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Five Tips for Home Fire Preparation and Safety

As a homeowner, you hope never to encounter a fire on your property. Home fires are a common occurrence, taking place about every 93 seconds. Therefore, it is vital to prepare a fire safety plan, should the unexpected arise. Here are a few tips to ensure you and your family are ready in the event of a fire and have the proper insurance to cover the damage.  

1) Fire Detectors 

While it may seem like the obvious first step, installing fire detectors throughout the first level of your home is vital to your fire safety plan. Although most home fires start in the kitchen, they can truly occur in any room due to electricity shortages, candles, general accidents, and more. Installing fire detectors throughout your home, especially on the main level, will help provide early alerts to your local fire department. Be sure you conduct monthly battery checks on all fire detectors, and replace all units that are more than 10 years old.
 

2) Communication is Key 

You and your family must determine a clear and simple plan for evacuation in the case of a home fire. Select a meeting point that is easily accessible but away from the potential heat of a burning house. Ensure all family members understand that their only priority in the case of a fire is to get out of the home as quickly as possible and not return inside for any person or possession. If you have young children, communicate their exit strategy and practice this with them a few times. Communicate this plan regularly.  

3) Identify Potential Fire Hazards 

After confirming you have the proper fire detectors and evacuation plan, the next step is to identify and remove all possible fire hazards from your home. Consider all electronics that produce heat, including clothing irons, hair styling tools, portable heaters, and more. These should be stored away from highly flammable materials such as wood, and they should also remain unplugged when not in active use. Allow all furniture and possessions to maintain at least three feet of space from any heating element such as a stove, fireplace, or portable heater. If you are a smoker, it is never advised to smoke in your bedroom near highly flammable objects such as drapes and bed linens. Finally, use safety precautions when lighting candles and ensure they are always visible and never placed on flammable surfaces.  

4) Know Your Response 

Understanding how to react in the moment is the final step in any fire safety plan. As with your exit strategy, it is important to also plan your responses for while you are still within your home if it catches on fire. First, check the heat of a door with the back of your wrist. This area is highly sensitive, and if the fire behind a door is too hot, you will be able to determine this without causing serious nerve damage to your palms. This will also prevent you from entering a room that is filled with unbreathable air. Next, stay low to the ground to avoid breathing smoke. Heat rises, and the higher you are to the ceiling, the more difficult it will be to breathe with ease. The final response strategy is to know all possible exits, including windows or second-story escapes, and how you will get out if a door is too hot to touch. Collapsible ladders are an excellent item to keep stored in all second-story bedroom closets, and children should be educated on how to employ these in the case of an emergency.  

5) Take Inventory and Appraise Annually 

In order to protect your valuables, you should conduct an annual inventory of all possessions and valuables. Using your insurance agent’s recommended appraiser, you can also determine the appropriate value of your home along with the cost to rebuild in the current market. If your home is not appraised at the value of homes today, you may find that your insurance policy will pay you less than the price to rebuild. This will leave you with large out-of-pocket expenses in order to rebuild your beloved home. Speak with your local insurance agent to determine both the appropriate home appraisal schedule and fire protection policy that is right for you.  

Fire preparation and safety can make a vital difference for you and your family. The main priority is to ensure that each family member understands how to escape your home if it is burning and that they are not to re-enter for any reason. However, this may mean that many of your possessions and valuables could be permanently damaged. Your local insurance agent will be able to determine if your standard homeowners’ policy will cover these damages and also suggest additional coverage policies if needed to protect your possessions. Speak with your agent today about conducting a thorough inventory of your valuables and ensure your home is protected in the case of a fire.  

 

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Insurance Protects You Against a Lawsuit?

Whether on the road or at home, you do what you can to keep yourself and those around you safe. But accidents happen — and sometimes they can lead to pricey lawsuits. Have you ever considered what you’d do if you were sued for something like accidentally injuring a guest on your property or being at fault for a major car accident? How would you cover the expenses? The primary liability coverage on your home, auto, or recreational vehicle insurance may not cover all the costs. If you owe more than what your primary insurance covers, you’ll be left paying out of pocket.  

