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Mary Mastroeni

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Is Your Playground Safe?

May 17, 2017 12:30 am

Whether at the local park or in your own backyard, nothing beats watching your kids immerse themselves in the simple and healthy joy of the playground. But with all that unbridled energy comes safety hazards. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) provides quick but important tips to help make the playground a safer place.

A recent report from the CPSC found that from 2009 to 2014, nearly 1.5 million injuries associated with playground equipment were treated nationally in emergency departments. Annually, that breaks down to about 243,000 ER treated injuries.

The report also finds:

- The two most common hazard patterns are falls and dangers posed by the equipment, which together account for 81 percent of the reported incidents.
- The most common diagnoses are fractures and contusions/abrasions.
- Monkey bars and swings account for the majority of the total injuries, although slides account for one-fifth of the injuries.
- More than half of the victims seen in ER's were between ages five and nine.

Fortunately, the CPSC provides the following “golden rules” of playground safety:

- Always supervise children and make sure they are using playground equipment appropriate for their age.
- Never attach ropes, jump ropes, pet leashes or strings to playground equipment.
- Make sure children's clothing does not have any drawstrings as they can catch on slides and other equipment.
- Make sure surfaces around playgrounds have 9-12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.
- Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar. Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
- Don't let kids play on slides/surfaces that are burning hot. Keep in mind, the temperature doesn’t have to be that high - if it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child's bare skin.

Keep these tips in mind and help children safely enjoy your playground.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Don’t You Know About Your Homeowners' Policy?

May 17, 2017 12:30 am

Protecting your home, property and possessions are extremely important. So understanding things like coverage available for earthquakes and floods, liability coverage and how to shop for homeowners' insurance are important, too. You don't want to spend too much, but you want to be sure you understand and have the right amount of coverage to fit your needs.

Many of these concerns are analyzed the latest Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) Research publication "Homeowners Insurance: Understanding Attitudes and Shopping Practices."

A review of that study at propertycasualty360.com points out that a majority of homeowners are aware their policy provides coverage for damage caused by fire, hail and wind. And most also know that items stolen from their house are covered.

However, many homeowners were found to be unaware of a variety of perils that are covered by standard policies - and incorrectly think that certain events are covered, when they're not.

Jayleen Heft, who related some of this analysis for the website, found only 44 percent of consumers comparison shop for homeowners' insurance (by any method) when their policy comes up for renewal. SIxty-nine percent indicated they comparison shopped for auto insurance at renewal time.

A few of the other key stats Heft discovered were:
- The most popular method for homeowner insurance comparison shopping is by speaking with an insurance agent in person (29 percent).
- Only 31 percent of Americans consider homeowners' insurance to be a financial burden- a significant drop from the 49 percent ratio in 2009.
- A startling 43 percent of homeowners incorrectly believe damage from heavy rain flooding is covered under their standard insurance policy. The percentage of homeowners who purchase flood insurance has averaged 10 percent to 14 percent since 2010, according to I.I.I.
- Heft says 28 percent of homeowners incorrectly think hurricane storm surge flood damage is covered by a standard homeowners' policy, and 29 percent incorrectly think that their policy covers earthquake damage.
- Fifty-five percent of homeowners think they have coverage for a sewer backup. Some homeowners' policies may provide coverage for sewer backups under certain circumstances, generally, Heft says sewage backups are not covered without a rider or separate policy.

Check out the full study here.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Money Tips for College Grads

May 16, 2017 12:30 am

While they leave college with a diploma in hand attesting to their completion of a rigorous course of learning, recent graduates are falling short when it comes to financial smarts, according to a 2016 Experian survey.

The research reveals that although 69 percent of recent graduates surveyed do have student loan debt, 70 percent feel their college failed to properly prepare them to handle real-world personal finance.  KeyBank research shows similar concerns – nearly 20 percent of those surveyed know their financial goals, but are not confident they know how to reach those goals.

