One of the best ways to save on Auto and Homeowners’ insurance is to stay claims-free. Securing your vehicle and house will help prevent theft, save you money along with the hassle of dealing with unexpected property losses this summer.
In 2014, there were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement, according to the latest FBI annual report on “Crime in the United States, 2014.” Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at approximately $14.3 billion.
Peak season for home burglaries
Summertime is peak season for household property crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Open windows and open garages along with extended absences from your home for travel and outdoor activities, demand extra vigilance.
The average homeowner’s losses for theft from 2010-2014 was $3,786, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Data also reveals that about one in 215 insured homes has a property damage claim due to theft each year.
Motor vehicle thefts, on the other hand, do not exhibit the same seasonal patterns. However, it would be especially devastating to have your car stolen while on a summer road trip. Car thieves are becoming increasing organized and, in less than a minute, your car can disappear, requiring you to file an insurance claim.
In 2014, there were 689,527 vehicle reported stolen in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The I.I.I. notes that a motor vehicle was stolen in the U.S. every 46 seconds in 2014. Nearly 45% of stolen vehicles are never recovered.
Here are handy tips to help ensure that your residence and car are less of a target for thieves, especially during the summer vacation season:
A dog can be a great deterrent against crime. Burglars don’t like dogs. (Photo: iStock)
1. Don’t post your travel plans on social media. Some burglars use social networking sites to find victims.
2. Pushbutton locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.
3. Trim your bushes, shrubs and trees to avoid providing a place for an intruder to hide.
4. Have adequate exterior lighting. One of the best deterrents against a burglar is to install motion-sensing lights.
5. Be sure to lock up ladders and tools which could be used to break into your home.
6. Burglars don’t like dogs. Even small dogs make a home a less attractive to criminals.
Garages are a common entry point for burglars. Keep your garage door(s) closed. (Photo: iStock)
7. Get to know your neighbors — it’s a great deterrent to crime. Neighbors are extra sets of eyes keeping a watch on your property, reporting suspicious activity, and helping keep you safe. Be sure and return the favor and keep an eye on their home, too.
8. Consider an alarm system. Many insurance companies offer discounts for alarms, and some systems also monitor for fire.
9. Think like a burglar. Ask yourself, “what would a burglar find when he looks at my house that would be inviting?”
10. Many break-ins occur during the day when people are at work. For that reason, when you leave the house, create an illusion that someone’s still there. Consider leaving a radio on all day so that would-be burglars think that someone is at home.
11. Garages are a common entry point for burglars. Keep your garage door closed.
12. Don’t keep valuables in your bedroom. Crooks normally go straight to the bedroom because they know people tend to keep cash and jewelry there. Keep your valuables in an unlikely place, but not in the linen closet or the freezer (too common).
Leaving the window open even one inch can be just what it takes for a car thief to easily steal your car. (Photo: iStock)
Auto theft is covered under the comprehensive section of an Auto insurance policy. Theft coverage applies to the loss of the vehicles, as well as parts of the car such as airbags.
Premium rates for comprehensive insurance are affected by the risk of loss — meaning the likelihood that an insured car will be stolen or damage — and also the car’s value at the time of the loss.
The dollar size of claims has been going up, reflecting the higher value of new cars on the road, the value of the cars that are targets for theft or are damaged and the cost of vehicle bodywork, according to the I.I.I.
13. Always roll up your windows, close the sunroof and lock the car, even if it is parked in front of your home. Leaving the window open even one inch can be just what it takes for a car thief to easily steal your car.
14. Never leave your car running unattended, even to dash into your home, a convenience store, ATM, etc.
15. Never mark your keys with your name and address.
A car protected against theft with the use of a Stoplock steering lock attached to the steering wheel. (Photo: iStock)
16. Try to park the vehicle with the front facing an obstacle. Turn the wheels toward the curb, recommends Interpol. This makes it harder for thieves to tow your vehicle.
17. Have the vehicle identification number etched on the glass and other parts of the vehicle. This discourages chop shops.
18. Remove registration papers from your motor vehicle to make it difficult for the thief to sell it on the black market.
19. Do not hide a spare set of keys anywhere on or near the car itself — criminals may either see you hiding the key or look in the common locations people use.
20. Install an anti-theft system in your vehicle if it doesn’t have one. Thieves are reluctant to steal vehicles if they know the cars can be recovered quickly.
Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night and in parking garages. (Photo: iStock)
21. Thieves prefer to work in the dark. Be particularly cautious at night about where you park your car. Park it in a well-lit area if possible. According to the Seattle Police Department, more than two-thirds of all auto thefts occur at night.
22. Don’t tempt car thieves. Keep valuables out of plain sight. Take them with you or store them in the trunk
23. Look around. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in garages, parking lots and gas stations.
24. Remember, no matter how old and beat up your car is, you can never completely rule out the possibility of theft. Many times old cars are easier to break into and these models are stolen for parts, because they are easy to sell on the stolen parts market. And in some cases, criminals don’t care about the value of the car they’re stealing. They simply need temporary transportation.
