Your home protects you from the elements, but heavy rains can weaken that protection. With a little maintenance and a lot of vigilance, it’s not hard to stay safe and dry.
The first step is finding and fixing any immediate problems as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, you’ll want to take measures to prevent those problems from happening during the next downpour!
Where is all that rain going?
Your roof and gutters form a key line of defense for your home – and in a storm, they’re vulnerable, because so many things can damage them. Trees, hail, and other objects can create weaknesses that might lead to leaks in your roof, so check for missing shingles and other issues. And keep your gutters clear so all that water drains properly.
Are you checking everywhere?
Water dripping from the ceiling is hard to miss. Water in your crawl space, however, can easily go undetected because hardly anyone ever checks there. Don’t forget to look down there after a storm (or have a professional do it) to make sure everything is nice and dry. If you do see moisture, you’ll want to get it out with a sump pump as soon as possible.
And don’t just look up – another place to check is your home’s exterior, whether it’s siding, brick, or another material. Weak spots can be hard to see, so look at various times of the day in different lighting conditions.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed to keep the elements out, too.
What about around your property?
Storm water has to go somewhere, and if your property doesn’t drain well, or if runoff goes toward your foundation, you could have problems. So watch for patterns, and grade property so it drains away from your home if possible. Always be wary of hillsides and tilting trees after heavy storms, because the land might not be stable.
And don’t forget to keep storm drains clear of leaves and other debris. This can prevent flooding both on the streets and your own property.
What should you do during the storm?
During powerful storms, stay inside. This is not the time to check your roof, your exterior, or your property unless there’s an emergency and you know it’s safe to go out. Monitor your interior, making sure no water is getting in. If it is, do what you can to alleviate the situation in the moment, even if it means just placing something under a leak to collect the water. For more serious problems, though, remember that safety is the most important thing. If your basement is flooding, for example, don’t go down there – you could be trapped and even drown.
Thankfully, powerful storms only hit once in a while. Preparing for them, however, should be on your mind a lot more frequently, because the next one could be tomorrow.
4 Things to Consider When Changing Your Auto Policy
Whether you are adding a vehicle or a new driver, updating your address, or considering a new insurance provider entirely, the process of making changes to your auto policy can be intimidating. Read on for things to keep in mind when adjusting your auto policy.
1. Let Your Independent Agent Do the Work for You
As with any important decision, consider talking to a local expert who can help you navigate the decisions involved in switching to a new car insurance company. While paying the lowest possible rate may seem attractive at first glance, any responsible agent will explain that getting the coverage you need should be one of your top priorities.
For example, if you frequently drive with your dog in the backseat, you might ask your agent whether or not your dog is covered in the event you are in an accident. A professional independent agent can recommend an auto insurance policy that automatically covers any potential pet medical bills if you get into an accident. Not all insurance companies include this coverage. This is an example of how protecting what matters most to you is more important than the savings you get from buying insurance online. The foresight to look ahead and anticipate coverage needs is one of the many benefits of working with an independent agent.
2. Ask the Right Questions About Insurance Carriers
It’s important to balance between being price-conscious and making sure your insurance needs are met. To ensure you receive the correct coverage to meet the needs of you and your family, ask these questions when you speak with your local independent agent:
3. Mind the Policy Gap
Timing is everything as you don’t want to be without coverage between policies. Fees might be involved if you change insurance providers mid-policy term, or discounts may be offered if you shop for a renewal prior to your expiration date, so you’ll want to plan your insurance switchover accordingly.
Failure to avoid a gap in coverage can have serious legal and financial repercussions, especially if a disaster strikes when you’re between insurers. Additionally, a lapse could mean that insurance carriers will charge higher premiums in the future.
4. Follow Through
Once you’ve switched, make it a point to stay in contact with your local agent. Make sure that your previous policy has been canceled. Avoid billing mistakes and credit bureau issues by obtaining written confirmation from your previous insurer that your policy has been cancelled.
If you are moving to a new state, plan to visit with your insurance provider. Because insurance laws vary by state, you’ll want to complete changes prior to your move.
