Lightning Quiz

Courtesy of iii.org

With 1,800 thunderstorms in progress at any given time on Earth, it’s important to be able to sort out the myths from the facts when it comes to lightning safety. And keep in mind that the best lightning safety plan of all is to take shelter in a house or other structure, or a hard-topped fully enclosed vehicle during a storm: “When thunder roars, go indoors!”

MYTH 1 ? LIGHTNING NEVER STRIKES THE SAME PLACE TWICE Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building was once used as a lightning laboratory, because it’s hit nearly 25 times per year, and has been known to have been hit up to a dozen times during a single storm.

MYTH 2 ? LIGHTNING ONLY STRIKES THE TALLEST OBJECTS Fact: Lightning is indiscriminate and it can find you anywhere. Lightning hits the ground instead of trees, cars instead of nearby telephone poles, and parking lots instead of buildings.

MYTH 3 ? IN A THUNDERSTORM, IT’S OK TO GO UNDER A TREE TO STAY DRY Fact: Sheltering under a tree is just about the worst thing you can do. If lightning does hit the tree, there’s the chance that a “ground charge” will spread out from the tree in all directions. Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties.

MYTH 4 ? IF YOU DON’T SEE CLOUDS OR RAIN, YOU’RE SAFE Fact: Lightning can often strike more than three miles from the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or even the thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the Blue,” though infrequent, can strike 10?15 miles from the thunderstorm. Anvil lightning can strike the ground over 50 miles from the thunderstorm, under extreme conditions.

MYTH 5 ? A CAR WITH RUBBER TIRES WILL PROTECT YOU FROM LIGHTNING Fact: Most vehicles are safe because the metal roof and sides divert lightning around you. The rubber tires have little to do with protecting you. Keep in mind that convertibles, motorcycles, bikes, open shelled outdoor recreation vehicles, and cars with plastic or fiberglass shells offer no lightning protection at all.

MYTH 6 ? IF YOU’RE OUTSIDE IN A STORM, LIE FLAT ON THE GROUND Fact: Lying flat on the ground makes you more vulnerable to electrocution, not less. Lightning generates potentially deadly electrical currents along the ground in all directions, which are more likely to reach you if you’re lying down.

MYTH 7 ? IF YOU TOUCH A LIGHTNING VICTIM, YOU’LL BE ELECTROCUTED Fact: The human body doesn’t store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid.

MYTH 8 ? WEARING METAL ON YOUR BODY ATTRACTS LIGHTNING Fact: The presence of metal makes virtually no difference in determining where lightning will strike; height, pointy shape and isolation are the dominant factors. However, touching or being near long metal objects, such as a fence, can be unsafe when thunderstorms are nearby?if lightning does happen to hit one area of the fence, for example, the metal can conduct the electricity and electrocute you, even at a fairly long distance

MYTH 9 ? A HOUSE WILL ALWAYS KEEP YOU SAFE FROM LIGHTNING Fact: While a house is the safest place you can be during a storm, just going inside isn’t enough. You must avoid any conducting path leading outside, such as corded telephones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, plumbing, metal doors or window frames, etc. Don’t stand near a window to watch the lightning. An inside room is generally safe, but a home equipped with a professionally installed lightning protection system is the safest shelter available.

MYTH 10 ? SURGE SUPPRESSORS CAN PROTECT A HOME AGAINST LIGHTNING Fact: Surge arresters and suppressors are important components of a complete lightning protection system, but can do nothing to protect a structure against a direct lightning strike. These items must be installed in conjunction with a lightning protection system to provide

In the Face of Threat, How Do You React?

Courtesy of insuringflorida.org

The biggest threat to recovery after a natural disaster is the mass of people who are unprepared for it. After every single tornado, hurricane or flood, the media easily find people who have been impacted by the event, and they invariable say nearly the same thing: “I never saw it get this bad before.” Sure, seeing is believing. But even then it’s not enough. Those who’ve been through a devastating event think it can never happen to them twice. Until it does.

