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Stay Safe This 4th of July With These 7 Essential Safety Tips!

The 4th of July isn’t just another day in our nation. It’s the quintessence of summertime fun and a day in which family and friends nationwide come together to celebrate the official birth of our country. People partake in delicious food and fun outdoor games, indulge in the warm weather, and end the day with a dazzling display of fireworks and patriotic music.

While Independence Day is certainly a fun day, it’s always smart to follow safety precautions throughout the day. We’ve compiled a list of 7 helpful safety tips to ensure that your July 4th this year is fun, memorable, and safe. Read them below!

Be Safe In the Water – It’s always fun to go for a swim or partake in water sports during the 4th, but you need to make sure to be safe when doing so! Studies have shown that water sports are linked to numerous deaths and injuries each year. Never swim alone, and ensure that all children in the water are supervised at all times. Don’t assume that others are watching the kids. Assign a designated chaperone for water play to be safe.

Protect Your Skin – If you happen to be one of the countless people celebrating Independence Day outside, remember to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Wear plenty of sunscreen at all times when you’re outside, even if it happens to be cloudy, and reapply the sunscreen every few hours. If you do happen to get sunburned, apply some aloe vera to the burn for temporary relief.

Cook Up a Safe Meal – Are you planning on grilling for your friends and family on the 4th? Cook up your tasty hot dogs and hamburgers away from tree branches, siding, and foot traffic. As tempting as it might be in the hot summer weather, avoid grilling inside a garage or tent as it could start a fire. Always keep a fire extinguisher close by in case a fire does break out!

Drink Responsibly – Alcohol and July 4th activities can be very hazardous and dangerous to mix together. If you plan on drinking, do so in small, well-controlled portions, and never drink and drive. In addition to that, if you have consumed alcohol, avoid swimming and handling any fireworks. Assign someone to be a designated driver to keep you and others around you safe.

Keep Cool in the Shade – Don’t forget to spend some ample time indoors or in the shade to avoid any illness due to heat. The risk of heat illness increases when you participate in strenuous activities and is also higher in those with chronic medical conditions and in the elderly. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Keep in mind that liquids like sodas and alcohol will dehydrate your system, increasing your risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Stick to water to be safe!

Cover and Protect Your Food – As soon as you’ve cooked your food, be sure to cover it and keep it safe! Cover your food with lids and nets to discourage bees, flies, and wasps from attending your party. When it’s hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, refrigerate perishable foods within an hour of it being outside. If the temperature is cooler than 90, you can leave foods out for two hours. Refrigeration discourages foodborne illnesses from recurring, so make sure that you are diligent in protecting your food in the summer heat!

Leave Fireworks to the Professionals – Love fireworks? Play it safe by attending your local fireworks show on the 4th! Attending a display organized by professionals will ensure that you have a fun, colorful, and safe time with your friends and family. If you do decide to set off your own fireworks, do so with caution. Store them in a safe place, and keep children away from fireworks at all times. If you have the honor of handling the fireworks, remember to wear the proper eye protection and keep a hose or bucket of water close by in the event of an emergency.

Even with your best intentions in mind, we know that anything can happen and emergencies do occur. Before Independence Day arrives, stop by Madison Mutual to chat with your agent about your insurance policies in the event of an accident or emergency. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com to get started today. We hope you have a memorable and safe 4th of July!

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Weather 101 – Learn How to Tell If a Potentially Dangerous Storm Is Coming!

Summer might be a time for fun in the sun and relaxation, but sometimes it can be a time of scary storms, especially in the month of June. In these times, it’s best to be knowledgeable about the weather and know what to expect so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

There are several types of clouds that come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and shades, and each type can be an indicator of good or bad weather to come. With practice, you, too, can learn to predict upcoming weather conditions. All you need to do is be familiar with the clouds and observe them!

One of the easiest ways to know if your day is going to be full of rain or just cloudy is by looking at the height and color of clouds. If the clouds are higher, puffy, and dark in tint, you will more than likely have rain on the way shortly. If they are white or light gray and/or low clouds, it’s bound to just be a cloudy day.

But how can you determine if those dark clouds you see on the horizon are just benign rain clouds or if they are severe thunderstorm clouds with the potential of producing tornadoes?

The difference between whether a storm will give rain, hail, and strong winds but no tornado versus those that will spawn tornadoes is quite subtle. Forecasters traditionally examine observations and computer data to locate regions in which strong instability and changes in wind coexist. In fact, the Doppler radar is one of the best ways to track impeding tornado formations.

