The holidays are here, and all is merry and bright. Before you string the lights, consider these quick safety tips.
- Light check: Before hanging lights, check for frayed wires and throw them out if anything is exposed. Also replace any missing or burned out bulbs.
- Look for the “UL®” stamp: Red UL® stamps mean lights are safe for indoor and outdoor use. Green UL® stamps signify lights are for indoor use only.
- Hang safe: If you get adventurous and hang lights up high, ensure that your ladder is level and secure before you climb. Also avoid entangling near overhead power lines or other unsafe hanging areas.
- Tactfully tack: Clip lights with plastic fasteners. Do not nail lights through the electrical cord.
- Extend with care: Only use extension cords approved for outdoor use. Use three strands or less of connecting lights into each extension cord to remain safe. Keep cords out of walkways or secure cords with heavy tape to prevent tripping hazards.
- Stay grounded: Plug outdoor lights into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) if possible. This prevents electric shock.
- Time it: Place lights on a timer to save electricity and allow lights to turn on and off when you are away from home.
Home is where love lives and memories are made – at the holidays and every day. That’s why it matters to protect it with insurance you can trust. Learn more about homeowners insurance from ERIE or find a local agent for a customized quote.
Posted on 3 December 2019 | 9:00 pm
There's something about the experience of cutting down your family's own Christmas tree that starts the holiday season. But did you know there's a lot to know about live trees? From choosing one, to transporting it home and keeping it fresh through the holiday season, there's something we can all learn.
That's why we've called in an expert. Richard Palmer, the third-generation owner of Palmer Christmas Tree Farms in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, is an ERIE business insurance customer. The family began selling Christmas trees in 1939. Today, they grow trees on 60 acres of land.
Here are Richard’s top tips for choosing, transporting and caring for a live Christmas tree.
How to Choose a Live Christmas Tree
The first order of business is to decide which kind of tree you want. Richard grows six of the most popular varieties, which include:
- Douglas fir: Douglas firs have soft, blue-green needles. They also have high needle retention compared to other trees, making them a good choice if you’re especially vacuum-averse.
- Fraser fir: Richard reports that the Fraser fir has become his most-sold Christmas tree in recent years. “They have a very good reputation for needle retention and being easy to handle,” he says.
- Colorado blue spruce: This dense, cone-shaped tree derives its name from its unique bluish-gray color. “The blue spruce has sturdy branches and sharp needles,” adds Richard.
- White pine: This tree has soft, flexible needles and is bluish-green in color. Just know they aren’t the best pick if you have heavy ornaments or you want a tree with an aroma.
- Norway spruce: This northern European tree has shiny, dark green needles and dense branches. It does not retain needles very well, so buy it as close to Christmas as possible.
- Concolor fir: If you’re looking for a tree with a beautiful scent, try a concolor fir. In addition to its pleasing citrus scent, this tree has a natural shape and good needle retention.
No matter which tree you choose, it’s important to make sure it’s healthy. “All Christmas trees will shed some needles, but it’s not a good sign if lots of needles are falling off,” says Richard. “It’s also a bad sign if the tree feels light.”
Buy your tree as close to Christmas as possible. “I don’t sell any trees until the day after Thanksgiving,” says Richard. “A tree lasts about five weeks, so you shouldn’t be buying one before Thanksgiving.”
Live Potted Christmas Trees
Want to enjoy your tree after the holiday season has ended? Consider purchasing a living Christmas tree. Compared to a fresh-cut tree, living trees are either potted or have the root ball wrapped in a burlap sack.
You keep the tree alive by caring for it as you would a potted plant. Then, instead of throwing your Christmas tree out in January, you can plant the tree outside. Or, keep it in a pot and use it again next year.
Related: How to recycle a live Christmas tree
How to Transport a Live Christmas Tree
After you’ve picked out the perfect tree, the next step is getting it home. It’s important you give this process the attention it deserves, because a tree that isn’t properly secured can be dangerous for you, your car and other drivers on the road.
