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5/14/2017  Avoiding Drowaning Accidents

Spring and summer months bring warmer weather, outdoor cookouts, and water activities. Whether you plan to spend time out on a boat, on the beach or lakeside, or simply hanging by the pool, it’s important to be safe.

Basic knowledge of pool and water safety to help reduce the likelihood of a drowning or water related accident. With your safety in mind, we offer you the following tips to reduce the likelihood that you or a loved one are involved in an accident.


Abiding by these tips can go a long way towards ensuring that you have a safe and relaxing summer.

 





4/8/2017  Your Family & Fire Safety

Make sure your family knows what to do in case of a fire.  Review these safety tips and facts with them.

SMOKE ALARMS ARE ONLY GOOD FOR TEN YEARS

Smoke alarms are the first line of defense against a fire, yet in almost 1/3 of fatal fires, the home did not have a smoke alarm.

Experts suggest you change the batteries in your home’s smoke alarms every six months, when you adjust your clocks for Daylight Saving Time; however, if your smoke alarm is older than a decade, a fresh battery won’t do any good as the smoke sensor and the alarm are two different pieces of the gadget.

Your alarm could be testing and making a noise, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to sense smoke.  Smoke alarms have dates on the back side. If you unmount it from the wall, you’re able to see that date on the back, and it’s good for ten years from that date.

NEWER HOMES BURN HOTTER, FASTER THAN EVER

If your home is less than 30 years old, a fire is likely to be more destructive and move very quickly through your home.  

That's because the newer homes are built with “different materials,” including lightweight construction, open floor plans, larger fuel loads in the home, and a large amount of synthetics and plastics.  On average, you have a little less than three minutes to get out of your house once that smoke alarm goes off, if there’s actually a fire.

In older homes, you might have 10 to 15 minutes to get out of your house.  

‘STOP DROP AND ROLL’ VS. ‘GET LOW AND GO’

Not knowing the difference between the two methods can have tragic consequences.

If your house is on fire, the last thing you want to be doing is stopping, dropping and rolling.  Stop Drop and Roll is a practice that should only be used if a person’s clothing is on fire.

To get out of a burning house, you want to Get Low and Go.  If there’s smoke in your house, you want to get low, so you’re below the smoke, and get out.  For whatever reason over the years, people have confused Get Low and Go with Stop Drop and Roll. 

SHUT YOUR BEDROOM DOOR WHILE YOU SLEEP

A closed door can help dramatically reduce the spread of smoke and flames to other areas of the house. Just a single door can probably be the most important piece of firefighting equipment in your house, next to a smoke alarm.  A closed door can “trap” the fire in one place for a “significant amount of time.”

When escaping a house that is on fire, closing the doors behind you “could potentially save your life or the life of a firefighter.”

TALK WITH CHILDREN, THE ELDERLY ABOUT FIRE ESCAPE PLAN

The majority of deaths from fires are from those between the ages of 60 and 80.  A lot of times, we assume that they know what to do because they’re older than us, but that’s not always the case, so ensuring that they have a plan themselves is just very important.

Everyone staying in a home should be familiar with the emergency exit plan. This is especially important for children under the age of five and adults older than 60.

Become familiar with two ways out of every room in a home. You should also be able to escape the house in less than three minutes.

Prepare your family by practicing an escape plan with everyone in your home.  Leave a drawn out map on a fridge highlighting all escape routes.

NEVER GO BACK INTO A BURNING HOME

It sounds obvious, but when there’s a fire it's really common for people to go running back into buildings after a teddy bear, pictures or a phone.  In the time it took you to escape, a fire in your home has “increased dramatically” and “the overall level of danger” has spiked. Get out, stay out and not go back for valuables.  Things can be replaced but you cannot.

Make sure that your family knows what to do in case of a fire.   Ensure that you have proper fire insurance for your home as well.  

