Seven tips to prevent package theft

Seven tips to prevent package theft

With the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping has increased significantly. UPS, Fed EX, and Amazon trucks are constantly driving through my neighborhood. With holiday shopping, it’s getting even busier.

While online shopping does provide convenience, boxes left outside your front door can be stolen. Now more than ever, thieves may be watching your neighborhood for packages.
If you’re looking to protect your packages this holiday season, here are some tips for you.

1. Check into locker systems. Amazon and delivery services like UPS, Fed Ex, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) have their own unique locker systems. They’re in department stores, convenience stores, gyms, pharmacies, and other types of businesses that want to participate. When I did a search for my area, I was amazed at the number of locations available. Once your package is delivered, special instructions will be sent to you on how to access the locker.

In addition, the Amazon Hub Counter uses local businesses that can serve as a drop-off point. Then at your convenience, you can pick up your package during their hours of operation.

2. Install a video doorbell. Before I moved into our new home, I didn’t understand the benefits of a video doorbell. As part of our new home security package, I had one installed. I absolutely love it. Every time there’s activity at the front door, I get a notification on my smart phone and watch. Since many packages are currently being delivered to our home, I can have my daughter get them off the porch quickly. In addition to the notification, it takes a short video every time there’s motion. While it encourages funny behaviors from my family and friends, it could come in handy if I ever needed to review the footage.

3.Install an outdoor security camera. An outdoor camera provides more protection than a video doorbell because it can monitor a larger area. In addition, live streams and alerts can help you identify unusual activity at your home. Lastly, just their physical presence can help deter a would-be burglar.

Like all products, security cameras have many different features. Features include:

  • Two-way audio
  • Night vision
  • An easy-to-use app
  • Degrees of mobility

Make sure you identify what’s important to you before buying one.

4. Update your mailbox. If you have a regular mailbox, now may be the time to upgrade to one that can be used to secure your packages. Based on your needs for the box, there are several companies that provide a variety of options. No matter what you select, make sure they’re approved by the USPS.

5. Give Key by Amazon a try. This service by Amazon allows packages to be delivered inside your garage, home, or car. Package protection, contactless delivery, and optional camera integration are just a few of the benefits to this service.

6. Insure your holiday packages. Because package thefts increase around the holidays, it may be wise to insure your packages this time of year. Then if your package is stolen, you can be reimbursed for your loss.

7. Give curbside pickup a try. Many stores now offer curbside pickup. This is a nice way to keep packages off your porch, especially if the items are expensive. Once your package is ready for pickup, you’ll be notified. A courteous associate will put your package right in your trunk.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. Please share them in the box below.

Topics: Holiday SafetyHome Safety

How to safely set up an aquarium

How to safely set up an aquarium

Kids love having their very own pet fish to care for, and betta fish are a popular, easy-care choice. But for your family’s new pet to stay healthy and thriving, you must get the aquarium setup process correct.

In this blog, you’ll learn how to safely set up a tank for your betta and more.

1. Assemble What You Need

Start by gathering everything you’ll need for your aquarium:

  • Sand/gravel substrate
  • Lighting unit
  • Filtration system
  • Heater
  • Aquarium thermometer
  • Decorations
  • Plants

Note smaller tanks often come as starter kits that include everything you’ll need to get up and running, which can be the most cost-effective way to go.

2. Prepare the Aquarium

Even a tank that’s fresh out of the box will most likely be dusty. Take a clean, damp cloth and wipe the inside of the aquarium to remove dust and debris. Never use detergent or glass cleaner inside the tank, as residue could poison your fish.

3. Safely Position Your Aquarium

Now, decide where you’re going to keep your tank.

Make sure you use a proper aquarium stand that’s designed to take the weight of a fish tank and its contents, or choose a sturdy countertop or desk for a smaller aquarium. The tank needs to be level to avoid placing stress on the seals, preventing leaks or cracks.

Place the tank close to a power supply so you can plug in your filter, lights, and heater. The aquarium needs to be situated away from heat sources, drafts, and direct sunlight so that your fish don’t suffer temperature shock.

Always keep the tank away from doorways and open areas where running kids or pets could bump into it, or a carelessly opened door could damage the aquarium.

4. Prepare the Substrate

Wash the gravel substrate under running water to remove dust. When the gravel is clean, add it to the aquarium to a depth of approximately two inches.

5. Install the Filter And Heater

Now, fit the filter system and heater, but don’t turn them on yet.

