Basics of Extended Homeowners Replacement Coverage

When purchasing coverage for their home, too many policyholders often make the mistake of simply insuring it for the resale value. However, should a flood, storm or other event occur, they may find that the cost to rebuild far exceeds the original purchase price. This discrepancy can occur for a variety of reasons, including inflated construction costs following catastrophic events that impact multiple homes in a particular area.

To truly protect themselves, extended replacement coverage is essential. This form of coverage provides a benefit over and above the policy limits for replacing a damaged house. That means, should a covered loss occur, extended replacement coverage will kick in and pay up to a specified percentage over an insured’s policy limit—sometimes as much as 125 percent.

As an example, let’s say your $270,000 home is destroyed by a storm. Because this disaster affected an entire neighborhood, the costs of building materials and labor significantly increased due to high demand. As a result, the replacement value is estimated at $300,000—significantly over the normal replacement cost covered by standard homeowner’s policies. Without extended replacement coverage, you would likely have to pay the extra $30,000 out of pocket.

When considering homeowners insurance, extended replacement coverage is critical. While skimping on this protection may lower your coverage costs slightly, those savings will mean nothing should disaster strike and lead to tens of thousands of dollars in losses.

Get Started

Homeowners insurance can be complicated, and it’s importantto discuss your unique needs with an expert. To secure a policy that’s rightfor you, contact us today.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists

Unfortunately, many people wrongly assume that auto and umbrella insurance policies will provide reimbursement for all aspects of an accident on the road. Instead, both of these policies cover your own liability and provide compensation to others in the event that you are responsible for an accident. However, if another driver causes an accident and doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to compensate you, your own auto or umbrella policies may not be enough.

If another driver doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for your medical bills, you could face extremely high costs or lengthy court battles. However, by purchasing stand-alone uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage, or by adding the coverage as an endorsement to your umbrella policy, you can be fully protected on the road.

Why Isn’t There Coverage?

Auto insurance is required in most states because all drivers on the road essentially put their trust in one another to not get into an accident. As a result, your regular auto insurance policy will reimburse another driver if you are the cause of an accident. In a similar way, umbrella policies provide you with excess coverage for a number of different personal liabilities.

However, if another driver doesn’t have enough coverage to fully pay for the damage of an accident, you could be left to pay the bills yourself.

  • Uninsured motorists simply don’t purchase an auto insurance policy. As a result, if they cause an accident, there isn’t a policy in place to reimburse you for medical bills. According to the Insurance Research Council, approximately 1 in 7 drivers in the United States are completely uninsured.
  • Underinsured motorists have an insurance policy, but don’t have a high enough coverage limit to pay for all of the expenses of an accident. Some states only require a small amount of coverage, which won’t be enough to pay all of your medical expenses.

To protect yourself from these risks, it’s important to contact us about a stand-alone policy or an endorsement to your umbrella coverage.

Coverage Specifics

Without UM or UIM coverage, you’re essentially paying more for the protection of strangers than you are for yourself and your family. And, although uninsured and underinsured drivers are all too common, many people believe that they’re already covered if someone else causes an accident.

UM or UIM policies are available, as are endorsements to umbrella policies that can protect you from uninsured or underinsured drivers. In fact, in many states, you may be required to purchase UM or UIM coverage. However, just like a normal auto policy, there are some aspects of this coverage that you should consider.

Depending on the state, you may only be required to purchase a small amount of UM or UIM coverage. However, since these policies will protect you and your family in the event of an accident, it’s generally a good idea to purchase the same amount of coverage as your regular auto policy. Coverage is also inexpensive.

Latest Safety Features for New Car Shoppers

Vehicle technology seems to advance each year, as new features improve driver and passenger safety. The following are just a few driver-assist features to be aware of the next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle:

  • Adaptive cruise control: This type of cruise control automatically speeds or slows down your car based on the actions of the vehicles in front of you. This tool can help reduce the likelihood and severity of rear-end collisions.
  • Automatic braking: Automatic braking devices are designed to reduce the severity of high-speed collisions in the event of a lapse of driver attention. These devices can predict impending crashes and help combat distracted driving.
  • Blind-spot detection: Through the use of sensors, blind-spot detection systems sound an alarm in the event that an object is in your blind spot. These devices can help reduce accidents on the highway and are particularly useful for changing lanes.

If you purchase a vehicle with driver-assist features, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how they work. Doing so can help keep you safe on the road and allow you to get the most out of crash-prevention technology.

The Independent Agent Advantage

What do I give up by not using a licensed independent agent to purchase insurance?

The disadvantage of not using a licensed agent to purchase insurance is that the policyholder does not receive as much, or often any, personal service. A licensed agent with whom there is direct contact can be vital when purchasing a product and absolutely necessary when filing a claim. Without an agent to act as your personal advocate during the claims process, you are left to take care of the details on your own. You may be unsure who to contact at the insurance company or who you can really trust to help you during the times in life when you need help the most. Without an agent you are on your own to absorb the frustration and expense of resolving your problems.

The disadvantage of not using a licensed independent agent to purchase insurance is that agents who only represent one insurance company can only offer insurance based on that one company’s policies and rate structures. As an independent agency we represent numerous insurance companies and are deeply familiar with the intricate differences between them. Therefore we are able to match your needs with the best company to meet those needs and your budget without having to sacrifice coverage in order to find affordability.

What’s the risk in not using an agent?

Many insurance companies that can be called directly as a customer fail to tell you that the “call center personnel” who will take your information and issue the policy ARE NOT licensed to sell insurance, therefore lacking the professional knowledge to guide you toward an acceptable level of protection. These companies are conducting business using a loophole within the law which allows the company to have one license while everyone else works without it. Going this route can place your financial future at risk because unlicensed personnel are trained to simply sell you a policy without being aware of what “real” protection means.

For instance, imagine you own a $150,000 home and your auto insurance policy’s liability limits are $50,000. When you purchased the policy you were told this was plenty of protection considering your state’s minimum requirement for liability is $20,000. Yet if you have an accident and are sued for $200,000 your policy is only going to pay out $50k, leaving you responsible for the remaining $150k. Since your home would cover the difference, a court judgment could force you into selling your home as a way to settle the suit. If your policy’s liability limits had protected you at a minimum of $200,000, the policy would be paying for the total suit.

Because direct writers are typically located nowhere near where you live, many won’t hesitate to sell you a policy with low liability limits as a way to simply make the policy cheaper while convincing you to buy it. Leaving you extremely vulnerable to financial disaster.

Looking for an agent with your best interests at heart? That’s exactly why we’re here.

 

Lightning and Summer Storms

Lightning storms are incredibly dangerous and more deadly than tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. When a storm is on the verge of striking your area, you need to know the steps to take in order to protect your family and home.