 




3/2/2017  Home Inspecition & Insurance

There is a national housing shortage and thus, it's a seller's market out there.   When it comes to finding a home, buyers are afraid that if they put in an offer contingent on the outcome of a home inspection, they may lose the home to three or four other bidders who are willing to take the risk of buying the home without that contingency.

The problem is that by purchasing a home without getting it properly inspected, you risk losing a lot of money on repairs that only a professional may spot.  

Let's take a real world example that we've ran into.    While viewing a new home, the perspective buyer notices a crack in the cement floor of a garage. While the crack was very tiny, and could have been easily overlooked by someone without experience, a home inspector noted that the damage was the result of a giant oak tree next to the garage. The roots were so huge that eventually the entire floor would be broken by the growth of the enormous tree. By removing the tree then, the cost was only a few hundred dollars, but in five years, the inspector said, the entire garage floor would have needed to be jack hammered and then replaced with a newly constructed concrete floor. The cost of that job would be in the thousands.

Here are some tips from that can help a new homeowner catch little problems before they become big problems.

Take your time when buying a new home.   Make sure that you have any home you're interested in inspected by a professional.  After a proper inspection and a good report, make sure that you get your new home properly insured before moving in.   For questions regarding inspections and insurance, call our offices!




1/18/2017  Sewer Back Up & Coverage

 

If you’re a homeowner, here’s one of the worst nightmares you can experience. Torrential downpours or snow melt deluge your property and neighborhood with water overwhelming your home’s sewer system or your sump pump’s ability to handle the water runoff. The next thing you know, you have raw sewage backing up into your home’s drains, overflowing toilets and tubs or flooding your basement. A backed up sewer can do a real number on your home, causing thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture carpeting and electrical systems, as well as pose a major health hazard.

No problem. You’ve got insurance, right? Not so fast. Most sewer system backups are not covered under a typical homeowners insurance policy, nor are they  covered by flood insurance.

For homes that have been severely damaged by sewer backups and are uninhabitable, your basic homeowners policy may include Loss of Use coverage, which provides reimbursement for lodging, food and other living expenses you may incur if you have to vacate your home. Loss of Use coverage also reimburses you for the lost rental income if you rent out part of the house. but that’s about all you’re going to get with your average homeowner’s policy.

For most consumers, coverage for sewer-related problems must be purchased either as a separate product or as an addition to a homeowners policy. Fortunately, sewer backup coverage is available from most insurance companies for a nominal cost (Usually less than $100 a year) a small price to pay for significant piece of mind and protection. If you live in a flood plain or near a river or stream, you may be required to carry flood insurance, as well.

What Causes Sewer Backups

Most homeowners probably don’t realize that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their main sewer line — the pipeline that runs between their house and the municipality’s sewer main, usually located underneath the street. The main sewer line is owned and maintained by the property owner, including any part of the line that extends into the street or public right of way.

Over time, these main sewer lines can easily deteriorate, crack, collapse or become obstructed. You may not have a clue that this kind of damage is occurring. But one severe rainstorm may be all it takes to bring the problem to a head.

Some of the more common causes of damaged sewer lines and sewer line backups are:

Usually this kind of backup happens slowly, giving you plenty of time to call a licensed plumbing, drain and sewer company. If water and sewage back into your basement at a rapid rate, don’t delay; call your municipality’s public works office or sewer department and report the problem immediately.

How You Can Prevent Sewer Line Backups

There are several preventive measures homeowners can take to minimize the occurrence sewer line backups.

What to Do If You Experience a Sewer Backup

Sewer backups can produce a host of nightmares for homeowners, including disease, mold formation, destruction of valuables, foundation damage and electrical malfunctions. Prompt cleanup is necessary to restore sanitary conditions and prevent further damage. If you experience a sewer backup situation, at a minimum, your cleanup should include:

How to File a Sewer Backup Claim

Contact our offices as soon as possible after your sewer backup has occurred. For insurance purposes, it’s a good idea to take before and after photos of the affected areas of your home or basement and itemize any property losses. Save all receipts related to repair, cleaning or damages related to your sewer backup.

