Dodging Food Poisoning at Christmas

It’s not long now until Christmas dinner will be taking centre stage on our dining tables. Fridges are bursting full with festive food and it’s party time. How do you avoid giving the unwanted gift of food poisoning to your guests?

Bacteria can spread from raw meat and poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils.

Here are some tips to keep your Christmas food safe:

  • After touching raw poultry or other raw meat, always wash your hands with warm water and soap, and dry them thoroughly.
  • Don’t wash your turkey before your cook it. If you do, bacteria from raw poultry can splash onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria.
  • Always clean worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils with warm soapy water after they have touched raw poultry or meat.
  • Never use the same chopping board for raw poultry or meat and ready-to-eat food without washing it thoroughly with warm soapy water first.

Plan your cooking time in advance to make sure you get the bird in the oven early enough to cook it thoroughly. A large turkey can take several hours to cook properly, and eating undercooked turkey (or other poultry) could cause food poisoning. Where available, follow cooking instructions on the pack.

Three ways you can tell a turkey is cooked:

  • the meat is steaming hot all the way through
  • there’s no pink meat when you cut into the thickest part of the bird
  • the juices run clear when you pierce the turkey or press the thigh

If you’re using a temperature probe or food thermometer, ensure the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) reaches at least 70C for 2 minutes.

For further information please visit the Food Standards Agency( Link – https://www.food.gov.uk/ )

Source: Food Standards Agency

 

 

Renewable Energy Department at Bruce Stevenson

Two days within the Renewable Energy Department at Bruce Stevenson are very rarely the same.  Whilst we are insurance brokers at heart, our team is very much within the Renewables sector as well.  In fact, we estimate that only 20% of our time is spent actually placing insurance.  The remainder of the time we are engaged in the Renewables sector and learning the marketplace.  From seminars to site visits, and even a perfume making class, here is a typical month in the life of our renewable energy department.

To understand the renewables sector, you have to be part of it.  That’s why we try to attend as many events as possible.  It’s great to find out where the market is going and understand new developments, but it’s also a good chance to catch up with clients.  Bruce Stevenson are members and advisors to Scottish Renewables, an organisation who leads and promotes the growth of renewable energy in Scotland.

One of the best parts of our job is getting out and meeting clients.  Whilst email and phone is a great way of keeping in touch, nothing beats face to face and getting out on site, and because most of our projects are in rural locations, we get to see some of the most beautiful sights in Scotland.  Our in-house Technical Consultant, Gary Bratt, carries out most of our site visits.  He is an Engineer to trade, with a post-grad in Renewable Energy.  As we said before, the better we understand the technology, the better the insurance we place, and Gary helps us with a lot of this.

Gary and our Director, Derek Skinner, carried out a site visit to one of our client’s anaerobic digestion plants.  This project is 6MW in size – so pretty big!  Anaerobic digestion works by converting food waste to energy by breaking it down until gas is produced.  This site was interesting because there are a number of smaller sites connected to it which makes placing the insurance that little bit more complex.

Despite our busy schedules, we still make time for team building with the insurers, solicitors and banks we work with.  We recently attended a perfume making class where everyone got the opportunity to make their own scent and take a sample home with them.  This was followed by dinner and a few drinks.  Days out like this are a good chance to catch up with other in the renewables sector to find out what’s happening and is a good opportunity to strengthen our working relationships which ultimately means we work better for our clients.

If you have any queries regarding Renewable Energy insurance please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Brand Refresh for Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers

2017 has been a year of consolidation and steady growth for Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers. We are now addressing plans for continued growth and investment in professional development.

Over the course of the last 6 months we have reviewed our current branding and we are now delighted to launch our new, refreshed look.

 

This updated logo gives our brand a new lease of life and stands us in good stead for our future plans. While we have stayed true to our core values, we have given the logo a cleaner, more polished appearance. We are following our brand refresh with a new website which will launch in early 2018.

If you have any feedback please do not hesitate to get in touch. We would be delighted to hear from you. [email protected]

Preparing your property for winter

With the cold weather settling in, now is a good time to prepare against the perils of winter and to help prevent damage to your property investment.

Freezing pipes

One of the most common causes of property damage during winter is freezing pipes, which can lead to a burst pipe resulting in, sometimes, large-scale water damage.

