The holiday season centers around friends, family and fun, but without the proper safety precautions, it can take a turn for the worse. Thousands interrupt their festive plans to visit the emergency room for holiday-related injuries. Keep you and your loved ones out of the hospital with these easy-to-follow safety tips.

Reduce the Risk of Fire
Particularly prominent in winter months, residential house fires — nearly 47,000 each year, according to the Red Cross — often spark from malfunctioning or improperly used heaters, unattended candles and misplaced holiday decorations.

Help prevent injury and property loss by keeping flammable objects at least three feet away from heat sources, and never leave lit candles, fireplaces and stoves unattended. Equip each floor of your home with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Avoid Falls
Falls associated with holiday decorations account for nearly 6,000 emergency room visits each year. Minimize your risk of injury by taking extra care when hanging decor, and if you need a boost, use a ladder or step stool. When you have a more extensive project like holiday lights on your home’s exterior, consider hiring a professional to tackle the work for you.

Be Cautious With Plants
While traditional holiday plants like mistletoe, lilies, holly and poinsettias add a festive touch, they can also be dangerous to your furry friends. From intestinal upset, vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and fatal heart problems, pets can suffer if they decide to give these varieties a taste.

Looking forward to enjoying the holiday season? Help ensure you do just that by taking these safety precautions. (*note* stats provided are for the USA)

You never know what situation you may face while driving; car accidents and mechanical trouble can strike at any time. Your best bet is to be prepared for the unexpected. Do you have a well-planned emergency kit in your car to help you out? If not, now’s the time to create one with these essential items.

Year-Round Basics
A few items make sense to have in your vehicle at all times, like a small fire extinguisher, a flashlight, jumper cables, tools to change or temporarily repair a flat tire, and hazard triangles to signal other motorists of trouble. A cellphone charger, tire gauge, paper and pencil, and small amount of cash, including change, can also come in handy when you’re surprised with a setback.

And don’t forget to include a first-aid kit with crucial items like bandages, ointment and scissors. Be sure to check the kit and restock it regularly.

Cold-Weather Additions
Driving in winter weather conditions can present special challenges for drivers of all experience levels. In addition to the items mentioned above, keep the following on hand in case of a cold-weather emergency:

  • A blanket and extra clothing like hats and gloves
  • Ice scraper for the windshield
  • Shovel in case you need to dig out of a snowbank
  • Cat litter to help gain traction
  • Water and nonperishable food

Necessary Precautions
Before embarking on a long trip, have a mechanic perform a thorough check of your vehicle, including a look at your tires and fluid levels. If you find yourself driving in inclement weather, be extra vigilant and always avoid hazardous road conditions like flooding or fallen power lines.

Have you ever had an important phone call or text message come through while you were behind the wheel? It’s a common situation that many drivers face, and it can too easily result in dangerous distracted driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – in the USA – at least eight people are killed and 1,161 are injured in crashes involving distracted drivers each day.

How can you keep yourself, your passengers and others on the road safe? Stay informed and discourage distractions in the car.

Defining Distractions
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies driving distractions in three ways: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off the act of driving).

This means that any multitasking behind the wheel is considered distracted driving. To stay safe, set some guidelines for yourself and other drivers in your family:

  • Eat snacks and meals before you start driving. If you must snack, choose quick, convenient foods that aren’t messy or complicated to eat.
  • Never apply makeup, finish dressing or attempt grooming while driving.
  • Avoid electronic distractions by mapping routes before you begin driving and disabling text and email push notifications on your phone.
  • Use Bluetooth or other hands-free devices in an emergency.
  • If you need to address a distraction, wait until you can pull over to a safe spot.

Distracted Driving Laws
Alberta and many other provinces now have laws and regulations surrounding common driving distractions.

You’ve wielded your green thumb all growing season. Don’t let the fruits and flowers of your labor get gobbled up by uninvited visitors. With a deer fence or bitter-tasting beauties, you’ll enjoy your garden all season long.

Though deer and other stealthy animals tend to avoid areas of human activity, your fall garden may be too irresistible. Fortunately, autumn is the perfect time to plant a variety of spring-blooming bulbs that are not only beautiful, but also repel unwelcome moochers. (Just be sure to keep your pets away from these plants, which are just as toxic to them as they are to deer and other pests.)

Get to know these double-duty plants that can save your garden from hungry herbivores while increasing its splendor.

