Booster Seats – When, Why and How

Booster Seats – When, Why and How

Booster seats were designed for that critical time when a child has outgrown their car seat but isn’t yet tall or heavy enough to be safe in a seat belt alone.

Here’s a primer on the different booster types, tips for buying and installing one, and help on determining when it’s safe to transition your child out of the booster for good.

 

Booster Seat Types

There are 4 types of boosters, differentiated by your child’s needs and also your preferred functionality.

Backless Booster Seat – Boosts the child’s height so that the seat belt fits properly. Best for cars that have headrests.

Booster Seat with High Back – Like the first seat type, this raises the child’s height so as to ensure a proper seat belt fit, but it provides neck and head support.

Combination Seat – Accommodates a child’s growth by transitioning from a forward-facing seat with a harness into a booster.

All-in-One Seat – Like the combination seat, this one transitions as well, but goes from rear-facing seat, to forward-facing, and finally to a booster.

Whatever style you choose, make sure the seat has a guide for your car’s shoulder belt, so that it lies across their torso correctly. Also, make sure the guide allows the belt to retract easily. Some seats have clips, wings, and even adjustable bases, all of which further tailor to your child’s height/weight and the specifics of your vehicle.

Learn more about seat types at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) page.

 

 

Tips on Buying and Installing

Buying a booster seat

  • Always buy new, as used seats may not fit your child correctly or could even be unsafe.
  • If your child weighs less than 40 lbs, a combination seat may be your best bet.
  • Avoid seats with a reclining feature as they can put your child at an increased risk of injury in an accident.

Installing the seat

  • Like car seats, boosters should only be installed in the back seat.
  • The safest spot is in the center of the rear seat — which best protects against side-impact crashes — but only if your vehicle has a lap and shoulder belt in the center. If there’s only a lap belt, put the seat on the passenger side so you can better see your child from the driver’s seat.
  • If using a combination seat, use the anchoring system. This is called the LATCH system, short for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.
  • Use the seat’s belt-positioning clips if it came with them. They ensure that the belt crosses your child’s chest correctly.
  • Check out these videos by the NHTSA for instructions on properly installing high-back boosters, backless boosters, combination boosters, and all-in-one boosters.

 

 

A Checklist: When Can They Graduate Out of a Booster?

According to the NHTSA, more than 25% of kids aged 4 to 7 are transitioned out of a booster seat too soon. The organization recommends that children continue using a booster until they’re at least 4 feet 9 inches tall AND 8 to 12 years old. They should also have outgrown the seat manufacturer’s weight and height recommendations.

If you can answer “yes” to all of the below when your child is sitting on the vehicle seat, then they can move from a booster to seat belts only.

  • Is their back flat against the seat back?
  • Do their knees comfortably bend at the seat’s edge?
  • Does the shoulder belt lie between their neck and shoulder?
  • Does the lap belt lie against their hip bones/tops of thighs?
  • Can they remain comfortable for the whole trip? (i.e. without fidgeting, sliding, or pushing the belt out of position)

We know that boosters can be a hassle and that you’re probably fielding the “Do I still have to use the booster seat?” question a few times a week — but hang in there! Graduating your child when they’re actually ready to leave the booster is much safer for your precious cargo — and may be closer than you think.

 

Booster seats? Check. Need tips on car seats? Check out our blog post here.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

Preparing for a Power Outage

Preparing for a Power Outage

Power outages can last anywhere from a few hours to days or even weeks. In the latter case, an outage can affect entire communities, disrupting communications, transportation, and emergency response or health care services. It can also close businesses, banks, gas stations, grocery stores, and other services.

Understanding why and how they happen can help you better prepare. Next, having a plan and taking precautions ahead of time will help you and your family ride out the outage with less stress and a greater sense of control.

 

When and Why They Happen

Knowing how outages happen can sometimes help you predict when they’re most likely to occur – for instance, during storms or heatwaves. Other times, they’re random and unpredictable.

    • Weather – Storms and weather events such as high winds, ice, and snow are the most common cause of outages, oftentimes due to trees and limbs taking down power lines. Rain and flooding can also damage above-ground or underground electrical equipment. And earthquakes of all sizes can damage electrical grids.
    • Animals – Far and away, squirrels cause the most damage to power lines, but snakes and other critters can prompt an outage by nesting in or climbing on transformers, boxes and other equipment.
    • Human Error – Car accidents and digging mishaps — when underground lines are hit — are a common cause. Additionally, electrical overuse during heatwaves and other times of unusually high demand can overburden cables, transformers and other links in the system.

