Ten tips to enjoy Halloween and keep your pets safe

Halloween is a fun and festive time of year. Stores are stocked with tons of decorations, costumes, and of course, my favorite, chocolate.

However, for our pets Halloween can be scary and stressful. For a couple of hours their world is turned upside down with ringing doorbells and excited kids. In addition, the candy bar that’s mistakenly dropped on the floor could be hazardous to their health.

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Here are some tips to help your pet endure and stay safe this Halloween.

1. Be careful with pet costumes. Our pets can look adorable or ghoulish in their Halloween costumes that make for great pictures. If you decide to dress them up, make sure costumes are simple and loose fitting. Detailed costumes can make it difficult for pets to move and cause injury if they get spooked and take off running. If you try a costume on and your pet seems aggravated or upset, it’s probably best to avoid using a costume this year.

2. Avoid choking hazards. Elaborate costumes can contain buttons or other small pieces that may entice your pet to chew on them.

3. Keep your pets indoors. If your pets want to sit on the front step with you and hand out candy, it’s probably best to leave them inside. The number of trick-or-treaters can be overwhelming to them. In addition, this can help prevent our pets from being teased by ghoulish guests.

4. Keep decorations out of reach. Decorating your home for Halloween or any holiday can be a fun family tradition. However, it’s best to keep decorations out of our pets’ reach. Wagging tails and excitement can cause them to knock things over. Nobody wants a Halloween fire caused by a knocked over candle or jack-o-lantern.

5. Keep your pets in a safe place. The constant ringing of the doorbell and the large number of visitors may stress out your pets. Keep them in a bedroom, away from all the noise and commotion.

6. Make sure your pets are wearing their ids. Some pets will do whatever they can to get outside. With your door opening and closing numerous times and all the commotion, their escape can be easier than normal. If they’re wearing their ids, they can be safely returned to you.

7. Secure your electrical cords. If you’ve lighted Halloween decorations on an end table or fireplace mantle, secure the cords appropriately. An excited pet may be tripped up.

8. Seek care immediately. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the four most common food related hazards for pets around Halloween are:

  • Chocolate;
  • Candy overindulgence;
  • Raisins; and
  • Candy wrappers.

If your pet is showing signs of illness or you think your pet may be poisoned, contact your local veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately. The sooner you seek medical treatment the better off you and your pet will be.

9. Apply Grannick’s Bitter Apple spray. If you find your dog or cat enjoys chewing on your newest Halloween decoration, apply bitter apple spray. The spray is a non-toxic, safe, and effective chew deterrent.

10. Throw away glow sticks immediately. Keeping your kids visible during trick-or-treating should be your number one priority. The days are shorter and all the activity in your neighborhood can make it difficult for motorists to see them. If you choose to use glow sticks, make sure you throw them away immediately after use. According to Pet Poison Hotline, cats love to chew on them. While non-life threatening, the liquid inside the glow sticks can cause:

  • Irritation;
  • Pain;
  • Excessive drooling; and
  • Foaming at the mouth.



West Bend, Posted by Scott Stueber on Oct 17, 2017 11:48:31 AM

Tips for selecting a home fire extinguisher

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week. According to the National Archives and Records Administrations Library Information Center, this is the longest running public health observance in history. This year’s observance is Sunday, October 8 through Saturday, October 14.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 358,500 home structure fires occurred from 2011 through 2015. On average, these fires caused:

  • 2,510 civilian deaths;
  • 12,300 civilian injuries; and
  • $6.7 billion in damage.

The leading causes of home fires were:

  • Cooking equipment;
  • Heating equipment;
  • Electrical;
  • Intentional; and
  • Smoking materials.

On a regular basis, we hear about the importance of keeping our smoke detectors in proper working order. However, we don’t hear a lot about other fire prevention methods. Therefore, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss choosing a fire extinguisher for your home.

Having a fire extinguisher available can be beneficial. However, there are some things to consider before purchasing one.

  1. Your main priority should be getting out of your home safely. From the time your smoke alarm sounds, experts say you have two minutes or less to get out.
  2. Don’t exit with your family, and then go back in to start extinguishing the fire.
  3. If a small fire starts in your presence, a fire extinguisher can help prevent it from spreading.

When choosing a fire extinguisher for your home, here’s what you need to know.

There are five types of fire extinguishers. They are A, B, C, D, and K. A, B, and C are often found in homes and businesses.

Type A extinguishers – Used on ordinary materials, such as cloth, paper, and wood.

Type B extinguishers – Used on combustible and flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints.

Type C extinguishers – Used on electrical equipment, such as appliances, tools, and other items that are plugged in.

Type D extinguishers – Used with flammable metals and are found in factories.

Type K extinguishers – Can be used on vegetable oils, animal oils, and fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are used in commercial kitchens, such as restaurants and cafeterias.

For home use, you can select a multi-purpose (A, B, C) extinguisher.

The next thing to consider is weight. The size of the extinguisher needed depends on its use. Common extinguishers can weigh from two to ten pounds.

What size extinguisher is right for your family?

