Accounting Abuses

It is sometimes difficult to understand how, if 1) there are standard accounting rules that all companies must follow, and 2) accounting standards are regulated and 3) certified public accounting firms oversee that companies report their financial results according to these rules and standards, how some companies have been able to  publish financial results that did not show a true picture of the company’s financial success (or lack of it).

The reason the last few years’ phenomenon of flagrant accounting abuses by major corporations such WorldCom, Enron, Global Crossing, Adelphia, and Tyco were able to occur is that accounting rules are open to interpretation. The many ways to portray expenses and revenues were exploited by creative accounting practices in order to mask losses. The figures did not lie; they were just hidden so well that they became silent. Some of these abuses may simply be questionable; some are actually fraudulent.

One way to hide losses is to depreciate assets more slowly.  If a major capital asset, such as a oil rig has a cost of $10 Million and is normally depreciated over 10 years, each year it would represent an expense to the company of $1 Million. If, however, the company were to change the depreciation schedule to 20 years, the annual expense would be reduced to $500,000, thus increasing the company’s profit, or at least, reducing its losses.   Although this might be considered legal, it would not be ethical if the true life of the oil rig was really only 10 years. At the tenth year when it had to be replaced, the cost would not yet have been fully covered.

A similar abuse, but one that is clearly illegal, is to capitalize, that is spread out over a period of years, ordinary expenses that occur in a single year. This appears to be one of the abuses committed by Worldcom. A company should spread the cost of a major capital item out over several years because it will be used over all of those years; it is a question of interpretation how many years should be used as a guideline.  However, telephone bills, payroll expenses, monthly rent, any items that are related to a current period must be expensed to that period and may not be spread out over time to make it appear that income is sufficient to cover expenses.

Some companies that trade in energy contracts have established “round trip” trades in these contracts wherein no underlying transaction occurred, but served only to boost the apparent revenues of the company. Global Crossing was investigated by the SEC for the same type of accounting trick wherein it did back and forth swaps of fiber-optic capacity, while the capacity never changed hands.

Another way to presenting financial performance more favorably is to conceal some of the company’s debt. Selling debt to off-balance sheet entities, prepaid transactions where the funds are reported as deferred revenue rather than debt, synthetic leases and derivatives may all serve to increase capital without reflecting debt on the company’s financial statement.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the various accounting standards boards and many other financial regulating entities are constantly reviewing how to monitor and control these types of abuses. Innovative and often unethical accounting professionals seem to stay one step ahead of them.

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Understanding Corporate Finance

The Basics
Corporate finance is the body of knowledge that dictates the decisions a company makes about its finances. The scope and implication of this is very broad, since just about any decision that affects the company is ultimately a financial decision. First of all, the company has to define its objectives. The company is designed to make a profit through the sale of its products or services. The objective is defined as: which product(s), which service(s), to which market(s), with which products or materials and through which means. The decision makers in a company (board of directors, CEO, CFO and other senior managers) must address these financial decisions on a number of levels. There are three basic decision levels that all corporate finance attempts to address. They are the Financing Decision, the Investment Decision and the Dividend Decision.

The Financing Decision
Obtaining the right mix of initial capital is one of the first financial decisions to be made by a corporation. Deciding which type of financing matches the needs of the company, marketing the corporation for this financing and matching each type of financing to a specific need of the company in a way that such financing will be most intelligently used is crucial to long term success.

The Investment Decision
The company next decides upon its investment decision. This does not necessarily mean how it will invest its profits, although that forms a part of the investment decision; it also means how the company will decide to invest its resources. Its initial capital, whether built by investments by the principals, sales of shares, or debt must be allocated intelligently to the various needs of the business. Manufacturing infrastructure, salaries for sales, engineer or design personnel, research and development, marketing and many other areas compete for each investment dollar of a corporation.

