Swimming Pool Safety

Swimming Pool Safety

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.
    Read More at III.org.

Tornado Safety

Tornado Safety

What is a Tornado?
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground. In an average year about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide. Tornado intensity is measured by the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The scale rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage.
Tornadoes occur most frequently from March until June and, while they are more common in the central United States, they can occur almost anywhere in North America, including in large cities.
Learn the Warning Signs
Tornadoes can strike with little warning, though meteorologists are now better able to predict the signs a twister is coming. Even a few minutes warning provides an opportunity for those in harm’s way to seek shelter. In communities with a history of tornado activity, there may be a warning siren and/or a digital messaging system to alert residents that they should seek proper shelter immediately.
Other signs of tornadoes are:
  •     Dark greenish skies
  •     Large Hail
  •     Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
  •     Loud roar, like a train 
Know the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning:
A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Be alert to changes in the weather, account for all family members, and listen to local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Move cars inside and keep car and house keys with you. If time permits, move lawn furniture and equipment inside to minimize flying debris. If a tornado siren sounds, stay inside and take cover.
A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been spotted or is indicated on weather radar in your area. This means anger is imminent and you may only have seconds to take cover. 
Seek Shelter When a Tornado Has Been Sighted:
Do not try to outrun a tornado. Stay calm but move quickly to the safest place possible. Here are some suggestions:
At Home:
The safest place to be is underground. Basements are usually the most protected area, but if this is not an option take cover in central part of the house away from windows: a bathroom, closet, interior hallway, or under a heavy piece of furniture.
In an Office Building or Skyscraper:
Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building—away from glass and on the lowest floor possible—and crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter and, if they are not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off elevators, you could get trapped if the power is lost. If you are in a tall building you may not have enough time to evacuate to the lowest floor.
At School:
Follow the staff instructions and go to an interior hall or room in an orderly way as directed. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a Car or Truck:
Abandon the vehicle and seek shelter in sturdy structure. If you are in open country, seek shelter in the nearest ditch. Lie flat, face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.
Mobile Home:
Get out! Even if the home is tied down, you are probably safer outside.
After a Tornado:
  •     Stay in your shelter until after the storm is over or emergency personnel have arrived.
  •     Check the people around you for injuries. Carefully begin first aid or seek help if necessary.
  •     When you go outside, watch out for downed power lines and stay away from any puddle with wires in them.  
  •     Do not use matches or lighters—there may be leaking gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. 
Insurance Coverage for Tornado Damage:
Damage caused by tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners and business insurance policies, as well as the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. If you sustain tornado damage contact your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible. Let your insurance company know the extent of the damage. After tornadoes and other disasters, insurance companies will reach out to those with the worst losses first. If you have vacated the premises, make sure your insurance representative knows where and how to contact you.  
Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies also provide coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) in the event your home is destroyed or made unlivable because of the tornado. ALE covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above your customary living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt, so keep receipts and talk to your insurance professional if you have any questions about this or any other part of your insurance policy. Read More at III.org…

Cancel, Non-renewal have different meanings for insurance

Cancel, Non-renewal have different meanings for insurance

Are you amongst the many Floridians who have recieved a letter from your insurance company saying it wouldn’t be renewing your covererage? If so, your first thought may be that the company has “canceled” your insurance. But there is a difference between cancelation and non-renewal.
Nonrenewal of an insurance policy means you still have coverage until the insurance contract expires. On the other hand, a cancellation means the coverage ends before the expected expiration date.
A property insurance policy is typically for a one-year term, and after that year passes, either you or your insurer may decide not to renew it. If the insurance company decides not to renew it, Florida statute on insurance contracts requires at least 45 days’ advance notice. The law also requires that you be given a reason the policy won’t be renewed. If the reason doesn’t make sense to you, call the insurance company for a more detailed explanation. And, if that answer raises even more questions or concern, talk to the state’s Division of Consumer Services.
Insurance companies in Florida can only cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 90 days if the policyholder:
    Failed to pay the premium,
    Committed fraud or made a material misrepresentation on the insurance application,
    Had a substantial change in the risk covered by the policy, or
    Had coverage with an insurer that is cancelling all such policies in a given class of insureds, such as if it is no longer handling that specific line of business.
In these instances, the insurer is required to provide… (Read More at III.Org…

