Frees Advice: Weather/Seasons

Golf Carts, Jet Skis, and Scooters, Oh My!

Ah, summertime. Time to kick back and head to the beach. There are all sorts of temptations while on vacation; cold drinks, rare steaks, and all manner of transportation. It seems that wherever you go these days, you can rent almost anything; scooters, bikes, boats, and my new favorites… jet skis and golf carts. I am sure that most of you give little, if any, thought to the insurance implications of items like this, but you should stop and think about the exposures before jumping into, or onto, your new ride.

There are always two exposures that worry us. First, and this one is easy, is what happens if the scooter, jet ski, or golf cart get damaged or stolen? Did you buy the extra coverage like the LDW on a rental car? Do you know if there is a deductible?

The other things that worries me is the liability. What happens if you injure someone or damage something while operating the unit? There is an absolute coverage exclusion under your home insurance for any liability for a “motorized land conveyance.” (The same limitations apply to boats and jet skis.) Just to be clear, an absolute exclusion means there is NO coverage. You will get to pay the attorney to defend you and you will get to pay the judgement if you loose.

Now that I have become the “wet blanket” for the summer time party, just be sure you know what you are doing and the potential consequences.

Spring Home Maintenance

The milder days of spring are a perfect time to do a thorough spring cleaning and perform home maintenance. After a long winter, it is a good idea to spend time on preventive measures to help maintain your home and property throughout the year. Tasks such as cleaning out your gutters, checking for dead trees and branches and cleaning and inspecting home mechanical systems, such as heating and air conditioning equipment, can make spring a season of safety.

Cleaning and maintenance of your home should be done inside and out. Although the tasks are different, ensuring all the elements of your home are in good working order can help keep your family safe and your maintenance expenses lower over the long run.

Inside Your Home

Here are a few things inside your home that should be inspected to ensure they are in good condition:

  • Electrical Outlets and Cords: Check electrical outlets and cords throughout your home for any potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Outlets, fuse boxes and extension cords also should be checked to make sure they are not overloaded.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Check your fire extinguisher at least once yearly, including the hose, nozzle and other parts, to make sure they are in good condition and that the pressure gauge is in the “green” range. If necessary, move your fire extinguisher to an accessible place.
  • Air Conditioning: Before turning it on for the season, have your air-conditioning system inspected and tuned up by a professional.
  • Water Heater: Check for leaks and corrosion.
  • Furnace: Clean or replace your furnace filter.
  • Dryers: Dryer lint can build up inside the vent pipe and collect around the duct. Clean both the clothes dryer exhaust duct and the space under the dryer. Use a specialized brush to clean out the vent pipe. Lint can also build up inside the dryer enclosure and should be cleaned and serviced by a professional.
  • Smoke Detectors: Daylight savings time is the perfect time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Inspect each smoke detector to ensure all are in working order, and make sure to test them monthly. Ideally, there should be at least one smoke detector on each floor of your home, including the hallway or area outside of each set of bedrooms, and one within each bedroom itself. If necessary, install additional smoke detectors as needed.
  • Light Bulbs: Check each light bulb in every fixture for the correct recommended wattage and replace any burned out bulbs. Also, consider replacing all high-intensity bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs to reduce energy and the amount of heat produced.

Outside Your Home

The cold winter months can do damage to your house as well. Here are a few things outside your home that should be inspected to ensure they are in good condition:

  • Roof: Check for any damage from snow or ice, including damage from ice dams, and make any necessary repairs to reduce the possibility of leaks.
  • Gutters: Clean leaves and other debris from gutters and downspouts to keep water flowing and reduce the possibility of water damage.
  • Trees: Visually inspect trees for damage or rot, and remove (either yourself or through a contractor) any dead trees that might blow over in heavy winds or during a storm. Keep healthy trees and bushes trimmed and away from utility wires.
  • Lawn Equipment: Make sure lawn mowers, tractors and other equipment are tuned up before using. Store oil and gas for lawn equipment and tools in a vented, locked area.
  • Walkways and Driveways: Repair any cracks and broken or uneven surfaces to provide a safe, level walking area.

A little home maintenance in the spring can go a long way to keeping your home safe and secure throughout the rest of the year.


Original article can be found here: Travelers Spring Home Maintenance

Space Heater Safety

Portable electric space heaters can be a convenient source of supplemental heat for your home in cold weather. Unfortunately, they can pose significant fire and electric shock hazards if not used properly. Fire and electrical hazards can be caused by space heaters without adequate safety features, space heaters placed near combustibles, or space heaters that are improperly plugged in.

Safety should always be a top consideration when using space heaters. Here are some tips for keeping your home safe and warm when it’s cold outside:

  • Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
  • Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and test them once a month.
  • Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
  • Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
  • Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.

 


Original article can be found here.