Use these tips to stay safe during a lightning storm:

  • Seek shelter in an enclosed building, if possible.
  • If you are in a car, stay inside and keep the windows securely rolled up.
  • Do not use a small shed, pavilion or lean-to as shelter—they do not provide enough protection.
  • Do not use a landline telephone during a storm. Instead, use a cellular or cordless phone that is not connected to the building’s wiring.
  • If you’re outside during a lightning storm, get as close to the ground as possible without placing your hands or knees on the ground.
  • Avoid seeking shelter near trees, metal fences, pipes or tall and long objects.
  • If you are swimming, boating or fishing, seek shelter on land immediately.

If someone you know is struck by lightning, contact emergency personnel immediately. A lightning strike can cause the heart to stop and a person to stop breathing.

If you have the proper medical training, administer CPR to victims who do not have a pulse and treat conscious victims for burns, fractures and other wounds.

Quick Tips for Safe RV Usage

Recreational vehicles (RVs) can be a fun way to see the country and spend time with your family. However, because they’re bigger and heavier than an average car, there are additional hazards that come with owning and operating an RV.

Many RV accidents can be avoided by following these helpful tips:

  • Know the weight capacity of your RV.
  • Perform a complete pre-trip inspection. Check the tire pressure, tread depth, headlights, tail lights, turn signals, belts, oil levels, hitch and other towing equipment, and windshield wipers before leaving.
  • Know the height of your RV and pay close attention to overhangs and clearance heights.
  • Watch your speed, especially at night and during dusk.
  • Slow down on blind curve areas of the roadway.
  • Use your high beams at night to see animals and other obstructions.
  • Always wear a seat belt.

Is Gap Coverage Right for You?

Guaranteed asset protection, or gap insurance is an optional automobile coverage that helps you transfer the financial risk if you are involved in an auto accident and you owe more for your vehicle than the amount that it’s worth. This is referred to as being “upside-down.”

Since a new car’s value drops significantly the minute it’s driven off the lot, if you are involved in an accident that totals your vehicle in the first few years you own your vehicle, you may find yourself owing the finance company more than the vehicle’s actual value. Gap insurance provides for the “gap” between the two amounts.

Is Gap Insurance for Everyone?

New vehicle financing options: If you took advantage of a zero percent down payment deal or put a small amount of money down, or stretched the life of your loan past 3 years, gap insurance is most likely a good idea. That’s because the vehicle typically depreciates considerably faster than you have actually paid down the vehicle’s loan.

Used vehicles: Gap insurance is typically not available for used vehicles. To cover your risk, it’s wise to put down an ample down payment and finance the vehicle for the shortest possible timeframe.

Leased vehicles: For those who lease a vehicle, gap insurance is considered an essential coverage because typically there is no trade-in and little cash put down to lease the vehicle. Similar to purchasing a vehicle, if the car is a total loss, you will owe the difference between what you have paid and what you owe on the balance of the lease.

Cost versus benefit: Gap insurance is offered for a nominal fee, which makes it a great value for anyone who finances or leases a new car.

We’re Here to Help

Depending on your vehicle’s make, model and loan terms, we can help you determine if gap insurance is the right choice for you. If you’re purchasing a new vehicle, contact us to learn about how gap insurance can complement your auto policy coverage options and keep you from getting caught upside-down!

Building A Better Summer Camp Experience

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Careful planning can help keep summer camp fun and safe.

Spring is a busy season for parents reserving spots for their children in summer camps and activities, and many health, tennis, racquet and athletic clubs are starting to ramp up for summer.

If you are a club owner, you are probably finalizing the types of camps you will offer. Once you decide among sports, arts and crafts, adventure or other activities and determine the age groups you will serve, you can move on to other details. Here are some areas of primary concern:

Hiring/Leadership

Putting the right person in position to lead your camp programs is vital. You may not be around every minute of every camp day, and you want someone in charge who shares your vision and understands the mission of your organization.

The right leader can:

  • manage staff expectations
  • keep everyone organized and on task
  • react to a quickly changing environment
  • keep safety a top priority
  • communicate well

Get your leadership team in place early, and then involve them in hiring and training any remaining staff.

Training

Training for camp leaders and staff should cover:

  • emergency medical response – defibrillator (AED), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid
  • your established camp policies and protocols
  • swim safety, including lifeguard training
  • emergency weather training
  • discipline policies
  • abuse awareness and protocols
  • communication plans and other safety protocols for field trips and activities

Partnering with recognized community organizations – such as the Red Cross for lifeguard or CPR training, child advocacy groups, local hospitals or local police, fire and EMS services – can increase the credibility and effectiveness of your training. Make sure your staff members – especially younger members – gain some basic understanding of childhood development and behavior.

Activities

Pools – Define expectations and responsibilities for your camp staff and lifeguards to assure smooth swim times. Be clear if camp staff need to remain in the pool area to provide extra supervision while lifeguards are in charge.

Field Trips – A cornerstone of most summer camp programs, field trips also present some of the biggest safety challenges. Unfamiliar locations with unknown hazards – along with the added element of contact with the public – call for heightened awareness and protocols. Increase staffing or add volunteers to reduce the ratio of children to adults. Take frequent head counts and position staff members where they are most needed. Protocols should prevent a sole staff member or volunteer from being alone with children.

Transportation – Whether you use parent volunteer drivers, own or lease vans or buses or contract a third-party bus company, have measures in place to assure safety.. When using a bus company, your contract should hold the company liable for any injury that occurs while campers are on the bus. For in-house transportation, hire trained drivers and check their driving credentials.

Allergies – As you prepare for summer camp thoroughly review participant applications for allergies, medical conditions or personal issues. Involve staff in action planning and in sit-down meetings with parents and guardians to assure each child has a safe and fun summer.

Equipment – Inspect the play set and other equipment, picnic tables and anything that may have been in storage since last summer to make sure everything is in good working order.

Providing a wonderful camp experience for the children you serve can be a rewarding experience for you and your staff, create memories for the youth and help cement the families as dedicated, satisfied members of your club. Planning for the expected – and the unexpected – can help everyone involved confidently focus on the fun!

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

The Insurance Side of House Flipping

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Remember insurance needs when flipping a house.

It’s now a popular reality TV show scenario: A young, ambitious couple purchases a foreclosed property and flips it for a huge profit. This quick cash flow seems too good to be true… and certainly can be.

