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Winter emergency plans for business or home

By Troy Dohmeyer

Winter emergency plans for business or home

Fall has just begun, but winter storms are inevitable in many parts of the country.

As we close out National Preparedness Month, it’s a good time to put a winter emergency plan in place to help your business and family cope and communicate when the storms hit.

FOR BUSINESS OWNERS
  • Ensure that an emergency power supply is readily available and in service. Test your generator each month and verify it functions appropriately.
  • Maintain adequate fuel supply for building heat and emergency generators. Make certain that fuel is properly stabilized and protected from moisture intrusion.
  • Establish a severe winter weather team with written procedures to monitor conditions and alert management and maintenance personnel.
  • List emergency phone numbers in your emergency plan, and post the list at all telephones. Ensure that all employees have these emergency phone numbers at home, on their mobile phones or somewhere off-site and that they are updated whenever the numbers change.
  • Provide battery-operated and weather-alert radios in constantly staffed locations to monitor weather reports.
  • Use weather applications on your smartphone to keep informed of severe weather events.
  • Update your emergency plan to reflect changes in operations, facilities or personnel.
  • Provide adequate emergency and first-aid supplies.
FOR YOUR FAMILY (as recommended on Ready.gov)
  • Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:

    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
    • Sand to improve traction.
    • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
    • Sufficient heating fuel, taking all necessary safety precautions for storage. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning heating equipment.
    • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • A NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts alerts and warnings directly from the National Weather Service for all hazards. You may also sign up in advance to receive notifications from your local emergency services.
  • Free smartphone apps, such as those available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, provide information about finding shelters, providing first aid and seeking assistance for recovery.
  • Minimize travel. If travel …read more

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Storing your car, boat or bike for the winter

By Laura Lewis

Storing your car, boat or bike for the winter

As the weather changes in many parts of the country, we reluctantly look at putting away our summer toys: that ragtop, pontoon boat or Harley-Davidson, for example. In addition to protecting them against harsh elements, there can be an insurance advantage. Ask your agent if your insurance company offers a credit for a reduction in coverage for items stored for an extended period of time and not in use, and find out whether you should follow up in the spring. Each insurance company has its own rules.

Autos

turquoise-carIn Northern states – those mainly above the Mason-Dixon Line – you may be able to put your vehicle in storage and reduce coverage to other-than-collision (sometimes called comprehensive) coverage only. This typically requires a change to the policy to remove coverage. However, most carriers also require that you notify them when you want coverage added back to the policy in the spring. Some agents give you a token – such as car air fresheners to hang on the rear-view mirror – as a reminder to reinstate full coverage when you get that car rolling again.

Some carriers build this feature into the pricing on policies for exhibition auto vehicles – vehicles that clearly will not be driven in the winter. Check with your agent to see if this policy provision/endorsement applies to you.

Watercraft

blue-speedboatAs the temperatures start getting colder, experienced boaters prepare their watercraft to withstand harsh elements by storing them in a garage or shrink-wrapping the boat. Your watercraft policy may have an automatic layup period put in place at the time of issuance or renewal, providing months of reduced coverage at the insured’s choosing. During those months, coverage is limited to physical damage as outlined in the policy, and the annual premium reflects this layup period.

If you have the layup period in place, there is no need to call your agent unless you decide to take the boat out before the specified end date of the layup period. Ask your agent for details.

Motorcycles

turquoise-motorcycleIf you aren’t riding your bike in the cold winter months, you may be able to specify a period of time your motorcycle will be in storage, saving you premium dollars. If you have several motorcycles, find out whether a premium savings applies to all motorcycles or only one.

Some companies have a “sunny …read more

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Where to keep key documents…and where NOT to

By Marty Skidmore

Where to keep key documents...and where NOT to

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.

More information:

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Understanding and controlling business auto costs

By Mark Rose

Understanding and controlling business auto costs

It’s easy to understand why prices rise for manufactured or commodity-based products. When prices for raw materials increase, the cost of the product goes up. It’s not as easy to understand the cause of higher prices in a service-based industry such as insurance. Many factors can affect the cost of insuring a business vehicle.

Rising claims costs are a major factor behind higher insurance rates. When costs per claim go up, insurers often increase insurance rates to keep pace. An automobile insurance claim may have two components: a liability portion (bodily injury or property damage to a third party) and a physical damage portion (replacement or repair of the business auto).

Over the last several years, a main contributor to increased claims costs is higher medical bills and expensive medical procedures. Increased claims litigation costs and higher awards from courts have also had an impact.

Automobile repair costs are also going up, according to data collected by CCC Information Services, a company that provides auto claims information and processing services. Severe weather has also played a part in the rise of physical damage claims. Hail and flooding are hitting all parts of the country; tornadoes and wildfires that damage other property also damage vehicles.