25. When you’re at home, don’t leave your keys near an open window. Car security systems have advanced so far now that the easiest way for a thief to steal the car is often to steal the keys themselves. This can mean picking them from your pocket, or even stealing them from your house.
June 2, 2016 | By Jayleen R. Heft
Data breaches pose one of the most pressing and potentially devastating risks to businesses across the globe.
The significant financial and reputational damage resulting from a hack can impact the entire business on an unprecedented scale. The problem is increasingly widespread in our hyper-connected world, and according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 781 data breaches were recorded in the United States in 2015, the second most active year in the past decade.
These threats continue to grow at an exponential rate, and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods of attack. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that businesses both large and small go on the offensive to safeguard the sensitive information of their employees, partners and customers by taking the proper preventive measures and implementing a comprehensive Cyber liability insurance policy.
The term “Cyber liability” insurance is somewhat of a misnomer because people tend to equate the word “cyber” with a technological hacking event. However, a more appropriate name for the policy would be “privacy liability,” because the scope of coverage includes the loss of private information through almost any process of theft, not just virtual.
While the widely known tactics of hacking, skimming and phishing were the leading causes of data breaches in 2015, nearly 50% of total data breaches last year were the result of employee error, improper disposal of documents, lost equipment and other non-technological failures.
The costs of not securing adequate protection could be devastating to a business. In fact, the Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study concluded that data breaches on average leave companies on the hook for $3.79 million in damages per incident, but depending on the cause of the data breach, this number can be even higher.
Hackers are relentless
Contrary to what most might believe, data breaches can, and likely will happen in the life of a business. Hackers are relentless, and their means of acquiring sensitive information are dynamic and constantly evolving. Although reaching out to an insurance broker about Cyber liability coverage is an important first step, there are other specialists that can help as well. It is imperative that business owners ensure they purchase a comprehensive cyber insurance policy that includes the following coverages before signing on the dotted line.
Here are five key aspects of a policy to keep in mind:
Legal advice is critical to making sure the company is in compliance with any regulations. Choose a firm that has previous experience with Cyber liability. (Photo: Shutterstock)
1. Forensics and legal
When a breach occurs, the first step is to hire a forensics and legal team to determine the size and scope of the breach and provide advice on how to comply with the law.
These costs are the most frequently exhausted limits in a policy, so it is important to assure that limits of liability offered by insurance carriers for such coverage are adequate.
Public relations professionals can help a company craft a compelling message for each of the company’s audiences. (Photo: Shutterstock)
2. Public relations
Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
If a network security data breach occurs, it is important to hire a public relations team to help mitigate reputational risk associated with the breach.
Damage from a breach can continue months after a cyber event. Offering credit-monitoring services help affected customers track any changes to their accounts. (Photo: iStock)
3. Notification costs and credit monitoring
Costs associated with informing customers of a data breach are often overlooked.
In fact, 47 states now have breach notification requirements that force companies to inform affected individuals of a data breach in a timely manner. It’s also become standard to offer free credit-monitoring services for at least 12 months following the incident.
Businesses will likely need to set up a phone line or even a new website to provide affected individuals with answers to frequently asked questions. All of these damage control strategies require capital up front, and proper insurance benefits could make or break the success of the company’s response.
A cyber event can shut down websites, cash registers and prevent access to critical records, resulting in lost sales and clients. (Photo: iStock)
4. Business interruption coverage
Network security failure often leads to unforeseen business disruptions.
These interruptions sometimes come in the form of distributed denial of service attacks, which are often accompanied by a malicious party overloading company websites with requests.
After gaining access to a network, cybercriminals can also delete critical flies or add malicious software that causes systems to malfunction or fail. Business interruptions wreak havoc on day-to-day operations and lead to missed business opportunities, disgruntled customers and additional financial losses.
As cyber attacks on medical facilities increase, hackers holding the information for ransom are demanding payment in bitcoin because they are untraceable. (Photo: iStock)
5. Cyber extortion coverage
Clever cyber criminals are getting creative in how they monetize a data breach.
Earlier this year, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 in ransom to regain control of their internal servers that had been taken hostage.
This wasn’t the first or last time we’ve seen control of a hospital’s servers taken over by hackers in 2016. Extortion coverage also helps cover the costs associated with the investigation of threats to commit cyberattacks and for payments to extortionists who threaten to obtain and disclose sensitive information. Make sure the company is covered in the event of this typically unexpected scenario.
In the end, the success of a company’s fight against cyber crime is ultimately defined by its preparation. Encryption of mobile devices and computer systems is essential, as well as employee training and education. Occasional vulnerability tests to identify areas of weakness when it comes to an existing cybersecurity infrastructure are mandatory. Taking the proper protective measures are important to help prevent a network security data breach, but when all else fails, it is equally important that you have a comprehensive Cyber liability insurance policy in place to cover you for any liability associated with a breach.
May 31, 2016 | By Harris Tsangaris
Of the many aspects of owning multi-family real estate, maintenance is certainly one of the top priorities — or at least it should be.
