Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Getting Ready For Fall

School has started and, even though some areas are still experiencing warmer temperatures, fall is the time homeowners should start to prep for winter. The JournalTimes has a good article about fall home maintenance. Some of the biggest tasks on the fall to do list are:

  • Clean out your gutters to make sure there isn’t any water build up during the cold weather
  • Have your furnace tuned up for the winter
  • Have your chimney and flue checked as part of yearly maintenance
  • Cover up your air conditioning unit to protect it from ice and snow
  • Drain and store garden hoses, install insulating covers on exterior spigots and have sprinkler systems blown free of water.
  • Inspect washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or splits. Replace them every other year.
  • Check the dryer exhaust tube and vent for built-up lint, debris or birds’ nests. Make sure the exterior vent door closes.
  • Look for rotted, cracked or damaged wood around the house, especially the trim around the garage door.

So enjoy the cooler weather and the holidays that come with it, just keep in mind that as you spend time with your family, don’t forget about your home as well.

Hurricane Last Minute Prep Checklist

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As Hurricane Newton continues to plague the U.S. and Mexico, the Institute for Business and Home Safety provides the following checklist to help property owners prepare for the high winds, rain and flooding that usually accompany tropical weather systems. Stay safe and please follow any evacuation orders given by local authorities.

Outside Surroundings

  • Secure any parts of a fence that appear weakened or loose.
  •  Trim trees and shrubbery away from structures and remove any weakened sections of trees that might easily break off and fall onto structures.
  • Move lawn furniture, toys, potted plants, garden tools and other yard objects inside; anchor heavier yard objects deep into the ground.

Windows and Doors

  • If you have shutters, closely monitor local weather conditions and make sure you have enough time to deploy them before the storm is expected to hit your area.
  • Check doors, windows, and walls for openings where water can get in; use silicone caulk to seal any cracks, gaps, or holes – especially around openings where cables and pipes enter the house.

Water Damage Reduction

  • Place all appliances that are on the ground floor, including stoves, washers and dryers on masonry blocks or concrete.
  • Move furniture and electronic devices off the floor, particularly in basements and first floor levels.
  • Roll up area rugs, and get them off the floor to reduce the chances they will become wet and grow mold or mildew. This is particularly important if the property will be left unattended for an extended period of time and if long-term power outages are a possibility.
  • Put fresh batteries in sump pumps.
  • Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets could possibly be under water.

Below are some other posts or links which have tips for hurricane safety:

Photo credit: www.wsj.com

Hurricane Gaston Reminds Us To Be Safe

The tracking of Hurricane Gaston and tropical depressions bringing on the threat of heavy rain in the Atlantic, reminds us to be safe.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while hurricane season technically lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, forecasters call the period between mid-August and mid-October the “season within the season.” This eight-week period “is often the most active and dangerous time for tropical cyclone activity,” NOAA explains on its website.

For the Atlantic Ocean, a normal season would produce 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major ones. A major hurricane, designated as Category 3 or greater, packs winds of well over 100 mph.

Right around Labor Day weekend historically seems to be the “peak within the peak.” So pay attention to see how weather shapes up for the first weekend of September.

If you live in a hurricane prone area, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) has hurricane tips on its web site. You may also view the captioned Farmers Insurance video above regarding hurricane safety or visit my past posts with hurricane resources and how we have helped our customers during various storms with our CAT Bus.

Most importantly, please remember to listen to local authorities and evacuate the area when instructed. It could save your life as well as the lives of your loved ones.

How Duct Tape Can Prevent Further Fire Damage

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More than 10,000 firefighters worked to contain six large wildfires across California yesterday that are speeding along California’s central coast. The fires have destroyed 48 structures and threaten more homes, as well as Hearst Castle, a National Historic Landmark.

As wildfires currently plague California, I refer to the post below where I explain how duct tape can prevent further wildfire damage…

If your home has been burnt by a wildfire, something as simple as duct tape can prevent further damage.

About two years ago I was talking with a gentleman who had lost his home to a wildfire the night before. He told me how he had spent the afternoon and evening hosing down his roof as the fire advanced. When the fire died down he stopped the water and went to bed. Four hours later his home was on fire again. What happened?  Even though the fire had died down, the winds had not and embers were blown into the vents in his attic.

The U.S. Fire Association recommends you cover your vents with a non combustible material.  You can use duct tape to seal vents and openings around exterior doors so that embers and smoke cannot get in. Remember to remove the duct tape when you feel it is safe. If you are unsure then ask your local fire department. Having your home fall victim to a wildfire is awful but having it happen twice is worse.

Photo credit: Joe Johnston/The Tribune/Associated Press

How Can I Prevent Flood Damage To My Home?

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As Louisiana is experiencing catastrophic flooding, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety gives the following guidelines to help prevent flood damage to your home.

