young driving lesson

What’s the deal with teen driving crashes?

(BPT) – It’s no surprise that teen drivers get into more traffic collisions than their older counterparts, but why? Some reasons include less driving experience, a higher willingness to take risks and passenger distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 350 teen drivers got into collisions due to some type of distraction, according to data from 2015. Forty-one of those fatalities were because of other occupants in the vehicle.

Forty-six states and Washington, D.C., limit teens from driving with passengers other than immediate family members until they receive full license privileges. Most often, they’re restricted to only driving with one passenger for the first six months. However, NHTSA teen fatal accident data reveals that 16-year-olds drive with the most passengers, averaging 2.7 occupants who were involved in fatal accidents compared to 2.5 for 17-year-olds; 2.2 for 18-year-olds; and 2.1 for 19- and 20-year-olds.

“Passengers can be a huge distraction in the car, especially for young drivers who may not have the same reaction time as more experienced drivers,” said Randy Petro, Mercury Insurance’s chief claims officer. “Graduated driver’s licenses exist for a reason and parents need to be diligent with their teens to ensure they’re adhering to these rules and not driving around with their friends before the law says they can. Even then, it’s important to keep their focus on the road.”

Passenger distractions aren’t the only causes of teen driving accidents. Here are a few more of which you should be aware.

* Time of day: 342 accidents and 394 fatalities happen at 6 p.m., respectively.

* Day of the week: Weekends are the worst time to drive, but more accidents happen on Saturdays (1,007 accidents and 1,191 fatalities).

* Speeding: 1,505 accidents were directly related to speeding.

Mercury Insurance created the Drive Safe Challenge to provide a platform for parents and teens to have serious discussions about driving. Its goal is to reduce the number of teen crashes and fatalities, and it includes tips to help parents communicate with their kids about appropriate driving behavior, as well as useful information and videos to assist teens with being safe behind the wheel. It has recently been updated to include common causes for teen driving accidents by state. Texas teens, for example, experience the most teen driving crashes with 709, while Washington, D.C., has the fewest at 2.

Be sure to talk to your kids and set ground rules before they get in the car, because being a good driver may even qualify them for an auto insurance discount.

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Flu facts: Top 5 things you need to know about the flu shot this year

(BPT) – You hear about it on the news. You see the signs in the pharmacy windows. Even your friends and co-workers are talking about it. The flu shot is a highly discussed topic, and for good reason!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population — or up to 64.6 million people — gets the flu, and tens of thousands of people are hospitalized every year because of it. Further, the flu can strike anyone, and adults aged 18-64 years old are the most likely to get ill, accounting for 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations. This number goes up in certain areas, and some states — such as Texas, Florida and California — tend to be hit harder by the flu than others.

“Flu-related illnesses are already trending twice as high in 2017 as they were in 2016, and we are seeing an uptick in flu-related visits across the country,” said Dr. Jason Tibbels, MD, board-certified family physician and director for quality programs at Teladoc, the largest and most trusted telehealth provider in the world. “This year, officials want at least 70 percent of Americans to get a flu shot; however, fewer than 50 percent were vaccinated against the flu last season.”

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from the annual flu outbreak? The first step is to understand the benefits and any potential risks of flu vaccination and then — if it’s right for you — go get the flu shot.

It’s also important to understand that while the vaccine is the best defense in protecting against flu, there’s still a chance that with it, you could get sick. If you do start to experience symptoms, telehealth is an on-demand, anytime, anywhere resource. This means you can access hassle-free medical care from your home during the middle of the night, from your college dorm room, while at the airport for an early morning business trip, and anywhere else you have access to a phone, a mobile app or the web. A telemedicine doctor can assess your symptoms before they worsen. Visit Teladoc.com/flu to learn more about the telehealth benefits that may be available to you to access care when and where you need it.

We asked Teladoc’s Dr. Tibbels why the flu shot is so important this year. Here are his top reasons:

1) It keeps you out of the emergency room. The flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalization due to flu by approximately 50 to 60 percent.

2) It reduces sick days. Missed time at work due to flu-related illnesses causes an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually.

3) It promotes overall health. The flu vaccine is a helpful tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, and is also proven to have reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease. Further, vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy, reducing the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by about 50 percent. And getting vaccinated also protects the baby several months after birth.

