Category Archives: Blog

The latest blog articles from the agency.

You’ll be SHOCKED to hear this if you own a car with keyless entry!

 

I read a New York Times article today in which the author, Nick Bilton, shared a story about a string of vehicle break-ins that happened in his city over the past month or so that involved no signs of forced entry. Puzzling? Yes.

 

One such incident occurred to Nick while he was at home, sitting in his home office. It was mid morning when his dog’s ears perked up and began growling at something outside. So Nick walked to his front window that views the street where his Toyota Prius was parked, and locked. What he saw next was absolutely shocking!

 

Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were beside his Prius on bicycles. The girl pulled out a small, black, box like object from her backpack, pulled on the car handle…and OPENED the door!

 

Flabbergasted, Nick ran outside scaring the kids away on their bikes, and chased them down the sidewalk hoping to find out what they used to open his car door. Unable to catch the attempted thieves, he began his search on what they could have used to gain entry into his vehicle. What he discovered is shocking and I feel needs to be shared with as many people as possible to spread awareness.

 

Owners who use keyless entry key fobs to unlock their vehicles are at great risk of vehicle theft.

 

In Nick’s research, he spoke with a founder of 3db Technologies, Boris Danev. 3db Technologies is a security company based in Switzerland, and Mr. Danev specializes in wireless devices, including key fobs, and has written several research papers on the security flaws of keyless car systems.

 

Mr. Danev explains that key fobs work in the following way:

 

In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.

The teenage girl used a device called a “power amplifier.” Mr. Danev knew immediately what had happened to Nick as he was sharing his story and explained that these devices are relatively simple in nature and inexpensive to obtain ($100 or less).

When the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed [Nick’s] car to talk to [his] key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

Mr. Danev said that until the car manufacturers correct this “bug,” the best way to protect yourself is to literally put your keys in the freezer. This acts as a Faraday Cage, and won’t allow a signal to get in or out.

If you’ve never heard of a Faraday Cage before, Dr. Arthur Bradley, author of Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms, explains it as this:

A faraday cage (a.k.a. Faraday shield) is a sealed enclosure that has an electrically conductive outer layer. It can be in the shape of a box, cylinder, sphere, or any other closed shape. The enclosure itself can be conductive, or it can be made of a non-conductive material (such as cardboard or wood) and then wrapped in a conductive material (such as heavy duty aluminum foil).

Learn how to build a Faraday Cage yourself here.

So when someone says, “I left my keys in the fridge,” don’t think they are losing their mind. They might just know something you don’t.


Photo of Amber Whitman

 

About the Author: Amber Whitman is the marketing consultant for the Reno Agency.

 


 

 

Severe Weather Preparedness

 

Severe weather can happen at any time and it usually doesn’t check  with you first to make sure its coming at a convenient time. Therefore, it is beneficial to remind you of how important it is to have an emergency plan in place before disaster strikes.

If you have never thought about creating an emergency plan, a great place to start is www.ready.gov. This website will help you create a plan, and build and maintain a kit to prepare yourself for your greatest disaster risks.

Otherwise, I recently discovered an excellent blog, A Bowl Full of Lemons. The blog’s author, Toni Hammersly, wrote a blog series on Emergency Preparedness that goes step by step on how to prepare for an emergency and what to include in your emergency kit.

One item Toni says to include in your emergency kit is an Emergency Preparedness Binder. This binder will include photocopies, or better yet the originals, of all your important information. Possible documents to include are:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Drivers License
  • Social Security Card
  • DD 214 (Military Record)
  • Advanced Medical Directive
  • Power of Attorney
  • Baptism Records
  • Life Insurance Policy
  • Home Insurance Policy
  • Insurance Cards
  • Will or Trust
  • Deeds and Titles
  • Credit Cards (both sides)

 

TIP: If you use photocopies, specify where original documents came from (Example: Marriage Certificate came from Allegan County Courthouse).

