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 trees. If 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 landline. Lightning 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
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.
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.
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.
A 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
A 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If in your vehicle, place calls only while your vehicle is stationary.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.gov, http://www.redcross.org, http://www.fema.gov or http://www.fcc.gov
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.
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.
As areas of Oklahoma and Texas are anticipating severe thunderstorms this week capable of producing large hail, this reminds us that this is the most vehicle unfriendly part of the year for most of the central United States…hail season. Hail can range from “pea” size to “softball” size and can suddenly cause extensive damage to vehicles and homes.
Invariably, hail occurs during rush hour traffic, when cars are on the road and vulnerable. And, one by one you get to witness your car get dinged by the frozen bullets. So, are there any options besides replacing every panel on your car?
Over the years, the vehicle repair industry has developed a repair technique called Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) which is a collection of repair techniques used to remove minor dents and dings from the body of a vehicle. Trained technicians use specially designed hand tools that enable them to massage small dents out of sheet metal, one at a time, from the back of the panel.
Mike Meredith of MSN Autos reports that PDR is very effective for the following situations:
- For very small to large dents
- Generally for vehicles model year 1990 and newer
- The paint has not been broken or cracked
- The dent is not near the edge of a panel
- The panel has not had previous body repair
Vehicles can generally be repaired so that the body panel is left with no trace of hail damage. And, one of the biggest advantages of this repair method is that you don’t have to leave your car for an extended period at the body shop. Most PDR facilities can have your car in and out the same day because it is paintless and your car retains its original paint.
So, if hail finds you this year, be sure to ask your insurance professional and/or repair facility if your vehicle can be fixed using the PDR process. To learn more about Farmers and PDR, go to http://www.farmers.com/paintless_dent_repair.html
Photo credit: Hailcover.com
This week’s severe weather in parts of the U.S. have also brought high winds that can cause a lot of potential property damage. An article on DisasterSafety.org provides the following information in understanding your roof structure, walls and connections in your house and how they are important in handling strong winds.
In particular, the connection between your roof structure and the walls is one of the most important connections in your house. It’s also the first link in the continuous load path that is critical to achieving the strongest, safest house possible for high wind conditions, including hurricanes and tornadoes. Without these connections your house is vulnerable to wind forces.
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) also gives the following information below:
- Upward or downward forces generated by the wind acting on the roof surfaces is the vertical force.
- Horizontal forces arising from wind pressures applied to other walls that are transmitted to the wall in question by the roof structure and diaphragm action of the roof sheathing (horizontal force parallel to the plane of the wall).
- Wind forces applied to the wall in question that would cause the top of the wall to move inward or outward if it were not connected to the roof structure (horizontal force perpendicular to the plane of the wall).
- A metal connector should be used to attach each roof framing member to the wall.
- In addition, beams or girders carrying other structural members need special consideration since the uplift loads may be significantly higher than the uniformly spaced roof framing members.
- Several construction hardware manufacturers provide a variety of connectors that will accommodate most conditions
So make sure you understand the structure of your home and how it will handle strong winds.
Photo credit: DisasterSafety.org
As this week is Severe Weather Awareness Week, it is a solemn reminder that, if you live in an area where a tornado may occur, it is crucial that you and your family are prepared.
The first step is paying attention to the weather conditions and reports. A “tornado watch” means that tornadoes are possible and a “tornado warning” means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Both should be taken very seriously. You may monitor your weather conditions via your local radio station, television newscast or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.
According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), if there is a tornado warning you should go to shelter immediately, either in a designated shelter or the lowest building level, like a basement. If you have no basement then go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level and stay away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
Danger signs of an approaching tornado are a dark (often greenish) sky, large hail, a large dark low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating) or a loud roar similar to that of a freight train. But, also keep in mind that tornadoes may occur quickly and without any warning and are sometimes proceeded by calm weather or a break in the clouds. This is why it is important to closely monitor local weather reports.
Have a “tornado bag” which includes money, credit cards, IDs, insurance cards, important computer logins and passwords (on a password protected flash drive), an old-fashioned AM/FM AA battery powered transistor radio, a flashlight with AA batteries, your cell phones with chargers, any prescription drugs, energy bars, bottled water and extra batteries. All these possessions should fit into your tornado bag which should be mobile enough that you can take it easily with you if you need to hurry to a shelter.
Also, if the weather is really threatening, make sure you are fully dressed at all times. The goal of a tornado bag is that you want the minimum amount of weight and bulk with the maximum ability to help put your life back together after such a disaster.
Does your family have a “tornado bag” or other type of emergency bag in case of a natural disaster?
Enjoy the spring, but take tornado watches and warnings seriously and stay safe!
Photo Credit: The DeMoines Register