The Dividend Decision
A corporation must then examine the decision of distribution of profits. Further investment in the assets of the company is important, especially in dynamic fields where new product development is the life line to continued success, but this must be balanced with the need for stability. Capital reserves, bonus structures, and of course, dividend distribution need to be funded if the company intends continue growth, keep vital staff and maintain market value.

The ultimate value of the corporation will be a reflection of how successfully it makes its decisions in each of these areas. If a firm chooses the proper allocation of resources, if the most appropriate types of financing are secured, and finally, if it can determine the proper proportion between how much gets plowed back into operations versus how much will be distributed as profit, the firm will build higher value than firms that make poor decisions in these areas.

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Banking Terminology Abbreviations

Every industry seems to have its own language, sometimes called industry “jargon”.  It usually stems from members of the industry continually using the same terms over and over again and to save time they substitute abbreviations and acronyms.  The banking industry is no different, and many terms have sprung up that may or may not be understood by outsiders. Since this is the banking industry, and most people have had dealings with banks, some of the terminology has become commonplace. Other expressions are usually used by banking professionals and most of the public are not aware of what they mean.

Just about everyone knows what APR (annual percentage rate), CD (Certificate of Deposit), ATM (Automated Teller Machine) and OD (Overdraft) are. But does the ordinary bank customer know what an OD privilege line is, or an ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage)? Here are some not so common terms and abbreviations used in the banking industry.

 ACH– Automated Clearing House, through which everyone’s checks clear.

CARDS– Certificates for Amortizing Revolving Debt, securities backed by credit-card receivables.

CARS– Certificates of Automobile Receivables, securities backed by automobile receivables.

CHIPS– Clearing House Interbank Payment System, an international wire-system for high-value payments operated by a group of major banks.

CMO– Collateralized Mortgage Obligation, a type of mortgage security whereby cash flows from a set of mortgages are repackaged into bonds with different maturities.

CPN– Coupon, the interest rate on a debt security (the issuer promises to pay this interest rate to the holder until maturity; it is expressed as an annual percentage of face value).

EDP– Electronic Data Processing, how banks process all the information on accounts.

EFT– Electronic Funds Transfer, the method by which funds are wired between banks.

Fannie Mae- Nickname for the “Federal National Mortgage Association”, and the mortgage securities that are guaranteed by that agency.

Forex– Foreign Exchange, when a currency has to be exchanged for another currency.

FDIC– Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government institution responsible for insuring bank deposits in the United States.

FED, the– The Federal Reserve Bank, the Central Bank of the United States.

Ginnie Mae– Nickname for the “Government National Mortgage Association” and the mortgage securities that are guaranteed by that agency.

L/C– Letter of Credit, a line extended for a short term to cover the shipment of goods. When the L/C is presented to the bank for payment, and it matches exactly the terms of the shipment and the goods involved, the bank will pay the shipper of the goods.

Libor– The London Interbank Offer Rate. This is frequently used as a base rate for many loans.

PN– Promissory Note, an integral part of a loan in which the debtor agrees to pay the lender.

Refi– Refinancing an existing debt. This can apply to ordinary line of credit loans, collateralized loans or mortgage loans.

Repo– The act of repossessing a vehicle on which the loan has been called due to non-payment.

SLA– Savings and Loan Association.

SWIFT– Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, how banks correspond and settle with one another, globally.

T-Bill-Treasury Bill, the investment in U.S. Government security of less than 180 days.

YTM– Yield to Maturity, the final calculated interest rate on a discounted note. 

 

If a bank has international as well as domestic business, this list would grow to include many more phrases and abbreviations, but just keeping track of American expressions is enough of a chore!

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Theme Weddings — Planning Ideas

Today an emerging and very popular trend in weddings is the theme wedding. The theme wedding allows you to express your own individuality while having the traditional element in your wedding. The theme wedding can be just about anything you can imagine, and though they may take a little more work and a great deal of thought, they are well worth it.

