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Stay alert for vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy

By Cincinnati Insurance

flooded-car

Know a used car’s history before you buy.

The counts vary, but it has been estimated 225,000 to 300,000 vehicles sustained flood damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. What happened to those vehicles? In some case, unscrupulous opportunists bought them for pennies on the dollar. The vehicles were dried out, shined up and offered for resale for hundreds — sometimes thousands — less than the fair market value. Good deal? Maybe, if you don’t mind the vehicle’s mechanical, electrical or safety systems potentially (more like probably) failing at any time.

Water, especially salt water, causes early corrosion to the electrical components of a vehicle, significantly decreasing their useful life expectancy and causing their failure. In addition, mold and bacteria can grow in the soft materials of the vehicle, creating an undesirable odor and even impacting your health.

Several state attorney general websites have issued consumer advocate warnings to increase awareness of flood vehicles entering their state borders. Do an Internet search on “hurricane Sandy flood vehicles,” and you’ll discover 2,310,000 results discussing the fishy subject.

If you are considering buying a used vehicle, attempt to know its history. The Ohio Attorney General’s office offers some guidance. Consider purchasing a vehicle history report. One major provider is currently offering free VIN checks to determine whether the vehicle was involved in Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina.

Look for visible signs of potential water damage:

  • Rust on screws and bolts in unusual places for water contact
  • Water stains on upholstery, seat belts, door panels, etc.; look under the trunk carpet
  • Strong moldy/musty smell OR a strong disinfectant or deodorizer smell
  • Lights or gauges that do not work

Seek the history of that used car you are considering, and educate yourself on the practice of flood vehicle resales. Don’t get caught with a flood of vehicle repair bills.

Submitted by Jay O’Hara

Filed under: Business insurance, Consumer tips, Personal insurance Tagged: car, damage, flood, hurricane, salvage, Sandy, truck, vehicle, water
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College students may need fire prevention refresher

By Cincinnati Insurance

This is the fifth of five blogs on fire safety topics during our October observance of Fire Prevention Month.

Find more information on FEMA’s Campus Fire Safety page, http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/college/

Most campus-related fires occur in off-campus housing, according to statistics collected by the U.S. Fire Administration. Considering that the majority of the nation’s 20 million college students choose to live in off-campus housing, this puts a significant number of them at risk.

Along with a new sense of independence, the college years bring new responsibility, including the need for fire prevention. Training becomes especially important when you consider that the last fire safety training most college students received was in elementary school.

A refresher of some simple, common-sense practices can help students understand fire risks and know the preventive measures that could save their lives.

Protection

  • Make sure the building you are living in has smoke alarms in each sleeping area, outside each sleeping area and on each level. It is preferable that smoke alarms are interconnected, so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • The building should have carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested at least once a month.
  • Never remove batteries from smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure there are at least two evacuation routes from the building. All windows and doors should open easily and exit routes should be free of clutter.
  • Make sure the address is clearly marked on the outside of the building so emergency personnel can locate you quickly.

Prevention

  • Candles should be placed in sturdy candleholders and are never left unattended.
  • Candles are an open flame. Be sure candles are kept at least 12 inches from anything that can burn, including curtains and linens.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets. Only one heat-producing appliance (for example, coffeemaker, toaster, space heater) should be plugged into an outlet at a time.
  • Space heaters should be used only if necessary. Place them on a level surface away from areas where they can be bumped or knocked over. They should be placed at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture or other flammable materials. Most important – they should never be left unattended or running while you sleep.
  • Porches and decks should be clear of upholstered furniture, barbecue grills and fire pits.
  • When cooking – stay in the kitchen. Do not cook when tired or under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication that may cause drowsiness.
  • Keep the cooking area clean and …read more

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Keep your kids safe this Halloween

By Cincinnati Insurance

Accompany young children on their Halloween rounds.

Accompany young children on their Halloween rounds.

When you take your young ghosts and goblins out trick-or-treating, follow some simple tips to keep your Halloween safe and not too scary. Go over the rules and guidelines with your child before leaving the house:

Trick-or-Treat Safety

  • Go out with your young children to supervise
  • Or, allow your child out only with an adult you know and trust
  • Keep kids within your sight
  • Take flashlights or glow-in-the-dark-sticks to improve your visibility
  • Stay with your child
  • Visit only homes you know in your neighborhood
  • Remind your child to only enter homes or cars of people you know and have approved
  • Stay on the sidewalks
  • Take care crossing streets
  • Examine all candy and treats before allowing your child to eat
  • If the porch light is off, pass to the next house
  • Beware of dogs when approaching houses or porches; dogs can be very protective of their territory

Costume Safety

  • Your child should wear a flame resistant costume with a good fit
  • Use reflective tape to improve visibility in the dark
  • If your child is wearing a mask, make sure he or she can see properly

For Older Kids

  • Travel in a group
  • Plan safe routes
  • Know and stick to a curfew

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer additional tips for kids, homeowners and party hosts this Halloween season.

