Gunning Daily News

Leave Fireworks to the Professionals This Fourth of July—Tips for Fireworks Safety

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

Each Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries happen each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness. 

July is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and through its EyeSmart™ campaign the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals.

"Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident," says Marguerite McDonald, MD, a clinical correspondent for the Academy. "Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks display." 

Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those fifteen years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn. 

"Among the most serious injuries are abrupt trauma to the eye from bottle rockets," according to Dr. McDonald. The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage, and complete blindness. 

For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the Academy urges observance of the following tips:
• Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
• View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
• Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
• Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
• Follow directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
• If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
• If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately. 

Find Eye M.D.s in your area or ask an Eye M.D. a question by visiting www.GetEyeSmart.org.

Consumers can submit questions about eye health to an ophthalmologist at http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/ask/

Summertime Skin Protection Tips from Faces

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

The dreary, rainy weather of spring is finally passing into the bright, sunshiny days of summer. People are hitting the beach and enjoying barbecues, but before you grab the beach blankets and hot dogs, make sure to pack the sunscreen, hats, and umbrellas to protect from over-exposure to dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays—which can cause significant skin damage and skin cancer. Dr. J. George Smith and Faces can help you and your family keep that damage to a minimum. 

UV rays are emitted in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA rays break down collagen and elastic fibers, while UVB rays cause sunburn. Both types of UV rays can lead to skin cancer. These rays are not specific to the sun; tanning beds emit the same dangerous rays. 

To protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, sunscreen is crucial.
“Many families are unaware of the seriousness of sun damage, so they underestimate the necessity of sunscreen and other protective measures,” says Dr. J. George Smith, founder of Faces cosmetic surgery, laser and skincare clinic. “The risk of skin damage is significantly increased in the summer months, so extra steps should be taken to prevent it.” 

Tans are no different than sunburns in that they are still considered sun damage. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Tanning can even become addictive, which makes it an even more dangerous behavior. Though it may not be the popular choice, avoiding tanning beds and wearing sunscreen while exposed to the sun will greatly decrease the chances of becoming one of the more than 2 million people diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. each year. 

There are two types of sunscreens: those which are organic and chemical-free, and those which are chemical, says Dr. Smith. Chemical-free sunscreens can be advantageous in that they do not absorb into skin, which is particularly beneficial for babies and children. 

The team at faces recommends a few guidelines for protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays: 

• Apply sunscreens liberally at least 30 minutes before sun exposure so they can be fully absorbed by the skin. Sunscreens should be reapplied every 2 hours or after contact with water. 
• Use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor), but if you have a family history of skin cancer or accelerated aging due to sun exposure, use 45 SPF.
• Always check expiration dates—old products lose their potency.
• Babies under 6 months old should not use chemical sunscreens.
• Zinc oxide is one of the preferred ingredients in a chemical-free sunscreen and is recommended for sensitive skin.
• Purchase products that are water –resistant, as most summertime activities center around water.
• Wear comfortable protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses with UV-protection.
• Avoid the sun during the middle of the day (from about 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.), when the rays are strongest. 

The National Foundation for Cancer Research also has helpful tips for skin cancer prevention this summer, which can be found in a downloadable Summer Sun Protection Kit, available at http://www.nfcr.org/skincancerkit. Skin cancer affects more than 2 million people in the United States each year. Some of the tips include: 

• If you are outdoors and your shadow is smaller than you are, it is best to seek shade.
• Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any over-the-counter or prescription drugs you are taking may increase sun sensitivity
• Do regular skin checks to make sure there are no abnormal growths.
• Use sunscreen even on hazy days, as UV rays still penetrate in cloudy weather.
Faces supplies high-quality sun protection products for all types of skin, including children and people with a history of skin cancer. 

For more information, please visit http://www.facesdr.com.

Frugal DIY Projects to Make Life Simpler

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

Most consumers lead very busy lives. They are used to a world where convenience is a way of life. As saving money becomes more fashionable and necessary, so do ways to make it happen. To help with this, Kim Danger, nationally known savings expert and author of "Instant Bargains," has collaborated with Uniroyal Tire in the creation of a new e-book, "Do-it-Yourself Tips for a Simpler Life," to show consumers time- and money-saving projects everyone can do.

This e-book features the best tips on home improvement, going green in the kitchen, gardening and homemade gifts. Download the free e-book at www.UniroyalTires.com.

Every mom wants a clean kitchen, but many never stop to consider how pricey the products they're using can be. With this in mind, Danger offers up DIY kitchen-cleaning tips that are not only green, but cost effective:

• Cutting boards are a frequently used kitchen item. To clean them naturally, wipe with vinegar and microwave on high for one minute.
• To combat grimy sponges, soak with white vinegar and microwave on high for one minute.
• Remove stuck-on food from pots and pans by making a paste with water and meat tenderizer to coat the area. Allow the paste to sit for a few minutes, then scrub off and rinse.