  • A ten-pound extinguisher is more appropriate in places where fire can spread in size more quickly. This size extinguisher would be ideal for a garage or workshop.
  • A five-pound extinguisher can be stored in your kitchen or laundry room. Since most home fires start in the kitchen, I would recommend storing it in a nearby pantry or cupboard.
  • A two-pound extinguisher can be stored in your car.

How do you use a fire extinguisher?

The NFPA suggests remembering the acronym PASS.

P = Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher nozzle away from you.

A = Aim low by pointing at the base of the fire.

S = Squeeze the lever slowly and at a controlled pace.

S = Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

If you purchase a fire extinguisher for your home, please read the instructions. Instructions can provide additional usage tips, as well as directions for how to maintain your extinguisher. Also, contact your local fire department. They may offer classes that allow you to practice using one.


West Bend, Posted by Scott Stueber on Oct 10, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Washing your hands can lead to a great time at the pumpkin farm

kids-at-petting-zoo.jpgThis time of year, a trip to the pumpkin farm is a must for many people. Whether it’s a field trip for school or a weekend trip with family and friends, there’s always plenty to do.

Today’s pumpkin farms are even more exciting than when my parents took my brother and me. Our adventure was journeying through the pumpkin patch looking for the perfect one and cutting it off the vine. Fast forward to today and kids can enjoy corn mazes, bounce houses, haunted houses, pumpkin cannons, and petting zoos.

Unfortunately, for some families, a great day at the pumpkin farm leads to sick kids. Many farms have petting zoos and concession stands. The great thing about the concession stands is they sell a variety of food and drinks. However, if your kids forget to wash their hands after spending time with the animals, their tummies might get upset.

Here are some tips to keep your family healthy and safe the next time you visit your local pumpkin farm.

1. Hand sanitizer is essential. Take along a bottle of hand sanitizer. Apply the hand sanitizer after you leave the animal petting and feeding area. Apply it again before eating.

2. Visit handwashing stations. Some farms have handwashing stations. If the farm you’re visiting has them, make sure to stop by after visiting with the animals and before eating your lunch. While hand sanitizer is a convenient alternative, washing your hands with soap and water is best.

3. Keep your picnic lunch in the car. Many families load up their stroller or wagons with all the essentials for the day and head out on their journey. It’s best to keep your food and beverages out of the animal areas. Consider keeping your food and beverages in the car until your family is ready to take a break. Don’t forget ice!

4. Park the stroller. Instead of taking your stroller into the animal area, look for the stroller parking lot and park it. This will help keep germs from contaminating the stroller, bottles, pacifiers, and other items you have.

5. Supervise your children. When my kids were young, I made numerous trips to the pumpkin farm with my family and friends. There’s plenty of fun and excitement for people of all ages. Do your best to stay focused and keep an eye on your kids. Especially small children who are prone to touching their face and putting their hands in their mouth.

6. Respect the animals. Most of the animals are probably used to the commotion and love having visitors. However, here are a few things your kids should know.

  • Approach slowly.
  • Approach with their hand outstretched so the animals can smell them.
  • Talk softly.
  • Pet the animal(s) gently.
  • If feeding time occurs while you’re visiting, stay out of the animal’s way. Like us, they love their food.


Source:  West Bend, Posted by Scott Stueber on Oct 3, 2017 10:25:01 AM

The latest car safety features could lead to insurance discounts

autonomous-car.jpgDo you like the new car smell or the shine of new paint? Buying a car can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Negotiations and paperwork can lead to many hours spent at a car dealership. Learning about the new technology and safety features available on cars today may require even more time at the dealership.

Based on your insurance company, discounts may be available for these new safety features. If you have a West Bend Home and Highway® policy, discounts are applied.

Here is a list of new safety features/systems that may be in your next car.

Forward Crash Avoidance – We’ve all been in a situation where traffic comes to a sudden stop or we approach a car too quickly. This system helps prevent those situations by alerting you when your vehicle is getting close to another auto or object. The system may automatically cause your car to brake in order to avoid the collision.

Lane Departure – Fatigue or distractions can cause you to inadvertently stray across lane markings. A lane departure warning system alerts you if this happens when your turn signal is not activated.

Blind Spot Monitoring – If you drive through rush hour traffic on a regular basis, changing lanes can be difficult. A blind spot monitoring system alerts you to the presence of an auto, or other object, in the vehicle’s blind spot.

Backup Warning System – Sadly, we’ve all heard of the stories of small children injured or killed by a vehicle backing up. By 2018, all new vehicles sold in the U.S. will have these systems installed. These systems are comprised of sensors and/or cameras that alert the driver of objects located behind the vehicle. These systems may also include an alert when traffic is approaching the vehicle from the side. These systems may or may not include automatic braking functionality.

Adaptive Headlights – As we approach fall, deer hits significantly increase. Adaptive headlights follow the path of the vehicle, adjusting the beam to the curve of the road, as well as the speed and steering angle of the auto. These new headlights may help spot animals that dart out onto the road. Please note: Daytime running lights or automatic on/off headlight features are different from adaptive headlights, and do not qualify for a discount.