Submitted by Sonny Singleton

Filed under: Consumer tips, Loss control, Safety tips Tagged: child, children, costume, Halloween, kids, parent, safety, supervise, trick-or-treat
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Carbon monoxide: Combustion’s deadly companion

By Cincinnati Insurance

This is the fourth of five blogs on fire safety topics during our October observance of Fire Prevention Month.

A carbon monoxide alarm may or may not
have a digital readout.

Burning wood in a fireplace. Heating a home with a gas furnace. Cooking on a gas stovetop. Grilling with charcoal. Running a combustion engine such as an automobile or generator. Drying clothes in a gas dryer. Many of us enjoy these modern conveniences, but what is the danger they all have in common? Carbon monoxide.

In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to more than 80,000 non-fire carbon monoxide incidents. In 2008 alone nearly 200 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (abbreviated CO) is a colorless, odorless, invisible gas given off when fuels such as wood, coal, natural gas and gasoline, burn. In homes, some of the most common sources of CO are heating equipment, generators, automobiles, stoves, ovens and dryers.

CO precautions

To prevent carbon monoxide, have fuel-burning equipment inspected by a professional every year or more frequently if recommended by the manufacturer. This includes furnaces, wood- or coal-burning stoves, fireplaces and chimneys. Ensure vents for the dryer, furnace and fireplace are not obstructed, particularly after snowfalls.

Never use the stove or oven to heat your home or burn charcoal or use a charcoal grill indoors. Never warm or run a vehicle in the garage, even with the door open. Always run vehicles outside in well-ventilated areas. Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from doors, windows or vents.

CO alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside sleeping areas, and on every level of the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting. Use only those alarms that carry the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Test the CO alarm monthly, and replace according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

CO alarms are not a substitute for smoke alarms; you need both in your home. Be sure to know the difference between smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. If your CO alarm sounds, move outdoors and call your fire department. If you cannot move outside and call, go to an open window or door to contact help.

Half of all carbon monoxide calls to fire departments occur in the winter months, and mostly in the evening.

By following these precautions, you can help protect your family from this byproduct of our modern lives.

Part 1 – Kitchen a hot spot for home …read more

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A well-maintained building is ready for winter

By Cincinnati Insurance

snow-plow

Verify that your snow removal contractor has a certificate of insurance.

Buildings protect us from the elements but, like people, are not immune to seasonal change. Fall is a great time to take action to help protect your commercial building from the effects of transitioning to fall and winter. Your efforts now will keep you and your customers more comfortable later.

Building Maintenance

  • Remove leaves from gutters and drains, including roof drains, to ensure smooth water flow
  • Inspect all drains to ensure there are no obstructions to help prevent ice dams or snow loading. Inspect and seal all building envelope and roof flashing penetrations to ensure water does not enter the building
  • Ensure gutters and downspouts are securely attached and stable
  • Clear debris from basement, below-grade and foundation drains, including parking lot storm drains
  • Prune trees over roofs and clear brush from drainage ditches and reservoirs to provide unimpeded flow of water
  • Have all heating equipment properly serviced before placing a heavy load at the start of the season. This includes boilers, furnaces, ovens and other heat-producing equipment.
  • Inspect and test all carbon monoxide monitors and ensure they are properly placed
  • Space heaters should be avoided, but if they are necessary, use only UL-labeled devices that include modern safety features.

Snow and ice removal and management

  • Purchase shovels, ice melt and appropriate equipment prior to the first snowfall
  • If you plan to have a contractor perform snow removal, obtain certificates of insurance every year and ensure formal contracts are in place with appropriate risk transfer provisions verified; establish clear operational guidelines and expectations
  • Repair potholes and identify all curbs, hydrants and parking areas for snow plows
  • Inspect exterior lighting to make sure it is sufficient for night-time snow removal and that lights are on during snow removal times
  • Have snow throwers properly serviced before the start of the season

Prevent frozen pipes

  • Turn off all irrigation systems and properly remove water from the lines to prevent freezing
  • Seal all wall and attic pipe penetrations to prevent airflow around the opening
  • Increase insulation in attics and basements where pipes run; consider temperature alarms with remote station monitoring in areas where temperatures may fall below 40 degrees
  • In very cold areas, it is sufficient to allow sinks and outlets to drip to help prevent freezing if water cannot be turned off and drained
  • Ensure all windows and doors are properly sealed, particularly those in unheated areas
  • Wet sprinkler systems require the building temperature to be maintained to at least 40 degrees, and dry …read more

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Escape plans critical to surviving a fire

By Cincinnati Insurance

This is the third of five blogs on fire safety topics during our October observance of Fire Prevention Month.