  • Raise Electrical System Components—Hire a licensed electrician to raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12 inches above the base flood elevation (BFE) for your area. You can find out your property’s BFE by contacting your local building department. Raising electrical system components above the anticipated flood level will help prevent damage to the electrical system and avoid the potential for fire from short circuits in flooded systems.
  • Raise or Floodproof HVAC Equipment—Floodwaters can extensively damage heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) equipment. The extent of the damage depends upon the depth of flooding and how long the equipment is underwater. A good way to protect the HVAC equipment is to have a contractor move it to an upper floor or build a flood-proof wall around the equipment.
  • Direct Water Away From Building—Make sure your yard’s grading (slope) directs water away from the building.
  • Anchor Fuel Tanks—Unanchored fuel tanks outside your home can damage your building or be swept downstream, damaging other properties. The supply line to an unanchored tank in your basement also can tear free and fuel can contaminate your basement.
  • Install Sewer Backflow Valves—Flooding in some areas can cause sewage from sanitary sewer lines to back up through drain pipes. Backflow valves are designed to block drain pipes temporarily and prevent return flow into the house.
  • Sump Pumps—Make sure your sump pump is working properly and battery is fully charged.
  • Protect Wells From Contamination by Flooding—Floodwater that enters a well can contaminate it and make the water unsafe to drink. A licensed well-drilling contractor can inspect your well and suggest improvements.

So if the rainfall continues to accumulate in your area and the floodwaters still rise, please be safe and be sure to listen to any evacuation orders by local authorities.

Photo Credit: Patrick Dennis, AP

How to Prepare Your Family For a Wildfire Evacuation

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As wildfires in California are being exasperated by high winds, this brings to light how important it is to have an emergency response plan; because you never know when your area will be threatened by a wildfire. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection provides valuable wildfire emergency tips, but perhaps the most important is how to prepare your family for an evacuation.

First, listen to your Fire and Police Departments. If you have been ordered to evacuate, follow their instructions. Next, it is important to organize your family. Know where all your family members are (whether it is the neighbor’s or the movies) and make sure you can communicate with each of them in case you have to arrange a time and place to meet.

Pack your car with enough personal items for a few days. Be sure to include items of sentimental value that you know you can never replace. This will be a great comfort to you when you leave. Back your car in the driveway and roll up the windows to keep embers and smoke from coming in.

Gather all your pets into one room with leashes, food, bowls and toys. If you need to leave quickly, you do not want to take up valuable time trying to look for them.

Take a video of your home both inside and out. The inside video will help inventory your possessions and the outside video will give you an account of your home and landscaping. When it is time to leave, turn off your air conditioner, gas and any LP tanks but leave power and water on as well as your interior and exterior lights.

Also, remember to leave your contact information with a friend or relative so you can let them know you are safe. Hopefully you will never have to evacuate for a wildfire but it is always best to have your family prepared.

Photo credit: Reuters

Summer Thunderstorm Tips

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This week, many areas of the country are experiencing severe thunderstorms. It is important to keep in mind the dangers of lightning and how to keep yourself and your property safe during such weather.

The following are tips from the National Weather Service and National Lightning Safety Institute regarding safety during a thunder and lightning storm:

  • Unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use or when you will be away from home for a period of time such as a vacation. Having the power switched off does not protect a device if it is still plugged in to the electrical outlet; it must be unplugged to remove it from the electrical circuit. If you know a storm is approaching, take a few minutes to unplug items in the house that are susceptible to a power surge.
  • Move cars into the garage or away from treesIf a garage is available, park the car inside to avoid damage from hail, downed tree limbs or wind-blown debris. If no garage is available, try to relocate the car to a location that’s out in the open to prevent damage from downed trees or tree limbs.
  • Stay away from water and pipes. If a lightning bolt strikes nearby, the electricity can travel through water pipes, so prevent electrocution during a thunderstorm by avoiding the sink, toilet, shower and bath.
  • Don’t use your telephone landlineLightning strikes can send a surge of electricity traveling through the phone lines, resulting in electrocution. Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay away from the windows. There have been many cases involving people who have been struck by lightning while standing near a window. In addition, a downed tree limb or debris could come crashing through a window, resulting in serious injury or even death to anyone situated nearby.
  • Remain in an interior room during a severe thunderstorm. Some severe thunderstorm systems have been known to produce tornadoes, and super cell thunderstorms can produce intense winds that cause damage that’s comparable that which would result from a tornado. During a severe thunderstorm, bring children and pets into an interior room or hallway, and stay far away from windows. The goal is to place as many walls as possible between the residents and the outdoors.

In addition to the tips above, make sure your cell phone is charged, pack a storm preparedness kit (a storm kit should include non-perishable food items, pet food, medication, can openers, batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit and other storm survival essentials). Also, have a battery powered radio or NOAA weather radio in order to get up-to-date information on weather reports.