One popular theme wedding is the Renaissance wedding. This takes a little more work, but many of the materials you will need are not too hard to find. The very first step in creating the Renaissance wedding theme is the wedding party’s attire. For the bride there are wedding gowns readily available in the Renaissance style, and you may even find gowns for your attendants in the same style. If this is too difficult, it is recommended that you have your wedding gown tailor made along with those of your bride’s maids. Another important aspect of this wedding theme is picking the appropriate setting, decorations and colors. When you are deciding on this part of your wedding, keep in mind what colors and décor dominated that time era.

Another very popular wedding theme is the fairytale wedding. This often involves the notorious Cinderella. With this theme, of course you will want a wedding gown that resembles that of the famous Cinderella gown, and your decorations will closely match this. It is very easy to find the pumpkin carriage drawn by white horses for table centerpieces, and little glass slippers are nice to offer to your guests filled with candy. If you really want to put the icing on the cake, you may be able to hire a carriage with horses for the bride to arrive in and the couple to depart in. Some people find that it is much easier to create this theme by having their wedding and reception at one of the Disney resorts. When you choose to hold your wedding at one of their resorts, Disney has available a real Cinderella Carriage for the bride and groom.

Another wonderful theme, is the winter fantasy theme. Often the colors for this wedding are silver, blue and white, which look striking when put together. For this theme you will want to have several ice sculptures created as centerpieces and decorate the chapel and reception room with artificial evergreens that have had a light dusting of snow sprayed on them. Decorate these evergreens with clear white Christmas lights. Silver and white snowflakes hanging from the ceiling top of the atmosphere for the winter theme. With a little imagination, this theme wedding can truly dazzling anyone.

A couple themed wedding ideas for summer include the seaside wedding, or the Hawaiian themed wedding. For the Hawaiian themed wedding you will want to pick very bright, tropical colors, and maybe lots of South Sea items. For the seaside wedding, try keeping your colors softer; maybe some pale pinks, tans and blues. Seashells will of course play a big role in this themed wedding.

With a little imagination, it is easy to make your special day, the fantasy you have always dreamed of.


Las Vegas Weddings

If you are like countess people, you may be contemplating marriage in the near future, but dreading the most strenuous task of all, the wedding. There is a reason that Las Vegas is the wedding capitol of the world, it is one place where you can make your arrangements, and be married in the same day. The ease of taking your wedding vows in Las Vegas is well worth a closer examination.

The simplistic nature of a Las Vegas wedding is just a start, there are several wedding chapels in Las Vegas and many of them offer some interesting incentives. The prices of these complete packages are hard to beat, especially if you consider what the cost of a traditional wedding may run.

The Wedding Bells Chapel of Las Vegas has packages that range anywhere from $167 to $1100 and include, the chapel, the ceremony, a wedding coordinator, a bouquet for the bride as well as champagne, photographs, video and much more. There is no possible way to coordinate a traditional wedding for as little as $200 -$300.

Another notorious wedding chapel in Las Vegas is the Viva Las Vegas. This chapel offers not only the traditional wedding, but the increasingly popular themed wedding as well. You can order up an exotic Egyptian, or Camelot themed wedding, and if that isn’t enough, they also offer a gothic themed wedding complete with a haunting fog filled chapel and best of all, the services will be conducted by Dracula. This package tends to run about $750. Advance reservations are recommended for a Halloween wedding.

If your taste runs a little more towards the futuristic, why not get married by the one and only Captain James T. Quirk or Captain Spock, in the Starship Chapel. This wedding comes complete with one Minister, Transporter, and one illusion entrance, Captain Quirk or Spock as your minister, theatrical lighting, and plenty of fog. All for only about $700. A great price if you are looking for the ultimate galactic wedding experience.

If you are like many women, chances are you have had your heart set on the ever popular Victorian wedding. This wedding package runs $175 and comes complete with use of the Victorian Chapel, a plethora of Victorian memorabilia, one period soloist for the ceremony, punch and petite fours, period music, and first dance at recessional.