Wet, Leaky Basements are Common in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland

Most basement flooding is not related to the problems in the sewer system. In many cases, the settling of your house or soil around you house leads to rainwater flowing toward your house and down the outside of the foundation wall. That water can then seep into your basement through small cracks in the foundation or basement slab, especially after a severe rainstorm when the ground is completely saturated. This can be alleviated by digging trenches or installing drain systems that draw water away from the house. Owners may also be able to prevent future flooding by water sealing the basement, using a sump pump or installing a French drain system. Consult a basement specialist for help with these kinds of problems.

For all your insurance questions and needs, call our offices at 1-888-558-4660




12/14/2016  Driving Around Big Trucks

Learning to drive safely around large trucks takes practice, but even drivers who keep basic safety tips in mind may not realize that they can also learn a great deal about safe driving simply by observing the large trucks with which they share the road.  By avoiding distraction and paying attention to trucks’ behavior, you can improve your chances of preventing an accident

Consider the following tips:




11/11/2016  Winter Is Coming: Prepare Your Car for the Cold

Autumn means falling temperatures..  Just like a family member, your car also needs a little cold-weather TLC. Here are a few things to think about as the mercury starts to dip.

Check Your Oil
As the temperatures change, you may want to change your oil and replace it with a different viscosity, which simply refers to how thick or heavy the oil is.

Your engine’s oil becomes thinner as the temperature rises, so in warmer climates, a thicker, higher-viscosity oil will help keep your engine properly lubricated. For the same reason, heavier oils aren’t as effective if you’re traveling through extremely cold, blustery conditions. Be sure to check your owner’s manual to see which oil viscosity is recommended for the weather conditions that you experience.

Keep Warm
Your car’s radiator is like a Thermos. It helps the engine stay at a proper temperature, regardless of how hot or cold it is outside. As a result, your car’s coolant or antifreeze deserves attention when temperatures start to fall.

If the system isn’t filled properly, your engine could freeze in the winter, which means the car won’t start. Additionally, antifreeze that’s old can lead to rust and corrosion, which could cause leaks. As a result, it’s important to flush your radiator and refill it with fresh antifreeze when recommended by your car’s manufacturer.

Stay Charged
Car batteries can die without much notice, and extreme temperatures can cause battery problems. Old batteries don’t hold a charge as well, which can make your car’s electrical system work harder. Check the battery’s positive and negative terminals to make sure that there is no rust or corrosion, and consider replacing your battery if it’s getting older. If you have an older battery and the temperatures are falling, getting your battery tested to ensure it’s in good working order and possibly replacing it could help keep you from becoming stranded.

Pop the Hood
No matter what the weather is doing, good maintenance is always a good idea — but, since extreme temperature changes can affect your car, it’s an especially good idea to make sure your car is in good working order before winter sets in. Pop the hood and make sure that all your car’s fluids look good and are filled to the proper level.

While you’re checking your fluids, it doesn’t hurt to inspect some other odds and ends under the hood that may fail in extreme conditions. Seasonal changes are a good time to look at your belts and hoses to make sure that the rubber is in good shape. You may want to replace them if you see any cracks or imperfections, especially if you’re planning a road trip.

Fill Your Tank
No matter the temperature, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re not running on empty. But, there are a few extra reasons to keep a full tank of gas when the temperature drops. If you get stranded in the middle of a blizzard, your car’s engine could be your only heat source, and a full tank of gas also helps keep moisture from forming in the fuel lines, where it can then freeze. If you’re in a really chilly area, you can also add fuel de-icer to your tank to keep the gas from freezing.

Do a Walk-Around
Prepping your car for a chilly winter means more than just a checkup under the hood. Take a look at your windshield wipers and exterior lights and make sure they’re in good working order. Plus, make sure that the lenses of your exterior lights are clean, and replace any burnt-out bulbs.