Owners are often focused on making sure their buildings are in tip-top shape but sometimes relegate parking lot maintenance to a lower priority — and that’s something that can come back to bite them.
That’s because the owners of multi-family residences can be liable for accidents, mishaps and criminal activities that occur in their parking lots.
If you own a multi-family property with a parking lot, here are six things to pay attention to in order to avoid potential claims:
It starts with making sure pavement is free of potholes and cracks. Just the slightest imperfection in a parking lot or sidewalk can create a tripping hazard and open up the owner to a lawsuit.
It is extremely important to make sure all parking lots and walking areas are smooth and free of cracks and debris. Additionally, it’s important to keep the lot free from debris and trash, and keep benches, planters and other amenities well-maintained. Trees and shrubs should not obstruct line of site for drivers or pedestrians.
2. Getting in and out
Your parking lot should have clear signage directing people where to go, what the flow of traffic should be, and where entrances and exits are.
Entrances and exits – both for vehicles and for foot and bike traffic – should be well-maintained, free of obstacles and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gates should be well-maintained, and guard houses should be well maintained and well lit.
Parking lot lighting is important, not just from a liability standpoint, but also to help tenants feel safe and secure.
Prospective tenants will often make parking lot lighting a significant factor in whether they decide to live in your building. The parking lot’s lights should turn on at dusk. Replace burned-out lights as soon as possible. If an incident occurs in your lot and the lights aren’t working properly, you’re likely looking at a lawsuit.
4. Snow and ice
Another significant factor that must be managed is snow and ice removal during the winter months. It is vitally important to keep parking lots clear, something that isn’t always easy to do given the unpredictable nature of the weather.
Most building owners contract out their snow removal. The contract should specify the details of the contractor’s duties before, during and after a winter weather occurrence. For example, it should stipulate how often the contractor is to return to salt an area where snow may melt during the day and refreeze overnight.
Collect a certificate of insurance from contractors showing proof of adequate General Liability limits and Workers’ Compensation coverage. The names of the owner and “the applicable entity” should be listed as “additional insureds” on the contractor’s policy. This will transfer the liability of the contractor’s operation from the building owner to the contractor, thus shielding the owner from a frivolous lawsuit.
5. Parking garages
For multi-family building owners that have parking garages rather than surface lots, there can be an added level of liability.
Garages have more hidden places than a surface lot, such as elevators, stairwells, etc. This means that owners need to install additional security features that surface lots may not require, such as cameras and emergency call boxes. Also, high-quality lighting becomes paramount in a parking garage.
Some garages are shared by both residents and the public. In this case, residents should have secure access to a section of the garage, dedicated residential elevators, and possibly separate access points.
6. Valet service
Lastly, for buildings with valet parking, there are additional insurance requirements and potential liability, as there always is when the human element is introduced. Check with your broker for all required coverages.
Not all accidents and lawsuits can be avoided, but with proper oversight of parking lots, garages, and walking areas, claims can be greatly reduced.
MAY 27, 2016 | BY GREG HOWSON
Chubb has added cyber bullying coverage to its U.S. Masterpiece Family Protection policy to help cover clients and their families from the expenses associated with a cyber bullying incident.
According to Christie Alderman, vice president, Client Product & Service, Chubb Personal Risk Services, cyber bullying, including online threats and harassment, can damage the reputation of a homeowner or their child reputation, and cause financial loss and emotional harm. The new cyber bullying coverage provides up to $60,000 in compensation to clients and family members for expenses related to harassment and intimidation committed via personal computers, telephones or mobile devices.
Clients may recover costs incurred when cyber bullying results in wrongful termination, false arrest, wrongful discipline in an educational institution, or diagnosed debilitating shock, mental anguish or mental injury leading to the inability of the client or a family member to attend school or work for more than a week. The coverage provides compensation for psychiatric services, rest and recuperation expenses, lost salary, temporary relocation services, education expenses, professional public relations services, and cyber security consultants.
The U.S. cyber bullying coverage is available to all Masterpiece homeowners customers who purchase a Family Protection policy, which typically costs about $70. The coverage is currently available in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin and will be rolled out to additional states in the near future. Chubb first released cyber bullying coverage as part of its personal lines insurance package in the United Kingdom in December 2015.
Chubb’s Masterpiece Family Protection policy includes an array of coverages to help families recover and protect themselves from perils including stalking threats, carjacking, home invasion, air rage, hijacking and child abduction.
Coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.
May 24, 2016
This Sept. 24, 2008, file photo shows Donna Hanson as she pauses to look at an item recovered from debris left where her home once stood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas. (Photo: David J. Phillip/AP Photo)
Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 15-21, is a perfect time to start thinking about how to prepare for a potential land-falling tropical storm or hurricane.
On average, 12 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 each year, according to the National Weather Service. In the Central Pacific Ocean, an average of three tropical storms, two of which become hurricanes form or move over the area.
The primary hazards from hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones, are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents. While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends these seven tips to share with your clients, friends and family to ensure they’re prepared should one of nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena strike where they are located:
1. Determine your risk.
Find out today what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, and then start preparing now for how to handle them. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland.