For those of you that find yourself stuck in the time era of Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix, don’t despair, there is a wedding package created just for you. Your wedding can be filled with the classic music of Woodstock in the Woodstock themed wedding ceremony! With the talents of a world renowned impersonator, this is a wedding that will take you right back to August, 1969 and that renowned festival of peace, music and love!

Las Vegas Nevada offers marriage licenses with no waiting period and few restrictions for only $55. Together with the low cost of a fantastic Las Vegas wedding, you cannot help but come out ahead in value.

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Why Hire a Wedding Coordinator?

Every little girl dreams of being a princess and to be swept off her feet by her Prince Charming. A wedding is the time in a girl’s life when they come to feel like the princess and the heroine of a fairy tale. All around the world from the hidden tribes to the most advanced area of civilization, people have always wanted weddings and take considerable amount of preparation for this occasion. Love is most sought for and the public declaration of it is a legitimate and a wonderful reason to celebrate!

Planning a wedding could be a very taxing job. It is the most elaborate event to organize. Most of us have jobs, a busy family and social life, and household responsibilities. Adding a wedding to plan is too much to handle on your own. An average wedding takes about two to three hundred hours to plan. This time should be used to envision your dream wedding instead of laboring for its many details.

As much as it is fun to think about wedding plans it is not as easy as it seems. Murphy’s Law states that “If anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible moment.” That is where wedding coordinators come to our aid, to break Murphy’s Law on your wedding day by being prepared and equipped to handle wedding emergencies.

Wedding coordinators used to be a luxury, but now it is essential to a well planned event. Hiring one saves you both time and money by helping you come up with a wedding that is tailored fit to your budget and preference. They can take advantage of discounts available to the trade only. A wedding planner will add cost to your budget but a good planner can help you save a lot of time, money and effort almost enough to cover the cost of hiring them.

They guide you in the whole process by supplying you with planners, checklists, helpful articles and a list of reliable resources for all your wedding needs. Moreover, they can do the walking and talking for you. No need to visit every possible venue and to meet up with numerous photographers, musicians, caterers and vendors. They can attend meetings on your behalf.

Wedding planners have a good fashion sense. They are in the know with the latest style and trends. They are imaginative and resourceful. They are artisans who assist you to come up with creative, original ideas to make your wedding a wonderful event to be remembered.

Most common mistakes can be avoided with a wedding professionally planned. Often times we make mistakes like not sticking to the budget or hiring the wrong photographer. With a coordinator to guide you, you will be able to save on some things and spend on what you prioritize more. They would often advice you not scrimp on your budget for the photographer as the guest will forget about your food and other details but the pictures will always be there for you to cherish and show off years after the big day.

Although you may be organized and well-meaning friends and family members might offer help, it is best to leave it to the expert who has broader knowledge and experience in this industry. Besides, you planned your wedding for ten months and dreamt of it your whole life. Why would you want to work that day? Furthermore, your wedding is for your family and friends to enjoy too.

Most importantly, you need a coordinator to orchestrate the wedding day itself. You need not worry about wedding day emergencies like stains on dresses and runs on stockings. They can even act as a mediator to simple family arguments about the event. The planner will now serve as a buffer between the bride and the problem. You can have peace of mind and focus on the excitement and joy of this wonderful day. All you have to think about is how beautiful you are and how happy you will be to say I do to the man you love. So go on and leave the worrying to the planner and concentrate on your role as a blushing bride. This is your day and all eyes will be on you. So smile, laugh, cry, dance and be happy. Have a fun and stress free wedding!

If you do decide to hire a wedding coordinator, do not forget to check references. It is also important that you are compatible with them so you can have fun planning you big day!

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Seatbelt Laws Save Lives

There was a time not too long ago when many people did not see the need to wear seatbelts while in a car, and not only that, rarely were people putting their children in car seats. With the passing and enforcing of laws that require passengers to wear seatbelts and parents to ensure that children are in proper safety seats, some people have changed their habits.

