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Protect Yourself and Your Family With These 6 Holiday Home Fire Safety Tips

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and laughter with family gathered to share good food, play board games, watch movies, and laugh together. All too often, however, the holidays often end in tragedy. According to the American Red Cross, nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays. These fires claim more than 500 lives, cause more than 2,200 injuries, and wind up costing $554 million in property damage. Additionally, December is the month in which most home fires occur, especially right around Christmastime.

In spite of these grim facts, there are plenty of things that you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your loved ones from fire. Follow our 6 handy tips below!

Choose Your Tree Wisely – You might have your tree chosen, set up, and decorated this year, but if you don’t or if you plan on purchasing a different tree once the holidays are celebrated, choose a flame retardant or artificial tree. If you like live trees, make sure that the tree has fresh green needles and give it plenty of water. A dry tree can go up in flames in a matter of seconds.

Placement Is Everything – Now that you have your tree, make sure that you place it and your candles and other holiday decorations at least 3 feet away from the heat sources in your home. This includes your fireplace, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents, and candles in the vicinity.

Check Your Lights – When you put the lights on the tree, make sure to give the strings and bulbs a once-over. If they look frayed or broken, do not put them on. Instead, purchase new sets. Any frayed cords or broken bulbs can easily spark and start a fire.

Extinguish and Unplug Before Leaving – Before you head out, even if it’s for a few minutes, remember to blow out all of your lit candles and unplug the tree and holiday lights. Do this before you go to bed every night as well.

Keep Little Ones and Pets Away – Do you have any curious critters or family members that want to get a better look at your lit tree? Don’t let them! Keep them far away from anything that can catch on fire, including the tree, candles, your stove and oven, and other fire sources.

Check Your Smoke Alarm – The American Red Cross reports that having a working smoke alarm reduces your chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50%. Go around your home and either install much-needed smoke alarms, especially near your kitchen and by the bedrooms, or test the ones that are already there to see if they work. If they don’t go off, replace the batteries. Still not working? Install a new alarm. It’ll be worth the money and effort, trust us.

We hope these tips will help you have a happy and safe holiday week and New Year! Remember, you can always call us here at 1-800-766-MMIC to ask us any questions or update your home insurance, and you can read more helpful tips at www.madisonmutual.com!

8 Easy Tips to Keep You Safe During the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! It’s a time for fun, celebration, and spending quality time with our family and friends. Unfortunately, the typical hectic pace of the season can present many dangers and increased risks. That’s why it’s important to be extra vigilant during the holidays.

Check out the following 8 tips to keep you and what matters most safe this holiday season!

Be Smart in Parking Lots – Take extra care when you’re in parking lots, especially when it’s dark outside. Make sure to hide all of your valuables, lock your car, and park in well-lit, populated areas. Keep your keys close by, and stay alert of your surroundings. If you notice any suspicious people, vehicles, or situations, avoid them and alert the authorities, if possible.

Stay Alert When Shopping – Shopping during the holidays can be a stressful time, especially because of the crowds of people who are out looking for the perfect gifts. Be very cognizant of your surroundings, and make sure that you aren’t loaded down with packages and that you are maintaining your visibility and mobility at all times. Refrain from wearing expensive jewelry and carrying large amounts of valuables or cash, and keep your wallet in a safe place.

Keep Your Children Safe When Shopping – If you have children in tow with you while you’re out shopping, keep a cautious eye on them at all times. You can even consider teaching them to find a store clerk or security guard in case you get separated. Make sure that they know their first and last name so you can be easily reunited, and give them a contact phone number that they can keep on them at all times should they get lost.

Be a Smart, Savvy Online Shopper – If you don’t feel like tackling the crowds to get your shopping done, you can always find fantastic gifts online. But beware – making purchases online does carry its own risks. The National Cyber Security Alliance recommends that you have a firewall, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware software installed and updated regularly before doing your shopping. Additionally, only make purchases on secure sites; these sites will have “https” at the beginning of their URL address. Your purchases and account information will be much more secure this way.

