Keeping Your Campfire Safe

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday July 7, 2016

One of the most common activities at church camp is having a campfire. Many activities take place around a campfire, including singing, telling stories and roasting marshmallows on sticks to make s’mores.

Campfires, with proper safeguards in place, can be a very safe activity; however, each year campfires are one of the leading human causes of wildfires. If the wind comes up, it could potentially blow sparks into the surrounding grass or fallen tree needles, and result in hundreds of acres burned. For prevention of wildfires from campfires, the following safety procedures should be followed:

  • First and foremost, check the local weather conditions for the area, and never build a fire on dry, windy days.
  • Start the fire in a level area that is at least 15 feet away from shrubs, trees or other combustible materials. Also, beware of overhanging tree branches, dry grass and forest floor litter.
  • The fire pit should have a ten foot circle of bare soil that is free of grass, twigs, leaves, etc. that has a shallow pit in the center.
  • Circle the fire pit with rocks, stones or some other form of fire-resistant material that will shelter the fire from the wind.
  • Don’t burn aerosol cans, as these are pressurized and can explode, and never put glass in the fire pit, as it can heat up and shatter.
  • Never leave the fire unattended.
  • Keep a shovel, rake, axe and bucket of water nearby for firefighting purposes.
  • Before leaving, completely extinguish the fire. Drown it in water, and ensure all sticks and charred materials are wet and cold to the touch.

For a more in depth look at campfire safety, please visit the Smokey Bear website.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

Outdoor Summer Event Safety Checklist

// Lindsay Taylor on Tuesday July 5, 2016

With the warm, beautiful weather that summer brings, it provides a great opportunity to host events outdoors. However, sometimes outdoor events can pose threats to those working and attending them. View the checklist below to prevent any accidents from taking place at your next outdoor event. 

Trips and Falls 

  • Move all cords (microphones, speakers, etc.) away from walkways. If they must be there, tape them down with colored tape for better visibility. 
  • Mark and protect all stakes and ropes for large, outdoor tents. 
  • Depressions and holes in grassy areas should be filled or marked.
  • Paint speed bumps, parking stops and curbs a bright color for better visibility. 
  • Make sure that any folding tables and chairs being used are sturdy and in good condition. 

Fire Prevention 

  • Keep any flammable objects, pets and children at least three feet away from any open flames. 
  • Have an adult present at all times near any open flames.
  • Make sure you have a fire extinguisher easily accessible. View this infographic to learn how to choose the right one. 

Weather 

  • Prepare for the heat.  Have bottled water available and a place for your guest and workers to cool off to prevent heat exhaustion. 
  • Monitor the weather and make alternate plans in case of inclement weather. 

Outdoor summer events can be a great time. By following these steps above, it can help ensure a fun and safe time for all. 

 

Source: National Fire Protection Association  

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is a Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on marketing communications and the co-op program.

In her free time, she enjoys dancing, running and spending time with friends and family.

Protect Your Building from Thunderstorm Damage

// Ellen Wade on Thursday April 7, 2016

As the old adage goes, April showers bring May flowers.  But, before we can get to the lovely flowers, we oftentimes have to endure several rounds of intense storms.  While thunderstorms may not seem like a large concern to an organization, they actually can cause significant damage in less than 20 minutes.

Consider the following:

  • More church fires start from lightning than from any other cause.
  • More people are killed on an annual basis from lightning strikes than from tornadoes.
  • Electronic equipment, such as computers, telephones, fax machines, and electronic organs can suffer severe damage from power surges.
  • Water leaks create all kinds of problems from stains on ceilings to damaged insulation and carpeting.
  • Wood can rot due to moisture buildup.
  • Strong winds can cause limbs to fall from trees hitting cars, people, and buildings.
  • Shingles can fly off roofs, contributing to water leaks.
  • Hail can damage roofs and vehicles.

The good news is that with very little effort, you can take steps to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, these problems.

Pre-storm Precautions

  • Install lightning rods in new buildings. Have older buildings inspected to determine if a lightning rod should be installed.
  • Routinely trim dead branches off trees. Strong winds can cause branches to fall and do considerable damage.
  • Secure outdoor objects that can blow in strong winds. 
  • Keep a battery-powered radio available in the church or school office with extra batteries.
  • Have a professional electrician install a commercial surge protector at your circuit board to protect sensitive electrical equipment such as organs, computers, telephones, copy machines and fax machines. Make sure that electrical circuits are properly grounded. Learn how to avoid overloading your circuits
  • Clean the gutters every spring and fall. Make sure they are clear of leaves, twigs, and other debris that can cause drainage problems.