Driver Fatigue Sensing System– Drowsy driving is a problem in the United States, which often has tragic results. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013 drowsy driving was responsible for approximately:

  • 72,000 crashes;
  • 44,000 injuries; and
  • 800 deaths.

This system will monitor driver steering patterns and other behaviors to detect a lack of attention and/or potential drowsiness. The driver is typically alerted by vibrations in the steering wheel or seat, or with audible warnings.

Please remember these discounts vary by coverage and a maximum vehicle discount is applicable based on the number and combination of discounts. Talk to your independent insurance agent to see if your car qualifies.

If you’re in the market for a new car, check out the blog “Have you purchased a car lately?” This blog shares things to consider when purchasing a new car as well as websites that can help you research the right car for you or your family.


WEST BEND, Posted by Scott Stueber on Sep 19, 2017 10:46:36 AM

Winning tactics for a safe school year


Another summer has ended and kids are back in school. Homework, bedtime routines, and chaotic schedules are again, part of our lives.

Back to school also means additional congestion on our roadways and in school parking lots. Now more than ever, it’s important for everyone to take a deep breath, slow down, and pay attention to their surroundings. Yes, put the phone down, it can wait!

According to theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,344 people were killed in school transportation-related accidents between 2004 – 2013. This is an average of 134 people killed each year. Here’s a statistical breakdown of the fatalities.

  • Occupants on school transportation vehicles – 8%;
  • Pedestrians/bicyclists – 21%;
  • Occupants in other cars – 71%.

In an effort to keep your neighborhood and school zone safe, here are some safety tips for you and your family.

School drop off and pickup safety

  1. Follow school procedures/traffic patterns. So often, you see parents creating their own traffic pattern through school parking lots. It’s imperative to follow the procedures and traffic patterns the school has implemented. Remember, they were put in place to keep our students safe. Your poor planning or late start in the morning should not jeopardize the safety of others.
  2. Avoid curbside drop off/pick up. If you’re dropping off or picking up your kids curbside, don’t do this if they have to cross the street alone. This puts them in a dangerous situation, especially if darting out between cars. Use this option only if your school has a crossing guard or flashing crossing lights.
  3. Consider carpooling. Carpooling has many advantages. A big advantage is reduced parking lot congestion.
  4. Get up earlier. I know this is tough, especially if you are not a morning person. By getting an earlier start to your day, you can avoid some of the congestion, frustration, and potentially dangerous situations.

Pedestrian safety

  1. Don’t block the crosswalk. Please keep the crosswalk open for children. If you block the crosswalk, this will cause them to walk around your vehicle, potentially putting them in harm’s way.
  2. Yield to pedestrians. Pay attention to school flashers, as well as the traffic light walk signal. Flashing lights or a lit up walk signal indicate that the pedestrian has the right of way. Many states are implementing stricter laws to improve safety. Click here to see how your state law requires you to drive around pedestrians.
  3. Be patient. Honking or yelling at pedestrians is not going to improve the situation. Also, be patient with the car in front of you. You may not be able to see why the driver has stopped.

Bicyclist safety

  1. Allow three feet. Safe passing laws require a motor vehicle to allow no less than three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist.
  2. Right turn courtesy. If you are making a right turn, don’t speed past the biker and cut them off to make your turn. Stay behind them and allow them to ride through the intersection.
  3. Check your mirrors. Before you or your kids get out of the car, check your mirrors to make sure bikers are not passing by. A bicyclist may not anticipate or allow enough room for you to open your door.

High school parking lot safety

  1. Pull through the parking stall. When school ends, you will be able to see what is happening in front of you.
  2. Don’t rely solely on a back-up camera. The primary purpose of back-up cameras is to prevent “back over” accidents of young children who are not otherwise visible to the driver. It does not help you see pedestrians or other cars travelling through the parking lot. Continually move your head to scan all directions.
  3. Don’t jump into conversations. Make a rule that once everyone is in the vehicle, you’ll focus on exiting the parking lot safely. This means you won’t jump into conversations, you’ll turn off the radio, you’ll shut down all cell phones, and everyone will look in ALL directions for pedestrians, bicycles, and other vehicles.
  4. Avoid distracted walking. Put the device in your pocket. Use your eyes and ears to walk safely through the parking lot.
  5. Take responsibility. If you accidentally damage a parked car, wait for the other person so you can exchange insurance information, leave a note with your contact information or call the police. Never drive away because you think the other car is old or there is not much damage.

Please talk to your kids about staying safe this school year!


West Bend, Posted by Scott Stueber on Sep 12, 2017 11:08:36 AM

Don’t get trapped by these common insurance mistakes

In today’s world, everybody is looking for a good deal. Whether it’s on groceries, a new car, or insurance, we always feel better about our purchase if there’s cost savings involved.

However, remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” There are many reasons why pricing differs between insurance carriers and their policies. Ignoring recommended coverages made by your agent or reducing coverage can have devastating consequences for you and your family.

While it’s important to live within your budget, you may want to look at other ways to save money.

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SOURCE:  West Bend, Posted by Scott Stueber on Sep 5, 2017 1:00:00 PM