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Earthquakes in the breadbasket? Understand the risk

By Cincinnati Personal Lines

Earthquakes in the breadbasket? Understand the risk

Earthquake zones are not just in coastal areas.

You probably know the Midwest as the breadbasket of the country, but do you know about its earthquake history? Should that concern you? If you live in the Midwest or the East, scientists and history suggest it should.

THE PAST

In the early 1800s, three of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history hit New Madrid, Missouri. The New Madrid fault area includes northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, western Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois. With the epicenter in Missouri, damage was reported as far away as South Carolina and Massachusetts.

THE PRESENT

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the New Madrid area continues to produce small to moderate earthquakes and is the most seismically active area of the United States east of the Rockies. Based on the history of past earthquakes, USGS estimates a 25-40 percent chance of a magnitude 6 or larger earthquake in the New Madrid area within the next 50 years.

YOUR AGENT CAN HELP

Most homeowner policies exclude earthquake coverage. So protect yourself now and speak with your agent about whether your homeowner policy automatically provides earthquake coverage for your home and your personal belongings. If not, ask whether you can purchase earthquake coverage, and what type of deductible may apply.

The time to know what your insurance provides for damages caused by earthquakes is before one hits.

Contact your local independent insurance agent for details.

RELATED INFORMATION

For information about preparing for an earthquake, visit Ready.gov’s earthquake page.

For information about what to do after an earthquake, visit the Central United States Earthquake Consortium Page.

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Fire danger in the construction zone

By Camlyn Zanardelli

Fire danger in the construction zone

Fires are a significant threat on construction sites.

Fires are a significant hazard on construction sites. A November 2014 National Fire Protection Association report found that between 2007 and 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 5,120 structure fires in residential properties that were either under construction or undergoing major renovation.

Each year, those fires led to an average of nine deaths, 94 injuries and $265 million in direct property damage. Firefighter deaths and injuries are not included in those statistics.

But proper planning and monitoring can improve your chances of completing a project without incident.

PROJECT PLANNING

Before beginning a construction project:

  • Review the construction site, contemplating adjacent exposures that may affect the project
  • Look at how accessible the site would be for firefighters and their equipment
  • Develop a site-specific fire prevention plan, educating employees about what to do in case of fire
  • Establish a Hot Work Permit program that requires operations involving any sparks, open flames or heat-producing activities to follow safety protocols before, during and after work has been completed.
DURING CONSTRUCTION

Throughout construction, conduct thorough on-site inspections. Trained representatives of your project management team should inspect the site daily and retain all documentation. Inspections should include:

  • Active construction areas
  • Material storage areas, including special consideration for flammable items
  • Construction trailers and temporary structures
  • Site perimeter and adjacent property exposures
  • Mobile construction equipment storage areas
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
  • All construction trailers, storage trailers and offices should be made of noncombustible material and be at least 50 feet away from the construction site and at least 30 feet from each other.
  • Fire department site access areas must be clearly identified, maintained and unobstructed at all times. Access to fire hydrants or qualified water supplies for firefighting must be readily available whether adjacent to or within the boundaries of the project site.
  • Store all combustible materials safely and consider ordering them as needed to minimize the amount on hand. Spontaneous combustion of paint solvents, oily rags and similar materials discarded with trash can lead to a major loss.
  • Establish and strictly enforce a no smoking policy throughout the duration of the project.
  • Provide fire extinguishers, rated not less than 2A, for each 3,000 square feet of the protected building area. The travel distance from any point of the protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher must not exceed 100 feet per Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. When there are multiple levels, OSHA requires an extinguisher be placed near the staircase on every level.
  • Enforce good housekeeping in …read more

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Business tips: Controlling risks for property owners

By Kevin Oleckniche

Business tips: Controlling risks for property owners

Recognize – and mitigate – the risks of property ownership with help from your attorney and your independent insurance agent.

Losses that occur on property you own can affect your livelihood and that of your tenants. They also can affect your insurance rates and eligibility. Without the proper controls in place, you could be saddled with the responsibility of owing for injury or damages that you did not cause.

RECOGNIZE THE RISKS

When you understand the risks you face as a property owner and lessor, you can better manage them. Consider these scenarios:

Natural perils – A tornado sweeps through town, damaging your building and your tenants’ contents.

Fire – A grease fire starts in a restaurant at one end of your building. Before it is extinguished, fire damages multiple units and tenant contents.

Third-party injury or illness – A patron slips and falls in the parking lot, spraining her ankle.

Change in occupancy – A restaurant replaces a retail store in one of your units. As a property owner, you want to determine if the current sprinkler system is able to handle the demands of a restaurant.

Change in tenant operations – A retail craft store expands its operations to include pottery making. With this expansion, your tenant adds kilns to heat-treat ceramic projects.