What can you do to hold down your auto insurance premiums?

There are actions a business can take to hold down automobile insurance costs. An early step would be to review the physical damage coverages and deductibles carried on the company’s vehicles. Selecting higher physical damage deductibles for all vehicles or dropping collision coverage on older vehicles can generate immediate premium savings.

Improving your company’s auto loss experience will – in the longer term – have a positive impact on insurance costs. Insurance underwriters take into account a company’s past automobile loss experience when pricing automobile insurance. There are numerous things you can do to reduce your company’s exposure to auto losses:

Preparing your business for disaster

By Joel Davenport

Preparing your business for disaster

National Preparedness Month in September is an opportunity to emphasize business continuity practices for your organization. But preparing for disaster is really a year-round activity: Up to 40 percent of businesses never fully recover from a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To maintain your business after a catastrophic event, it’s important to explore all the potential worst-case scenarios that may strike – and what actions you can take to minimize them.

While insurance coverage may reimburse you for lost income and expenses, planning ahead to continue operations with minimal interruption will help your business in the long term and reduce the likelihood of lost customers and broken contracts.

To keep your business – large or small – running under the stress of an emergency, work now to develop and implement a business continuity plan. There are several steps:

Analyze the hazards – Many business owners think of fire and windstorm as their most likely work-stop scenarios. But other potential perils – such as floods, earthquakes and winter storms – exist that may or may not be covered by insurance. A disaster need not be a large-scale event; any disruptive event can be a disaster if it impacts your operations. The first step in any planning activity is to identify the potential internal and external hazards that could affect your business.

Develop an action plan – Once you pinpoint the hazards, address them through a planning process that identifies recovery and continuity procedures. The planning process should be headed by a team and engage employees and supervisors at all levels of your organization.

Implement the plan – The best plans are adopted in writing, distributed to all associates and accompanied by a training process that allows everyone to know their roles after a disaster strikes. Practice regularly so that your new hires know the plan.

Evaluate and modify the plan – Businesses constantly evolve; disaster plans should, too. Revisit your business continuity plan regularly, testing and changing it depending upon your business’ changing risk exposures.

Encourage personal disaster planning – Don’t forget that disaster planning begins at home. After a widespread catastrophe, your employees will need to attend to their personal and family needs before they can begin to help with your business disaster recovery. Stay engaged with updates from FEMA and other entities to help promote personal family preparedness so your associates can develop their own plans in …read more

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Child car seats: Precious cargo packaging

By Michael Harrold

Child car seats: Precious cargo packaging

The proper use of child car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injuries to infants by 71 percent and to toddlers by 54 percent! As car crashes are a leading cause of death among children ages 1-13, the use of car seats is critical when children are in your car. Unfortunately, a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that three out of four children are not adequately protected because they are either in the wrong seat for their age and weight or their seat is improperly installed.

As any parent knows, there are a multitude of car seats on the market – understanding the differences and identifying the proper seat for your loved ones can be a cumbersome task.

To assist in this decision process, many communities will observe Child Passenger Safety Week September 14-20, culminating in National Seat Check Saturday on September 20.

Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will be on hand to:

  • check your car seat and assist with installation
  • provide information to help you choose the right car seat for your child
  • give maintenance tips on use of car seats, booster seats and seat belts for children

The effort will also promote the importance of registering car seats with the manufacturer and what to expect should that seat be subject to a safety recall.

To find an event near you – or to locate an inspection site at any time during the year – visit Parents Central and search by state or ZIP code. The site also has information to help you choose the appropriate seat type for your child: rear-facing, front-facing or booster seat.

While all states require safety seats for children, age- and weight-based requirements vary from state to state. Find out about the regulations in your state (as well as states you may be traveling through!) from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

One final piece of advice…there is no guarantee for safety when purchasing a used car seat at garage sales, flea markets or other secondary markets. These seats may be expired (most car seats now have the expiration date molded into the shell of the seat), have missing parts, be damaged, or may have been recalled. There is no way of knowing if these seats have been in a crash and incurred damage that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

For a first-person account of how a professionally installed child safety …read more

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Insurance options to cover your move

By Diane Roller

Insurance options to cover your move

Moving into a new house can be a very exciting time. You’re getting ready to establish your family at a new place, meet new people and form new memories. As you move from your old place to your new one, you hope that all of your possessions make it in one piece. But what if they don’t? Do you have insurance in place to protect you if your belongings are damaged while in transit?