  • Daffodils — Beautiful and easy to grow, daffodils come in a variety of types and colors. They contain lycorine, a bitter and poisonous alkaloid that deer and other mammals avoid.
  • Snowdrops — These white flowers, which bloom early in spring, also contain lycorine and grow best in moist, well-drained soil.
  • Alliums — Also called flowering onions, alliums are in the chive and onion family. These round bulbs of light purple flowers bloom in late spring and early summer.
  • Hyacinths — Like daffodils and snowdrops, hyacinths are poisonous. They’re also wonderfully fragrant and keep deer at bay.
  • Snowflakes — Another lycorine-containing flower, snowflakes have bell-shaped bulbs that bloom in mid to late spring.

These flowers will help discourage deer, rodents and other garden pests, but if you need a stronger deterrent, your best bet may be a deer fence. Deer are jumpers, so make sure your barrier is at least 8 to 12 feet tall. Fortunately, there are decorative options and plenty of online inspiration you can use to create a fence that works with your home’s style and surrounding landscape.

 

As a parent, keeping your child safe from harm is a top concern, and it’s particularly important when they’re inside a moving vehicle. In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, September 18 to 24, remember these basic guidelines to help keep your kids safe on the road.

  1. Use the right car seat or booster for your child based on their age, weight and height. There are three main types: rear-facing car seats for infants and toddlers, forward-facing car seats for toddlers and preschoolers, and booster seats for children ages 8 to 12 years. Once the vehicle’s seat belt fits your child properly, it should be worn at all times.
  2. Always keep kids 12 and younger in the back seat. The powerful force of an air bag deploying can cause serious injury and may even be fatal for children.
  3. Buy your car seats new or from a trusted source. If you can’t verify a car seat’s full past, including the expiration date and accident history, don’t get it.
  4. Get your car seat inspected by a professional. Improper use or installation of a car seat can put your child’s safety at risk, and it’s more common than you might think.
  5. Set a good example for your children. Always keep your own seat belt safely fastened.

In addition to these guidelines, all provinces have child safety seat laws with different requirements and penalties. Make sure you’re following your state’s laws and keeping your child as safe and secure as possible when riding in the car.

Most provinces require a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage when you own a home or vehicle, though liability laws vary by province. Understanding a few basic principles and common terms can help when you’re signing up for an auto or homeowners policy as well as if (or when) an incident arises.

Insurance Premium — The premium is the amount of money you pay for your policy. These payments can usually be made monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.

Lapse — If you fail to pay your premiums on time, you’ll experience an interruption in coverage known as a lapse. Going without insurance for any amount of time can affect your rates when you shop for your next policy.

Deductible — The deductible is the amount of money you’ll be expected to pay out of pocket before an insurance company will cover or reimburse you for any damages. Generally speaking, the lower the deductible, the higher the premium cost will be.

Exclusions — Just because you have a homeowners policy doesn’t mean all items, conditions and circumstances are covered. Some natural disasters, such as floods, are commonly excluded, and claims related to damage as a result of neglect can be denied. Be sure to read your home insurance policy thoroughly to understand what is and isn’t covered.

Collision Coverage — Where basic auto liability insurance offers protection if you cause damage to another person’s car or property, collision coverage focuses on the policyholder’s vehicle. This may include damage due to an accident with another car or a stationary object as well as damage brought on by an uninsured motorist or hit-and-run driver.

Comprehensive Auto Coverage — This option insures your vehicle against damage in situations other than a car accident, such as vandalism, theft or a falling limb during a storm.

Maintaining a home, especially an older one, can be expensive. According to experts, homeowners should be prepared to spend roughly one percent of their home’s value every year on maintenance and repair. Want to keep some of that money and save yourself from common predicaments? Get familiar with these simple fixes and useful skills.

  1. Repair a leaky faucet. This issue often relates to worn or disintegrating parts. First, shut off the main water supply, then remove the knobs and check the washers, stems and O-rings for signs of damage. Take the suspected culprits with you to the hardware store to get exact replacements.
  2. Stop a running toilet. Remove the lid to the tank and inspect all the parts. Check the flush lever, rubber flapper, lift chain, float ball, pump and overflow tube. A running toilet usually requires a simple adjustment or replacement of a single part.
  3. Clean the gutters. Remove leaves and debris from gutters at least twice a year to prevent damage to your home’s foundation, siding and landscaping. There are various methods and tools you can use to clean them out; in most cases, you’ll need a ladder, gloves and eye protection.
  4. Open a garage door when the power is out. Locate the (usually red) cord, suspended from the ceiling-mounted operator. With the garage door closed, pull the cord to disengage the door from the motor. This will allow you to manually open and close the garage door by sliding it along the track.
  5. Remove a stripped screw. If a screw keeps slipping while you’re trying to remove it with a screwdriver, stop immediately to avoid making it worse. Put a rubber band or a piece of steel wool over the screw and then try to remove it. If that doesn’t work, you can use a screw extractor.

