Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Teen Driver Safety Week: Discuss the “5 to Drive”


This week is the National Department of Transportation’s Teen Driver Safety Week.

The USDOT has a set of rules called the “5 to Drive” and is asking parents and guardians to discuss these five basic rules for safe teen driving:

  • No cell phone use or texting while driving
  • No extra passengers
  • No speeding
  • No alcohol
  • No driving or riding without a seat belt

If you have a teen, please go over these guidelines. You may also read my past post Youthful Driving Tips: Is It That Time Already? which also has safety tips.

Fire Prevention Week: Smoke Alarm Tips


This week has been Fire Prevention Week. This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign includes the following smoke alarm tips given by the National Fire Protection Association:

  • 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
  • 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 it

You may also read my older post on Fire Escape Planning. 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.

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Map Identifies Your Region’s Risk for Disaster


Research has found that communities, families and individuals who prepare in advance for possible disasters are better able to recover and adapt to new or changing conditions. The first step in preparing for a disaster is knowing what risks you face. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety  (IBHS) has an interactive risk map on its website to help you identify your region’s risks by entering your ZIP Code.

Remember it is important to strengthen your home and business against damage. Strengthening your building will make it more likely it will still be there to return to after a disaster; that it will sustain less damage.


Getting Ready For Fall

School has started and now there is a chill in the air. And, with fall it is time for homeowners to start prepping 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.

5 Low-Cost Projects To Prepare for the Next Storm

As Tropical Storm Odile is expected to become a hurricane off Mexico’s Pacific Coast, we are reminded that hurricane season is still in full force.  The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) reminds homeowners to take action now to protect their homes against the high winds and wind-driven rain from hurricanes.

Below are five low-cost project ideas that homeowners can do to prepare for the next storm.

The Five S’s – Shingles, Soffits, Seals, Surroundings and Shutters

Shingles - Spend $4 on a 10 oz. tube of roofing cement and use it to re-adhere loose shingles to prevent water damage to your roof decking. One tube = 25 feet of shingles.

  • Focus on shingles near the roof edges and near gable ends.
  • Place three one-inch diameter dabs of roofing cement under each shingle tab (near the edges).
  • On gable ends, secure the three shingle tabs closest to the gable edge.
  • This should be done at least two weeks in advance of a storm to allow the cement to adhere properly.

 Soffits - Spend $6 for 10 oz. of polyurethane sealant and stainless steel screws, and use to secure your soffits to the walls and fascia to prevent them from blowing off. IBHS research has found that soffit materials are missing in approximately 75 percent of homes that suffer significant hurricane damage. When soffit materials are blown off, the result is wind and water damage to the roof decking, attic and possibly the home’s interior.

  • Apply a bead of sealant along the joint between the edge of the channel and the wall and the track holding the soffit panels.
  • Install sharp pointed stainless steel screws through the fascia and channels so that they connect the soffit material.
  • Apply sealant in the grooves where the fascia material butts up against the fascia and wall channel.

 Seal Gaps - Spend $2 on 10 oz. of caulk and use to seal gaps in outer walls to prevent water intrusion. Focus on the following areas:

  • holes 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 penetrations including air conditioning refrigerant lines and  condensate lines, water heater pressure relief lines and water pipes; and
  • cracks around wall outlets, dryer vents, bathroom and kitchen vents and electrical devices such as wall lights.

Surroundings – Secure your surroundings to prevent damage from flying debris.

  • Spend $3/bag and replace gravel/rock landscaping materials and walkways with a softer material, such as mulch or dirt. In a particularly strong hurricane, gravel has been found in mail boxes and has shredded vinyl siding. Work with neighbors to make sure everyone’s home is protected from this risk.
  • Secure loose objects in the yard, such as lawn chairs, toys, garbage cans or signs, so they don’t become flying missiles during high winds.
  • Trim trees and shrubbery away from structures and remove any weakened sections of trees that might easily break off and fall onto structures.

Shutters – Spend $9-$30 per square foot of openings for shutters to protect against wind-borne debris and pressurization.

  • Determine what openings need protection; this should include all windows, entry doors, sliding glass doors, garage doors and gable end vents.
  • Choose permanent window and door protection, or install permanent fasteners before storm warnings, and pre-cut shutter panels so they can be put in place quickly.
  • Choose shutters with the proper approval for impact-resistance. Look for these ratings: Florida Building Code TAS 201, 202, 203; ASTM E 1886 and 1996-03; and Miami-Dade Protocols PA 201, 202, 203.

In addition to these preparedness tips, please pay close attention to local weather forecasts and follow evacuation orders if given by local authorities.

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Hurricane Norbert: Rip Current Safety

Forecasters have warned that this weekend dangerous rip currents will develop along south-facing beaches in Southern California due to Hurricane Norbert. Rip currents are channeled currents of water flowing away from shore which may sometimes be very strong. The United States Lifesaving Association attributes 80 percent of all surf zone rescues to rip currents. The following information and tips are from Read these tips thoroughly, they could save your life.

Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. Rip currents can be very narrow or extend in widths to hundreds of yards. The seaward pull of rip currents varies: sometimes the rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves, but more powerful rip currents continue to push hundreds of yards offshore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.

A daily rip current outlook is included in the Surf Zone Forecast, which is issued by many coastal National Weather Service offices. A three-tiered warning structure of “low”, “moderate”, or “high” is used to describe rip current risk. This outlook is reported to lifeguards, emergency managers, media and the general public.

If caught in a rip current:

  • Stay calm
  • Don’t fight the current
  • Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – toward shore.
  • If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water.
  • When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself:
  • Face the shore, call or wave for help.

How to help someone else without being a victim

  • Get help from a lifeguard
  • If a lifeguard is not present, yell instructions on how to escape.
  • If possible, throw the rip current victim something that floats.
  • Call 9-1-1 for further assistance.
  • When you arrive at the beach, ask lifeguards about rip currents and any other hazards that may be present.

So, of course enjoy the beach this weekend, but pay attention to the Surf Zone Forecast and always listen to your lifeguard and stay in designated swimming areas. You want your time at the beach to be fun and memorable.

Safety Tips for RV Travels

As we enter the last weekend of the summer, many will be camping or traveling in an RV. This is a great way for families to see different parts of the country, but it is also important to make sure that your RV is safe. (a site by the U.S. Department of Transporation) is a great resource for RV owners as it provides any information on any safety-related recalls including vehicles, equipment, child restraints and tires.

To search recalls on this site, you can simply input your vehicle/equipment information to identify any outstanding recalls which can typically be satisfied by a local dealership, free of charge.

There are different types of recalls:

  • Voluntary Recalls – Your RV or its equipment may fall under a voluntary recall. These are situations where the vehicle manufacturer becomes aware of a potential issue and is willing to correct it. Information related to voluntary recalls would need to be secured by the owner from their dealership or the RV manufacturer.
  • Component Recalls – All RV manufacturers secure and incorporate a variety of component parts (tires, wheels, appliances, generators, etc.) into the finished RV. Often times these component parts become subject to recalls. You can quickly identify the existence of any recalls by typing in three words: Manufacturer, Product, Recall (ie. Norcold Refrigerator Recall).

In addition to your RV, be sure to search any outstanding recalls on your tow vehicle or vehicle you tow behind your motor home.

Enjoy the open road this summer but make sure your RV and your family is safe.

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Insurance for Leaking Sewer Pipes?

Hi Paul, Would I have coverage if the sewer pipes under my house leak? Would coverage be available to repair floors, drives, sidewalks if the repair were to damage them?

Generally, an all-risk base homeowner policy provides coverage for sudden and accidental releases of water from a plumbing system, where the leak is both sudden and accidental; and the cause of loss must not be an excluded cause of loss. Note that some policies exclude resulting damage to concrete foundations, slabs, and floors. But some policies cover the cost to tear out and replace the portion of a covered structure necessary to repair the plumbing system. All claims are different. Coverage will depend upon the specific facts of loss or damage and the language in your policy. Thanks for your question!

Preparing Your Family For A Wildfire Evacuation

As thousands are told to evacuate in the foothills of central California due to wildfires, this brings to light how important it is to have an emergency response plan; because you never know when your area will be threatened by a wildfire. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection provides valuable wildfire emergency tips, but perhaps the most important is how to prepare your family for an evacuation.

First, listen to your Fire and Police Departments. If you have been ordered to evacuate, follow their instructions. Next, it is important to organize your family. Know where all your family members are (whether it is the neighbor’s or the movies) and make sure you can communicate with each of them in case you have to arrange a time and place to meet.

Pack your car with enough personal items for a few days. Be sure to include items of sentimental value that you know you can never replace. This will be a great comfort to you when you leave. Back your car in the driveway and roll up the windows to keep embers and smoke from coming in.

Gather all your pets into one room with leashes, food, bowls and toys. If you need to leave quickly, you do not want to take up valuable time trying to look for them.

Take a video of your home both inside and out. The inside video will help inventory your possessions and the outside video will give you an account of your home and landscaping. When it is time to leave, turn off your air conditioner, gas and any LP tanks but leave power and water on as well as your interior and exterior lights.

Also, remember to leave your contact information with a friend or relative so you can let them know you are safe. Hopefully you will never have to evacuate for a wildfire but it is always best to have your family prepared.

Photo credit: AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora


Insurance Rate Adjustments from Hit and Run?

Hi Paul, someone hit and run my vehicle while it was parked yesterday and I didn’t notice it until this morning. When I go to make my claim will this cause my insurance rate to go up?

Many things determine auto rates. The price of parts, complexity of cars, labor rates, and the overall experience in your state are among the many that determine your rate. As for this accident, if you were not at fault that will normally not impact your rates. Hopefully, you have a police report to help confirm you were not at fault. But again, many things go into the mix so near renewal I suggest you contact your agent so that you can have a discussion not only about your rates, but the current coverages on all your policies. I hope this helps.