Preparing an Effective Evacuation Plan

Preparing an Effective Evacuation Plan

In the event of a sudden emergency such as a hurricane, you may have just minutes to gather your family and important papers, and get out of your house, possibly for good. Are you prepared? Where would you go? What would you take with you?
With preparation and practice, you stand the best chance of getting out with what you and your family need, and ending up in the right place.
Planning ahead is crucial; this five-step plan can help get you and your family on the road to safety. 
1. Arrange Your Evacuation Ahead of Time 
  • Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
  • Map out your primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable. Make sure you have a map of the area available.
  • In case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation, identify a specific place to meet and ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. 
2. Create a Home Inventory 
A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid.
To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free Web-based software at KnowYourStuff.org. Know Your Stuff allows you to organize easily and list your possessions, as well as add digital photographs of your valuables and upload scanned receipts. The program provides free, secure storage of your inventory on Amazon Web Services. Storing your inventory online gives you the ability to access it from any computer in the event your own computer is damaged or destroyed.
3. Plan What to Take
  • Medicines, prescriptions and first aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members
  • Computer hard drive or laptop
  • Photographs
  • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)
4. Gather Important Documents 
Keep important documents in a safe place that you can access easily. In the event of an evacuation take the following documents with you:  
  • Insurance policies
  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Drivers license or personal identification
  • Social Security cards
  • Recent tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Wills, deeds and recent tax returns
  • Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
  • Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
  • Home inventory 

5. Take the Ten-Minute Challenge 

To find out if you are ready, do a real-time test by taking the Ten-Minute Challenge. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.

For more information on this and other insurance topics click here to visit III.org

Just In Time for Peak Hurricane Season, Five Tips on How to Have the Right Type and Amount of Insurance Coverage

In Time for Peak Hurricane Season, Five Tips on How to Have the Right Type and Amount of Insurance Coverage

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Before peak hurricane season take the time to review your homeowners or renters insurance policy and make sure you have the right amount and type of coverage, recommends the Insurance Information Institute.

“The time to review your home or renters policy is before you have a loss,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer at the I.I.I. “You don’t want to find out after you file a claim that you could have purchased more insurance.”

The I.I.I. offers the following five tips to properly insure your home:

1. Review Your Insurance—Before You Have a Loss!

  • Read the Declarations “Dec” (front) page of your policy, as it provides a useful summary. Review all policy documents and contact your insurance professional with any questions.  

2. Understand Which Disasters Are Covered—and Which Are Not

  • Hurricanes, windstorms and tornadoes are covered by standard homeowners and renters policies.
  • Floods and earthquakes are not covered—you must buy separate policies for these disasters. Coverage for flooding and storm surge is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and from a few private insurance companies. There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to go into effect, so buy it now if you need it.
  • More information about flood insurance: Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover Flooding?

3. Have Enough Insurance

For more information on having correct coverage, and tips like these visit III.org

Wildfires and Safety

Wildfires and Safety

Fire plays an important role in the life of a forest, clearing away dead wood and undergrowth to make way for younger trees. But for much of the last century, fire-suppression policies have sought to extinguish wildfires as quickly as possible to preserve timber and real estate. This approach has led to the accumulation of brush and other vegetation that is easily ignited and serves as fuel for wildfires. Most of the large fires with significant property damage have occurred in California, where some of the fastest developing counties are in forest areas.
2014 AND 2013 WILDFIRES
Between January 1 and June 14, 2014 the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to approximately 2,324  wildfires that have charred nearly  17,806 acres. The five year average for the same interval is 1,447 fires and 12,428 acres charred.
In 2013, 47,579 wildfires burned over 4 million acres, with California, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and Arizona experiencing the most wildfires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. On June 30, 19 firefighters were killed while working to contain the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. This was the deadliest event for firefighters since 9/11 and the third-highest firefighter death toll attributed to wildfires. A massive wildfire that began near Yosemite Park in California on August 17 had burned over 255,000 acres and was designated as the state’s third-largest wildfire. The December 17 fire in Big Sur, California, burned 917 acres and more than 30 homes. Read More at III.org

Swimming Pool Safety Tips

Simple Pool Safety Tips

Swimming-Pool-Safety

Everywhere across the country, public and private pool openings are making a splash—which is why there is no better time to consider the insurance and safety implications of owning a pool, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“You can be sued if someone drowns or is injured in your pool even if they did not have your permission to be there,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer for the I.I.I. “So it’s important to have the proper locks and safety equipment and to have appropriate liability insurance.”

