Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Five Ways to Prevent Package Theft This Holiday Season


Many of us shop online all year round, but there is a definite uptick during the holidays. Consumers love the convenience, but one major downfall to online shopping is the increased risk of package theft, also called “porch piracy”. A 2016 survey conducted by the home security company Ring.com found that nearly 20 percent of homeowners reported having a package stolen within the previous year.

Protect yourself from package theft by following these few simple tips:

               -- If possible, have packages delivered to your workplace so they are actually in your hands.
  
               --Utilize your home security system’s cameras. Keep them turned on anytime you and your family are away from home so you can track the activity at your house.

    --Instruct drivers to leave packages at another location. According to statistics on Ring.com’s website, 73% of homeowners have packages dropped off at the front door, so this is the most obvious location for a thief to look. Both FedEx and UPS have apps that allow you to choose where you’d like your packages delivered, so take advantage and choose an alternative drop-off location, such as at your back door or with a trusted neighbor.      

      
         --Sign up for delivery alerts. Most e-commerce sites will notify you when your package ships and give you an expected delivery date. If you know when your package is arriving, you can rearrange your schedule so you or a family member can get home and take the package inside so it’s not sitting on the porch for hours.

       --Request a signature for your deliveries. This might be the most inconvenient option, especially if you and your family are out of the house all day, but most delivery companies offer extended hours during the holiday season.  You can choose to get your package dropped off in the evening or on a weekend to ensure you’ll be home to sign for it.

The holiday season can be stressful enough—you shouldn’t have to worry about potential package thieves.  Besides the tips listed above, ask your neighbors to look out for any suspicious vehicles or individuals in your neighborhood so everyone’s property and belongings stay safe.  

ETA Insurance Group is a local, independent insurance agency that works with over 50 carriers. We offer a full line of insurance products for all your needs, from home and auto to health, life, and Medicare. As independent agents we can shop around to find you the best coverage for your needs and your budget.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Holiday Safety Hazards for Your Pets


Our pets are part of our family, so it’s only natural that we’d want them involved in our family holiday celebrations. But some of the holiday items and customs that are second nature to us can be hazardous, even deadly, to our pets. Below are a few of the most common holiday safety hazards for our four-legged friends and how to avoid them:

Christmas decorations. Decorating our homes both inside and out is one of the best parts of the season. And no home is complete without a Christmas tree. But both can be dangerous for your pets. Cats often love to play with tinsel, but if it’s ingested, it can get stuck in their digestive tract and require emergency surgery to remove it. Trees are another potential hazard. Some cats love to climb; make sure your tree is secure in the stand so your kitty doesn’t knock it over. Many dogs are also drawn to tree water.  Remember to add fresh water regularly so it’s not sitting and stagnating. Standing water can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which could make your dog very sick. Broken lights or ornaments can cut or burn your pet’s paws or digestive tract if they play with or swallow them. Artificial trees are much less work and can look just as majestic as a real tree; they’re also safer for pets.

Plants. Holiday plants add that festive touch to our homes throughout the season, but unfortunately, most of the prettiest ones are also the most dangerous for pets. Holly and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal problems (mistletoe can also cause cardiovascular distress). Poinsettias are poisonous. Play it safe and decorate using artificial plants.

Electrical cords and lights. Keep all electrical gadgets out of your pet’s reach. Cords can cause electrical burns if the animal chews on them.

Candy and sweets. We like to overindulge during the holiday season, but allowing our pets to do the same is a bad idea. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats and should be completely off-limits. Baked goods in general are often too rich for pets, and some artificial sweeteners can cause liver failure and other health problems. If you’re not sure if a sweet treat is potentially harmful, play it safe and don’t give it to your pet at all. (Many of us often slip table scraps to our pets—keep in mind foods like onions, raisins, and grapes are toxic to dogs and cats and should be avoided).

Potpourri. We love to make our homes smell festive and welcoming, but many home fragrances can be dangerous or deadly for pets. Liquid potpourri can be caustic due to the essential oils and detergents in them, and the regular bagged variety can cause digestive problems if swallowed. Keep all home fragrances out of your pets’ reach, or find alternatives that make your home smell nice but are safer for your pets.