 

 

Get Ahead of an Outage with Smart Planning

Planning and preparation are key to making a power outage manageable. There’s no better time than today to get started on the steps below.

Communications

    • Download the NOAA radio app, your local weather alert app, and any other emergency app of your choice.
    • Talk to your medical provider If anyone in your household requires electric medical devices or refrigerated medication. Get guidance on what to do if you lose power.
    • Update your phone number and contact information with your electric provider.

Plans and kits

    • Assemble or update your emergency kit – one for your family and another for your pet(s). Be sure to check and replace all batteries and have fresh back-ups. Also make sure you have COVID-19 supplies such as hand sanitizer, wipes, masks, and gloves.
    • Make sure your household evacuation plan is current, and all household members and pets are accounted for.
    • Know your local community’s risk and response plans.
    • Have a plan, budget, and some extra cash on hand in case power restoration is delayed.

In Your Home

    • Install surge protectors to help safeguard expensive appliances, computers and entertainment systems.
    • Install carbon monoxide monitors with battery backup on every level of your home.
    • Have at least a half tank of gas in your car at all times.
    • Purchase household and food supplies ahead of time and stash some extras in case of an extended outage.

 

 

A Go-To Plan for When the Grid Goes Dark

Ideally, you and your family will have been able to take the above steps before the lights go out. If so, you’ll be ready to put the following strategies into place in order to remain as safe and comfortable as possible during the outage.

Communications

    • Tune into the NOAA radio on a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and/or the local radio station for news and weather updates.
    • Report the outage immediately to your local power provider (have their info printed out and handy).

In Your Home

    • Turn off and unplug all appliances, including the air conditioner, water heater, furnace, and water pump, as well as any sensitive electronics. Leave one light on to know when the power’s been restored – this helps prevent a circuit overload when everything comes back online.
    • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Frozen food will stay frozen for 24-48 hours, depending on how full the freezer is. For refrigerated items, after about 4 hours, move perishable items into a cooler with ice (they should remain at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to be safe).
    • If using portable stoves or lanterns, only use them in sufficiently ventilated areas.
    • Use flashlights instead of candles.

Outside

    • Report any downed power lines to your electric company. Keep yourself, family, and pets away from downed lines, flooded areas, and debris.
    • Avoid driving if you can. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be chaotic and unsafe.
    • If you’re operating a generator, follow safety protocols. Never operate it in your home, garage, or other enclosed spaces.
    • Check on your neighbors. The elderly and young children are especially susceptible to extreme temperatures.

 

The length of time it takes to restore power can vary according to the cause of the outage, the extent of damage, and the geographic area affected. Electric companies have detailed plans and procedures for restoration — starting with repairs to damaged power infrastructure, then re-powering critical community services, and finally restoring power to individuals and businesses in order of density.

 

By following the tips above, you can ride out the worst of it with less stress, knowing you prepared well.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Hurricane Ratings – What Do They Really Mean?

Hurricane Ratings – What Do They Really Mean?

Do you know the difference between a Category 2 and 3 hurricane? Do you know why a 5 is so bad? Are you clear on what safety precautions you’d need to take when expecting a Category 2 versus a 4?

Read on to better understand what the 5 hurricane categories really mean and what impacts each can bring to your home and community. Understanding the details will help you think through how to better prepare for hurricane season.

 

It’s All About the Wind Speed

The category numbers — 1 through 5 — come from the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Meteorologists rely on this scale to better understand a hurricane’s expected magnitude and predict the damage that will come when the storm makes landfall.

Ratings focus on sustained wind speed for the simple fact that with higher wind speeds come more damage — not only direct wind damage but also storm surges, rain-induced flooding, tornadoes, and more.

 

category 1

    • Wind speeds: 74-95 mph
    • Danger level: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage.
    • Threat to homes, structures, and property: Winds can damage roof, shingles, siding, and gutters on well-built framed homes. Trees may topple and branches snap off. Protected glass windows generally remain intact.
    • Community impacts: Potential damage to power lines and poles, leading to short-term power outages.
    • Take note: Injuries to people and animals are limited and typically come from flying debris.