Umbrella Insurance 

If you’re at fault for an accident or injury and faced with a lawsuit, you may be required to pay above and beyond the primary liability limits on your homeowners, auto, or recreational vehicle policy, especially if there are serious injuries. What would you do if this were the case? You may have to sell some of your assets, drain your bank account or hand over future earnings. But this doesn’t have to happen. Personal liability umbrella insurance helps protect all the things you work so hard for. If you have a liability lawsuit against you, umbrella insurance helps cover beyond what your primary liability coverage will pay for — keeping your assets, savings account, and future earnings safe and sound. 

Liability Insurance 

Liability coverage is probably the most understated coverage when it comes to insurance purchases. Since personal liability coverage comes with most primary residential insurance policies as part of the “package” people, tend to focus more on the value of their building, condo, or contents, and take the liability portion for granted.  

Errors and Omissions 

Even if you try your hardest to avoid an errors and omissions lawsuit, a dissatisfied client or business partner may still decide to sue you. Errors and omissions insurance covers your legal costs in this situation, including:   

  • Lawyer’s fees 
  • Administrative expenses 
  • Court fees (filing fees, court reporter fees) 
  • Expert witnesses 
  • Settlement costs (settlement payments, mediation expenses) 
  • Court judgments 

If your errors and omissions policy includes a “right and duty to defend” clause, you won’t have to worry about spending time arranging your own legal defense. This useful provision shifts the burden of managing the case from you to your insurance provider. 

Needing to know more about protecting yourself from a potential lawsuit? Contact your local agent for more information. 

Spring Forward to Auto Safety 

As the temperatures begin to rise, it can be tempting to take long drives with the windows down or plan vacations to other cities and states. But is your car protected and prepared for more hours spent on the roads? By doing a tune-up on your car, and ensuring your auto insurance is updated, you can feel confident and safe as you drive into Spring. Here are five reasons why you should check in with your car and insurance this season. 

Safety

Winter weather can place your car under more stress, especially as it has to work harder to get you where you need to go. Cold spells can cause reduced tire pressure, but if you filled your tires up in winter, they may actually expand too much in warmer temperatures. This puts you at risk of a tire blow-out, which can cause fatal accidents if occurring at high speeds. As you drive longer distances in the heat, your transmission can also begin to wear down.  

It is not only hardware to keep in mind either – fluids and filters also affect safety. Check your windshield wiper fluid to keep the blades moving in a rain shower, and have your mechanic regularly change your air filters, which can fill up with pollen and cause your engine to overheat. 

Performance

Have you woken up after a peaceful night of sleep and noticed how much energy you have? Just as you feel better when you have taken care of your body’s needs, your car will also perform better when you take it to your mechanic for a seasonal tune-up. Performance-related services to consider include an oil change, tire rotation, transmission check, A/C check, battery test, and thorough review of all hoses and fittings.  

If your mechanic finds something that needs repairs, it is ideal to fix the concern early. By choosing to wait, the issue could become worse or cause other parts to malfunction. You will ultimately save yourself money long-term by spending a small amount for a tune-up, rather than needing to spend thousands to fix a costly safety repair. Keep your car in great condition inside and out so that your drive can be pleasant and protected.  

Cost

While a full tune-up may cost anywhere between $50 to $200 or more, this service can help prevent extremely costly repairs. Even if you make a claim with your auto insurance to assist with the work, this could still increase your monthly premium. 

In addition to the costs associated with potential large-scale repairs, you can also save on fuel expenses by conducting an engine tune-up. When your car’s engine is poorly tuned or incorrectly adjusted for the current weather conditions, your vehicle may burn more fuel than is truly necessary.  

Conducting your Spring tune-up is also a good reminder that it is time to review your car insurance policy as well. Speak with your agent to stay updated on the best coverage for your driving habits and needs. 

 

Understanding Cardiovascular Disease and What It Means

According to the American Heart Association in a 2019 study, nearly half of all adults in the United States – 48% to be exact – have some form of cardiovascular disease. The term “cardiovascular disease” is used to refer to a number of conditions, including heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems. Because this disease is so prevalent, it can lead to potentially serious or fatal health concerns for up to half of the members of your staff. The good news is that 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyle choices such as not smoking, adequate exercise, proper nutrition, and maintaining a healthy weight.

