The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has released the above infographic called “Freezing Weather Maintenance Checklist.” Even though we we are well into March, regions of the U.S. are still experiencing unusually cold temperatures and homeowners must still be mindful of the damage freezing temperatures can cause to their home or property.
The heavy rains in California are bringing relief from drought, but at the same time, dangers of flooding and mudflow. DisasterSafety.org has an article on flood safety that gives the following tips:
Flash Flood Safety
- Be aware that flash flooding is very dangerous and can move quickly. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. In fact, two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.
Flash Flood Watches and Warnings
Flash Flood Watch
If flash flooding is possible, be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flash Flood Warning
If a flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
Please be sure to take all instructions by your local authorities seriously, and if they have ask you to evacuate, please do so. It could save your life and the life of your loved ones.
The northeast is being slammed by Winter Storm Pax. If you have to drive, it is important to stay safe. The following are tips for a winter survival kit for your car and what to do if your car gets stranded. These tips are provided by Foremost Insurance Company, a member of the Farmers Insurance Group.
All drivers should carry a survival kit in their car that contains:
- Cell phone
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- High calorie, non-perishable food
- A can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
- Sand or non-clumping cat litter
- Windshield scraper
- Tool kit
- Tow rope
- Jumper cables
- Water container
- Road maps
- Extra winter clothes and boots
Also, try to keep the vehicle’s gas tank full in case the car gets stranded and to keep the fuel line from freezing. If the road is too snowy to see while driving:
- Pull off the road and turn on the hazard lights.
- Stay inside the vehicle. It is easy to become disoriented in the wind and snow. Do not set out on foot unless there is a building in sight where people can take shelter.
- Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat.
- Open the window a crack to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow.
- Exercise frequently to keep blood circulating and to keep warm, but don’t overexert.
- Huddle with other passengers and use coats or blankets to stay warm.
- In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, floor mats, newspapers or extra clothing for covering — anything to provide additional insulation and warmth.
- Be visible to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night (being careful to not wear down the battery), tying a distress flag (preferably red) to your antenna or window, and raising the hood to indicate trouble after snow stops falling.
- If it is necessary to leave the vehicle and proceed on foot once the storm is over, follow the road if possible.
- If it is necessary to walk across open country, use distant points as landmarks to help maintain a sense of direction.
With a little planning and know-how, it is possible to make this winter a safe and warm one for everyone.
With the arctic temperatures and unusual weather hitting areas such as the South this winter, I had recently put up a post on How To Keep Your Pipes From Freezing.
The above graphic also gives some sobering statistics from the Institute for Business and Home Safety on how much damage frozen pipes can cause.
So, be mindful of your pipes, as it may prevent you time and money in the long run…
In the business world, it always feels good when corporate sponsorship means helping worthwhile causes. The Farmers Insurance Open is an event where we get to do a lot of good for the people of San Diego. Under our Farmers brand, which has been part of the Southern California landscape since 1928, our goal is to strengthen community outreach.
Farmers is entering its fifth year as the title sponsor and has extended its commitment into 2019. Since Farmers took over sponsorship in 2010, the Farmers Insurance Open has given back $7.7 million to charity and after the completion of this year’s event, that total should surpass $10 million. Through the combined effort with the Century Club of San Diego, Farmers will generate much-needed funds for over 200 charities. Some of the beneficiaries of this year’s Farmers Insurance Open are:
- Birdies for Charity – The program utilizes the Farmers Insurance Open as a platform to benefit ten charitable organizations, and was first launched prior to the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open.
- Blessings in a Backpack – Farmers is once again partnering with Blessings in a Backpack to help the students of Doris Miller Elementary School. This year marks the fourth year of Farmers providing meals for 500 students on the weekends during the school year. Blessings in a Backpack is a unique program designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federal free and reduced meal program and may not have any or enough food on the weekends.
- The Monarch School – The Monarch School is a school for homeless youth in the San Diego area. The mission of the Monarch School is to educate these students and equip them with necessary skills and experiences for personal success. Students from the school were invited to Tuesday’s “Tee it Up for Kids” golf clinic hosted by Rickie Fowler and Charley Hoffman. The students will also receive grounds tickets to the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.
Also this year, players and fans will see the new Farmers’ logo on our Mobile Claims Center buses as well as our signature 18th green skybox. Spectators will also get a chance to participate in our Thank a Million Teachers campaign that will be available on the course with iPads ready to personally share their “thanks” to the teacher that made a difference in their lives. As you can see, being the title sponsor of a PGA event is way more than just golf. It is about community participation and working toward a positive future, because we at Farmers care.
The Farmers Insurance Open is being held Thursday, January 23rd through Sunday, January 26th at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Tune in Thursday and Friday on the Golf Channel and on CBS over the weekend.
Authorities say up to 2,000 people have been evacuated due to a wildfire that has burned two homes and threatened neighborhoods in the dangerously dry foothills of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains. The Los Angeles County Fire Chief says the fire is being fanned by the gusty Santa Ana winds that is spitting embers into the city
Property owners in wildfire-prone areas should take precautions to reduce wildfire risks before it is too late. By spending a little time and effort now, you can significantly improve chances that your home or business will survive a wildfire.