Also, save a copy of all  documents included in the binder on a zip drive or saved 'in the cloud', such as with Dropbox.com.  Store your emergency binder in a water and fire proof safe that can be bolted down to the floor, such as this safe.

 

Other important information to include in your Emergency Preparedness Binder include:

  • Information about your family’s health records (especially those with special needs)
  • A family emergency plan
  • Insurance policies and phone numbers
  • Emergency phone numbers (Fire department, Gas, Electric Company, Police, Poison Control, etc)
  • Family phone numbers (closest relatives, neighbors, baby sitters, etc).

 

Toni encourages readers to start setting aside cash for your emergency fund. A smart plan is to save $2 per family member, per paycheck. Combine bills and coins, because in the event of a major disaster, electricity will most likely be out and credit cards wont work.

 

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that should go into your emergency binder, check out Toni’s blog, www.abowlfulloflemons.net. I encourage you to read through the eight week blog series about Emergency Preparedness and start creating your emergency plan. To help you get started, she sells an E-Book ($10) including the entire 8 week blog series, and Emergency Binder printables.

 

The E-Book includes:

  • Checklist for setting up your storage area
  • Food & Water Storage Guide
  • 72 Hour Kit Checklist
  • First Aid Kit Inventory
  • First Aid Kit Printable
  • Important Documents & Cash Stash Checklist
  • “Grab” in case of emergency list
  • List of personal documents to place in Emergency Binder
  • Family Emergency Plan Printable
  • Insurance Policies Printable
  • Family Health Information Printable
  • Emergency Numbers Printable
  • Important Numbers Printable
  • Supplies Tips
  • EmergencySupplies Checklist
  • Faraday Cage Directions
  • Hygiene & Pet Kit Sheet
  • Hygiene List
  • Pet Kit Checklist
  • Comfort Kit Checklist
  • Fun Kit Checklist
  • and more!

 

Don’t forget to include a copy of your home inventory list! This can be written or via photos or video.

Fairdale, IL Tornado

View this aftermath photo from a tornado that struck the town of Fairview, IL on April 9, 2015. Put yourself in that situation. Think about how difficult it would be to sift through the debris to locate all of your important documents and to communicate to your insurance agent all that you own for your claim settlement. Hmmm…make your life easier in preparation for any loss and complete a home inventory.

 

*NOTE: Reno Agency is in no way affiliated with A Bowl Full of Lemons nor do we receive any compensation for sales of their E-Book. We just feel they are a great resource to share with our readers.


 Photo of Amber Whitman

About the Author: Amber Whitman is the marketing consultant for the Reno Agency.


 

Best Practices For Managing Workers’ Comp Claims Audio Conference

Attend an audio conference on Best Practices for Managing Workers’ Comp Claims

Are you an employer or someone who manages Workers’ Compensation claims for your company?  If not, but you know someone who fits this criteria, please share this post with them as the following information will be beneficial to them.

ABTrainingCenter.com is offering a 90-minute audio conference where their expert, Randy DeVaul, reviews successful strategies for tracking, monitoring, and managing your company’s workers’ comp claims.
The Reno Agency thinks this is a valuable training experience for our commercial clients and to those who work in handling workers’ comp claims, so we want to share the information with you.

ABTrainingCtr

Description:

Date: Thursday, January 22, 2015
Time: 1:00 – 2:30pm EST
Format: Audio Conference
When an employee is injured at work, workers’ compensation benefits are available to cover lost wages and medical costs related to the injury. Whether those benefits spiral out of control or are properly managed depends on you – the workers’ compensation administrator.
Therefore, this audio conference will review details on what needs managing, what relationships you need to develop, and what you need to do when a “high-risk” injury occurs.
You and/or your co-workers will also learn:
  • When injuries are and are not compensable under workers’ compensation
  • Why you never deny a claim and what you need to do if the claim is not compensable
  • Why you need a relationship with your workers’ comp carrier
  • The types of injuries that are “high-risk” – and why you need to be focused on them
  • What policies I need to have in place to support the program

 

About Your Presenter:

Randy DeVaul, Sc.D., M.A., is a 30+ year safety professional with more than 20 years working directly in and with workers’ compensation programs. DeVaul has successfully helped employers reduce workers’ compensation costs with his practical, real-world experience.