4) If you do get sick, it may decrease the severity. The flu vaccination does not guarantee protection against the virus; people who get the shot are still at risk of getting sick. However, if you do get sick, the flu vaccination can make your illness milder. If you start to experience symptoms — whether or not you’ve had the flu vaccine — it’s important to see a doctor. Many people have 24-hour access to board-certified and licensed physicians seven days a week via telemedicine from home, work or on the road through a phone or tablet, making it easier than ever to get a diagnosis and start treatment.

5) It helps stop flu from spreading. Did you know that the flu virus can be spread to people within three feet of a sick patient when that patient coughs, sneezes or talks? Getting vaccinated doesn’t just help protect you from the flu; the flu shot is the responsible choice for protecting those around you. Vaccination is especially important for protecting more vulnerable populations, such as babies and young children, the elderly, and people with certain chronic health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“When it comes to the flu, it’s not wise to take a wait-and-see approach,” said Dr. Tibbels. “Talk to a doctor! We’re available all day, every day, all through flu season and beyond.”

To learn more about Teladoc and the level of flu risk where you live, visit Teladoc.com/flu.

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Protect yourself from medical identity theft [Video]


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(BPT) – Medical identity theft is when someone steals or uses your personal information to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare, and other health insurers, without your authorization. Medical identity theft can disrupt your medical care and wastes taxpayer dollars. Protect your personal information, check medical bills and statements, and report questionable charges or fraud. Learn more at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/medical-id-theft/.

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A New Kind of Life Insurance for Those Living with Diabetes

(BPT) – For people living with diabetes, the condition is a part of their everyday life and one that impacts many of their decisions, from balancing what they eat to taking care of their health. One area that might not be top of mind for people living with diabetes is life insurance. That’s because many people with diabetes believe they won’t be able to get life insurance if they have the condition.

Research shows that nearly 50 percent of people with diabetes are worried they will not qualify for a life insurance policy and another 45 percent assume it’s too expensive, according to a recent survey commissioned by John Hancock.1 And it’s even higher among younger people, with 68 percent of people ages 25-34 worried they won’t qualify.

Dispelling the common myth

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.4 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes.2 This equates to roughly 30 million people. In addition, another 33.9 percent (84 million) has pre-diabetes. While people with diabetes recognize the many benefits life insurance can offer — like providing for your family, covering final expenses, and offering peace of mind — there’s a lot of confusion about the topic and a concern that having diabetes will bar them from getting life insurance.

In reality, more than 90 percent of all the people with diabetes who sought life insurance in the past 18 months qualified with John Hancock. In addition, 88 percent of those applicants received a standard or better premium quote.

A new kind of life insurance

If you are living with diabetes and you haven’t thought about life insurance recently, it’s worth taking a look. John Hancock life insurance with Vitality rewards customers for the smarter choices they make every day to improve their health — exercising regularly, eating well and visiting the doctor — things many people, including those with diabetes, are already encouraged to do. Policyholders can earn valuable rewards, including an Apple Watch® Series 3 for $25, plus tax, by exercising regularly,3 $600 in annual savings on healthy food purchases,4 and savings of up to 15 percent on their annual life insurance premiums. It doesn’t require completely changing your habits overnight — small, healthy choices can make a big difference over time.

Getting your questions answered

If you have diabetes and you are without a life insurance policy, you probably have questions. The good news is you’re not alone. Only one third of those with diabetes report they consider themselves knowledgeable about life insurance. The most common questions among those who don’t include:

* How much life insurance will I need?

* Will I need a medical exam to get life insurance?

* Can I afford a life insurance policy?

To help you find the answers to these questions, you can speak with one of John Hancock’s Coverage Coaches at 844-235-3002, or visit www.JohnHancockInsurance.com/ADA. Life insurance is an important way to help protect your loved ones, and now your policy can do more by rewarding you for healthy living.

1. This nationwide survey was conducted online by Qualtrics on behalf of John Hancock.

2. CDC. National Diabetes Statistical Report, 2107. CDC. National Diabetes Statistical Report, 2107.https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf

3. You can order Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) for an initial payment of $25 plus tax and over the next two years, monthly payments are based on the number of workouts completed. Upgrade fees apply if you choose Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular), certain bands and case materials. A Retail Installment Agreement with the Vitality Group will need to be signed electronically at checkout. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) requires an iPhone 5s or later with iOS 11 or later. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) requires an iPhone 6 or later with iOS 11 or later.