Develop a fire escape plan and practice it
with all family members.

Installing the proper safety equipment and having an emergency escape plan are two critical things that can make a difference in the event of a house fire. Make the necessary preparations now to improve the chances that your family will survive a house fire.

Develop an emergency escape plan

  • Create a plan that includes escape routes from each room of your home
  • Practice your plan with all members of your household
  • Review the plan at least twice a year when all members of your household are present
  • Update the plan when you make changes, such as adding a finished basement or rearranging furniture
  • Post the plan on your refrigerator where family members will see it regularly and commit it to memory

Obtain safety ladders

  • For multilevel homes, safety ladders are invaluable. You can find them at most building supply stores in compact styles that can be installed under a window.
  • If possible, install one in every bedroom above ground floor

A few words about smoke alarms

  • Install and check smoke alarms
  • Install both battery and electric-wired smoke alarms on every level of your home, including basements, attics, outside each bedroom and inside each sleeping room
  • Change smoke alarm batteries twice a year
  • Test smoke alarms once a month, if not more often
  • Replace battery-operated smoke alarm units every eight to10 years.

For more information on fire safety and creative ways to educate your children, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s public information site.

Part 1 – Kitchen a hot spot for home fires, injuries

Part 2 – Correctly placed, working smoke alarms save lives

Submitted by Stephen Dale

Filed under: Consumer tips, Loss control, Safety tips Tagged: escape, fire, Fire Prevention Month, Fire Prevention Week, prevention, safety
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Fall maintenance protects your home for winter

By Cincinnati Insurance

Clean leaves and debris from gutters to allow water to flow freely.

Clean leaves and debris from gutters to allow water to flow.

Take advantage of fall weather to work on projects around your home and protect it from common winter problems. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Clean out your gutters. Remove leaves and other debris from your gutters first by hand to get rid of the large particles, and then with a scraping tool and water hose before cold weather arrives. This helps to prevent ice damming. Ice dams are caused when snow melts on a heated part of the roof, then refreezes on a colder portion of the roof. This creates a dam and allows water to back up under the shingles, causing damage to insulation and interior ceilings or walls. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has more information about preventing ice dams.
  • Make sure downspouts properly guide the water away from the home. An Environmental Protection Agency technical bulletin recommends directing downspouts a minimum of 5 feet from the foundation, preferably 10 feet.
  • Use door sweeps and caulk to block drafty areas of the home from the winter cold. Common areas for these are recess lighting areas, electrical outlets, door frames and windows.
  • Have your furnace and chimney checked and cleaned annually. Change your furnace filter regularly; every three months is typical.
  • Vacuum out your air ducts. Every few years, the air ducts should be vacuumed to help make sure that heated air passes through with no obstacles.
  • Keep cabinets on exterior walls with plumbing open to allow warm air to circulate. Similarly, keep bathroom and laundry room doors open to allow warm air to circulate.
  • Remove screen windows and put up storm windows.
  • Reverse the circulation of your ceiling fans. As you fire up the furnace for the heating season, reverse your ceiling fan blades to rotate clockwise, creating an updraft that forces warm air down into the room. This can provide additional energy savings, according to the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center.

Prepare now so that you can stay warm in the cold winter months and protect your home from loss.

Submitted by Laura Lewis

Filed under: Consumer tips, Loss control, Personal insurance Tagged: fall, maintenance, prevention, winter <a target=_blank …read more

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Correctly placed, working smoke alarms save lives

By Cincinnati Insurance

This is the second of five blogs on fire safety topics during our October observance of Fire Prevention Month.

Test your smoke alarm monthly.

Fifteen of every 16 homes have a smoke alarm, according to the National Fire Protection Association and United States Fire Administration. However, only three-quarters have a working smoke alarm.

Many homes do not have sufficient numbers of alarms or do not have them located in the correct places.