 

More Details/ Order:

Go to http://www.ABTrainingCenter.com/showWCDetails.asp?TCID=1014797

Or,

Call ABTrainingCenter at 770-410-9375


 

 

Recreational Vehicles: Snowmobiles, Golf Carts, and ATVs

 

True or False?

Your recreational vehicle is covered under your homeowners policy.

 

False. If you drive your recreational vehicle on your own property, your homeowners policy will extend liability coverage to you, but once you leave your property, you are not covered.

 

If this statement comes as a shock to you, speak with your agent today and make sure you are not riding around uninsured. Your agent will need the following information in order to add coverage:

  • Year
  • Make
  • Model
  • CCs
  • Use of the unit
  • All driver information

 

The types of sports vehicles included under the recreational vehicle designation are those not subject to motor vehicle registration (with the exception of snowmobiles) and are designed for travel off of public roads. Examples include snowmobiles, golf carts and ATVs. Three-wheelers are ineligible, and snowmobiles over 600 CCs are generally unacceptable and will not be covered through most companies.

 

If you use your recreational vehicle to transport people  or property for compensation, rent a unit to others, or use a unit for business purposes, different insurance coverage needs to be applied. Your insurance agent can assist you with this.

 

If you are the owner of a Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV), also referred to as side-by-sides, check with your insurance agent to see whether your insurance company offers coverage for these vehicles. Some, such as Pioneer Mutual Insurance Company, do not write coverage for UTVs due to the major safety concerns that come with these off-road vehicles. Pioneer also does not write coverage for dune buggies, which many of the newer UTVs are made for dune riding.

 

Your insurance agent is your best resource for understanding coverage for recreational vehicles. Therefore, if you have any questions, give the Reno Agency a call today at 269.792.2232.

 

 

Don’t Fall Victim to Theft This Holiday Season

 

This past Monday, December 8th, I became the victim of theft. My local mail carrier delivered a package on my front porch, but I never saw it. Between the time of delivery, to the time my husband arrived home from work, the package had been stolen. Someone was either following the mail truck, or driving around the neighborhood, and snatching up unclaimed packages in broad daylight.

Have you heard about this happening on the news? The news broadcast mentions thieves following delivery tucks and taking the packages left at empty homes. If you think this isn’t happening in your area, it happened to me in the safe community of Dorr, Michigan.

7News Boston WHDH-TV

 

 

Here are some tips on how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.

  1. Look at the tracking information for your packages so you know what day to expect them.
  2. If you are not going to be home on the expected delivery day, ask a close friend or neighbor to stop by the house and pick it up for you.
  3. Both UPS and FedEx offer free memberships that allow you to receive email or text messages alerting you to tracking activity, reschedule a package delivery date, or reroute the package to a different address. For UPS, visit UPS My Choice®. For FedEx, visit FedEx® Tracking.
  4. Contact the delivery company (UPS, FedEx, etc) and ask to require a signature to accept the package. That way, if you aren’t home, they will take the package back to a local facility where you can pick it up at your convenience.
    • Beware of scams that involve delivery attempt notifications posted on your doors! If there is a note listed with a number to call to verify your identity in order to pick up your package, DON’T CALL! Companies such as UPS and FedEx will not ask for your personal information in order to verify your identity. The same goes for email confirmations.
  5. You can request your local post office to hold your packages at the post office if you are not home at the time of delivery. Write a note indicating your request and place it in your mailbox for your mail carrier to keep on file.
  6. If you know that you are frequently away from your home, have packages delivered to your work or an alternate address where you can pick them up at your convenience.