The thrill of flipping a home often overshadows the harsh reality that profitable house-flipping opportunities are few and far between. Potential house flippers should consider some insurance coverage issues before making a commitment:

  • Contemplate the cost of insurance when purchasing a home. If the house does not sell within a few months, insurance is a continuing expense that needs to be included in your budget.
  • Make sure you do your research when selecting an insurance company and policy. Your local independent agent can help you. Some insurance policies provide additional coverages you may need. Consider choosing one that provides limited coverage for water damage and fungi, wet or dry rot or bacteria. These issues often go unnoticed until after a remodeling project begins.
  • Discuss with your agent the need to insure the home for its reconstruction cost. Just because you purchased a home for a certain price does not mean that the home can be replaced for that amount. There can be a huge discrepancy between market and replacement cost values. Your agent can also recommend builders’ risk coverage for the remodeling cost of the project.
  • Consider the cost of building materials going into the refurbished home. Your insurance agent can add an installation floater – coverage for movable property – to your policy to insure construction materials in transit and at the jobsite.
  • Allow plenty of time to purchase insurance rather than waiting until the last minute. Contact your agent and consider an insurance company that will provide coverage for a house undergoing renovation. Some companies may consider this a vacant home and deny or limit coverage for vandalism, theft or other perils.
  • Before you allow contractors to start work on your investment, first confirm that they are insured. The safest bet is to request a copy of each contractor’s general liability policy declarations page. Make sure that the policy has at least a $1 million per occurrence and general aggregate limit.

By keeping these insurance needs in mind, you will better position yourself to reap in the benefits and rewards of house flipping, protecting your investment and personal assets at the same time.

Planning a Hotel or Motel Stay? Think About Fire Safety

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Count the doors between your room and the exit.

An estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires are reported each year in the United States. Use these tips to ensure that you stay safe during your vacation or business overnight.

Plan Ahead

  • Choose a hotel or motel that is protected by both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system. The U.S. Fire Administration provides a master list you can search to find hotels and motels that adhere to life safety requirements.
  • Pack a flashlight and keep it on your nightstand in case you need to escape in the dark.

Familiarize Yourself

  • Read the fire evacuation plan carefully. If one is not posted in your room, request one from the front desk.
  • Locate the two exits nearest your room and fire alarms on your floor.
  • Count the number of doors between your room and the exits to assist you in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Escape Safely

  • If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.
  • If the fire is not in your room, touch the door with the back of your hand to see if it is safe to leave.
    • If your room door is hot, do not open it. Instead, seal the door with wet towels or sheets. Turn off the fan, heater and air conditioner. Call the fire department to give your location.
    • If the door is cool, open it slowly. Be ready to close it quickly if there are flames on the other side. Take your room key with you in case fire blocks your escape and you need to re-enter your room.
  • Stay low by crawling on the ground, where the smoke is the least dense, to the nearest exit.
  • Always use a stairwell, never an elevator.

Source: U.S. Fire Administration website. Download the complete USFA Hotel Fire Safety handbook.

Getting the Most Out of Your HVAC System This Summer

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April showers bring May flowers… and often June, July and August heat waves. If you’d like to enjoy your HVAC cooling system to the fullest this summer without breaking the bank, spring is the time to take a few simple steps to prepare.

First Things First

Why not do a test run of your cooling system right now? This way, you can see how well it’s working and troubleshoot any issues before the thermometer soars way out of sight. Besides safeguarding your family comfort, you’ll be able to quickly get professional help for problems that are beyond your DIY scope. Rule of thumb: HVAC technicians are almost invariably easier to get hold of during the off-peak season – and their rates may reflect this.

Next, go outside and inspect the exterior unit for debris, dead leaves and plant growth that have the potential to block the airflow.

Regular Maintenance

Make sure you check your HVAC filter regularly. During heavy summer use, the filter will likely need to be washed or replaced about once a month (possibly more if you live in an especially dusty area or have house pets). While you’re at it, dust the grates as well. Clean the evaporator coils annually, straightening any bent ones.

Schedule your annual HVAC tune-up if you are due for one. A system that is over 10 years old may need some additional maintenance so you want to make sure you’ve got the time to get it all tuned up before you’ll be depending on it.

Save Electricity … and Cash

Use your HVAC system’s programmable thermostat to schedule operation for times when you are at home. Efficient use of this handy device can save you close to $200 per year on your utility bills. When your family’s schedule changes, reassess your needs and adjust the programmable thermostat if appropriate.

For further savings, set the thermostat a few degrees higher than you normally would and use a low-energy-consumption fan to help circulate the cool air. Ceiling fans should be switched to turn in the correct direction (counter-clockwise); this directs hot air upward and away from the center of the room.

Keep Cool Air In, Hot Air Out

Prevent leakage of precious cool air by sealing around the HVAC unit and your ducts’ seams and connections. Then wrap the ducts in insulation. If the ducts pass through an attic space, consider insulating that too. Sealing and insulation require a certain amount of effort but will be well worthwhile in energy efficiency both summer and winter.

It’s recommended to seal around windows, doors and baseboards also or even to replace windows if necessary.

Close your windows and drapes during the day to exclude the hot air; then open them at night to ventilate your home. You may wish to install interior or exterior blinds, shutters, shades or awnings, particularly on south- or west-facing windows. Additional energy effective window treatments such as reflective films and insulated panels are available as well.

Reduce the heat that is generated inside your home by using your electric clothes dryer during cooler hours and cooking at off-peak times, microwaving or barbecuing outdoors.

Be Sure to Super Protect Your Super IDs

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Here’s a little quiz. Where is your Social Security card right now? What about your passport? Your birth certificate?

Choose one:

  1. In the safe deposit box at my bank or in a locked file cabinet or fire-rated document chest at home
  2. I’m not sure, but they must be around here somewhere
  3. In my purse, wallet or briefcase

If you answered anything but Option 1, imagine your favorite television game show buzzer. Try again!

Passports, birth certificates and Social Security cards are “SUPER IDs.” With these items in hand, a criminal can easily create bogus accounts in your name or hijack legitimate accounts you own. In fact, with these items, criminals can assume your identity and do just about anything they want, costing you money, reputation and your precious time to straighten everything out.

The best way to thwart criminals is to leave at home any documents you don’t immediately need. Lock them in a file cabinet, a home safe or a safe deposit box at a bank. Sure, when applying for a new job or in some other situation where you need proof of citizenship, you’ll need to carry primary identification with you. But lock these documents up when you get home.

Don’t make it easy for criminals. A purse or briefcase is a prime target.

Along those same lines, don’t leave purses, briefcases or backpacks unattended or visible in your car.

It is also a good idea to make photocopies, front and back, of all ID cards, credit cards and other items that you may carry in your purse or wallet. This information will be very helpful in the event the card is misplaced or stolen.

Smart Parents Monitor Smartphone & Tablet Gifts

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Did you get your kids a smartphone or tablet this holiday season? With schools using technology in classes and kids being exposed to these devices at an early age, the question is often a matter of when, not if. Parents may have questions and concerns about how to keep kids safe online. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Set The Rules
The first thing you can do to help protect your children online is to set ground rules:

  • Outline how much time during the day they can spend on the device
  • Establish who your children can call
  • Discuss how to behave respectfully online

Many cell phone providers offer parental controls and location services to help you manage usage times and limit who your child can place calls to and receive calls from.