What are the types of cardiovascular disease?  

Heart Disease:  

The most commonly found type of cardiovascular disease is heart disease, which is caused by a buildup of a fatty substance called plaque in the arteries. As this plaque lining the arteries builds up over time, blood cannot flow as easily as it needs to. When the heart does not receive enough blood, or if the plaque forms a blood clot and blocks the artery entirely, this can cause a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease can be monitored and maintained if the individual makes new healthy habits.  

Heart Attack: 

A heart attack occurs when a plaque buildup or blood clot in the arteries cuts off all blood flow into the heart. The cells in the muscles that make up the heart will begin to die without blood, and other parts of the body will begin to shut down as well. Although many heart attacks are not fatal when individuals receive immediate critical care, it still means lifestyle changes need to be made. The heart often remains partially damaged after, and it cannot survive multiple heart attacks.  

Stroke:  

When the arteries that carry oxygen-filled blood to the brain are blocked, a stroke can occur. If the brain cannot receive oxygen, cells will begin to die and cause symptoms such as the inability to speak or move. In many cases, patients will recover these abilities with time and the help of rehabilitation therapists. However, if enough oxygen is cut off for a prolonged time during the stroke, the damage can be irreversible.  

Heart Failure, Arrhythmia, and Heart Valve Problems:  

Unlike the first three types of cardiovascular disease, these three conditions do not mean that the body’s supply of oxygen-filled blood has been completely cut off. Instead, the heart will continue to pump blood, but it is not able to provide the body with an adequate amount. If heart failure occurs, the heart still beats but does not supply enough oxygen. If arrhythmia occurs, the heart beats at an irregular rate. It can beat too slowly and not supply enough oxygen, or it can beat too quickly and fatigue the heart muscles. When one of the heart’s valves does not open and close properly, it can cause blood to leak through. This can also cause the valves to close in the wrong direction, creating immediate circulation issues. All three conditions can grow worse over time if left untreated.   

How Can I Help My Staff Prevent Cardiovascular Disease?  

Simply based on the fact that 8 out of 10 Americans live with cardiovascular disease, it is likely that someone on your staff already faces some form of the disease. However, you can offer incentives to help encourage your staff to adopt healthy preventative behaviors. These can include workplace perks such as a monthly free lunch and specially designated parking, or personal perks like gift cards and fitness accessories.  

By offering high-quality medical insurance to your employees, you always have peace of mind knowing they will be cared for if a cardiac emergency occurs. If you would like to know more about medical insurance and preventative care benefits, talk with your local agent today.  

How Protect Yourself from a Slip, Trip, or Fall

Slips, trips, and falls are the number 3 cause of accidental death in the United States, right behind motor vehicle accidents. No matter where you are in the world, if you are indoors or outdoors, you can experience a slip or fall. Slips and falls can naturally happen indoors when going upstairs or walking on wet hardwood or uneven flooring, but they are more common outdoors in parking lots and on sidewalks, stairs, decks, and other areas that are affected by the weather.  

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe and avoid having a dangerous slip, trip, or fall. 

Consider Your Shoe/Footwear Choices 

Depending on the weather in your city, you may need to change your plans for the day. If your area is experiencing lots of rain, opt for shoes that have traction, like tennis shoes. If it’s really muddy and slick outside, look for shoes that are fit for hiking. When it comes to footwear in the wintertime, store your steel toe boots. If you wear them too long in the cold, they could cause hypothermia in your feet. Waterproof shoes that have good traction on the bottom should be the top qualities to look for when buying your next pair of winter shoes. 

Planning an outfit that requires heels or sandals? Make sure that the weather is sunny with no chance of ice, snow, rain, and the terrain is dry – or if the weather is wet, wear better shoes until you reach indoors safely. You’ll be protecting your ankles from any potential harm. If you are climbing stairs in shoes with heels or sandals, take care to grip the stair railing to help keep balance you don’t fall.  

