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Winter Home Safety Tips

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It is winter and here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Fireplace safety

  • Burn only seasoned hardwood like pine, oak, ash or maple. Do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees because these items burn unevenly, may contain poisons or cause a home fire.
  • Have a professional chimney sweep inspect chimneys every year. They will fix any cracks, blockages and leaks and clean out any build-up in the chimney that could start a fire. Creosote logs can be used to help reduce the build-up of creosote in fireplaces. Check labels to make sure the log has been tested and approved by UL. Even if you use creosote logs, fireplaces should still be inspected by a professional each year.
  • Open flues before fireplaces are used
  • Keep young children away from working wood stoves and heaters to avoid contact burn injuries. Use sturdy screens or glass doors to keep embers inside fireplaces and to keep young children from getting burned.
  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside or near sleeping areas and at least one Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm near sleeping areas.

Other heating sources (furnaces and space heaters)

  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your home’s central heating system and repair leaks or other problems.
  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced.
  • Never use an oven or range to heat your home
  • Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or in a closed garage.
  • Space heaters need to have plenty of space around them.
    • Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn – including furniture, people, pets and curtains.
    • There should always be an adult in the room when a space heater is on. Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use. Never use space heaters to dry clothing or blankets.

For more tips visit http://www.homesafetycouncil.org

Wild Fires

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Wildfires pose a threat to homes in wooded areas. It takes only a few days of summer heat for forests to dry out enough to catch fire. But in dry, windy weather fires can easily get out of control. Before wildfire strikes, homeowners can help protect lives and property by using techniques for home siting, construction and landscaping that create a defensible space around structures.

Zone 1 (All Hazard Areas) This well-irrigated area encircles the structure and all its attachments (wooden decks, fences, and boardwalks) for at least 30 feet on all sides.

  1. Plants should be carefully spaced, low-growing and free of resins, oils and waxes that burn easily.
  2. Mow the lawn regularly. Prune trees up six to ten feet from the ground.
  3. Space conifer trees 30 feet between crowns. Trim back trees that overhang the house.
  4. Create a ‘fire-free’ area within five feet of the home, using non-flammable landscaping materials and/or high-moisture-content annuals and perennials.
  5. Remove dead vegetation from under deck and within 10 feet of house.
  6. Consider fire-resistant material for patio furniture, swing sets, etc.
  7. Firewood stacks and propane tanks should not be located in this zone.
  8. Water plants, trees and mulch regularly

Zone 2 (Moderate and High Hazard Areas) Plants in this zone should be low-growing, well irrigated, and less flammable.

  1. Leave 30 feet between clusters of two to three trees, or 20 feet between individual trees.
  2. Encourage a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees.
  3. Create ‘fuel breaks’, like driveways, gravel walkways and lawns.
  4. Prune trees up six to ten feet from the ground.

Zone 3 (High Hazard Areas) Thin this area, although less space is required than in Zone 2. Remove smaller conifers that are growing between taller trees. Remove heavy accumulation of woody debris. Reduce the density of tall trees so canopies are not touching.

Maintaining the fire wise landscape

  • Keep trees and shrubs pruned six to ten feet from the ground.
  • Remove leaf clutter and dead and overhanging branches.
  • Mow the lawn regularly and dispose of cutting and debris promptly.
  • Store firewood away from the house.
  • Maintain the irrigation system regularly.
  • Familiarize yourself with local regulations regarding vegetative clearance, debris disposal, and fire safety requirements for equipment.

SAFETY DEVICE DISCOUNT

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Fergus Farm Mutual’s biggest concern is protecting YOU, our insured.

Our next concern is keeping our costs down so that we will always be here for you.

We have restructured your premium dollars. In order to keep your premium low, we have increased your membership fee. HOWEVER, we are offering you a safety device discount in the same amount as the increase in membership fees so that you will not see an increase in your overall bill because of the membership fee.

There is proof that smoke/fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors work to help keep our families safe. We want to make sure that every household has them. We also want to THANK and REWARD YOU for taking the time to do one of the most important things you can do – Keep you and your family safe.

REMEMBER Fergus Farm Mutual is YOUR Company.

You are a member.

You have a say in what happens.

Because we are a mutual, we are in this together.

Thank you for being a valued member. Your business is greatly appreciated!

Protecting Your Property from Ice and Snow Damage

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It’s important to take the right steps to protect your home from the risks associated with heavy snow and ice. In order to assist you, Fergus Farm Mutual has prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about winter weather damages and what you can do to prevent them.

Q. What types of damage should I be concerned about?
A. Interior water damage from ice dams is very common after heavy snow followed by frequent periods of melting. Ice dams occur because the eaves (the overhangs at the edge of your roof) tend to be colder than the rest of the roof. When water melts off the main part of the roof and reaches the eaves, it may re-freeze there and create a dam that prevents water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.

Structural damage can also occur when the weight of snow and ice exceeds the load-bearing capacity of your roof. This is most often the case with flat roofs, older buildings, or structures whose integrity may already be compromised.

Q. How do I know if there is too much snow and ice on my roof?
A. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the roof type, construction technique, and age and condition of the structure. As a rule of thumb, if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should try to have it removed.

