Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Snow Roof Risks [Infographic]

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As winter storms continue to plague various regions across the U.S. The above infographic by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) reveals important facts about snow on your roof and the risks it presents.

For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground or hire a snow removal contractor.

I have also written a previous blog post on snow and ice and the strain it causes on your roof.

 

Planning for the Year Ahead: Review Your Insurance Policies

As the New Year is upon us and we are making 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.

Winter Weather Alerts: What do they mean?

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With severe weather and temperatures this week in the U.S., it is a good reminder that we need to pay close attention to weather alerts.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues winter weather watches, warnings, and advisories depending on the severity of an oncoming storm. But what exactly do these mean?

Winter Storm Watch

A winter storm watch is when severe winter weather conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, could affect your area, but when and where the storm will strike remains uncertain. A watch is typically issued 12 to 48 hours before the storm strikes, providing enough time for residents to begin making final adjustments.

Winter Storm Warning

A warning is an upgrade from a watch and is issued when heavy snow and/or freezing rain is imminent. A winter storm warning is issued 12 to 24 hours before the storm is expected to strike.

Winter Weather Advisories

A winter weather advisory is issued when an area is expected to be significantly impacted by winter weather. NWS notes that advisory situations should not become life-threatening if residents are cautious.

Blizzard Warning

If a blizzard warning is issued in your area, preparation is critical. This type of warning means that significant amounts of snow and strong winds will likely combine to produce blinding snow, deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.

To help you determine just how severe weather could be the next time a winter storm approaches, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges everyone to read the information provided by NWS below. Afterwards, prepare your property for severe winter weather by using resources available at IBHS’ website.

FAQ

Permissive user coverage

Hi Paul, I have a car insurance, but one of my friends was driving my car and he doesn’t have driver license, does my insurance cover the damages?

I would turn this in to your insurance company immediately. Each auto accident needs to be investigated as soon as possible. Generally speaking if you lend your car to someone else they may be considered a permissive user. However each policy is different so please get this to your insurance company now so that you can learn what your policy does, or does not, cover. Thanks for asking.

FAQ

Should I hire an attorney for “At Fault” car accident

Hi Paul, What if a person with good driving history is found at fault in a car wreck and their insurance company has paid for repair of vehicles but the other party is suing? Should the at-fault driver hire a private attorney? Why or why not? What harm would it do for them to consult with a private attorney?

If you are involved in an accident covered by an insurance policy, note that most insurance policies pay for legal representation as part of the liability coverage and the attorney the insurance company hires will represent the insured and the driver if that coverage is available on the policy in question. You are always free to hire an attorney as well at your own cost. Each accident will dictate whether or not hiring a personal attorney makes sense. You should discuss your particular situation with the insurance company about next steps. Thanks for asking.

Christmas Tree Safety & Disposal

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Sadly, this week a Christmas tree fire displaced a family of six in Athens, Tennessee. 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.com, CAL 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 To Prevent Home Crime This Holiday Season

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The following are some valuable tips provided by the Los Angeles Police Department to help prevent crime in the home this holiday season.

  • 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.

How To Prevent Identity Theft This Holiday Season

During 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.

Farmers Community Service: Nina Von Behren

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This holiday season we will be featuring employees at Farmers Insurance who contribute toward the company’s community service efforts. The following Q&A is with Farmers’ employee Nina Von Behren.

What is your title at Farmers Insurance and how do you contribute to Farmers’ community service efforts?

I am a Facility Site Lead for the National Property Claims Facility in Olathe, Kansas. I am also a National Farmers Cares Community Corps representative and a member of the Olathe Farmers Cares Community Corps team.

Can you briefly describe this community service program?

Each November, we participate in the Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family and bell ringing programs. Our local Salvation Army provides information sheets filled out by local families with information regarding sizes, needs, wishes, etc.  With their own money, our employees purchase presents for the family they adopt. The gifts are given to Salvation Army, the families pick them up on a designated day, parents wrap the presents and children have gifts under the tree they wouldn’t otherwise have. Since 2011, we have adopted 379 families and our employees have donated over $56,000 of their own money. We also ring the bell by the famous Red Buckets for three weeks, all day long in the Kansas cold weather at a local business collecting thousands for the less fortunate.

How did you become involved with this program?

We have a long standing relationship with our local Salvation Army and work with them throughout the entire year on various projects.

What do you feel is the program’s greatest achievement in helping the community?

Our employees love the adopt-a-family program as they go out shopping and know the name of the little child they are helping. They have tangible evidence, so to speak verses just writing a check and not seeing specifically what it went towards. The Salvation Army provides assistance for those right here in our community.

What is your fondest memory/moment in terms of being involved with this program?

The last three years we have had a Caravan of Giving lead by the Mobile Claims Center Bus [see picture below]. We have 10+ cars filled with packages and caravan over to the Salvation Army. When we pull up, the Salvation Army personnel are out front waving and clapping. They are always so appreciative. That scene is always very memorable for the participants.

FarmersCaravan

Ten Steps to Safely Deep Fry a Turkey

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