 

category 2

    • Wind speeds: 96-110 mph
    • Danger level: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage.
    • Threat to homes, structures, and property: Framed homes susceptible to major roof and siding damage.
    • Community impacts: Near-total power loss expected with outages lasting days to weeks. Significant structural damage to mobile homes, apartment buildings, and shopping centers. Flooding of low-lying areas is possible.
    • Take note: Stock up on filtration systems for potable water.

 

category 3

    • Wind speeds: 111-129 mph
    • Danger level: Devastating damage will occur.
    • Threat to homes, structures, and property: Major damage and/or removal of roof decking and gables possible on well-built framed homes. Mobile homes and poorly constructed homes are often destroyed. Many trees will be uprooted or snapped, blocking roadways.
    • Community impacts: Water and electricity unavailable for days to weeks after the storm passes. Extensive inland flooding is possible.
    • Take note: Make sure to be well-stocked with food and water if you choose not to evacuate.

 

 

category 4

    • Wind speeds: 130-156 mph
    • Danger level: Catastrophic damage will occur.
    • Threat to homes, structures, and property: Well-built framed houses subject to severe damage, including loss of most of the roof and/or some exterior walls. Shopping centers and apartments also typically sustain severe structural damage.
    • Community impacts: Power outages will last weeks to months. Neighborhoods in the strike zone will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
    • Take note: Sheltering in place is typically not recommended, but if you do, ensure you have a good supply of food, water, medications, etc.

 

category 5

    • Wind speeds: 157 mph or higher
    • Danger level: Catastrophic damage will occur.
    • Threat to homes, structures, and property: Complete or almost-total destruction of framed homes, mobile homes, shopping centers, apartments, and commercial buildings.
    • Community impacts: Nearly all trees will be snapped or uprooted, with many becoming airborne and acting as projectiles. Long-term water shortages should be expected, as well as a very long time to rebuild the community. The area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
    • Take note: You should not be anywhere near this storm. Evacuate well ahead of time.

 

As with any natural disaster or extreme weather event, make sure you stay informed via local news and weather alerts. Listen for and follow evacuation orders.

Read our guides on how to prepare for hurricane season, pack an emergency kit, and what to do after a natural disaster.

Finally, remember that although the best hurricane preparations come well before hurricane season itself, it’s never too late to get informed and prepared.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

What To Do When the Ground Shakes

What To Do When the Ground Shakes

Chances are good that if an earthquake hits, you’ll be at home — especially now, when many of us are working at home due to coronavirus.

Luckily, there are simple things you can do today to safeguard your home and better protect yourself and your family before an earthquake strikes. Start with our 12 to-dos below. You’ll also find 3 top tips for what to do during a quake and, just as importantly, what not to do.

 

Inside Your Home

Whether it’s the kind that rolls in waves or arrives with a sudden jolt, an earthquake will surely shake your home and its contents. More people are injured by falling objects or furniture than by building damage. Make your home safer by securing and moving furniture and accessories, especially where people sit, sleep, or spend a lot of time. Pay special attention to heavy objects: move them lower to ground level and also make sure they’re not close to escape routes or doorways. Here are 12 other items to check and secure:

    • Bookshelves – Tall bookshelves are an accident waiting to happen, as they’re unstable to begin with, and their contents can easily become airborne. Secure them to a wall stud using L-brackets and place the heaviest items on bottom shelves.
    • Chemicals – If you have chemicals stored on open shelves in the garage or basement, protect them against spills by installing wood, plexiglass strips or wires to restrain them. If containers are behind cabinet doors, use latches to secure the doors.
    • Display Cases – Secure these to the floor using appropriate brackets. Install safety glass if possible. Try to secure shelves inside the case as well.
    • Electronics – For large electronics such as flat-screen TVs and entertainment centers, buy a “safety strap” kit, which contains straps and buckles designed for these heavy electronics.
    • Hanging Objects – These are especially prone to be thrown around in a quake. Framed pictures and mirrors should be hung from closed hooks so they can’t bounce off walls. You can also use earthquake putty to secure corners. Move medium or large-sized pieces so they’re hung on studs, which is more secure being hung on drywall only. Make sure any hanging plants are well away from windows.
    • HVAC Units – Anchor units using restraint brackets or seismic snubbers.
    • Kitchen Cabinets – Shaking can cause cabinet doors to fly open and throw contents onto the floor. This can lead to a floor full of glass and ceramic shards – not to mention damage to countertops and walls. Secure cabinets by installing one or more of several latches: hook and eye, standard latch, pull/throwover, push latches, child-proof, or seismolatch.
    • Piping – Secure all overhead pipes using brackets.
    • Refrigerator – Secure refrigerators and other major appliances to wall studs using earthquake appliance straps.
    • Space Heaters – These should be equipped with support legs and properly spaced angles. Learn online to DIY or hire a professional.
    • Suspended AC Units – These should be braced with angles or welded to a support rod.
    • Water Heater – Proper fastening involves having 2 straps that wrap completely around the unit and are screwed into studs of the wall.