There are ways to help prevent this, including checking pipes for any noticeable cracks. RICS also recommend that any external pipes are insulated to minimise heat loss and prevent your pipes from freezing.

Service your boiler

Ensure that your boiler has been recently serviced by a Gas Safe engineer and is in working order.

Although this may come at a cost, it is far more cost effective than having to fully replace a faulty boiler in the event of a break-down. This will also assist in keeping your pipes warm and prevent freezing throughout the colder months.

Unoccupied properties

As your property may become unoccupied during the festive period, it’s important to review your insurance policy for any unoccupancy conditions that apply. You may need to notify your insurer that the property will be empty, or your insurer may request that your central heating is left on at a certain temperature (or in some cases the mains services are turned off).

If you are unsure, give us a call and we would be happy to review your policy. Failure to adhere to these conditions may result in a claim being repudiated leaving you out of pocket following a loss.

This is also a good opportunity to ensure that your existing policy is fit for purpose, e.g. landlords should ensure that a specialist landlord insurance is in place.

Roof and drains

Remember to ensure your drains, gutters and overflow pipes have been inspected by a qualified contractor and cleared of any blockages.

Falling Autumn leaves can potentially result in blocked gutters – this can lead to water damage on the roof and may cause damage to the walls of your property.

Have your roof checked for any cracked or missing slates, as this can also result in water damage to your property.

Give us a call

During winter it is better to be ‘safe than sorry’. If have any questions about your insurance policy looked after by Bruce Stevenson, or if you would like a no obligation quotation, please give us a call and we would be delighted to assist you.

Property Account Executive, Jamie McKenzie [email protected] or 07789403990

Keeping burglars at bay!

Santa won’t be arriving for another few days and when he does arrive he’ll be coming down the chimney. Each year levels of criminal activity peak at Christmas time. It is a time of giving and receiving, but more importantly a time which thieves thrive on. Here are our top tips for having a safe and secure Christmas.

  • Lock your doors and windows every time you leave the house. Even if you’re just popping out to the shops!
  • Hide all keys out of sight and remove any valuables from view of ground floor windows.
  • Install a burglar alarm in a visible place. This will deter thieves as security measures have obviously been put in place.
  • Install good outside lighting. Many outside lights are designed to come on when movement is detected and additionally can be programmed to turn on and off at set times.
  • Get a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on your property.
  • Leave lights in your house on a timer as this will make the property appear occupied.
  • Secure bikes by locking them to an immoveable object inside a locked shed or garage.

Another option which you may wish to consider is joining or forming a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. These schemes aspire to bring neighbours together to create a friendly and safe environment, in order to try and reduce criminal activity within the area. You can find out more information about these communities on the Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network – https://www.ourwatch.org.uk/

It’s important to check that you’ve got sufficient cover for your home and contents. If you would like to discuss your contents insurance or you would like to obtain a quote, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 0131 553 2293 2293.

Cyber Crime at Christmas

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have been and gone. However there are still an abundance of online competitions and time is ticking to finish off Christmas shopping. We realise it’s a busy time of year, however it’s important to remember to remain vigilant online. Before shopping online, consider the following;

  • Does the website you are visiting seem genuine? If not, steer clear and find alternative sites to purchase from.
  • Does the website have a secure URL? It’s important to check the site is secure before sharing any personal information. If not, you could fall victim to online fraud. Make sure the URL has https: preceding the web address.
  • Does the website URL and page title match the company name? If not, check they are at least similar to it. It may be the case that fraudsters have created a fake website which appears to be similar to that of the real one you looking for. Check for bad spelling and grammar, if you find several or an abnormal amount of errors, it’s likely the site is unsafe.
  • Have you received emails offering deals which seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is too good to be true. To verify the offering, visit the company’s website where deals and other offers will be advertised.

For further information about Cyber Crime or if you think you have been a victim of cyber crime, visit the Victim Support website –  https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/cyber-crime

Check out our favourite recipe for Eggnog

Ingredients – Serves 8

  • 3 cups (700ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy or double cream
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 (130g) cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) Bacardi Dark Rum, or bourbon

Method

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, cinnamon, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, and nutmeg. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once boiling, remove from the heat and allow to steep.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined and thick ribbons form when the whisk is lifted. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to mix until the mixture is combined and smooth. Add bourbon or rum, and stir. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

Before serving, beat the egg whites in a large bowl or stand mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into eggnog until combined. Serve and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Weather Warning Effective 7th December: Storm Caroline

Storm Caroline has brought a spell of very windy weather, starting at circa 6am this morning and once Storm Caroline departs, snow showers and sub-zero temperatures are expected to hit over the weekend.