Fall Housekeeping

School has started. That can only mean one thing. Winter is on its way. In preparation for the cold weather, we would like to suggest the following checklist to make sure that you and your house are ready for the change of seasons.

Outside:

  • Monitor the falling leaves to make sure your gutters remain clear.
  • If you fertilize your lawn, doing so now will help the grass through the winter.
  • Make sure dryer vents, chimneys and other household vents are clear of debris and/or pests.
  • Put away your garden hose and be sure to shut the water off inside and drain the pipe to prevent freezing.
  • Make sure you check on your snow shovel and get a replacement before you need it.
  • Buy a bag of rock salt or sand just in case there are icy mornings.
  • Put the cover on your AC unit to keep it debris free for the winter.

Inside:

  • Make sure you know where the water shut-off is for the entire house in case of frozen pipes. (If you need a tag to mark the shut off, contact us.)
  • Change the filter on your heater and have it serviced.
  • Make sure there are no gaps for doors and windows. Install weather stripping if needed.
  • Buy some extra soup or canned foods just in case.

Enjoy the change of seasons.

Water My Coverage Options?

We have certainly dealt with our fair share of rain this summer. Long range forecasts predict continued bad weather on top of the torrential rains we have experienced.  Frees Insurance wants to make you aware of a potential gap in coverage on your home insurance policy. While your policy provides protection for water damage from a broken pipe, you may not currently have any coverage for the backup of sewer, drain, or failure of a sump pump.

Water is our biggest headache. The one time we know your home policy never provides coverage is in the event of “flooding.”  Flooding is defined as the “overflow of a body of water.” This means if a creek, pond, river, or even stream overflows and causes damage, there is no coverage. Homeowners policies never provide coverage for damage caused by flooding or ground water. As soon as water touches the ground, there is NO coverage and you cannot buy coverage for the damage.

While ground water or flooding is never covered, you can buy coverage for the backup of a drain or sewer, or if your sump pump overflows. The weather incidents that have occurred in the last few weeks have created many coverage issues. Some of these issues could be solved by adding this coverage to your policy. Coverage can be added for as little as $40 for $5,000 of protection. Have a finished basement? You will probably need more coverage.

In the meantime, we strongly suggest you consider a sump pump. Storing contents in plastic bins and on shelves will also help protect your belongings. While adding backup of water and sewer coverage may provide coverage in the event of a flooded basement, it is not a guarantee. Please protect your belongings and call us to review the cost to add this coverage to your policy.

Home Winterization

There is no doubt that the past few winters have been nothing short of a freezing, grey, and snowy mess. This coming winter is predicted to be cold and snowy. That’s why this winter, like every winter, it’s important to remember to be prepared not only with hats and gloves, but also with winterizing your home.

There are many things you can do to get your house ready for the winter. It’s important to stick to a few basics.

  1. We recommend checking your heating system before the cold comes to make sure it is running properly and no repairs are needed.
  2. Drafts near doors and windows can be blocked using caulk, weather stripping, or a draft snake.
  3. If you use a furnace, don’t forget to check the filters to see if replacement is needed.
  4. Clean your gutters before the winter season. If you’re a little arthritic or over the hill, ask the grandkids or a neighbor to help.
  5. Make sure you have sufficient insulation in your attic and any other problem areas. The recommended amount is about 12 inches.
  6. To prevent pipes from freezing, insulate exposed piping with pipe wrap or insulating tape.
  7. If you have a chimney, check to make sure the draft is clear and if it needs to be professionally cleaned.
  8. Drain your garden hose and disconnect it.
  9. Ensure that your roof is in good condition.
  10. Be safe.

 


 

Hurricanes and Floods

flood, flood insurance

It is almost the middle of October, and the Hurricane Season does not end until next Month. We have had the most active hurricane season since 2005 with 4 hurricanes hitting the mainland of the US. What does all of this mean for the insurance buying public? It means it is time to have a FULL understanding of the policy limitations on your regular home insurance policy or property insurance coverage for flood damage.

It is really quite simple. There is NO COVERAGE  FOR ANY SURFACE WATER OR WATER BELOW THE SUFACE OF THE GROUND. Pretty simply, right? THERE IS NO COVERAGE.

A flood is defined as the overflow of a body of water or the collection of a body of water that affects you and the adjacent property. The “overflow” issue is simple. This is when the Schuylkill River, ocean, bay, or any waterway comes out of its banks and inundates your property. The collection of a body of water means that the street floods and the water pours into your home. This can occur because leaves block the storm sewer or snow causes problems. IN either event, THERE IS NO COVERAGE FOR DAMAGE FROM SURFACE WATER. Simple, right?