To help bridge the gap, KeyBank suggests college grads take the following steps:

Build a Budget
For many recent grads, that first, full-time paycheck may make them feel rich compared to what they were used to earning from their part-time and campus jobs. This makes now the perfect time to build a budget that takes into account all of their new economic realities: student loan payments, rent, utilities, transportation costs, career clothing, insurance and food.

Start a Savings Strategy
KeyBank recommends a three-pronged approach to savings that provides for short-term goals, long-term goals and saving for retirement.

- First, build an emergency savings that will cover 3 - 6 months of living expenses. This will allow grads to avoid turning to credit cards for unexpected expenses.

- Second, set up a second savings account for long-term goals, such as a car, travel or a down payment on a home.

- Third - and this will be tough one for grads to buy into - establish a retirement savings plan. Take full advantage of an employer’s 401K plan by allocating at least enough to qualify for any available 401K employer match, and then making a commitment to increase that contribution by 1 percent every year until you're saving 10 - 15 percent of your salary.

Monitor Your Credit Score
Establishing and managing a credit score is important for college graduates, as credit scores can affect their ability to rent housing, access utilities or eventually obtain a low-interest loan for major purchases. Good credit scores are built by managing credit payments, including student loan payments and credit card debt, paying bills on time and keeping any credit card debt at a minimum.

Adopting these three steps will put college grads on the road to financial security and help them build wealth long-term.

Source: KeyCorp

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Garden Safety 101

May 16, 2017 12:30 am

In terms of dangerous activities, tending your garden likely falls low on the list. But many consumers throw out their backs while gardening, and the presence of sharp tools and hot summer sun only ups the risk factor.

Before heading to the beds this summer, peruse these safety tips from the  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

- Loosen your joints and muscles before gardening with simple stretches.

- Take breaks. Do not stay in one position for too long. Switch positions often to avoid overworking one part of the body.

- To avoid injuring your back when lifting heavy objects, position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Separate your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support. Then bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up. If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself. Get help.

- Protect your back and knees from strain by sitting on a garden stool when possible to help relieve pressure on your spine and knees.

- Consider having a vertical garden, wall planters or hanging plant baskets to avoid the repetitive back bending and kneeling positions that's involved in traditional gardening.

- Stay hydrated with fluids, especially if you're working up a sweat.

- Children should not be allowed to play in or near where sharp tools, chemicals or gardening equipment are being used or stored.  

- Remove stones, toys and other objects from the yard before you start gardening.

- Wear protective gloves, sturdy shoes and long pants when working in the garden to protect against insect bites and injuries from stepping on sharp objects, or cuts from handling sharp tools.

- Familiarize yourself with the plants that are in your garden. If you identify poisonous plants or trees, ensure you keep young children away and educate them about the potential risks. If you cannot identify a plant or tree, take a sample to your local garden center for identification.

- Keep gardening equipment in good working order. For example, when using a hedge trimmer for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer Safety for the Whole Family

May 16, 2017 12:30 am

(Family Features)--Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other outdoor activities. Longer days mean more time outside and more physical activity, which translates to increased potential for injuries. Playground falls, lawn mower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common childhood injuries that can happen during summer months.

"Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child," says Chris Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children®. "We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe."

These tips from Shriners Hospitals for Children can help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.

Go Outside and Play

Outdoor play provides physical and mental health benefits, including opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D – sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they are wearing shoes to protect their feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and harmful ultraviolet rays.

Playground 101

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:

- Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.

- Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.

- Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.

- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.

Make a Safe Splash

While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1-4 and the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 kids under the age of 14 are hospitalized because of diving injuries each year, with 1 in 5 sustaining a spinal cord injury.

Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family's safety around water:

- Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.

- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or near any body of water.

- Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.

- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.

Fun on the Water

Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:

- Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.

- Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.

- Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.

Fire Safety Simplified

According to the CDC, more than 300 children ages 19 and under are treated in emergency rooms for fire- and burn-related injuries each day. Use these tips to help keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:

- Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.

- Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.

- Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.

- Leave fireworks to the professionals.

Source: shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/safesummer.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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For Your To-Do List: Buy a Home

May 13, 2017 12:30 am

If you’re not planning on buying a home any time soon, perhaps you should be. Just over half (54 percent) of Americans say they are likely to buy a home in the next five years – up 12 percent from last year – according to the 2017 BMO Harris Bank Homebuyers Report. In addition, Americans surveyed will average a 32 percent down payment.

The report, conducted by Pollara, also found that:

- Among likely first-time buyers, 80 percent plan to get preapproved for a mortgage before making an offer and 10 percent are already preapproved.

- Around four-in-five will set a budget before looking for a home.

- The majority (65 percent) of those looking to buy a new home will consult a real estate agent, while 61 percent said they will visit online real estate websites and 38 percent will seek recommendations from friends and family.

The benefits of homeownership are many, but among the most significant are:

- Owning a home is a secure long-term investment.

- Tax deductions make homeownership a much smarter financial path than renting.

- When you own a home, you are free to do with it as you see fit - paint, remodel, add-on and personalize to your heart’s content.

According to the report, 70 percent of American homeowners spent six months or less looking for a new home before they made a purchase. In addition, 10 percent bought their home without participating in an active real estate search – or even any plan to buy at all – because a specific property caught their attention.  

The report also found that Millennials (the generation born between 1982 and 2004) are more likely to use a mobile device as a resource to help in their home search (37 percent). In addition, Millennials are more likely than older age groups to rely on recommendations from friends and family (45 percent) when conducting a home search.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Solar Updates: Energy Generating Windows

May 13, 2017 12:30 am

When it comes to solar energy, big news is zipping across the country.

SolarWindow Technologies, Inc. has reported the successful completion of important freeze/thaw performance testing, necessary for the commercialization of technology that could turn ordinary passive glass into electricity-generating windows.

This means your old windows could one day create electricity. The company’s transparent, electricity-generating coatings have the potential of turning new and existing tall buildings into ‘clean power generators.’ And depending on a number of factors, the process could have significant energy-saving potential in the residential market as well.

Company staffers along with scientists and engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), subjected these SolarWindow modules to cycles of high temperatures followed by extremely low temperatures to simulate natural environmental conditions.

During this test, SolarWindow modules were subjected to more than 200 freeze/thaw cycles, which yielded favorable performance results of the edge sealing processes and minimal impact on the device electrical performance.

In other solar news, energysage.com recently published a blog helping consumers understand the real cost of solar.

According to the site, today, most homeowners are paying between $2.87 and $3.85 per watt to install solar, and the average gross cost of solar panels before tax credits is $16,800.

Using the U.S, average for system size at 5 kilowatts - or 5000 watts - your solar panel cost will range from $10,045 to $13,475 (after tax credits). That’s nine percent lower than it was a year ago.

Since the average system size is about 5 kW, based on the average price of $3.36/watt, a 5kW system would cost $11,760 after tax credits. And this only factors federal solar tax credit. Some states, local governments, or utilities offer rebates and other tax incentives that can further reduce the solar system costs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Save More This Summer

May 13, 2017 12:30 am

We all know packing our lunches and skipping that pricey latte can save bundles over the long run. But when it comes to saving, you’re missing out if you don’t look to your home. Akin to finding a forgotten twenty-dollar bill in those old jeans once a week, your home can be hiding savings that add up--if you know where to look. The first pricey culprit, especially in the summer and winter, is your heating and cooling system.

The following tips, offered by T. Webber, can help keep you cool this summer, and save major change on your utility bills.  

Replace your air filters. Clogged air filters decrease performance and make AC systems work harder. Inspect and replace dirty air filters to optimize air flow and to keep an older unit in good running order throughout the summer.

Tune up your AC. An annual maintenance check includes cleaning filters, coils and unit, and checking for foreseeable future problems. This can help the AC run more efficiently keeping utility costs down.