Is there a cure for complacency? Yes, there is ? and it is to take action. At an insurance industry meeting this week, a weather expert from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) mentioned an odd-sounding term: “Reasonable Worst-Case Scenario.” A first impression is that seems like two extremes. Is it reasonable, or is it the worst? But think about it as the weather experts and disaster-planning experts do: It’s what could reasonably happen with a direct hit from a powerful storm. And, don’t think about it too hard. DO something to fight the complacency that makes you think it won’t happen to you.

Here’s how to approach it: Think about your particular situation if a powerful storm were to hit your area two months from now. That’s a reasonable timeframe because peak hurricane season starts in mid-August. Think through what would happen if your house was a pile of rubble, your belongings were strewn down the block and the neighborhood leveled with an expectation that things would not be back to normal for months. Pretend that happened ? and work backward to what you wished you would have done NOW to make THAT somewhat easier to survive physically and financially.

We’ve got the tools to help you. But only one person can make you do it ? and it’s the person reading this article. Be resilient, Florida.

Insurance and Older Americans

Courtesy of Insuring Florida

According to the U.S. Census data, in 2010 there were 22 people over the age of 65 for every 100 people. By 2030, that number will rise steeply ? with 35 of every 100 Americans being over 65 years old. That’s 19 percent of the population. No surprise that Florida ranks #1 with the most households with senior citizens. Obviously, the need for long-term care insurance will increase.

Most people buy long-term care insurance around age 60, says the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. The younger you are when you buy it, the more likely you are to be accepted for coverage. If you apply in your 50s, there’s a one in 10 chance you’ll be rejected. If you apply in your 60s, the chance of rejection is two in 10, and the odds against you double if you wait to apply for coverage until you hit your 70s. Of course, the younger you are, the lower the premium will be for a given set of benefits and features. Once the premium is set, it stays at that amount for the life of the policy, unless the claims for the group of people who have bought that type of policy require rates for the group be raised to cover claim payments.

You’ve got lots of options in planning for the silver and golden (and platinum) years. Some people think they should invest what they would have paid in long-term care, rather than buying an insurance policy. But that may leave you vulnerable if you need the benefits earlier than planned. Like most things in life, do your homework on long-term care. And, celebrate your years ? since this is Older Americans Month, and the theme is “Never Too Old to Play.” I like the sound of that!

Prepare Now for the Summer Storms

Courtesy of iii.org

It?s 2017 ? and another hurricane season is about to be breathing down our necks. Maybe you?ve grown immune or indifferent after seasons of weather threats proved wrong. A word of advice: Never let your guard down.

Did recent reminders of the need for storm vigilance get your attention in 2016? Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew hit Florida last fall. If neither storm affected you, it might be easy to ignore them. The weather is wild and, despite all the scientific tools available, it?s hard to predict where the winds will go and how powerful they will be.

What you don?t know about preparing for bad weather can hurt you. For example, did you know that Hurricane Matthew last October blew up to be a Category 5 hurricane within a 24-hour time frame? If you are surprised, so were weather experts; they said no other storm had intensified that quickly. Read the report about Matthew defying weather forecast models, and then thank our lucky stars that it landed as a Category 1.

What if you prepared for a Category 1 (wind speed up to 95 miles an hour), but a Cat 5 with winds of 165 mph arrived instead? We don?t like to think about it, but thinking on it and acting on it ? in advance ? is storm-defying behavior. It?s time to review our Hurricane Season Insurance Checklist.

You may also like to up your awareness for the upcoming season by listening in to a couple of hurricane season awareness webinars from the National Hurricane Center. The NHC will be talking about new capabilities to issue advisories and warnings and also has a topic on inland flooding, which is an overlooked, yet deadly, threat.

Great Tips for Pool Safety

Courtesy of iii.org

Whether you have a luxury in-ground pool, or plan to blow up an inflatable kiddie pool, it is important to consider the safety implications.