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) and iPhone service provider must be the same. Cellular is not available with all service providers. Roaming is not available outside your carrier network coverage area. Wireless service plan required for cellular service. Contact your service provider for more details. Check www.apple.com/watch/cellular for participating wireless carriers and eligibility.

Apple is not a participant in or sponsor of this promotion. Apple Watch program is not available in New York.

4. HealthyFood savings are based on qualifying purchases and may vary based on the terms of the John Hancock Vitality program.

Insurance policies and/or associated riders and features may not be available in all states.

Vitality is the provider of the John Hancock Vitality Program in connection with policies issued by John Hancock. John Hancock Vitality Program rewards and discounts are only available to the person insured under the eligible life insurance policy. Rewards and discounts are subject to change and are not guaranteed to remain the same for the life of the policy.

Premium savings are in comparison to the same John Hancock policy without the Vitality program. Annual premium savings will vary based upon policy type, the terms of the policy, and the level of the insured’s participation in the John Hancock Vitality Program.

Insurance products are issued by John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.), Boston, MA 02210 (not licensed in New York) and John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York, Valhalla, NY MLINY101717101

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A message for parents: School eye screenings don’t replace a comprehensive eye exam

(BPT) – With the academic year in full swing, many schools across the country are administering vision screenings to students. Parents mistakenly breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing that their children “passed” the screening. What parents don’t know are the significant limitations of school-based screenings. School vision screenings fail to detect a range of potentially harmful vision issues, the American Optometric Association (AOA) reports.

Unfortunately, nine out of 10 parents think that school-based vision screenings are all their children need to confirm good eye health. But screenings miss up to 75 percent of dangerous eye conditions in children, according to AOA’s new Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline: Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination. What’s more, when a vision screening does indicate a possible problem, only 39 percent of children receive the care they need from an eye doctor.

One of the biggest hurdles to detecting poor vision is the child’s awareness of the problem. Most children with vision problems don’t know that other children see better than they do; they think their poor vision is “normal.”

“Healthy eyes and good vision are essential for every child’s development,” says AOA President Christopher Quinn, O.D. “Parents need to know that school vision screenings can miss potentially severe eye or vision problems. They cannot replace a comprehensive exam by a doctor of optometry.”

The AOA, which represents more than 44,000 optometrists, optometric professionals and optometry students in communities across the country, recently issued a new, evidence-based guideline for vision care in children that informs parents and caregivers about protecting their children’s eye health. The guideline, which is based on a three-year review of the latest research, concludes that children should receive a comprehensive eye exam during their first year of life and again between the ages of 3 and 5, before entering first grade and annually thereafter.

“Regular, comprehensive eye exams not only contribute to helping children succeed, they prevent and diagnose serious eye problems that can be more expensive to treat and cause permanent vision impairment if left undetected,” Quinn says.

Vision and academic performance

Multiple studies have linked vision problems with poor academic performance and behavioral issues. In fact, children with undetected and untreated vision problems can exhibit some of the same symptoms as kids with attention-deficit disorders, leading to false diagnoses.

“Good vision is more complex than just being able to see clearly,” Quinn says. “In order to see well enough to perform to the best of their academic abilities, children’s eyes need to focus, track, work together and judge distance and depth. Typical school vision tests only screen for nearsightedness.”

Eye health problems

A comprehensive eye exam by a doctor of optometry can help detect serious eye health and vision problems that in-school screenings simply aren’t designed to catch. These problems include amblyopia, a condition that impairs vision in one of a child’s eyes because the eye and the brain are not working together properly.

According to AOA, parents should keep these four tips in mind when it comes to their children’s eye health and safety:

1. Know that pediatric eye exams with a doctor of optometry are most likely covered by your health insurance plan. Most health insurance plans, including those sold in health insurance marketplaces, cover comprehensive pediatric eye exams.

2. Look for indicators of vision and eye-health issues in your children. Common signals that your child may have a vision problem include covering one eye, holding reading materials close to the face, a short attention span and complaining of headaches or other discomfort. Remember, most children don’t know they have a problem, so they are unlikely to say anything, even if they are struggling.