Guests can be another potential safety risk for your pet. Put your dog or cat in another area of the house, preferably a quiet room, if they're nervous or skittish around strangers and you're having guests over. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association website has lots of great information about how to keep your pet safe this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How to Have a Fun, Safe Holiday Party

Photo: Westbay Management

There are plenty of things to look forward to during the holidays—beautiful music, decorating your house both inside and out, and just being with your nearest and dearest, whether it’s at an informal get-together or a black-tie holiday gala.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, you want to keep both your guests and your property safe. Below are a few tips to host a fun, safe gathering.

Make it family-friendly.  It’s not easy for everyone to get a sitter. Alleviate some of the pressure on your guests by inviting the kids along, too.  Have activities for the little ones, like a holiday-themed craft, movie marathon, and some games. Designate one or two responsible teenagers to oversee the activities so both the kids and adults can enjoy the night.

Suggest a potluck. If you’re on a budget, a potluck meal is your best option. If you’re having a traditional dinner, as host you’d be responsible for the main course and your guests can bring the side dishes. Or if you’re laying out a buffet, make one or two dishes and ask your guests to bring the other items (including paper goods).  

Choose a theme. Theme parties can make planning much easier because the food, d├ęcor, and dress code are all tied together.  Ugly Christmas sweater parties have been the big trend around the holidays for the past few years, but other trends are starting to catch on. One is a “vintage” Christmas party, where guests bring dishes right out of their mother’s or grandmother’s cookbooks from the 1960’s or 1970’s (and don’t forget to dress accordingly!) Another trend is a crafting party (or “Santa’s Workshop party”, if you will), where you and your guests create and decorate wreaths, ornaments, and package toppers (if not the packages themselves) for yourself and everyone on your list.  

Serve both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Not every guest will want to imbibe, so take that into consideration when planning your drink menu. Have a variety of food and beverage options so none of your guests feel uncomfortable or pressured to drink.

Be a responsible host.  Hosting an event is a lot of work. It falls on you to keep all food, drinks, and supplies stocked, guests mingling, and the night flowing smoothly.  It’s not always easy, but your most important job by far is keeping your guests safe. If it looks as though some of your guests have had a little too much, offer to drive them home, call one of their friends or family members to give them a ride, or ask another guest to take them home.

The holidays are definitely a time to celebrate, but if you’re planning to host a party this year, help your guests celebrate responsibly.

Are there any other tips you’d add to our list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Five Reasons to Shop Small This Holiday Season


The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, the official start of the holiday season. And the day after that is Small Business Saturday, one of the most important shopping days of the year for Mom and Pop retailers. American Express started this initiative back in 2010 as a way for shoppers to support their local businesses.

It’s important to support the small businesses that remain the heart of the communities they serve, but it’s just as important to support local service providers, such as banks, medical professionals, and yes, insurance agents!

Working with local businesses has many benefits, such as:

-Getting to know the vendors you patronize regularly helps to build camaraderie in the community. During the holiday season, many small establishments hold Open Houses or other events that allow customers to stop in and see what they have to offer. You might discover a new favorite lunch spot or shop for that perfect last-minute gift.

-Strong customer service and personalized attention—owners often learn their regular customers’ tastes and preferences and can recommend new products or services accordingly.

-Boosting the local economy by keeping your dollars in the community.

-Encouraging entrepreneurship among local students and young professionals.

-Stressing quality over quantity. You might find a smaller selection of items at a Mom and Pop operation, but they likely have better craftsmanship and will last longer than those you find at a larger chain store. Service providers like insurance agents can work with you to find better deals or cost savings to stretch your dollars further.

ETA Insurance Group is proud to be a small business and member of our local community. We are located in the heart of Nesquehoning, PA, but work with clients throughout Pennsylvania. We encourage everyone to think of their small businesses first when shopping. After all, it’s not only important to shop small this holiday season, but all year round!