- Before you leave, ask to get the tree netted. This will make it more manageable to transport. Then, place a tarp or blanket underneath the tree to prevent any scratches.
- If possible, transport the tree inside your vehicle. Generally speaking, it’s safer and easier to do it that way. If you have a large van, truck or SUV, clear out some room before you head to the lot.
- Use your roof rack. This equipment is specially designed to haul cargo. A rack with crossbars will protect your paint by keeping the tree off the roof, while providing secure mounting points where you can tie down the tree.
- Face the cut end forward. A common mistake is to face the cut end of the tree toward the back of the car. “That blows the branches back, which causes the tree to lose needles,” says Richard. Instead, make the cut end face the front of your vehicle.
- Tie it down at multiple points. After your tree is oriented correctly on top of your vehicle, start tying it down. Nylon ratchet straps offer a quick and easy way to secure your tree, but rope will work fine, too.
- Check your work. Before driving off, give the tree a tug to ensure it’s not going anywhere.
Drive carefully! It’s wise to drive a little slower than usual. This will protect your tree, and reduce the likelihood of losing your precious Christmas cargo.
Caring for a Live Christmas Tree
First, water the tree by filling your tree stand with warm water. “It gets the tree’s circulation going and helps it absorb water,” says Richard. Afterward, you can use room-temperature water in your stand. “Just keep an eye on the water level and never let the water run out,” adds Richard.
Another mistake is resting your tree over a heat vent before you put it in the stand. “Trees can get burn marks this way,” says Richard. Place your tree in an area away from heating vents, fireplaces and candles.
Related: The 10 Commandments of Candle Safety
To prevent fires, inspect your lights to make sure there are no frayed wires, weird kinks or cracked sockets. Decorations should be non-flammable or flame-retardant.
A healthy tree will last about five weeks. One sure sign your tree is spent is when it starts dropping more needles than normal. By following these tips, you will be able to safely enjoy a beautiful and healthy Christmas tree during the holiday season.
Want more holiday tips? Check out these articles from the Erie Insurance blog:
- How to Prevent Holiday Break-Ins
- 10 Tips to Host a Party (Without Stressing Out)
- Top Tips for Holiday Pet Safety
- 17 Things to Do Before Leaving Home for the Holidays
The holidays are a perfect time for making memories with your family. At Erie Insurance, our pledge is to protect the beams and the boards, sure, but also the other things that make your house a home. Find an Erie agent for a customized quote or learn more about our homeowners insurance.
This story was originally published in 2014. It was updated with new information in 2019.
Posted on 1 December 2019 | 9:00 pm
Parking lots can be crazy places. Whether you’re at the mall, the grocery store or even just grabbing a quick coffee… all those cars coming and going can up anyone’s chances of being in a parking lot accident.
Which may lead you wonder: How does insurance cover parking lot accidents? Let’s walk through a few common scenarios.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I HIT SOMEONE ELSE’S CAR IN A PARKING LOT?
Accidents happen. That’s why having the right auto insurance can give you peace of mind.
If you do hit a car in a parking lot, here’s what to do next:
- Don’t leave the scene. If you drive away without telling anyone, that’s considered a hit-and-run. You could face a whole other set of legal issues if a security camera or witness spots you in the act. So do the honest thing and stick around.
- Get out of harm’s way. Even a simple fender-bender can block traffic or scatter broken glass. Make sure you’re a safe distance from anything dangerous and be mindful of the flow of traffic. If needed, put your hazard lights on to alert nearby drivers.
- Try to locate the car’s owner. Ask a store employee to page the owner of the car over the loudspeaker.
- Leave a note. It’s the right thing to do… and potentially even the law. Not leaving a note is considered a hit-and-run in the vast majority of states, even if the damage was just a small scratch. Keep it simple and polite. Include your name, contact information, and a brief explanation of what happened. Leave it in a secure spot where it won’t blow away.