Master these essential homeowner skills and keep the money you would otherwise spend on simple home maintenance.

According to the Department of Transportation, more than 40 percent of young adults age 19 and younger are licensed and on the road. These teen drivers face crash rates nearly three times higher than those of drivers 20 years of age and older, and those rates climb even higher at night and when teen passengers are present. Statistics like these help explain why younger drivers can be more expensive to insure.

If you’re looking for ways to offset the increase in annual premiums after adding a teen driver, take note of these possible cost-saving measures.

  1. Include them on an existing policy.
    If your teen will share the cars you already own, you may save some money by assigning them to the vehicle that’s the least expensive to insure.
  2. Buy your teen an older vehicle.
    If your new driver will need his or her own car, you can generally get lower rates by putting them in an older, used model. Check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) list of vehicles with lower auto insurance losses for more information.
  3. Take advantage of good-student discounts.
    Some insurance companies offer a discount to students who make and maintain good grades. The assumption is that if students are responsible with their schoolwork, they’re more likely to drive responsibly as well.

Still, insuring a teen driver isn’t all about cost. Most parents are also concerned about their child’s well-being on the road. Keep safety in mind when car shopping, and check out the used vehicle recommendations from trusted sources like Consumer Reports.

Require additional safety measures? Investigate technology like monitoring devices that let you supervise your child’s speed and location or cell phone signal blockers that prevent calls and texts while the car is in motion.

Nowadays when teenagers move out of their childhood homes and onto college campuses, they often take a lot of technology with them. From laptops, tablets and smartphones to gaming and stereo systems, it’s estimated that two roommates in a single dorm room move in with approximately $6,000 worth of electronics between them, and that’s not taking into account other valuables.

What if your new college student forgets to lock the door or accidentally leaves belongings unattended? Theft is one of the most common crimes on college campuses, and replacement can be costly. To avoid this, look into your current homeowners or renters insurance policy to see what coverage may extend to college students.

Coverage and On-Campus Living
In most cases, a parent’s homeowners or renters insurance policy provides some coverage for a dependent who is enrolled full-time and living on campus. Still, it’s important to note that there could be a limit to the amount of off-premises belongings one can claim. For example, some policies may cap coverage at 10 percent, so if a parent’s policy has $150,000 worth of coverage for their belongings, roughly $15,000 could be used to replace possessions outside the home.

What if a child lives off campus?
Once a student moves off college grounds, they’re less likely to be covered by a guardian’s insurance policy. In this situation, parents may consider purchasing a separate renters or dorm insurance policy for the college student or opting for specific stand-alone policies for high-cost gadgets and electronics.

Are you one of the 37 percent of renters who have a renters insurance policy? Whether your rental agreement requires it or you make the choice to protect the contents of your rental property, this type of policy can provide peace of mind. It can come in handy if you face unexpected situations, like theft or fire, or if an individual is injured while in your home.

But do you fully understand what the policy covers and what to expect should you file a claim? Here’s a breakdown of a few important points.

Replacement Cost Value vs. Actual Cash Value
There are two choices when it comes to how renters insurance values belongings. Replacement cost valuedetermines the amount paid out for a claim based on the present-day cost of buying the same item. Other policies may use actual cash value, which takes into account depreciation due to normal wear and tear. This type of coverage will pay out less than current market value.

Deductibles
A deductible is an out-of-pocket amount a policyholder is responsible for when a claim is filed. In general, the higher the deductible, the lower the monthly insurance premium. Once the deductible is met, the insurance company handles the remaining cost.

Discounts
Most insurance companies offer discounts if you bundle renters insurance with other policies, such as auto insurance. Safety equipment, like fire alarms and security systems, may result in a reduced rate. Age, good credit and a claim-free history are other factors that insurance companies may consider for discounts.

Liability Protection
Most renters insurance policies include some degree of liability coverage, which helps protect the policyholder from out-of-pocket expenses if an individual has an accident or is injured in your home. For renters who want extra protection, a personal umbrella policy, otherwise known as umbrella liability insurance, may be worth looking into. It can provide further liability coverage beyond the limits of regular policies.