Courtesy AMERIND Risk
Artwork by Ava Davis, submitted to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' Housing Department

AMERIND Risk Raises Safety Awareness, Awards Poster Contest Winners $1,000


The public weighed in through online voting at, and three Native youth from around the country have been awarded $1,000 each for their safety poster artwork.

The winners are in:

Grades K-3: Kamiah Anderson (Jicarilla Apache Housing Authority)

Grades 4-6: Ava Davis (Poarch Creek Indian Housing Authority)

Grades 7-8: Vivianne Joe (Zuni Pueblo Indian Housing Authority)

For the past 22 years, AMERIND has hosted a nationwide contest for youth, who compete in three different age categories. They make creative posters promoting general safety, fire prevention, or warning people not to text and drive. Students submit their posters to their respective housing authorities in nine districts. Each region votes and picks its winners, and AMERIND awards the top three poster contest winners $1,000  each.

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Over the past two decades, the contest's primary focus has been fire saftey. Roughly 72 percent of the more than $385 million in claims paid by AMERIND since 1986 have been fire-related, so AMERIND Risk takes fire prevention seriously.

"The goal is to make the younger generation understand that fire shouldn't be played with," says Kenneth Ruthardt, AMERIND Risk safety specialist. "It should be respected. It's dangerous, and it could burn the house down."

The problem is magnified when "sometimes there [are] two, three or four generations living in one house," Ruthardt points out.

While most fires are accidental and preventable, AMERIND Risk knows that intentional fires do occur. But the Tribally owned insurance provider is being proactive.

"We created an arson award program that pays up to $10,000 in the event of an arrest and indictment of the suspect," Ruthardt says. "Whoever turns in the tip on the tip line can remain anonymous, and they can receive the arson reward. We're hoping that this curbs the problem. The housing authorities are receptive."

Beyond arson, grease fires are a major hazzard. "We are educating [clients] about how grease fires happen," Ruthardt says. "If you pour water on a grease fire, it explodes up the wall and across the ceiling. It turns into a fire ball instantaneously. Never put water on it, because it makes it worse."

Housing authorities include homeowner tenant training of what to do in case of a grease fire, Ruthardt added.

Quick Grease Fire Fire Safety Tips from AMERIND Risk:

—NEVER POUR WATER on the grease fire! Water will only cause the fire to spread. Put a lid on it. If a pan catches fire, slide a lid over the pan and turn off the stove burner. Leave the lid on until it is completely cool.

—Use a fire extinguisher. Or when in doubt, GET OUT and call for help.

—If a fire starts within the oven or microwave, keep the oven or microwave door shut. Turn off the heat. If the flames do not go out, get out and call for help.

The third big potential problem in homes is electrical fires. Home inspections are necessary, Ruthardt stresses. "The issue generally results from electrical wiring in the breaker box. We've had total losses of houses due to electrical fires caused by old wiring like aluminum wiring. These are relatively simple things to discover and fix."

AMERIND Risk recommends home inspections of houses with electrical boxes to check for old aluminum wire and use of anti-oxidant tape. "The more wiring of switches, the more additional circuits that could catch fire," Ruthdardt says.

"Also going into winter time, people don't understand that extension cords can't be used all the time, because they generate heat," Ruthardt says.

He particularly underscored the fact that you should keep extension cords in open-air places. "Fire needs three elements: fuel, oxygen and heat to start," Ruthardt says. "If you cover an electrical cord with a rug, you have all the elements to start a fire."

Space heaters are another culprit; they can't run all day. "Space heaters aren't continuous sources of heat," he says.

It's also vital to take precaution. "Homes should not only have smoke detectors but fire extinguishers: one in the kitchen where fires do start and another in a different location of the house, in case the fire is in the kitchen and you can't get to that extinguisher," Ruthardt says.

As for Ruthardt, he purchased his fire extinguishers at Costco. But it doesn't stop there, education is crucial: "How to use the fire extinguisher—the PASS method: Pull, Aim Squeeze and Sweep."

Pull the safety pin from the handle.

Aim the extinguisher nozzle or hose at the base of the fire, not at the flames.

Squeeze the handle slowly to discharge the agent.

Sweep side to side, approximately 6 inches/15 centimeters from the fire until expended. Keep a safe distance from the fire.

Don't Text and Drive

AMERIND Risk is also speaking up about the dangers of texting and driving.

"You cannot do both simultaneously," Ruthardt says, pointing to studies that disprove the theory of multi-tasking. "So when you text and drive, you're either texting, you're moving for 50 or 100 feet without looking at the road. So you need to focus on driving."

"We see this everyday when on the road. If someone is swerving, more than likely, they're texting and driving. It impairs the driver to the same extent as a 0.08-percent blood alcohol content. Multi-tasking is a myth,"  Ruthardt says. And when it comes to life-threatening situations, multi-tasking like texting and driving isn't worth it.

For housing authorities and youth interested in participating in next year's safety poster contest, here are the mportant dates to remember:

March 25, 2016: Each region submits their 1st place winners to AMERIND Risk
April 1-22, 2016: National On-line Judging at
May 9-11, 2016: Poster winners will be announced (at the AMERIND Risk Annual Convention & Tradeshow)
For more information please contact the AMERIND Risk Safety Team at (505) 404-5000.

AMERIND Risk additionally offers the following fire safety tips:

Install smoke alarms on each level of your home and outside of sleeping areas and test them monthly.

Make sure there are two clear exits from each room and that everyone knows these escape routes and has practiced using them.

Never smoke when drowsy or when you’re in bed.

Use sturdy, non-tip ashtrays and check for smoldering cigarette butts in furniture – especially after parties. Douse butts and ashes with water before discarding them.

Never leave cooking food unattended. Keep cooking areas clean and clear of combustibles.

Use all space heaters with care. Keep them at 
least 36” away from combustibles.

Have your wood stove, chimney and central- 
heating system maintained, cleaned regularly and inspected annually.

Plug only one heat-producing appliance into an electrical outlet. Never override or bypass fuses or circuit breakers. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets.

Store matches and lighters up high out of sight, out of reach of little hands / children. Use only child- resistant lighters.

Never use or store gasoline inside your home. If necessary, keep a small quantity in an approved safety container locked in an outdoor shed.

Store paints, thinners, and other flammable liquids in their original containers, well away from heat, sparks or flame.

Keep papers neatly stacked and bundled, or in boxes.

Identify your house with large address numbers that the fire department can see easily.

Regional Scholarship Opportunity

AMERIND Risk contributes to a Scholarship Program that is managed by the Regional Associations. The scholarships are based on the individual regional guidelines which can be for graduate, post graduate, and trade school attendance. Each region usually will establish a committee and determine the amount of the awards by candidate. (AMERIND Risk does not issue the scholarships directly.)

Please visit or contact Nancy Harjo Serna at (505) 404-5000 for more information.

AMERIND All-West Native American Basketball Classic

Another outreach effort is the annual AMERIND All-West Native American Basketball Classic tournament, co-hosted each April with the United Native American Housing Association and the Great Plains Tribes near Denver, Colorado. This year, AMERIND's support helped to provide six $4,000 college scholarships to Native American youth. In March, volunteers and participants celebrated the tournament's 30th anniversary.

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