Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Wildfires Plague Southwest: Defend Your Perimeter

SouthWestWildfires

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.

Safety Tips for 15-Passenger Vans

Revisiting this post as it’s an important one…

As summer camps and group trips are common in the summer months, a common sight seen on the highway is a 15-passenger van loaded up with adults and kids. Sometimes the driver has experience with such a vehicle and sometimes the drive does not. In either case, it is important that the driver of a 15-passenger van remember the following tips which are provided by safecar.gov (a site by the U.S. Department of Transporation):

  • Never overload the vehicle
  • If you are a passenger, make sure you buckle up for every trip
  • If you are an owner, make sure the vehicle is regularly maintained
  • Owners should have suspension and steering components inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule and replace or repair these parts as necessary
  • Owners should ensure that vehicles are equipped with properly sized and load-rated tires
  • Owners should also make sure drivers are properly licensed and experienced in operating a 15- passenger van
  • Before every trip, drivers should check the tires for proper inflation, and make sure there are no signs of wear or damage
  • Correct tire size and inflation pressure information can be found in the owner’s manual and on the door pillar

So, enjoy the summer and all the activities it brings, but be sure to be safe when traveling to and from.

Lightning Safety Tips

Lightning

As severe thunderstorms are predicted this week for Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, 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.

Photo Credit: Chris and Keelan Chronicles via YouTube

FAQ

Condo Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance, how are they different?

Hi Paul, How is condo insurance different from homeowner insurance?

Great question, this is one of the more complex policies in insurance and we are often asked this same question by first time condo purchasers.

For a condominium the Homeowners Association [HOA] Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&Rs) define what is owned by the HOA and what is owned by each unit owner. Typically a condominium owner has from the interior walls in. So this would include coverage on cabinetry, window coverings, flooring and plumbing fixtures. The HOA owns the common areas (aka the grounds) and the framing and exterior walls.

Homeowners insurance differs as there is no HOA involved and you, the home owner, need to insure the entire building and any separate structures. You should also make sure you have adequate coverage landscaping, pools, etc.

Another distinction is that most homeowners have insurance for the entire building with higher limits. Condo owners usually carry much less insurance as the majority of the structure may be insured by the HOA. A word of caution though, many times condo owners have inadequate limits to cover all the interior areas that may require repair/replacement.

Make sure you have adequate coverage and if you have specific questions contact your local Farmers Insurance agent and they can discuss your particular needs.

Seal Cracks: Protect Your Home During Wet Weather

As regions of the U.S. are experiencing continued thunderstorms and wet weather, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) provides information and tips for residents to protect their homes against potential damage from a major storm. Most of these home improvement projects are do-it-yourself tasks that can be completed by a homeowner or with the help of a contractor, and can significantly reduce the greatest property risks posed by hurricanes – wind and water getting into the house.

The IBHS advises to seal any gaps or cracks you have in outside walls as aging and weather can lead to gaps around the openings in your home such as windows and doors. These areas can become prime candidates for water leakage into your home from wind-driven rain and can cause significant damage that you may not notice until it is too late. Some of the areas to check for gaps and cracks include:

  • Openings where wires, cables and pipes enter and exit the house;
  • Openings for cable TV and telephone lines;
  • All the way around electrical boxes and circuit breaker panels;
  • Pipe openings including air conditioning refrigerant lines, air conditioning condensate lines, water heater pressure relief lines and water pipes; and
  • Around wall outlets, dryer vents, bathroom and kitchen vents and electrical devices such as wall lights.

Once you identify where you have gaps, spend $2 on 10 ounces of caulk to seal these spots. All outdoor applications should use waterproof caulking. If the caulk is not permanently waterproof, the area could be left vulnerable to water damage and mold growth.

If the caulk needs to match the exact color of the adjacent surface, you should look for caulk that is waterproof and paintable.

So, enjoy the activities of the Spring, but be sure to protect your home from potential damage.

The Difference Between a Tornado Watch vs Warning

As residents in states such as Oklahoma and Texas brace themselves for severe weather this afternoon, including tornadoes, it is important to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

tornado watch is issued when the weather conditions are favorable and there is a possibility of a tornado developing in your area in the next several hours. During a tornado watch, you need to be alert and prepared to go to safe shelter in case a tornado warning is issued. Stay close to a radio or TV and pay close attention to the weather reports.