Tread Forward with Caution 

Wintertime environments are some of the most dangerous when it comes to the risk of a trip or fall due to the ice and snow that can accumulate. Another dangerous climate is one with a ton of rainfall. Rain can cause even the flattest of areas to become slick and offer up a one-way ticket to a fall. In order to protect yourself from experiencing a fall in these two dangerous climates, choose to wear shoes that are high in traction and waterproof. Another big tip is when entering or exiting buildings, do your best to avoid walking on curbs or steps if you can help it. Walk with caution and do not run in these conditions or you are increasing your chances of falling.   

Take All the Precautions You Can 

Here are a few things to be mindful of when faced with an inclement weather situation. When getting out of your vehicle, keep a hand on the vehicle to support yourself because you don’t know how slick the ground is. Did you know that putting your hands in your pockets to keep warm is more dangerous than it is worth? Keeping your hands free is necessary because by putting your hands in your pockets, you risk your balance since you’ve now lowered your center of gravity. 

What Happens If You Fall? 

The number one thing that you should do if you do happen to take a tumble is to tuck your head in towards your chest to avoid hitting your head. Keep your elbows and knees bent when you fall and try to land on your butt to help protect your body from sustaining any injury. If you’re unsure how your insurance would protect you in the event of a slip, trip, or fall-related injury, reach out to your local agent to make sure you’re covered for this common risk. 

How to Make a Car Emergency Kit

Whether it’s a flat tire or a run-in with a winter storm, a vehicle emergency can really catch you off guard. The first step you should take in creating a road emergency plan is to give your insurance agent a call. Many insurance carriers offer roadside assistance services as a policy add-on if it is not already part of your auto coverage. Often, available roadside assistance services will include towing, battery jump-start, flat tire change, fuel delivery, lockout service, and winching service. Your agent will be able to tell you if you can benefit from your auto insurance carrier’s roadside assistance coverage or assist you with adding it to your policy.

There is no such thing as being too safe, and you should still consider creating a car emergency kit in case your roadside assistance is delayed or unavailable for some reason. Here are some items you may want to include in your own kit.

 

Tools to Fix Your Vehicle

Say you get a flat tire. Perhaps your cell phone has died and you don’t have a car charger or you’re in an area with no cell service. In this case, you will not be able to contact roadside assistance, and it’ll be up to you to get out of the emergency situation. You can be prepared for this possibility by having a car emergency kit that includes items such as a properly inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench. It’s always a good idea to include jumper cables in your kit as well, and don’t forget a reflective vest and reflective triangles that will make you visible to passing cars as you walk around your vehicle-making repairs.

 

Supplies to Prepare for Anything

Speaking of dying cell phones, your emergency kit should definitely include a car cell phone charger or even a portable charger. The latter also called a power bank, is a device you “power up” at home and can use anywhere to charge your cell phone. These power banks can hold a charge for several months if fully charged once and kept at room temperature. This may be an issue if you park your vehicle outdoors, but you can rectify the problem by regularly recharging your power bank and placing it back in your vehicle for storage. Consider also including a basic first aid kit, flashlight with replacement batteries, water bottles, and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as protein bars and nuts.

 

Emergency Phone Numbers

Even if your cell phone dies, a passerby may pull over and have a phone you can use. If this happens, you’ll want to be able to access phone numbers for your roadside assistance service, insurance agent, or emergency contact. Have these numbers typed or written on paper that you can keep in your glove box instead of keeping them only on your cell phone.

 

Cold Weather Specific Items

If you live in an area with lots of cold weather, it’s a good idea to take this into account when putting together your emergency kit. A shovel and ice scraper are useful tools to have, cat litter helps provide tire traction, and you’ll likely need warm clothing and blankets if you are stuck for a period of time.

 

What Else Can You Do?

Practicing responsible car care is the best way to ensure your vehicle won’t get into any emergency situations. Unexpected situations do arise, but some emergencies can be prevented. Keep up with your vehicle’s maintenance and always keep a full gas tank. And remember – be sure to check with your agent first and foremost to find out about securing roadside assistance through your auto insurance carrier.