3. Prevent eye strain by monitoring use of digital devices. Increased exposure to electronic devices in and out of the classroom can cause digital eye strain, including burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision and exhaustion. AOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule (taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away), blinking frequently and adjusting your child’s computer screen to prevent glare.

4. Make sure your kids wear proper eye protection for sports and outdoor activities. Well-fitting, protective eye wear and quality sunglasses that offer UV protection are critical to maintaining key visual skills and preventing injuries.

To learn more about vision health, visit www.aoa.org.

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Understanding how medications interact with vitamins

(BPT) – Technology, science and research are offering a personalization powerhouse at our fingertips, including products made specifically for us delivered to our doorsteps. We wear personal fitness trackers to track our steps, sleep and heart rates. Personal trainers design fitness routines made just for us. We understand that our family history, lifestyle choices and even genetics are predictive of our health needs and this information is integrated into our health care plans. But with all of this personalization, nutritional supplement options still deliver the same cookie-cutter solutions.

According to New Nutrition Business and its report “10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2017,” personalized nutrition is the next big nutrition movement, as people want individually tailored diets. When creating a personalized nutrition plan, it’s important to take into account holistic well-being; however, deciding what is truly right for you can be confusing.

“Personalized nutrition shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s not a catchy-named pack of vitamins or nutrition plans curated from a few questions about how you want to feel; it needs to include everything that makes you unique, down to the medications prescribed by your doctor,” said Dr. Michael Roizen, original chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic, co-author of the new book “Age-Proof: Living Longer without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip” and Vitamin Packs science advisory board member. “Technology is creating amazing advances in personalized nutrition, but it’s only as good as the data it can collect and the information you are willing to share.”

Medication and nutrition interactions

Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population is taking prescription medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 68 percent of Americans are taking dietary supplements, based on Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) estimates.

With several new personalized vitamin subscription services launching, it’s important to select one that takes into account your diet, physical fitness, sleep patterns, lifestyle habits and family health history as well as medication use. Some drugs can deplete nutrients while others add nutrients to the body. One subscription service, Vitamin Packs, delivers customized vitamins and nutritional supplements in daily packs based on what it learns during a free nutritional assessment. Its technology cross-examines more than 650 possible medication interactions and recommends only what an individual’s body needs.

Mixing meds and nutritional supplements

* Taking a statin? You will want to add Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) because the average blood concentration of CoQ10 in blood plasma decreases within 30 days by an average of 50 percent.

* Taking a medication for allergies or inflammation? Consider adding vitamin D and calcium. These types of medications may reduce calcium absorption, which can lead to unnecessary bone loss. Supplementing with vitamin D and calcium together may support bone health and calcium absorption.

* Taking a blood pressure medication? You should know that taking an iron supplement two hours before or after taking this type of medication can decrease its absorption rate.

* Taking a synthetic thyroid hormone? Look at your supplement facts to be sure you’re avoiding soy, iron and calcium. Soy, iron and calcium, if taken within four hours of a synthetic thyroid hormone, may reduce the absorption rate.

Personalized nutrition should be focused on the whole person. Be sure to consult your health care practitioner before starting any dietary supplement regimen.

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Looking for a Medicare Part D plan? Consider these 3 things

(BPT) – Many people are surprised to find out that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs. For help with the cost of your medications, you can choose a standalone Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription coverage, but navigating your options can be complicated.

With Medicare Open Enrollment running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 — the annual window when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage — now is a good time to learn about how to pick a plan that can best suit your needs.

Kent Monical, senior vice president for Part D at UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, recommends you consider these three things when choosing a plan.

1. Your drugs

Prescription drug plans can vary significantly. Each Part D plan has a list of drugs, called a formulary, which shows the drugs it covers.

“When considering a Part D plan, be sure your medications are covered,” Monical said. “Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure your drugs will still be covered next year, as plans can change from year to year.”

2. Your pharmacy

Most Part D plans have preferred pharmacy networks. People can typically get their drugs for a lower copay when they visit preferred pharmacies.

“Make sure the plan offers access to pharmacies that are convenient for you,” Monical said. “Some plans also have mail-order pharmacy benefits, and you can get prescriptions delivered to your home for a lower cost than purchasing from a retail location.”

3. Your total costs

“A low monthly premium plan doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the lowest-cost plan,” said Monical. “You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including the annual deductible and drug copays.”