Here’s how you can tell if a storm that’s coming toward you could carry just a few rain showers or if it has the potential to produce tornadoes:

Watch the Clouds Closely – Not all dark clouds are the same. A severe storm with the potential of developing deadly weather will often look very dark or even have a sickly green tint. The clouds should be very large, low-lying cumulonimbus clouds. Additionally, the cumulonimbus clouds you see will begin to develop vertically at a rapid pace. Keep a careful eye out for any rotation in the clouds.

Pay Attention to the Temperature – In order for severe storms and tornadoes to form, a mixture of warm, moist air at low levels have to collide with dry, relatively cold air above. Wind shear, which is the difference in the wind speeds near the surface and about 20,000 feet above the ground, will slam the conditions together. If you’re standing outside, pay very close attention to the temperature. If you feel the temperature drop from warm or hot to a more brisk temperature, you know the storm is approaching very quickly.

Beware of Sudden Wind Changes – Be on your toes if it suddenly gets very windy or if there is an abrupt calm during or right after a thunderstorm. That eerie calm isn’t necessarily indicating the end of a storm, but it could be a sign of potentially dangerous weather to come very shortly.

Pay Attention to Precipitation Changes – Be aware of hail or heavy rain following by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Large hail can sometimes (but not always) precede a tornado.

Refer to a Barometer – If you happen to have a barometer on hand, check it few hours. If you notice that there is a rapid drop in pressure, then a storm is approaching.

Listen Intently – As you observe the storm, try to eliminate any unnecessary sounds and listen very closely. If you hear a loud roar or an intense noise that is similar to a freight train, take shelter right away; a tornado has more than likely spawned.

Know the Difference Between Watch and Warning – Many people get tornado watches and warnings mixed up. A watch simply means that tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. A warning, on the other hand, means that a tornado has been spotted or indicated on the radar. If you find yourself in an area that is under a tornado warning, you need to seek shelter right away.

Check the Radar – You don’t have to be a meteorologist to interpret the radar. When observing storms on the radar, look for large lines of red. Keep a watchful eye toward the front-end of the line and look for hooks, that is, a place on the storm cell that looks like it’s hooking in a direction. Sometimes if you notice a small green patch in between two larger patches of red, that could indicate danger. The best way to interpret the weather, however, is by keeping the weather forecasters on and listening to everything they say; they are the experts, after all!

If you find weather fascinating or want to be in-the-know so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe, we advise that you sign up for a storm-spotting class around the area. Anyone can take these classes, and those from high school age on up can sign up to be a volunteer storm spotter. You can find more about these classes here.

While these tips can help you pick out nasty weather, they are not infallible. The weather can sometimes change at the drop of a hat, even surprising professionals. When that happens, it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. Call us to make sure that your home, auto, and farm are covered. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us at www.madisonmutual.com for more information!

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7 Crucial Steps to Take When Your Brakes Fail

It’s a driver’s worse case scenario. You’re driving along on the Interstate on your daily commute to work. As you’re driving, you find that you need to either tap or hit the brakes for some reason, whether it’s traffic in front of you slowing down, an emergency situation with another vehicle, or yielding to road construction. You hit the brake pedal… but nothing happens.

What do you do?

We have compiled a list of critical steps you need to take in the event that your brakes go out while your car is in motion (even though we are truly hoping it never happens to you!). These tips will help you get your car to stop safely as soon as possible. Read about them below!

Step 1 – Keep calm. Don’t let panic get a hold on you; you’re only more likely to get in an accident that way. Just stay calm and slow down by stepping off the gas pedal and coasting.

Step 2 – Turn on your hazard lights so that you can notify the motorists around you that something is wrong. If need be, you can use your horn as well.

Step 3 – Shift your car into a lower gear to help slow it down. This will work regardless of your car being an automatic or a standard.

Step 4 – Carefully work your way over toward the shoulder of the road. If you happen to be on the highway, try using an exit ramp. Just try to get to a safe spot in which you can allow your car to slow down – away from traffic!

Step 5 – If your car has ABS (antilock brake system), firmly brake while you continue to steer. This will help slow your car down. If your car happens to have only standard, non-antilock brakes, try pumping the brakes by using short taps to get your car to stop.

Step 6 – As you’re slowing down to a stop, try to shift into neutral and use your emergency brake. Don’t use your emergency brake before you’ve reached a safe spot!

Step 7 – As soon as you’ve stopped your car successfully, do not attempt to drive. Instead, call for help and have a professional tow your car to a mechanic. Also, refrain from shutting off your car until you’ve come to a complete stop. A shut down car is devoid of power steering, and pulling your car over will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

It’s quite likely that if you take good care of your brakes that you won’t experience your brakes going out on you. Prevent brake failure by taking your car in for routine check-ups, including brake system inspections. These inspections can uncover all sorts of problems that you might not be aware of in the first place. Also, listen very closely to your car. You know it better than anyone else; if it sounds off, don’t hesitate to take it in to your mechanic to get a checkup.