Flood Safety Awareness Week

Flood Safety Awareness Week

     Because of frequent flooding of the Mississippi River during the 1960s and the rising cost of taxpayer-funded disaster relief for flood victims, Congress in 1968 created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It has three mandates: to provide residential and commercial insurance coverage for flood damage, to improve floodplain management and to develop maps of flood hazard zones. Flood damage to vehicles is covered under the comprehensive section of an auto insurance policy but there is no coverage for flooding in standard homeowners, or renters policies or in most commercial property insurance policies. Coverage is available in a separate policy from the NFIP and from a few private insurers. Despite efforts to publicize this, many people exposed to the risk of floods still fail to purchase flood insurance.

The widespread flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Mississippi floods of 2011 and Hurricane Irene and superstorm Sandy in 2012 set in motion a debate about how to improve the federal program. Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States, causing an average of $50 billion in economic losses each year. Most U.S. natural disasters declared by the President involve flooding.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
    National Flood Insurance Reform: The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which sought to make the federal flood insurance program more financially self-sufficient, was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 2012. The law attempted to eliminate rate subsidies, discounts that many property owners in high-risk areas receive. In March 2014 Congress, in response to complaints that the law was making flood insurance unaffordable, passed legislation to restrict many of the rate increases called for in Biggert-Waters.
    According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the new law prevents any policyholder from seeing an annual rate increase exceeding 18 percent. It calls on the flood program’s administrator, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to “strive” to prevent coverage from costing more than 1 percent of the amount covered. In other words, if the policy offered $100,000 of coverage, the premium would not exceed $1,000.
    The law also reinstates a practice known as grandfathering, meaning that properties re-categorized as being at a higher risk of flooding under FEMA’s revised maps would not be subject to large increases.
    It also ends a provision in Biggert-Waters that removed a subsidy once a home was sold. People who purchased homes after Biggert-Waters became law will receive a refund. Many lawmakers in coastal states were concerned that the higher cost of flood insurance would have a negative impact on the real estate industry.
    The subsidy will now be covered by a $25 surcharge on homeowners flood policies and a $250 surcharge on insurance for non-residential properties and secondary (vacation) homes.
    According to data from FEMA, most current flood insurance policyholders (81 percent, or 4.5 million) pay rates based on the true risk of flood damage and so were not affected by Biggert-Waters or the subsequent rollback. Properties most affected by the rate hikes were in high-risk flood zones; were built before communities adopted their first Flood Insurance Rate Map; or were second homes; or are second homes that have not been elevated. Others affected include businesses and those who live in homes that have been repeatedly flooded.
    Meanwhile, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Florida have filed “friend of the court” briefs supporting Mississippi in a federal lawsuit against FEMA. The state is asking the court to prevent FEMA from implementing the increases mandated by Biggert-Waters.
    In Louisiana the state treasurer is suggesting that the state create its own flood insurance program. Insurers in Florida are seeking to write primary flood insurance as a stand-alone policy, as an endorsement to an existing property insurance policy or incorporated into the policy as a covered peril.
    Policies in Force: While the number of flood policies in force is growing, a significant portion of the population at risk of flooding still is not insured for flood damage, as the flooding in the Midwest in the spring of 2008, from Hurricane Ike and from superstorm Sandy in 2012 revealed. The latest available data show that in 2012, there were more than 5.6 million policies in force, compared with 5.0 million in 2005, the year of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Premiums grew to $3.6.billion in 2012, from $2.2 billion in 2005. In 2012, 36,590 claims were paid, compared with 77,268 claims in 2011 and 213,288 in 2005. The cost of claims was $2.4 billion in 2012, compared with $2.4 billion in 2011 and $17.8 billion in 2005. Read More…

What Is Covered by a Standard Homeowners Policy?

 What Is Covered by a Standard Homeowners Policy?