Windshield wiper blades are constantly subjected to the elements, so it’s important to replace worn or dried-out wiper blades regularly to maintain good visibility, especially if a snowstorm is headed your way. And finally, it’s important that you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid, too.

Keep an Eye on Your Tires
As the temperature rises and falls, so does the air pressure in your tires. As a result, it’s important that your tires are properly inflated. In cold temperatures, you can lose tire pressure at a rate of about one pound per 10 degrees of temperature. Low tire pressure can dangerously affect your car’s handling, lower your fuel economy and, under some circumstances, lead to a blown tire.

Check the pressure when the tires are cold, making sure it’s in the range suggested by the manufacturer in your car manual, and don’t forget to make sure that your spare also has enough air in it. Keeping your tires at the proper pressure ensures that they make good contact with the road surface, and it also maximizes your vehicle’s fuel economy.

While you’re checking out your tires, make sure that the treads and sidewalls are up to snuff. Uneven tread wear, cuts, scrapes or indentations in your tires are all signs that they may need to be replaced.

Dust the Snow Off
If a heavy winter storm hits, make sure you clean all the snow and ice off your car before heading out onto the roadways. Getting the wintry mix off your windows ensures that you’ll have good visibility on the road, but if you don’t clean the snow off your roof, hood and trunk, it could fly off and obstruct your view (or someone else’s).

Stay Weather-Wise Inside Your Car
While checking under the hood will help keep your car running, it’s a good idea to make sure that your car will keep you comfortable and prepared, no matter the weather conditions. A properly functioning heater and defroster are important in the winter to keep you warm and maintain good outward visibility.

Depending on the weather, you should also stock your car with some supplies to keep you prepared. A shovel, gloves, boots, an ice scraper and sand or kitty litter (for traction on slippery roads) are all wise additions if you’re trekking through ice and snow. Items like a flashlight, food, water, a blanket, jumper cables, windshield washer fluid and a basic tool kit could also come in handy, regardless of what the weather is like.




10/16/2016  How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?

Some people equate life insurance with tragedy. In truth, life insurance is for the living. Without it, the sudden demise of a key breadwinner could leave a family without the resources to maintain their lifestyle-or even retain their home.

 

Not so long ago, professionals recommended that families carry a life insurance policy with a death benefit of 10 times their annual household income. Today, however, in light of rising house prices, college costs and other needs, most experts recommend up to 20 times your household income.

According to recent surveys, most American families are underinsured by as much as $300K.

  1. Life insurance provides income replacement should you be unable to work and support your family. A life insurance policy can also help supplement retirement income, which can be especially useful if the benefits of your surviving spouse or domestic partner will be reduced after your death.
  2. Life insurance covers outstanding debts and long-term obligations such as burial costs, credit card debts, and medical expenses not covered by health insurance using out-of-pocket funds. The policy's death benefit might also be used to pay off a mortgage, supplement retirement savings, or fund college tuition.
  3. Life insurance proceeds can be earmarked to pay estate taxes so that your heirs will not have to liquidate other assets to do so.
  4. If you have a favorite charity, you can designate some or all of the proceeds from your life insurance to go to this organization.

 

Now is a great time to do a review of your current insurance policies, including your life insurance. Call us and we can set up a quick meeting to review your policies and make sure you have coverage to fit your life.  Call us today at 888-558-4660




9/15/2016  Your Fire Extinguisher & How To Use It

There are actually different types of fires and different types of extinguishers that respond best to each type of fire.

Here are the five different fire types, as outlined by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers Association:

          

Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

For each fire class, there’s a fire extinguisher to match, and it’s important to use the right one. For example, an extinguisher rated for Class B fires only might not be appropriate to use on another fire. In fact, it might even be dangerous.

To help protect your home and family, a good bet is to have a multipurpose extinguisher, which typically is rated for Class A, B and C fires and available at home improvement stores. This type of extinguisher is typically good for general living areas and will work on small grease fires, as well. Specialized kitchen extinguishers are available, too. (Note: Class K extinguishers are typically for large commercial kitchens.)