You may also want to consider having your child sign a cell phone contract with you.

Social Networking Safety
With devices come apps, and many social networking apps involve setting up a profile and sharing information around common interests or activities. These apps can be fun and addicting, but if you aren’t familiar with them yourself, they can be intimidating. Check out the sites and services your child uses.

Discuss what is and is not appropriate to post, so that your child doesn’t share more information online than you are comfortable with. The following tips from the National Crime Prevention Council can help your child think before he or she posts:

  • Should I share this? Will the information I share put me or someone else in danger?
  • Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with? Is it a good idea to let everyone know my exact location?
  • Am I selecting online friends that I can trust? It’s not just about what I post, but how others may use that content.
  • Is the information I am sharing transparent? Before I share information to the public, does my post give out too much personal information?

Prevent Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying involves threats or harassment that happens online. This can be words or pictures that are posted with the intention of hurting someone’s reputation or feelings. The OnGuardOnline website sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission gives tips to recognize and prevent cyber bullying and provides additional resources for parents. The Cyberbullying Research Center also provides guidelines for parents.

Early Preparation for a Winter Blizzard

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It goes without saying that one area’s definition of a blizzard is not necessarily another area’s definition. Yet all things being equal – when it’s best to stay home then it’s best to be prepared.

Long-range weather predictions for 2014-2015 suggest another cold winter is on its way across much of the U.S. Severe winter weather ̶ including blizzards ̶-is a reality. So how does one prepare for a blizzard?

The first inclination for many of us is to drive to the closest grocery store and stock up on the essentials to help carry us through the upcoming event! While adequate provisions are an important consideration, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and your family:

  • Pay close attention to weather warnings and alerts so you know the storm’s timeline.
  • Charge electronic devices. Now is the time to adequately charge your cell phone, laptop
  • or other electronic devices. Once charged, try not to use them unless absolutely necessary. You may want to consider purchasing a hand-crank charger to serve your devices. A battery-operated radio is also a good investment.
  • Stay inside and off the roads. You risk being stranded in your vehicle, which could be life threatening. In addition, municipalities typically ban travel in extreme winter weather.
  • Have an adequate supply of non-perishable food already stored at your home. Don’t wait until the storm hits, because supplies in stores could be depleted. Remember to plan for pets.
  • Have an adequate supply of water. Experts suggest a gallon of clean drinking water per person, per day. Again, don’t forget pets!
  • Blankets and warm clothing seems obvious. However, you will need enough blankets to keep warm in an emergency in case your normal electric or gas heat is disrupted. Consider hooded sweatshirts and mittens.
  • Have a sufficient supply of prescription medications on hand.
  • A camping stove or grill can be a wise investment. However, be careful to properly ventilate when cooking with any combustible fuel to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • You may want to consider an emergency electrical generator as an alternate source of power.
  • If your home sustains any damage as a result of the storm, please contact your insurance agent or representative immediately to file a claim.

With any luck, the storm will be short-lived and your supplies will be sufficient for the duration of the storm. When the danger has passed, remember to restock on non-perishable food and other supplies. If appropriate steps are taken, the memory of the storm will be just that, a good memory.

More information about planning for extreme weather is available in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s How to Prepare for a Winter Storm guide.

Holiday Shopping: 12 Precautions to Protect Youself & Your Property

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With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us are out shopping and enjoying the festivities. In this joyous atmosphere, we also need to be aware of our surroundings and develop a safe routine because unscrupulous individuals may be out to take advantage of our festive mood.

Some things to keep in mind when you are out:

  • Never leave valuable items in clear view in your vehicle – thieves target your car for items they see; put your valuables in the trunk
  • Always lock your vehicle when you park
  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Park in an area with heavy foot traffic, not in an isolated spot
  • When stopping for fuel, always lock your vehicle if you leave it
  • When pumping gas, lock the doors on the other side of the car to prevent thieves from grabbing your purse or other valuables while your attention is diverted
  • Never leave your keys in your car or the ignition – your car key ring usually has your house keys on it, and this could prove dangerous and costly
  • When you are out at malls, parking areas and ATMs, be aware of your surroundings:
    • Always make sure your valuables are secured.
    • If you carry a purse or satchel, make it safe from people taking it from you; don’t leave your purse in the seat of a shopping cart

    If you do become a victim:

    • Immediately notify police and provide them with as much information as you can concerning the property taken
    • Immediately, while the information is fresh in your mind, note a description of the responsible individual and his or her vehicle, license plate number or other identifying information
    • Make note of the direction the thief fled, and pass that information to the authorities

    Enjoy the holiday season, protecting your family and fun by taking good precautions.

Choose Your Card Wisely to Protect Your Money

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These days it seems most people find it convenient to use credit or debit cards rather than carry cash or write checks for each purchase. Recent headlines concerning account information breaches should be of concern to all card users.

Important differences between credit cards and debit cards may affect your decision about which to use for your purchases. Keeping these differences in mind when making purchases might help you protect your money if your accounts are hacked. Debit cards act like an electronic checkbook. When you use a debit card, money you have in your bank account is immediately “debited” and transferred to the merchant where you used the card. When you use a debit card, you are granting access directly to YOUR money in YOUR account.

Credit cards draw the bank’s money from a line of credit the issuing bank has granted to you. In other words, when you use your credit card, you are taking a loan of the bank’s money – and the merchant (or cybercriminal) does not have access to YOUR money.

Another significant difference between these two types of cards is that debit cards may allow only two days after a fraudulent debit has been taken from your account for you to challenge that debit, while the time to challenge fraudulent credit card charges is more generous.

You can tell the difference between the two types of cards by how you use them. If you need to enter a personal identification number (PIN), the card is a debit card.

While it is bad enough to have a credit card account hacked, at least you still have your money available to you while you fight the fraudulent charges. However, when it is YOUR money that is stolen when using a debit card, you no longer have access to that money while you fight the debit from your account.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government agency that insures deposits to banks and thrifts, offers a more detailed explanation of the differences between debit and credit cards, as well as a helpful chart describing the two types of cards.

Source: cinfin.com

Holiday Gift Wrapping Hack

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For all those smaller to average sized gifts, here’s a very simple and amazing hack which shows what might be the best way to wrap a gift ever! In the video two gifts are wrapped in under 30 seconds using just 2 pieces of tape and the technique starts with angling the box to the paper’s corner. There’s got to be something to this method we can all learn from.

Keeping Your Teen Driver Safe on the Road

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National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 19-25.