6. Fill the Tank with Water

Place a saucer or upturned bowl on the surface of the gravel. Fill the aquarium with tap water, directing the flow over the saucer so that the gravel isn’t displaced. Leave an inch or so below the fill line to allow for the water displacement that’ll happen when decorations and plants are added.

Don’t add a water conditioner to the water. Tap water contains ammonia, which your biological filter needs to start the nitrogen cycle.

7. Add Decorations

Rinse your tank decorations to remove dust and place them in the aquarium.

8. Add Plants

Living plants make a great addition to any freshwater fish tank, keeping the water clean and providing shelter for your fish.
Trim away dead leaves and broken stems, as per the supplier’s instructions, before adding the plants to your tank. Leave plenty of space between the plants so they’ll have room to grow.

9. Switch ON the Filter And Heater

Switch on the heater and filtration system. Adjust the heater to the water temperature recommended for your fish and plants.

You’ll need to allow the aquarium to cycle for ten days or so before you can safely add your fish. Use an aquarium water testing kit to check the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates during that time. When ammonia and nitrite levels are zero and nitrates are at or below 20 parts per million (PPM), you can introduce your fish.

If you’re building a community tank, I recommend you start with just a few fish, and allow the biological filter to mature for a couple of weeks before adding more livestock to your collection. Of course, if you want a single betta fish, go right ahead and bring him home!

10. Set Aquarium Lighting

Fish don’t need lights at all! In fact, too much light is very stressful for fish. However, living plants do need light for photosynthesis. So, if you’ve planted your tank, you’ll need to give the plants eight to ten hours of light every day to mimic daytime and nighttime.
Some lighting units have built-in timers you can set. However, a standard light timer from your local hardware shop works just as well.

11. Maintenance

Once your tank is set up, you’ll need to maintain it. I recommend changing around 25% of the water every week and rinsing the filter media in tank water once a month to keep it clean and fresh. Clean the substrate with an aquarium gravel vacuum to get rid of fish waste, leftover food, and plant debris.

Final Thoughts

So, now you know how to safely set up an aquarium!
Before buying a tank, always research the needs of the fish species you want to keep and set the tank up accordingly. Once your aquarium is established, be sure to keep it well-maintained, and you can look forward to enjoying happy, healthy fish for many years to come.

Snow blower buying and safety tips

Buying your first snow blower can be overwhelming. There are many models to choose from all with varying features. To make your decision easier, consider the size of your property, yearly average snowfall, and price.

Having lived on a corner lot with a fire hydrant and a long sidewalk, I’ve spent a significant amount of time snow blowing. If you strictly focus on price, you may buy a snow blower that’s inadequate for the job at hand or isn’t reliable. Make sure you find the right balance before buying.

Types of snow blowers

  • An electric snow blower. Is recommended for smaller properties. It can work well for removing snow from patios, walkways, and other paved surfaces. It’s a nice option for areas that receive light snow.
  • A cordless snow blower. Runs on a high-voltage battery. It’s a light unit that can handle various types of snowfall on smaller properties and there are no maintenance costs. Cordless and electric snow blowers are less expensive and are nice alternatives if you don’t want to shovel.
  • Single-stage. This type of snow blower is nimble and uses a high-speed auger that scrapes the snow off your driveway or sidewalk and launches it through the air. While it’s served me well, there were many times I could’ve used a two-stage snow blower. The bottom of the driveway was often difficult to clean after the snowplow went through and left heavy snow and hard ice chunks. This type of snow blower is best served for light to moderate snowfall and for small-to-medium-sized properties. If you have a gravel driveway, this type of snow blower shouldn’t be used as it’ll scrape off the stones and shoot them in the direction of the chute. This could cause property damage or injury. Lastly, over time the auger will wear out and need replacing. When your snow blower stops throwing snow efficiently, you’ll know it’s time to replace the auger.
  • Two-stage. This type of snow blower is more powerful than a single-stage. It’s self-propelled, so you’ll be able to get through a lot of snow and ice without stopping and starting. Also, because this snow blower doesn’t scrape the ground, it can be used on gravel driveways. The downside to this snow blower is that it’s heavier, bigger, and not as nimble. Because it removes large amounts of snow, it’s recommended for properties that have larger, longer driveways and for climates that receive significant snowfall each year.
  • Three-stage. This type of snow blower is the strongest and toughest. It can clear over 20 inches of wet, heavy snow and chop up the ice chunks like nothing. While these machines are expensive, if you live in a climate that receives a lot of heavy snowfalls, this one is for you.

