequately removing snow. Make sure the snow removal company has appropriate insurance coverage and adds you as an additional insured under its policy. .
  • Consider how you’ll remove snow accumulation from the roof. Will it be done by employees or by a contractor? If a snowblower is used, be sure to set the height of the snowblower shave plate high enough to prevent damage to underlying roofing material.
  • Be aware of local regulations about clearing sidewalks. Some communities have snow removal ordinances that require homeowners to remove snow within a specified time period (often 24 hours) from the part of the city sidewalk that adjoins their property. Homeowner and condo associations also may have specific rules about snow removal.
  • Take care when shoveling to protect your back. Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines suggest pushing snow rather than lifting it whenever possible and taking frequent breaks to avoid frostbite or exhaustion.
  • If you use a snowblower, protect yourself and others from carbon monoxide dangers. Don’t try to clear clogs by hand. Consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Snow Thrower Safety guidebook.
  • You may choose to salt your sidewalk, driveway or parking areas for safety. If you are concerned about environmental effects of salt, the Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service has a …read more

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My son, the … actuary? In my dad’s case, it’s true

By David Groff

The insurance industry is growing and has a high need for talented professionals with a variety of training and skills. Recruiters are asking job seekers “where do you fit in?” In this series, Cincinnati Insurance associates describe their own career journeys.

Growing up, I always had the notion that I would be a doctor. It ran in the family: my dad was a dentist, my dad’s father was an M.D. and my mom’s father was a veterinarian. I took Latin in middle school and high school, since that language seemed to be the origin of all medical terms. At some point in high school I realized I didn’t like the sight of blood, and that could be a sticking point in the medical field. I liked math and decided to look at engineering and math majors.

I ended up at Miami University, studying mathematics and statistics. Freshman year I was taking related hours in physics and found it too theoretical. I needed something more applied to concentrate on. Towards the end of that year, I learned about the actuarial profession from a talk a life insurance actuary did for the math/stat majors.

I liked the idea of solving real world business problems. Math people love solving problems: word problems, especially. “A train leaves Chicago traveling at 25 miles per hour…” are problems dear to our hearts.

I graduated with one actuarial exam under my belt and started at Cincinnati Insurance as an actuarial trainee. I took exams over the next eight years until I became a designated actuary. The exam process to become a designated actuary provided exposure to areas like accounting, law, underwriting and finance: I considered it sort of a self-study graduate school experience.

At Cincinnati Insurance I work with mounds of data to help determine where the rates need to be for our company to pay policyholder claims and operating expenses, allowing for a reasonable profit. We then determine how those rates can be filed and approved with all of the state departments of insurance.

I find it funny when people forward me lists of the top careers to have. Actuaries are always in the top 10 every year. I didn’t know it way back when, but now I realize how lucky I was to fall into a profession with a good work environment, high employment outlook, good job security and great growth opportunity.

As long as I can steer clear of our …read more

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Have a happy – and safe – Halloween

By Misty R. Fraley

Have a happy – and safe – Halloween

As you and your family bring out the Halloween decorations and prepare for parties and trick-or-treaters, take time to evaluate the liability exposures associated with having guests on your property.

Keep the following tips in mind to ensure Halloween is safe and happy for your family and guests.

  • Make sure sidewalks, driveways and stairs are well-lit for visibility and clear of anything that may create a trip-and-fall hazard, especially if you anticipate having guests after dark for Halloween festivities.
  • Even the friendliest of pets can become agitated or over-excited with an influx of Halloween visitors. Avoid any potential hazard by keeping your family pets away from your Halloween guests and visitors.
  • As you and your family prepare the traditional jack-o-lanterns, use extreme caution if you decide to place a burning candle inside or around your home for added Halloween ambiance. Candles can be a fire hazard if not appropriately monitored. Consider using battery-operated candles inside your jack-o-lanterns as an alternative.
  • If you hand out treats to your neighborhood trick-or-treaters, use only commercially-packaged treats.
  • Parents will want to supervise younger children as they go door to door, but remember to secure your home before leaving to avoid any potential thefts.