What is so amazing is that with so much proof that seatbelts save lives, there are still numerous people who do not wear seatbelts. Seatbelt laws are not just a hindrance to a citizen’s free will, but a very useful law in saving the lives of drivers and passengers alike. Not wearing seatbelts causes more accident fatalities that almost any other cause today. Over 68% of all fatalities in car accidents were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of impact. That is a very large percentage of lives that could have been saved simply by buckling up.

It has been estimated that seatbelts save nearly 10,000 lives every year and it is not hard to imagine how much this could be increased if everyone that got into a car used their seatbelts. The most likely candidates for not wearing seatbelts are males between the ages of 17 and 25. Even the most expansive of educational programs are not helping to convince these drivers to think of safety first. The most likely reason is the natural inclination for people of that age group to think of themselves as invisible.

With a program of education not getting through to those who prefer not to wear seatbelts, the solution is not clear. It may be that more aggressive laws need to be passed to promote the use of seatbelts. Together with this needs to be a very aggressive prosecution of those cited for not following the seatbelt laws.

The myth that you do not need a seatbelt if you are driving only for a short distance or at a very low speed is simply inaccurate. Almost 50% of accidents happen at speeds of less that 40 mph, and fatalities have been known to happen at a speed of 12 mph. It is also a fact that 80% of accidents involving a fatality occur less that 25 miles from home.

It is pure myth that you are safer during certain types of accidents by not wearing your seatbelt. Though submersion and fire account for less that half of 1% of all accidents, you still stand more of a chance surviving if you are wearing your seatbelt. If you are knocked unconscious during the accident by hitting your head on something, you certainly will not escape a burring car.

The shoulder harness is also an important part of seatbelt safety and should be worn at all times. This will keep you from hitting the steering wheel, windshield or dash. If the shoulder strap does not fit correctly, it can be dangerous and should be adjusted until it does fit right.

Protect your life and the lives of your passengers by requiring anyone in your car to wear a seatbelt, and that all children are securely fastened in child safety seats.

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Stranger Awareness — Safety Information

In today’s society, it has become increasingly important to keep your eyes open and alert when in public. There are too many people who are ready to take advantage of individuals, and are looking for every opportunity when they believe your guard is down. Consider the following tips to build your awareness of strangers without becoming paranoid:

Parking garages
If you work in an environment in which you park in a parking garage, or happen to have been shopping in a place in which you are forced to use a parking garage, the most important thing you can do to make it safely to your car (especially for women) is to hold your head up high and walk with purpose. Do not look down or away, or individuals looking to take advantage of you might see that as a sign of weakness, and could turn around and attack you.

Make sure when entering the garage, you remember where you parked your car, and watch carefully for all people who are walking through the garage. As you approach your car, look carefully to see that there is no one close by, and once you get into your car safely, lock all the doors.

Do not stop to provide directions or assistance to strangers, because you don’t know if they really need help or are looking for someone to victimize. If you have a cell phone, make sure you have that in one hand with your keys in the other, ready to get into your car and/or call in the event of an emergency.

Dimly lit parking lots
Similar to a parking garage, keep an eye on dimly lit parking lots, especially in the winter. Know where your car is parked and head straight for it. Keep your keys in one hand and a phone in the other (if applicable). Keep your eyes open and aware of all that is around you, and listen closely for anything that might be different from a normal sound. Check your car carefully before getting in, as many abductors have hidden under individual’s cars in order to attack them as they get ready to get in the car.

If your car has an auto door unlock or an panic button, and you are unsure as to whether or not someone might be near your car, use the buttons to scare off any strangers. Again, do not stop to talk with or help strangers-if someone appears to need help-once you are safely in your locked car, offer to call someone to help them, but do not allow them access to your vehicle nor use of your phone.