Plans sort drugs into several tiers, with generic or lower-tier drugs generally costing less than drugs on higher tiers. Talk to your doctor about whether a lower-tier drug might be suitable for you, which could help you save money.

The bottom line

Medicare Open Enrollment is a great time to make sure you have the right prescription drug coverage for your health and budget needs. Monical concludes, “Exploring your Part D options now could help you save money in 2018.”

For more helpful open enrollment information, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com.

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Make the most of your brain as you age

(BPT) – It is important to remember the health of our most complex organ: our brain. While the brain constantly changes throughout our lives, it’s critical that we take steps to help us stay on top of our game as we age.

Help give your brain a boost in the right direction by implementing these 10 brain-healthy habits.

Get moving

Studies show that being physically active may help reduce some risks to your brain health. It doesn’t matter what activity you do as long as you get your heart pumping for 30 minutes most days.

Eat up

By watching your diet, you may be able to help increase your chances of staying engaged as you age. Try eating a healthy, low solid-fat diet — one that is low in saturated and trans fats — with lots of veggies and fruits.

Know your blood pressure

High blood pressure in midlife can have serious effects on your brain health down the road. If your blood pressure is high, talk to your doctor about how to get it under control.

Drink moderately, if at all

Alcohol may affect older adults differently than it had previously and even make them feel “high” without increasing the amount they drink. This can make you more likely to become confused or have accidents.

Get some shuteye

Poor sleep can not only have serious physical effects but can impact memory and thinking, too. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night may help you keep your brain healthy.

Discover a new talent

When you learn new things, you engage your brain and help reduce some risks to it. Challenge your brain on a regular basis by trying something you haven’t done before.

Stay connected

Regular engagement in social activities may be good for your brain. Stay connected and make it a point to keep in touch with your family and friends.

Talk to your doctor

As you age, changes in brain function, including short-term memory loss, are expected. If you have questions or concerns, ask your doctor at your next appointment.

Mind your meds

A medication that didn’t trigger side effects in the past can cause an abnormal reaction and even change your cognitive function as you age. Talk to your doctor about all of your medications.

Maintain your balance

Regular balancing and strengthening exercises may help reduce your chances of a fall-related head injury. Work to improve your balance and talk to your doctor if you fall.

To learn more about steps that may help keep your brain healthy, visit BrainHealth.gov.

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Debunking the ‘seasonal’ allergy myth and reducing exposure year-round

(BPT) – Seasonal allergens are a popular scapegoat for a multitude of reactions: sniffling, sneezing and itchy eyes. During the summer months, pollen – one of the most common allergens – is floating around, even visibly so in some places. Researchers approximate that some 50 million in the U.S. alone believe themselves to be victims of seasonal allergies, and spring to be the season that most affects them.

But the idea that we’re more exposed to allergens during one time of year versus another is something of a myth, as the most common allergens are actually found indoors. Pollen is indeed lowest in wintertime, and this is especially true in colder climates. But we’re exposed to allergens throughout the year, mainly because many of the most common allergens are actually related to indoor villains like dust mites, animal dander and mold.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce your exposure to allergens, including some pretty unique ones, like washing your hair before bed! But the majority of effective measures focus on the circulation and quality of the air around you. While we can’t do much in the short term to improve the quality of the air outside, the most powerful means of tackling our exposure to allergens comes from addressing the air inside, which is up to five times more polluted than the air outside.

To reduce your allergen exposure throughout the year, consider the following steps:

Not all filters are created equally. The “filter triangle”, the amount of air flow a filter allows and how well it traps particles, must be in balance if the device is to do its job properly. If the filter blocks air flow, that will cause problems, as will one that doesn’t catch enough particles. A high efficiency particulate filter will improve the clean air delivery rate, or the amount of air (in cubic feet) stripped of all particles of a given size per minute. Make sure this measurement matches up with the size of the room, and of course take care to switch out filters in your furnace and air conditioning units as often as possible.

Adjust the humidity level indoors, ideally to less than 50 percent, via a humidifier. Dust mites and mold are the most common allergens indoors, and both thrive in humid environments. Dust mites eat the dead skin cells that we shed, and when the environment is damp, those softened skin cells provide a feast. To reduce dust mites, and the conditions in which they’re most comfortable, it is important to keep humidity levels below 50 percent, according to the AAAAI. The good news is that once an effective humidifier is up and running, most dust mite populations will disappear within a few days.