If you host a Halloween celebration ̶ at home or at another location ̶ it is essential to evaluate whether you have appropriate insurance coverage in place. Serving alcohol to guests opens you to exposure for host liquor liability, meaning you could be held legally liable for serving alcohol to a guest who leaves your party and causes injury to someone else or causes damage to their property. Consider the following tips to keep your exposures to a minimum, while ensuring your guests have fun and remain safe:

  • If you are serving alcohol, ask that your guests designate a sober driver for the end of the evening.
  • Consider hiring a professional bartender trained to recognize intoxication and limit alcohol consumption by partygoers, if necessary.
  • Be a responsible host and limit your own alcohol intake so you’re better able to judge the sobriety of guests and can assist them in making alternative arrangements to get home safely.
  • Stop serving alcohol toward the end of the evening and consider serving coffee and tea instead.
  • If your party is being hosted away from your home, review your homeowner policy with your independent agent to ensure you have the necessary liability coverage as well as off-premises property …read more

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Top 10 tricks to protect yourself from cyber crime

By Helen Kyrios

Top 10 tricks to protect yourself from cyber crime

October is normally associated with Halloween and ghosts and goblins, but for the last 10 years it’s been National Cyber Security Awareness month.

As evidenced by the rising number of successful attacks against high-profile targets, cyber crime is on the rise.

With that in mind, here are OpenDNS’ top 10 cyber security tips and tricks to protect yourself.

  1. Realize that you are an attractive target to hackers. Don’t ever say “it won’t happen to me.”
  2. Practice good password management. Use a strong mix of characters, and don’t use the same password for multiple sites. Don’t share your password with others, don’t write it down, and definitely don’t write it on a sticky note attached to your monitor.
  3. Never leave your devices unattended. Take your tablet or phone with you. If you need to leave your computer for any length of time ̶ no matter how short ̶ lock it up so no one can use it while you’re gone. If you keep sensitive information on a flash drive or external hard drive, make sure to lock it up as well.
  4. Always be careful when clicking on attachments or links in email. If it’s unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don’t click on it. Double check the URL of the website the link takes you to: bad actors will often take advantage of spelling mistakes to direct you to a harmful domain. Think you can spot a phony website? Try the OpenDNS phishing quiz.
  5. Sensitive browsing, such as banking or shopping, should be done only on a device that belongs to you, on a network that you trust. Whether it’s a friend’s phone, a public computer or a cafe’s free WiFi ̶ your data could be copied or stolen.
  6. Back up your data regularly, and make sure your anti-virus software is always up to date.
  7. Be conscientious of what you plug in to your computer. Malware can be spread through infected flash drives, external hard drives and even smartphones.
  8. Watch what you’re sharing on social networks. Criminals can befriend you and easily gain access to a shocking amount of information ̶ where you go to school, where you work, when you’re on vacation ̶ that could help them gain access to more valuable data.
  9. Offline, be wary of social engineering, where someone attempts to gain information from you through manipulation. If someone calls or emails you …read more

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Even if you’re not a snowbird, winterize your pipes!

By Vicki W. Hill

Even if you're not a snowbird, winterize your pipes!

Homeowners who “fly south” for the winter are familiar with the idea of winterizing their home to guard against freezing while they are gone. However, with weather patterns shifting, homeowners who stay home for the winter are finding there can be issues with freezing pipes, even though they are living in their home and running water daily.

Last winter, homes in many states took a beating. Record low temperatures caused pipes to freeze in areas that seldom get cold enough to experience the worst of winter. While even the best forecasters cannot guarantee what’s ahead this winter, now is the time to prepare yourself and your home for the coming season.

Start by inspecting your home, looking for areas that could be vulnerable to cold air intrusion and freezing. Find out where your pipes run, paying special attention to areas along outside walls and in crawl spaces. Know where your shutoff valves are located, and identify and label your main water shutoff in case a pipe freezes and you need to shut off your water supply quickly to avoid water damage.

The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service offers tips on how to prepare for cold weather and prevent pipes from freezing.


If you’re staying in your home and not traveling south for the winter:

  • Be sure all plumbing is unclogged and running well before freezing weather hits.
  • If certain rooms have pipes located on outside walls, let the sink associated with this pipe drip constantly when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Insulate floors over crawl spaces or unfinished basements.
  • Add insulation in unfinished attics.
  • Wrap any pipes that run through the garage, basement or unheated areas with extra fiberglass or foam insulation pipe wrap.
  • The water main to the street should be buried below the frost line. If you know yours is not, keep at least three faucets dripping when temperatures drop below 20 degrees F.