Stay Safe at Home – You should exercise caution while at home as well during the holiday season. Make sure that your windows and doors are locked whether you are home or not, and keep your gifts and valuable items out of plain sight. Consider also setting indoor and outdoor lights on timers to make it appear as if someone is home. Keep your blinds and curtains closed as well so that a potential burglar won’t be able to see what is inside your home.

Tell Someone You Trust About Your Holiday Travels – Heading out to visit loved ones or just to take a vacation by yourself this holiday season? Make sure you tell someone you trust where you’ll be going and the timeframe that you’ll be gone. In the event of an accident or inclement weather, you will have someone back home who will check in with you to ensure that you’re safe. Ask a neighbor or trusted friend or family member to watch your home while you’re out as well.

Stay Safe on the Roads – Holiday travel can be hectic. There’s an increase in drivers on the road, and weather can be slippery and tricky, making travel dicey. Drive defensively and stay tuned in to weather conditions. Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle including a blanket, batteries, a flashlight, dry food and water bottles, a radio, and other supplies in case you get stranded.

Celebrate Responsibly – If you’re going to be one of the many celebrating the season by attending holiday parties with your friends and family, make sure to enjoy these celebrations responsibly. Too often do these times of joy turn so quickly into a tragedy. Remember, this is completely preventable. Keep yourself and others safe by watching how you drink, and never drink and drive.

Want to stay extra safe this holiday season? Call your agent here at Madison Mutual to ensure that your insurance policies are up-to-date. Call today at 1-800-766-MMIC or learn more online at www.madisonmutual.com.

Keep the Holidays Happy: 5 Common Holiday Hazards You’ll Want to Avoid

We can finally prepare our Thanksgiving bibs, blast Christmas music, and enjoy coffee out of red cups because holiday season is here! While the fun we spend with our family and friends around fireplaces, Christmas trees, and dinner tables is now upon us, so are the hazards that surround them. So, it’s important to wrap your presents and your mind around these potential holiday malfunctions. After all, we don’t want the happy in “happy holidays” to be replaced by firemen and copious amounts of stress.

If you follow these safety tips, you’ll be sure to have days full of joyful celebrations instead of hazardous ones.

Online Shopping Fraud:

When our lives become busy and we can’t drive to the mall, our computer and online stores become our best friends. However, while you’re browsing the web and picking out an ugly holiday sweater, make sure you’re doing so safely.

Ways to ensure safety and reduce online shopping fraud include:
*Keeping up-to-date with your software and virus protector
*Visiting online stores you know and trust
*Creating strong passwords
*Paying by credit card
*Keeping records
*Refraining from dispensing any financial or personal information

House and Car Theft: It’s scary to think that our home or car can be invaded, so we want to make sure that doesn’t happen! When it comes to your home, make sure you always leave a light on when you leave. Hide presents out of view, or better yet, close all curtains and shades. To avoid car theft, keep it on lockdown. Don’t leave bags and packages in the back seat or in plain sight. Put purchases in the trunk and park in well-lit areas. Both your home and car should always be locked, and for extra safety matters, invest in an alarm. There’re some holiday discounts floating out there, so take advantage of them!

Social Media: We love social media, especially during the holidays. The lit-up Christmas trees, extravagant family meals, and the beautiful holiday destinations all provide social media worthy pictures and comments. However, before we make social media posts, it’s important to know what not to do. If you use a public computer, log out of accounts and never save passwords. Most importantly, do not post that you’re going out of town. Keep your whereabouts private, even if you want to flaunt it. Besides, you can always post about your latest adventures after you come back!

Cooking: Holiday cooking is one of the best parts of the season. It’s when family traditions are shared and laughter ensues. However, it can be chaotic and messy, so it’s important to practice safety in the kitchen. Before you start cooking, make sure your stovetop and oven are clean and free of grease and dust. Clean the exhaust hood and duct over the stove regularly, too. Also, it’s important to stay in the kitchen while the stoves are burning and ovens running. If you need to leave, set a timer so you can hear when the food is ready. If kids are around, keep them away from the kitchen by creating a kid-free zone. Lastly, purchase new smoke alarms. You don’t want your feast to go up in flames and disrupt the wonderful holiday aromas. However, just in case a fire occurs, know how to use a fire extinguisher and have one ready to blow out the fire before it creates a gigantic holiday blaze.