Your home policy or property coverage NEVER covers this exposure. So what are you to do? Flood Insurance is one option, but is has many, many limitations. Flood Insurance protects you in the event of the overflow of a body of water, but it never covers your contents in the basement. It does not cover your separate garage or the contents located in the garage. It NEVER covers the collection of a body of water that is ONLY on your property. Simple, right? Of course not. This “flood insurance” is a challenging government program with a confusing contract, separate deductibles for the house and contents and it is CRAZY expensive.

It is vital that you understand the risks involved with flooding. 30% of flood claims result in areas that are not in “flood zones.”  Talk with your insurance professional to better understand your options and the specific policy limitations. Don’t have an insurance professional? Call us at 610-933-4950.

Thunderstorm Preparedness

This has certainly been a tempestuous weather month. Super-hot. Thunderstorms containing torrential downpours and crazy lightning. According to the National Weather Service severe thunderstorms can contains winds in excess of 58 MPG and large hail. Is there any way to deal with one of Mother Nature’s most severe outburst of energy? It is important to understand the difference between a Watch and a Warning. The Watch is a notice to be prepared. This means that thunderstorms are possible. The Warning? This is time to take action. Warnings indicate imminent danger from a severe storm.

So, what does it mean to take action? Sign up for notifications. This will give you as much advanced notice of impending weather as possible. Travelers Insurance offers a weather notification on their website, www.travelers.com. Have a plan if you get a warning. This means to make sure that everyone knows where to go. If you are at home, get to the lowest level of the home or an interior room. (It is flying debris and broken windows that can cause injury.) If you are at work, have a safe place to meet. This would also be an interior room or the basement. Just like with fire drills, you should also practice your plan.

At home, trim trees back from the house. If time permits, secure loose items, and move valuable items inside or under cover.

For more information, please see the full site provided by the NWS at www.nws.noaa.gov.

Road Trip Preparedness

The best part about going on vacation in your car? No TSA. No delayed flights. No airline food. (I think the stuff you buy is worse than what they used to give you.) Traveling by car does have its own challenges. Getting ready for the trip can make all of the difference between have a great vacation and have a terrible one. I would recommend that you review the list of the following items to make sure your adventure is as stress and problem free as possible.

Mechanical Items for your car:

Have your mechanic review things like belts, tires, windshield wipers. Top off your fluids like brake fluid and washer fluid. Have them check the air conditioning as well. There are few things worse than being stuck in the heat with no relief.

I spent my childhood traveling across the US in a Volkswagen bus. The things that made the trip great was making sure that everyone had their “stuff” along. In those days, it meant a camera or a tape recorder to listen to music. Today, you want to make sure that you have enough cables for charging devices while on the go. Make sure that you also pack chargers for when you also stop at night. In a pinch, make sure that you carry a charging battery just in case. Using our phones as cameras, for music, and GPS can drain the battery quickly.

Go old school too. Take along maps. I was just speaking with a friend who was traveling through Kansas. She couldn’t get cell service from her provider there. No service. No GPS. Be prepared for that if you are also headed to the mountains. Go really old school and use the travel time to disconnect the world. Take a break from social media. Our family travels with a card game called Phase 10. This is child friendly. For a more mature group, try Cards Against Humanity.

Staying in a motel or hotel? Make sure you have a process to check drawers, closets and outlets before leaving. This will ensure you return with all of those things you took along.

Camping? Put the same process in place for tent stakes, lanterns, and pots and pans.

Be sure to record the journey. My favorite? Evernote. This app allows you to chronicle the events with photos and journaling all in one convenient spot.

Have fun and safe travels.

Water My Coverage Options?

Homeowners Insurance: Uncovered

Water, Water, Everywhere. One of the biggest questions we face in the insurance industry is coverage for water. Unfortunately, the standard homeowners policy provides very limited coverage for water. I will take some time to explain the different sources for water damage and then provide some options to broaden your coverage. Your homeowners policy will never provide coverage for flood water. A flood is defined when water effects your property and an adjacent property. It is possible to purchase flood insurance but it is usually very expensive. The next source of water can come from the surface or your land or the ground. Once again, there is no coverage for surface or ground water and there is no way to purchase coverage. In the event that a pipe or part of your plumbing system inside your home fails, there would be coverage for any damage caused by the water but not coverage for the plumbing repair or the actual cost of the water.

Another unwelcome water source in your home could be the backup of the water or sewer line, or the failure of your sump pump. We are seeing this type of claim occurring on a much more frequent basis. Some policies provide a very minimal amount of coverage (up to $5,000) for this type of loss. It is possible (and highly recommended) that you increase (or add) coverage for back-up of water and sewer to your homeowners policy. We recommend a minimum of $10,000 or more of coverage, especially if you have a finished basement. The last thing you want to find out when your basement is full of other people’s waste water is that you do not have enough (or any) coverage.

 

Call us today to review your policy and discuss your options to ensure proper protection.