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The top 5 blog posts of 2014

By Cincinnati Insurance

The top 5 blog posts of 2014

As we wrap up 2014, here’s a rundown of the year’s top 5 blog posts, based on page views. Two were actually published in 2013 but continued to attract readers, shares and comments. Our top blog also attracted the most comments, many from readers who displayed deep knowledge of how to prepare for a disaster. The comments alone are worth a second look.

Thank you for your readership this year. Visit us in 2015 for more insurance and safety information. We wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

1. Lights out: Preparing for extended power outages

(March 20, 2014)

Most of us can, reluctantly, endure the occasional brief power outage from a summer thunderstorm. But an extended power outage can be a challenge to our dependence on modern appliances and electronic devices, and disaster plans should take power loss into account.

2. When deer are in your headlights

(November 19, 2013)

As the outdoor temperature gradually drops, deer activity and deer-vehicle accidents increase. Every year across the country, deer-vehicle accidents account for billions of dollars in vehicle damage, thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities. These tips can help you avoid a collision with a deer and stay safe while on the road.

3. The homeowner’s to-do list: Here’s where to start

(April 8, 2014)

Now that the seasons have turned, it’s time to assess how your property weathered the winter. This is a good time to make a “to-do” list to prevent property maintenance and liability issues.

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

(September 23, 2014)

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

5. Don’t be surprised by the cost to rebuild your home

(December 5, 2013)

Many people don’t know where to start to estimate home value when purchasing homeowner insurance. For some, the first instinct may be to insure the home based on mortgage value. Others may look at real estate market value, property tax basis or some other factor. But any of these values could be far less than the actual cost to rebuild, and that is the key consideration when buying insurance to protect against a loss.

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Prepare for emergency: Keep AEDs maintained

By Brian Rawlings

Prepare for emergency: Keep AEDs maintained

Over 424,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur each year, according to the Sudden Cardiac Foundation. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when a person becomes unconscious with no pulse and no breathing. This can happen to anyone, anywhere. This person is clinically dead.

But according to the American Heart Association, rescuers who know cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) can increase the chance of survival to 50 to 74 percent.

What AEDs Do

Some cardiac events are caused by a problem with the heart’s rhythm, and a correctly administered electric shock is needed to get the heart beating normally again. A portable AED device detects a person’s heart activity and, when needed, automatically gives an electric shock to restore a regular heart rhythm.

In recent years, AEDs have become available for lay rescuers to use. AEDs have been proven safe and do not administer a shock unless the victim has a life-threatening, erratic heart rhythm. Using voice instruction, AEDs lead responders through the steps for use. Most CPR classes now include instruction on using the devices.

Standard Equipment

Because they’re affordable and easy to use, AEDs have become standard equipment in many public places such as malls, airports, hotels, churches, health clubs, swimming facilities, offices and workplaces of all sizes.

In some situations, your business may be required to have an AED. Or, along with periodic employee training, it may be part of an emergency response plan designed to give rescuers a chance to keep a person alive until professional medical help arrives.

Maintenance

But as with other infrequently used emergency equipment, it’s easy to put an AED on the shelf and forget it. The devices need regular testing and maintenance – including battery changes or pad replacements – to remain operable. The MN Resuscitation Consortium at the University of Minnesota has developed a fact sheet to help AED owners understand steps necessary to maintain their devices. If you own an AED, consult the owner’s manual for instructions on how often to replace pads and batteries. And in some cases, technology advances so quickly that you may need to replace your device.

Having the correct, properly maintained equipment available is one part of being prepared for a cardiac health emergency. Being trained in CPR is another step. Find online courses or a classroom course near you by using locators on the American Heart Association or American Red Cross websites.

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Smart parents monitor smartphone, tablet gifts

By Kerri Hinkel

Smart parents monitor smartphone, tablet gifts

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

Set the rules

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

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

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

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

Social networking safety

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

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

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

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

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Renters: Don’t learn about insurance the hard way

By Phillip Rehg

Renters: Don't learn about insurance the hard way

Sometimes, it takes a drastic event to realize the importance of insurance. Unfortunately, I learned the importance of insurance the hard way. Just two months after graduating college, I naively moved into an apartment without purchasing insurance. Within a week of moving in, I received a call informing me that lightning had struck the building, and the entire place had gone up in flames. Trying to put my life back together without insurance was not a pleasant experience, one that can easily be avoided with a standard tenants policy.

Property

The primary purpose of a tenants policy is to insure your personal property. The policy covers loss or damage to your personal property while at your residence in the event of a covered loss, such as theft, fire or storm. The policy also covers your property when it is away from your home, for example, if your laptop is stolen or damaged due to a covered peril when you take it with you on vacation.

Carefully consider the amount of coverage you need. It can be overwhelming to create a list of every possession you own after a loss. Be prepared by taking inventory of your personal property and the cost of each item.

Liability

Tenants insurance provides more than just peace of mind in replacing your possessions; it also provides liability coverage. Don’t overlook this insurance need. If someone is injured while in your home ̶ even if you don’t own the home ̶ you can still be held liable. You may be responsible for medical bills and could be subject to a lawsuit. A tenants policy protects you from the financial consequences of most risks.

Additional Living Expenses

Now, imagine your apartment catches fire and is uninhabitable. Where do you go from there? With a tenants policy, you don’t have to worry about moving in with the in-laws. Your policy can pay for necessary increases in living expenses incurred so that your household can maintain its normal standard of living.