Enjoy the fun and recreation that comes with the summer but make sure you are prepared as well to keep everyone safe and happy.

Photo credit: WeatherChannel.com

FAQ

What is GAP Insurance and do I need it?

Hi Paul, What exactly is GAP insurance and do I need to have it?

Thanks for the question!

GAP (Guaranteed Auto Protection) Insurance can often be a confusing topic and many people never learn about GAP coverage until they buy a car. It could also be one of the most important types of car insurance you ever purchase. As a basic rule of thumb, if you are financing a car, new or used, and you owe more on the car than the actual cash value (ACV), you should consider gap coverage.

So what is GAP insurance?

GAP covers the difference between a car’s actual cash value (ACV) and how much you owe on the vehicle loan. In the event of a total loss to your vehicle, the insurance company will pay out based on the ACV of your car at the time of the accident minus the deductible. Any difference on the loan will need to be paid out of pocket, thus the need for GAP insurance. With GAP coverage you would still be out the deductible but the insurance would cover the rest.

Some companies will also offer a coverage called loan/lease insurance. This is similar to GAP in that it covers the difference in ACV to the loan amount, but it usually only covers a percentage of this difference.

Many times lenders will actually require you to obtain GAP insurance to complete the loan and some will even offer a form of GAP coverage rolled into the loan amount. I would recommend you contact your Farmers Agent for a quote on GAP insurance as our rates are often lower than those provided by lenders.

How does the need for GAP insurance happen?

The GAP or difference in ACV versus the loan amount can happen for a few reasons. You may have traded in a car that you owed more on than the dealer would give you in trade. If you rolled that difference into the new car loan it could create a gap between the ACV and loan amount.

The most common scenario is depreciation. As you know, as soon as you drive your car off the lot it has depreciated and may be worth less than you owe on the loan. Depreciation in this type of situation means that your car is worth less than what you bought it for. This can happen just a few months after you purchased the vehicle.

The good thing is the need for GAP insurance eventually disappears. If you’ve paid off enough of your car loan that you owe less than its ACV you don’t need gap insurance. In this case, comprehensive or collision coverage (depending on the cause of loss) is all the insurance you need to pay off your loan.

I would recommend contacting your Farmers Agent to see if GAP coverage will automatically be removed as the ACV of your vehicle rises above the loan amount, or if together you should be monitoring ACV of your vehicle at regular intervals.

Wildfires Plague Southwest: Defend Your Perimeter

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As high fire danger warnings and wildfires continue to plague the southwest, it is important to prepare to defend your property against wildfires.

Every year an estimated 5 million acres in the United States burns due to wildfires. There are measures you can take to defend your property against such fires. In doing so, remember that even the smallest detail can help to prevent the biggest loss.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection gives guidelines and emphasizes the importance of a defensible space. A defensible space is defined as an area of clearance around a structure that provides a working environment for firefighters as well as minimizes the chance of a structure fire escaping to surrounding vegetation. In the state of California, a defensible space perimeter of 100 feet or more is recommended. The CFFP’s suggestion for creating this defensible space includes the following:

  • Remove all flammable vegetation around all structures
  • Trim trees so branches are six feet from the ground and 10 feet from your chimney
  • Remove branches overhanging your roof
  • Call your utility company for help with trees near power lines (never trim these yourself)
  • Remove any dead trees
  • Cut weeds and dead grasses six inches or shorter
  • Always work early in the morning and make sure your power tools have spark arresters to prevent equipment-caused fires
  • Ask your local nursery about landscaping with fire-resistant plants
  • Maintain defensible space by cleaning up plant litter and watering properly

The CFFP also provides a helpful instructional video explaining the concept of a defensible space.

If you are notified that a wildfire is near, and if time and your safety permit, clean out your gutters of all the dead leaves since they are highly flammable and right next to the roof. Also, close all your windows, draw heavy drapes and remove lighter draperies because they will burn quickly. Be sure to listen to your Fire and Police Departments. If you have been ordered to evacuate, follow their instructions.

So, as summer is officially here, remember having a good defense for your property may save it from costly destruction.

Photo Credit: AccuWeather.com

Flash Flood Safety Tips

As parts of the United States experience tropical storms that are producing flash flooding the past few weeks, here is a reminder of flood safety tips:

Flash Flood Safety

  • Be aware that flash flooding is very dangerous and can move quickly. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. In fact, two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.

Flash Flood Watches and Warnings

Flash Flood Watch

If flash flooding is possible, be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Flash Flood Warning

If a flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

Please be sure to take all instructions by your local authorities seriously, and if they have ask you to evacuate, please do so. It could save your life and the life of your loved ones.