2. Develop an evacuation plan.
Find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you’re in a home that would be unsafe during a hurricane. If you are, figure out where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate.
Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in an evacuation zone or unsafe home, and make a plan with them to use their home as your evacuation destination. Be sure to account for your pets, as most local shelters don’t accommodate pets. Put the plan in writing and share with loved ones.
3. Get an insurance check-up.
Make sure you have enough Homeowners’ insurance to repair or even replace their home. If you’re a renter, be sure you have adequate coverage.
Don’t forget coverage for your vehicle or boat.
Remember, standard Homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your insurance company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at www.floodsmart.gov. Act now as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period.
Related: 5 reasons why renters need insurance
4. Gather emergency/disaster supplies.
You’re going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath. Have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week.
Electricity and water could be out for at least that long. You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Many of us have cell phones, and they all run on batteries. You’re going to need a portable, crank or solar powered USB charger.
5. Fortify and prepare your home.
Make sure your home is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications. Many of these retrofits don’t cost much or take as long to do as you may think.
Have the proper plywood, steel or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors.
Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand the winds.
6. Identify trusted sources of hurricane information.
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center are your official sources for hurricane forecasts and the issuance of hurricane watches and warnings. Your local NOAA National Weather Service forecast office provides information regarding the expected impacts from the storm for your area.
Emergency managers will make the decisions regarding evacuations.
Organizations such as the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes make disaster safety recommendations. And the media outlets will broadcast this information to you. All work together to be your trusted sources, especially for those less able to take care of themselves.
7. Create a written hurricane plan.
Take the time now to write down your hurricane plan. Know where you’ll ride out the storm and get your supplies. You don’t want to be standing in long lines when a hurricane warning is issued. The supplies you need will probably be sold out by the time you reach the front of the line.
Being prepared, before a hurricane threatens, makes you resilient to the hurricane impacts of wind and water. It will mean the difference between your being a hurricane victim and a hurricane survivor.
May 20, 2016 | By Jayleen R. Heft
Leaks in homes can use more than 1 trillion gallons of water each year, an average of 10,000 gallons per household.
The most common sources of leaks are toilet flappers, dripping faucets and other leaking valves, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
One of the major sources of leaks is the bathroom. Surprisingly, certain design elements can increase the risk for water damage — or ensure that the damage stays hidden until it turns into a massive problem.
These issues aren’t limited to either residential or commercial construction, but can be found in all kinds of bathrooms, whether it is the one in your own home or a five-star hotel.
Here are three areas to watch for potential water damage, and when it is time to replace fixtures or remodel, making smart choices can reduce the risk of water damage in your new bathroom:
Vanities can hide leaks from supply lines or poorly caulked sinks. (Photo: iStock)
1. The bathroom sink
Bathroom sinks are notorious for causing water damage and it makes sense. We use these fixtures every day, which means a lot of wear and tear.
In fact, among homes, the bathroom and kitchen sink make up 16% of your water usage, on average. Even splashing your way through your morning routine can cause some damage. While you can’t eliminate the sink entirely, there are several ways to reduce some of the hidden sources of damage.
Pay close attention to the vanity or get rid of it entirely. There are numerous ways that vanities can obscure water damage: Water supply lines running through the wall or floor can develop leaks between the vanity itself and the wall or floor. In addition, the connections to the faucet and the drain can leak, which can be a major issue if you don’t look inside the cabinet often. Finally, all that splashing in the sink can cause damage to the vanity’s finish, especially if it is made of wood or laminated particle board.
One way to avoid these issues is to install a pedestal or a wall-mounted sink. Because the plumbing isn’t obscured by the cabinet, you’ll notice a puddle on the floor quickly and be able to fix the issue before it gets out of control.
If you decide to go with a vanity anyway, make sure to check all of the fittings underneath the sink regularly. Also, watch the caulk that seals drop-in sinks to the countertop. If the seal around the sink is broken, then splashed water will run underneath the sink and into the cabinet below.
Check the flapper, wax ring and wall fixtures for leaks. (Photo: iStock)
2. The toilet
Toilets can cause just as much damage as a sink, but if you don’t know what to look for, then that damage can go unnoticed for a long time.
The top sign of water damage from a leaking toilet is a soft, spongy floor, or a toilet that rocks easily. You may also find mildew or rot behind the toilet itself.
Here are a few of the causes:
- The easiest leaks to identify are those coming from the supply line to the toilet, or a leak between the toilet and the tank. Coloring the water in the tank can make it easier to identify where it is leaking. To prevent water damage, check this area often and make repairs as necessary.
- Sometimes the wax ring between the toilet and the pipe that the toilet rests on doesn’t provide a good seal. This can be a concern particularly if the toilet isn’t fastened tightly to the floor. If you can move the toilet, then be prepared to install a new wax ring and re-fasten the toilet firmly to the floor.