Strangers visiting your home
Even in the safest neighborhoods, you never know who is watching your house, waiting to break in and burglarize your home. If someone comes to the door that you do not know, make sure you look through the peephole of your door, first. Talk through the locked door to the individual to see how you can help them. If you do not have a peephole, then crack the door (using a chain at the top if applicable) to see what the individual wants. If you have a window, look out the window first. Whatever you do, do not let a stranger into your home. This includes young teenagers and kids. You may think you can trust a young person, but you do not know anything about them, and may not be aware of their true intentions in entering your home.

If you are having repairs done to your home, and you know someone will be coming by, you might want to ask a friend or family member to come by while the repair person is there. If you have a dog, keep your dog out and visible to the repair person at all times. This will ensure the repair person does what they are supposed to do, and will show them that your dog’s job is to keep you safe. Dogs are very smart when it comes to people and are great judges of character. They will let you know if the person in your home is to be trusted. Keep the phone with you at all times as well-this will show the repair person you mean business, and want them out of your home as quickly as possible.

Strangers walking, unescorted, through the workplace
Many people have had personal belongings, including credit and debit cards, stolen from the workplace by strangers who have managed to gain access to your workplace. If you see someone walking through your workplace that you do not know, do not be afraid to stop them and ask who they are and if you can help them. If they are there on legitimate business, you will learn that quickly. If they are not, you can help your company by escorting them out of the workplace. Building this awareness in your workplace will help keep you and your co-workers safe and prepared in the event an individual wanders through your workplace aimlessly.

Exercising outdoors in the early morning/evening
If you choose to exercise in the early morning or evening, there are few things to keep in mind. First, you may want to consider inviting a buddy/partner to go with you. Using the buddy system will keep you safe, as strangers will not approach a team of two with malicious intent. Second, don’t go the same route at the same time every day. If a stranger is watching you, they will know your routines and will know when/how to attack you. Change your routine regularly so as to detract potential predators from attacking you.

Third, make sure you wear light-colored clothing that is easily visible. If you choose to exercise alone, make sure your spouse or a close friend knows what time and where you will be, and have them check in with you to make sure you are safe. Fourth, carry your cell phone with you, along with a small can of mace. If someone attacks you, you will be able to fend off a stranger more easily with mace and a phone.

The biggest and most important thing is to be familiar and aware of your surroundings.

Mall shopping/walking
If you choose to go shopping at the mall, or you “walk the mall” in the mornings or evenings, keep your eyes open as to who is there with you. If strangers approach you, be polite, but make sure you keep going and are aware of where you left the stranger. Go into different stores and try to divert a stranger’s attention who may be following you.

Overall, the key to building stranger awareness is developing a constant radar within yourself to ensure you know who is out there with you at all times. Carry a cell phone or mace (or both) at all times, and make sure you remain confident and poised in every situation. Do not act scared, nervous, or apprehensive in any way-even if you feel that way. Remain calm, confident, and aware!

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Baby-Proofing Your Home — Safety Tips

Getting ready for a new addition to your family is a very exciting and anxious time! When the baby first arrives, he/she will obviously not be crawling around or walking (unless you are adopting an older baby), however, you will want to take care of some details to ensure the beginning of your baby’s life is a safe and relatively uneventful one! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Electrical outlets. Young kids seem to have a fascination with keys and electrical outlets. Thankfully, someone invented an outlet cover for the outlets that is nearly impossible for kids (and in some cases, even adults) to remove. You can purchase outlet covers inexpensively at Wal-Mart, Target, or any other mass merchandiser that sells baby items.

Vertical blind cords. Toddlers are also fascinated by vertical blind cords. Again, another genius invented a cap within which you can roll up the cord, safely storing away until it needs to be used. Your baby will not be able to yank on the cords or wrap them around their neck when using this device. Found at stores that sell baby items, this is a necessity as your baby gets a little older.

CD’s/DVD’s. Make sure your CD’s/DVD’s are put away-locked away! Little ones are really excited about what might be inside…or not. They will often just use them as little discs to throw around and see if they can break them.