There are an estimated 7.4 million swimming pools and five million hot tubs in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, there are over 3,400 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States each year, with more than one out of five drowning victims being a child 14 years old or younger, according to the CDC.
The I.I.I. suggests taking the following steps if you own or are considering purchasing a pool or spa:

  • Contact your town or municipality
    Each town will have its own definition of what constitutes a “pool”, often based on its size and the depth of the water. If the pool you are planning to buy meets the definition, then you must comply with local safety standards and building codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.
  • Call your insurance agent or company representative
    Let your insurance company know that you have a pool, since it will increase your liability risk. Pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and it may be advisable to purchase additional liability insurance. Most homeowners policies include a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability protection. Pool owners, however, may want to consider increasing the amount to at least $300,000 or $500,000. You may also want to talk to your agent or company representative about purchasing an umbrella liability policy. For an additional premium of about $200 to $300 a year, you can get $1 million of liability protection over and above what you have on your home. If the pool itself is expensive, you should also have enough insurance protection to replace it in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster. And, don’t forget to include the chairs, tables or other furniture around the pool deck.

If you have a pool, the I.I.I. recommends taking the following safety precautions:

  1. Install a four-sided barrier such as a fence with self closing gates to completely surround the pool. If the house forms the fourth side of the barrier, install alarms on doors leading to the pool area to prevent children from wandering into the pool or spa unsupervised. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating several “layers of protection” around the pool, in other words setting up as many barriers (door alarms, locks and safety covers) as possible to the pool area when not in use.
  2. Never leave small children unsupervised?even for a few seconds. And never leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers trying to reach them who might then fall into the pool.
  3. Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information so others can do so too.
  4. Ask if pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. If you have children, have them take swimming lessons as early as possible. And, do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  5. Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Also, keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
  6. Limit alcohol use around the pool, as drinking alcoholic beverages negatively impacts balance, coordination and judgment?and its effects are further heightened by sun exposure and heat. The CDC reports that alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation.
  7. Clearly post emergency numbers on the phone, in the event of an accident. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. You may also want to consider learning basic water rescue skills, including first aid and CPR training. For additional information, contact the American Red Cross.

Wanna Cry Creates Huge Business Losses

Courtesy of iii.org

A wave of cyber attacks hit targets in 150 countries on Friday, May 12–and this number is expected to grow, according to law enforcement authorities. This fast-spreading hack is unprecedented in how it spreads ransomware via a “worm.” The white paper, “Cyberrisk: Threat and Opportunity” examines how insurers contend with these evolving hazards to networks and data.

  • Interest in cyber insurance and risk continues to grow beyond expectations in 2016 in part due to high profile data breaches, but also due to awareness of the almost endless range of exposures businesses face.
  • Attacks and breaches have grown in frequency, and loss costs are on the rise.
  • Insurers are issuing an increasing number of cyber insurance policies and becoming more skilled and experienced at underwriting and pricing this rapidly evolving risk. More than 60 carriers now offer stand-alone cyber insurance policies, and it is estimated the U.S. market is worth over $3.25 billion in gross written premiums in 2016, with some estimates suggesting it has the potential to grow to $7.5 billion.

Some observers believe that exposure is greater than the insurance industry?s ability to adequately underwrite the risk. Attacks have the potential to be massive and wide-ranging due to the interconnected nature of this risk, which can make it difficult for insurers to assess their likely severity. The under reporting of attacks means that accurately evaluating exposures is challenging. Several insurers have warned that the scope of the exposures is too broad to be covered by the private sector alone, and a few observers see a need for government cover akin to the terrorism risk insurance programs in place in several countries.

Insurance in Florida, the Future of No-Fault

Courtesy of iii.org

The Florida Legislature is again looking at ending no-fault auto insurance in Florida. Sound familiar? Tweaking no-fault (also known as personal injury protection ? PIP) is a frequent topic for legislative debate.

You may recall a fix to fight no-fault fraud came in 2012. Regulators issued a report in 2015 that said the fix appeared to be working. Regardless, it seems the desire to do something about rising auto insurance rates may be driving the desire to abolish no-fault. Florida is one of 12 states with a no-fault law. Proponents say it allows those injured in a car crash to recover costs for medical treatment under their own insurance policy, without needing to determine who is at fault for the accident. Among the proponents are hospitals, which say about one-third of the people they treat for auto injuries only have no-fault coverage. Critics discount that view, saying no-fault duplicates coverage that most people already have with medical insurance.