With the right insurance carrier watching out for you, making the switch should be a straightforward process. And, Theodore & Associates is always here to help!
The holiday shopping season will be here before you know it. But there’s an even more important shopping period to think about first: Open Enrollment.
Whether you’re buying your own health insurance for the first time or are considering switching plans, Open Enrollment may seem like a confusing, stress-inducing event. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s everything you need to conquer this year’s health insurance signup process.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open Enrollment is the annual period of time when everyone gets a chance to sign up for health insurance for the coming year. This year, you may have heard the approaching enrollment period referred to as “Open Enrollment 2020”.
Employers that offer health benefits also have an annual enrollment period to allow employees to switch plans. While most companies kick off their signup process toward the end of the year (usually October or November), the start date and enrollment window vary from business to business.
Why is Open Enrollment a thing?
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, signing up for individual health insurance was often a challenge. If you had a pre-existing health condition, or had a family history of certain types of diseases, insurers could deny you coverage or charge you much higher rates than healthy people.
These practices prevented people from gaming the system by only signing up for insurance after they developed a health issue. But they also kept many consumers from getting coverage, either because they were denied insurance or because they couldn’t afford it.
After the ACA was passed, new consumer protections were put in place to ensure everyone can get health insurance, regardless of health history. It also provided subsidies to help lower-income people pay for coverage. But these new policies removed the check in place to prevent people from getting insurance only when they really needed it. And thus, Open Enrollment was born.
Under normal circumstances, Open Enrollment is your once-a-year chance to sign up for health insurance. If you miss this window, you have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to get a new plan (with some exceptions – more on that later). By restricting signups to a limited time frame, insurers are protected from people dropping in and out of plans, paying for coverage only when they have an active health issue.
What’s changed for this year’s Open Enrollment?
For the most part, this year’s Open Enrollment will look a lot like last year. The signup dates are the same. The state and federal Marketplaces still exist, and are one of several ways you can purchase a health insurance plan for 2020. Subsidies will still be available for those that qualify for financial assistance.
Looking for new health insurance for 2020? Start a free quote here.
When is Open Enrollment?For health insurance plans beginning in 2020, Open Enrollment starts on November 1, 2019 and ends on December 15, 2019. But some states have extended the Open Enrollment period until January to give people more time to sign up.
What information do I need to collect for Open Enrollment?
In order to sign up for a plan during Open Enrollment, you’ll need a few key pieces of information, including:
Can I sign up for insurance outside of Open Enrollment?
If you don’t sign up for a health insurance plan during Open Enrollment, and your life circumstances remain the same, you’ll have to wait until next November for your next chance to enroll. However, if your life circumstances do change, you may be able to get insured during a Special Enrollment period.
Special Enrollment is a 60-day enrollment window that happens when you experience a qualifying life event – a fancy phrase for a significant change that impacts your status. Qualifying life events include things like:
Contact our Benefits Department today to learn more and get covered!
They’re trees. And as with so many things in life, proper maintenance is critical. Keeping your trees healthy will allow you to continue to enjoy them and their benefits — one of which is providing enough oxygen for four people every day!
Maintenance also will reduce the risk of a tree falling on your home or your car (or even worse, someone else’s home or car).
Here are some tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation to help keep trees healthy, identify warning signs and address problems. A healthy tree that you care for properly — and regularly — is far less likely to become a hazard. Remember, prevention is key!
Inspect your trees often This applies to all seasons! The sooner you spot a problem, the sooner you can take corrective action — and potentially save your tree. Check trees regularly each year, and have a qualified arborist inspect them annually.
Plant the right species Brittle trees can produce weak limbs that fall and injure people or property. Examples include Silver Maples, Lombardy Poplars, Box Elders, and Willows.
Prune the right way, at the right time Trees should first be pruned when they are young, and then at regular intervals as they age. Make the cut outside the branch collar, and never allow trees to be topped.
Plant in the right place Don’t plant trees that will grow to be large close to your home or under power lines.
Learn to spot problems According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, there are several key things to consider when evaluating your trees for potential issues.