Check your insulation. Look for cracks and leaks in your walls, attic, crawl spaces, basement, garage and ceiling. Make sure insulation is intact to keep in cool air throughout the home.

Close those blinds. Eliminate the sun's direct path by keeping blinds closed. This can make a difference of as much as 10 degrees.

The doors, too. Try to minimize cool air loss through outside door openings, especially during the hottest time of the day.

Only produce heat in the coolest hours.  Run the dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer during early morning hours or late evening. This will keep the AC unit from having to work hard during the hottest hours of the day to cool the home.

Nix the oven. Give the oven and stove a break and grill at every opportunity. This keeps the kitchen heat outside and reduces the need to cool it.

Source: T. Webber

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Look Up: Your Roof May Need You

May 12, 2017 12:30 am


When it comes to our homes, it’s only natural to focus on what’s in our sight line - the yard, the front door, the windows. However, the biggest need may come from above: your roof.

According to roofing manufacturer GAF, updating or repairing your roof can increase your home’s curb appeal by 40 percent. Whether you’re putting your home on the market or not, addressing any issues with your roof is an important step in protecting your home’s value. GAF offers this list of what you should look for:

- Scan the roof for any sagging or uneven areas. These could be signs that your roof’s framing structure is compromised.

- Next, survey the gutters to ensure they’re not clogged with debris such as leaves, branches, dirt, etc.

- Once you’ve cleaned out the gutters, make sure they’re still securely fastened so that they don’t cause overflow and build-up, or fall off the fascia board.

- Debris can also build up in the valleys of your roof, adding weight and unnecessary stress to the structure. Make sure to clear these areas as well.

- One of the most common causes of a leaky roof is damage to the flashing. Make sure metal flashing is securely and sufficiently in place around roof vents, pipes, skylights, and chimneys.

- Finally, take a close look at your shingles. Carefully inspect the entire roof and look for curling edges, missing granules, missing shingles, etc.

The sooner you address any problems with your roof, the less expensive the repairs will be. Then you can rest assured that both your family and your investment is well protected.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Care for Your Yard While Saving the Planet

May 12, 2017 12:30 am

As spring continues to green around us, I reminisced about the first correspondence from Dan Delventhal, who introduced America to MowGreen, a movement we have kept tabs on over the years.

This pollution reducing lawn care practice grew by 45 percent last year, according to Delventhal. With this in mind, he reached out to pass on a few pointers about avoiding harmful chemicals and applying your corn gluten pre-emergent weed control over the next couple weeks.

Aerate when wet. When it has rained and the soil is wet, Delventhal says that's the best time to do core aeration. Proper timing is essential for weed control to be effective.

Quality matters. For his clients' pre-emergent weed control, Delventhal gets the only certified non-GMO, organic corn gluten available. He says it suppresses new weed growth in spring and fall by desiccation, shunting new seed germination, as well as a protein type reaction that suppresses broadleaf weeds especially.

Once is NOT enough. When done in spring, fall and spring again, Delventhal says his product is reputed to be 90 percent effective for weed control. (A 50 lb bag covers 2500 square feet.)

Double duty. When it comes to fertilizing Delventhal says corn gluten is not only a weed suppressor, but a nitrogen fertilizer, too. When combined for weed control and including some grass and leaf mulch mowing — leaving clippings on the lawn — he says you may not need much fertilizing.

Boost overseeding. Additional fertilizer is often recommended to help boost overseeding success. Some fertilizing is often suggested after reviewing soil sample reports.

Go vegan. If fertilizer is needed, Delventhal recommends organic fertilizers that are all vegetable based - no animal products whatsoever.

Delventhal remains passionate about his MowGreen mission, reminding environmentally conscious consumers that cutting an average-sized lawn with a gas mower emits over four metric tons of carbon and other air pollution every year - the emissions equivalent of driving 10,000 more miles in a (non-hybrid / electric) car.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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