Fire up the grill, but do it safely

There’s really nothing like a freshly cooked burger right off the grill. And eating outdoors under the summer sun with family and friends makes it all the sweeter. But what isn’t fun is the results of unsafe grilling practices — property damage and bodily injury can leave you with a sour taste. So let’s go over the basics that’ll keep you dialing up your famous Memphis ribs, not 911.

Master of the grill

There’s a reason your kids bought you that apron emblazoned with “Licensed to Grill.” Once the mercury goes above 50 degrees F, you’re armed with tongs and a meat thermometer. But what are the other tools you need to keep the heat on the grill instead of on your insurance premiums?

Take inventory. If you’re using propane, give your grill station a once-over before you fire it up. Check and tighten the major connections points between the tank hose and the regulator and cylinder first, and then inspect for leaks. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends applying a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle and turning the propane tank on. If you see bubbles appearing around the hose, you’ve got a leak. Turn off the tank immediately and have your grill serviced by a professional before attempting to use it again.

Pay attention. If you smell gas, turn off the tank and burners. If the smell stops immediately, you’ll want to have it serviced before using it again, but if the smell continues, move away from the grill and call the fire department.

Stay at your station. Never leave a grill — charcoal or gas — unattended when in use. Designate a sous chef to run interference between you and the kitchen. That way, cousin Roy can help chatty aunt Martha slice the tomatoes instead of usurping your “Grill Guru” throne while you’re distracted. (Foiled again, Roy!)

Keep it clean. We know Dad loves his seasoned cast-iron skillet (don’t you dare put it in the dishwasher), but grills are a different story. As that crusted-on, carbonized fat clinging to your grates heats up again, it’ll melt and drip into the flames, which can start a fire elsewhere in no time. So, put that fancy grill brush you got for Christmas to good use.

Geography matters. Your grill should always be placed at a good distance from your home, as well as away from eaves and overhanging branches and brush. A single ember can ignite a surface very easily in dry conditions. And always keep children and pets away from any area where dangerous chemicals (charcoal starter fluid and propane) and hot surfaces are in use.

Arm yourself. Grill the hot dogs, don’t be one — keep the television chef pyrotechnics and fancy flipping techniques in your fantasies. Make sure you’ve got heavy duty oven mitts and potholders to handle the hot stuff. And always have an operational fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit at the ready just in case.

You have more to protect than your BBQ Boss reputation. You’ve got a family and a home to think of, too. So before you fire up that smoker or grill, call your friendly local agent to ensure you’ve got a comprehensive homeowners’ policy like Grinnell Mutual’s Home-Guard®

It’s not always sunny in the summertime

Warm weather months can be a lot of fun, but they’re also prone to some crazy weather. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), lightning deaths are at their peak during the summer, and floods, hail, tornadoes, and wildfires can pose a serious risk to your house and to you.

Have a plan. The NWS suggests a good family preparedness plan be in place before bad weather strikes — know where to go in case of disaster and who to call when and if damage or injury occurs.

Batten down the hatches. Reinforce your windows with storm shutters and put lawn furniture, toys, bicycles, and tools in a basement, shed, or garage before the bad weather hits. If you live in a hail-prone area and are considering replacing your roof in the warm weather months, consider using impact-resistant material.

Collect that kindling. Droughts can lead to wildfires. It’s a good idea to remove dead or dying trees and shrubs to help discourage an uncontrolled blaze. Now is also the time to clean the debris from your roof and gutters.

Be aware of your structure. If you work in a manufactured office or live in a mobile home, get out if there’s a tornado warning in your area. Even if the structure is tied down, it offers little to no protection from tornadoes. Have a pre-identified location, preferably in the lowest floor of a nearby building or storm shelter.

The weather is unpredictable, but fortunately, your insurance doesn’t have to be. Grinnell Mutual’s Home-Guard® insurance can offer you the coverage you need with additional options. It’s our promise to protect what matters to you, from your home to the valuable possessions inside it. Let us be your port in the storm. Check out all our great coverages with your local agent or access your account to file a claim.

Don’t “swim at your own risk”

If you’re one of the lucky ones with a backyard swimming pool, you know the hours of endless fun and relief from the heat it can provide friends and family. But like many other summer toys, a pool comes with risk. It’s imperative to take the proper safety measures to prevent an avoidable — and possibly tragic — series of events.

