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Can you find your utility shutoff valves?

By Troy Dohmeyer

Can you find your utility shutoff valves?

Purchase valve tags from commercial sign companies, or make your own from luggage or package tags available at office supply, organizational or travel stores. Some are self-laminating. Water lines are typically marked in blue, gas lines in yellow.

Everyone knows to call 911 for emergency rescue, safety or medical services. But sometimes when disaster threatens or strikes, you must act immediately to shut off utility service while you wait for help to arrive.

As part of disaster planning for your home or business, locate and tag your utilities, and think through the scenarios that might require action.

Whether a disaster causes you to stay put or evacuate, consider:

  • WATER SERVICE – When a pipe breaks suddenly or when there’s a threat of below-freezing weather, you may need to shut off the water supply. Locate your water shutoff valve in advance and clearly tag it so you’ll be ready to take quick action. Some utilities will tag the valve for you, or you can make your own tag or purchase one from a commercial source. Shutoff valves can be in a basement, garage or utility room or even under the sidewalk or lawn. Some water valves require a special tool; check with your water service provider and have a spare available. Make sure your plan takes fire protection and water sprinkler systems into consideration. In many situations, you will want to leave those operational.
  • GAS SERVICE – If there’s a leak, don’t endanger your life or anyone else’s by lingering inside. Get out of the building! But if you have a situation where you need to evacuate your home or business for an extended period, think about whether it’s prudent to shut off the gas at the main valve where it enters the building. Know where your gas shutoff valve is and tag it. As with the water valve, some gas valves require a special wrench. And, if you do shut off the gas, engage your gas utility, local fire department or other qualified professional to restore service. Remember that pilot lights for water heaters, furnaces or stoves also may need to be relit.
  • ELECTRICITY – Find the circuit breaker or fuse box that serves your location and know how to operate it. This can allow you to cut power only to selected areas. Also find the main shutoff switch that quickly cuts power to all the circuits in your structure. Most outdoor air conditioning units have …read more

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Personal articles: Protect your valuable property

By Cincinnati Personal Lines

Personal articles: Protect your valuable property

Jewelry is just one category of items that can be protected with personal articles coverage.

Gold and diamonds and furs, oh my!

While your homeowners policy may cover valuables when lost, stolen or damaged, many policies limit the valuation of items such as jewelry, silverware, works of art, furs or collectibles. That policy may pay only the limit and not cover the full value of each item.

If you have items of value, ask your local independent insurance agent about personal articles coverage.

COVERAGE YOU NEED

You receive better protection for certain valuables with personal articles coverage because you can schedule each item at its specific value. A bill of sale or a recent appraisal may be all you need to show the proper insurable value for most items.

Personal articles coverage can properly insure your special property such as:

  • jewelry, watches, furs and mounted precious stones
  • silverware, goldware, pewterware and coin collections
  • golf clubs and similar sporting equipment
  • guns, swords and other such weapons
  • antiques, stamp collections and musical instruments
  • paintings, sculptures and other works of art

Other personal property may qualify, so be sure to ask your agent about any items you want considered.

Personal articles insurance also may cover many special items for direct physical loss or damage wherever they are throughout the world, unless specifically excluded by the policy.

CHOICES THAT HELP YOU SAVE

Ask your local, independent insurance agent if you can choose a policy that offers standard coverage with no deductible. See if you qualify for a premium discount by selecting a higher deductible. And remember, most insurance companies offer additional discounts when you have more than one policy with the same carrier such as a homeowners, condominium or renters’ policy combined with a personal umbrella, auto or watercraft policy.

UPDATE YOUR INSURANCE PROTECTION

If you already have protection for your special valuables and collections, now is a good time to update your policy amounts to reflect today’s market values and recent acquisitions. For information, coverage availability in your state, a quote or policy service, please contact your local independent agent.

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7 questions to ask your agent about homeowner insurance

By Cincinnati Personal Lines

7 questions to ask your agent about homeowner insurance

It pays to ask questions about your insurance.

When you’re shopping for homeowner insurance, remember that policies can vary widely. Some coverages may be included, and others may be available for additional premium.

Here are some questions you might want to ask your independent insurance agent:

    1. Is my home covered for full replacement cost? This is one of the key distinctions between homeowner policies, and you’ll want to know the answer. If your home is covered only for its current market value – or worse, your loan amount – you are likely underinsured and would not be able to rebuild the home to its current state in the event of a loss. Make sure the insured value takes into consideration all of your home’s features. The cost to rebuild is likely to be significantly more than the current market value or your loan amount. See our prior blogs: Don’t be surprised by the cost to rebuild your home; 7 factors to help nail down your home’s reconstruction cost; and Insurance TLC for your historic home
    2. How much is the deductible on my policy? The deductible is the amount of a loss that you pay. If you can afford a high deductible with savings or other resources, you can usually reduce your premiums. Your agent can help you find the right balance.
    3. Does my policy include earthquake coverage? Not all policies do. If yours doesn’t, you may be able to obtain earthquake coverage for additional premium. Your agent can advise you on the need for earthquake coverage in your area. Don’t assume that you don’t need it.
    4. How much coverage do I have on the contents of my home? Contents coverage is usually a percentage of the insured value of the home. Some policies automatically provide contents coverage of 50 percent of the value of the structure, others provide 70 or 75 percent. And, you may be able to increase the amount of coverage for additional premium.
    5. Does my policy insure against water damage from sewer backups, sump overflows or water pressure from below the ground surface? Most standard policies do not provide coverage for these losses, but you may be able to obtain coverage for additional premium.
    6. Does my policy provide any coverage for disappearance of jewelry or silverware? While a policy may provide a specified limit of coverage for theft of these items, “mysterious disappearance” of these items may not be …read more

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Financial questions when applying for life insurance

By Justin Sharp

Financial questions when applying for life insurance

Be prepared to answer financial questions
when applying for life insurance.

You recognize the need for life insurance, but two important questions remain:

How much coverage do you need?

What information is needed to justify the amount of coverage?

Depending on the reason you are applying for life insurance, there are several ways to determine the amount of coverage you need. Family income protection is one of the main reasons people apply for life insurance. In order to assess your life insurance need, the insurer will need to know your age and income at the time of the application.

One simple and common method is to calculate coverage as a multiple of annual income. Remember that your income means your TOTAL income, which may include more than just salary – bonuses, commissions, deferred compensation – but NOT investment income.

A good place to start is this formula:

Ages 20-30 ̶ 20x income

31-40 ̶ 16x income

41-50 ̶ 13x income

51-60 ̶ 10x income

61+ ̶ 5x income

Underwriters often request information to ensure the coverage amount is both reasonable and affordable. The most common information requested includes tax documents, pay stubs and financial statements. The insurer may also ask for information on existing policies. The insurer wants to confirm you are not overinsured and at risk of lapsing for nonpayment.

You can reduce your stress by gathering this critical information and having it ready for your interview. Don’t panic; adverse financial history does not have to be an issue if you can explain it.

Be prepared to address questions the underwriter may have about your insurability, including:

  • income
  • net worth
  • bankruptcy
  • lawsuits
  • liens
  • judgments
  • spousal employment

If you have existing life insurance, you’ll need to know the carrier, benefit amount and whether you have been declined for insurance before or had coverage canceled.

All of this information will allow an underwriter to determine whether the amount of coverage you are applying for is appropriate. If an agent can thoroughly explain financial history and justify the amount of coverage in a cover letter at the time of application, sometimes further information is not needed.

Not every case is the same; documenting your financial information can answer an underwriter’s questions, making financial underwriting a simple and painless process.

More information about the life insurance application process is available in our earlier blog and at Life Happens, an industry website.

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Clubs make child safety a priority

By Cincinnati Insurance

Clubs make child safety a priority

The May edition of ClubSolutions Magazine, a publication for health club operators, features an article by Brian Rawlings, Target Market Manager for Cincinnati’s Fitness & Recreation program. He outlines what health and fitness clubs can do to protect the safety and well-being of children in their care.

Provide a Safe Club Environment for Children

Many health clubs offer programs and opportunities that cater to children: child watch, summer camps, preschool programs, swim lessons, after-school care, youth sports and more. While everyone’s safety is a priority, health club management has a duty — both legally and ethically — to do everything possible to protect the safety and well-being of children in their care.

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Construction zones: Expect the unexpected

By Marita Mathe

Construction zones: Expect the unexpected

Slow down and be alert when approaching a work zone.

Work Zone Ahead signs can frustrate drivers on the road when slow traffic affects our daily routine. But we can lose a lot more than just a few minutes if we don’t follow traffic laws for construction areas.

Construction zones can be dangerous for both drivers and workers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in the past five years there were 4,400 deaths and 200,000 injuries in road construction zones. Of the 4,400 deaths, 85 percent were drivers or passengers and 15 percent were construction workers.

When driving through construction zones, follow these tips to help reduce your potential for accidents and other problems:

  • Slow down. Most sites are only a short distance overall and it takes only an extra 25 seconds to cover one mile traveling at 45 mph as compared with 65 mph. Virtually all states increase penalties for speeding through highway construction zones, and many mandate jail time for injuries caused by a driver speeding in a construction zone.
  • Maintain adequate following distance. Allow adequate space for controlled speed changes and stops. Riding the tailgate of the vehicle in front of you will not get you through any sooner.
  • Expect the unexpected! Dedicate your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions – such as changing the radio station – and never use your phone while driving, especially in construction areas. Be wary of the vehicles around you that might suddenly drift, stop or change lanes. Many drivers around you will be looking at the construction activity instead of paying attention to the road.
  • Keep your headlights on. Even during daytime, keep your headlights on to enhance your visibility to workers and oncoming traffic.
  • Change lanes sooner rather than later. Vehicles merging at the last minute is a leading cause of accidents in construction zones.
  • Pay attention to the signs. The signs are there to help alert you to what is to coming. Be sure to observe these signs until after you have left the construction zone.
  • Obey the flaggers. They are there to help ensure that traffic flows safely through the site. Drivers can be cited for not properly following flaggers’ instructions.