Home Insurance
A standard homeowners insurance policy includes four essential types of coverage. They include:
    Coverage for the structure of your home.
    Coverage for your personal belongings.
    Liability protection.
    Additional living expenses in the event you are temporarily unable to live in your home because of a fire or other insured disaster.
1. The structure of your house
This part of your policy pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disaster listed in your policy. It will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or routine wear and tear. When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, it is important to buy enough to rebuild your home.
Most standard policies also cover structures that are detached from your home such as a garage, tool shed or gazebo. Generally, these structures are covered for about 10% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. If you need more coverage, talk to your insurance agent about purchasing more insurance.   
2. Your personal belongings
Your furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items are covered if they are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or other insured disaster. Most companies provide coverage for 50% to 70% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. So if you have $100,000 worth of insurance on the structure of your home, you would have between $50,000 to $70,000 worth of coverage for your belongings. The best way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory.
This part of your policy includes off-premises coverage. This means that your belongings are covered anywhere in the world, unless you have decided against off-premises coverage. Some companies limit the amount to 10% of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions. You have up to $500 of coverage for unauthorized use of your credit cards.
Expensive items like jewelry, furs and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if they are stolen. Generally, you are covered for between $1,000 to $2,000 for all of your jewelry and furs. To insure these items to their full value, purchase a special personal property endorsement or floater and insure the item for it’s appraised value. Coverage includes “accidental disappearance,” meaning coverage if you simply lose that item. And there is no deductible.
Trees, plants and shrubs are also covered under standard homeowners insurance. Generally you are covered for 5% of the insurance on the house—up to about $500 per item. Perils covered are theft, fire, lightning, explosion, vandalism, riot and even falling aircraft. They are not covered for damage by wind or disease.
3. Liability protection
Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. So, if your son, daughter or dog accidentally ruins your neighbor’s expensive rug, you are covered. However, if they destroy your rug, you are not covered.
The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit of your policy. You are also covered not just in your home, but anywhere in the world.
Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. However, experts recommend that you purchase at least $300,000 worth of protection. Some people feel more comfortable with even more coverage. You can purchase an umbrella or excess liability policy which provides broader coverage, including claims against you for libel and slander, as well as higher liability limits. Generally, umbrella policies cost between $200 to $350 for $1 million of additional liability protection.
Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage. In the event a friend or neighbor is injured in your home, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company. This way, expenses are paid without a liability claim being filed against you. You can generally get $1,000 to $5,000 worth of this coverage. It does not, however, pay the medical bills for your family or your pet.
4. Additional living expenses
This pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a fire, storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above your customary living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.
Keep in mind that the ALE coverage in your homeowners policy has limits, usually a percentage of the amount of coverage you have on your home, and some policies include a time limitation. But the amount of ALE coverage is separate from the amount available to rebuild or repair your home. For example, suppose you have a policy that provides up to $150,000 in rebuilding costs and up to $15,000 (10 percent) for ALE and you use up the entire $15,000, your insurance company will still pay what it costs to rebuild your home up to the policy limit of $150,000.
Coverage for additional living expenses differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage for about 20 percent of the insurance on your house. You can increase this coverage, however, for an additional premium. Some companies sell a policy that provides an unlimited amount of loss-of-use coverage, but for a limited amount of time.
If you rent out part of your house, ALE coverage also reimburses you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed. Read More…