If you have a dead or dying tree, it should be promptly removed unless it is in an area where structures or people won’t be threatened. And have an expert do the job — bringing down a large tree is extremely dangerous, and accidents can result in severe damage, injury, and even death.
The law typically holds the owner responsible for damage or injury caused by a defective tree. So don’t forget about them when you’re working in the yard or examining your landscaping. Keeping your trees healthy can limit the potential for disaster — in addition to keeping your space beautiful and vibrant.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so we've compiled some information that may be useful to you!
These days even the most old school of business involves technology in some way, whether it be email, cell phone usage, a credit card machine, or even an online customer database. Even the smallest business with only a small amount of online interaction may be vulnerable to cyber hacking or attacks. Every business can benefit from some level of Cyber Liability coverage.
Are You At Risk?
Does your business engage in one or more of the following activities?
If you said yes to any of the above then your business is at risk for data breaches, security issues and even lawsuits for things like copyright infringement, intellectual property theft and plagiarism. Cyber Liability insurance can help.
Why You Need It
In just one week, virus removal software companies identified 30 new computer viruses to add to the long list of thousands (possibly millions) of known viruses from around the world. Each of those can be transmitted in a number of ways, including email, instant messaging, malware and malvertising.
Data breaches may also occur via accidental means such as an employee losing a laptop. Less accidental ways may include employees revealing passwords or customer information on social media. In fact, your employees may be more of a threat to your cyber security than hackers.
The losses due to global cyber crimes are estimated at $400 billion per year. In just one year, companies like Target and eBay were hacked, as was the federal government (click here for a list of recent breaches). Big companies like these make the news, but small businesses may be even easier to breach, and the cyber crime may go unnoticed for even longer.
Cyber Liability Coverage Can Help
Data breaches can be costly. When you think about all of the ways a data breach can affect your business, the financial losses add up quickly:
Take Preventative Measures
A data breach or hack doesn’t have to mean the end of your business. Contact Theodore & Associates to get a quote on a Cyber Liability insurance policy.
From building materials to furnishings, many of the things in your home likely aren’t as flame-resistant as those from yesteryear.
A fire in a modern home is a “perfect storm,” according to safety consulting and certification company UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
Larger homes, more open layouts, new construction materials and other factors mean fires burn more quickly, leaving less time for occupants to escape — and for firefighters to stop the flames. How much less time? About 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to get out of the house once it caught fire. Today? Just three or four minutes.
A lot goes into creating that “perfect storm,” experts say. Here are some key factors:
What can you do? Well, unless you’re having a house built or doing an extensive remodel, you can’t really change the materials used to construct your home. However, there are a few things you should do immediately to help keep you and your family safe, no matter where you live:
To learn more about fire safety, check out these tips from the American Red Cross. Because the best fire protection of all is preventing one from starting in the first place!
You probably don’t think your dog would ever bite someone, let alone cause a serious injury. But dog bites are more common than you might realize—4.5 million occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most victims are young children.
Those injuries also have a bigger impact on homeowners insurance than you might realize: The Insurance Information Institute says dog-related claims accounted for more than $600 million in insurance payments in 2016.
(Keep in mind that it’s not just bites that cause injuries. Dogs can knock down pedestrians or cyclists, too, which often leads to severe medical issues as well.)
With those numbers in mind, it’s understandable that insurance companies want to know if you’ve got a dog in your household. Some even will refuse to insure you if you have a specific breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior, regardless of whether your dog has ever bitten someone.
Despite that, you should never hide the fact that you have a dog from your insurance company. If you do, and your dog then causes an injury, your coverage could be invalidated—leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more.
When a bite happens
OK, so your insurance company knows about your dog. But do you have to tell them if the dog bites or injures somebody?
That depends. If it’s a minor incident, you might consider paying out of pocket for any medical expenses in an attempt to avoid the claims process and a potential increase in your premiums. (In some instances, insurance companies will not renew your policy or will exclude your dog from coverage after paying for a dog-related claim.)
However, this might violate your policy, which probably requires you to report changes in your circumstances. If you don’t report a bite, and the dog then bites someone else later, the insurance company might deny you liability coverage for the second incident. Ask us to outline your options.
