Health care facilities: Finding the right place

By Steve Fogle

Health care facilities: Finding the right place

Choose a health care facility where the staff is helpful and engaged.

There may come a time to suggest that a relative or other loved one consider moving into housing for seniors, such as an independent retirement facility, assisted living or a nursing home. These difficult conversations can come when a family is in crisis or stressed due to the loved one’s condition. In a perfect world, we would have those conversations early, long before the crisis point. But for a variety of reasons, that often is not the case.

It’s best to do some homework to find the right place for your loved one. First, know the differences in the types of facilities available and the services they offer. While some states use different terminology, most facilities are of three types:

  • Nursing homes provide skilled nursing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Assisted living facilities offer assistance with some activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grooming, bathing, meal preparation and taking medications.
  • Independent retirement homes are senior living apartments, condominiums or cottages, often with an alert system to let a main desk know if there is a problem in the resident’s home.

Typically, states inspect and license nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When doing your homework, ask for a copy of the state inspection. Any reputable facility should be glad to share this.

A good resource for researching nursing homes is Medicare’s website. It has a nursing home locator and uses a star rating system to give an idea of the quality of a facility.

No one specific website helps in finding assisted living or independent retirement facilities. One place to start is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, which offers an Eldercare Locator to connect you to services in your community. The AOA’s Administration on Community Living offers a checklist of things to look for in an assisted living facility.

Once you have identified some facilities, a tour is an absolute must. On the tour, take note of the general cleanliness of the facility. Also, meet the staff and get a sense for the general “vibe.” Is the staff helpful and engaged? Are there activities to stimulate thought and expression?

Although moving into an elder care facility can be a difficult decision for the individual, and a stressful time for a family, taking advantage of the many resources available …read more

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Protect your building from the cold

By Troy Dohmeyer

Protect your building from the cold

Take steps to protect your building from freezing.

Arctic temperatures can have a dramatic effect on your building — and your livelihood. Regular maintenance and a winter weather plan can help you avoid any negative impact.


Winter storms frequently cause electrical power failure, which in turn can disable your heating system. If this happens, water-filled piping (such as sprinklers, domestic water pipes and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems) may freeze and rupture. It is important to assess the potential for this hazard.

  • Inspect all safety shutoff valves and cutoff switches on combustion equipment such as rooftop units, boilers and ovens, including water main shutoffs and main electrical service disconnects.
  • Have qualified contractors or staff properly inspect heating, air-handling units and space heaters on at least an annual basis. Assure that space heaters are monitored for fire safety.
  • Review the location and storage of flammable liquids such as propane, gasoline and diesel fuel. Should your sprinkler system freeze and require that it be disabled, it is recommended to reduce this storage to a minimum to minimize the amount of fuel in a fire.

Without proper winter weather preparation, your business could experience property damage — roof collapse, pipe rupture and more.


There are some strategies you can implement to protect your facility and minimize the impact of severe weather on your business:

  • Maintain building temperatures above 55 degrees. Plan for maintenance personnel to properly monitor buildings during cold snaps, making more frequent visits to buildings or areas of buildings not normally occupied.
  • Inspect all areas along the inside and outside perimeters of the building to ensure they are sealed and there are no drafty areas.
  • Maintain roofs in good condition, including repairing leaks, securing flashing and clearing debris from the roof, roof drains and overflow scuppers.
  • Check that downspouts are secured to buildings and clear of leaves and debris. If they iced over during a previous winter, consider properly installing heat trace to prevent major icicles and dams.
  • Make sure all building openings are weather-tight so they do not admit cold air.
  • Consider how you’ll address removing snow accumulation on your roof. If you or a contractor use a snow blower, make sure the height of the snow blower shave plate is adjusted higher as to not damage the underlying roofing material.

Gusting winds, heavy snow and bitter temperatures can create catastrophic property losses and havoc in your life, but a little preparation can prevent losses, …read more

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Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa reviews his insurance policies

By Chris Beckman

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa reviews his insurance policies

Santa is a busy man this time of year, making toys and preparing his sleigh for the big day. Like many business owners, he relies on his local independent insurance agent. Santa has the policies he needs to cover his workshop, employees and their products. Do you?