How to Protect Your Home From Water Damage

How to Protect Your Home From Water Damage

Home Insurance Water Damage
Water damage is one of the most common and costly disasters affecting U.S. residences, accounting for billions of dollars in losses to homeowners and renters annually. However, consumers can protect themselves with the right amount and type of insurance coverage. 
Standard homeowners and renters insurance provides coverage for burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof. Some policies cover sewer and drain backups, but many do not; however, you can purchase a sewer backup rider to a homeowners or renters policy for approximately an additional $50 each year, with the policy limits varying depending upon the insurer.
Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy. Flood insurance can be purchased from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and from some private insurers.
The average flood insurance policy costs $540 a year, according to the NFIP. For homeowners, the maximum amount of coverage available from the NFIP is $250,000 for damages to the home’s structure, and $100,000 for losses to its contents. There is a 30-day waiting period for a flood insurance policy to go into effect. For those who want coverage beyond the limits offered by an NFIP policy, excess flood insurance is available from a number of private insurance companies.
Properly maintaining a home is one of the best ways to prevent water damage.  A homeowner can prevent water seepage by painting water-sealant around the basement, and avert a sewer backup by installing and maintaining a backwater valve which allows sewage to go out, but not come back in.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety offers the following tips:
Inside Your Home
  •     Inspect hoses and faucets. Check hoses leading to water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerator icemakers annually. Replace those with cracks or leaks, and replace them all every five to seven years.
  •     Inspect showers and tubs. Check the seal and caulking around showers and tubs to make sure they are watertight.
  •     Shut off the water supply to the washing machine while away on vacation, and never leave the house while the washer or dishwasher is running.
  •     Know the location of the main water shut off valve in your home. A damaged hose or a burst pipe can send water racing into your home. By knowing where this valve is located and how to shut off the main water supply, you can save yourself time and money.
  •     Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect against the increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
  •     Check pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately.
Outside Your Home
  •     Caulk and seal windows. Preventive maintenance will guard against water seepage.
  •     Inspect your roof. Look for missing, damaged, and aging shingles.  
  •     Check your downspouts. Remove debris that may have accumulated in downspouts and rain gutters. Position downspouts so that they direct water away from the house.
  •     Check sprinklers and irrigations systems. Be sure sprinklers and irrigation systems are not damaging the walls and foundations of the house; turn off and drain outside faucets to protect against frozen pipes.
  •     Install gutter guards.Gutter guards are the device used to protect the clogging of the roof gutter so that the water from the roof may flow easily and accumulation of water does not take place on the roof but away from the house.

Tornado Safety

              Tornado Safety

What is a Tornado? 

ph_tornadonew_spot

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground. In an average year about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide. Tornado intensity is measured by the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The scale rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage.

Tornadoes occur most frequently from March until June and, while they are more common in the central United States, they can occur almost anywhere in North America, including in large cities.

Learn the Warning Signs

Tornadoes can strike with little warning, though meteorologists are now better able to predict the signs a twister is coming. Even a few minutes warning provides an opportunity for those in harm’s way to seek shelter. In communities with a history of tornado activity, there may be a warning siren and/or a digital messaging system to alert residents that they should seek proper shelter immediately.
Other signs of tornadoes are:
  • Dark greenish skies
  • Large Hail
  • Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
  • Loud roar, like a train 

Know the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning

A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Be alert to changes in the weather, account for all family members, and listen to local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Move cars inside and keep car and house keys with you. If time permits, move lawn furniture and equipment inside to minimize flying debris. If a tornado siren sounds, stay inside and take cover.
A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been spotted or is indicated on weather radar in your area. This means anger is imminent and you may only have seconds to take cover. 

Seek Shelter When a Tornado Has Been Sighted

Do not try to outrun a tornado. Stay calm but move quickly to the safest place possible. Here are some suggestions:
At Home:
The safest place to be is underground. Basements are usually the most protected area, but if this is not an option take cover in central part of the house away from windows: a bathroom, closet, interior hallway, or under a heavy piece of furniture.
In an Office Building or Skyscraper:
Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building—away from glass and on the lowest floor possible—and crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter and, if they are not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off elevators, you could get trapped if the power is lost. If you are in a tall building you may not have enough time to evacuate to the lowest floor.
At School:
Follow the staff instructions and go to an interior hall or room in an orderly way as directed. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a Car or Truck:
Abandon the vehicle and seek shelter in sturdy structure. If you are in open country, seek shelter in the nearest ditch. Lie flat, face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.
Mobile Home:
Get out! Even if the home is tied down, you are probably safer outside.
Additional safety information is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

After a Tornado

  • Stay in your shelter until after the storm is over or emergency personnel have arrived.
  • Check the people around you for injuries. Carefully begin first aid or seek help if necessary.
  • When you go outside, watch out for downed power lines and stay away from any puddle with wires in them.  
  • Do not use matches or lighters—there may be leaking gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. 