Gardens don't have to be a luxury reserved for those with green thumbs and ample space. Follow these tips for creating and maintaining a garden that suites your location and needs:

• For windowsill gardens, the most basic thing to start with is herbs. Choose easy plants that you'll use frequently while cooking, such as basil, oregano and parsley.
• If you have a patio or deck, try container gardening. The portability of the containers allows you to adjust plants to receive their optimal amount of sun exposure.
• Grow plants that are the most expensive to purchase in grocery stores.

Who says gifts have to cost a lot of money? Homemade gifts are a thoughtful way to show you care, without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas:

• Use copies of your favorite handwritten recipe cards to create a personalized cookbook.
• Make a "25 Things I Love About You" book for someone special.
• For kids who love to dress up, fill a large tote with items such as hats, wigs, shoes and accessories that you've purchased from thrift stores and clearance racks.


A Closer Look at Credit Unions for Home Loans

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

With the release of the HBO movie, "Too Big to Fail," more and more consumers and homeowners are intrigued and perhaps shocked over the back room deals and manipulation of many of the nation's big name banks in the wake of the housing crisis. Many homeowners, first-time home buyers and REALTORS® are now looking to credit unions as a trusted, local lending resource in their community. Most of the nation's high-quality mortgages lending credit unions work diligently under the radar in terms of home finance alternatives. Consumers are a bit confused and unaware they in fact qualify for membership and in some cases are eligible to join more than one credit union. This well-kept secret is spreading in local communities and around the country. The Credit Union message is clear in the wake of a continuing search for an alternative trusted financial institution, "why not us and why not now."

Reports that a few "mega banks" dominate the home lending market are accurate. The question is are they earning the trust of consumers and REALTORS® or is it that most people are just unaware of the valued trusted alternative resource, namely credit unions. "Millions of people are members of credit unions and hundreds of millions more are eligible to join and likely don't even know it," says Bob Dorsa, president of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association, a non-profit association for credit union home lending advocacy. Likely "thousands of REALTORS® belong to credit unions but generally do NOT think of the credit union as a lending resource for client simply due to a lack of any working relationship," he adds.

Credit unions are found in almost every community, town and city in the country. Not all credit unions offer home loans but consumers need to pay more attention to obtaining competitive information including contacting a local Credit Union. Many credit unions operate under the radar and conserve their financial resources by NOT advertising all over the place. Instead they focus on offering better terms and lower fees to their members. The housing crisis has millions of homeowners in a state of uncertainty. First-time home buyers should not resign themselves to the thought of renting as their only option. Credit unions are among the most trusted financial institutions on the planet and deserve a chance to preserve the American Dream for every generation wanting to own their home.
Credit union membership nationwide is in excess of 90 million people. Credit Unions originated close to $200 billion in home loans in the 2 and 1/2 years, which should provide confidence and interest for millions of people who need help.

For more information as to how to find or join a credit union, contact your state's Credit union league or contact ACUMA at bdorsa@acuma.org for more information.


Consumers Advised to Do Their Own Research When Purchasing A Home Service Contract

June 24, 2011 3:21 pm

In 2010, over three million home service contracts, often referred to as home warranties, were purchased nationwide—the greatest number in the history of the industry.
Internet-based Angie's List often publishes reports advising consumers to be smart when buying a home service contract. The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) agrees and offers further guidance.

Based in Olathe, Kans., the NHSCA is a non-profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. While a growing number are marketed directly to consumers, the majority of contracts are purchased as part of a real estate transaction or subsequent renewal.

There is little doubt that the record number of contracts reflects the fact that consumers are seeking security and financial protection due to the current economic environment. Home service contracts provide the peace of mind that helps alleviate potential concerns of both home sellers and buyers during the resale transaction and for one year following the close of sale. In addition, renewal customers have continued protection from aging home systems, appliances and utilities.

Home service contracts vary in the details of benefits provided. The market is competitive and consumers have many choices regarding benefits, service and pricing. NHSCA member contracts are typically a few pages and outline complete terms and conditions of coverage. Consumers should compare contracts and consider the systems, appliances and utilities unique to their property to better assess their needs. If you live in a rural area, you may wish to consider adding well pump or septic tank protection. Do you have a pool or a spa? Do you wish to cover a freestanding appliance such as a refrigerator in your garage?