Pictures/Books/Albums. Again, little ones love to dig into anything that looks like a book, regardless of whether it is priceless or not (they have no way of knowing). Store your pictures on higher ground, and put your books and albums in places that little ones cannot get to. This will help preserve your books and pictures, and will keep the curious one out of trouble!

Plants. Plants don’t taste very good, but they do have lots of dirt to play in! As your baby begins to crawl around, if you have “floor” plants, you may want to move them to higher places so they are safe from baby’s hands. Otherwise, you may find your 6 month old surrounded by a pile of dirt, along with a little in his/her mouth!

Knick-Knacks. Anything of value that you don’t want to see flung against the wall or along your hardwood floors, you will want to keep out of reach or locked away from your little one. This will not only protect your things, but will also protect the baby from choking on items that find their way into the mouth!

Brooms/Mops. Toddlers especially like to play with anything they can get their hands on. Brooms and mops are one example, and can be very dangerous if your child decides to play with them and then fall on the floor. Keep brooms and mops up and away from your little child.

Door Handles. Yet another great invention is the door handle safety cover. It keeps toddlers (and sometimes adults!) from opening doors that they should not open. The cover is plastic and must be squeezed together to open the door, thus making it difficult for your child to open doors they shouldn’t.

Kitchen cabinets. You can install “locks” inside your cabinet doors to keep little hands out of places they should not go. This is especially important for the cabinet under your kitchen sink, where most people keep cleaning supplies. Installing these in advance of baby’s arrival will ensure they are in place and you have had practice using them before the baby gets big enough to try and open the cabinets.

Fireplace. To a baby, a fireplace can look like a hiding place. To prevent baby from investigating ashes and old wood, keep the doors to your fireplace shut and locked. You can buy inexpensive plastic locks from your local mass merchandiser designed to keep your toddler out of trouble in the fireplace.

There are literally hundreds of different ways to baby proof your home. If you get down on all fours and crawl around, you will see life from your child’s perspective. This might be your best defense in keeping your baby out of harm’s way (and out of trouble) while preserving some of the items in your home you cherish. Good luck!

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Signs and Prevention

What is it? How does it happen? Ways to prevent it from occurring.

A colorless and odorless gas, carbon monoxide poisoning is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer”. It is difficult to know when being exposed to the deadly gas, as the symptoms are hard to diagnose and can include headache, dizziness, weakness, confusion, chest pain and nausea and vomiting. With high enough levels of carbon monoxide exposure, unconsciousness and death can result.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the result of inhalation of carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide molecules adhere very well to hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that normally carry oxygen throughout the body. Carbon monoxide molecules tend to take up the sites in the hemoglobin where oxygen usually sits. Within a short period of time, sometimes as quick as a couple of breaths, this displacement can lead to an oxygen depleted state where the body suffers from lack of the necessary quantities of oxygen.

Individuals who are at an increased risk of falling prey to carbon monoxide poisoning include babies, children, seniors, and those with respiratory problems and chronic heart disease.

There are many ways to prevent this potentially fatal occurrence. Many families have made the choice to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. When it comes time to change the batteries in the smoke detector, change the carbon monoxide detector batteries as well. This simple device is very effective in detecting even trace amounts of the deadly gas indoors and can save lives.

Activities which may contribute to the buildup of carbon monoxide inside the home and which should always be monitored, inspected annually and used with caution include heating the house with a furnace, gas water heater or a portable butane or gas heater.

As a word of warning, never use a fuel or generator-run appliance in an enclosed space; this includes generators, motors, or vehicles. Many fatalities, both unintentional and intentional are the result of a vehicle running inside of an enclosed space, usually a garage. If the garage is attached to the house, always keep the door between the two spaces closed while warming up the car, even if the garage door is wide open. Fumes from the warming car can enter the house and cause symptoms to appear in animals and humans.

The summer boating season is another time when the number of carbon monoxide cases increases. The generators and motors which power boats can release large amounts of the deadly gas. In most boats, carbon monoxide will most likely accumulate in specific regions such as any space where exhaust gas can become trapped. This may include the inside of a boat’s inadequately ventilated canvas, or in the boat’s cabin. Ensure that the boat’s exhaust outlet is never blocked. Carbon monoxide can also build up while the boat is moving slowly, idling or is at a stop.