What will replace no-fault/PIP if the legislation becomes law? A requirement for bodily injury coverage, which applies to injuries you as a driver cause to someone else. This may cost more than no-fault coverage for some people. With this change, the Legislature is also considering raising the compulsory financial responsibility limits. Any time most people hear the word “raising” they think it might cost more money, and it might ? but here’s the other side of that:

Florida has the lowest financial responsibility requirement of any U.S. state. That means we set the bar very low for the responsibility drivers have if they cause a car crash with injuries. And, the end result is that too many people are not fully compensated, so while they are trying to recover physically from injuries caused by another, they may also be suffering financially. Raising that bar is about accountability.

A reminder: Insurance of any type (auto, home, health, business) is about protecting your assets. Always, always (always!) make sure you have insurance equal to the total value of the assets you own.

Motorcycle Safety Statistics

Courtesy of iii.org

  • In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report.
  • In In 2015, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 4.3 percent from 92,000 in 2014.
  • In 2015, motorcyclists were 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured.
  • Motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, 4 percent of all people injured, 17 percent of all occupant (driver and passenger) fatalities, and 4 percent of all occupants injured.
  • There were 8.6 million motorcycles on the road in 2015.

In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2015, motorcyclists were 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured.

(Note: statistics on fatal motorcycle crashes are also available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.)

KEY FACTS

  • According to the latest data available from the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.6 million private and commercial motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2015, compared with 8.0 million in 2009.
  • 2015 Crash Data: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation?s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014. In 2015, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 4.3 percent from 92,000 in 2014.
  • In 2015, 40 percent of motorcyclists killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes were not wearing a helmet.
  • The fatality rate per registered vehicle for motorcyclists in 2015 was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants, according to NHTSA.
  • Motorcycle Theft: The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that motorcycle thefts rose 6 percent in 2015 to 45,555 from 42,856 a year earlier, based on data from the National Crime Information Center of the FBI. However, motorcycle thefts are down 32 percent from 2006 when they totaled 66,774, according to the NICB.
  • The NICB?s report also details the seasonal nature of motorcycle thefts. More motorcycles are stolen during warm months?July and August had the most motorcycle thefts in 2015 while January and February had the fewest. The top five makes stolen in 2015, from highest to lowest, were American Honda Motor Co., Yamaha Motor Corporation, American Suzuki Motor Corporation, Kawasaki Motors Corp. and Harley-Davidson Inc. California had the most motorcycle thefts in 2015, followed by Florida and Texas. By city, New York, New York, had the most thefts, followed by Las Vegas, Nevada, and San Francisco, California.

FATALITIES AND INJURIES

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the following terms are used to define motorcycle occupants: a motorcycle rider is the operator only; a passenger is any person seated on the motorcycle but not in control of the motorcycle; and any combined reference to the motorcycle rider (operator) as well as the passenger will be referred to as motorcyclists.

According to NHTSA, in 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8 percent from 4,594 in 2014. In addition, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 3 percent from 92,000 in 2014. In 2015, 40 percent of the motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets.

By Age: Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities. NHTSA data show that in 2015, 54 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 47 percent in 2005. The number of motorcyclists age 40 and over killed in crashes increased by 17 percent from 2006 to 2015. In contrast, fatalities among all motorcyclists rose 3 percent. NHTSA says that the average age of motorcycle riders killed in crashes was 42 in 2015, compared with 39 in 2006.

Older riders appear to sustain more serious injuries than younger riders. Researchers from Brown University cited declines in vision and reaction time, along with the larger-sized bikes that older riders favor, which tend to roll over more often, and the increased fragility among older people as the causes. The study used data on riders age 20 and over who needed emergency medical care following motorcycle crashes from 2001 to 2008. The riders were put in three groups by age: 20 to 39, 40 to 59, and 60 and over. The data showed that while injury rates were rising for all age groups, the steepest rise occurred in the 60 and over group, who were two and a half times more likely to have serious injuries than the youngest group. They were three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital. The middle and older groups were also more likely to sustain fractures, dislocations and other injuries, such as brain damage, than the youngest group. The authors published findings in the journal Injury Prevention in February 2013. The study is entitled Injury patterns and severity among motorcyclists treated in US emergency departments, 2001?2008: a comparison of younger and older riders.

By Driver Behavior

Alcohol use: According to NHTSA, in 2015, 27 percent of motorcycle riders who were involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or over (the national definition of drunk driving). This compares with 21 percent of passenger car drivers, 20 percent for light truck drivers involved in fatal crashes, and with 2 percent of large truck drivers.