Vacancy – Your unoccupied building is vandalized, resulting in damaged property.

REVIEW THE RESPONSIBILITIES

A well-designed lease agreement can assist owners in transferring responsibility for payment due to bodily injury or property damage to the legally responsible party. Consult with legal counsel when evaluating your current lease or other formal contract. When consulting with your attorney, consider whether your agreement:

  • is signed by all tenants
  • contains appropriate anti-subrogation wording and indemnificationhold harmless provisions favorable to you and acceptable under your state’s laws
  • authorizes you to develop, change and enforce rules and regulations for the premises
  • defines which areas you control and which the tenant controls
  • defines the maintenance obligations of all parties while specifying the scope of the operations and the steps you will take if the tenant defaults on these obligations
  • grants you the right to inspect the leased premises for conformance with the lease provisions concerning maintenance and to point out to the tenant any obvious hazards
  • requires the tenant to obtain permission before performing any building alterations
  • contains provisions regarding use of hazardous substances, dispensing of liquor and other activities that increase the risk of loss
  • requires service contractors who come on …read more

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Consumer alert: Check your circuit breaker

By Jim Yeater

Consumer alert: Check your circuit breaker

Defective circuit breakers from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s are still in many buildings and pose a fire hazard.

Millions of Americans may be in danger from defective electrical equipment in their homes, yet may not be aware of the risk. If you reside in a home with electrical circuit breakers and panels installed in the mid-1950s through the early 1980s, have your equipment inspected and replaced, if necessary.

During that period, Federal Electric, later known as Federal Pacific Electric Co. (FPE), manufactured electrical distribution equipment, including STAB-LOK circuit breakers and panels. A circuit breaker is designed to cut off the flow of electricity when there is excessive electrical demand or a short circuit, also known as arcing. A defect in the FPE equipment could prevent this from happening, causing a fire.

While STAB-LOK breakers and panels are no longer manufactured, millions are estimated to remain in residences throughout the country. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded an investigation of the equipment in 1983, but due to budgetary constraints the Commission chose not to undertake a full assessment of the STAB-LOK breakers. More information is available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Because of failure rates and questionable Underwriters Laboratories (UL) acceptance testing, The Cincinnati Insurance Company’s Loss Control department recommends that a qualified and licensed electrician replace these circuit breakers and panels with new equipment.

More information about STAB-LOK equipment is available in this investigative report by NBC Bay Area Channel 11. For help in identifying STAB-LOK circuit breakers and panels, view the station’s video.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

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Life insurance may be cheaper than you think

By Ronda Bradley

Life insurance may be cheaper than you think

Your agent can help you evaluate life insurance costs.

How much does life insurance cost? Probably a lot less than you think. A recent LIMRA study found that 63 percent of consumers polled indicated that life insurance was too expensive, yet 80 percent of consumers overestimate its cost by nearly threefold. LIMRA is a leading insurance and financial services trade association.

Today’s consumers have many sources of data at our disposal. We can research everything from pots to pains, yet many of us make incorrect assumptions about one of the most important and basic decisions concerning our family’s financial future: purchasing life insurance.

Various factors determine your cost for life insurance, the most basic of which are age and health. Generally, your premium is lower the younger you are when you purchase life insurance. Additionally, premiums are lower for healthier individuals, and there are things you can do to lower your insurance costs.

  • Live a healthier lifestyle. Every choice has a consequence. Life decisions regarding tobacco use, food consumption, care for chronic illnesses and driving habits all affect the cost of your life insurance premiums. Making healthy life choices improves your quality of life and can lower your health risk and life insurance premiums.
  • Consider your recreation choices. While jumping out of an airplane may be an amazing rush, skydiving will likely increase your cost of life insurance. Dangerous pastimes such as scuba diving, skydiving and auto racing can adversely affect your risk and increase your premiums.
  • Make decisions based on facts, not fear. When making decisions on purchasing life insurance, make them based on facts. Do your research and know your options. A local independent agent can be an invaluable asset. Your agent can guide you to a plan that best meets your family’s needs and fits your budget.

Don’t just assume that you cannot afford life insurance. Learn the facts, and make an informed decision. Your family’s financial future may depend on it.

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Keeping the ‘health’ in your health club

By Brian Rawlings

Keeping the ‘health' in your health club

Proper cleaning helps keep your gym healthy.

People go to the gym to get healthy. Members look for clubs with the right equipment, classes and trainers to help get their heart rate up and break a good sweat. But when users climb down from the elliptical machine or exercise bike, it’s all too easy to forget to wipe it down.

Proper cleaning of your equipment and facility is vital to your health club’s business. In addition to keeping your members and staff healthy, you want to build your gym’s reputation as a well-maintained and clean facility.

Educate your staff and your members on the importance of proper cleanliness, and teach them the procedures you wish them to implement. Train staff, install signage and distribute fliers or rules as part of the membership initiation process.

Guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for cleaning and disinfecting gym facilities include:

  • Clean shared equipment that comes into direct skin contact after each use and allow surfaces to dry.
  • Regularly clean locker rooms, restrooms and common areas such as the front desk and vending machines.
  • Repair or dispose of damaged equipment where surfaces can’t be adequately cleaned.
  • Clean all floor surfaces on a regular schedule using a mop or a spray-and-vac system.
  • Stress proper hand washing practices.
  • Remove and clean floor mats and allow them to dry, and clean floors underneath mats.
  • Remind members to properly cover wounds or cuts, or encourage them not to use the gym until wounds heal.
  • Drain and clean hot tubs regularly.
  • Maintain proper pool chemical levels.
  • Instruct members to spray or wipe down equipment after each use. Floor staff should also establish a routine to clean equipment in order to provide an additional layer of protection.

Disinfectant spray bottles, towels and disposable pre-moistened wipes can make cleaning equipment easy for your members. Strategically place cleaning products near equipment and provide consistent signage and reminders for their use.

These simple steps can help to protect your staff and members and keep your health club healthy!

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Licensed, bonded, insured: What it means to you

By John Fisher

Licensed, bonded, insured: What it means to you

Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for credentials.

You have decided to build or remodel your home or business. This is a big step, both financially and emotionally. Choosing the right contractor to complete this project is also a big decision.

Hiring the wrong contractor can lead to cost overruns, delays, substandard work and sometimes even litigation over disputes regarding the timing, quality or cost of the project. While it’s tempting to choose a contractor based solely on an online portfolio of completed work or customer testimonials, don’t overlook the importance of making sure your contractor is properly licensed to perform the project as well as adequately bonded and insured.

LICENSED

Certain types of contractors may be required to hold a state or local license demonstrating that they meet minimum training or experience requirements. These types of contractors generally include electrical, HVAC, and plumbing and refrigeration contractors, but this may vary by state. In many states, and even individual municipalities, contractors must be bonded to be eligible to be licensed.

General contractors taking on jobs involving any usually licensed trades, as listed above, generally should be licensed themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask a contractor for their license number. Steer clear of contractors who lack licensing required in your state or locality. If your construction work is the result of an insurance claim, your agent may be able to advise you, or check with your attorney to resolve any licensing issues.

You can use a contractor’s license number to check with the state or municipality about any complaints filed against that contractor. Some states provide a website to check licensing for some trades. You also can check with your local Better Business Bureau for its rating of a particular contractor.

Hiring a licensed contractor does not guarantee all will go smoothly with your project. Even licensed contractors can run into problems, therefore it is important to check that your contractor is bonded and insured.

BONDED AND INSURED

These terms are similar, but not the same. A bonded contractor has secured financial backing – sometimes called a performance bond or contract bond – from a bonding company or insurer that will provide funds to pay the consumer if the contractor doesn’t perform as required. Performance bonds protect property owners against problems not covered by the contractor’s insurance.

For example, if the contractor should fail to complete the project (because of bankruptcy, death or just walks away mid-project, etc.), a …read more

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Replacement cost for your home’s contents

By Cincinnati Personal Lines

Replacement cost for your home's contents

Replacement cost contents coverage pays the full replacement cost of an item, minus your deductible.

If you want to restore the comforts of your home in the event of a loss, it’s best to choose replacement cost coverage on your household contents. It could be worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars to your family.

Most homeowners insurance policies cover personal property for its actual cash value. To cover your contents for the cost to replace them – new for old – request replacement cost contents coverage.

WHAT IS ACTUAL CASH VALUE?

Actual cash value is replacement cost minus reasonable depreciation. The actual cash value of your household property is what the items are worth at the time of a loss. For example, a television set usually lasts about 10 years. If you own a 5-year-old TV, about half of its life is used up. While you would pay $800 to replace it with a new one, its actual cash value is around $400. Homeowners insurance usually pays actual cash value (after the deductible) for your damaged or stolen TV.

REPLACEMENT COST CONTENTS COVERAGE IS AVAILABLE

With replacement cost contents coverage, no deduction is made for depreciation. Your homeowners insurance pays the full replacement cost of a new item of the same kind and quality, minus the policy deductible. Most policies require that you actually replace the item before replacement cost is paid.

Ask your local independent agent about replacement cost contents coverage. It lets you recover costs up to the full amount of your contents insurance limit. For example, your 10-year-old TV has an actual cash value of $100, but it would cost $800 to replace it with a new one. With replacement cost contents coverage, you could receive the full $800 for the new TV, subject to policy conditions, deductible and content limits.

This coverage would not apply to rare or antique items, those with sentimental value, or items insured under special limits of liability.

Talk to your local agent to learn about options to insure your comforts of home at appropriate values.

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