Storm-time Safety

  • Do not handle electrical equipment or a telephone when lightning is striking. The lightning can follow the wire.
  • Turn off electrical appliances such as air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
  • Avoid water faucets and sinks. Metal pipes can transmit electricity.
  • If lightning or thunder occurs, those who are outdoors, such as groundskeepers or children participating in activities, should come inside. It does not need to be raining for lightning to strike. It can occur as far away as 10 miles from any rainfall, and rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning.
  • Use the following safety precautions if you are caught with a group outdoors during a thunderstorm:
    • Attempt to get into a building or car.
    • If no structure is available, get to an open space and squat as close to the ground as possible.
    • If in a wooded area, find a spot protected by a low clump of trees; never stand underneath a single large tree in the open.
    • Be alert of the potential for flooding in low-lying areas. Stay away from rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water.
    • Avoid tall structures such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, or power lines.
    • Stay away from natural lightning rods such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, or camping equipment.
    • If you are isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike), bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. A position with feet together and crouching while removing all metal objects is recommended. Do not lie flat on the ground. Rather, minimize your contact with the ground.
    • If you are driving, pull safely to the shoulder of the road away from any trees. Stay inside the car and turn on the emergency flashers until it is clear to drive.

Aftermath Clean-up

  • Check for damage and respond to problems quickly to prevent further damage.
  • Look for loose or hanging limbs from trees.
  • Do a visual inspection of the roof for loose or missing shingles.
  • Check trouble spots for leaks around windows or ceilings.
  • Remove any debris or obstacles that create tripping hazards from sidewalks, parking lots, and outdoor stairs.

It is estimated that nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment around the world.  Because they are so common, we often forget the serious damage they can cause, and that taking proper precautions is a must.  Follow these steps to help protect your building and your members against the potential damage from a thunderstorm.  And enjoy those May flowers.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade is a Marketing Specialist for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on content marketing and social media.

In her free time, she enjoys running, biking, reading and exploring new cities.

Ladder Differences You Should Know to Help Prevent Injuries

// Ellen Wade on Thursday September 17, 2015

Fall is in the air, bringing with it cooler temperatures, football and seasonal outdoor maintenance.  It’s the time of year when people and organizations will take care of some overdue yard work, clean out gutters or put up decorations before the weather turns cold.  Many of these activities require the use of a ladder, which while handy, also can be dangerous.

According to the CDC, falls remain the leading cause of unintentional mortality nationwide, and 43 percent of fatal falls in the last decade involved a ladder.

If you have volunteers at your organization who are doing some fall maintenance that requires a ladder, or if you are cleaning up your own backyard, review these ladder safety tips before you climb up the rungs.

Ladder Types

Selecting the right type of ladder for the job you’re tackling plays an important part in avoiding injuries.  Below is a list of the various options:

  • Step ladders – self-supporting portable ladder that is non-adjustable in length with flat steps and a hinged back.  Step ladders should be used for work at low and medium heights.
  • Straight (single) ladders – non-self-supporting portable ladder that is non-adjustable in length and consists of one section.
  • Extension ladders – non-self-supporting portable ladder that is adjustable in length.  Always select a ladder that is longer than what you need to reach.  Extension ladders should be used for climbing up to higher elevations, such as windows, gutters and roofs.

Construction Types

  • Aluminum ladders – should not be used around electrical sources, as they conduct electricity.
  • Wood ladders – a non-conductor of electricity when dry.  Wood ladders age fast, as they are susceptible to drying and splitting with age.  Apply some type of protective, clear finish to preserve and extend its useable life.
  • Fiberglass ladders – do not conduct electricity when dry.  Generally, fiberglass ladders do not require a protective finish to preserve them.

Ratings

In addition to the various types, ladders have different ratings based on weight and use.  Type III ladders should not be used and should be replaced with a Type II or higher-rated ladder.  If you can’t find the rating label on your ladder, replace it.  Not knowing the rating could cause an injury if the user is too heavy. Learn more about the different ratings, including type, weight and duty. 

Maintenance and Training

Even with the correct ladder for the job, maintenance and training are key to avoiding injuries. Over time, the condition of the ladder will deteriorate and eventually become unsafe to use. Periodically inspect ladders for visible defects, and after any incident, as that could affect their safe use.  Some things to check for include loose or missing rungs, nails or bolts; cracks; splinters; corrosion and other damage.