Read Santa’s insurance list, then

Download the PDF

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Demonstrating safety in educational science labs

By Mary Jorgensen

Demonstrating safety in educational science labs

Schools are taking extra precautions to keep science demonstrations safe.

We all remember chemistry class in high school and the fun of seeing our teacher perform that cool experiment. The lure of the wow factor of performing chemical demonstrations to teach the interactions between different elements and chemicals has been a steady part of science education for years.

Across the country, several recent high-profile incidents of students being burned and injured in lab fires have brought a heightened awareness to safety.

Stories are numerous, but in 2014, three incidents caused the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to issue a safety bulletin, “Key Lessons for Preventing Incidents from Flammable Chemicals in Educational Demonstrations,” to provide the public with key precautions.

One example involved 13 people, most of whom were children at Discovery Museum in Nevada. Authorities and museum officials said a mixture of methyl alcohol and boric acid – components of a routine exhibition conducted daily that creates a whirling “fire tornado” effect – exploded in a flash fire, burning viewers on their hands, arms and faces. This type of incident is not new. In 2006, three students were injured when methanol exploded during a high school chemistry class demonstration, prompting the CSB to produce a video, “After the Rainbow,” focusing on one of the students who had burns on over 40 percent of her body and spent more than two months in the hospital.

Due to this heightened awareness, a task group prepared requirements for the 2015 edition of NFPA 45, Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals. This task group focused specifically on adding protection for students in laboratories where demonstrations were being performed. Some key NFPA 45 requirements mirrored in the CSB safety bulletin include:

  • Teachers are required to perform a hazard risk assessment prior to performing each demonstration. They should identify key hazards, decide how to minimize the risk, use needed personal protective equipment and safety items and explain emergency procedures. This process should also include training for other teachers as well as the students.
  • Bulk quantities and containers of liquids should not be used during demonstrations and should be stored outside of the classroom. Chemicals used during the demonstration should be in sealed containers only with the pre-measured amount needed for that demonstration.
  • Demonstrations that involve open flames, fire or the use of flammable or reactive chemicals must be performed with a barrier between the demonstration and …read more

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Dentists: Consider cost of replacing equipment

By Mike Terrell

Dentists: Consider cost of replacing equipment

Consider the cost of replacing equipment at today’s prices.

No one thinks it will happen to them, but all too often, it does: a fire destroys the building in which your dental office is located. Or a tornado rips through your town, leveling your office. No one expects a total loss, but it can happen.

A bad situation can be made worse if you find you don’t have enough limits of insurance to get you back in business. For example, a dentist’s office in a Midwestern state was destroyed by a fire. The dentist had business personal property (BPP) coverage for $200,000, but it cost $700,000 to replace everything.

Sometimes a dentist in business for 20 years may have nearly the same BPP policy limit as when the office opened. But consider: Is the cost to replace your equipment – chair and materials – the same today as it was 20 years ago? Do you charge the same for a crown today as you did 20 years ago?

Dentists typically consider the investments they have made in upgrades and improvements when determining BPP limits, including furniture, carpet, desks, instruments, chairs, operatory equipment, x-ray machines, cone beam radiography machines and CAD/CAM machines. But it is all too easy to overlook the cost of retro-fitting a standard office building for use as a dental office: the additional plumbing, wiring and other features necessary to accommodate dental equipment.

From my experience, a reasonable BPP value is about $70,000 per operatory (a dental chair in a separate exam room) plus the replacement value of any equipment not ordinarily in every dentist’s office, such as a cone beam or CAD/CAM machine. For example, a dentist who has four operatories and a CAD/CAM machine that costs $130,000 needs a minimum BPP limit of $410,000 to restore operations.

See your local independent insurance agent for assistance in evaluating your dental practice’s needs. Determining your proper limits before a loss gives you the peace of mind to concentrate on your patients, not on your insurance.

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Keep your fire protection system from freezing

By Troy Dohmeyer

Keep your fire protection system from freezing

Fire protection equipment is especially vulnerable when arctic temperatures affect a building. If pipes freeze, a business or school could be forced to close temporarily if life safety cannot be assured. Failure or disruption of these important fire protection systems can also be expensive to repair.