If you own a swimming pool, or are in the market for one, the I.I.I. recommends taking the following steps:

Call your insurance agent or company representative

Let your insurance company know about the pool as it will increase your liability risk. Pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and you may need additional liability coverage. Consider increasing the $100,000 minimum in your homeowners policy to at least $300,000 or $500,000 if you are a pool owner. You can also buy an umbrella liability policy, which, for an additional premium of $200 to $300 a year, gives you $1 million of liability protection over and above what you have on your home.

If the pool itself is expensive, you will need enough insurance protection to replace it in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster. And don’t forget to include any deck furniture around the pool when calculating the value of your belongings.

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 your pool meets the definition, you must comply with local safety standards and building and electrical codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.

“Pools offer a great way to keep cool in this heat and humidity, but they can also be dangerous,” cautioned Salvatore. “A child can drown in a few inches of water in less than 30 seconds.”

To help spread the word about the importance of pool safety, the I.I.I. is partnering with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for the third year of its Pool Safely public education campaign (also on Twitter: @poolsafely).

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the U.S. for children aged five and under, according to the CPSC. “Pools offer a great way to keep cool in this heat and humidity, but they can also be dangerous,” said Salvatore. “A child can drown in a few inches of water in less than 30 seconds.”

Keep your children and other pool users safe by taking these precautions:

  1. Create several ‘layers of protection’. In other words, set up as many barriers as possible to the pool area, in addition to the fences that are often required by towns and municipalities.
  2. Never leave toys or floats in the pool when it is not in use—they can be a deadly temptation for toddlers who might fall into the pool when trying to reach them.
  3. Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
  4. 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.
  5. Clearly post emergency numbers on the nearest phone, so they can be located easily in the event of an accident. 

In addition, Pool Safely recommends the following:

Watch Children in and Around the Pool

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.
  • Teach children basic water safety tips.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Have a telephone close by when you or your family are using a pool or spa.
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors. 

Learn Water Safety Skills

  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
  • Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.
  • Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency.

    Click Here for more information on Swimming Pool Safety at III.org

Wildfires and Safety

Wildfires and Safety

Fire plays an important role in the life of a forest, clearing away dead wood and undergrowth to make way for younger trees. But for much of the last century, fire-suppression policies have sought to extinguish wildfires as quickly as possible to preserve timber and real estate. This approach has led to the accumulation of brush and other vegetation that is easily ignited and serves as fuel for wildfires. Most of the large fires with significant property damage have occurred in California, where some of the fastest developing counties are in forest areas.
2014 AND 2013 WILDFIRES
Between January 1 and June 14, 2014 the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to approximately 2,324  wildfires that have charred nearly  17,806 acres. The five year average for the same interval is 1,447 fires and 12,428 acres charred.
In 2013, 47,579 wildfires burned over 4 million acres, with California, North Carolina, Oregon, Montana and Arizona experiencing the most wildfires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. On June 30, 19 firefighters were killed while working to contain the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. This was the deadliest event for firefighters since 9/11 and the third-highest firefighter death toll attributed to wildfires. A massive wildfire that began near Yosemite Park in California on August 17 had burned over 255,000 acres and was designated as the state’s third-largest wildfire. The December 17 fire in Big Sur, California, burned 917 acres and more than 30 homes. Read More at III.org

Lightning Safety Awareness Week

Lightning Coverage and Safety

Lightning Safety

Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. Some home and business insurance policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of lightning striking a home or business. There is also coverage for lightning damage under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

With the explosion in the number and value of consumer electronics in homes, such as flat screen TVs, home entertainment centers, multiple computers, gaming systems and other expensive devices, it is more important than ever to take precautions.

Preventing Losses

The I.I.I. offers the following tips to protect homes and businesses against power surges and lightning strikes: 

1. Install a lightning protection system. A lightning protection system supplies structural protection by providing a specified path on which lightning can travel. When a building is equipped with a lightning protection system, the destructive power of the lightning strike is directed safely into the ground, leaving the structure and its contents undamaged. The system includes a lightning rod or air terminals at the top of the house that can be disguised to look like a weather vane and wires to carry the current down to grounding rods at the bottom of the house. According to the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), the lightning protection system needs to be securely anchored to the roof; otherwise it may whip around in a storm and damage the building. So make sure to have a licensed electrician install your lightning rod and protection system.