Features and attachments

Once you’ve identified the type of snow blower you need to remove snow from your property, it’s then time to look at some of the features offered. Depending on what features you select, it could make your job even easier. If you’re like me, the quicker you can get back in the warm house the better!

Here’s a list of features that can be found on the different types of snow blowers.

  • Electric start. Instead of pulling on a cord numerous times, simply plug it in and push the start button.
  • Skid shoes. Skid shoes protect your concrete from damage as the unit goes across your driveway or sidewalk. They also eliminate the annoying rust stains that appear on your garage floor because of melting snow.
  • Speed controls.  Allow you to operate the snow blower at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
  • Power steering. A heavy snow blower trying to cut through a lot of snow can be difficult to maneuver. Power steering allows you to turn it with ease.
  • Remote or joystick operated chute. I don’t have this feature on my snow blower but would highly recommend it. I constantly must manually adjust the chute. As winter wears on, this becomes frustrating.
  • Headlight. Improves visibility for you as well as cars that may be driving by.
  • Heated handles. In my opinion, this is another must have. Keeping your hands and fingers warm can prevent frostbite.

Safety Tips

  • Plan ahead. Think about snow placement before you start. This can help prevent extra work.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts very easily and quickly. While a scarf can help keep you warm, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Never operate while impaired. Operating while impaired can dull your senses and cause unintentional injuries.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear. As a kid, I never thought about safety gear. Now, I wear ski googles to protect my eyes and ear plugs. Injuries can happen quickly and when you least expect it. Taking a few extra minutes to put on safety gear is worth it.
  • Wear appropriate cold weather gear. While I would love to wear shorts and flip flops all year, it’s just not possible while living in the Midwest. Warm boots and mittens/gloves are important to keeping our extremities warm and preventing frostbite. In addition, moisture-wicking technology in clothing can help prevent you from feeling cold and uncomfortable.
  • Don’t shoot snow at others. As kids, we did this all the time. We’d line up and wait to get pummeled with snow. We never thought about debris shooting out of the snow blower causing injury. My single-stage snow blower shoots debris very forcefully. An ice chunk or stone could be deadly.
  • Never use your hands to unclog the chute or auger. Every year people suffer serious injuries to their fingers or hands. Before clearing out a snow clog, always turn the machine off and use the plastic cleaning tool that’s attached to it. If you don’t have one, use a wooden handle from a broom or shovel.
  • Watch for cars and pedestrians. Always be alert to what’s going on around you. Neighbors walking their dogs or pulling kids in sleds is common after a snowfall. The last thing you want to do is cause injury to them. Also, if you must step into the street, watch for passing cars as well as snowplows. Fresh snow causes significant changes to driving conditions.

Lastly, if you intend on buying a snow blower this year, it’s a good idea to buy one before the first snow. This will ensure there are many options to choose from. Once the snow starts flying, there may be a rush on them leaving you out in the cold.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. Please share them in the box below.


Topics: Yard Safety

Home improvement projects and insurance coverage

Home improvement projects and insurance coverage

Owning a home comes with both responsibilities and rewards. So before buying, it’s important to do your homework to make sure the home fits your budget and lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you built a new home or purchased an existing home, at some point, you’ll probably decide to make some improvements.

With access to so much information, some homeowners choose to tackle those “Do It Yourself” (DIY) projects. There are, however, many things to consider before you start: What part of the home is being remodeled? How much will it cost? How much time will it take? Do you have the room for equipment and materials? Once you have those answers, you may discover the DIY project should actually be handled by a professional. Insurance is an important factor in choosing a professional contractor.

You should find out if they have the proper insurance coverage to protect both themselves and you.   Ask for a copy of their insurance policy, called a Certificate of Insurance, to make sure they have general liability and workers’ compensation coverage. If the contractor is injured while working at your home or the newly installed dishwasher starts to leak, you want to be sure you’re covered.

When considering how much coverage you need for a home improvement project, the current value of your home is key. Regardless of whether you’re building an addition to your home or simply upgrading your kitchen cabinets, it makes sense to increase the value of your home on your insurance policy based on the improvement(s) you’re making. That also means increasing the amount of coverage on your policy. If there’s a loss during construction or after the work is complete, you don’t want to be underinsured. Remember, the most simple projects often turn into much bigger projects.

With West Bend’s Home and Highway® policy, we ask that you notify us within 90 days of completion of a project if it cost at least $5,000 or 5% of your current Coverage A limit for the guaranteed replacement cost coverage. Do you know what your policy requires?

