Snowmobiling Safety

Tips to stay safe during snowmobile season

As the snow continues falling, many people are getting excited, because it’s time to break out the snowmobiles and head to the nearest winter recreation spot.  It’s a popular activity, and for good reason: Snowmobiling allows you to explore natural areas that may be hard to access by foot (or snowshoe), and provides a different kind of excitement than skiing or hiking.

Of course, snowmobiling presents some dangers as well.  Here at Shults Insurance Agency, we want you to make it home safely after your day in the snow.  Read on for safety tips from the American Council of Snowmobile Associations — and keep in mind that following these will not only help you stay safe, but also influence equitable treatment of snowmobile access by government, agencies, and landowners.

SPEED: Speed is a major factor in many snowmobile crashes. Always keep your speed slow enough to ensure that you’re in control.

ALCOHOL: Use of alcohol or any other drug that causes impairment is a leading cause of snowmobile-related fatalities.  It’s best to refrain from any use at all before and during outings because of potential effects on vision, reaction time, balance and coordination.  When combined with excess speed in particular, the results can be deadly.

RIDING AT NIGHT: Nighttime snowmobiling is fun, but extra caution should be used. Ride at slower speeds so as not to override your headlights (which generally illuminate your path for about 200 feet).  Faster speeds could mean that you have little or no time to react to an obstacle in your path.

ROADWAYS: Always keep an eye out for vehicles, as many trails are located alongside roadways and can cross over them.  Be sure to stop fully at all stop signs and unmarked road crossings.

CLOSED AREAS: Areas may be closed to snowmobiles due to hazardous conditions, wintering wildlife, non-motorized recreation or by landowner request.  It’s important to honor these closures for safety purposes and to help protect access to other riding areas.

While it’s extremely important to follow these tips for your personal safety, it’s also vital to encourage others to snowmobile safely as well. Helping to educate others will not only promote safety for all snowmobilers, but also protect the sport’s image as well.

Whether you’re a new rider or have been on the trails for years, ask yourself if you could be riding more safely. There are many more winters to come, and we want you to be able to enjoy as many of them as possible!

Roof Snow Removal Tips

While snow-covered roofs can make for a picturesque winter scene, the combination of freshly fallen snow with the melting and refreezing of snow can place stress on the roof of your home or business.  If more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice have accumulated on the roof, you should have it removed.

Snow Removal Tips

Clearing the snow off your roof from the gutters or eaves upwards of three to four feet after each winter storm can help prevent ice dams from forming.  Remember to avoid using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions.  This can be extremely dangerous and is best left to professionals.

For Flat Roofs:

If your flat roof is easily accessible from an interior stairway, you may want to shovel the roof, but be careful not to damage the roof covering.

Remember to put safety first any time you are on a roof, especially one that is covered in snow and ice.  If you have any doubt, leave it to professionals.

For Sloped Roofs:

It may be possible to remove the snow and ice from your sloped roof using a roof rake – a long-handled tool designed specifically for this purpose.  Stand on the ground and pull as much of the snow off the eaves as you can safely reach.

If you cannot safely reach the roof, contact a homebuilder, landscaping and roofing contractor, or property maintenance company to remove the snow and ice.  Before hiring a contractor, check their references.  Always be sure any contractor you hire is qualified, insured and bonded.

The amount of snow and ice your roof can support will depend on a number of factors, including the roof type as well as the age and condition of the structure.  But a good rule to keep in mind is if more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice has accumulated on your roof, you should have it removed.

Frozen Pipes

With the extreme cold that is settling over our area this weekend, the potential for frozen pipes is high.  Here are some smart tips to help you prevent or address what could easily become a very messy and expensive situation.

  • See to your outdoor water lines: Before cold weather arrives, drain water sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines, and remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. If possible, close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs for draining. Keep them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. If you can’t shut off the water from the inside, pick up some foam faucet covers.
  • Keep your home warm: Maintain an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you’re sleeping or not at home. Seal any drafts and leave interior doors open to help keep an even temperature from room to room.
  • Tend to those pipes: Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathroom so your pipes aren’t shut off from the warm air. You can also insulate your pipes with sleeves, heat tape or heat cable. Insulation is especially important in unheated areas, such as your attic, basement, garage or crawl space, and for pipes running along exterior walls. During severe cold spells, you may want to leave all faucets, both hot and cold, running at a slight trickle.
  • Call in a professional: Frozen water in your pipes can cause them to burst, meaning you’ll have a mess on your hands once that water unthaws. So, act quickly to shut off your main water supply, and call in a licensed plumber to see to the situation.

Do You Need Both RV and Car Insurance?

RV insurance is something that most people do not know a great deal about. Many people use their car policy to insure their RVs. Though this is an option, it might not cover everything that might happen to your RV.

How is an RV policy different than an auto policy?

