Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

The Importance of an Annual Insurance Review

Insurance

As we begin the new year and we make resolutions, promise yourself to review your insurance policies so you know where you stand. Too often, we only look at our insurance policies when we first get them in the mail. For example, we forget to update our coverages when we remodel our homes, or when our children begin to drive. Not having a regular insurance checkup can lead to complications later on. So, while we are making other resolutions, let’s resolve to sit down with our agents and get an insurance check up.

At Farmers we call it a Farmers Friendly Review. A Farmers Friendly Review is our way of helping you design an insurance program to meet your ever-changing insurance needs. There may be events in your life, such as a change in marital status, the birth of a child or the purchase of a home that could affect your insurance coverage. So when you have your meeting, be sure to review:

  • The members of your family included on your auto insurance and make sure ages match.
  • The amount of your deductible/coverage in case of an accident (see previous post What Is a Deductible?)
  • Do you have rental car insurance, and for how much?
  • What perils are covered in your homeowners insurance?  Do you want to add flood or earthquake coverage, both of which are not covered under standard homeowners policies.
  • The amount of your deductible for your homeowners insurance.
  • Whether or not you need additional insurance for jewelry, guns or collections.

Also, be sure to talk to your professional insurance agent to understand the replacement cost of your home as this number often gets confused with the market value of your home. See this posting I wrote a year or so ago on the subject. Your insurance agent can help you determine your needs and assist you in making the best choices. One of my first posts was about the value of a personal agent.

So make an appointment today with your Farmers agent to talk about which options you feel are best for you.

How do I keep my Christmas Tree from catching fire?

christmastreesafety

During the holidays, some of us get Christmas trees early, so as time passes they may become dryer and more of a safety hazard.

FEMA has a an informative web page which gives the following Christmas tree safety tips:

  • Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually and while watered trees are not a problem, a dry and neglected tree can be.
  • Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut.
  • The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and has probably dried out and is a fire hazard.
  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks.
  • Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree.
  • Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Safer-America.comCAL FIRE and Heartland Fire & Rescue have also produced a public service announcement Christmas tree safety video as well.

So as you visit with your family this holiday season, don’t forget about the importance of maintaining and properly disposing your Christmas tree.

How Can I Prevent Holiday Crime?

holidays

The following are some valuable tips provided by the Los Angeles Police Department to help prevent theft during the holiday season.

While Shopping:

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member.
  • Dress casually and comfortably.
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible.
  • Always carry your California Driver License or Identification Card along with necessary cash, checks and/or a credit card you expect to use.
  • Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
  • Keep cash in your front pocket.
  • Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused.
  • Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
  • Be extra careful if you do carry a wallet or purse. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other rapid transit.
  • Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, “con-artists” may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

While Driving and Parking:

  • Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Set your alarm or use an anti-theft device.
  • If you must shop at night, park in a well-lighted area.
  • Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows.
  • Park as close as you can to your destination and take notice of where you parked.
  • Never leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside.
  • Do not leave packages or valuables on the seat of your car. This creates a temptation for thieves. If you must leave something in the car, lock it in the trunk or put it out of sight.
  • Be sure to locate your keys prior to going to your car.
  • Keep a secure hold on your purse, handbag and parcels. Do not put them down or on top of the car in order to open the door.
  • When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.
  • Ask mall or store security for an escort before leaving your shopping location.

While at the ATM:

  • If you must use an ATM, choose one that is located inside a police station, mall, or well-lighted location. Withdraw only the amount of cash you need.
  • Protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keypad from anyone who is standing near you.
  • Do not throw your ATM receipt away at the ATM location.

While at Home:

  • Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes.
  • When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail.
  • Indoor and outdoor lights should be on an automatic timer.
  • Leave a radio or television on so the house looks and sounds occupied.
  • Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows and doors of your home.
  • Be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts.
  • It is not uncommon for criminals to take advantage of the generosity of people during the holiday season by soliciting donations door-to-door for charitable causes although no charity is involved.
  • Ask for their identification, and find out how the donated funds will be used. If you are not satisfied, do not donate.
  • Donate to a recognized charitable organization.