It’s an exciting time in teens’ lives when they first begin driving, but it’s also an extraordinarily dangerous time as distractions seem to be everywhere. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for kids and young adults ages 14 through 18.

Despite this, the NHTSA says just 25 percent of parents have a serious talk with their kids about the key components of safe driving.

So, with National Teen Driver Safety Week coming up October 19-25, here are five recommended rules to spell out before your teen gets behind the wheel:

1. Absolutely no alcohol.
There is no legal limit for alcohol when it comes to teen drivers. Having any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal for all those under 21, everywhere. On average, according to the NHTSA, 25 percent of deaths in motor vehicle crashes involve a teen driver with a blood-alcohol content of .01 or higher.

2. Seat belts required.
Drivers and passengers ages 16 to 24 historically use seat belts less often than other groups. Let teens know that seat belt use is non-negotiable. It’s the easiest way to protect themselves in a crash. And, set a good example by buckling up yourself.

3. Never speed.
Teenagers may like to push the limits, but the road isn’t the place to do so. Speeding doesn’t simply put them at risk for a ticket. It increases the risk of a deadly accident as well.

4. No calls, no texts.
It’s never a good idea for anyone to call or text while driving, but, because teens lack experience behind the wheel, distracted driving is all the more risky. Reaction times are slower when someone is distracted. Even worse, sending or reading a text means a driver’s eyes aren’t on the road.

5. Only one passenger (or zero, depending on your state’s licensing guidelines for young drivers).
As the number of passengers rises, so does the risk of a fatal crash, the NHTSA says. Think back to when you were a teen driver — how different were your actions when you had friends in the car versus when you were alone?

Let young drivers know that driving is a privilege and that you’ll take away the keys if they don’t drive safely. Then, have regular conversations about driving safety and other issues to ensure the lessons don’t fall by the wayside. Soon, you’ll have another trusted and responsible driver in the family – maybe even one that qualifies for a car insurance discount.

Keep Your Trick or Treaters Safe This Halloween

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It’s dark, and the sidewalks are full of young kids walking up to every house on the block and declaring, “trick or treat!” — all while wearing masks. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but we all know that Halloween is great fun for children and adults alike.

Before all that fun, however, there are some basic precautions you should take to ensure the whole family has a safe and sane Halloween. Here are some tips from the experts at the U.S. Product Safety Commission and other agencies:

Get the right fit for costumes.
Masks that are too big can slide around and block a child’s vision. A cape that is too long can cause trips and falls. Baggy clothing can easily brush against a candle and catch fire. So make sure those costumes fit. And don’t forget accessories. Whether they’re play swords or wands, they should be soft and flexible.

Know where you’re going before you leave.
If you’re going to be out after dark, it makes sense to stick to places you know. Go to familiar neighborhoods and only approach houses that have their outside lights on. Finally, never let kids enter a stranger’s home without an adult accompanying them.

Keep things bright.
Because you’ll likely be walking around at night, it’s crucial that drivers and other people can see your group. Carry glow sticks and strong flashlights, both for your own vision and so you’re visible to others. Put reflective tape (usually available at hardware and sporting-goods stores) on costumes, clothing and candy bags. And, if you’re taking pets out with you, make sure they can be seen, too. You can add reflective tape or attach a flashing light to collars or leashes.

Check out the candy.
Your kids are going to be eating the stuff, so, when you get home, make sure nobody has tampered with it. You’ll want to watch for choking hazards as well if you have young children. Finally, be sure to keep the loot away from your pets. Candy isn’t good for them, and some ingredients, such as chocolate, can be toxic.

There are plenty of opportunities for fun on Halloween, but dangerous situations are lurking as well. Remember that a little planning will go a long way toward safety on October 31.

And don’t forget moderation. A little candy goes a long way, too!

Heating Systems Need Preseason Maintenance & Inspection

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With football season already upon us, can winter heating season be far behind? Whether you are maintaining a home heating system or equipment at your business, preventive maintenance is important, especially for hot water or steam heating boilers.

Heating boilers can cause extensive damage due to explosion and can be more costly to replace than gas or electric furnaces.

Neglected maintenance can be costly for owners who may overlook this important and expensive equipment. A modest investment in a sound maintenance program for gas furnaces, hot water boilers, steam boilers and high-efficiency boilers can return dividends all winter long for owners or operators.

For many business owners or homeowners, this can mean fewer emergency repair bills, more efficient operation (lower fuel costs) and longer equipment life.

YOUR PRESEASON CHECKLIST

For hot water or steam boilers:

  • Clean the internal (water) side of the boiler
  • Inspect and clean burners
  • Ensure that low water fuel cutouts are functioning properly
  • Inspect and test all controls and safety devices
  • Clean or replace all air inlet filters as needed

In addition, make sure the automatic dampers for outside air are working properly so the boiler room does not freeze due to broken windows or damper control issues.

For gas furnaces:

  • Inspect and clean burners
  • Inspect and test all controls and safety devices
  • Check the combustion blower housing for lint or debris and clean as needed
  • Clean or replace all air inlet filters as needed

Ensure the inlet/return air and exhaust flues cannot be blocked by snow or pest infestation, such as a bird’s nest.

DURING THE HEATING SEASON

Test the low water cutout control on any steam heating boiler at least once each week, and test other safety devices regularly.

Owners or operators who are unfamiliar with controls and safety devices can hire a reliable service organization to check and service the equipment prior to and during the heating season. Most heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractors will inspect and check over 20 different items on a gas furnace during their inspection.

Remember, the best offense is a good defense when it comes to taking care of your heating equipment! A planned preventive maintenance program may be just the ticket.

Burn, Rake, or Mow? A Seasonal Question?

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The warm days and cool nights of autumn will soon arrive along with those beautiful leaves that we all enjoy so much. As majestic as those trees look while the leaves are still attached, what do we do when leaves begin falling to the ground, covering the landscape?

Many of us have happy childhood memories of burning leaves. But is that really the best alternative?

Many municipalities now either ban or discourage the burning of yard waste. Before you burn, check with local authorities or your state’s department of natural resources to see whether a permit is required. If you live in an area prone to forest or wildfires, you may have “red flag” burning restrictions in place.

Leaf burning contributes to air pollution, health risks for some, and fire hazards:

  • Smoke from burning leaves contains toxic or irritating particles and gases that can increase the risk of respiratory infection.
  • Carbon monoxide can result from incomplete burning, especially when leaves are wet. Inhaled carbon monoxide is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it can reduce the amount of oxygen that red blood cells carry.
  • Local fire departments can attest to house fires that have resulted due to unsafe burning of leaves.

Fortunately, there are some very good alternatives to traditional leaf burning. You may be fortunate to have a municipality that will pick up the raked leaves if left at the curb, either in a pile or in appropriate bags. Check with your city or county government for details.