Renters can find additional information at the Ohio Insurance Institute’s website. While it is an Ohio-based organization, the principles discussed apply throughout the United States.

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Take care when naming your life insurance beneficiary

By Ann S. Binzer

Purchasing a life insurance policy is an important piece of financial planning. Naming a beneficiary, and changing that beneficiary when necessary, is also a key component of insurance planning. Keep these tips in mind when naming a life insurance beneficiary:

Spouse’s name ̶ When listing a spouse as beneficiary, be sure to show a woman’s name as “Jane Doe” and not “Mrs. John Doe,” so that there is no question of the proper beneficiary in the event of divorce and remarriage. Be clear by listing full first, middle and last names without courtesy titles.

Divorce ̶ Be sure to review beneficiary designations at the time of divorce. Many states automatically revoke the beneficiary designation of a spouse upon divorce, so it is important to review your beneficiary designations and discuss them with an attorney if you need assistance.

Minors ̶ Life insurance companies generally cannot pay the proceeds directly to minors. If you have minor children, alternatives include setting up a trust for their benefit or naming a custodian under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, rather than listing them as a life insurance beneficiary. An attorney can help with either of these options.

Contingent beneficiary ̶ It is always helpful to name a contingent beneficiary on a life insurance policy. If the primary beneficiary dies and you neglect to name a replacement, the insurance company can still pay policy proceeds to the contingent beneficiary. Without a contingent beneficiary, the proceeds are paid to your estate, and it will take longer for family members to receive policy proceeds.

Communicate ̶ Finally, be sure to tell your beneficiaries about the life insurance policy. Let them know where it is and how to find it, so that they can act promptly to claim benefits at the necessary time. Provide the name and contact information for the agent or agency where you bought the policy. Your family will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult for everyone. By planning ahead, you can make things just a little easier for your family.

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Keep your office party on the nice list

By John Fisher

Keep your office party on the nice list

It’s the holidays! Time for festivities, visions of sugarplums, good cheer…and workplace holiday parties.

While employers want to recognize and thank employees for their hard work during the year, workplace holiday parties can become a liability concern. While you don’t want to be a Grinch, you also don’t want to host a holiday party that causes your employees discomfort or leads to sexual harassment or other complaints.

Liability

Examples of potential liability arising from workplace holiday parties include:

  • An intoxicated employee breaks an ankle while showing off his moves on the dance floor; a possible workers’ compensation claim.
  • A manager (sober or intoxicated) gets a little too “festive” with an employee under the mistletoe; a possible sexual harassment claim.
  • An intoxicated employee is involved in an auto accident on the way home; a possible claim against the employer for serving the alcohol.
Alcohol

If alcohol is served at your office party, strongly consider regulating consumption:

  • Hire a professional bartender or caterer who has liquor liability insurance to serve the drinks.
  • Hold the party off-site at a location that has its own liquor liability insurance coverage.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to a predetermined number by passing out a limited number of drink tickets to each employee.
  • Have plenty of nonalcoholic beverages available.
  • Serve food.
General Tips

Other general tips for hosting a litigation-free workplace party:

  • Be mindful of differing religious and ethnic sensibilities. Call the gathering a holiday party, or some other nondenominational term to avoid claims of discrimination.
  • Attendance should be voluntary unless business will be conducted.
  • Make it clear that normal workplace rules of conduct apply – particularly if the party is on-site.
  • Don’t hang mistletoe.

How I fell into insurance

By Christopher Barger

How I fell into insurance

The insurance industry is growing and has a high need for talented professionals with a variety of training and skills. Recruiters are asking job seekers “where do you fit in?” In this series, Cincinnati Insurance associates describe their own career journeys.


Insurance nerds like me love to play the game “How Did You End Up in Insurance,” the implication being that no one actually intends on an insurance career. Really, how many kids in your neighborhood ever spoke longingly of a future that included the principles of indemnification? No, most of us tripped and fell into a rabbit hole that turned into an insurance wonderland.

Before I fell into the rabbit hole, I was going to teach high school English. Yes, in my daydreams, I transformed the barely literate youth of my world into Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists!

Of course things don’t always work out according to plans. Exactly 20 years ago, I was an unemployed high school English teacher who had spent the previous three years substitute teaching on a part-time basis and working construction on a full-time basis.

It was a fraternity brother who suggested that I pursue the career path that he had stumbled into several years earlier – insurance. Really? Insurance? Could there be a more painful existence?

Yet I took a leap of faith and somehow convinced somebody that an unemployed high school English teacher working construction would make an excellent underwriter. The company trained me to work with commercial accounts, and I learned about an entire world of different businesses, some that I never even knew existed. There were small manufacturers that made little parts that ended up in bigger parts. There were churches, small neighborhood stores and shops, general contractors, subcontractors, hotels, golf courses, social service agencies, breweries – an endless list of businesses that needed insurance. I wasn’t working in one industry… I was working in all industries!

I made other discoveries in this fascinating new wonderland. One was that our economy can’t function without insurance. Most business operations, home mortgages and car loans depend on the promise and security that insurance provides. I learned that we keep that promise on a daily basis. We’re there for people in their darkest hours. What an honor!

I also learned that an insurance career has something for everyone. Insurance professionals stay because we work in a place where we can develop our skills and pursue our interests. If sales …read more

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Never too early to prepare for that blizzard

By Marty Skidmore

Never too early to prepare for that blizzard

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

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

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

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

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