So please keep all of the above tips in mind and have a safe and mindful holiday season.

Photo credit: CNNmoney.com

How To Deep Fry A Turkey Safely

The following post on how to safely deep fry a turkey always gets a resounding response. As this cooking method for cooking a turkey becomes increasingly popular, it is of utmost importance that safety is priority. So, please share with family and friends to ensure that everyone can have the safest holiday season possible…

I will never be a naysayer when it comes to the holidays. I love everything about them; the food, getting together and sharing memories, and the food. Okay, I mentioned food twice, but the food is important because it represents our family traditions. Over the years, many have taken on the tradition of deep frying their turkeys. If you have never tasted a deep fried turkey then you are missing out. But, know that there is a right way and a wrong way to deep fry a turkey and the wrong way could result in fire, serious injury or both. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), deep fryer fires cause an average of 5 deaths, 60 injuries, and more than $15 million in property damage each year.

Working with homeowners insurance for many years, I have seen many reports of damaged homes or burnt garages because customers did not deep fry a turkey properly. So, I decided to do some research and found information from resources, such as the Keizer, Oregon Fire Department and others, to compile the safety tips below. Note that these are general safety tips only and it is very important that you also follow the cooking instructions and safety tips that are included with your commercially built fryer.

1) Make sure you use a commercially built fryer, do not try to make your own. Follow the instructions.

2) Your fryer should be outside and far away from combustible materials or surfaces. Make sure you use the fryer on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

3) The turkey should be no more than 12 lbs and all innards, pop timers, wrapping etc. should be removed. Also cut off the wingtips and remove the tail.

4) Do not overfill the fryer with oil. To get the right amount, experts recommend that you put your turkey in its basket and then place it into the fryer. Add water so that it is covered until it reaches about a half inch over the turkey. Remove your turkey, then mark the fill spot and then drain the fryer. Dry the fryer and the turkey thoroughly to prevent splattering.

5) Fill the fryer up to your mark with oil that has a high smoking point such as peanut (watch out for peanut allergies), canola or safflower and heat to the appropriate temperature.

6) Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use the all-purpose fire extinguisher and call for help.

7) When placing the turkey in the fryer, wear appropriate attire and place the turkey carefully in the oil to avoid spilling.

8) Do not leave the fryer unattended at any time and make sure there are no pets or children in the area.

9) Once cooked, carefully remove the turkey to avoid spilling.

10) Let the oil cool and dispose of it properly. Do not put your grease down the drain because it could clog your sewage pipes. Filter the oil of any food bits and put it in an air tight container. During the holidays, many commercial facilities like biofuel companies or restaurants expand their drop-off points. Taking your oil to these types of facilities will ensure proper recycling or disposal.

Be careful, be safe and enjoy Thanksgiving. Remember that anywhere indoors, including the garage, is not a good environment for deep frying a turkey. And, if you are worried about rain, snow or getting cold, have another Thanksgiving when it is warmer and try deep frying then. You can never give thanks too often and precipitation hitting the oil may cause hot steam that may cause burns. Plus, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” never gets old. It will be worth the wait.

I am hungry already. Let me know how it goes. Contact me at farmers-cares@farmersinsurance.com.

The following links provide more detailed information about deep frying a turkey.

http://phoenix.gov/FIRE/deepfry.html

http://cesanjoaquin.ucdavis.edu/files/12485.pdf

http://www.wkrg.com/alabama/article/deep_fried_turkey_safety_tips/21128/Nov-20-2008_1-36-pm/

Photo credit: FireFightingNews.com

Emergency Preparedness In School

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The Community for Accredited Online Schools put together a brand new guide for schools and their students in order to prepare for natural disaster situations. Inside its guide, you will find information and safety resources for those in earthquakes, hurricanes, extreme cold weather situations, and more. The guide also offers expert advice and helpful resources for each situation.

The following are a few highlighted tips from the guide:

Consider the buildings.