The biggest threat for frozen pipes is in buildings that are not occupied during cold spells. If you’re out of town for the winter or over a cold weekend:

  • Add a low temperature sensor to your central station or monitored alarm system to alert you to dramatically low temperatures in the home caused by furnace and heating source malfunctions.
  • Keep the heat set at a minimum of 55 degrees F.
  • Wrap any pipes that run through the garage, basement or unheated areas with extra fiberglass or foam insulation pipe …read more

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Keep business flowing: Prevent frozen pipes

By Troy Dohmeyer

Keep business flowing: Prevent frozen pipes

Arctic temperatures can have a dramatic effect on your building, freezing pipes and causing costly damage. Especially vulnerable systems include fire protection equipment and piping; heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment; compressors and piping; water and sprinkler mains; valves; and sanitary systems. Depending on the extent of damage, failure or disruption of these important systems can be expensive to repair or force temporary closure of your business.

Certain types of buildings and occupancies are more susceptible to freeze claims, especially during extreme cold. Schools, stores, offices, apartment buildings, vacant buildings and buildings more than one story tall are more likely to experience a freeze-related loss, and when they do experience a freeze, the damage can be greater than in other types of buildings. For example, some buildings are designed to make use of heat generated by human occupants. When vacant for long periods during extreme cold, the temperature can drop below freezing.

Churches, schools and multi-tenant mercantile buildings are especially vulnerable because they can be unoccupied for several days at a time.


Fire protection equipment including water mains, extinguishers, hydrants, sprinkler systems and post indicator valves can be extremely vulnerable to drops in temperature during severe winter weather. Post indicator valves are cast iron vertical indicator posts designed to operate the control valve of an automatic fire sprinkler system. If a fire occurs, frozen equipment could result in insufficient means to contain the fire. Verify that all fire protection equipment is operating effectively, and if it is brought offline or damaged, have a qualified fire protection contractor repair the system and place it back into service.

  • Plan for maintenance personnel to manage and monitor buildings during cold snaps, making more frequent visits to buildings or areas of buildings not normally occupied.
  • Be certain that hydrants and their locations are properly marked so they may be easily located and cleared after a heavy snowstorm.
  • Inspect all areas along the perimeter of the building to ensure they are sealed and there are no drafty areas.
  • Drain wall hydrants and fire pump test connections that may be exposed to freezing.
  • Verify that underground water mains have adequate depth of cover. For water mains that do not have adequate cover, can they be isolated and shut off to protect from freezing?
  • Check packing on post indicator control valves for leaking, and repair as necessary.
  • If fire pump suction is from a reservoir, make certain that the in-flow pipe is below the …read more

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Heating systems need preseason maintenance

By Robert Crouch

Heating systems need preseason maintenance

With football season upon us, can winter heating season be far behind? Whether you are maintaining a home heating system or equipment at your business, preventive maintenance is important, especially for hot water or steam heating boilers.

Heating boilers can cause extensive damage due to explosion and can be more costly to replace than gas or electric furnaces.

Neglected maintenance can be costly for owners who may overlook this important and expensive equipment. A modest investment in a sound maintenance program for gas furnaces, hot water boilers, steam boilers and high-efficiency boilers can return dividends all winter long for owners or operators.

For many business owners or homeowners, this can mean fewer emergency repair bills, more efficient operation (lower fuel costs) and longer equipment life.


For hot water or steam boilers:

  • Clean the internal (water) side of the boiler
  • Inspect and clean burners
  • Ensure that low water fuel cutouts are functioning properly
  • Inspect and test all controls and safety devices
  • Clean or replace all air inlet filters as needed

In addition, make sure the automatic dampers for outside air are working properly so the boiler room does not freeze due to broken windows or damper control issues.

For gas furnaces:

  • Inspect and clean burners
  • Inspect and test all controls and safety devices
  • Check the combustion blower housing for lint or debris and clean as needed
  • Clean or replace all air inlet filters as needed

Ensure the inlet/return air and exhaust flues cannot be blocked by snow or pest infestation, such as a bird’s nest.