Preparing Your Business for the Event of a Flood

Just like your home, your business can flood and potentially experience extensive damage. However, your business has a completely different set of risks than your home does. After a flood in your place of business, you could experience loss resulting from damage to records, inventory, equipment, and technology as well as other valuable property and assets. You also face a potential loss of business income in the time it takes to restore your facility – not to mention the cost of debris removal, cleanup, and restoration. Business owners can mitigate risk by developing a flood disaster plan and, of course, by having the proper insurance coverage in place.

 

Flood Damage is Serious Business for Your Business

Flooding can be caused by many events, including heavy rainfall, overflow from rivers or ponds, or a breach in a levee or dam. Often, flash floods can occur with almost no warning. In regards to damage, floods do more than simply make everything wet. Flooding can cause structural and electrical damage. The floodwater itself often contains sharp debris like metal or glass fragments or hazardous, unsanitary matter, and this water can contaminate anything it touches. Of course, if employees are present at the time of the flooding, their lives can also be in great danger.

 

Ask Your Agent About Available Insurance Coverage

Most standard commercial policies do not cover flood damage. However, some carriers offer coverage that is specifically tailored for business floods. The majority of these policies are provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP only covers commercial property, so you will need to ask your agent about adding flood-specific business interruption coverage to protect your operation against loss of income.

 

Create a Comprehensive Workplace Flood Disaster Plan

One of the most important ways you can prepare your business for the event of a flood is to keep copies of your insurance documentation and other vital documents in a location that will be safe from any potential flood damage; you can even keep these documents off-site if you are able. In addition to important documents, you will want to keep a backup list of all employees’ contact information. The next step is to assess the risks your building faces – check all walls and seams for cracks, move valuable items from bottoms floors if possible, and consider installing a sump pump to help prevent water from getting inside your building. Finally, in the event of an emergency during work hours, you will need an evacuation plan that all employees are trained in.

In the Event of a Flood…

You will be grateful that you have insurance to lessen the impact of the damage. Reach out to your agent today to find out more about your options to get covered.

Millennials and Life Insurance

More than any other generation, millennials (born 1981-1996) are going without life insurance. In some instances this is understandable; perhaps you are debt-free or never plan to have children. However, there are some considerations you should take into account before writing off life insurance entirely. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are a millennial considering (or who has never before considered) the possibility of purchasing life insurance.

 

DO YOU HAVE OTHERS DEPENDING ON YOU?

Whether it’s children, aging parents, or a disabled sibling, if there is someone who is financially depending on you for their future, life insurance will be there to take care of them. Although many millennials are waiting longer to get married and have children, life insurance is most affordable when you are young. This means even if you do not have children but plan to in the future, purchasing life insurance now is a good option. Once you begin having children, you can always adjust your coverage to fit your new needs.

 

DO YOU HAVE CO-SIGNED DEBT?

Americans owe over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, and much of that debt belongs to millennial borrowers. While it is true that federal student loans are forgiven if you die, private loans are not. If you have a co-signer on your loan, such as your parents, they will be strapped with the responsibility of paying off the remaining debt if you pass. The same goes for any credit cards, cars, or mortgages with a co-signer. Having life insurance in place is a good idea for millennials with co-signed debts since it will assist your co-signers in paying off the remaining balance.

 

IS THERE A HISTORY OF HEALTH ISSUES IN YOUR FAMILY?

If your parents have heritable health conditions, there is a chance you could be diagnosed with the same condition eventually. Since it’s the most affordable to purchase life insurance when you are young and healthy, it is best to do it before you develop any health issues that may make life insurance more expensive or make you unable to qualify.

 

ARE YOU AN ENTREPRENEUR?

Many millennials are interested in entrepreneurship. If you own a business with someone else, they probably depend on you to keep the operation going. You can make sure the business you’ve built from the bottom up won’t be hurt by your death by purchasing life insurance, with the intent that the benefit is used for these purposes.

 

DO YOU LIVE WITH A SIGNIFICANT OTHER OR ROOMMATES?

It’s increasingly common for unmarried millennials to cohabit with a partner, and many live with one or more roommates. Unlike life insurance that benefits a spouse or children, a policy intended to assist housemates with the cost of rent will not need to cover a long span of years. It will only need to help with covering expenses through the end of your lease.