 

For more safety tips involving safeguarding your home, vehicle, business, and online purchases from theft, read the Property Casualty 360 article, “Tis the season…to be robbed: The 5 most common types of holiday theft.


 

Photo of Amber Whitman

 

About the Author: Amber Whitman is the marketing consultant for the Reno Agency.

Parents: Beware of Unsafe Toys

 

The Consumer Federation of America partnered with the U.S. Public Interest Group to conduct it’s 29th Annual Survey of Toy Safety. In the study’s findings, they reveal a list of toys that should be avoided, or made sure they are not put in the hands of young children, because they pose a serious health risk to them.

It’s unfortunate that there are children toy manufacturers who don’t adhere to the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This survey just reminds parents and caregivers that it is important to be aware of the toys you allow your children to play with, and to throw them away if you notice signs of wear and deterioration.

Below we’ll share the hazard, why it is harmful, and the toys that should be avoided. Follow this link to read the study, “Trouble in Toyland.”

Standards for toy safety are enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Safety standards include limits on toxics in children’s products, size requirements for toys for small children, warning labels about choking hazards, measures to keep magnets and batteries inaccessible, and noise limits.

 

Lead

Childhood exposure to even low levels of lead can undermine development, damaging academic achievement and attentiveness.

Unsafe levels of lead found in:

  • Play Sheriff and Police Badges Playset  Badge Playset

Sold at: Dollar Tree, also found on Amazon.com ($1.00)

Item Number: 186445-16750-1306

Manufacturer/Distributor: Greenbrier International

Label on toy: 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The sheriff’s star and the “Special Police” badge contain lead above the legal coatings limit of 90 parts per million (ppm), measuring above 110 ppm

 

Chromium

Skin contact with chromium can cause severe allergic reactions, which can include anything from skin redness and irritation, to swelling, to ulcers. Chromium compounds are also carcinogenic.

Unsafe levels of chromium found in:

  • Jake and the Neverland Pirates tambourine     J&NP Tambourine

Sold at: Dollar Tree ($1.00)

Item Number: 187254-23285-015-1403

Manufacturer/Distributor: Greenbrier International

Label on toy: 2+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The metal cymbals contain 580 ppm chromium, above the standard 60 ppm.

 

Phthalates

Exposure to phthalates at crucial developmental stages can harm or hinder the development of the male reproductive system, and can be linked to the early onset of puberty.

Unsafe levels of phthalates found in:

  • Hello Kitty Bracelet and Hair Clips Accessory Set  Hello Kitty Accessories Kit

Sold at: Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores ($3.00)

Item Number: 1342-8966

Manufacturer/Distributor: H.E.R. Accessories/Joann Stores Inc.

Label on toy: 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The plastic covering of the hair clips contains 5,100 ppm of the phthalate DEHP, above the legal limit of 1,000 ppm.

  • Leopard Pattern Rubber Duck  Leopard Rubber Duck

Sold at: Walmart ($0.97)

Item Number: Not Known

Manufacturer/Distributor: Infantino

Label on toy: 2+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The duck contains 1,400 ppm of the phthalate DINP, above the legal limit of 1,000 ppm.

  • Dora the Explorer Backpack  Dora Backpack

Sold at: Walgreens ($4.99)

Item Number: k56684-AN-012411

Manufacturer/Distributor: FAB Starpoint

Label on toy: 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The plastic portion of the backpack contains 200,000 ppm of the phthalate DEHP and 3,000 ppm DINP, both of which are banned above 1,000 ppm. The backpack may not be considered a toy, and therefore, it may be exempt from the standard. Regardless, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund believes that all children’s products should be held to a standard that keeps children safe.

 

 

Small Parts and Pieces

Small parts and pieces can block a child’s airway and become a choke hazard. For children, especially under the age of three, this can be a potentially deadly hazard.