Below are 5 Ways that you can prepare your property for wildfires and above is a captioned, wildfire safety video produced by Farmers Insurance.
- Clear debris out of gutters and off the roof.
- Remove dead vegetation and relocate any combustible items – like stacked firewood and propane tanks – and trim shrubbery within 5 feet of your home. Next, consider vegetation and any combustible items located within 30 feet of the home or to the property line, and finally look at the area within 100 feet or to the property line. These areas may include your neighbors’ homes so try to work together.
- Make sure your vents are covered with 1/8-inch metal mesh screens and that the existing screens are clean.
- Seal any gaps around your garage door. Wind-blown embers could enter there during a wildfire.
- Clear away debris from decks, porches and patios, and then relocate any combustible items stored there.
You may also find additional guidance in the IBHS Wildfire Home Assessment & Checklist which helps homeowners better understand the relatively simple things they can do to make their home more resistant to wildfire. And, you may also read my previous roundup of wildfire safety tips.
Many parts of the U.S. are being hit hard with the push of arctic air this week, including areas in the South that are not used to such cold.
With such severe temperatures, many are dealing with the issue of freezing pipes. Below is my post and important checklist where I have compiled useful tips from articles by DisasterSafety.org and Suite101.com on how to keep your pipes from freezing, and consequently bursting:
- First, make sure your pipes are properly insulated. If in doubt, call a professional.
- Winterize your lawn sprinkler system. There is nothing worse than to have a yard full of geysers as you finally escape the cocoon of winter.
- Remove all hoses from outside pipes. If possible, stop the water to those lines as well.
- If your goal is to escape the cold and go on a warm vacation, make sure to maintain the heat in your home. Not saving those few extra dollars on your heating bill can really make a difference.
- If you are faced with a sudden freeze, leave your faucets open and on a very slow drip. Keeping the flow moving really helps.
- For the above two suggestions, make sure everyone in your family knows the plan. You would hate to be en route to a warmer climate and hear your son proclaim from the back seat (or spouse in the front seat) Guess what? I turned off the heat or turned off the faucets? Your option becomes hitting the brakes, making a u-turn, or calling the neighbor.
- Speaking of which, always make sure your neighbor has your contact information.
In 1997, our family moved from California to Indiana and shorty after, we had our pipes freeze and burst. All our neighbors laughed at the Californians’ first winter in the Midwest but we quickly learned how to avoid the incident from happening again.
What happened in Indiana was that the pipe (really a flex line) from the valve to an outdoor sink froze, burst and then soaked our garage. We were out when it happened but when we finally arrived home, our garage was a skating rink and we had a nice slick driveway.
What could we have done to avoid this? Well, for starters, we should have turned off the water supply to a sink that we never used in the first place. That was step one. Step two was that we should have consulted an expert on what to do for prevention of broken water lines caused by freezing. It is a frequent cause of loss in many parts of the country. And, who wants to come home to a flooded house, especially in the freezing winter.
Take it from a transplanted Californian, get to know your climate as soon as you get there. And, know what challenges the new surroundings can throw at you.
Stay warm this winter and enjoy a warm beverage in front of a cozy fire. And, when in doubt, contact your Farmers agent.
As the holiday season winds down, the following is one of my posts regarding Christmas tree safety and disposal.
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 good web page on Christmas tree safety which gives the following Christmas tree information and 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.
So as you visit with your family this holiday season, don’t forget about the importance of maintaining and properly disposing your Christmas tree.
Winter Snowstorms have plagued parts of the U.S. this week. Significant snowfall can put a strain on a roof that can cause significant damage and even potential collapse. Unless your roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs, regardless of the location of the house, should be able to support 20 pounds (lbs.) of snow per square foot of roof space before they become stressed. To determine how much the snow/ice on your roof weighs, you can use the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) information below. It is important to be aware of how much ice and snow is accumulating on your roof and to be sure to have it safely removed to prevent roof and home damage.
- Fresh snow:
10-12 in. of new snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 feet of new snow before the roof will become stressed.
- Packed snow:
3-5 in. of old snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 feet of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.
- Total accumulated weight:
2 ft. of old snow and 2 feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs. per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity for most roofs.
1 inch of ice equals 1 foot of fresh snow.
Today’s top news story is that hackers have stolen usernames and passwords for nearly two million accounts from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and others. The massive data breach was a result of keylogging software maliciously installed on an untold number of computers around the world.
Unfortunately, in a poor economy, crime tends to increase and, especially during the holiday season it is vital that you remain on alert. When shopping for the holidays, always be sure to lock your car and keep valuables in the trunk. Lock your home when you are away. 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. As you look for in-store and online deals this holiday season, it is crucial more than ever to be mindful of identity theft.
The following facts and tips are extracted from the FTC’s website and Kiplinger’s article “10 Online-Shopping Traps That Catch Even Smart Shoppers.” 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:
- Dumpster Diving -They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
- Skimming - They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
- Phishing – They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing Your Address - They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- 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.
- 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:
- Blindly clicking into unfamiliar sites – Don’t rely on search engines for comparisons, go to well-known comparison sites.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.