Working safely in cold weather

Winter weather poses a number of safety risks, particularly for employees who spend a lot of time working outdoors. Prolonged time in the cold may result in serious ailments or even death. Injuries and illnesses associated with exposure to extreme cold include:

Any employees who can’t avoid working outdoors in cold temperatures may be at risk of these ailments. The likelihood of cold weather-related injuries and illnesses may be heightened among workers who take certain medications, are in poor physical condition, or have specific health problems (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease). To keep yourself safe while working in cold weather, consider the following tips:

Talk to your supervisor for more information on working safely in cold weather.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. During this annual event, government and industry leaders come together to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. Review this infographic to learn how you can do your part to foster organizational cybersecurity.


Fall driving tips

Fall is right around the corner. With slick roads and cooler temperatures, it's important to prepare your vehicles early for the unpredictable weather ahead. Here are a few tips to consider for your company or personal vehicles.

Bomb threats, suspicious items and how to respond

Each year, thousands of businesses, schools, and other establishments are mailed suspicious items (e.g., unmarked packages) or are the target of bomb threats. These threats can be made via phone calls, letters, social media channels, emails, or other similar means. 

Bomb threats and suspicious items are often used to cause alarm, panic, disruption, or, in extreme cases, direct harm. However these threats are made, organizations of all kinds need to take them seriously and know how to respond appropriately.

What to do if you receive a bomb threat

Businesses often wrongly assume they aren’t at risk of a bomb threat. However, the truth is that no organization is 100 percent safe from malicious attacks or threats, making proper preparation all the more important. In the event that your organization receives a bomb threat—whether it be over the phone, via email or another means—follow these procedures.

Threats made over the phone

Remain calm. Keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, and don’t hang up even if the caller does.

Signal or pass a note to another staff member, instructing them to notify the authorities. If this isn’t possible, call 911 from another phone after the caller hangs up.

Document as much information about the call as possible. Details related to a caller ID number, the wording of the threat, the time of the call, background noises on the caller’s end, and the tone and inflection of the caller can all aid investigators. If possible, ask questions to infer specific details about the threat itself, including:

  1. Who is making the threat, and where they are calling from
  2. The type of device and when it might go off
  3. What the device looks like
  4. Where the device is located
  5. Who the target is
  6. Record the call if possible
  7. Be available for interviews.
  8. Follow any instructions from facility supervisors and local authorities. These individuals will also provide specific guidance related to facility lockdowns, searches, or evacuations.

Threats made via email, online platforms, the mail or other source

Call 911.

Preserve the threat. If the threat is made online, take a screenshot. If the threat is made through the mail, store it in a safe place and handle it as minimally as possible.

Note where the threat was found, who found it and when they found it.

Wait for further instructions from the proper authorities. 

In the event of a threat, staff members should avoid using two-way radios, cellular phones or any other electronics, as signals from these devices could potentially detonate a bomb. In addition, you should avoid activating alarms or evacuating the building until the proper authorities evaluate the threat. Law enforcement officials will direct the evacuation if one is necessary.

What to do if you find or receive a suspicious item

In general, a suspicious item is any item—like a bag or package—that is believed to contain explosives, improvised explosive devices or hazardous materials. When it comes to identifying these items, you should watch out for unexplainable or unusual wires, electronics, sounds, vapors, mists or odors. 

It is not uncommon for establishments to find or receive suspicious items and, while they may end up being harmless, it’s good practice to be overly cautious. As a good rule of thumb, any item that is Hidden, Obviously suspicious and not Typical (HOT) should be deemed suspicious. 

In the event that your organization finds or receives a suspicious item, you should:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Avoid touching, tampering, or moving the item.
  3. Notify the proper authorities and your facility supervisor. Follow any and all of their instructions carefully.

Plan ahead and stay safe

When it comes to bomb threats and suspicious items, every situation is unique. Typically, facility supervisors and law enforcement officials will be in the best position to assess the situation, determine if a real risk is present and provide instruction on how to respond.

For even more protection, businesses should review guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice. Doing so can help you better prepare for potential threats.

For more workplace safety advice and risk mitigation tips, contact Witkemper Insurance Group today.

Key HSA Features—2023 Compliance

Health savings accounts (HSAs) are a popular type of tax-advantaged medical savings account available to individuals enrolled in high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Individuals can use their HSAs to pay for expenses covered under the HDHP until their deductible has been met, or they can use their HSAs to pay for qualified medical expenses that are not covered under the HDHP, such as dental or vision expenses.

HSAs provide a triple tax advantage—contributions, interest and earnings, and amounts distributed for qualified medical expenses are all exempt from federal income tax, Social Security/Medicare tax and most state income taxes. Due to an HSA’s potential tax savings, federal tax law includes strict rules for HSAs, including limits on annual contributions and HDHP cost sharing.

This Compliance Overview summarizes key features for HSAs, including the contribution limits for 2023. Read more here.

Success Story: When a business experiences the unexpected - Part 2

Missed part 1 of Kyle's client story? Read it here.

When your business is hit with an unusual challenge, it’s important to have an experienced insurance agent to guide you through the process. Kyle Retherford, an account executive at Witkemper Insurance Group, shares a unique client experience that required quick, thoughtful counsel. 