Another great option is to compost the leaves yourself or to use the leaves as mulch around garden and landscape beds.

Of course, you also have the option of just mulching the leaves with the lawnmower. They make an excellent soil conditioner. Today’s mowers do an excellent job of shredding the leaves into very small pieces.

After you’re done with your yard work, you can always enjoy a safe fire in your fireplace!

Source: cinfin.com

Kids, The School Bus, And You

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For over twenty-three million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. The greatest risk is not riding the bus, but approaching or leaving the bus. Before children go back to school or start school for the first time, it is essential that adults and children know traffic safety rules.

Drivers

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
  • Slow down. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
    • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Children

  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it’s okay before stepping onto the bus.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
  • Use the handrails to avoids falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings, and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
  • Never walk behind the bus.
  • Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
  • Teach children to follow these common sense practices to make school bus transportation safer.

Source: nhtsa.gov

Preparing Your Student and Car Coverage For College

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Having a car at college can give a student the freedom to come and go from work or to explore surrounding areas without depending on others. But having a car also means greater responsibility. Here are some common driving situations that you and your college student should discuss before your student and their car heads to college.

Driving in a new area – Urge your young driver to learn the laws in the new community, as they may differ from your hometown. Are U-turns legal? Can you turn right on red? How about turning left on red on a one-way street? Failing to obey local traffic laws may result in a ticket or an accident. The Governors Highway Safety Association website offers a state-by-state look at traffic laws, including regulations for distracted driving, seatbelts, speed limits and work zones. Most colleges have a community liaison office that can provide information about local laws.

Allowing others to drive or being the default driver – Set rules and expectations for who can use the car. When your student is the only roommate or the only one among a group to have a vehicle at school, he or she may become the default driver. Worse, the student may allow others to drive the car. Both result in the car being used more than expected and having a higher risk of an accident. Check with your insurance agent to understand the terms of your auto policy and make sure appropriate coverage is in place if this is the circumstance you may find yourself in. While you may be confident of your student’s driving skills, the driving capability of roommates and friends is an unknown.

Alcohol – While everyone hopes and expects their college student to be responsible when it comes to alcohol, college is a time where experimentation can occur. Even the most responsible person cannot think clearly under the influence of alcohol and may decide to drive, allow someone else who was drinking to drive, or to ride with an impaired driver. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers a resource guide, “College Drinking,” for parents to use when talking to their college students about alcohol use.

Claims resulting from a motor vehicle accident can have an adverse effect on insurability and insurance costs, whether the auto policy is in the parents’ or the student’s name. Accidents, tickets or other violations may cause insurance premiums to increase. If the car is loaned to another person who then causes an accident, the owner of the vehicle may be held liable. Similarly, if your student borrows someone else’s car and causes an accident, you may be liable if the claim exceeds the car owner’s limits of insurance. Your insurance company will consider all of these factors when deciding how much premium to charge or even whether to renew your policy.

The freedom of being able to drive and go wherever you want, whenever you want, is important to those on the cusp of adulthood, but it is equally important to stay grounded with rules about who can drive and when.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

Source: cinfin.com

An Simple Equation for Life Insurance

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Test the Rule of 3.6%

How do you know if you own enough life insurance? Life Insurance can never replace a husband, wife or parent, but for most it’s intended to restore the income a family depends on in a loved one’s absence. The Rule of 3.6% might be helpful in answering how much insurance you should own.

Here is the simple calculation:

Let’s say you own $250,000 in life insurance, $120,000 of which is intended to pay off the mortgage at time of death. Your beneficiaries would be left with $130,000 to invest or allocate for other purposes. You may think, “That looks like a proper sum.” But how can you evaluate how this remaining $130,000 might provide toward the monthly income your spouse and children will need?

The Rule of 3.6% is a simple guide to estimate the approximate monthly amount your life insurance proceeds might provide if invested with a return of 3.6%.

Test the formula for yourself:
Take $130,000 and cross out the last four numbers. That leaves 13. Multiply 13 by 30. That equals $390 per month.

If you find this monthly income amount surprising small, you are not alone. Even when major family debts are paid off, a monthly income amount this small may present a financial challenge that is too great for your family to overcome.

Most people never prepare to leave their loved ones to struggle, but very few evaluate their life insurance needs with this simple formula. With so much at risk, why not ask us for more information? You may be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of different life insurance choices.

Source: Note: The investment return example of 3.6% is hypothetical and for illustration purposes only. It does not indicate or assume any specific account or investment recommendation. This calculation does not take into consideration all the factors considered in a complete analysis.

Protect Your College Student’s Possessions

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Do you have a young adult attending college?

College can be a fun time for the student but a stressful one for the parent. Reduce some of the stress by planning ahead to make sure your college student has appropriate insurance protection while away at school.

Insurance companies cover full-time students under age 25 in various ways. If you have any questions at all you’ll want to consult with us about your specific policy and situation.

There are three basic ways a student may have coverage:

  1. As a percentage of the personal property limit on the parents’ homeowner policy. Many insurance companies consider campus housing a secondary residence for the student and may cover your student’s possessions as a percentage of the personal property limit on your homeowner policy – personal property means items you can remove from your home or premises. For example, if you have $75,000 in personal property coverage, your student may have 10 percent of that, or up to $7,500, in coverage for belongings taken to school. Liability coverage – which insures legal liability for bodily injury or property damage to others – may not be included.
  2. As part of the personal property limit included in the parents’ homeowner policy. Some insurance companies offer broader coverage through their homeowner policies. These companies allow the parents’ personal property limit to include the student’s belongings and liability without defining a percentage. For example, if you have $75,000 in personal property coverage on your homeowner policy, this includes items you have in your home as well as those that your student takes to school, and liability coverage is automatically included.
  3. Under a separate renter’s insurance policy in the student’s name. Some insurance companies contend that being away at school for nine months of the year is long enough to require a separate renter’s policy to cover belongings and liability. Liability insurance is usually included in a renter’s policy. Keep in mind that a renter’s policy in the student’s name may be the more expensive option. However, renter’s insurance does not cost much to being with. In most situations, each roommate will need a separate insurance policy.

As your child is away at school, remember to ask your independent insurance agent to review your policy if need be so that you and your student can make the transition to college as stress-free as possible.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

Source: cinfin.com

School Bus Safety For Children And Drivers

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With schools now full of activity for the fall, school buses are once again traveling the roads.

While statistically school buses are the safest method to transport children to school, it’s a good time for parents to remind children to follow safety rules while on the bus and at the bus stop.