Toys containing small parts:

  • Edushape 80 Pieces Textured Blocks  Edushape Blocks

Sold at: Purchased by researchers from both a boutique toy store and Amazon.com ($34.99)

Item Number: Cat. No. 716080

Manufacturer/Distributor: Edushape

Label on toy: 2+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The smallest semi-circular foam blocks in the set fit into the choke test cylinder. Not every set that was purchased in the survey contained these small parts, but small parts are not permitted in toys for children under the age of three.

  • Our Generation: Sydney Lee and “Stars in Your Eyes”  our-generation-sydney-lee-doll

Sold at: Target and other stores ($31)

Item Number: 08609130

Manufacturer/Distributor: Maison Joseph Battat

Label on toy: Non-standard choke hazard warning; 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The yo-yo included with the doll fits into the choke test cylinder. The toy should have a CPSC small parts warning label, as required for toys containing small parts and intended for children ages three to five.

 

  • Disney Junior Doc McStuffins Figurine Playset  DocMcstuffins

Sold at: Amazon.com and other retailers ($13.84)

Item Number: B00BQD7LU2

Manufacturer/Distributor: Disney Store

Label on toy: Non-standard choke hazard warning; 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The figurines can be broken off their bases, creating small parts that fit into the choke test cylinder. The toy should have a CPSC small parts warning label, as required for toys containing small parts and intended for children ages three to five.

 

Small balls less than 1.75 inches in diameter

These balls can be a hazard for children three years old and younger.

Toys containing small balls:

  • Magic Towel (Sports ball shaped)  Magic Towel Sports Balls

Sold at: Dollar Tree ($1.00)

Item Number: 119208-10062-001-1207

Manufacturer/Distributor: Greenbrier International

Label on toy: 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: The ball is larger than the choke text cylinder but smaller than the small ball tester. The toy lacks a small ball warning, required for any small ball intended for children over the age of three

 

Balloons

Balloons can be easily inhaled while attempting to inflate, and potentially can become stuck in a child’s throat. According to the survey, balloons are responsible for more choking deaths among children than any other toy or children’s product.

Toys containing balloons:

  • Mega Value Pack 16 Latex Punch Balloons  Latex Punch Balloons

Sold at: Party City ($5.99)

Item Number: No. 392656 or UPC 48419 93287 1

Manufacturer/Distributor: Amscan

Label on toy: Statutory balloon warning (Children under 8 can suffocate), the statutory small parts warning (Not for children under 3), and the 3+ label

Why the toy is a potential hazard: Balloons are dangerous for children under 8, but the package is labeled for 3+

 

Magnets

The study warns that when two or more powerful magnets are swallowed, they can have fatal health consequences as their attractive forces draw them together inside the body.

Toys containing powerful magnets:

  • The Mini Set  Mini set Zen Magnets

Sold at: Zen Magnets online store ($12.65)

Item Number: None Available

Manufacturer/Distributor: Zen Magnets

Label on toy: Lengthy disclaimer

Why the toy is a potential hazard: Comparable toys have been subject to recall by the CPSC. Zen Magnets is fighting the CPSC’s efforts to recall its products

 

  • Buckyballs  Buckyballs

Sold at: Buckyballstore.com ($20)

Item Number: UPC 8 56590 00322 4

Manufacturer/Distributor: Maxfield & Oberton

Label on toy: Lengthy disclaimer

Why the toy is a potential hazard: This toy is subject to recall by the CPSC. It is illegal to sell it in the U.S. 

 

Batteries

If batteries are ingested, chemical reactions can burn through the esophagus and blood vessels, causing fatal internal bleeding.

Toys containing battery hazards:

  • Cherubic Cetacean  Cherubic Cetacean out of box

Sold at: 99c Century among other retailers ($6.99)

Item Number: B698A

Manufacturer/Distributor: Hua Cai

Label on toy: Non-standard choke hazard warning; 3+

Why the toy is a potential hazard: Children can remove the batteries, which are near-small parts. The toy has already been recalled for this reason in Australia. In addition, under mild abuse, the toy broke into small parts that fit into the choke test cylinder, and it does not have the CPSC warning label