Defensive Driving: Everybody is always in a rush during the holidays; it’s easy to get caught up on the road and not pay attention to what you’re doing. Take a different route this season and become a defensive driver. Practice BBB (blinker before brakes) and don’t use a cell phone or any other electronics while on the road. Be alert, not sleepy or under the influence. Just make the time for driving safely. Life may speed up, but it’s important that you still drive safely.

We hope that this list can help you prevent holiday hazards, but we know messes happen, even when you’re prepared. So check out our car and home insurances, and if you run into a problem, visit our website http://madisonmutual.com/ or give us a call at 618-656-3410. We want you to rejoice this holiday season and be happy.

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a hazard-free holiday year!

Keep Your Holidays Happy and Safe! 18 Holiday Theft Prevention Tips You Need to Know

The holiday season is filled with the hustle and bustle of shoppers, the excited wrapping of the gifts, and spending lots of time with the ones we love. Amongst all this joy and light, it’s very easy to forget that thieves still lie in wait, ready for the right opportunity to seize your valuables, whether they are in your home, in your car, or even online.

This holiday season, prevent thieves from stealing your valuables and breaking in your home or car. Keep your holiday happy and safe with these 18 tips below!

Keep Your Car Safe

*When exiting your car, be sure you always take your purse, wallet, MP3 player, cellphone, laptop, and other items with you.

*If you cannot take your valuables with you, lock them up in the trunk before you leave your home. By placing them in the trunk upon your arrival, you could alert thieves to the valuables that lie defenseless in your trunk.

*If you’re out shopping, don’t leave your purchases visible in your car; place them discreetly in your trunk instead. Additionally, be sure to park in areas that have adequate lighting, and consider shopping with someone rather than going alone, especially if you are shopping in the evening hours.

*Be aware of your surroundings at all times and walk with purpose. Keep your keys ready in your hand before getting into your car, and report any suspicious people or activity to the law enforcement right away.

*Keep the amount of available cash you have on you at a minimum. In the same vein, keep track of all your credit and debit cards and keep receipts to compare to your monthly statement.

Stay Safe at Home

*Create an up-to-date home inventory including the make, model, and serial numbers of your items. Include detailed descriptions and photographs of your valuable items as well. This inventory should be kept somewhere safe.

*Inscribe valuable items such as your televisions, computers, and stereos with an identifying number. When doing so, be sure not to use your entire social security number.

*Make sure your doors and windows are locked when you leave, even if you have an alarm system in place.

*Consider installing an alarm system and activate it whenever you leave home.

*If you have to leave home for an extended period of time, ask a neighbor or trusted friend to pick up your mail and newspapers while you’re away, or just have the post office hold them until you return. Nothing tempts a potential thief more than a mailbox full of mail and several newspapers scattered on the sidewalk.

*If you’re ordering your gifts online, keep in mind that if you are not home that the boxes sitting outside your home or apartment can easily be stolen. Consider being home when they are slated for delivery or asking a friend or relative to pick your packages up to keep them safe until your return.

*Did you purchase a big ticket item that came in a large box like a brand new HD television? Be sure to break down the box when you throw it away otherwise you could be tempting potential thieves to come on in and steal it (and your other expensive items) away.

*If you’re going away from the holidays, be sure not to mention this on your voicemail or on social media until after you return!

Shop Safely

*Keep your wallet in a tight location like a pants pocket or somewhere more secure in your purse rather than a loose location like your jacket pocket. It’s much more difficult for thieves to steal your wallet if it’s in a tighter location.

*If you’re using a purse, use one with one strap and keep it in front of you so that you may see it at all times. Never leave it on the ground or in the cart unattended.

*Cover your password if you use a public ATM in the mall so that potential thieves won’t be able to see any of your information.

*Carrying cash itself isn’t bad, but be sure not to carry too much in case it is misplaced or stolen.

*If you’re shopping online, be sure that you use official websites and use secure sites that implement https://. Read our blog here for more online shopping safety tips!