Q. How should I remove the snow and ice that has accumulated from my roof?
A. If you have a flat roof that is easily reached from an interior stairway, you may want to shovel the roof. 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 the professionals.

If you have a sloped roof, it may be possible to remove the snow and ice 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. It is not necessary to remove all the snow; removing the first three to four feet of snow closest to the gutters will help alleviate these issues.

Q. What if I can’t reach the roof at all?
A. Many homebuilders, landscaping and roofing contractors, and property maintenance companies will remove snow and ice from roofs. Before hiring a contractor, check references. Always be sure your contractor is insured and bonded.

We do not recommend using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions. This can be extremely dangerous and is best left to professionals.

Q. I already have an ice dam on my roof. What should I do about it?
A. If you can reach the roof safely, try to knock the ice dam off with a roof rake, or cut a channel through the ice to allow standing water to drain. If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.

Another method is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this method, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also be aware that shrubbery and plantings near the gutter or downspout may be damaged.
Q. I have an ice dam. How can I tell if it has caused damage inside my home?
A. Look for water stains or moisture in the attic or around the tops of exterior walls on the top floor. Just because an ice dam is present does not necessarily mean water has penetrated the roof
membrane. However, it is always best to remove ice dams before they have the opportunity to cause damage.
Q. I have giant icicles hanging off my gutters. What should I do?
A. Look carefully at where the ice is. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.
Q. What else can I do to protect my home?
A. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt. It will
also help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melts.

Q. How do I keep this from happening again next year?
A. Using a roof rake to clear the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after each winter storm is an effective approach to preventing ice dams from forming.

Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place. Making sure your attic is well insulated will help prevent the meltingand-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form.

FLU PREVENTION

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Flu alone costs US employers $76.7 million a year in absenteeism!

Here are some tips to help keep you healthy.

The big one – hand washing! Wash your hands frequently and for at least 15 seconds. (Sing the “abc’s” twice.)

At the office:

Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray on your keyboards, door handles & frames, light switches, snack areas, pens, staplers, etc. Wash your coffee cup and glass after use.

Sanitizing:

Use a disinfectant wipe to wipe down sink faucets & handles (both kitchen & bath), toilet handles, door knobs & frames, light switches, phones, keyboards, etc.

If you have been ill, disinfect your toothbrush or purchase a new one and use a new hand towel daily or paper towels. Cosmetics can also carry flu bugs. If you use lipstick or lip balm try to avoid using it while you are ill or purchase new ones.

Kitchen:

Wipe down food preparation areas with disinfecting wipes before and after preparing food including the countertops and cutting boards. Use a clean dish cloth or if you use a sponge, disinfect it by washing it in hot water with bleach or put it in the dishwasher. Reusable lunch bags and grocery bags need to be either washed or wiped down with disinfecting wipes after each use.

In public:

A sneeze or cough can travel up to 6 feet! When in public wear a flu mask or carry a tissue in your pocket to cover your mouth. Don’t touch your face and wash your hands and face as soon as possible. Wipe off the grocery cart with disinfecting wipes prior to shopping.

Exposing an Invisible Killer: The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

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Each year in America, more than 150 people die from accidental non-fire related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with consumer products. These products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) would like you to know that there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from deadly carbon monoxide fumes.

Understanding the Risk
What is carbon monoxide?
CO, often called “the silent killer,” is a gas you cannot see, taste, or smell. It can be created when fossil fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane, methane or wood do not burn properly.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?
CO poisoning can result from faulty furnaces or other heating appliances, portable generators, water heaters, clothes dryers or cars left running in garages.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea and drowsiness. Exposure to undetected high levels of carbon monoxide can be fatal.

CO Alarm Installation

  • Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Install and maintain CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each separate sleeping area, on every level of the home, and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, have CO alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  •  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Combination smoke-CO alarms must be installed in accordance with requirements for smoke alarms.
  •  CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms and vice versa. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms.

CO Alarms: Testing and Replacement

  • Test CO alarms at least once a month and replace them if they fail to respond correctly when tested. The sensors in CO alarms have a limited life. Replace the CO alarm according to manufacturer’s instructions or when the end-of-life signal sounds.
  • Know the difference between the sound of the CO alarm and the smoke alarm, and their low-battery signals. If the audible low battery signal sounds, replace the batteries or replace the device. If the CO alarm still sounds, get to a fresh air location and call 9-1-1 or the fire department.
  • To keep CO alarms working well, follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.

CO Precautions

  • Have fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, coal stoves, space heaters and portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year.
  • Open the damper for proper ventilation before using a fireplace.
  • Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home. The CO gas might kill people and pets.
  • When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select products tested and labeled by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid CO poisoning. Keep the venting for exhaust clear and unblocked.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not blocked with snow, ice or other materials. The CO gas might kill people and pets.
  •  Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
  • Only use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings. Some grills can produce CO gas. Never use grills inside the home or the garage, even if the doors are open.
  •  Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home.

If Your CO Alarm Sounds

  • Immediately move to a fresh air location (outdoors or by an open window or door). Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for.
  •  Call 9-1-1 or the fire department from a fresh air location (outdoors or by an open window). Remain at a fresh air location until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.