2. Use surge protectors. Today’s sensitive electronic equipment is particularly vulnerable to lightning. To assure the highest level of protection, UL-listed surge arrestors should be installed on electrical service panels. Installations typically include surge arrestors for the main electric panel, as well as incoming phone, cable, satellite and data lines. Surge arrestors protect against damaging electrical surges that can enter a structure via power transmission lines. By filtering and dissipating the harmful surges, arrestors prevent electrical fires and protect against electrical discharges that can damage a building’s electrical system, computers, appliances and other systems. UL-listed transient voltage surge suppressors can also be installed to protect specific pieces of electronic equipment. Keep in mind that power strips offer little protection from electrical power surges.

3. Unplug expensive electronic equipment. As an added precaution, unplug expensive electronic equipment such as TVs, computers and the like if you know a storm is approaching.

Do’s and Don’ts for Lightning Safety

1. When Thunder Roars…GO INDOORS! Take shelter in a home, large building or substantial fully enclosed building, preferably protected with a lightning protection system. Hard topped-vehicles are generally safe shelters, as well.
2. Avoid areas where you will be the highest object. If you are caught in an open field with no nearby shelter, and your hair begins to stand on end (an indication that lightning is about to strike) drop down and crouch with hands on knees, rocking up on the balls of your feet. (The idea is to make as little contact with the ground as possible.) Never lie down flat or place your hands on the ground. 
3. Certain locations are extremely hazardous during thunderstorms. Avoid lakes, beaches or open water, fishing from a boat or dock, riding on golf carts, farm equipment, motor cycles or bicycles. Take shelter in tunnels, subways, even ditches or caves if necessary—but never under a tree!
4. If caught on high ground or in an open area, seek shelter in a low area and stay away from trees. A small grove of bushes or shrubs is preferable to lone trees.
5. To avoid side flashes (voltage from a nearby struck object) stay clear of fences or isolated trees. Keep away from telephone poles, power lines, pipelines or other electrically conductive objects. 

6. Stay off the telephone! In your home, don’t stand near open windows, doorways or metal piping. Stay away from the TV, plumbing, sinks, tubs, radiators and stoves. Avoid contact with small electric appliances such as radios, toasters and hairdryers.

Read More at III.org

The Right Insurance Keep Your Boat Afloat

The right insurance keeps your boat afloat

Living in Florida means boating season never ends. With the right insurance protection, your boating days can be as carefree as a day at the beach. The type of insurance coverage you get depends upon the boat.
If you have a small boat, such as a canoe or kayak, you may have coverage under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of the home’s insured value. That amount of coverage includes the small boat, motor and anything you may use to tow it. It does not typically include liability insurance.
Extra liability coverage for boaters makes good sense. Some insurers exclude liability coverage for jet-skis under standard property insurance policies because of the high rate of accidents and injuries. Check with your insurer to see what’s covered and ask about additional protection that you can purchase through an endorsement. If you own a jet-ski or plan to rent one, check out our jet-ski safety video.
People who own small boats need to “go large” on safety. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2013 Boating Statistics, eight of 10 boaters who drowned were in vessels of less than 21 feet. And, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Alcohol use is the leading contributor to boating accidents, along with operator inattention and inexperience. Not unlike the statistics for highways.

To read more, visit III.org.