Smoke alarms are easy to install and, more importantly, they are an inexpensive way to keep your family alive in case of a fire. More than 2,500 fatalities occur each year in residential fires. Two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Every residence should have smoke alarms installed in all of the following areas:

  • inside all sleeping rooms (bedrooms)
  • outside each separate sleeping area (for example, the hallway serving the sleeping rooms) in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms
  • on each level of the residence even if there are no sleeping rooms, including the basement

If you don’t already have smoke alarms in your home, purchase some and install them in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions. In many jurisdictions, it’s the law to have working smoke alarms in or near every bedroom. If you cannot afford smoke alarms, you may find programs in your area that can help you; ask your local fire department for advice.

Regularly check your smoke alarms to be sure they are working. It is recommended you test smoke alarms every month by pressing the alarm’s test button to make sure you can hear the alarm. Periodically replace the batteries. When smoke alarms fail to work, most often the problem is caused by old or removed batteries. Put fresh batteries in all of your smoke alarms when the time changes in the spring and fall. (Note: Daylight saving time runs from 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March to 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.) If you hear a smoke alarm chirping, that generally means the battery is about to die and needs to be replaced.

Nearly 5 million homes still do not have any smoke alarms, and many more do not have sufficient numbers to provide proper protection. Is your home one of them? Contact your local fire department with questions specific to your area or for …read more

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Post-flood boiler recovery can present hazards

By Cincinnati Insurance

Focus on safety when recovering equipment after a loss.

Focus on safety when recovering equipment after a loss.

The recent flooding in Colorado demonstrates the importance of being prepared. If your business includes boilers or electrical equipment, there are things you can do to minimize a loss from flood damage.

First, consult with an insurance professional to discuss the needs of your particular business before any loss occurs, concentrating on the “best practice” steps necessary to help you recover safely.

Then, understand and be prepared to execute those steps to minimize a loss, should one occur.

There are numerous hazards involved with restoring damaged boilers and other types of electrical equipment from flooding. It is always best to consult with specific manufacturer instructions and professional service providers, but there are guidelines that can help with the initial recovery phase. Safety is the No. 1 concern at all times, and many tasks will not be a “do-it-yourself” proposition.

The National Board of Boiler & Pressure Vessel Inspectors ̶ the pre-eminent authority nationally on boiler inspection and safety guidelines – offers important tips on how to restore a boiler and any accompanying electrical systems to a safe operating condition after a flood, whether from a naturally occurring event or from a ruptured water pipe.

By safely returning your equipment to service, you avoid additional accidents so that you can focus on flood recovery.

Submitted by Duane Cantrell

Filed under: Business insurance, Loss control, Safety tips Tagged: boiler, electrical, equipment, flood, loss control, preparedness, recovery, safety
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Kitchen a hot spot for home fires, injuries

By Cincinnati Insurance

safe-cooking

This is the first of five blogs on fire safety topics during our October observance of Fire Prevention Month.

Safe cooking practices can help prevent fires and injuries.

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. During its Fire Prevention Week observance October 6-12, the National Fire Protection Association focuses on the fact that more fires start in the kitchen than any other part of the home. Take the NFPA’s quiz to find out how much you already know about preventing kitchen fires.

Then read on for some tips to help you practice fire safety in your kitchen.

Cooking safety

Cooking fires can happen quickly and cause significant injuries. Follow these basic tips to improve cooking safety:

  • Never leave any cooking unattended. If you must leave the room, turn the burners off
  • Keep children at least 3 feet from any area where cooking takes place or where hot food or liquids are handled
  • Wear short sleeves or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking; loose clothing or dangling sleeves may catch fire
  • Keep anything that can catch fire ̶ towels, pot holders, papers ̶ away from cooking areas
  • Always have a tight-fitting lid near where you use a skillet for frying. Cover a skillet fire with the lid and turn off the burner

Choose the right fire extinguishers

Identify the areas in your home where a fire is most likely to occur, and then store the correct class of extinguisher nearby. Especially consider extinguishers for your kitchen, work areas and grilling locations. Share the locations and how to use each extinguisher with each member of your household.

  • The most versatile fire extinguisher is one listed for several kinds of fires, called an “ABC” or “multi-purpose” fire extinguisher
  • Purchase only those extinguishers tested by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory
  • Purchase an extinguisher that can easily be handled by the member of the household who may use it; do not purchase an extinguisher too heavy to use
  • Use the extinguisher by remembering PASS:

Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism
Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly
Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side

Practice fire safety, and live in the confidence that if a fire occurs, you and your family are prepared. For more information on fire safety and creative ways to educate your children, visit <a target=_blank title="Third Party Website Icon …read more

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