 

What to Do During a Quake

The more you move or try to run during an earthquake, the greater chance you’ll be injured by falling or flying objects. Instead, remember to:

1. Drop to hands and knees – Do this before the earthquake knocks you down. It protects you from being thrown down and allows you to move if you need to.

2. Cover your head and neck – Get under a sturdy table or desk as soon as you can. If you can’t get to one, get next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you or next to an interior wall. Wherever you end up, cover your head and neck for protection.

3. Hold on to your shelter – Hold on to the table or desk (or your head and neck) until the shaking stops. If you’re under a table, be ready for it to shift as the quake rolls – and move with it.

 

What NOT to Do

1. Run outside – A building’s exterior walls are the most dangerous place to be during a quake. Facades, windows, and architectural details are often first to collapse or break. If you’re inside, don’t run outside, and if you’re outside, don’t run inside – crossing the building exterior puts you at risk of being injured by falling debris.

2. Stand in a doorway – It’s a long-held idea that a doorframe is the safest place to be. In modern homes, a doorframe is no safer than any other part of the house and won’t protect you from airborne or falling objects. You’re safer under a sturdy table.

3. Get in the “triangle of life” – An email that’s gone viral in the last few years offers advice counter to the long-established “Drop, Cover and Hold On” advice. The actions outlined have been discredited as potentially life-threatening by experts and their organizations.

Earthquake safety really boils down to preparation. Although you can’t control where you’ll be when one hits, you can prepare yourself and your home starting right now. Between the tips above – and our articles on what to do before and after a quake and emergency kit basics – you’ll be well on your way to pro-level preparation.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Intersections 101: Who has the Right of Way?

Intersections 101: Who has the Right of Way?

While there may be fewer people on the road these days, there is an increase in reckless and dangerous driving, resulting in more accidents — and sadly, fatalities.

Even for the best driver, intersections are some of the most dangerous places on the road. It’s really no surprise, though, given all the commotion concentrated in a small space: vehicles crossing each other’s paths, signals, signs, honking, merging lanes, pedestrians and bicyclists. Add in the all-too-common confusion many drivers experience around right-of-way, and you have a recipe for a fender bender or worse.

By brushing up on the traffic rules for intersections, you can feel more confident in safely maneuvering them. Here are some simple right-of-way reminders, listed by intersection type.

 

A Four-Way Stop

This is the most common type of intersection, where two roadways cross each other.

    • Yield to drivers who’ve arrived before you. The first car to arrive always receives the right of way.
    • If you arrive at the same time as another driver, the one who’s farthest to the right gets the right of way.
    • If three vehicles arrive at the same time, the rule of “right-most has the right of way” still holds, and the car farthest left goes last.

 

 

Intersection Without a STOP or YIELD Sign

Known as an “uncontrolled” intersection due to lack of signs or signals, these often trip people up.

    • Yield to drivers already in the intersection or those who’ve arrived before you.
    • If you arrive at the same time as another, the right-most vehicle has the right of way.

 

A T-junction (Three-Way Intersection)

This is where a minor road dead-ends into a major roadway.

    • Vehicles on the major road (the through road) always have the right of way.
    • If you’re entering from the minor roadway, you must come to a complete stop and yield to drivers on the through road, no matter which way you’ll be turning.

 

A Traffic Circle

Also called a roundabout, this is an intersection of four or more roadways that converge into a single road that flows in one direction around a center island.

    • When approaching the circle, always slow and yield to the vehicles in the traffic circle.
    • Merge by turning right so that you’re driving around the circle in a counterclockwise direction.
    • Turn right to exit the circle when you reach your roadway.
    • Do not stop in the roundabout – a steady flow and speed is critical to safety.

