Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Extreme Weather Increases Number of Auto Claims

Here is a link to an article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that discusses a recent report released by Farmers Insurance. The report indicates that extreme weather events (such as violent rain storms and tornadoes) have dramatically increased automobile insurance claims from car owners citing hailstones and rising flood waters.

Nationwide, claims for hail-related damage increased by 40 percent in the three years of the study, from 2013-2016. Flash flood and rising-water claims increased by 166 percent last year over the same period in 2013.

Hail and flood waters have become more ubiquitous elements during the past three years, part of an increase in violent storms in Texas, New Mexico as well as numerous states in the Midwest, South and Pacific Northwest.

I am quoted in the article citing that this was especially the case in Texas last year, which experienced much higher hail losses than in previous years.

The report (much like I always do on this blog) warns travelers who are unfamiliar with tornadoes and are embarking on a road trip this spring or summer to beware of extreme weather.

If it is hailing, park in a carport or a garage. In the event of a tornado, drive away at right angles and never park under an overpass — that only adds to the wind and debris that may fly into the vehicle. If that’s not possible, here are more tornado emergency tips.

The most important thing for you to do is pull off to the side of the road if a tornado is coming right at you. Get into the lowest area possible, like a ditch and ride it out.

Photo credit: www.sgvtribune.com

Smoke Alarms May Save Your Life & Save You Money

Did you know that if you take measures to make your home safer, you could potentially qualify for a lower homeowners insurance premium?

One way to ensure your home is safe is to install and maintain smoke alarms.

The above infographic by the National Fire Protection Association shows how to check your smoke alarm to see if needs to be replaced.

Other tips by the association include:

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. This way, when one sounds, they all do.
  • Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Check the instructions on your smoke alarms to see how often you should change the battery.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or earlier if they don’t respond properly.
  • Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of the smoke alarm and understands what to do when they hear the back of the smoke alarm to find out.

Why should you make sure your smoke alarms are working?
 Very simply…

  • To feel safer in your home.
  • You can call the fire department faster.
  • To make sure everyone in your family has time to get out safely if there is a fire.

So, remember to always perform routine maintenance to your smoke alarms and always have an emergency plan for your family. Being prepared may save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Infographic: National Fire Protection Agency

How to Prepare for a Power Outage

As winter storm Stella has still left many in the northeast without electricity, it reminds us that we must always be prepared in case we lose power. The American Red Cross has a very good check list of how to be prepared on its web site. The check list includes the following points below:

To help preserve your food, keep the following supplies in your home:

  • One or more coolers—Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers work well.
  • Ice—Surrounding your food with ice in a cooler or in the refrigerator will keep food colder for a longer period of time during a prolonged power outage.
  • A digital quick­ response thermometer— With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food to ensure they are cold enough to use safely.

Put together an emergency preparedness kit with these supplies in case of a prolonged or widespread power outage:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Food—non­perishable, easy ­to ­prepare items (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
    (NOTE: Do not use candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire.)
  • Battery ­powered or hand­crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7­day supply) and medical items
  • Multi­purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash . If someone in your home is dependent on electric­ powered, life ­sustaining equipment, remember to include backup power in your evacuation plan. Keep a non­cordless telephone in your home. It is likely to work even when the power is out. . Keep your car’s gas tank full.

So as the August heat may cause blackouts and potential hurricanes may occur, always make sure you are prepared in case you lose power.

Photo Credit: FEMA.gov

A Few Tips on Tornado Safety

As at least three deadly tornados touch down in Central U.S., it is a good idea to review what tornado specialists recommend we do to get ready.

The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggest:

  • 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, 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, especially in the coming months.

Like most things about weather, myths have built up over the years on what to do and many of them are exactly opposite of what needs to be done. The following sites are great sources of information and dispel many of these myths. You can learn the difference between a watch and a warning and they also offer fun and informative ways to teach your family the do’s and don’ts of tornado safety.

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/ttl.pdf

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/index.html#Safety

Photo credit: NOAA

Ice Dams: What Can You Do?