- The hardest water damage issue to pinpoint is condensation. Let’s say there is mildew behind the toilet, or the floor around the base is always damp, but there is no apparent source for the leak. In cases like these, condensation is often the culprit. The problem is toilet tanks are usually only supplied with cold water, so on hot days, condensation will form on the outside of the tank which can damage the wall behind the toilet or drip onto the floor. One way to fix this is to install a Styrofoam insert inside the toilet tank to insulate the cold water from the warm air.
Water damage can occur from leaking fixtures or poorly sealed grout or calking. (Photo: iStock)
3. The shower
There are three big ways that a tub or shower can cause water damage: Damaged caulking, worn or unsealed grout between tiles, and through the plumbing.
Frequently, plumbing problems are difficult to detect because the supply lines to the faucet and showerhead are hidden within walls. If at all possible, install an access panel behind the shower to allow periodic inspections of the plumbing. You can also prevent excessive water damage by routinely inspecting underneath the shower, if you have access.
When it comes to grout and caulk, these are relatively easy to correct and should be checked annually to prevent damage. In particular, look at the caulking along the base of a tub or shower surround, or at the base of the wall tiles. If it looks like the caulk isn’t providing a good seal, remove it and re-apply. For grout, simply make sure that it hasn’t worn too thin. Otherwise, you’ll need to re-apply the grout as well. In addition, if you’re not using a watertight epoxy grout, then apply a grout sealant to prevent seepage.
By identifying and eliminating the risks highlighted here, and keeping up with a routine inspection and maintenance schedule, it is very possible to stop water damage before it starts.
May 19, 2016 | By Erica Garland
Do you know what to do if a dangerous thunderstorm rolls in? Photo: iStock
Thunderstorms can occur year-round, and we have started the first of the two seasons — spring and summer — that they are most likely to occur.
Amelia, Ohio-based specialty residential insurer American Modern Insurance Group, a subsidiary of Germany-based Munich Re, has some tips for homeowners to better protect their properties and families against these events.
“When it comes to thunderstorms, thoughtful planning and preparation are essential,” said American Modern’s Heather Bolyard, assistant vice president of claims support. “For example, one simple yet effective measure homeowners can take is to secure items found in the yard, like trampolines, which can become airborne and dangerous if not properly tied down or stored away.”
Severe thunderstorms accounted for 43% of insured property windstorm losses in the United States — in 2015 values — between 1980 and 2015, according to American Modern. The company reported that in 2011 alone, the United States suffered insured property losses of $27 billion because of tornados, hail, wind gusts and flash floods that accompanied severe thunderstorms.
Thunderstorms can be unpredictable, but American Modern says there are a number of ways homeowners can better prepare for them:
You can’t predict when a storm hits, so keep your disaster supply kit handy. (Photo: iStock)
1. Prepare a supply kit
A basic disaster supply kit should include essential items such as water, nonperishable food, a flashlight and first-aid materials.
Because you can’t predict where you’ll be when a storm hits, it is important to have supplies where you are most often, such as at home or in your car.
Trim damaged branches from trees. (Photo: iStock)
2. Trim trees
Remove or trim dead or damaged trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
You can check with your local city government about any guidelines or required consent applications and contact a qualified (and insured) arborist or tree surgeon for advice, if necessary.
Try to have a qualified arborist inspect trees every two to three years to identify any preventative action necessary. A major cause of tree failure is root damage, so be careful when digging or excavating around trees.
Don’t forget to park your car away from trees if strong winds and severe storms are predicted.
Secure loose siding, fences and objects that you normally keep outdoors. (Photo: iStock)
3. Store items inside
When alerted of a thunderstorm, bring in anything from the outside that could become windborne debris (lawn furniture, bicycles, trash bins and trampolines, for example).
Also secure any loose siding or fence panels.
Strong winds can pick up even large items such as outdoor furniture, trampolines and roofing iron that could potentially damage windows, roofs and cars.
Identify things which you may need to secure and include this information in your plan. If you are going away on a holiday during a stormy season, consider securing these items and following other relevant steps before leaving.
Store food in refrigerator on the coldest setting. (Photo: iStock)
4. Keep food cold
Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and keep it closed as much as possible so food will last longer should you lose power.
Rid gutters of anything that can cause blockage. (Photo: iStock)
5. Check gutters
Clean gutters and downspouts so rain water can flow freely.
A plugged gutter or damaged drain pipe can create a dam and subsequent roof leak.
Keeping the drains around your property clear will help surface water move away and prevent water from pooling and entering your property.
Pot plants in courtyards and around houses are often used to hide drainage grates. Always remember to move these if there is a thunderstorm warning. Also, park away from low lying areas and drains.
Keep a portable generator handy in case there’s a power outage. (Photo: iStock)
6. Purchase a portable generator
Although generators can be useful in the event of a power outage, remember to use them safely by keeping generators and other power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture.
Never try to power the house by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
Put together an evacuation plan and discuss it with family members. (Photo: iStock)
7. Prepare for an evacuation
Discuss an evacuation plan with members of your household to minimize confusion that may result from the need to leave quickly.
Especially during peak storm season, it’s important to keep your car filled with at least a half tank of gas in case you need to evacuate or in the event of a power outage, as many gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
Plan where you’ll go and how you’ll get in contact with each other as well as any special circumstances or considerations for your household (including any member with chronic illnesses, disabilities, etc.).