Schools are built to code at the time of their construction, and many older school buildings might not meet earthquake protection standards. Seek out an architect to evaluate the building and point out areas that could be reinforced.

Secure furniture.

Any tall shelving, audio-visual equipment and heavy computer cabinets should be secured to the wall. Try to avoid placing heavy objects on shelves or other surfaces where they might fall during severe shaking.

Create a cache of emergency supplies.

In a serious earthquake, it could be awhile before it’s safe for students and staff to leave the building. Have a plan to shelter in place for two or three days, including plenty of emergency food, water and first aid kits.

Drop, cover and hold on.

Make sure students are familiar with safety procedures, like taking cover under their desks until the quake subsides. Have a class discussion on earthquake preparedness at the beginning of each school year.

Hold earthquake drills.

This is necessary to ensure an immediate and proper response. Earthquake drills also help administrators figure out where the process needs to be reevaluated.

Practice evacuation plans.

Aftershocks are very likely. Solid evacuation plans should get students out of the building within minutes and offer a safe meeting place for all classes.

Be prepared for search and rescue.

In addition to earthquake drills and evacuation procedures, staff may need to conduct search and rescues. However, before entering the building, staff should make sure that they aren’t going to put themselves in danger. If one or more outer walls or the roof is collapsed, or if the building is leaning, staff should wait for search and rescue professionals.

The Community for Accredited Online Schools’ guide covers different ways everyone in the school community can prepare for various natural disasters and other emergencies to stay safe. Natural disasters and other emergencies can happen at any time, and when they happen at school, everyone should be prepared to handle them safely and effectively. Administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students can work together to promote and maintain school-wide safety and minimize the effects of emergencies and other dangerous situations.

How To Prevent Identity Theft This Holiday Season

As retailers are already discussing their Black Friday deals, for the winter holidays, it is vital to be on high alert of theft. So when you are out shopping, keep valuables in the trunk.  Also, lock your home when you are away and be sure to leave some lights on so it is not overly apparent that someone is not at home.

Your identity is just as valuable. Below is a post I wrote regarding identity theft during the holiday season and how your merriment may be ruined if you are not careful.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. And, with highly publicized security breaches that occurred with Target and Home Depot this past year, it is crucial more than ever to be mindful of identity theft.

The following facts and tips are extracted from the FTC’s website. Enjoy this holiday season but at the same time, be smart.

Identity theft is generally defined as someone using your personal information (such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information) in a fraudulent manner.

Know that skilled identity thieves may use the following methods to get hold of your information:

  1. Dumpster Diving –They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  2. Skimming – They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  3. Phishing – They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  4. Changing Your Address – They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  5. Old-Fashioned Stealing – They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records or bribe employees who have access.
  6. Pretexting – They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies and other sources

The best way to deter identity theft is shredding financial documents when discarding them,  keeping your social security card in a safe place, not giving out your personal information to suspicious callers, mailings or internet sites and closely monitoring your bank and credit card statements.

The Kiplinger’s article gives 10 online shopping traps that made lead to fraud. They are:

  1. Blindly clicking into unfamiliar sites – Don’t rely on search engines for comparisons, go to well-known comparison sites.
  2. Assuming You Have the Same Protections with Debit as Credit – If a hacker steals your debit-card information and raids your bank account, you must report any misuse within two days to get the same $50 limited liability as you would with a credit card. Miss that deadline but report your loss within 60 days and you could be liable for up to $500.
  3. Not Monitoring Your Accounts – If you do a lot of shopping online, review your credit card statements regularly to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized purchases. Compare receipts to credit card statements or use just one credit card for online purchases.
  4. Shopping From a Public Wi-Fi Connection – Hackers can tap into Wi-Fi connections at hotspots, such as coffee shops, airports and hotels, to capture your personal information. That’s why you should never shop online using a public Wi-Fi connection. Also, never use a public computer to shop or check accounts online.
  5. Billing Directly to Your Smart Phone – Use a credit card instead of having purchases billed through your mobile carrier because the card provides more security.
  6. Wiring Money to Pay for an Item – If you purchase an item from an online auction site, such as eBay, and the seller asks you to wire your payment, don’t do it. Pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if you don’t get what you paid for.
  7. Falling For Too-Good-to-Be-True Deals – If a website or individual is offering a deal better than anyone else, won’t accept credit cards and demands a direct transfer of funds, it’s probably a scam. A common one: Someone claims he’s selling a vehicle at a low price because he needs the money fast (he lost a job or is a soldier going overseas, for example).
  8. Clicking a Link in an Unsolicited E-Mail – Don’t ever click on a link in an unsolicited e-mail to go shopping, even if the e-mail looks as if it came from a legitimate retailer, It’s safer going directly to a retailer’s site to see whether it’s having a sale rather than clicking on a link that could take you to a fraudulent site.
  9. Clicking URLs on Social-Networking Sites – Using Twitter can be a smart way to stay on top of deals, but you have to make sure the deals are legit. The URLs on Twitter (and sometimes Facebook) are often shortened, so you don’t know whether you’re going to land on a legitimate retailer’s site by clicking the link. Use Twitter as a tip, then find sales on your own.
  10. Assuming an Escrow Service Is Always Safe – If the seller is pushing you to use a particular escrow company to handle a transaction, be suspicious because it might be part of a scam. You can verify a company’s legitimacy by checking with state regulators, or ask to use an escrow company of your choosing,

The FTC says that filing a police report, checking your credit reports, notifying creditors, and disputing any unauthorized transactions are steps you must take immediately if you are a victim of identity theft.

Here at Farmers, we also offer Farmers Identity Shield which gives policyholders and their resident family members credit monitoring, unlimited access to fraud specialists and insurance to help cover financial losses resulting from identity theft. Check to see if your insurance company offers something similar and become familiar with your bank or credit card companies’ policies with identity theft.

Enjoy this holiday season but be mindful and protect your identity and good name.

Halloween Safety Driving Tips

halloween

This evening there will be many children out trick-or-treating. The following are Halloween safety driving tips to make sure the evening is safe for everyone.

  • Slow down and obey all traffic laws and speed limits
  • Always use your proper turn signals
  • Watch for children walking or bicycling (both on the road and the sidewalk)
  • Watch for children who may be darting into the street
  • Avoid distractions such as your mobile phone. If you must use your phone make sure it is hands free.

I hope you all enjoy Halloween. Let’s make sure it is safe.

Photo credit: Billings Gazette

How To Prepare for An Earthquake

earthquake

Southern California residents should remain on heightened alert until Tuesday for the increased possibility of a major earthquake, officials have said.

The following are tips from the  Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Farmers Insurance website on how to prepare for an earthquake:

  • With no electricity, you’ll need batteries. A lot of them. Ensure you have flashlights and a portable radio accessible. The radio may be your only contact with the outside world for news and information.
  • Own a fire extinguisher to stop small fires and a pipe wrench to turn off broken gas lines. Gas leaks are extremely dangerous, so take the necessary precautions. Stay alert for gas fumes, have a wrench to turn off the gas in the event of a leak, open windows for ventilation and do not use flame materials such as matches, lighters, cigarettes and candles.
  • With no sewage lines, you’ll need plastic bags for garbage and human waste.
  • Assemble a first aid kit with extra prescription medications and keep in a safe place, away from children.
  • Get a gas shut off tool so that you can shut off the gas if you need to. Many home improvement stores have those in stock.
  • Have a family meeting and talk about your escape route and what to do if an earthquake strikes.
  • The phone lines will certainly be out or overloaded with life-and-death emergencies. Make sure your family also has an emergency communication plan.
  • Your local school should have a plan as well. Ask them about their earthquake plan.

Please plan and prepare for an earthquake so when the event does occur, it may be less traumatic for you and your loved ones.

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

 

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

Hurricane Matthew

As Florida braces for Hurricane Matthew, keep in mind the Institute for Business and Home Safety’s following checklist to help prepare for the high winds, rain and flooding that usually accompany a hurricane. If you have already been ordered to evacuate by local authorities, please do so.

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.weather.com