Many moving companies provide coverage if they damage your goods while in the moving process but the coverage they provide can vary greatly. When you move from state to state, the movers must provide you with two options:

  • Released value: Under this option, often offered at no additional charge, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article. For example, if the mover damaged a 50-pound kitchen table valued at $1,000, you would receive only $30 in compensation (60 cents x 50 pounds).
  • Full value protection: The mover is liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods. This plan is much more comprehensive than Released Value, but still has limitations. The mover can choose limits for damages to items of extraordinary value; this can be done on items whose value exceeds $100 per pound (such as antiques or china). You can specifically list these items on the shipping documents to avoid this limitation. The amount charged for this coverage varies by moving company and can be subject to deductibles.

You can also purchase moving insurance through:

  • a third party. The amount you pay may vary depending upon the amount of insurance you are choosing and the history of the company that is moving you.
  • a consumer affairs agency. If moving within your state, you should check with the state, county or local consumer affairs agency to see your state’s rules and regulations regarding moving companies and their obligations.
  • your homeowner insurance. Another option that might be available to you is coverage through your homeowner insurance. Many home policies do provide coverage for items while in transit, but there may be limitations due to breakage of fragile items. Contact your local agent to find out if you have this coverage or to discuss other options that might be available to you.

When your items arrive at your new home, be sure to carefully check all of your belongings for damages and that everything has arrived. …read more

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Backyard hazards: After-school safety strategies

By Misty Fraley

Backyard hazards: After-school safety strategies

The start of school signals a seasonal change in routine for many families. Children may spend after-school hours at home with an adult or teen caregiver. Sometimes older children are trusted to be alone for an hour or two until a parent arrives. This change in routine offers a good opportunity to re-evaluate the safety and liability exposures right in your own backyard.

In some parts of the country, pool season doesn’t end with Labor Day. Ask yourself if you have implemented the appropriate safety measures to prevent a pool-related accident for your family, guests or an otherwise uninvited swimmer.

Prevent drowning and a potential negligence exposure for your family:

  • Install a fence or other barrier with a self-latching gate. The fence or barrier should be at least four feet high, but it may need to be higher depending on regulations in your area.
  • Secure, lock or remove the steps or ladder to an above-ground pool to prevent young children from climbing in.
  • Make sure a responsible adult is supervising swim time. If no one is available, secure the pool and declare it off limits.
  • Sign your own children up for swimming lessons, and know the capabilities of their friends who visit. More safety information is available from the American Red Cross.

Another popular backyard gathering place for children is the trampoline. Some insurance companies decline to write insurance policies for properties where trampolines are present. If you have a trampoline, avoid injury or a costly emergency for your own children or their neighborhood friends:

  • Make your children aware that the trampoline is to be used only when a responsible adult is present to supervise.
  • Equip your trampoline with safety netting and protective padding.
  • Ensure that nothing has been placed under the trampoline.
  • Position the trampoline in a clear space, avoiding trees or wires.
  • Allow only one person at a time to jump on the trampoline.
  • Mount and dismount the trampoline correctly, not by jumping onto or off of another surface. More safety information is available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Your local independent insurance agent can help you evaluate your own situation so that you avoid the personal liability exposures associated with your backyard.

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What risks are you taking with your family’s future?

By Ronda Bradley

What risks are you taking with your family's future?

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month

According to a recent study by LIMRA and LIFE Foundation, 85 percent of consumers agree that most people need life insurance, yet only 62 percent have coverage. According to that same study, 50 percent of U.S. households — that’s 58 million — say they need more life insurance.

Your family may depend on your earnings to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Your survivors could use life insurance policy benefits to help replace your income, repay outstanding debt and meet many other important financial needs, such as daily living costs, personal loan or mortgage payments and college savings.

While the primary reason for life insurance is to cover final expenses, such as funeral expenses and uninsured medical or hospital costs, life insurance would be beneficial in many other circumstances. For example, life insurance can be used to finance future education expenses for your children or grandchildren. It also can allow you to leave a tax-free, charitable donation to your favorite nonprofit organization. By establishing a life insurance policy with benefits going directly to the charity, your donation may be many times more than what you could afford on your own.

For small-business owners, life insurance can be used to fund a buy-sell agreement that could help ensure the business continues should the remaining owners need to buy out heirs of a deceased owner. Life insurance can also be used for key employees, payable to the company, to allow the owners some financial flexibility in hiring a replacement.

An independent agent in your area can help you examine options as you make decisions. Working with a local independent agent gives you several advantages:

  • Your local agent will get to know you and your family and understand your insurance needs.
  • Independent agents represent multiple insurance companies, allowing them to select the right coverage for your insurance needs. Not all insurance companies offer the same coverages or financial strength.
  • Should you ever need additional coverage or assistance in making changes or filing claims, the agent will be there to help walk you through the process.

By examining your financial situation today, you can assure financial security for your family’s tomorrows.

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