No matter which type you choose, you want:

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Before you use a fire extinguisher — or try to fight a fire with any method — make sure you consider the following questions:

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering “P.A.S.S.” when it’s time to use your extinguisher:

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

It’s easy to just put an extinguisher in your kitchen cabinet and forget about it. But, by doing that, you run the risk of it not working when you need it most.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, some need to be shaken monthly, and others need to be pressure tested periodically. Follow the instructions on your specific extinguisher. Also, check regularly to make sure it’s not damaged, rusted or dirty.

Remember, a fire extinguisher won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work, and it won’t help if you can’t get to it, either. So, ensure it’s in an accessible place, not buried in the back of a closet.

Finally, don’t ever forget that sometimes your best bet is not using an extinguisher at all. It’s using your family escape plan to get you and your loved ones out of danger. If there’s any doubt, get out!

Fireplaces, stoves, furnaces – the average home has plenty of fire risks. If you were to lose everything in a home fire, would you have enough insurance coverage to rebuild your home and replace all your belongings? Talk to us and let's review your policy to make sure you have the coverage you need.




8/15/2016  College Students & Insurance

It’s an exciting and emotional time when a young adult heads off to college.  It can also be a confusing time when it comes to insurance issues relating to auto and personal belongings.  

Wheels or No Wheels?

If you’re supporting your college student financially, you can still consider her a household member for insurance purposes. Even if they don’t live at home,  moves out of state and even if they are older than 18. This means that:

Often carriers provide a Good Student Discount for students who maintain a high GPA, such as 3.0 or above. If your college student is remaining on your auto policy, be sure to talk to your agent about whether this is available for you.

Also be aware that, if your student owns their own wheels or you transfer ownership of a vehicle into their name, they will need to register and insure the vehicle themself.

What’s It All Worth?

Car or no car, your student is no doubt taking several thousand dollars’ worth of personal belongings with him to college: laptop, tablet, TV, smartphone, gaming equipment, books, wardrobe, luggage, etc. Some lines of study may even require costly gear, such as musical instruments or cameras. Your existing homeowners policy should extend some personal property coverage to your student.

For example, 10 or 20 percent of your personal property coverage may extend to your student’s dorm stay. So, if you have $100,000 of personal property coverage on your policy, your student has $10,000 or $20,000 worth of coverage. This may even follow your student to a foreign country if they are studying abroad for a semester or longer, but be sure to check with your agent.

To make it easy to take advantage of this coverage in the event of a covered incident, be sure to:

For students renting a house or apartment off-campus, or even a dorm on-campus, a renters insurance policy in their own name is another option. Renters policies are oftentimes highly affordable ($10 to $20 a month in some cases) and provide liability and medical payment coverages in addition to personal property.

What About Umbrella Insurance?

An umbrella policy covers all household members. If you have one, it gives your student even more liability protection in auto accidents and other mishaps, according to your policy.

It’s normal to be nervous when your kids head off to college. But, there’s no reason to be nervous about whether you’ve handled their insurance needs properly. Talk to us about your student's insurance needs and make sure they are covered as you'd like.




7/15/2016  When Considering A New Pet - Plan Ahead

There are approximately 160 million companion pets in the U.S., according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.  If you're considering getting a new pet, you’ll want to make sure your house and your family are ready for the new arrival. These tips may help you make the leap to pet ownership.