As the northeast experiences three snowstorms in one week, it is important to take note of the potential damage ice dams can cause to your home.

The formation of icicles along the edge of your roof may be one of winter’s beautiful scenes, but it may mean that you have an ice dam and potential damage to your home.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the lower edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. Heat from the living space rises into the attic and warms the roof surface causing the snow on the roof to melt. Water runs down the roof slope under the blanket of snow and refreezes along the eave, creating a “dam.” Water pools behind the dam and may eventually leak into your home. Ice dams cause millions of dollars in property damage each year including damage to insulation, ceilings, walls, fixtures, cabinetry, flooring, home furnishings and other contents.

According to DisasterSafety.org, ThisOldHouse.com and eHow.com, these are the best ways to prevent an ice dam:

  • Install adequate insulation and proper ventilation in your attic space. It is the single most effective measure to take to prevent ice dams.
  • Install an ice and water shield to the roof under the lower course of shingles and in valleys. It adds protection against leaking.
  • Install electric heat tapes in gutters and on the lower sections of the roof to melt the ice before dams are formed.

According to those same sites, this is how to limit the damage of an existing ice dam:

  • For the exterior, if it is safe for you to do so, remove snow off the roof to prevent melting and pooling water. If it is not possible to remove all snow, remove at least three feet up from the eave line using a roof rake (available at most local hardware stores).
  • Make channels through the ice dam which will allow the water behind the dam to drain off. This may also be a good measure to take if rain or a sudden thaw is coming. Care must be taken not to damage roofing.
  • On the interior, catch leaking water in buckets, or towels and dry wet areas. Be sure to also remove furnishings and contents items from the area to prevent unnecessary damage.

The last resort is actual removal of the ice dam. Again, first and foremost, be safe. If you have any concerns, have a roofing contractor assist you. They will be happy for the work this time of year!

Photo credit house pic: coolflatroof.com
Photo credit ice dam diagram: heatizon.com

Insurance Tips When Buying A New Home

new-home

Buying a new home is a big step, no matter what stage you are in life. As you search for a home, remember that the construction of the house, the location, and overall condition can affect the cost and availability of your homeowners insurance.

The following are some crucial insurance tips to remember when buying a new home.

Get the House Inspected

You will need to have the house properly inspected in order to get your mortgage approved. Accompany the inspector and make sure he/she does a thorough job. The inspector should:

  • Check the general condition of the home
  • Look for water damage, termites and other types of issues
  • Review the electrical system, plumbing, septic tank and water heater
  • Show you where potential problems might develop
  • Double-check that past problems have been repaired
  • Suggest important upgrades or replacements

Check the Condition of the Roof

Always check the condition of the roof. Depending on the type of roof and whether or not you use fire and/or hail resistant materials, you may even qualify for a discount. 

Check the Loss History Report

Ask the current homeowner to obtain a copy of the loss history report on the home. Homeowners can obtain either a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) report, which is available from LexisNexis, or an A-PLUSTM property report from ISO®. These reports provide a record of the type of loss on the home, the date of the loss and the amount and status of each claim going back five years

Estimate How Much It Will Cost to Maintain the House

Routine maintenance is your responsibility as a homeowner. Losses caused by failing to properly care for your home are not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. So make sure you factor these costs into the overall price of owning the home. Also, will it be easy to baby proof your home in the future?

Swimming Pool or Other Special Feature

Keep in mind that if your house has a swimming pool, hot tub or other special feature, you will likely need more liability insurance.

Proximity to the Coastline

Houses located on or near the coast will generally cost more to insure than those further inland. There will also likely be a separate hurricane or windstorm deductible.

Is the Home Well-Built and Up to Code?

If your new home is an area that is prone to hurricanes, you should find out if your house has been updated to comply with current building codes to withstand natural disasters.

Other Special Insurance

See if you are in areas that are susceptible to flooding or earthquakes as you may need special insurance for these risks

So, enjoy your new home and keep in mind that there are a lot of factors to consider when buying a new home which include; the history of the home, the current condition and possible issues in the future.

Photo credit: HuffingtonPost.com

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