Insurance Coverage for Tornado Damage

Damage caused by tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners and business insurance policies, as well as the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. If you sustain tornado damage contact your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible. Let your insurance company know the extent of the damage. After tornadoes and other disasters, insurance companies will reach out to those with the worst losses first. If you have vacated the premises, make sure your insurance representative knows where and how to contact you.  
Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies also provide coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) in the event your home is destroyed or made unlivable because of the tornado. ALE covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above your customary living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt, so keep receipts and talk to your insurance professional if you have any questions about this or any other part of your insurance policy. Read More…

Valentine’s Day Surprises

Homeowners policy valuablesSo, your honey popped the big question on Valentine’s Day. You couldn’t be more thrilled and the ring is to die for! But, what if it’s lost or stolen? While there is no way to insure the sentimental value of such a gift, having the right insurance coverage will provide financial protection, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“The word ‘insurance’ is not likely to be the first word on many lovers lips this Valentine’s Day. However, if an expensive gift of jewelry is lost or stolen it can certainly soothe the sting of losing a cherished gift,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, the I.I.I.’s chief communications officer. “Your first step after receiving a valuable engagement ring—well, maybe your second after saying yes!—should be to call your insurance professional.”
Jewelry losses are among the most frequent of all home insurance content-related insurance claims. Fortunately, there are four relatively simple steps everyone can take to ensure adequate protection for their new jewelry:
1) Contact your insurance professional immediately.
Find out how much coverage you already have and whether you will need additional insurance. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal items such as jewelry; however, many policies limit the dollar amount for the theft of high-value personal possessions—such as jewelry—to $1,000 to $2,000. So, you would be covered if the item were destroyed by disasters listed in the policy such as a fire or hurricane, but if your expensive new present is lost or stolen you would need separate insurance to be covered, pointed out the I.I.I.
To properly insure jewelry, consider purchasing additional coverage through a floater or an endorsement. In most cases, these add-ons to a homeowners or renters policy would also cover you for “mysterious disappearance.” This means that if your ring falls off your finger and is flushed down a drain, or is lost, you would be financially protected. Floaters and endorsements carry no deductibles, so there is no out-of-pocket expense to replace the item.
2) Obtain a copy of the store receipt.
Forward a copy of the receipt so that your insurance company knows the current retail value of the item. Keep a copy for your records and include it with your home inventory. If the item was purchased on sale, also get a copy of the appraised value of the item.
3) If you received an heirloom piece, have the item appraised.
Heirlooms and antique jewelry will need to be appraised for their dollar value. You can ask your insurer to recommend a reputable appraiser.
4) Add the item to your home inventory.
An up-to-date inventory of your personal possessions can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance and speed up the claims process if you have a loss, so remember to add your new jewelry to your inventory. And if you don’t yet have an inventory, celebrate your engagement by creating one with your fiancée. To make creating a home inventory as easy as possible, the I.I.I. offers free Web-based software and apps, available at Know Your Stuff® – Home Inventory.
Finally, if you don’t think you need renters insurance, think again. A 2013 Insurance Information Institute poll found that 96 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance but only 35 percent of renters had renters insurance. If you rent your home, renters insurance can provide important financial protection in the event your belongings are stolen or destroyed.
“In my many conversations with consumers, personal finance bloggers and insurance educators they have noted that the purchase of an engagement ring triggers interest in getting a renters insurance policy for the first time, as many (especially young) people start to think more seriously about financially protecting themselves,” said Salvatore.

Tips for Surviving Severe Cold Weather

  

Tips for Surviving Severe Cold Weather

Much of the country periodically experiences severe and sustained cold weather, with snowfalls interspersed with periods of melting and freezing. This can inflict considerable damage on homes.

Here are some tips and steps you can take to keep your home safe and make insurance losses less likely during extended severe weather. 

  • Keep sidewalks and entrances to your home free from snow and ice.
  • Watch for ice dams near gutter downspouts. Keep gutters free of leaves and debris so melting snow and ice can flow freely. Ice dams can cause water to build up and seep into your house.
  • Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.
  • Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home. Find out how it works in case you have to use it.
  • Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
  • If you own a swimming pool and temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, run the pool pump at night to keep the water flowing through the pipes.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.
  • If your garage is attached to your house, keep the garage doors closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.
  • If ice forms on tree limbs, watch for dead, damaged or dangerous branches that could break and fall because of ice, snow or wind and damage your house, a car, or injure someone walking near your property.
  • If you use fireplaces, wood stoves and electric heaters, watch them closely and make sure they are working properly.
  • Remember to close the flue in your fireplace when you’re not using it.
  • If you have to leave your home on a trip, ask a neighbor to check the house regularly. If there is a problem with frozen pipes or water leakage, attending to it quickly could mean far less damage.
  • If you plan to be away for an extended period of time (or if temperatures are expected to remain below freezing), have the water system, including pool plumbing, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.