Don’t forget that storms and other emergencies can happen at any time of the day, so think about where household members may be if and when the storm hits (school, work, commuting), how you’ll get in touch with them, and where you can meet up.
Try to identify how you will manage in these circumstances and who you may be able to get additional support from. Everyone should know what the plan is.
May 13, 2016 | By Trudy Knockless
It’s no secret that Americans are living longer, but not all are in optimal health as shown in television commercials, creating a cottage industry in home health care.
In addition, the first of the baby boomers turned 70 this year, while others have responsibilities for aging family members. As a senior citizen or caretaker of an older person, preparing for and protecting against a fire, flood, hurricane or other disaster can be a special challenge, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Many seniors live alone and may have special needs or limited physical mobility, which makes them more vulnerable than younger people when there is a disaster. Therefore, it’s all the more important to take steps to prepare for an emergency by evaluating the specific challenges faced by seniors and making an emergency plan to fit their needs.
If you’re an insurance agent or broker with aging clients or clients that operate home health care agencies, you can share the following checklist with them. This checklist, created by I.I.I., is a helpful tool to help seniors (and those who love and care for them) prepare for a disaster:
1. Make a medical plan
In the event of a disaster, you may not have access to a medical facility or even a drug store. If you take medication or receive regular medical treatments — such as dialysis, chemotherapy or even physical therapy — talk to your medical provider about an emergency back-up plan.
Keep an up-to-date file of your medical history including doctors, prescriptions and dosages, as well as regular medical treatments. Include a copy in your disaster kit, and make sure that a family member or a good friend has a copy too.
2. Prepare a disaster kit
Have the supplies you need on hand in case you have to evacuate or manage on your own for a period after a disaster, including:
- Enough food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours.
- Items necessary for your specific needs, such as eyeglasses, catheters, hearing aid batteries, oxygen or meal replacement shakes, for example.
- Important documents, such as health insurance cards, Medicare cards, family records, power of attorney, copies of your Homeowners’ and Auto insurance policies and contact information for your insurance professional.
- Cash to purchase emergency supplies in the event that power outages prevent the use of credit cards or ATMs.
For a full list of disaster supply items, see Ready.gov.
3. Plan for an evacuation
Contact your county government or local municipality to find out whether you are in an evacuation zone.
Locate the nearest official shelter — the American Red Cross or your local government will have this information. If you have a pet, be sure to research shelter pet friendly shelter options.
If you are physically unable to drive, identify someone who can provide transportation. And, if you have any disabilities, are wheelchair bound or use a walker or cane, build more time into your evacuation plan.
Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers you can rely on in an emergency. Share your plans with the group and make sure you know how to communicate with each other if a disaster strikes.
4. Take steps to prepare your home
The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has information on how to make your home better able to withstand a disaster — and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help with mitigation tasks.
Purchase a generator, especially if you rely on electricity for health reasons. And remember, even a simple storm can result in a power outage, so it is important to be prepared any time.
5. Make sure your Homeowners’ insurance is up-to-date
Continue to insure your home, even if you have paid off your mortgage and Homeowners’ coverage is no longer required by the bank.
Schedule a time to review your coverage with an insurance professional at least once a year. Children of older parents should consider participating in the review. Here are some questions to ask your insurance professional:
- Do I have enough coverage to completely rebuild my home?
- Is my Additional Living Expenses limit sufficient to cover the extra costs involved in living away from home if my house is being repaired after a disaster?
- What is my deductible? And do I have a separate deductible for hurricanes, hail or earthquakes?
Keep an up-to-date home inventory — it will make it easier to both purchase the right amount of insurance for your belongings and file a claim. Most carriers have information on how to create a home inventory, and some have inventory software that lives “in the cloud” so you can access it from anywhere after a disaster.
6. Consider other coverages
If you rent your home, Renters’ insurance is inexpensive and will provide coverage for your belongings in the event of a disaster.
Flood and earthquake are not covered under standard Homeowners’ and Renters’ policies. Flood insurance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Programand from a few private insurance companies. Earthquake coverage is available from private insurance companies and in California is also sold by the California Earthquake Authority.
7. Take advantage of resources available to seniors
If you or a loved one live in a group setting, such as an adult-living community or assisted-living facility, speak with the administrator and find out the specific disaster preparation and evacuation plans the facility has in place.
FEMA has great resources for seniors at Ready.gov. The AARP, the American Red Cross and the National Organization on Disability all offer resources for older people and those who love and care for them.
May 04, 2016 | By Rosalie L. Donlon,
It is no longer a question of “if” but instead “when” their company will experience an incident. (Photo: iStock)
Of the many threats that are top of mind for risk managers and the insurers who help them, cyber attacks and data breaches continue to receive a lot of attention.
For good reason, according to a recent report, the per-record cost of a data breach reached $154 in 2015, up 12% from $145 the year prior. Additionally, the average total cost of a single data breach rose 23% to $3.79 million.