During a tornado watch you should also:

  • Review your emergency preparedness plan
  • Make sure you have your disaster kit ready

Possible signs of a tornado to look for during a watch are:

  • Dark greenish or orange-gray skies
  • Large hail
  • Large, dark, low-lying, rotating or funnel-shaped clouds
  • A loud roar that is similar to a freight train

tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been spotted in your area and is showing up on Doppler radar. This means you must take shelter immediately in a safe and sturdy structure. If there is a tornado warning you should:

  • Get inside a secure building (not a mobile home) as soon as you can
  • Get to the lowest floor, preferably a basement
  • Get as close to the center of the room (and as far away from windows) as you can
  • Try to get under a heavy table if possible
  • Crouch low, facing down, and cover your head

And, as I have mentioned before, one of the most valuable tools is a weather radio. You need to know what is going on around you as weather changes rapidly and with little warning.

So as we all enjoy the Spring weather, know that tornado season is officially here and we all need to be aware and prepared.

How Do I Communicate With Family During a Catastrophe?

Severe weather is predicted the next few days in Oklahoma where heavy rain and nighttime tornadoes are the main concern. This reminds us that we must always have in the back of our minds, how we will reach family and friends during a crisis.

The following are tips by the Federal Communications Commission and FEMA regarding tips for communicating during an emergency.

  1. Limit non-emergency phone calls. This will minimize network congestion, free up “space” on the network for emergency communications and conserve battery power if you are using a wireless phone.
  2. Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to use it only to convey vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
  3. For non-emergency calls, try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more “space” for emergency communications on the telephone network.
  4. If possible, try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if you are unsuccessful in getting through on your wireless phone, try a messaging capability like text messaging or email. Alternatively, try a landline phone if one is available. This will help spread the communications demand over multiple networks and should reduce overall congestion.
  5. Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push “send” after you’ve ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough time to clear before you’ve resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network.
  6. If in your vehicle, place calls only while your vehicle is stationary.
  7. If you have Call Forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number, particularly in the event of an evacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone.
  8. If you do not have electric power in your home, consider using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alerts on the car radio. But be careful – don’t try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage.
  9. Tune-in to broadcast and radio news for important news alerts.

Enjoy this holiday week but remember to always be prepared as it will help you stay safe.

Find more information at http://www.ready.govhttp://www.redcross.orghttp://www.fema.gov or http://www.fcc.gov

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FAQ

Comprehensive (OTC) vs. collision coverage?

Hi Paul, What is the difference between comp and collision coverage?

Thanks for the question. We often are asked about the differences between comprehensive and collision insurance coverage. In fact, I wrote a similar column around this topic some time ago where a customer asked about coverage for damage that occurred as she was backing out of her driveway and hit a garbage can.

Simply put, collisions usually occur when, while driving you strike or are struck by another vehicle. This can also include striking a stationary object like a tree, or garbage can. An exception to this is striking an animal which is covered under comprehensive.

You may also hear comprehensive insurance referred to in some circles as OTC (other than collision) and that in a nutshell describes what it is. Any physical damage, other than a collision, that can be covered. So striking an animal, weather related damage from hail or tornado, theft of all or part of the vehicle, fire and many others scenarios can play a part.

Thanks again for the question and keep them coming. If you have questions about damage to your car that you think should be covered by insurance, don’t wait, call your Farmers Insurance agent today.

Preventing Property Damage During Severe Weather


As parts of the U.S. are still experiencing severe weather which includes high winds, flying debris that can damage buildings and endanger people. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety recommends the following maintenance and improvements you can make to your property to reduce the risk of property damage:

  • Replace gravel/rock landscaping materials and walkways with a softer material, such as mulch or dirt. Work with neighbors to make sure everyone’s home is protected from this risk. In a particularly strong hurricane, gravel has been found in mail boxes and has shredded vinyl siding.
  • Trim trees and shrubbery away from structures and remove any weakened sections of trees that might easily break off and fall onto structures. Review IBHS’ Reducing Tree Damage guide, which explains what problem areas to look for in your trees and shrubs, how to prune them before a storm, and recommended actions for storm-damaged trees.
  • Trim away any limbs close to utility lines that could potentially pull down lines or even entire polls. It is important to never touch a wire and trimming should usually be done by a contractor or the local utility company itself.
  • Remove yard debris, such as tree trimmings, promptly in order to reduce the risks of flying debris. It is also important to place yard debris in an area that could not cause the debris to go into streets and eventually clog drains during a storm’s heavy downpour.
  • Secure any parts of your fencing that appear weakened or loose. Hurricane-force winds can easily dislodge boards and pieces from a fence, creating flying debris.
  • Before a storm arrives, move loose objects in the yard inside, such as lawn chairs, toys, garbage cans or signs, and secure heavier objects deeper into the ground.

Always remember that regular property maintenance can prevent potential damage and costly repairs.