While the price of the product and optional coverage available is important, so are many other factors. Consumers should consider a number of questions in order to ensure they are making a wise purchase. Is the contract written in simple, easy to read and understandable language? Does the company clearly identify what services are not covered? Is the trade fee for each service call clearly disclosed? Is there an aggregate limit per system or appliance, per service call or per contract? Can a service call be placed 24/7 every day of the year? Is emergency service available when necessary? Is there a clear process that can be followed if the services rendered are not satisfactory?

It is also important for consumers to acknowledge that “everything” cannot be covered by a contract that typically costs less than $500 a year. While contracts cover many breakdowns, there must be reasonable limitations. NHSCA members paid out well over one-half billion dollars to local contractors in 2010 to service customer’s homes. Even so, NHSCA members are always working to make contracts easier to read and understand as the industry strives to close any potential gap between available benefits and customer’s expectations.

Consumers should be confident that their home service contract provider has a solid reputation for serving its customers. References from real estate professionals and friends and a rating from the Better Business Bureau can be extremely helpful in the selection process. Either the state attorney general or insurance commissioner regulates all providers. (In Texas it is the Texas Real Estate Commission.) Contact the appropriate state agency to inquire on a provider's standing.

“If a consumer doesn’t take the time to perform their own ‘due diligence,’ they may well end up as another statistic,” Gwen Gallagher, President of Old Republic Home Protection, says. “What is important to consider is that out of the three million contracts sold, and four million service calls provided by the home service contract industry last year, only a very small fraction of consumers were not satisfied with either the coverage or service they received.”

An even smaller number of those may lodge a complaint on Internet sites such as Angie’s List, where they appear to receive disproportionate attention. The fact is the overwhelming majority of consumers value their home warranty protection and remain quite happy with both coverage and service.

The NHSCA offers additional consumer-friendly information on their website, homeservicecontract.org.

Question of the Day

June 23, 2011 4:21 pm

Q: Are shared equity and shared appreciation mortgages the same?

A: No. With a shared appreciation mortgage, or SAM, a borrower receives a below-market interest rate in return for the lender receiving a share, usually 30 to 50 percent, in the future appreciation of the property upon its sale.

Introduced in the early 1980s, when interest rates were high enough to make qualifying for a mortgage a real challenge, the SAM has never really caught on. Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) proved more attractive.


Word of the Day

June 23, 2011 4:21 pm

Builder’s warranty. Written statement by a builder assuring that a dwelling was completed according to a stipulated set of standards. It protects the buyer from any latent defects.

Over One Third of Americans Plan to Work Past Retirement, According to a Recent Survey by Persuadable Research

June 23, 2011 4:21 pm

Those nearing retirement have some serious advice for younger generations willing to listen, according to a recent study conducted by Persuadable Research Corporation.

The key pearls of wisdom shared by these elders? Lead a healthy lifestyle or pay the price later. Save for the future. Love your family and treasure your friends.
Health issues are the top concern among people as they age. Issues of losing mental capacity, simply looking older and becoming physically weaker are realities seeming to sneak up on many panelists queried in the May 2011 study focusing on aging.

“Never thought much about it as I was advancing in age,” admits one panelist. “But I realize that we took our health for granted. If you didn’t live a healthy lifestyle before, you’ll be aging with a multitude of health problems.”

“I hate it,” echoes another respondent. “Your body starts to show wear and tear and get too many aches and pains. You don’t realize how good you had it when you were younger.”

Aside from regretting lifestyle choices that began 10 or 20 years prior, many panelists nearing retirement—or who are already retired—also wish they’d arrived at certain financial realizations sooner.

And they aren’t the only ones clearly identifying the long-term effects of youthful missteps. Some economic experts claim as many as 3 out of every 5 of future retirees are at risk for outliving their financial resources. Getting an early start to retirement savings is one of the prevalent bits of advice bestowed by professional money managers and retirees alike. When Persuadable Research study participants were pressed to share specific recommendations, elder consumers routinely warn their younger counterparts not to waste money on things that might qualify as a ‘passing fancy,’

“Save, save, save,” imparts a money-conscious survey panelist. “Even if you think you can’t afford it, put some money away regularly.”

Perhaps adjusting to recent economic turbulence, more people may be reshaping their retirement dreams to better match financial constraints. Retiring later is the most obvious consideration for many. While 34 percent of the Persuadable Research study panelists say they plan to retire between 61- 65 years-of-age, 20 percent are delaying that life change until the 66-70 birthday milestones. Another 17 percent plan to retire after age 71. And even after retiring from their current positions, over one-third of the respondents plan to continue working either part-time, full-time or manage a small business.

The retirement dream many consumers are saving for? A small home they can manage in a warm climate, preferably close to a pool or a beach. Generally speaking, most aspiring retirees say they would prefer to live close to friends and family members—especially grandchildren.