Most risk managers understand that it is no longer a question of “if” but instead “when” their company will experience an incident. In fact, according to the Ponemon Third Annual Study on Data Breach Preparedness, only 35% of organizations had a data breach or Cyber insurance policy in 2015, and many more are now looking to buy policies.
In order to secure the best coverage option, companies must work with their brokers to evaluate policies, as well as take steps to assess their cyber risks and reduce the overall cost of insurance.
Here are three tips for risk managers to keep in mind when working with brokers to select a Cyber insurance policy:
Work with your broker
Companies need to properly evaluate policies to ensure they are getting coverage that meets their risk profile.
Key to this process is working with an insurance broker to confirm that you’re getting the best guidance in this specialized area. Brokers are knowledgeable about the exposures presented by security incidents and can help you navigate the wide variety of policy options.
In speaking with companies and Cyber insurance brokers who have been through the process of buying coverage, these are the key aspects to look for in a policy:
- Coverage for crisis response services including forensics, legal and data breach resolution partners that are well established and are experts in the industry. Often a policy will outline the outside experts that can be used during an incident, and it’s important that risk managers and your broader response team are comfortable with the options. In some cases, companies and brokers can also negotiate using their own preferred providers, but this should be done prior to an incident.
- Coverage for third-party cloud or other IT providers who have access to sensitive information of the covered company. While some of the liability may ultimately lie with the third-party provider, this isn’t always the case and could be an area of oversight.
- Risk management services ahead of an incident that can help the company more effectively prepare for managing security or privacy incidents. Many policies will offer resources and guidance on incident-response plans and practices that will help the company prepare for an incident. Some will also take companies or departments through a cyber-security drill to help them better prepare.
Overall, be sure to obtain a top quality broker that understands the coverage landscape and can help you navigate through the range of options presented based on an understanding of your company and your industry.The analysis and decisions should always be conducted under the guidance of your broker.
Ask smart questions
The early insurers in the Cyber insurance market have been around for more than 10 years, but because of the high-profile retail and healthcare breaches over the past 18 months, we have seen an uptick in new players in the market. Because of the increase in providers, companies should be sure to ask questions when deciding between policies to ensure that they’re selecting coverage best suited for their needs. Questions your broker should ask insurers include:
- What is the breadth of coverage and what exemptions are in the policy? Do they demonstrate a clear understanding of the real risks this company faces from security threats?
- How much loss experience does the insurer have in this area? Has the insurer paid actual data breach claims and covered other previous, major incidents?
- Does the insurer have specific policies that account for the risks or needs of your organization’s industry?
Many older generations of Cyber policies contained exclusions that would make that coverage noncompetitive in today’s marketplace. It’s important to cover all the aspects of a response, both pre- and post-breach, and dig into what’s really included and excluded in a potential future loss.
Reduce your risk
Finally, when looking to shop for a Cyber liability policy with your broker, doing some due diligence on your cybersecurity practices ahead of time can be helpful in possibly reducing the price of a policy or getting terms that are important for your organization. Insurers are looking for companies that can demonstrate they have a mature security program that reduces the likelihood of an incident.
- Have a well-documented data breach response plan in place. Companies that have a plan are more operationally prepared and better equipped to respond in a timely manner. Experian and several other data breach experts can provide guidance on response planning, which can be a useful place for companies to start.
- Conduct an annual cyber risk assessment. Once this is completed, you can better understand what cyber risk you may want to cede via coverage, as well as demonstrate your company’s strong security practices and technology infrastructure to potential insurers. The assessment should be looking at a wide angle of those risk exposures such as your weak spots and what you plan to do about them.
- Provide details about how your organization holds vendors or other third parties that may have access to your sensitive information accountable for implementing the same level of prudent security practices as your own organization. Demonstrating due diligence in managing these relationships will go a long way.
Ultimately, companies will benefit greatly from cyber insurance if they are informed about their security risks, educated on the variety of policies available and aware of the coverage they need. Just remember, it is your responsibility to be an educated buyer. Following these three tips when working with your broker can help ensure you get a policy that fits your organization.
May 2, 2016 | By Michael Bruemmer, Mark Greisiger
Moving provides a great opportunity for insureds to review their coverage for any gaps or major changes. (Photo: iStock)
As spring bursts into full bloom, thousands of homeowners and renters are packing up and moving to a new place they will call home.
The U.S. Census Bureau says that 35.7 million people or 11.5% of the population changed their residences from 2013 to 2014.
Cities saw a net loss of 1.7 million while the suburbs had a net gain of 2.2 million movers. Renters are the most active movers, with 24.5% moving after just a year in their current location. A new job or transfer accounted for 9.7% of the moves.
Young adults are the most active age group on the move, with females aged 18-24 more likely (32%) to change residences than their male counterparts (29.8%).
Texas, Florida and North Carolina had the most newcomers entering their states in 2015, according to Evansville, Ind.-based moving company Atlas Van Lines. Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois lost the greatest number of residents based on 77,705 interstate moves in 2015.
Before you move
Advance planning can definitely make for a smoother moving experience.