Test the low water cutout control on any steam heating boiler at least once each week, and test other safety devices regularly.

Owners or operators who are unfamiliar with controls and safety devices can hire a reliable service organization to check and service the equipment prior to and during the heating season. Most heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractors will inspect and check over 20 different items on a gas furnace during their inspection.

Remember, the best offense is a good defense when it comes to taking care of your heating equipment! A planned preventive maintenance program may be just the ticket.

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Prepare your building to weather the cold

By Troy Dohmeyer

Prepare your building to weather the cold

Temperature extremes from summer to winter place a heavy burden on the buildings we live in and the places we work. With little warning, gusting winds, heavy snow and bitter temperatures can create a weather event that could collapse your roof, freeze and rupture your piping and cause havoc in your life.

But prudent loss control strategies you implement before winter can protect your home or business and minimize the impact of weather-related property damage, business interruption and other losses.

Cold weather states are not the only places vulnerable to extreme winter weather losses. In reality, property owners in moderate climate states not normally associated with harsh winter weather tend to suffer the most costly losses because they are typically unprepared for extreme conditions. The winter of 2014 was one of the costliest since 1980, with $1.5 billion in insured losses filed between January 1 and February 21, 2014, alone, according to the Insurance Information Institute.


Be prepared by keeping on top of routine building maintenance. Look for any evidence of previous damage to your building’s structure, paying special attention to damaged roof material or equipment that may need repair or replacement. Also take note of any areas that could be unstable during severe winter weather.

  • Maintain roofs in good condition. Repair leaks, secure flashing and clear debris from the roof, roof drains, downspouts and overflow outlets.
  • Check that gutters and downspouts are secured to buildings and clear of leaves and debris. Were they iced over during the previous winter? Consider installing heat trace (electric cable or tape) to prevent major icicles and ice dams.
  • Assure that all building openings are weather-tight to prevent cold air that could cause water pipes or fire protection systems to freeze. If you recently built an addition or renovated, how were existing utilities – especially water and sprinkler piping – protected from frigid temperatures?
  • Test any low-building-temperature alarms.

Heavy snow, freezing rain or a series of constant rain showers and wind can cause precipitation to accumulate, leading to roof failure. Blocked roof drains and overflows can cause precipitation to accumulate and overload the roof. Many older buildings that were not required to provide secondary overflow drainage, such as scuppers, do not provide adequate drainage when primary drains are blocked.

Collapses can damage the building and its contents, destroy fire protection systems and unleash dangerous live utilities, including electricity and flammable gases. These losses can be made worse by water …read more

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National Fire Prevention Week teaches fire safety for all ages

By Mary Jorgensen

Better fire protection and materials design – along with more education – have combined to save lives and reduce financial losses from fires. In fact, due to the increased knowledge of fire protection and prevention, the number of U.S. fires over the last 25 years has been reduced by half.

Education starts early. National Fire Prevention Week, October 5-11, is a great opportunity for you and your children or grandchildren to have fun while learning important fire safety precautions.

This year’s fire prevention theme, Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives, emphasizes the need for properly placed, working smoke alarms in every home. Automatic detection and smoke alarms in homes have had a big impact on the improved fire safety numbers, cutting the risk of dying in a home fire by more than half. To reap the benefits of early detection, it is essential to maintain and test smoke alarms to ensure they are in proper working order in the event of a fire.

The National Fire Protection Association features Sparky, the fire dog, on, where you’ll find activity sheets, puzzles, games, music videos and safety checklists appropriate for a variety of ages. Sparky’s page offers a smoke alarm safety sheet and calendar to remind your family to test your smoke alarms monthly.

Kids can use the safety checklist to explore other fire safety measures in place in your home. Try your luck at finding smoke alarms and batteries in the smoke alarm hidden picture. Or, write a Sparky poem or send a fire safety e-card through email. The site also features electronic games, apps and books available for download to your smartphone or e-reader. Sparky even offers resources to parents and teachers with instruction sheets, classroom lesson plans and craft projects.

Parents can get more information about smoke alarm selection, placement or testing by visiting:

Share these fire prevention techniques with the important people in your life, and increase their chances of surviving a fire.

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teaches fire safety for all ages
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