- Consider calling the police. If the damage is serious, they can help you file an incident report and track down the car’s owner.
- Call your insurance agent. When you’re with ERIE, you don’t have to go it alone. Your local ERIE agent is there to answer questions and help you understand what’s covered.
Remember, policy conditions might require you to tell ERIE or your agent about the incident – even if you decide not to file a claim. Learn more about what to do when accidents happen.
SOMEONE HIT MY PARKED CAR. NOW WHAT?
An at-fault driver’s auto insurance should cover the property damage they caused to the other vehicle. Hopefully, they left a note and you can get in touch without too much fuss. Unfortunately, some people won’t do the right thing. If you return to a dented or dinged car with no indication of who did it, you can ask around to see if there were any witnesses. If there aren’t any, ask the store if they have security cameras.
If the incident is a hit-and-run—or if the at-fault driver has no auto insurance or not enough insurance—you’ll have to rely on your own auto insurance to cover the damage. That’s assuming you purchased optional collision coverage on your own vehicle.
Also, uninsured motorist property damage coverage that is available in some states protects your car if it’s struck by a hit-and-run driver. (A deductible may apply.)
Just keep in mind that you’ll likely need uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This insurance coverage is optional in some states and mandatory in others. It covers you and your passengers’ damages if you’re injured by a hit-and-run driver, an uninsured driver or a driver who doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Whether it’s a simple fender-bender or something more serious, remember – your local ERIE agent is there to help answer questions and provide advice.
WHAT HAPPENS IF TWO CARS HIT EACH OTHER AT THE SAME TIME?
There is usually an at-fault driver when there’s a parking lot accident. But there are some cases where an accident is two drivers’ fault—for instance, two people may back out at the same time and hit each other. What typically happens in these cases is that each driver files a claim with their own insurance company.
HOW TO PREVENT PARKING LOT ACCIDENTS
Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep you, your car and others safe. Get our list of tips for how to avoid a parking lot accident.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. But when you’re with ERIE, you have your own personal insurance advisor – your local ERIE agent – when they do. Learn more about auto insurance or find a local ERIE agent in your area.
Amanda Prischak and Abby Badach Doyle contributed to this story. This was originally published in 2016. It was updated with new information in 2019.
Posted on 25 November 2019 | 9:00 pm
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips. Whether you’re driving over the river or through the woods this holiday season, here’s what to know to safely (and sanely) arrive at your destination.
Before the drive
- Get your car in gear. Now is the time to make sure you’re on schedule with oil changes, wheel alignments and any other services your car manufacturer recommends. Also, make sure your tires are properly inflated — cooler weather can make the pressure drop more than usual.
- Master the art of not getting lost. Have all your addresses handy, and consider inputting them into your GPS before you set off. If you plan on using Internet-based map services like Google Maps, make sure to save the maps to your device — you never know when you’ll enter an area without service.
- Bring backup chargers — and lots of them. Things can quickly go south when devices run out of power. Bring extra chargers — or, even better, invest in a multiple-port car charger.
- Stock your emergency kit. To quote your mom, safety first. Even if you’re only traveling to the next town, it’s essential to have a fully stocked emergency kit, just in case.
- Prepare for, “Are we there yet!?” Road trips with kids can create lasting family memories… but also test a parent’s patience. If you’re traveling with kiddos, make your trip more engaging with these 4 brilliant ways to keep kids occupied on road trips.
- Don’t forget your furry friends! Traveling with Fluffy or Rover? Then make sure you have a safe pet harness and/or pet carrier and a pet kit full of food, bottled water, toys and any necessary medications.
Helpful websites and apps
Here are five apps travel gurus rely on:
- GasBuddy to locate the cheapest fuel wherever you are.
- Roadfood to forgo rest stop food in favor of memorable small-town eats along the way.
- Sit or Squat to learn which public restrooms are clean—and which aren’t.