At the bus stop:

  • Allow plenty of time to arrive at the bus stop. Children hurrying to catch the bus may make careless mistakes that could lead to injury.
  • Always walk, DO NOT RUN to the bus stop.
  • Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left side facing traffic.
  • Stand at least six feet away from the curb to be visible to the bus driver. For most children, this would be approximately three big steps. The bus driver sits high in the seat and may not be able to see anyone standing on the curb.
  • Never speak to strangers at the bus stop, and never get into a car with a stranger.

On the bus:

  • Walk directly to a seat and sit down.
  • Do not hang out the windows or throw things on the bus.
  • Always stay seated when the bus is moving – wait until the bus has stopped before retrieving dropped items.
  • Talk quietly so the bus driver is not distracted.
  • If there is an emergency, listen to the driver and follow instructions.

Exiting the bus:

  • When exiting the bus, walk at least six feet away from the door (three big steps) to be visible to the driver.
  • Stay away from the bus wheels, and watch out for moving cars.
  • Never return to the bus to get a forgotten item. The driver may not see someone coming back to the bus.

Drivers who share the road should also be especially alert:

  • Be aware of when school begins and ends. Watch for children going to and from the bus.
  • Follow posted speed limit signs for school zones.
  • Never pass a stopped school bus if the stop sign is extended or the red lights are flashing. Wait until the lights stop flashing and the bus begins moving again to proceed.More information about safety for school bus riders and drivers and for those sharing the road is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Driving Kids to School & Sporting Events?

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As early as they start school, children become involved in extra-curricular activities. Adults charged and volunteering with getting groups of kids from home or school to the ball field and back home again are usually more concerned with maintaining their schedules and sanity than auto insurance. However, moving kids around could have a serious affect on your auto coverage needs.

In an auto accident, we all know drivers can be legally liable for their passengers’ injuries. Most personal auto policies will extend some degree of coverage for injuries to passengers when driving your own car. But what if you rent or borrow a large van to take the soccer team out of town for a weekend tourney?

School employees, such as teachers and coaches, who use their school’s vehicles to haul students and players from place to place have another reason to be concerned. In addition to possible size restrictions, there’s a concern with regular usage; specifically, your personal auto insurance policy may not pay for your liability from an accident in a vehicle that is not yours but is provided for your regular use. In addition to uncertainty with whether or not your policy will even respond, another serious concern is adequate limits of insurance. A serious injury to a single passenger could mean tens of thousands of dollars in medical and other costs stemming from the injury, and those dollars increase with the more passengers that are involved. There are published accounts of accidents involving adults driving in a car pool in which damages quickly exceeded $1 million.

Yet, many adults continue to purchase auto liability limits based on the minimum required by state law. In some states, this required amount may be as little as $10,000 per person and $20,000 total for all injuries in an accident—not likely sufficient when you consider the severity of certain injuries and the number of passengers involved. Remember also that this limit applies for all injuries caused by an accident for which you are liable, including passengers of other cars.

Adults driving kids to athletic and other events should consider maintaining the highest liability limits possible, as well as a personal umbrella policy. The umbrella can provide much higher limits of liability, some well over $1 million, and this kind of liability protection is among the least costing insurance there is.

Today’s drivers are faced with a multitude of distractions that pose a risk for accidents. Understanding your personal auto and liability insurance needs should help to bring at least a little peace of mind. So if your involved in the transportation of kids, other than your own from time to time, then a brief conversation about those risks is certainly worth a few moments of your time to discuss with us and we invite your call.

Helpful Apps for Disaster Preparedness

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Regardless of your location, the summer months are usually the prime part of the year for natural disasters. One of the best and most affordable things we can do to see ourselves through a disaster is to be prepared and one great way is through the use of apps on our phones and devices.

Both Android and Apple mobile devices offer a wide variety of apps that users rely on daily. Because of this, these devices have become an integral part of our lives and would no doubt be on hand if disaster struck. The upside to this is that there are apps that can help you and your family as well as work associates whatever the disaster. Here are three of the best types of disaster related apps out there in order to prepare.

Weather Apps

It is always a good idea to know what the weather forecast is for your local area. This can help you predict what could happen and even prepare your business should say a big storm be rolling in. There are a wide variety of weather apps out there and it can be difficult to actually pick which is the best to use. Here are a few to look at first:

  1. The NOAA Weather Radio – Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad users, this app is the official app for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. When installed, you can receive local weather forecasts based on your location and storm or severe weather warnings pushed directly to your device. The app can be found on iTunes and costs just a few dollars.
  2. Weather Underground – This app is among the most powerful weather apps out there. Using a wide variety of weather stations and user submitted weather it is up to date and able to offer accurate forecasts. With a Weather Radio feature, and push notifications of weather alerts, you can easily track potential storms. There is also the WunderMap which has radar, reports and IR Sat views as well. The app is available for free on Google Play and iTunes.
  3. Local Weather Apps – Many TV stations and weather organizations have localized weather apps that focus on just local conditions. If you live in a severe weather prone area, it would be a good idea to see if your local TV station has a weather app, as this could be the quickest way to receive relevant updates.

Red Cross Apps

The Red Cross has a number of excellent survival oriented apps that could really come in handy for when a disaster strikes. These apps provide tips on how to prepare yourself and your family, as well as buildings for disaster, and what to do during and after a disaster strikes.

The best part is that most of the information is available offline, so you will have access to it even if cell networks are down. Some of the apps even provide weather alerts that will sound even if the app isn’t open, alerting you about any impending danger.

These apps are all available for free on Google Play and iTunes. The best thing to do is to visit the Red Cross website and look for the apps that are relevant to your local area e.g., if you are in the mountains the Forest Fire and First Aid apps may help. The apps are all free and can be downloaded by clicking the links for your device’s app store on the Red Cross site.


Social Media Apps

Social media services could prove to be a good way to connect and communicate during a disaster. One of the biggest added advantages to using social networks is that the servers that host the service are located around the world, so the chances of the service being down is fairly slim. If you have Internet access, you will be able to access the service.


A few simple tips to help you leverage your mobile device during a disaster

  1. Install relevant apps – In order to be prepared, you should install the apps necessary to communicate during a disaster, along with a weather app and if necessary a survival app.
  2. Ensure your contacts are up to date – To be sure, you should periodically update your contacts. Should anything happen you will know how to contact people and have a higher chance of being able to get in touch.
  3. Establish procedures to follow during a disaster – This is arguably the most important preparation you can do. Take the time to establish procedures you and your family should follow during an emergency. Include where people should meet, backup plans, contact suggestions and the roles you expect your everyone to take.
  4. Keep your batteries topped up – Mobile devices rely on batteries to operate, and during a disaster you may be without a power source for an extended amount of time. Therefore, Minimize use during a disaster. Ensure your batteries are full, or charges as often and has high as possible.
  5. Invest in a good power bank – Power banks are useful tools that are essentially big batteries. You can charge them up then use them to charge your devices. Take a look for one that is at least 9000 MHZ, or higher. The higher the number the bigger the charge.