Your auto policy is not going to cover everything that might happen to your RV while you are on the road. Though your auto policy is going to cover things like accidents, major issues with your RV, and even in some cases theft and damage.

Since RV insurance is made specifically for RVs, it is going to be more comprehensive, more encompassing, and it is going to cover a wider range of things that might happen to your RV. Your RV insurance is going to cover a variety of issues you might have including damage to contents in the RV and the actual interior of the RV as well. An RV policy can also help you with roadside issues like towing and can help with liability issues that may arise with your passengers.

If you have an RV, you do not necessarily need both RV and car insurance, but in most cases, you have to have at least an auto policy that covers your RV.  Contact our agents for more information on RV insurance.

Do You Need Snow Tires?

You know it’s coming. Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Maybe even black ice.

But do you know if your tires are ready for all of that?

When driving in upstate New York in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on your car.  The right ones can get you to your destination safely.  The wrong ones?  Well, just look over in the ditch during the next storm.

So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are five things to know about winter tires:

    1. Winter tires really are different than regular tires.
      Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use. That helps increase traction as well.
    2. If your area regularly drops below 45 degrees, you probably need winter tires.
      Winter tires don’t just perform better in snow and ice.  They are better for cold weather in general.  So if you get some chilly days where you live, consider a set – a full set. Installing just two winter tires can cause handling problems.
    3. There are two main categories.
      Studless snow and ice tires are designed for extreme conditions.  They are better in deep snow than performance winter tires, which are for light snow and ice.  What about studded tires?  Well, they give you great traction on ice but also damage roads.  And some experts say chains do just as well.
    4. You still need to check the pressure — once a week.
      If your tires are underinflated, they are at risk of failing.  In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.
    5. You still need to check the tread, too.
      An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny.  Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down.  Is some of his hair hidden?  Good.  Can you see all of Abe’s hair?  It’s time for new tires.  Right now.

We here at Shults Insurance know that nobody wants to spend too much time thinking about tires. The good news is you don’t have to. Just a little bit of preparation, along with some routine maintenance, will keep you on the road, all winter long.

Black Friday Planning

Hitting the shops on Black Friday has become a ritual that is as all-American as watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. And why wouldn’t it be, considering all the great deals that are out there?

Over the years, however, Black Friday has evolved. Stores that used to open at 5 a.m. now open on Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday has entered the picture, offering bargain prices online the Monday following Black Friday. All of this means that getting the best deals now requires a bit of strategy.

At Shults Insurance Agency, we want you to get the best deals for your holiday shopping, so here are a few pointers for maximizing your experience:

  • Be willing to forego the shut-eye.  Since many retailers are now opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving, and often staying open all night, overnight shopping is increasingly practical. Accept that you will not get eight hours of sleep Thursday night (and remind yourself that your wallet will thank you).
  • Do your research.  Go online before the holiday and note who has deals on what and when.  Remember to factor in your opportunities for Cyber Monday.
  • Pick your favorites. You probably won’t have time or energy to go everywhere, so narrow your shopping store list down to focus only on your favorite stores or those that are offering sales on exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Create an itinerary. Before you go, make a list of stores in order of priority based on times they open and items you want to snap up. Then, map it so you know your route.
  • Make a budget (and stick to it).  Whether you are shopping for Christmas gifts or just trying to save on some household items, be careful to avoid the unnecessary expense of impulse buys.

We wish you a very productive and enjoyable Black Friday!

Halloween Safety

Despite the fact that Halloween involves walking around at night amongst ghouls and witches, it really only takes a little common sense to make the night safe for everyone.

Here are five questions to ask so your entire family, even pets, can enjoy a safe and fun evening of trick-or-treating or handing out candy to others:

  1. Are we visible?

Add reflective tape to costumes, clothing and candy bags to make it easier for drivers to see you and your group.  That also goes for pets who are tagging along.  Put reflective tape or flashing lights on their leashes or collars.  Carrying flashlights and glow sticks is a good idea as well — they make you more visible and help you see better, too.

  1. How safe are our costumes?

Costumes, including masks and shoes, should fit well to prevent blocked vision, trips, and falls.  Baggy clothing can also increase the risk of contact with candles.  If you purchase costumes, make sure they are marked as flame-resistant.  Accessories such as swords and knives should be soft and flexible.

  1. Where are we going?

It’s best to have a plan before taking your kids trick-or-treating.  You should only go to known neighborhoods and houses that have outside lights on, and children should never enter someone’s home unless an adult is with them.  If you have older children going out on their own, have them tell you their plan.

  1. What are the kids eating?

It’s always a good idea to examine the items your kids have collected before they dig in.  And it’s not just about tampering, either.  Be aware of choking hazards, too, particularly for young children.  And remember, when it comes to eating treats, moderation is key.