Training is important for anyone using a ladder, but especially for a church or other organization where users will often be volunteers or staff.  Providing the safest ladder on the market only goes so far, and proper usage training helps fill in those gaps.  For more information on proper training, view this Ladder Safety Fact Sheet

Help keep yourself and other safe when fixing up the outdoors for the season.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade is a Marketing Specialist for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on content marketing and social media.

In her free time, she enjoys running, biking, reading and exploring new cities.

Keys to Successful Event Planning – Safety Considerations

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday September 3, 2015

So far, we have offered you insight on event planning details and marketing efforts to help ensure great attendance. In part three of this event planning safety blog series, we’ll look at one of the most important factors when planning a special occasion: safety

The safety of your guests, staff and volunteers may not be the first thing you think about, but it is one of the most important things to consider in every aspect of planning. Regardless of your location, the size of the event or the number of people attending, there are safety precautions that should be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

Event Set-up

When analyzing your set-up, look for the following items:

  • Electrical equipment: See that all cords are out of a walkway or adequately marked with bright warning tape. Make sure any electrical equipment outdoors is adequately protected from the weather.
  • Outdoor tents: See that all stakes and ropes are visibly marked and protected.  Make sure the tent is inspected by a qualified professional before use. 
  • Grounds: Inspect the grounds prior to the start of the event, looking for depressions, holes or other hazards, and ensure they are filled or visibly marked prior to the event. 
  • Chairs and tables: If you are using temporary or folding chairs or tables, make sure they are sturdy and defect-free.

Inflatables

Three types of inflatables that are commonly used as entertainment at events include moon bounce, slide and obstacle course. If you are planning to use this form of entertainment for your event, consider the following:

  • Rent from a reputable, insured business, and require a certificate of general liability insurance.
  • Ask the rental company to perform installation and tear down.
  • Require adult supervision at all times and see that supervisors are properly trained.  This should be provided by the rental company.
  • Do not use the inflatable if wind speeds will exceed the manufacturer’s recommendation. 
  • Monitor weather forecasts closely if using inflatables outdoors, and do not operate in wet conditions or if threatening weather is approaching. 

Food

As many organizations choose to serve food at events, it’s important to recognize potential risky situations associated with providing refreshments, such as allergic reactions and food poisoning. The most common foods that cause allergic reactions are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Make sure you properly label food, so guests with allergies are aware of the risk.

When preparing food, make sure cooks and servers have washed their hands. Check food products to ensure you are not using expired foods, and thoroughly cook meats to its corresponding minimal temperature.

As you are serving food to your guests, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Do not mix new food with existing food, use separate platters to hold raw and cooked food, and use separate utensils for each food item. 

You’re finally ready to host an event. You have the keys to getting the details right, using the appropriate promotion tactics and taking the adequate safety precautions. For any event you plan throughout the year, these tips are always helpful to keep in mind. 

Miss the first two parts of the event planning series? Find them here:
•    Focusing on the Details 
•    Promoting to Your Guests

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

Keys to Successful Event Planning – Promoting to Your Guests

// Taylor Vivant on Tuesday September 1, 2015

After taking the time to focus on the details for your upcoming event, there is no doubt you have something great planned for your guests.  At this point in your planning process, begin thinking about how you are going to inform others about the occasion.  Be sure invitees receive the news so your event has great attendance.  To achieve this task, consider these marketing and promotional tips.

The Guest List

For some events, you may have a specific guest list in mind.  This can be helpful for occasions that are under a tight budget, smaller in scale or require a degree of privacy.  On the other hand, you may be envisioning a large scale event open for the local community to enjoy. 

Whoever your audience and intended guests may be, try to get a general sense of the type of people, their age and interests.  Thinking about these elements will assist you in determining the best way to communicate information.  For example, young adults and teenagers may respond best to social media.  Older generations, who don’t necessarily use technology as often, may need something more formal. 

Reaching a Targeted Audience

Connecting with a specific audience can require specific tasks.  Consider one or more of the following tactics when reaching out to your intended guests:

  • Individual invites – For smaller events with a specific guest list, individual invites through the mail are a way to ensure delivery of information.  Be sure to include all details for the event – where, when, the theme, RSVP information, etc. 
  • Personal email – Also helpful for quick and easy information delivery, email serves as a cheaper way of sending details to event guests.  This tactic can be used with known invitees, or if you have access to a large database of emails.  Email is a great way to send information, regardless of the number of recipients. 
  • Private Facebook event page – There are many benefits to utilizing social media, as it is a communication platform that has grown exponentially over the past few years, and is virtually free of charge.  A feature available through Facebook is the Events application.  Any individual or organization has the ability to create an event and structure it as an invite.  It can be open to for the public to respond, or sent to specific people.  This is a great way to put all event details in one place, available for guests to reference at any time.  Additionally, if event details change, the Facebook event page is a quick, easy way to notify people.