Preparedness Strategies For Hurricane Season

Preparedness Strategies For Hurricane Season

Hurricane Preparedness
Forecasters from Colorado State University (CSU) predict a mild 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, but those who live in hurricane prone areas of the country should not assume they will not be hit by a storm, say the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). 
“Predictions of a mild hurricane season can easily lull people into thinking they don’t need to prepare for hurricane season,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. and an economist. “But the fact is that 10 of the 12 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history occurred over the past decade, resulting in millions of claims and $135 billion in insured damages. By getting the right type and amount of insurance and taking steps to prevent potential damage to your home or business now, you can save money and heartache down the road,” he noted.
“Mild seasons have produced some of the most severe hurricanes,” added Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, who cited hurricanes Andrew (1992), Betsy (1965), Agnes (1972), Alicia (1983) and Bob (1991) as examples.
“It only takes one hurricane to devastate an entire community,” said Julie Rochman, president and CEO, IBHS. “The evidence is clear that communities in which homeowners have prepared for hurricanes have a higher level of community resilience, which means lower disaster recovery costs overall, reduced government post-disaster aid, and most importantly fewer lives lost.”
The I.I.I. recommends three steps to prepare this hurricane season.
1. Get the Right Policies  
    Buy Flood Insurance. Most of the natural disasters in U.S. history involve flooding, and standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage. Coverage is available through the federal government and some private insurers. Only a flood insurance policy can protect you from the flooding that a hurricane may cause, but there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage begins. Excess flood insurance is also available from some private insurance companies if you need more coverage than the $250,000 for property and $100,000 on contents that the NFIP provides.
    Don’t Skimp on Law or Ordinance Coverage. Did you know that after experiencing a loss, rebuilding your home to meet current codes or demolishing what is left of it might increase your costs up to 50 percent? That’s because damaged homes must be repaired or rebuilt to comply with the current building code—not the code that was in effect when the home was originally constructed. Law and Ordinance insurance covers you in that situation.
    Get Replacement Cost Coverage For Your Belongings. When insuring your possessions, you have two coverage choices. Actual cash value, which replaces your possessions minus depreciation and replacement cost coverage, which replaces your property in today’s dollars—without a deduction for depreciation. The price of replacement cost coverage is about 10 percent more, but provides more extensive coverage.
    Know Your Hurricane Deductible. A standard homeowners insurance policy deductible is usually either $500 or $1,000. Hurricane deductibles are calculated as a percentage of the insured value of a house. That percentage, and details about a policy’s hurricane deductible, is generally listed on the first page of the policy, known as the Declarations page. Hurricane deductibles apply solely to damage caused by hurricanes, and typically vary from 1 percent to 5 percent of the insured value of a home.
2. Create a Home Inventory
A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid. 
3. Prepare an Evacuation Plan
Plan ahead and practice so that your evacuation is safe, smooth and fast. In an emergency you may have only a few minutes to gather your important papers and leave your home, possibly for good. The Know Your Plan™ app developed by the I.I.I. and IBHS can help you prepare and effective plan ahead of time.
When preparing your home for hurricane season, the main goal is to keep wind and water out. IBHS has five important recommendations.
1. Inspect Your Roof and Make Necessary Repairs
Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against Mother Nature. Damage to your roof is the greatest risk your home faces when a hurricane strikes. Look for warning signs such as wear on your shingles, gaps or signs of missing sealant and leaks. When repairing or re-roofing, use the guidance provided in Roofing the Right Way with your contractor to ensure you have the strongest possible roof.
2. Install a Sump Pump
A sump pump with a battery backup system can help keep water out of your basement. To be effective, the sump pump needs to be away from the basement walls and have positive drainage away from the building. Sump pumps should be tested at least once a year, preferably in the early spring, prior to the “wet season.”
3. Prevent Leaks
Aging and weather can lead to gaps around the penetrations entering your home and around windows and doors allowing water in, which can result in costly damage. Over time, gaps can form around pipes for water faucets, gas, and air conditioning, as well as where television cables enter the walls, behind electrical outlets, junction boxes, circuit breaker boxes, electric and water meters, and under window sills. Applying the appropriate caulking to these areas will keep water out.
4. Protect Windows and Doors
After ensuring that your roof is as resistant as possible to wind and water, one of the most effective ways to prepare for hurricanes is to protect the openings in your home by installing hurricane shutters.
5. Keep Trees Trimmed
Weak and low-hanging branches can easily be damaged by high winds and can become flying missiles that strike anything in the surrounding area. Heavy rains also can weaken tree roots, causing large trees to topple over. Be sure to keep your trees properly trimmed, and consult an arborist for detailed instruction if you have questions about protecting your trees in hurricane-prone areas.
“The roof, windows and doors are the components of your home most vulnerable to damage during hurricanes,” said IBHS CEO Rochman. “Wind and water damage can lead to costly repairs, and possibly destroy your property. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective things you can do now to reduce the risk of hurricane-related damage.” 
Read More at III.org

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.

Grilling Safety

        Grilling Safety

Safe Summer

Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year. But barbecuing can be dangerous, even deadly, if you are not careful.

The following tips can make your grilling experience safer:

  1. When ready to barbecue, protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits high up over your forearm.
  2. With gas grills, make sure the gas cylinder is always stored outside and away from your house. Make sure the valves are turned off when you are not using them. Check regularly for leaks in the connections using a soap and water mix that will show bubbles where gas escapes.
  3. Barbecue grills should be kept on a level surface away from the house, garage, landscaping, and most of all, children.
  4. For charcoal grills, only use starter fluids designed for those grills. Never use gasoline and use a limited amount of starter fluid. If the fire is too slow, rekindle with dry kindling and add more charcoal if necessary. Never add more liquid fuel or you could end up with a flash fire.
  5. Be sure to soak the coals with water before you put them in the trash.
  6. Always remember that grills remain hot long after you are through barbecuing.

In Case Of An Emergency

If you get burned, run cool water over the injury for 10–15 minutes. Never put butter or salve on burns because they will seal in the heat and cause further blistering. If you receive a serious burn the sooner you get medical attention the better. For more summer safety tips, visit III.org