Please find below, detail relative to the warnings in place below for your information;

Most regions currently have a “yellow – be aware” warning in place which on the Met Office matrix is a low likelihood/medium impact warning, the regions covered by the yellow warning are; Central Tayside Fife, NI, SW Lothian and Borders, and Strathclyde with the chief forecaster stating;

“The strongest winds will reach the west early on Thursday, extending east through the morning. Winds will start to ease in the west later in the morning and then all parts by late afternoon/evening. Snow showers will turn increasingly frequent and heavy across large parts Scotland and Northern Ireland during the evening”

Unfortunately Grampian, Highlands & Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland are on a higher level warning (amber) which sits at the medium likelihood/medium impact on the matrix – this gives a higher risk of structural damage and disruption, the Met Office report that;

“Storm Caroline is expected to bring a spell of very windy weather to northern Scotland. Gusts of 70 to 80 mph are expected widely with gusts to 90 mph possible in exposed areas. Flying debris is likely and could lead to injuries or danger to life. Some damage to buildings is possible, such as tiles blowing off roofs. Longer journey times and cancellations are likely, as road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected. There is a good chance that power cuts may also occur. Large waves are expected and beach material may be thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and properties”

Please note that for local regions the weather warnings are expected to be in place until 6pm on Thursday evening, however more northern regions are expected to experience the stormy conditions right through to circa midnight on Friday 8th December with Orkney and Shetland expected to be worst hit.

Further weather warnings in respect of snow and ice are also in place for the weekend as follows;

Friday – 00.05 until Saturday 6pm

Regions affected are; Central, Tayside & Fife, East Midlands, Grampian, Highlands & Eilean Siar, North West England, Northern Ireland, Orkney & Shetland, SW Scotland, Lothian Borders, South West England Strathclyde, Wales, West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber.

With the Met Office reporting;

During Friday, increasingly frequent snow showers already affecting parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England will extend across many other northern and western parts of the UK. 2-5 cm of snow is likely fairly widely, with 10-20 cm in places, mainly northern Scotland, Northern Ireland, north Wales and perhaps the northwest Midlands. Icy surfaces are also likely to be an additional hazard, especially overnight. The heaviest and most frequent snow showers will progressively become confined to northeast Scotland during Saturday. Possible travel delays on roads stranding some vehicles

If the weather is adversely affecting you please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us on 0131 553 2293. For further weather updates you can visit the Met Office Website.

Income and headcount increase at leading broker insurance broker Bruce Stevenson

Income at Bruce Stevenson, one of the largest independent insurance brokers in Scotland, rose during a highly successful year which also saw the firm increase its headcount.

The Edinburgh-based broker’s total income for the year to 30 August 2017 was £6.6m, against £6.4m in the previous twelve months.

Trading performance was boosted by a sharp rise in gross written premiums to £30m in the last year while the investment in staff recruitment meant gross profit came in at £1.4m against £1.5m in 2015/16.

Headcount has risen by 7% to 93 with the hire of senior managers James Geekie, in corporate business development, and Alexandra Richards in the Private Clients team. Additional staff were brought in to handle claims, which is a key service area supported by seven staff along with an expansion in IT and Marketing.

The firm is committed to long-term independence and several discussions are under way with a view to acquisitions. Most recently the firm acquired a book of business in the north of Scotland from H&H, an auctioneering business based in Carlisle.

Commenting on the results, Edward Bruce, chief executive of Bruce Stevenson, said:

“It’s been an extremely positive year for Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers, we’ve hit our targets but it’s been a period of consolidation. We’ve invested in the business a number of strategic management appointments and customer service/ support roles.

“We are now focused on further growth with a focus on our core areas of business and potential acquisitions.

Looking ahead, Bruce Stevenson has a brand re-launch and new website which will be unveiled in early 2018. The immediate target is to hit double-digit growth again in the current financial year with a focus on the Firm’s core values of great teamwork, exceptional customer service and assured consistency.

There will also be continued investment in staff training and professional development.