Want more tips on how to take care of your car? Check out our blog for a plethora of tips, tricks, and all the latest news. If you’re in need of auto insurance from a reliable and friendly insurance company, we’re the right ones for you. Just call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or check us out online at www.madisonmutual.com to see how we can help!

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7 Epic Road Trips for the True Adventurer

Are you tired of the same old routine? Want to just hop in your car and drive somewhere different to get away from the stresses of every day life? If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, then we have the solution for you!

Summertime is all about vacations, relaxing, and discovering new things. Road trips are the perfect way to get away from your everyday life and experience new sights. We’ve compiled a list of 7 epic road trips that every true adventurer should take sometime. Check them out below!

The Great River Road – If Huck Finn had a driver’s license, what would he do? We’re positive he would take a road trip down the Great River Road! This scenic byway hugs the Mississippi from its headwaters in northern Minnesota all the way to its mouth in Louisiana. You’ll see farms, upland meadows, cypress swamps, thick forests, gorgeous bluffs and limestone cliffs, and dozens of parks along the way. Make some memories along the way at close-by attractions such as the Potosi Brewing Company in Wisconsin, the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, the Mark Twain Museum in Missouri, and other historic sites.

US-50: The Loneliest Road – Dubbed “the loneliest road” by travel writers and tourist boards alike, US-50 extends from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, stretching 3,200 miles. The road cuts through a dozen states, 4 state capitals, and Washington D.C., and it includes some of the country’s most gorgeous landscapes including the Sierra Nevada, the Appalachians and the Rockies, the Great Plains, and the deserts of Utah and Nevada. Follow the footsteps of the pioneers on this long stretch of road for a different sort of adventure!

Route 66 – You’ve heard the song. You’ve memorized the lyrics. You know that Route 66 extends from Chicago to L.A. Why not give “The Mother Road” a try on your next road trip? Extending over 2,000 miles, Route 66 passes through the golden sands of L.A., the majesty of the Grand Canyon, Native American communities of the desert southwest, and the busy cities of St. Louis and Chicago. Cure your nostalgia for the good ol’ days with this road trip!

Pacific Coastline – Want to see the Pacific in all its beauty? Give the Pacific Coastline road trip a whirl! Start in San Diego, California and head north – you’ll be within sight of the ocean almost all of the way from the Mexican border to Canada! This mostly two-lane road stretches for 1,500 miles and takes you through everything from temperate rainforests to near-deserts, beaches, and redwood forests. Stop in Seattle for a fun time in the city or go a little farther north into Vancouver in Canada to do some killer whale watching!

Atlantic Coastline – Is the Atlantic side of the states more of your style? Then head on over to New York City near the Statue of Liberty to get started on your eastern journey! Altering between wildly different beach resort areas, stretches of gorgeous coastal wilderness, and quirky seaside towns and villages, this route will take you all the way down to Key West, Florida for some fabulous R&R. This is the route you’ll definitely want to take if you’re interested in photogenic lighthouses, beaches, great food, and lots of history.

Canada to Mexico – Are coastlines too clichéd for you? Try the border-to-border road trip! You can drive anywhere from the very northern reaches of the United States to as far south as you can go in the states, but if we were to suggest one route to take, it would have to be US-93. Beginning in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies, US-93 takes you through some of the most rugged lands imaginable from stunning mountains and glaciated valleys to rivers, two starkly different deserts, Las Vegas, and nearly untouched wilderness. From Canada and Montana all the way to Arizona, you’ll experience some of the most diverse and unique sights you can come across in the nation! Just make sure you have a reliable automobile for the southern portion for those challenging deserts!

The Great North – If you’re looking for something that’s off the beaten path, then this is the road trip for you! US-2 is the road you will want to take to get you from Seattle, Washington all the way to Acadia National Park in Maine. This road cuts through a variety of landscape, filled with some of the most unforgettable and gorgeous scenery you will ever encounter. You’ll be treated to the Cascade Range in Washington, the beauty of the Idaho panhandle, the majesty of Glacier National Park in Montana, windswept prairies across the northern Great Plains, the Great North Woods country of Minnesota, the rugged and nearly untouched beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the beautiful mountains of New England. Your final destination – Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park, are stunning in themselves, especially in the fall. You’ll truly “get away from it all” on this road trip!

We challenge you to try at least one of these road trips in part or in whole this summer. Let us know how you enjoyed your road trip on our Facebook page or in the comment section below this post. Before you hit the road, though, be sure to make a travel checklist and abide by it. Come visit us as well to make sure that your insurance is up-to-date. Happy trails!