Informing the Public

For events that involve a large organization or community, you’ll need to think big in terms of promotion.  But don’t worry; this isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  Within an organization, consider using the following to deliver event information:

  • Print or electronic newsletter;
  • Bulletin or activity flier; or
  • Announcement boards.

If you’ve planned an activity that is open to the local community, think about one of the following tactics:

  • Ad in local newspaper;
  • Fliers throughout the community; or
  • Posts and/or ads on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The main idea is picking a communication element that allows you to reach a large number of people.  And, one other additional reminder: informing guests about an event is not only about the details.  It’s about getting them excited and making sure they want to attend.

Now that the details are in place and the invites have been set, you’ve almost completed the planning process.  In the third and final part of this series, you’ll see what safety precautions should be considered when it comes to hosting a large scale event. 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Taylor Vivant

Taylor Vivant

Taylor Vivant is a member of the Corporate Communications and Marketing team at GuideOne Insurance, where she assists in a variety of projects and tasks.

Away from work, she enjoys being active outdoors, adventuring with her friends and planning her next vacation.

Keys to Successful Event Planning – Focusing on the Details

// Taylor Vivant on Thursday August 27, 2015

Whether we want to admit it or not, we have reached the end of summer.  Kids are already returning to school, and the relaxing, fun-filled summer has come to a close.  However, this also is the time of year that is jam-packed with festivals and large events, such as an end-of-summer bash or a homecoming celebration.

Whatever reason you have to host such an event, there are a lot of planning elements to keep in mind.  In this three-part blog series surrounding event planning, we will look at what details to focus on, marketing the event and safety precautions to consider. 

Determine a Budget

Before you begin any planning, make sure to set a budget.  Think about the maximum amount of money you want to spend on the event, or divide your necessities up by category and think about the budget in smaller portions.  Things to consider:

  • Food;
  • Entertainment;
  • Set-up/furniture;
  • Supplies (dishware, tickets, paper costs for signs, etc.);
  • Payment of staff; and
  • Cost of safety and training.

Put together a budget template that includes indication of expense items, descriptions, quantities and total cost.  Sample templates can be found online through a quick web search.  As many organizations do, when it comes time to discuss an annual budget, consider adding an events category. This will help ensure you have the right amount of funds to plan great events each year. 

Consider a Theme

Not every event has to have a theme, but it can add an extra level excitement to the occasion.  If you do choose a theme, make sure your guests are aware of it ahead of time.  Also, try to incorporate the theme into other elements of your event.  For example, if your festival is carnival themed, consider popcorn and cotton candy for a snack, and various midway carnival games for entertainment.  

Choose a Time to Host

When it comes time to choose a day for your event, consider what day(s) work best for your organization and potential guests.  Look at the calendar and see what you can and should plan around.  Once you’ve settled on a date, pick a time that is most convenient for your guests, staff and volunteers. 

Find a Location

As a good starting point, decide if you want to host your event indoors or outdoors.  From there, think about how many guests will be attending, and make sure you pick a location that allows for that number of people.  If you go with the outdoor venue route, be sure to have a back-up plan in case weather does not cooperate. 

Decide on Entertainment

Entertainment isn’t necessary for a fun event, but it can be as large or small scale as you’d like!  Choose something that will fit the profile of your guests.  What’s suitable for children or families may not be something enjoyable for young adults.  Also, think about your location, as the amount of space you have available may play a factor in your decision. 

Select Refreshments

When it comes to large scale events, it’s no surprise that food and drinks are important to attendees.  If you choose to serve refreshments, determine if you will have items catered in, or if you will be preparing it all yourself.  Also, make a list of supplies you’ll need to serve food, such as silverware, plates, cups and napkins.

With these details in place, you’re on the right track to a fun, successful event!  Now, you can begin to move forward in your planning.  In part two of this blog series, we’ll look at event marketing and creative ways you can invite guests or inform the community of the occasion. 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Taylor Vivant

Taylor Vivant

Taylor Vivant is a member of the Corporate Communications and Marketing team at GuideOne Insurance, where she assists in a variety of projects and tasks.

Away from work, she enjoys being active outdoors, adventuring with her friends and planning her next vacation.