Another risk is the threat of future claims from the victim. Injuries aren’t always immediately apparent, and complications can arise later. The victim might decide down the road to sue you. And if you’ve waited too long to report the incident to your insurance company, it might be too late to make a claim and receive all the protection your policy was meant to provide—which can include help with attorney fees, medical bills and more.
A $33,000 mistake?
Ask yourself this: How would your budget look if you had an unexpected $33,000 expense? The average claim payment for a dog injury in 2016 was about that amount. And that’s with an insurance company working on behalf of the insured. If you’re on your own, you could wind up paying even more—a lot more.
Our advice? Start with your agent and discuss your specific situation. Even if you decide not to file a claim—which is always an option—you’ll get guidance from a professional on our team who can help you assess the risk.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Football season in the south brings with it a whole host of seasonal activities for football fans, from game-day tailgates and sports bar outings, to friendly bets and bowl parties. At Theodore & Associates, we want your football season to be both exciting and safe, so as you cheer your team to victory, consider the following tips.
Game day insurance tips
Here are a few pointers for making sure your insurance provides an additional safety net on game day:
In light of Hurricane Dorian battering our coast right now, flood prevention & safety seemed like a fitting topic for this week.
Almost anywhere it rains, it can flood. Even if you live in an area of that you think isn’t at risk, preparation is just as critical as with other types of emergencies.
Before we get into how you can prevent, limit or react to flooding, it’s important to note that flood damage is typically not covered by your homeowners or renters insurance. There are specialized flood insurance programs that we can discuss with you. Contact us for more information.
Preparing for a flood
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends a number of steps to stay safe during emergencies and limit damage from flooding. You should:
Acting during a flood
If a flood is likely in your area, quick action may be necessary to protect your family and property. You should:
Coping after a flood
Flooding can cause emotional stress along with physical hazards, so be mindful of the well-being of yourself and your family during the aftermath.
The Red Cross has a free book available called “Repairing Your Flooded Home,” which contains useful information as you clean up. It’s available at www.redcross.org. Of course, don’t hesitate to contact us as well — we’re ready to help!
Flooding is one of the most common hazards in the U.S. Being prepared for any emergency is crucial for the safety of you and your family. Don’t be caught off guard!
If a massive disaster wiped out power to your region right now, with no hope of recovery for at least several days, would you be ready? Would you have a way to connect with your family? Would you have enough nonperishable food for everyone? In short, do you have the right plan and supplies to get through an emergency?
In the insurance business, we know a little something about helping people recover from disasters. We know that a little preparation goes a long way. So here are some tips from the Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and others on what you should put in an emergency preparedness kit for you and your family:
The big stuff: food and water
At home, consider keeping a two-week supply of nonperishable food on hand in a safe, dry place. You might already have a good head start on this, depending on what’s in your pantry. You also need a two-week supply of water, according to the Red Cross. That’s one gallon per person, per day. Don’t forget your pets. They’ll need their food and water as well. For evacuation situations, take a three-day supply of the above.
If the power is out for an extended period, you’ll need flashlights or battery-powered lanterns (with extra batteries). A portable, hand-crank radio will ensure you stay informed on the situation. A first-aid kit is a must, along with at least a week’s worth of any medications that family members need. Emergency blankets and warm clothes are crucial if the weather is cold. Don’t forget personal hygiene items.
You could be forced to evacuate, so it’s important to have certain things down on paper — for example, family and emergency contact information. You’ll also want to keep copies of personal documents, such as proof of address, passports, birth certificates, and insurance policies.
There are a multitude of other things you can include in your kit, of course. A multipurpose tool, extra cash, and maps of the area are a few recommendations, along with games and activities to keep the kids occupied, if needed.
Above all, consider the unique needs of you and your family when putting together your kit. Put everything in labeled containers that can be accessed quickly and carried if necessary. Once you’ve created your kit, check it each September during National Preparedness Month for expired items, including medications, and missing supplies.
Of course, we hope you never have to use your kit. But it’s far better to have one you don’t need instead of needing one you don’t have.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.