Certain types of buildings and occupancies are more susceptible in extreme cold, and when they do experience a freeze, the damage can be greater than in other types of buildings. 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 at risk when they are unoccupied for several days at a time, especially during a holiday break or recess.

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 the 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.


To protect your property, 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, ask if 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 frost level (below grade) and deep enough in the water to prevent ice clogging the intake.
  • Provide heat for dry-pipe sprinkler system enclosures. Make sure space heaters are in good operating condition.
  • Test solutions in all anti-freeze …read more

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Christmas tree fires: A deadly hazard you can prevent

By Steve Heiden

Christmas tree fires: A deadly hazard you can prevent

Look for freshness when choosing a tree.

Each year, U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 230 home structure fires that start with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires cause an average of six deaths, 22 injuries and more than $18 million in direct property damage annually, and the danger can extend beyond Christmas.

According to a November 2015 report on Christmas tree fires by the National Fire Protection Association, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death. Nationally, an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires occurs – meaning fires that start with a Christmas tree are more than three times as likely to result in a fatality.

Electrical failures or malfunctions are involved in nearly one-third (32 percent) of home Christmas tree structure fires. Decorative lights are involved in 12 percent of these incidents. Seven percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles.

Home Christmas tree fires are about equally likely to occur in December (44 percent) and January (37 percent), the NFPA found, with the 10 dates with the largest shares of home Christmas tree structure fires occurring after Christmas.

To prevent a Christmas tree fire and holiday injuries in your home:

  • Check the tree for freshness when you buy it, and inspect it daily for signs of aging. A fresh tree is green. Its needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, a fresh tree should not lose many needles.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water.
  • Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways and exits with the tree.
  • Place live trees away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, monitor water levels daily. A heat source too close to the tree causes one in six (16 percent) Christmas tree fires.
  • Use tree lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Lights for both indoor and outdoor use must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify. UL’s red holographic label signifies the lights meet safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies the light meets …read more

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Umbrella insurance a business necessity

By Mike Mirizzi

Umbrella insurance a business necessity

Umbrella coverage is essential for business success.

There is a misconception that only large companies or corporations need umbrella insurance, that the coverage is expensive and may be unnecessary. On the contrary, an umbrella policy is a vital piece of coverage that can protect you and your business from losses that exceed your primary policy limits.

The truth is you don’t have to have a million dollars to be sued for a million dollars. It can happen quickly, and your livelihood could be greatly affected.

Costs for an automobile accident with property damage or serious injuries to multiple people could easily exceed a standard insurance policy limit, leaving you or your business to pay out of pocket if you are found to be legally liable. Injuries due to work you performed or because of a product you distributed or manufactured also could result in lawsuits that could put your business in jeopardy and potentially your personal assets as well.

An umbrella policy provides limits in excess of your primary liability policies and adds that extra layer of protection and peace of mind. The value in this “extra” layer of protection does not stop there. Not all umbrella policies are the same. Ask your independent insurance agent to place your insurance with a company whose policy provides:

  • No self-insured retention (similar to a deductible). Some insurance companies may require you to retain liability and pay the first $10,000, $15,000 or sometimes $25,000 for specific claims covered by the umbrella that were not covered by the primary liability policies. Ask your agent for a policy that eliminates this requirement
  • Unlimited defense payments. Some umbrella policies offer you true unlimited defense payments when your primary liability policy limits have been exhausted.
  • Coverage for items not covered in your underlying policy. Some umbrellas will provide “first dollar drop down” coverages for specific situations, meaning that if your underlying primary policies do not cover a loss, your umbrella might.

Look for an insurer that can provide an umbrella policy with your commercial insurance package. Having all your insurance with one company, in one package, is easier to manage.

Additionally, an umbrella policy may help your company have a competitive advantage when bidding on a contract as you will already have the required “extra” insurance in place.

Managing these liability exposures makes financial sense, no matter how big or small your business.

Not all umbrella policies are the same. Please contact your local independent insurance …read more

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