To prevent the accidental poisoning or even death during boating season, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep passengers away from regions of the boat where carbon monoxide can accumulate and away from exhaust outlets.
  • Always turn off the engine if passengers will be sitting, surfing or swimming on the back side of the boat where the exhaust outlet is located.
  • If a passenger shows signs of sickness, get them into fresh air immediately and call for medical attention.

And, most importantly, install carbon monoxide detectors and have a yearly vessel safety check.

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What to do in the Event of a Tornado: Safety Advice and Tips

If you live in the Midwest, you are likely quite familiar with what to do should you find out a tornado is heading your way. However, if you live on the West coast, East coast, or in the South, you are less likely to be familiar with the steps you need to take when a tornado is coming. Here are some key tips to remember that will help keep you safe (and may save your life) in the event you find yourself victim to one of weather’s most dangerous storms:

  • Signs of a Tornado: If you are outside and the weather is hot and windy with dark or puffy clouds surrounding the sky, start watching for the following signs: sudden shift in temperature to cold, reduced or no wind, blackening sky (almost like night), clouds that turn a greenish color, lightning, heavy rain accompanied by hail, and heavy, loud thunder. These signs will increase in measure the closer the tornado comes toward you.

Watch the sky for clouds that rotate, but have not yet formed a “funnel”. As the clouds rotate, they will begin to pick up speed and form what is known as a funnel cloud. This is the first sign of a tornado-and if you have not already sought shelter-do so immediately. It is also important to listen for something that sounds very loud-almost like a freight train. Tornadoes bring their own noise with them so if you don’t first see the tornado, you will likely hear it!

  • Turn on your TV or Radio, and Pay Attention: When there is an impending tornado, your local TV and radio stations will have weather alerts on. A “Tornado Watch” indicates that conditions are favorable for a tornado. This would be a great time to start prepping the room you would need to use as shelter in the event a tornado actually does come. A “Tornado Warning” means an actual tornado has been spotted and verified by the National Weather Service, and you should seek shelter immediately until the danger has passed.
  • Where to Go in a Tornado: The best place to be during a tornado is the basement of your home, away from windows and doors. If you do not have a basement, the next best place is a room that is centrally located in your home with no windows (large closets will also work well). Tornadoes will rip off the top of your home first-but will most likely rip around the outside of your home, too. The basement or innermost room within your home are the two safest places to be when the tornado comes.

If you happen to be in your car when a tornado warning is issued, or you happen to see a funnel cloud or tornado yourself, you need to pull over by the side of the road and lie flat in a ditch, under a concrete bridge, or as close to a river or creek as you possibly can. Tornadoes will not cross water, so if you are close to a river or creek, that is the safest place to be. Do not hang on to a tree or a building, as trees can be ripped from the ground by their roots or struck by lightning. Again, lie flat on the lowest level ground possible, most preferably near or in a creek or river.

  • Room Preparation for a Tornado: Some items you will want to make sure you have with you in the event you are in a tornado or very severe thunderstorm and lose power include: flashlight with new batteries, candle with matches, blankets, pillows, a few bottles of water, snack crackers, a cell phone, and a battery-powered radio. Remember any prescription medicines you may need as well-and keep them tucked closely by you in the event the tornado does hit and damage your house.
  • What to do with Your Pets: Take them with you to the shelter room. If you have dogs, remember a leash and keep them on it until the storm passes. Also, if possible, try to remember treats or a little dog food so they are well taken care of should you need to stay elsewhere for a few days.

The above information is important to remember in the event of a tornado. Try to have a “family plan” established for bad weather, and remind your kids repeatedly of what they should do if a tornado warning is issued. Keeping the above listed items in mind the next time the need arises may very well save your life as well as the lives of your loved ones.

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