Remember, no line of defense against thieves is complete without an insurance plan. If you don’t have insurance yet or would like to revise your current policy, stop by our office at Madison Mutual Insurance Company and see how we can keep you and your family and everything that matters to you safe. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com to get started! Have a wonderful holiday this year!

Stay Safe Shopping Online With Our 9 Tips!

The holiday shopping season is here, which means that people nationwide will be driving to local stores and malls or taking to their computers to do some shopping for their friends and loved ones for the holidays. With the almost nonstop hustle and bustle throughout the month of December, consumers will likely take to the Internet to get their holiday shopping done. While the Internet provides a quick, easy, and quiet place to get our holiday shopping done, it can also be a place in which online thieves can easily steal your identity, if you’re not careful.

This holiday season, feel safe and secure online while getting your shopping done for your loved ones. Check out our 9 handy tips below to see how you can protect your identity and your computer!

Use Familiar Websites – One of the best ways you can keep safe is by shopping through a trusted website than through a search engine. If you know the websites, chances are that you won’t be ripped off. Sites such as Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart won’t lead you astray. Additionally, be careful that you don’t misspell the URL for the website and stay away from sites that are misspelled or use “.net” instead of “.com.” The sales on these sites might look really great, but it is the oldest trick in the book to lure you into giving up your information.

Don’t Share Everything – When ordering online, you will need to input your name and address so that the package can be sent to you; however, no retailer needs to know your birthday or social security number to do business with you. If thieves on the other end receive your birthday or social security number in combination with your credit card number, they can do quite a bit of damage to your bank account pretty quickly. The more they know, the easier it will be to steal your identity. If at all possible, give out the least amount of information as you can.

Look for Secure Sites – Never purchase anything online from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed, at the very least. You can tell if a site has SSL because the URL will begin with https:// instead of just http://. You should also see a locked padlock either at the status bar at the bottom of your web browser or right next to the URL in the address bar, depending on your browser. Also, never give your credit card information over email.

Check Your Statements – Stay vigilant this holiday season; don’t wait till the end of the month to worry about your bills. Go online regularly and view your electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Be sure that you don’t see any fraudulent or unexplainable charges, even from sites like PayPal. If you see something wrong, address the matter right away and only pay your bills once you know all the charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify your bank or credit issuer of the situation. Past that, however, you could be liable for the charges anyway.

Use Strong Passwords – You’ve heard it over and over again – use strong passwords. This is absolutely crucial when it comes to online shopping. Avoid using short, common words and opt for a more unique password that includes numbers, punctuation, and capitalization.

Protect Your Computer – Sometimes, thieves will go the extra mile in trying to steal your identity by offering you something “extra” to help things along. You need to keep your computer protected against malware and malicious files with regular updates to your anti-virus program. At the very least, protect your computer with the free Ad-Aware Free Internet Security 9.0 to give yourself an edge against viruses and malware.

Be Smart on Your Phone – According to the National Retail Federation, approximately 6% of adults will use their smartphones to do comparison shopping before making a purchase, and 32% will do comparison shopping online with a computer as well. These days there’s no need to be hesitant to shop on your smartphone instead of on a computer. The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers such as Amazon, Target, and other large companies. When you use these apps, you can make quick, safe purchases without having to go to the store!

Avoid Public Terminals – When you make online purchases, you should really use your own laptop, desktop computer, or smartphone, not a public one. If you have no choice but to use a public computer to make purchases, remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you’re just checking your email. If you’re making purchases on your laptop in a public area like a café, be sure to deter any potential over-the-shoulder on-lookers and sit with your back against the wall.

Privatize Your Wi-Fi – If you decide to shop online on your laptop in a public area, you should only use the wireless if you access the Internet over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. If you don’t get one from your employer, you can set one up for free with AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, if you’re willing to deal with the ads or pay $4.99 a month to avoid the ads. Additionally, stick to known networks, even if they’re free, like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores. You can also find free Wi-Fi at McDonalds, Panera Bread, and FedEx Office locations along with libraries and local cafes.

Remember, skepticism and vigilance in most cases can go a long, long way toward saving you from a stolen card number or a stolen identity. For more safety tips, be sure to call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com! Happy shopping!