Go beyond basic barriers. According to the American Red Cross, over 200 children drown in backyard swimming pools each year. A simple gate or fence isn’t enough to keep risk at bay, which is why the American Red Cross advises installing a fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate around your pool. A pool alarm that sounds if anyone enters the area and a safety cover over pools and hot tubs that aren’t in use are other effective pool protections.

Keep a “lifeguard” on duty. Always designate a responsible adult to keep an eye on guests — especially children — in the water. An accident can happen in a split second, so having someone who’s on alert and ready to act in an emergency is vital.

Enforce the rules. Yeah, we get it — it’s not always fun to follow them, but pool rules really are non-negotiable. It’s a good idea to post “No Diving” and “No Running” signs around your pool, and to always have a comprehensive first-aid kit at the ready. It’s also a great idea for everyone who lives in your home to learn the proper way to administer CPR and first-aid.

We’re no strangers to fun in the sun at Grinnell Mutual, but we’re big fans of playing it safe. Our Home-Guard® insurance can offer you the coverage you need with additional options and serious savings — it’s our way of promising you a secure tomorrow. Check out all our great coverages with your local agent or access your account to file a claim.

Who invited the lawsuit?

Summer parties are one of the highlights of season. If you’re hosting a party — pool or otherwise — on your property, know that you can be held liable if injury or death occurs as a result of a minor drinking alcohol or an unsafe environment. Although liability is almost always case-specific, it’s a good idea to stick to some general guidelines when throwing a bash at your base camp.

Avoid the “cool” trap. You might think it’s better for your kids to drink with their friends on your property than it is for them to do it elsewhere, but that decision could come with a heavy-duty price tag — and we don’t just mean monetary. If a minor is injured or killed after being served alcohol on your property, you could be facing serious jail time. It’s not worth the risk. Provide all the soda and junk food they can hold, but never offer alcoholic beverages.

Be the designated driver. Margaritas and beer at a backyard BBQ are pretty commonplace, but homeowners often don’t think about their guests having to get home eventually. Be a pal and volunteer to escort your friends home safely. They’ll thank you in the morning — and hey, you won’t be nursing a headache when tomorrow arrives.

Double-check your venue. Whether you’re gathering on the patio, the deck, or by the pool, it’s important to give your property a thorough inspection before turning a crowd loose. Check for debris, errant rocks, rotting wood, loose screws, and shaky railings. Don’t let your summer shindig end with an emergency room visit or a lawsuit.

Throwing a party should be fun, not fussy. With a Grinnell Mutual Personal Umbrella policy, protecting your home and family is easier than ever. Before you throw a summer party to remember, contact your agent to find out what liability coverage you need to protect your interests.

Avoid taking the heat

Everyone complains about the bitter cold all winter long, but it seems like as soon as the sun reappears, it works overtime. The air in your car is cranked to full power and just walking the dog is a sweaty ordeal. But the heat can be more than just inconvenient — it can be costly. Here’s what you need to know to keep your cool.

Mind your machines. It’s like clockwork — as soon as the mercury hits 90 degrees F, the central air goes out. Equipment breakdown isn’t just a hassle; it can be dangerous, especially to the elderly and the very young. Make sure to have your units thoroughly cleaned and serviced — from the coils to the compressor — before you put it through its summer paces.

Keep an eye on Rover. Pets overheat quickly when it’s hot, so always make sure to have plenty of fresh, cool water available and bring them inside when it’s hot outside. If it’s too warm for you, it’s too warm for them. And never leave them in a hot car, even for a few minutes.

Know the signs of heat-induced illness. It’s hard to get your kids to listen during a rousing game of kickball, but make sure you know the signs of heat-related illness. Heavy sweating, weakness, cold and clammy skin, a fast or weak pulse, nausea, and fainting are all signs of heat exhaustion. A temperature above 103 degrees F and rapid pulse can indicate heat stroke, which can be deadly. If the symptoms of heat exhaustion are present, get prone, loosen clothing, apply cool compresses to the body, and sip water. If heat stroke symptoms are present, call 911 immediately.

It’s important that the appliances and equipment that run your home remain in tip-top shape. Equipment breakdown is an included coverage in the Home-Guard® insurance available from Grinnell Mutual or a Grinnell Mutual Member. With homeowners’ equipment breakdown coverage you’ll have access to specialists who will find services for the fast repair or replacement of your critical equipment. Contact your member agent to see if your home equipment is covered.