Holding a garage sale, donating items to charity or simply throwing them away can help reduce some of the clutter and make it easier to organize contents. Wayne, Pa.-based moving company Transit Systems Inc. recommends making arrangements for utilities such as water, gas, electric, Internet and trash collection several weeks before the move.
In between transferring the cable service, changing the address for your snail mail, and throwing out those belongings that won’t make the move, there are a couple of insurance-related issues to consider.
Here are five to keep in mind as you pack up those boxes:
Contact your insurance agent well before the move to ensure you have the proper coverage for the new location. (Photo: Shutterstock)
1. Homeowners’ or Renter’s insurance
Most people moving from one home to another know that they will need Homeowners’ insurance, but even renters should let their insurer know when they are making a move.
“Make sure you have addressed your Homeowners or Renter’s insurance and have it taken care of before you move in,” says Carrie Bonney, director of media relations for Los Angeles-based Farmers Insurance. “Let your agent know when and where you’re moving and the date so it’s a seamless transition.”
Moving closer to the city or to an area with extreme weather could affect your insurance premiums. (Photo: Shutterstock)
2. Check your car insurance
“Your car insurance could also be affected,” says Bonney of Farmers Insurance. “Let your agent know you’re planning to move and take care of that before you move so you can budget for any changes.”
If you’re moving to a state with lots of weather issues, that could also affect your car insurance says Bonney. Hailstorms, snow and tornadoes are factors that could increase the cost of your coverage.
When hiring a professional mover, consider getting at least three, in-home written estimates. (Photo: iStock)
3. Moving coverage
Check with your insurance agent to see whether you have coverage for your belongings while you’re moving.
Homeowners’ and Renter’s insurance may provide coverage during the move in case items are lost or damaged. If you’re using a commercial moving service, read the contract to see what types of coverage are included and the limits involved.
If you do suffer any damage to your belongings, file a claim with the moving company first.
If the mover denies the claim or offers a settlement you don’t agree with, you have the option of going to arbitration. The American Moving and Storage Association has a program administered by the National Arbitration Forum.
A move provides the perfect opportunity to create a detailed inventory of your home’s contents. (Photo: Shutterstock)
4. Consider creating a home inventory
All homeowners and renters should have an inventory of their belongings.
It’s usually one of those things people know is a good idea, they just don’t get around to it.
Moving is the perfect opportunity to create a detailed inventory, especially since you already have to go through all of your belongings. Bonney recommends walking around your home or apartment and at the very least shooting a video of each room. That way it’s saved to the cloud automatically (in case you lose your phone).
Consider doing the same thing when you arrive at your new destination so there is a record of the items and their location in each room. If you purchase any new items such as a big-screen television or large pieces of furniture, make sure to add them to the inventory. Take a photo of the receipt and the item and save them to the cloud.
Scott Lacourse of Needham, Mass.-based valuation and software company Enservio recommends being thorough and going through the house room by room to ensure that everything is listed. “Take photographs of your contents and write down the date of purchase, price, model, make, serial number and other pertinent information such as size dimensions to go with each item.”
The proper insurance coverage can provide peace of mind for policyholders. (Photo: iStock)
5. After the move
Many times a move is because of a job change, getting married or having a baby.
All of these are reasons to contact your insurance agent to let him or her know about these major life changes. Bonney of Farmers Insurance says you may have an insurance gap or need to change the type of coverage you currently have.
Read on for more moving tips …
Electronics should be kept upright and packed in their original boxes to provide the most protection during a move. (Photo: iStock)
When it comes to moving electronics, the Alexandria, Va.-based American Moving and Storage Association has several recommendations:
- If you don’t have the owner’s manual, draw a diagram or take a photo of the wiring configuration so you can reconnect the various components correctly. Label “inputs” and “outputs” with corresponding colored tape to make it easier to match them again.
- Remove discs from any DVD and CD players to prevent damage to them or the component.
- Repack electronics in their original boxes if you have them, otherwise use plenty of packing materials to keep the components from moving around.
- Make sure to include any remote controls in the same box as the player.
- Plasma TVs should be packed and kept upright in a sturdy box or container.
- Make sure to back up any information on your computers, remove any CDs from the drives and shut down the computer and monitor before disconnecting them. You also might want to diagram how they are connected to make it easier to reconnect them at the new location.
Moves can be stressful for pets and they may try to bolt out of windows and doors. (Photo: iStock)
Moving can be traumatic for your pets, especially since they may not understand what’s going on.
In all of the chaos, consider moving your pets to an area with their toys, food, water, litter box and other items. This will help keep them safe while you’re moving and packing.
Pets traveling in the car with you should have a special identification tag with their name, your name and cell phone number, and the new home address.
Be aware that some states have laws about the entry of animals, so check to see what health certificates and other requirements are needed.
If a pet needs to be shipped by air, make the necessary arrangements well in advance for delivery and pick-up, as well as boarding if necessary.
When you arrive at your new location, consider keeping your pets inside or leashed until they realize this is their new home.
Apr 06, 2016 | By Patricia L. Harman