  1. How are Fido and Fluffy doing?

Even if your dogs and cats are just hanging out at home while you hand out candy, don’t forget about them. They shouldn’t eat candy at all, especially chocolate, which can be toxic.  Make sure candles are placed in areas where they won’t be knocked down.  Remember that, depending on your pet’s personality, having people constantly coming to your door can be stressful.  You might want to create a comfortable spot for them away from your home’s entrance.

With the right plan, you can make Halloween fun — and safe — for your little ghosts and goblins. And you can probably snag a little leftover candy for yourself, too.

3 Ways to Stay Safe On the Water

Are you thinking about taking the boat out?

There is nothing better than going out on the river or lake, but when you do, you need to make sure you and your passengers are safe. Let’s take a quick look at three ways Shults Insurance Agency in Fort Plain, NY suggests to stay safe on the water. 

Always wear a personal flotation device

First and foremost, you need to make sure you and everyone else who is going out on the lake with you are wearing some type of personal flotation device. In fact, depending on where you are going out on the water, it may be required by law for you to wear a life jacket of some type. Most water laws will at least mandate that you have enough life jackets on your boat at all times for everyone who is aboard. 

Be aware of your surroundings

Another way to stay safe on the water is to make sure you are aware of your surroundings. If you don’t know the lake or river very well that you are boating on, it is imperative that you go very slowly. You never know when a boat may come around a curve that you are unfamiliar with, and you will want to have enough time to move out of the way. 

Don’t drink alcohol or be intoxicated while driving

Lastly, to stay safe out on the water, you must make sure the driver is not intoxicated. It is equally as important that none of your passengers are too intoxicated as well. Many laws make it illegal for you to drink alcohol or become intoxicated out on the water because it greatly increases the risk of injury. 

If you would like to learn more about staying safe out on the water, contact Shults Insurance Agency today serving the Fort Plain, NY area. 

Your Identity Belongs to You. Protect It!

As you have probably already heard, the credit reporting bureau Equifax was recently hacked.  During the breach lasting more than a month, hackers gained access to people’s names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s likely that anyone with a credit report is among the 143 million Americans whose data may have been exposed.

Since you can’t just get a new date of birth or Social Security number, the Equifax data breach could potentially have lifelong impact for consumers.

There are a few things you can do now to help protect yourself:

Enroll in a few free credit score services, and sign up for emails to alert you of changes on your credit report.  You can find a list of free credit score services here.

Also, check your credit report now so that you can spot changes quickly moving forward.  You can get your free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com.  If you see anything on your credit report that you don’t recognize take action immediately:

  • Contact creditors. Contact your creditors about any accounts that have been changed or opened fraudulently. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department.
  • File a report. File a report with your local police. Get a copy of the police report, so you have proof of the crime.
  • Consider requesting a credit freeze. You might want to place a credit freeze on your credit file, which means that potential creditors cannot get your credit report. This makes it less likely that a potential identity thief can open accounts in your name. First, contact your state’s Attorney General’s office, then contact each credit reporting company.
  • Keep Records. Keep records of your conversations and all correspondence.
  • Get more information. For more information regarding identity theft, visit the following websites:

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (You can also call: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338))
FTC Identity Theft Online Complaint Form
www.fraud.org (You can also call: 1-800-876-7060)

In addition to closely monitoring your credit, you may want to consider Identity Theft Insurance.  This insurance does not fix your credit standing resulting from ID theft, but it may help you recover from this crime. It can be obtained as an endorsement added to your homeowners, renters, or in some cases, your auto insurance.  If you are interested in ID Theft insurance our agents can provide you with more information.

An Easy Explanation of Umbrella Insurance

Many people do not understand the details of an umbrella insurance policy, including what it is and why they need it. In fact, many of them seem to view umbrella insurance as a policy that is meant only for the wealthy to afford. Fortunately, a simple explanation of this type of insurance can give you a clearer understanding of how the insurance works and the many advantages that it can bring to you.

The easiest way to explain umbrella insurance is by describing it as a form of extra liability insurance. Designed with the sole purpose of protecting you against major claims, umbrella insurance should not be viewed as a primary insurance policy. Instead, it provides coverage above what your auto, home, or boat insurance provides. For example, if you are in an auto accident and your auto policy benefits are exhausted, this is when your umbrella insurance policy will step in and provide coverage. If however, you don’t have auto insurance, an umbrella policy will not be of use for expenses incurred from an accident.

Many people find themselves in a haze even after they have received an explanation of umbrella insurance. If this applies to you, start off by understanding the types of coverage you will receive.

What does umbrella insurance from Shults Insurance Agency in Fort Plain, NY cover?

  • Certain lawsuits
  • Injuries
  • Personal liability situations
  • Damage to property

As explained above, umbrella insurance is only of value if you have other policies in place. To learn more about the many benefits of having umbrella insurance, please do not hesitate to contact us!