Purchase an air purifier. Air purifiers help improve the quality of air flow in the rooms of your home by filtering out pollutants, allergens and irritants like cigarette smoke. A purifier like the Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System, which uses state-of-the-art technology to effectively remove 99.99 percent of particles as small as 0.007 microns as they pass through the unit, lessens exposure to these pollutants, allergens and irritants.

Consider your car. Allergens can enter through your car windows and sunroof, so roll everything up and set the vent setting to recirculate as often as possible. Allergens can also accumulate in your car’s air filters over time, so be sure to have them switched out frequently. Vacuum the seats and any other upholstered surface regularly, as dust mites can settle into the fabric. Be sure to clean up any spills quickly and thoroughly to prevent the accumulation of mold as well.

While it’s nearly impossible to completely rid the environment of pollutants, allergens and irritants, taking proactive, preventative measures can significantly reduce your exposure to common culprits like dust mites, pet dander and mold. Arm yourself with quality filters, the Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System and a clean car to reduce your exposure to allergens year-round. After all, quality of air is quality of life.

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Tips to make sure your fire extinguisher is at the ready

(BPT) – You check your alarms regularly and practice your family escape plan — but are you overlooking an essential component of home safety? Having fire extinguishers and knowing how to use them is an important part of maintaining a safe home for you and your family.

“In America, a fire starts in a residential home every 86 seconds and the rapid protection offered by fire extinguishers can make the difference between minor or insignificant damage and greater tragedy,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert, the most trusted brand in home safety. “However, because many Americans have never activated a traditional fire extinguisher before, many do not understand the essential role that fire extinguishers play in a home safety plan, and lack the confidence and know-how to use them properly.”

Follow these tips on fire extinguisher placement and usage to help ensure you and your family are properly prepared in case of emergency:

Compare features: Two of the most important features in fire extinguishers are size and intended use. Larger commercial fire extinguishers meant for public spaces may be too heavy or unwieldy for some family members. Select a home fire extinguisher that weighs 3 pounds or less. Other features to look for include a metal valve and trigger, which offer the durability of a commercial-grade extinguisher, as well as an easy-to-read color-coded gauge for accurate measurement. Spray times vary by make and manufacturer, so select extinguishers that perform above the standard and feature longer spray times. Remember, a fire extinguisher that has been discharged is no longer effective, so consider rechargeable extinguishers that can be recharged by a certified professional if the unit is used.

Keep it in reach: When seconds count, having an extinguisher nearby is crucial for rapid response. For this reason, place an extinguisher in each area of the home where a fire could potentially occur, including the kitchen, living room, each bedroom and the garage. In most cases, one extinguisher is likely not enough protection for an entire household. In addition, make sure that every responsible member of your household (including house sitters and babysitters) knows where each fire extinguisher is placed. The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing fire extinguishers close to room exits so that you can discharge it and quickly escape if the fire cannot be controlled.

Know your ABCs: While they may all look similar, fire extinguishers have very specific ratings that indicate what kind of fire they are designed to extinguish. Extinguishers with a Class A rating can put out fires caused by wood, paper, trash and other common materials, while Class B rated extinguishers are intended for gasoline and flammable liquids. Class C rated extinguishers are meant for fires caused by electrical equipment, such as frayed cords. For general protection, it’s best to select a multirated extinguisher, such as the First Alert Rechargeable Home Fire Extinguisher, that’s capable of handling most types of household fires.

Know how to use it: A simple way to remember proper usage instructions is with the acronym PASS:

* Pull the pin on the extinguisher

* Aim the nozzle low toward the base of the fire

* Squeeze the trigger

* Sweep the nozzle from side to side

Frequently repeat the acronym when practicing your family escape plan so that if a fire occurs, the response will be automatic.

Know when to go: Combating small fires with an extinguisher is one component of a fire response plan, but the primary goal should be safe escape. The first step in any scenario should be to call 911. In addition, a fire extinguisher is no substitute for having — and regularly practicing — a home fire escape plan, and ensuring that proper functioning smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed throughout the home to provide early detection. Keep in mind that alarms and fire extinguishers aren’t designed to last forever, and must be replaced at least every 10 years.

To learn more about fire safety, visit FirstAlert.com.

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