In 2015, fatally-injured motorcycle riders between the ages of 35 to 39 had the highest rate of alcohol involvement (37 percent), followed by the 45 to 49 age group (36 percent).

In 2015 motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night were almost three times more likely to have BAC levels of 0.08 percent or higher (42 percent) than those killed during the day (13 percent).

The reported helmet use rate for motorcycle riders with BACs at or over 0.08 percent who were killed in traffic crashes was 51 percent in 2015, compared with 65 percent for those who did not have any measurable blood alcohol.

Speeding: In 2015, 33 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 19 percent for drivers of passenger cars, 15 percent for light truck drivers and 7 percent for large truck drivers, according to NHTSA.

Licensing: Twenty-seven percent of motorcycle riders who were involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were riding without a valid license, compared with 13 percent of passenger car drivers.

By Type of Motorcycle: According to a 2007 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), riders of “super sports” motorcycles have driver death rates per 10,000 registered vehicles nearly four times higher than those for drivers of other types of motorcycles. Super sports can reach speeds of up to 190 mph. The light-weight bikes, built for racing, are modified for street use and are popular with riders under the age of 30. In 2005 these bikes registered 22.5 driver deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles, compared with 10.7 deaths for other sport models. Standards and cruisers, and touring bikes (with upright handlebars) have rates of 5.7 and 6.5, respectively, per 10,000 vehicles. In 2005 super sports accounted for 9 percent of registrations, and standards and cruisers made up 51 percent of registrations. Among fatally injured drivers, the IIHS says that drivers of super sports were the youngest?with an average age of 27. Touring motorcycle drivers were the oldest, 51 years old. Fatally injured drivers of other sports models were 34, on average; standard and cruiser drivers were 44 years old. Speeding and driver error were bigger factors in super sport and sport fatal crashes. Speed was cited in 57 percent of super sport fatal crashes in 2005 and in 46 percent for sport model riders. Speed was a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes of cruisers and standards and 22 percent of touring models.

Hurricane Checklist for Renters

Courtesy of iii.org

RENTERS INSURANCE

If you rent, rather than own, your home, have you bought renters insurance?

While your landlord may provide insurance coverage for the structure of your home, as a renter you are responsible for your own belongings. Renters insurance covers the loss or destruction of your possessions if they are damaged by a hurricane or other disaster listed in the policy. A standard renters insurance policy also includes ALE coverage if you are unable to live in your house or apartment due to damage caused by a hurricane.

Flood insurance is also available for renters. However, as for homeowners, the NFIP flood insurance policies for renters do not include ALE coverage.

Don’t wait to review and update your insurance until after you have a loss?here are few things worse than finding out you did not have the right kind of coverage when you are already filing a claim. So before hurricane season kicks off, make sure you’ve reviewed home or renters insurance policy with this Hurricane Season Insurance Checklist. Call your Insurance Professional if you have any questions. They can provide guidance on how to get the insurance protection that’s best for your needs and budget.

For information on how to make your home more disaster resistant, go to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). For information on evacuation, go to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH).

Water Damage Claims & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

The Wall Street Journal frequently appears fascinated by some of the goings on in Florida. The publication has often written about anomalies that seem unique (or some other not-so-favorable adjective) to the Sunshine State. We have “issues” here that just don’t seem to occur in many other places. Living here, in the midst of it all, can cause a loss of perspective. So, without any editorializing in this space, you might find this editorial on the demise of a bill to stop insurance claim abuse interesting reading. Click the link and read it through.

The challenges with assignment of benefits and water damage claims has been documented on this blog several times. Insurers have been calling attention to this problem for at least three years. The reality of allowing the abuse to continue became ever more apparent last week when Citizens Property Insurance announced its first net loss since 2005 ? of $27.1 million. Assignment of benefits is the clear cause. The clear solution now that there won’t be a legislative fix? Higher insurance premiums for Citizens’ customers, particularly in South Florida. That’s where assignment of benefits became a “unique” practice, allowing lawyers and contractors to take over a homeowner’s insurance claim and inflate the costs.

Ah, the high costs of being unique.