What to Do If Your Car Is Stolen

Remain Calm 

If you believe your car has been stolen, your immediate response is likely to completely freak out. This is understandable, but there is a chance you could be mistaken. It is possible that your car was towed or even that your teenager took it without asking. Make a few calls to local towing companies to see if your car is with them. If you determine that your car was, in fact, stolen, you must still remain calm so you can follow the correct procedures. 

Call the Police 

This is your first step once you know your vehicle was taken. To report your car as stolen, you will need to provide facts that the police can use to identify your car. This information includes a detailed description of the vehicle including make, model and year, color, and any unique features such as bumper stickers or dents. You will also want to have your license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN) on hand to provide to police. If you don’t know these off the top of your head, consider keeping a note of them in your wallet or cell phone. It’s especially important to contact police right off the bat, since many carriers will not honor a claim unless a police report is filed first. 

Contact Your Insurance Agent 

After filing a report with the police, it is time to file a claim with your insurance. Only a comprehensive auto insurance policy offers coverage in the case of theft, but even if you do not have this policy it is a good idea to notify your insurance agent about the incident. By notifying insurance, you may still be able protect yourself against any damage that occurs to persons or property while the vehicle is in possession of the thief or thieves. You will want to have at hand the same vehicle information you provided to the police, as well as items such as the title, a list of the location of all keys to the vehicle, a list of any personal property that was in the vehicle, the police report number, and contact information for your finance or leasing company. You provide the information, and your agent will take care of the rest. 

Final Steps 

After taking the initial steps to report the theft to police and involve your insurance agent, you will want to tie up any loose ends by notifying other parties that have an interest in your vehicle. Your agent will likely take care of this, but you can also place a call to your finance or leasing company. Report the theft to the DMV as well. 

You should continue working with your insurance agent to see about rental vehicle coverage, but the only thing to do once all these steps have been completed is to wait. Your car may be recovered, but unfortunately there is a chance it may not be. Your agent will be there by your side throughout the process, whatever happens. 

How Marriage Can Change Your Insurance Needs 

You already know that marriage will change a lot of things in your life. When you say “I do” you are combining your entire world – and often your home – with someone else’s. Among the changes that come with married life are adjustments you should make to your insurance coverage. 

Home & Property  

If you and your spouse move in together after getting married, you will want to have both of your names listed on the policy to ensure you both benefit from its protection. In addition to this change, you should consider increasing or adjusting your personal property coverage. Even before the wedding, you will want to get the engagement ring covered. Even if you never take the ring off and have no chance of losing it, there is still a chance that stones could fall out. Over the course of your engagement and even after the wedding, you may also receive valuable gifts. Whether you live together prior to marriage or combine your households after, wedding gifts can increase the total value of your possessions and require updates to your personal property coverage.  

Auto  

Auto insurance can undergo some of the biggest changes for married couples. Studies have found that married people have fewer motor vehicle accidents and take fewer risks while driving. Your auto insurance rates may decrease significantly after you get married. However if one spouse has a poor driving record, combining policies may not be the best option. It is best to get your agent’s advice on this matter, since he or she will be in the best position to tell you how you and your spouse can benefit from policy changes.  

Life  

If you and your future spouse do not already have life insurance policies, the event of your marriage is a good reason to consider purchasing life insurance. After all, once the two become one, you will most likely come to reply on each other financially. If either of you already possesses life insurance, you may want to update your beneficiary information to include your new spouse. Younger couples may not believe they need life insurance, but this coverage is likely going to be the least expensive while you are young and healthy. Life insurance will help protect your new family from the unexpected for years to come.  

Health  

Marriage is one of the qualifying life events that allow you to make changes to your health insurance policy outside of open enrollment. Usually valid within 60 days of the wedding, you can change your policies or add your spouse to your plan. Even if both partners already have health insurance through your employers, it can be worth it to speak to your agent about whether your current health coverage has everything you need. 

Last but not least, if you are changing your name after getting married, be sure to submit the change to your insurance company after finishing the legal side of the process! Marriage can be a wonderful thing, and when you have the proper insurance you are able to enjoy it even more fully.