 

 

U-Turns or Left Turns Onto Two-way Roads

    • You’re basically last in line: Don’t turn until you yield to oncoming cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
    • Keep in mind that both of these turns carry extra risk, so remember safety first, always.

Besides employing the rules above, remember to always slow down and pay attention when approaching intersections. This is a winning combo for smoothly navigating any intersection and getting to where you’re going safely.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Are You and Your Motorcycle Road-Ready?

Are You and Your Motorcycle Road-Ready?

Late summer riding beckons; open roads, open skies, long days, and beautiful sunsets. The flipside? Extreme heat. And also a transition period of reacquainting yourself with the roads and traffic. Use these tips to keep your bike and yourself cool and safe.

 

For Your Bike

Keeping your ride cool and running smoothly through the summer usually entails a little extra maintenance. Here are some of the priority areas to fitness-check before setting out.

  • Tires – Tire blowouts are usually caused by underinflated, rather than overinflated, tires. Make sure to inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. And remember that high external temps cause tire pressure to increase due to expanding gas. Check them each week and adjust as necessary. Also keep an eye on the tires’ condition, looking for any cracks, punctures, bulges, or worn tread.
  • Fluids – Check oil, brake, coolant, hydraulic fluids, and their reservoirs for debris, condensation, and discoloration or changed consistency. Get them changed if they’re due. Check the water pump and hoses regularly for leaks, cracks, and tears. Pro tip: cover your radiator to keep the engine cool (and protect it from dirt, bugs and UV rays). On the hottest days, avoid stationary idling to prevent engine overheating.
  • Gas tank – If your bike has been sitting all winter with fuel in the tank, it might not start up. Drain the tank — if there’s any brown grit in the fuel, your tank has probably rusted. You can take it to a mechanic or DIY by flushing with acid remover. After cleaning, treat the new gasoline with a fuel stabilizer.
  • Electrical connections – If your electrical connections aren’t secure, the moisture from humid environments can short the connection and stop your bike from functioning. Inspect all wires and connections to components (including battery) and fasten any loose ones. If they’re corroded, it’s best to replace them.

 

For You

Riding in extreme heat can increase your chance of health risks, overheating, and accident risk. Follow these tips to stay safe and comfortable.

  • Hydration – Staying hydrated is one of the best preventive measures for summer riding. Drink water at every stop and consider purchasing a CamelBak for extended rides. Avoid alcohol, as it can easily dehydrate you.
  • Sun safety – Even if it’s overcast, you’re still getting hit by UV rays. Wear sunscreen and reapply to exposed skin as often as possible.
  • Clothing – Safe riding means extra layers, even in the summer heat. Here are some hacks to keep you cool in your gear.
    • Form-fitting sportswear can keep your body temperature down – look for moisture-wicking fabric.
    • A lightweight base layer under your jacket and pants can prevent discomfort and keep you dry.
    • When leather pants are too hot, check out specialized jeans that have Kevlar fabric lining and other safety components. Never wear shorts.
    • Opt for ventilated summer-weight boots, which allow airflow to cool the feet and ankles.
    • Mesh-backed gloves will let you grip the handles while allowing for ventilation – as well as hand protection in case of a fall or skid.
    • There are options for jackets that protect while keeping you comfortable in the heat. Ventilated jackets with mesh panels allow for aeration, and many perforated leather jackets come with zip vents, which help you release body heat.
    • A proper helmet – required by law in all but 3 states – is safety rule number one. Investing in a breathable, lightweight and ventilated helmet will keep your head (and by extension, your body) cool and protected. The best ones are usually carbon fiber.

 

Get Re-Accustomed to the Road

If you’ve been traveling mostly by car and are just getting back to the roads on 2 wheels, give yourself some time to re-adjust. You no longer have the wrap-around metal protection of a vehicle, and you may need to fine-tune your reaction time for sharing the road with cars.

Most motorcycle accidents are attributed to unsafe lane changes, car doors, speeding, sudden stops, left-turn accidents, and lane splitting, among others, so make sure you’re visible to the cars around you.

Finally, know the signs of heat stress (check out our article here). It can come on suddenly, so knowledge and prevention are your tools to stay cool and healthy.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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