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Careful Cooking – Inside and Out

For many people, more time at home means more time at the stove or grill. While cooking can bring plenty of pleasure, it can also increase the risk of fire. Indeed, cooking is the number one cause of home fires [1].

Whether you find yourself at the stove or grill, there are important precautions you should take to help keep yourself, your family and your property safe.

Sparkle and shine. Keeping your kitchen clean is an important first step. Build up of crumbs and grease can fuel a fire. Clean appliances regularly, as well as the exhaust hood and duct over the stove, and wipe up spills as soon as they happen.
Appliance check. Take a close look at your toaster, coffee maker and electric skillet for signs of wear and overheating, such as melting, cracks or discoloration of cords or plastic surfaces.
On overload. Don’t overload electrical outlets with countertop appliances, which can cause overheating.
Three-feet rule. A good rule of thumb is to keep anything flammable three feet from the heat; that includes oven mitts, dishtowels and decorative items.
Close encounters. Always keep an eye on what’s cooking and never leave the room while something’s simmering, sautéing, steaming, baking or broiling.
Smother it. If what you’re cooking on the stove catches fire, if it’s safe to do so, slide a lid over the pan from the side and turn off the stove. If it happens in the oven, turn off the heat. If there’s a fire in the microwave, keep the door closed and unplug or turn off the unit.

On the level. It’s important that the grill is stable, so keep it on a level surface. Only grill outdoors, and far away from your house. Charcoal grills emit carbon monoxide fumes, which can be deadly. Additionally, never move the grill when it’s hot or walk away from cooking food.
Light right. If you’re using a charcoal grill, only use lighter fluid designed for charcoal. And don’t add lighter fluid once the fire has started.
Stop and go. For a gas grill, if it doesn’t ignite, turn off the gas. Keep the grill open for five minutes before trying to light it again. If the burners go out while you’re cooking, turn the gas valves off and wait five minutes before relighting.
At arm’s length. Protect yourself when you’re cooking by using long, flame retardant mitts that reach far up your arm and utensils with long handles that are designed for grilling. Consider also wearing a heavy apron.
Splatter matter. Putting a heat-resistant grill pad or splatter mat underneath the grill can protect your deck floor from grease that may escape the grill.
Cool, then cover. The grill should be completely cool before you cover it for storing. Note that it can remain hot up to an hour after use.

You might also consider installing a central station reporting fire alarm; this important system will detect a fire and contact firefighting authorities. Not only is this superior protection for your home and family, but it will bring you savings on your Kemper homeowners insurance too. Ask your agent about it.

1U.S. Fire Administration
Sources: U.S. Fire Administration; City of Olean, NY; Insurance Information Institute; Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association
This material is for general informational purposes only. All statements are subject to the terms, exclusions and conditions of the applicable policy. In all instances,
current policy contract language prevails. Products, services and discounts referenced herein are not available in all states or in all underwriting companies.
Coverage is subject to individual policyholders meeting our underwriting qualifications and state availability.

Why Does Homeowners Insurance Exclude Certain Dog Breeds?

If you’re a dog lover, you probably look at your dog and think warm fuzzy thoughts. Your insurance company, on the other hand, probably sees danger signs.

This is especially true if the dog’s breed happens to be prohibited under homeowners insurance policies. Known by insurance companies as “excluded dog breeds,” “aggressive dog list,” “dangerous dogs list” or simply “bad dog list,” this collection of prohibited dogs consists of breeds that are widely considered to be a financial risk to insurers.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, claims related to injuries from dogs account for one-third of all homeowner liability dollars insurance companies pay out every year. In 2016, that figure was $602 million from more than 18,000 claims—an average of $33,000 per claim. That’s a lot of money.

This makes insurance companies wary of dogs that traditionally display a propensity for aggression, so homeowners whose dogs fall into that category will pay higher premiums. In some cases, depending on the homeowner’s location and the insurance company, it may even be impossible to obtain coverage.

The specific dog breeds prohibited by insurers vary from company to company, but at least five appear on every list. Note that not only pure-bred dogs are banned, but any mixed breeds as well:

  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman
  • Presa Canario
  • Chow Chow

Statistics show these are some of the most aggressive dogs around and have been the cause of many reported attacks—some of which are fatal. According to the Centre for Disease Control, dog attacks resulted in 279 human deaths in the U.S. over a 20-year period, and Pit Bulls and Rottweilers alone accounted for more than half of those deaths. In a separate long-term study that analyzed 658 documented deaths resulting from dog attacks, 53.5% were attributable to Pit Bulls.

Owners of these types of dogs may feel discriminated against. After all, every individual dog differs by not only personality but also, importantly, upbringing. Isn’t it unfair to ban an entire breed because of the bad behavior of a few?

One alternative could be to deny coverage or impose higher premiums based on the risk associated with a specific dog, rather than its breed. This would require insurance companies to assess a dog’s history of behavior, training and other personal criteria to determine if they are dangerous.

But this approach does not seem very tenable from an insurance perspective. Many dogs do not exhibit aggressive behavior until the day they attack, at which point it’s too late for the insurance company to refuse to pay out. In the absence of a more reliable method of predicting aggression, it appears that breed profiling is the only feasible option.

The insurance industry is in the business of evaluating risk, and all the facts about these five types of dogs suggest they pose a higher risk.


Written by: Frank Medina June 12, 2017

Frank Medina is owner of Frank Medina Insurance, which specializes in auto and homeowners insurance.