It's easy to say we insure your building, but I also had a policy in there called business income. And most contractors don't take that because they think, well, I can just dropship material somewhere. My guys can go work on site. Heck, we can office out of my garage, I don't care. But in this situation, there was significant loss of business income because it took a while to replace the material that was lost.

And in working with this type of policy, it's pretty easy to calculate the jobs that you lose. But what was tough and what we were able to help out with is, hey, what about the jobs that you did, but there was an extra cost associated with it, right? So we want to keep our employees working, but we have to get new material from way away. And there are extra fuel charges. There are shipping charges. In order to meet our time goals for the general contractor, we had to hire subcontractors. That's an additional expense that wasn't going to be covered under there. They also had to rent out several warehouse spaces to store the new stuff that was coming in because the building wasn't done. That's extra, really, that would not be included in any sort of property insurance or liability insurance for this plumber that ended up doing it, which it was just a really unique situation.

Our experienced team at Witkemper Insurance Group is here to help you find the best solution to your business needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Success Story: When a business experiences the unexpected - Part 1

When your business is hit with an unusual challenge, it’s important to have an experienced insurance agent to guide you through the process. Kyle Retherford, an account executive at Witkemper Insurance Group, shares a unique client experience that required quick, thoughtful counsel. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

One of the relationships that I've had almost since I started here at Witkemper is a painting contractor that I work with. I've had tons of claims in my 16 years of being in commercial insurance, but this one was a little unique in the fact that they have a warehouse in a small town here in Indiana, and a local plumbing contractor contacted my client and said, 'hey, do you mind if I use your building to look at my van? My van is kind of running weird. I think I know what it is, but it's kind of cold out here. And do you mind if I just pull into your shop?' And the guy was like, yeah, no problem.

So in doing his service work to his own vehicle, he actually started a fire and left because he thought his van was going to blow up. And it caught the entire building on fire. And being a painting contractor, they had, like, 10,000 gallons of paint and lacquer, and it was an explosion. So the unique situation about that was, it wasn't my client's negligence or fault. It wasn't an act of God. And the guy whose fault it was was a plumber, not an auto mechanic. So he didn't really have insurance for being a mechanic.

Listen to part 2 of Kyle's client story here.

Our experienced team at Witkemper Insurance Group is here to help you find the best solution to your business needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

The value of customer relationships

Kyle Browning, Co-owner/Vice President, of Witkemper Insurance Group sits down to talk about the value of developing customer relationships in the insurance world. When rates are measurable, you need to differentiate yourself in other ways, too. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

I think ultimately in our industry, what we have come to learn is people buy from people. They don't buy for the monetary values. While they have to be competitive, that's just the entry to the game them as being competitive. People buy from other people. They choose based on relationships. They have a lot of choices in our industry. They could go to 100 agents and buy the same 100 companies from all 100 agents if they wanted to. We all have the same carriers, the same opportunities. So it's the personal relationship that wins the business at the end of the day. And what we have to remember is that while we're interacting with these people, every time you're interacting with them, they're making an evaluation of you, of your character, of your integrity, of if you're trustworthy, can they believe what you're telling them? And over time you become impactful to them.

If you just continue to do what you say you'll do. All we're selling them is a piece of paper, that's a promise that if something happens, we'll be there. It's a total intangible sale. There is nothing tangible about what we're providing them when we sell them and they pay a premium. What matters is when there's an issue, are you there to help? When there's an issue, can you be impactful in that issue? Do you have the relationships at the carrier level to impact your customer's relationship with the carrier? You become their advocate. And that is what we strive to do and what we try to prove to our clients every day and why we believe they stay with us at Witkemper.

Our experienced team at Witkemper Insurance Group is here to help you find the best solution to your business needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.


May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Millions of Americans are living with mental illness. Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to fight the stigma of mental illness, share resources and information, and provide support to individuals and their families. The infographic below provides statistics related to mental health and strategies to help you thrive.

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month Infographic May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Client Success Story: Helping a customer change employee culture

Brandon Ward, an Account Executive at Witkemper Insurance Group discusses the importance of being a man of your word as he takes us through a success story where he did more than planned to help a client change employee culture everywhere. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

There was a client of mine that called me and was just out of the blue and was asking for some insurance advice. His EMR rating was very high and was looking for ways to help, not someone he was looking for for real information, not someone that was just going to tell him, well your problem here is your MOD well, he already understood that, but he was looking for ways to try to help get his MOD down. I was very, very, very honest with this client and told him, we've got a lot of work to do, but we can accomplish this by establishing some overall better practices, including safety manuals, safety meetings, toolbox talks, tire kicks, distracted driving, reward program, etc.

For this client, that's a hard thing to do is when you start changing culture at a customer. But this customer realized that he had to do something different. We actually started to change the culture. We had employees looking after one another, just not business owners looking after the employees. It was an all hands on deck approach. We successfully drove the EMR rating down for this customer just because of some best practices that we put in. And now this customer, like I said in the beginning, is one of my largest assets, sending customers my way because he understands the importance of the things that we bring to the table here at Witkemper Insurance group.

Our experienced team at Witkemper Insurance Group is here to help you find the best solution to your business needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.