A Worst-Case Scenario

  • If you discover that pipes are frozen, don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance.
  • If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills. You don’t want the water to do more damage than it already has.
  • Call your agent or company as soon as you can. An insurance adjuster doesn’t need to see the spill before you take action. However, he or she will want to inspect any damaged items.
  • Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage. Remove any carpet or furniture that can be further damaged from seepage.
  • Make a list of the damaged articles.
  • Save the receipts for what you spend—including additional living expenses if you must leave your home until repairs are completed—and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Standard homeowners policies will cover most of the kinds of damage that result from a freeze. For example, if house pipes freeze and burst or if ice forms in gutters and causes water to back up under roof shingles and seep into the house. You would also be covered if the weight of snow or ice damages your house.

However, most policies do not cover backups in sewers and drains or flood damage, which can also happen in winter. To be covered for flooding, you need a policy from the National Flood Insurance Program, while coverage for sewers and drains is generally offered as an endorsement to a standard homeowners insurance policy.

If your home suffers water damage, it is important to make sure that it is properly dried and repaired to prevent any potential problem with mold. Remember, mold can not survive without moisture.

Check with your agent or company so you’ll be sure what your policy covers. Read More…

Protecting Your Home When You Travel

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Protecting Your Home When You Travel

Stopping mail delivery, putting a few lights on a timer, and leaving a key with a good neighbor are still wise home protection ideas before leaving on vacation. And while it’s important to protect yourself with these basics, today there are also more advanced home security solutions to grant you peace of mind while you’re out of town.

Home Security Tips for Travelers

Before packing your suitcase, consider these home security tips for travelers, a collection of 10 proven classics.

  1. Your home’s lights are your number-one defense: Set inside and outside lights on a timer (buy a device that lets you pick irregular intervals); make sure exterior lights illuminate 100 feet around your home; position motion-sensor lighting at various points around your home’s exterior.
  2. Your second best home protection defense is a dependable neighbor: Inform him or her of your travel plans, and make arrangements with him or her to keep an eye out for stray papers and flyers. You also may want to consider asking the neighbor to periodically go into your home to check on it. Some people even have neighbors readjust the curtains or take their car out of the garage for a few hours or days, to create the appearance that someone’s home.
  3. If your vacation will be long, set aside time in the days before you go to do some basic lawn maintenance: Trim branches and hedges near windows, cut the grass a little lower than usual, weed the garden. If you’ll be away more than a week, hire a lawn service to do these tasks while you’re away.
  4. Secure your toolshed—many thieves take advantage of the homeowner’s own ladder and tools to break in.
  5. If you live in a snowy climate, make arrangements ahead of time for snow removal. A lack of footprints can be a telltale sign of an empty house, so you may want to ask the same trusted neighbor to come over (to water your indoor plants or adjust curtains) and in the process leave some footprints in the snow in your driveway.
  6. If needed, do some simple furniture rearranging so your computer or a valuable painting can’t be seen from the road. (For instance, don’t leave a laptop in a ground-floor office space visible from a window.) While you’re moving around these items, take a few extra minutes to photograph them for insurance purposes. Take note of the serial numbers, then store the photos in a safe place.
  7. In some neighborhoods, the local police department may be able to increase the number of drive-bys on your street if you inform them of your travel dates.
  8. Beyond telling your close neighbors, friends, and family, don’t publicize your vacation plans on your answering machine or Facebook page, or via Twitter. Wait until you get home to let your friends know how much fun you had.
  9. Turn off your phone’s ringer. Or consider having your home calls forwarded to your cell phone.
  10. Ensure that your personal and home insurance policies are up-to-date. Read More…