If the grandchildren happen to live in an exotic location nestled within the tropics? All the better. Regardless of the specific location, however, cash-strapped parents struggling to adjust to rising day care costs are increasingly encouraging retiring grandparents to fill in the young-family gaps and help facilitate moves so retirees can live closer. Retirees, after all, often have flexible schedules that can be a good match for child care needs. Meanwhile, parents may be able to reciprocate with a small financial compensation—one that’s significantly less than traditional day care expenses.

Still, the mantra of a successful outcome involves one key aspect: good planning.

Persuadable Research offers full service market research expertise all from an online market research company you can trust.

Top 10 Safety Tips for Summer Driving Preparedness

June 23, 2011 4:21 pm

Cobra Electronics Corporation (NASDAQ: COBR), a designer and manufacturer of consumer and mobile electronics, recently offered consumers a simple checklist of its 'Top 10 Safety Tips for Summer Driving Preparedness' as people across the country gear up for their summer driving adventures:

1. Plan Ahead. Plan your trip in advance, considering weather forecasts, road construction, alternate routes, and even refueling locations in advance of long stretches of rural roadways.
2. Get Inspected. Have your car inspected before departing, with attention to fluid levels, lights, battery, belts, tire condition, air conditioning, brakes, and spare tire condition.
3. Stay Awake. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers falling asleep at the wheel account for 100,000 U.S. crashes annually. Develop a plan that involves frequent stops, stretching, and regular driver rotation.
4. Avoid Alcohol. Alcohol is a key factor in fatal traffic crashes, playing a role in about half of all motor vehicle deaths. That makes weekend nights even more dangerous. In fact, more fatal crashes take place on weekend nights than at any other time of the week.
5. Stock Up. One of the most dangerous summer driving situations involves becoming stranded in a hot, desolate location due to mechanical problems. Your safety kit should therefore include sunscreen, plenty of water, first aid kit, spare car keys, food supplies, flares or reflective triangles, gloves, and spare engine coolant.
6. Get a Map. Even if you know your route well, always carry maps, a GPS navigation unit, or a smartphone app with GPS mapping or navigation.
7. Stay Aware. There are many potential sources of driving mishaps, most of which can be avoided by staying alert at all times. Monitor cockpit gauges frequently, and be aware of the weather, road conditions, accidents, road signs, and stop lights. Over 450,000 injury crashes occur annually in adverse weather and road conditions according to the US Department of Transportation.
8. Slow Down. Watch your speed and obey posted speed limits. Lower speeds also mean better gas mileage.
9. Be Prepared. In the event of trouble, the right tool can be a life saver. Recommended equipment includes a tire jack, basic tool kit, jumper cables and/or jump starter, alternate power source, air compressor, and flashlight/emergency light.
10. Stay Connected. Don't forget your mobile phone and charger programmed with important numbers, including your insurance agent and AAA. Two or more phones in the car are even better.

To learn more about Cobra Electronics, please visit www.cobra.com.


Remodeling an Older Home? Use a Lead-Safe Professional

June 23, 2011 3:51 pm

When you are ready to remodel or renovate your pre-1978 home, it's important to hire a Lead-Safe-Certified professional, recommends the National Association of Home Builders.

Before being banned in 1978, lead was a common ingredient in exterior and interior house paint, and is still present in many older homes. Lead ingestion has been shown to cause developmental delays and disabilities in young children.

In April 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enacted the Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule that requires training in lead-safe work practices for all remodelers working in pre-1978 homes. EPA Lead-Safe Certified Renovators are equipped to use lead test kits, educate consumers about the dangers of lead and use prescribed lead-safe work practices.

"Lead-Safe Certified Renovators are trained to help keep your family safe from lead exposure during your remodeling project," says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Donna Shirey, CGR, CAPS, CGP, and remodeler from Issaquah, Wash.

"It always pays to get the job done right," says Shirey. "Remodeling professionals have expertise in design solutions, managing product choices and completing beautiful projects. Plus lead-safe certification means the remodeler will understand and apply practices to minimize dust and lead exposure and protect the safety of your family."

When planning your home remodel, read the EPA's Renovate Right pamphlet to better understand the dangers of lead exposure and how to conduct a safe home remodel. Consider hiring a certified risk assessor or lead inspector to determine if your home contains lead paint. After completing the renovation, be sure to maintain records of the work that's been done.

For sound advice on lead safety, visit www.nahb.org/leadsafe. To find an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Renovator near you, contact your local home builders' association or use the search tool at http://www.leadfreekids.org/. For more information about home remodeling, visit www.nahb.org/remodel.