Talking with your local independent agent before starting any home improvement project is a great idea. There are many things to discuss, including:

  • Will you be living in the home during the remodeling process or moving out for an extended period of time?
  • Do you have appropriate coverage for materials, like lumber and shingles, that will be stored outside the home?
  • What if you need to rent a large moving truck to pick up new windows you purchased? Will your auto policy cover the truck and windows if they’re damaged while in transit?
  • What if your new detached shed collapses during heavy winds before it’s completed?

These are just some of the things for which your insurance agent can make sure you have the right coverage.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.

This blog was written by Sarah Faris, senior Personal Lines underwriter.

Topics: Home Insurance

Tips for successfully moving your pets into a new home

Moving into a new home can be stressful and exciting. There are so many decisions to make and tasks that need to be completed to prepare for moving day. If you don’t hire a professional moving company, moving boxes and furniture can last for days.

If you have pets, don’t forget about them. Moving can be just as stressful for them. While dogs can tolerate it better than cats, there’s no way to avoid the stress for either of them. However, there are things you can do before, during, and after the move that can help keep your fury friends safe and calm.

Before the move

Preparing for the move ahead of time can be beneficial for you and your pets. Not only can starting early help you ease into packing, it can help your pets start adjusting as well. Here are some things that can help.

  • Display the moving supplies. If you’re moving yourself, having plenty of boxes and packing tape is crucial. Instead of just jumping into packing, let the supplies you plan on using sit out in a corner of your home for a few days. Allowing your pets to see and smell the supplies can help desensitize them for when the time arrives to start packing. We recently moved and found this helped our cat, Toulouse. Although I don’t know if either of us will ever get used to the sound of packing tape flying off the roll. The sound kind of reminded me of nails on a chalkboard.
  • Set out your suitcase or pet carrier. For some pets, the minute they see your suitcase or their pet carrier they get anxious. Suitcases can tell them you’re leaving, and they’ll be without your companionship. A pet carrier can signify a trip to the vet. Again, letting them sit out ahead of time allows them to get used to seeing them. Especially when nothing immediately transpires.
  • Maintain their routines. Let’s face it, we’re all creatures of habit. One small change can cause us some discomfort. Don’t interrupt your pets’ routines. If your dog loves going to the dog park, continue taking it. If you’re thinking about what you should be doing, stop and just enjoy the time and fresh air with your dog.

    If you’re a cat owner, you know your pet may get distracted very easily and move from one thing to the next. However, it’s still important to play with your cat and to give it the attention when it wants it. Lastly, because cats love to sleep, don’t pack away items that comfort them until moving day arrives.

  • Contact your vet. If your pets are easily stressed, consider talking to your vet about using anti-anxiety medication. Moving is fast paced and noisy. Keeping pets calm makes it easier for everyone.
  • Crate train. If you’re moving a significant distance, make sure pets are trained to spend time in their crates prior to your move. Trying to put them in something they’re not familiar with is going to be stressful for you and them. Also, research pet-friendly hotels and other destinations prior to heading out on the road.

During the move

Whether you’re moving yourself or you’ve hired professionals, there’s a lot of commotion on moving day. Keeping your pets away from that is your best option. Consider clearing out one room or an area of your home and use that as their safe haven. Fill the room with food, water, familiar things, and soothing music. This can help keep them calm, as well as prevent them from getting injured or even worse, running away when a door is left open. Don’t forget to put a note on the door or inform your moving crew that it should remain closed.

Another option on moving day is to have a family member or friend take care of your pets. This removes them entirely from the busy and chaotic situation. Make sure they spend time with their temporary caregiver prior to the move. This allows them to get to know each other and makes for an easier transition.

After the move

Once you arrive at your new home, the commotion starts all over again. Here are some more tips that can help.