Don’t become a statistic. Be focused and careful when traveling through construction zones because you’re not only putting your life in harm’s way, but the lives of others.

More information

National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse

Federal Highway Administration Work Zone Mobility …read more

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Before hurricane watch turns to warning

By Marty Skidmore

Before hurricane watch turns to warning

Make a hurricane emergency plan ahead of the storm.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30 each year. Residents of Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas should have a plan in place for rough weather. The National Hurricane Center monitors tropical storm activity as it develops, issuing a hurricane watch or warning as necessary.

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible in a specified area and is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds in an area.

A hurricane warning indicates that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area.

Hurricane Watch

In the event of a hurricane watch:

  • Listen for weather updates on local stations and on NOAA Weather Radio.
  • Stock up on battery powered flashlights and a radio. Avoid using candles, especially around children and pets.
  • Review your disaster plan with your family. If you don’t have one, make one.
  • Update your emergency supply kit.
  • Gather important papers – insurance, titles, deeds, birth certificates, prescriptions – along with any valuable or irreplaceable objects, like family photos and memorabilia. Place items that you cannot evacuate in watertight containers or seal them in plastic bags.
  • Refill prescriptions and obtain an adequate supply of baby food, diapers and sanitary needs. Maintain at least a two-week supply of these items and nonperishable food during hurricane season.
  • Clear your yard of potential flying debris, like lawn furniture, potted plants, bicycles and trash cans.
  • Protect your windows and glass doors.
  • Fill your vehicle’s gas tank and check oil, water and tires. Gas pumps don’t operate without electricity.
  • Secure your boat early. Some drawbridges on evacuation routes may be locked down and closed to boat traffic after an evacuation is ordered.
  • Leave your swimming pool filled and super-chlorinated. Cover your filtration system.
  • Get cash. Banks and ATMs cannot operate without electricity, and stores may not be able to accept credit cards.
  • Take your pets with you or board them at a veterinarian. Evacuate large and exotic animals early. Pets are not allowed in American Red Cross shelters.
Hurricane Warning

Evacuate if you live in:

  • an area that will be subjected to storm surge
  • a mobile home
  • a flood-prone area
  • an area where officials have issued an evacuation order

When you evacuate:

Protect your property against wildfire

By Doug Kinney

Protect your property against wildfire

Prepare your property to defend against wildfires.

Dry weather and drought may be of particular concern this summer.

El Nino weather conditions provide relief to some areas, but tend to cause worsening drought conditions through much of the West and Northwest.

Now is the perfect time for residents and businesses in woodland, brush-filled or remote areas to take precautions and protect your property against wildfire.

General Defense

There are some simple steps you can take to maximize protections against the dangers of wildfire:

  • Talk to your local, independent agent to make sure you have the necessary limits and coverage enhancements in place
  • Assess common fuel sources with your local fire department or a loss control representative – look for underbrush, branches and other combustibles.
  • Create a financial first aid kit to identify your important documents, medical records and contracts, and store copies securely online and in a fire-protected container.
Structure

If you are building or updating a home or commercial building in an area prone to wildfires, you can select materials and construction methods to minimize your risk.

  • Wood shake and shingle roofs are vulnerable to wildfire and are prohibited in some states. Consider fire-resistant roofing materials such as composite shingles, metal or copper.
  • Contemplate nonflammable materials for outdoor-facing areas, including decks and windows.
  • Cover all attic, eave and vent openings with noncorrosive metal wire mesh.
  • Enclose areas that may accumulate flammable material, under and against the building.
  • Remember that rubber mulch is also flammable and could allow fire an entry point to your building.
Perimeter
  • Create a defensible space around your structure – approximately 100 feet on level ground and even further if the area is sloped. Make sure it is maintained and watered regularly.
  • Remove all dead plants, trees, branches and debris. Trim several feet of spacing between trees if possible. Thin heavily pined areas. Prune tree limbs at least 6 feet off the ground. Remove branches that extend over the roof or are in close proximity to the building
  • Keep grass trimmed short and, if possible, watered.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
Upkeep

Periodic maintenance of existing structures is also important.

Your insurance: There to see you through

By Wayne Pinney

Your insurance: There to see you through

Take a step back, take a deep breath and marshal all your resources.

This is good advice for virtually any aspect of life. But when you are facing the consequences of a disastrous and unexpected event, it becomes advice that may make the difference between recovery ̶ getting on with your life ̶ or carrying those consequences well into your future. Remember that after a disaster, your insurance agent and insurance company are there to see you through.

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