  1. Many municipalities and rental units have rules or regulations regarding pets. To help ensure you’re not violating any local laws, find out what restrictions are in place in your town and subdivision before you add a new pet to your family. Some municipalities limit the number of pets allowed per parcel of residential property.  Some places limit the particular breed of animal (Many places have rules against Pit Bulls).  While cats, dogs and even chickens may permitted as pets, exotic animals or hybrids such as wolves,pot bellies pigs and generally "wild" animals may not be allowed. Pet owners renting a home or living in a homeowners’ association will typically need to follow the rules specified in the contract, too.
  2. From routine checkups to emergency care, having a the contact information of a reliable veterinarian in your smartphone can be part of being a responsible pet owner. To get started, take a look at the list of accredited veterinarian offices in your area from American Animal Hospital Association. According to The Humane Society of the United States, another good way to find a vet is to ask people who have the same approach to pet care as you. Start with a recommendation from a friend, neighbor, animal shelter worker, dog trainer, groomer, boarding kennel employee or pet sitter.
  3. Spend some time researching the breed and its quirks with online resources so you know what to expect. Whether your new pet is your first pet or will join a small menagerie of animals in your home, spend some time researching the breed and its quirks with online resources. Each animal and even certain breeds have particular traits that may clash with your family's needs.  Some animals are high energy, others are more sedate.  Some pets may be territorial, while others just "go with the flow".  Some pets may not be a good fit for small children of the elderly.  Research online, talk to vets and know what you may be getting into before you bring the pet home. 
  4. If your household includes your family members or roommates in addition to your pet, then you should clearly detail who’s taking care of which pet-related tasks. Consider all the tasks and care specific to your pet. For instance, dog owners will need to walk their canine friend, check for fleas and ticks daily, clean up after him every day, and bath him now and then, as noted by American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Even younger children can help with pet-related tasks. Children as young as 3 years old may be able to help feed and groom a pet with parental supervision, according to Parents.com, while older children may be able to walk a dog and clean a pet.
  5. Before your pet sets a paw, claw, fin or foot inside your home, you’ll likely want to do a once-over of your home and check for hazards. This Old House notes there may be items in your home that could be dangerous to pets. That pesky screen that’s not properly installed and those pretty potted aloe vera plants could potentially be hazardous to your pet, says the ASPCA, so you’ll need to make a few changes to your home so your pet can be safe. You may want to do some shopping before your pet’s arrival, too. Cat owners, for example, will need to have the appropriate toys, litter boxes, scratching supplies and food for their feline friends.
  6. Make sure you have insurance coverage too, especially if you're new pet is a dog.  Adding to your home insurance policy to protect yourself in case your dog injuries someone is inexpensive and a must!   A simple dog bite that just breaks the skin can cost hundreds of dollars.   Should there be a serious injury, you may be looking at thousands in medical and legal costs!   Remember that no matter why your dog bites someone, in the eyes of the law, it's ALWAYS the dogs fault and your liability.   

By doing some research, preparing your home and ensuring you have the proper insurance coverage as a back up, your home and your family can be ready for a new pet’s arrival.



6/15/2016  New Cars = YOU calling your agent

You don’t need auto insurance before you purchase a new car, but you will need it before you leave the car dealerships lot. If you already have car insurance, do NOT leave it up to the car salesperson to notify your insurance agent of your new vehicle. Time and time again, new car owners find themselves learning an expensive and messy lesson when they leave a car lot and rely on the dealership or the salesperson to notify the insurance agency of your new car. It is your responsibility, not the dealerships. 

If you know ahead of time the exact car you’re going to buy, you can call your insurance agent with the information. After asking you several questions and getting all the necessary information, the agent will update your existing policy for the new vehicle. 

If you’re at the automobile dealership and want to buy a car and drive it home immediately, notify your agent from the dealership. Give the agent all the necessary information over the phone, and your agent will issue you a binder that is effective immediately. This binder will serve as your insurance policy for the new car until it is added to your existing policy. 

Never drive a car without insurance. If you are in an accident and have no car insurance, you can be in severe financial and legal trouble. If you cannot get your vehicle insured right away, leave it at the dealership. Get the insurance as soon as you can and then go get your new vehicle.  

Bottom line, do not rely on the dealership to make vehicle changes for you. It is your responsibility to work with your insurance agent directly to ensure that you are covered before you get behind the wheel of your new car.