  • Keep your pets secluded. While you’re probably excited to let them explore your new home, it’s best to keep them in a secluded place for a few days. When we moved, we kept our cat in the laundry room with everything he needed plus soft music and a white noise machine. Unfortunately, we let him out to explore too soon. He was terrified and found his way inside our couch. That turned into quite a project. All the felt had to be removed from the bottom of the couch so we could find him. Needless to say, he went back into our laundry room for a few more days. We made sure to visit him often. It took him about five days before he returned to being the cat we love.
  • Give them plenty of treats. Treats can be used to reward pets for good behavior, calm them down, or act as their primary food source. Due to the stress of our move, Toulouse stopped eating. Thankfully, he continued to drink his water. While he could afford to lose a few pounds, it was still concerning. We quickly learned the only thing he would eat was his treats. After adjusting to our new home, he’s now gone back to eating his normal dry food.
  • Update their records. If your pets have microchips, make sure you update their information. This never crossed my mind until a friend mentioned it. If they’re not microchipped, buy them some new tags.
  • Be patient with your pets. While you’ll be excited to show them around, it’s important to back off and let them explore on their own. Once they feel comfortable in their new home, they’ll return to doing the stuff they loved prior to the move. Also, accidents may happen because they’re stressed and in an unfamiliar place. While that’s the last thing you want to happen, clean it up and take it in stride. Trying to keep your home perfect all the time can be stressful.
  • In with the new and out with the old. While getting new furniture and other new items may be the plan for your new home, don’t get rid of everything. Keep some items that your pets are familiar with. While our cat’s favorite chair is no longer in our living room, we did keep it for him. It’s just in a different location. Having familiar items around can reduce your pets’ stress.
  • Pet proof. Once you’re settled in, take a walk around your new home, and look for things that could be dangerous. In our new home, we had an open dryer vent that I covered. Since his safe place was in our laundry room, I didn’t want him getting stuck in it. If it’s a brand-new construction home, look for leftover materials laying around such as nails, insulation, wires, and caulk. Make sure any debris you find is cleaned up immediately.
  • Take time off work. After a big move, there’s nothing nicer than spending time in your new home relaxing and hanging a few pictures. It’s also a great opportunity to spend time with your pets while they adjust to the new place.

No matter what type of pets your family has, moving can be stressful. Obviously, you know your pets’ personalities better than others. Use that knowledge to make them comfortable. For additional pet tips, check out the blogs below.

How to Make Moving Homes Easier on Your Pet Bird

Moving day: steps to protect your fish during the move

Moving with Reptiles

Understanding how your personal property is covered by homeowners insurance

Understanding how your personal property is covered by homeowners insurance

We all have personal property and we want to protect it in the event of a loss. But many people don’t understand how it’s covered by their homeowners insurance policy. There are a few ways you can protect your property on a homeowners policy.

The first way is what’s included automatically in your policy. The limit of coverage depends on your insurance carrier. Some carriers take a percent of your home limit and designate that for your personal property. Percentages commonly used are 50%, 60%, or 70% of the home limit. West Bend is unique and doesn’t designate a limit. Instead it’s included in a blanket limit that’s calculated based on your home value.

Coverage for personal property to an unendorsed policy is on a named peril basis. This means the perils that are covered are listed in the insurance contract. Some carriers will pay a loss settlement based on actual cash value of the personal property, which is replacement cost minus depreciation. These policies can be endorsed to include replacement cost coverage. The Home and Highway® has replacement cost coverage on contents for all the homeowners forms which include home, condo, and renters. The policy will pay for a loss to your personal property if it’s damaged by one of the perils specifically listed in the policy form. All losses to personal property are subject to the policy’s property deductible.

The second way to protect your personal property is to add an endorsement that broadens coverage from named perils to risks of direct loss or all risk coverage. When this endorsement is added to the policy it broadens the coverage to include all causes of loss except those that are specifically excluded.

Consider these examples:

1. Power surge isn’t a covered peril on the unendorsed personal policy. But if you add risks of direct loss coverage or special personal property coverage to your Home and Highway policy this loss would be covered subject to the home deductible.

2. Let’s say your child is playing Xbox and the controller goes into your $2,000 TV and damages it. Without all risk coverage you’d be stuck paying the bill because that’s not a listed covered peril in your policy.

Covered losses may also be subject to the special limits of liability that are listed in the homeowners coverage form. These are built-in limits in the homeowners form that limit the amount of coverage for a specific type of property, such as jewelry, silverware, and firearms.

The third way to cover your personal property applies to items that have a higher value or may have a special limit of liability in the policy form. You can specifically schedule these items. Examples of items that are commonly scheduled include jewelry, furs, firearms, and fine arts.

When items are specifically scheduled the coverage is changed from named perils to risks of direct loss and all losses are covered except those specifically excluded. The coverage is replacement coverage up to the limit the item is scheduled at, and the insurance carrier will replace the item. You can also schedule items on an agreed value basis. If this is done, the item that’s scheduled is paid out to the limit that was agreed upon and shown on the declarations page, and the insured can then replace the item in the event of a total loss.

Of course, any loss on a Home and Highway policy would involve your very knowledgeable claims adjuster to help you through the process and going over your options with you.

If you have questions, please contact your independent agent.