- iExit to find out what kind of food, fuel and lodging is available at upcoming exits.
- Waze to get real-time traffic updates along your route.
Emergency Road Service: A Travel Essential
Picture this: You get a flat tire… but there’s still 200 miles to go before you’re home for the holidays. Do you know who to call for help?
A flat tire, lockout or a dead battery is a major hassle anytime, but especially during holiday travel. Fortunately, ERIE offers 24/7 Roadside Assistance that pays for reasonable auto towing and required labor costs at the site of your vehicle breakdown. (Yes… even at 2 a.m. on Black Friday.)
Emergency Road Service* is an optional add-on to your auto insurance policy that’s available with the purchase of comprehensive coverage. Better yet? It only costs about $5 per vehicle per year.
More Turkey Day tips
Check out these other helpful stories from the Eriesense blog:
- How to Prep Your Kitchen for Thanksgiving Dinner
- The Ultimate Guide to Hosting Thanksgiving
- 7 Safety Tips for Using Turkey Fryers
From the simple pleasures of being together to time-honored family traditions… Thanksgiving is about making memories with the people you love. Enjoy yours, and travel safe!
*Restrictions apply in North Carolina. This program does not cover accident-related towing.
Posted on 19 November 2019 | 9:00 pm
While no one likes thinking about their own mortality, writing a will is an important part of planning for your family's future. (So is finding the right life insurance.)
When creating a will, you start by deciding who will receive your assets when you’re gone. But this is just the first step. Once your plan is on paper, someone still has to make sure your final wishes are met and your family is cared for.
That someone is your executor – the person designated to perform all the legal tasks related to your last will and testament. It’s a big job. So before you write down a name, seriously consider the responsibilities to determine who might be a good fit.
What Does an Executor Do?
Your executor doesn’t have to be a professional. All it takes is a patient, mature person who can handle the responsibility.
The duties of an executor include:
- Offering your will for probate
- Taking inventory and managing your assets
- Using your estate’s funds to pay bills, including taxes, funeral and burial costs
- Notifying banks, creditors and government agencies of the death
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Preparing and filing final income tax returns
- Paying off any debts
How to Choose the Right Person to Be Your Executor
Because of the significant responsibilities placed on your executor, not everyone will be right for the job. Here are some tips on how to choose an executor for your will:
- Choose someone you trust. Pick someone who is emotionally and financially wise. It helps if you know your executor will be humble enough to ask for help if things get complicated, too.
- Name a successor. Ideally, your executor will outlive you. But in the event that doesn’t happen, it’s always wise to name a successor – just in case.
- Avoid any feuds. When it comes to dividing your estate, tensions can run high. Choose a neutral party that will cause the least amount of conflict. Consider a group who works well together, or someone outside of the family to minimize disputes.
- Choose someone qualified. Make sure your first choice is a legal one. In most cases, non-U.S. citizens, felons and minors can’t act as executors. If your executor is young – such as a son or daughter – you can request that he or she only acts as executor after reaching a certain age.
- Find a third party, if needed. Consider using a bank, trust company or other professional to manage your estate. Third parties can ease the burden for loved ones, and the cost can be covered from your estate.
- Change if necessary. As your life and relationships change, you may want to consider changing your executor, too. Periodically review your will to ensure your executor is still someone you trust to serve your estate.
- Get their approval. Always talk to your executor about the role beforehand. Go over your will so they’re prepared for the work ahead. This will make it less overwhelming for them when the time comes.
Protect Your Family’s Future
Part of securing your legacy is protecting the lifestyle you’ve worked so hard to build for your family. Ask your local ERIE agent about affordable and flexible life insurance options from Erie Family Life that can help take care of your loved ones for years to come. Learn more about the different types of life insurance we offer.
Ready for a personalized quote? Contact your local ERIE agent to learn more about how you can protect your family’s future.
Posted on 11 November 2019 | 9:00 pm