Encouragingly a recent staff survey received positive feedback from the 85% of employees who responded, which supports the Firm’s commitment to being the ‘Broker of Choice’ for both staff and clients.

Bruce Stevenson made a policy commitment in January to donate a minimum of 2% of net profit to FareShare, its nominated charity. This organisation collects good quality, in-date surplus food from retailers and producers and redistributes it to 476 frontline charities and community groups. The commitment to this charity is underlined by the work the insurance broker does within the food and drink sector.

Decorating at Christmas – Top Tips!

Christmas decorations are a staple during the festive period. We realise decorating a home from top to bottom can take a lot of time and effort. However it takes even less time for accidents to happen. Before you start the decoration process, ensure you have enough space for all of your decorations and consider where is best to place each piece.

  • Three Top Tips for Decorating
  1. Avoid decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard. These decorations are more likely to catch fire.
  2. Don’t attach or put decorations near heat sources.
  3. Check all fuses on electrical goods are the right type. If unsure check the instructions or seek advice.
  • Tree Safety

Fire safety must be considered when keeping a live tree in your house. When selecting a tree ensure that the needles are green. If the needles break it means the tree has not been freshly cut. Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.

  • Decorating The Tree

Ensure that all lights on the tree have been unplugged before leaving for any period of time. To create a sense of occupancy in your property, set a timer for outside lighting and several internal lights. If you find you have an excess of lighting on or near the tree, avoid overloading electrical sockets.

Self-Catering & Holiday Let Insurance

One of Scotland’s biggest insurance brokers, Bruce Stevenson, has unveiled a bespoke insurance package for those holiday home owners who let out their properties amid concerns many may not have appropriate cover.

The number of people owning a second property, which is used for holiday home lets and self-catering guests has soared in recent years. Meanwhile the rise of Airbnb style platforms has seen many open their own home to paying guests.

However, it is feared they may be relying on typical household insurance that does not give them the extensive cover they need to deal with the wide range of special issues that can go hand in hand with running a self-catering and holiday let.

Common problems include accidental or malicious damage caused by guests, loss of earnings when a property is damaged or in need of repair, and accidents involving visitors.

Owners also need to be aware of whether their cover remains valid during periods when their property is unoccupied between lets.  Additionally, cover is required for loss of income should their accommodation become seriously damaged or in need in extensive repairs.

The new Self-Catering and Holiday Lets insurance comes under the banner of Bruce Stevenson’s highly successful “StaySafe” policy, launched two years ago to cater for Britain’s £2 billion bed and breakfast industry.

Key features include:

  • Accidental damage as standard
  • Theft and attempted theft cover
  • Malicious damage cover, including damage by guests
  • Liability cover for paying guests and employees
  • Loss of income cover of up to £500,000 for up to two years following damage to the property

The new policy, which is not valid for Airbnb listed properties, means self-catering and holiday lets owners will enjoy the same peace of mind as B&B businesses covered by the Broker’s StaySafe package, including liability cover for employees of up to £10 million, liability for paying guests up to £2 million and up to £40,000 for their effects.

The StaySafe package was drawn up specifically for the hospitality industry in partnership with RSA Insurance Group. It is available to businesses across the UK.

According to the Association of Scotland’s self-caterers recent Economic Impact study there is a total of 16,162 self-catering or short term rental properties in Scotland. Meanwhile Scottish Government commissioned research has shown that the total of Airbnb listings in Scotland increased by 184% between January 2016 to January 2017.

Edward Bruce, chief executive at Bruce Stevenson, said:

“Earning money from a second property is seen by more and more people as a revenue generator for the owner. But it does come with risks, and it is imperative that there’s a comprehensive policy in place to protect the owner from potential losses or the impact of damage to their property.”

“There are a range of challenges that come with letting a second home to visitors, particularly when they are self-catering and you’re not there every day to keep an eye on things. A typical household policy will almost certainly not provide all the cover a holiday let landlord needs.

“That’s why it is so important to have bespoke insurance policies which have been drawn up by people who understand the potential problems and can help safeguard against their impact. We’ve been serving our customers for more than 30 years and are proud of our personal, flexible service, competitive premiums and free quotations.”

Bruce Stevenson’s StaySafe cover includes a 24-hour claims helpline while the highly experienced claims department has extensive knowledge of a wide range of situations.

For more information please contact Fiona Reid on 01896 804912 or [email protected]