Summer Party Safety

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Safety Makes Your Summer Party Memorable—In the Right Way

Summer is truly party time in America between friends and family. But homeowners should be aware of the risks associated with these get-togethers. Before reviewing safety tips, let’s look at three common risks for which a homeowner might need insurance coverage:

Liquor liability: Most homeowners know that they bear some responsibility if a party guest becomes impaired after consuming alcoholic drinks at the homeowner’s house, and then drives, causing a car accident. If the party-giver is sued, however, his/her homeowners and automobile insurance policies may not provide liability coverage. (Keep in mind that the legal defense against a claim is another significant expense for anyone who is sued in such a circumstance.)

Changes to homeowners insurance standard contracts over a decade ago may limit the coverage available under a homeowners policy. Homeowners might be well served to check their homeowners and auto insurance policies (contacting their agent, if necessary) to determine what protection they may have.

Personal accidents on the homeowner’s property: A homeowners policy and an excess liability policy (dubbed an “umbrella” policy) provide broad protection for accidents on the party host’s property. For instance, if a guest tumbles down the steps of an outdoor deck or a child is burned by the outdoor grill, the homeowners policy would pay medical costs for the guest (and, should a lawsuit follow, likely would pay the costs of defending against the lawsuit and any subsequent damages awarded in the case).

No one, of course, wants to see such events occur, but accidents can and do happen. Homeowners coverage is designed to “make whole” a homeowner who is facing a liability claim due to an accident on his or her property.

Property damage liability: When guests drive to your party and park their cars at your home, the homeowner assumes risk. The possibilities of property damage range from a simple dent from a stray baseball, to a young driver releasing the parking brake and rolling the car into a tree. A different example of property damage is the theft of a guest’s purse/wallet or valuable articles from the party-giver’s property.

Homeowners coverage pays for damage to another person’s property, if the homeowner is held liable. A homeowner’s negligence and omissions (i.e., failing to take steps that might have prevented an incident) are reasons that he or she can be found liable for damage to another person’s property.

To prevent accidents, consider some sensible safety precautions:

Grilling

Some 5,000 people are injured by charcoal, wood-burning and propane grill fires each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration of the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Good safety practices include:

  • Before using a propane gas grill, check the connection between the tank and the fuel line. Make sure the Venturi tubes (where the air and gas mix) are not blocked, and check hoses for cracks or damage.
  • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof. And never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas, as deadly carbon monoxide can be produced.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or a source of water (a garden hose or four-gallon pail of water) near an outdoor grill or barbecue.
  • While barbecuing, don’t wear loose clothing. Use long-handled barbecue tools and/or mitts that are flame resistant.
  • Don’t squirt flammable liquids onto an open flame.
  • Don’t leave a grill unattended.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Supervise children around outdoor grills, which are objects of curiosity.
  • If using a charcoal or wood fire, dispose of hot coals properly by soaking them with water, then stirring to ensure that fire is extinguished. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill since they are flammable.

Drinking
Liquids containing alcohol cause the human body to lose more fluid, say health educators. So summertime drinking in the sun or heat can present hazards to health, including impaired judgment, balance and coordination. Consider these safety tips if serving:

  • Use designated drivers.
  • Make non-alcoholic beverages as available as alcoholic drinks.
  • Stop serving alcohol well before the party ends.
  • If children are attending the event, remember that alcohol may seem more available to them at a party.

Dining Outdoors
Food-borne illnesses favor the hot conditions found at outdoor events where food is not refrigerated or may be undercooked. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers food safety tips:

  • Cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be heated and maintained at 140

Make Sure Your Stuff Is Protected When You Move

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Moving generally indicates an exciting time of transition and life change- whether it’s moving from home for the very first time to an apartment or downsizing because the kids have all moved out. Whether you’re handling the move yourself with the help of friends and family or whether you hire professional movers, moving can be as stressful as it is exciting, and one way to relieve some of that stress is knowing that your possessions are protected during the transition. Whether your move is across the street or across the country it’s important that you discuss your upcoming move with your independent insurance agent.

Insuring Your New Place (And Your Stuff)
First of all, your belongings are protected by your homeowners or renters insurance policy against damage and loss. But it’s important to know that when you move from an apartment to a house or house to house or apartment to apartment or condo to… well, you get the idea… your homeowners or renters insurance won’t follow you and your property to the new place. Moving to a new home means that the risks to your property change, and as your risks change, so should your insurance.

Since you have coverage for the contents of your home under a standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policy, the best option to protect those is to make sure that there is no gap of time between the expiration or cancellation of your policy on the home you’re moving out of and the effective start date for the policy for the home you’re moving into- one way to do this is to have the new policy start the day you are planning on moving. Not only would this help provide coverage for your contents, but it would also provide you with personal liability coverage during the time of the move. If you’re moving out of state, ask your insurance agent if they’re licensed in the state you’ll be moving to, and if they aren’t, ask them if they are able to refer you to another agency.

Protect Your Stuff During the Move
Now what about your contents in transit? If you’re renting a truck or a van for the move, the rental company may offer you additional insurance coverage. If you use a professional moving company, under federal law interstate movers are liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged items. However, they may present you with different options for coverage, including Full Value or Released Value. According to the US Department of Transportation, Full Value is more comprehensive coverage but it may cost more out of pocket, whereas Released Value is offered at no additional cost, but may only cover your belongings up to 60 cents on the dollar. If you opt for the Full Value, make sure you have an up-to-date estimated value for the belongings you’ll be moving. If you have an accurate and comprehensive home inventory, this shouldn’t be too difficult of a task.

One argument for taking the coverage from a rental company or a moving company (even for in state moves) is that if something does go wrong and can be covered by that policy you could avoid filing a claim with your own homeowners/renters insurance company and having to cover costs out of pocket to meet your deductible. Just be sure though that the coverage offered by a moving or rental company is enough to replace or repair damaged or lost items. Talk with us about your coverage and deductible so you can figure out a plan to protect your belongings that works for you.

What If I’m Putting Some of My Stuff in Storage?
If you’ll be temporarily storing property at a storage unit during your move, you should know that some insurance policies will only insure items in a self-storage facility to 10% of your personal property limit, which may not be adequate to cover your stored furniture, rugs, etc. You should be able to raise that coverage with what’s known as an endorsement to the policy, so make sure you tell your agent if you’re storing anything at a self-storage facility as part of the move and this includes those mobile pod and container systems.

As professional and independent insurance agents we have the ability to work with multiple insurance companies, so we are uniquely suited to help you find the coverage that’s right for your new place and for getting you and your stuff there.