Construction zones: Expect the unexpected

Work Zone Ahead signs can frustrate drivers on the road when slow traffic affects our daily routine. But we can lose a lot more than just a few minutes if we don’t follow traffic laws for construction areas.

Construction zones can be dangerous for both drivers and workers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in the past five years there were 4,400 deaths and 200,000 injuries in road construction zones. Of the 4,400 deaths, 85 percent were drivers or passengers and 15 percent were construction workers.

When driving through construction zones, follow these tips to help reduce your potential for accidents and other problems:

  • Slow down. Most sites are only a short distance overall and it takes only an extra 25 seconds to cover one mile traveling at 45 mph as compared with 65 mph. Virtually all states increase penalties for speeding through highway construction zones, and many mandate jail time for injuries caused by a driver speeding in a construction zone.
  • Maintain adequate following distance. Allow adequate space for controlled speed changes and stops. Riding the tailgate of the vehicle in front of you will not get you through any sooner.
  • Expect the unexpected! Dedicate your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions – such as changing the radio station – and never use your phone while driving, especially in construction areas. Be wary of the vehicles around you that might suddenly drift, stop or change lanes. Many drivers around you will be looking at the construction activity instead of paying attention to the road.
  • Keep your headlights on. Even during daytime, keep your headlights on to enhance your visibility to workers and oncoming traffic.
  • Change lanes sooner rather than later. Vehicles merging at the last minute is a leading cause of accidents in construction zones.
  • Pay attention to the signs. The signs are there to help alert you to what is to coming. Be sure to observe these signs until after you have left the construction zone.
  • Obey the flaggers. They are there to help ensure that traffic flows safely through the site. Drivers can be cited for not properly following flaggers’ instructions.

Don’t become a statistic. Be focused and careful when traveling through construction zones because you’re not only putting your life in harm’s way, but the lives of others.

MORE INFORMATION

National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse

Federal Highway Administration Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

Your roof may be aging faster than you realize

The roof of your home is its first line of defense against the elements. But as a roof ages, its ability to protect lessens.

The manufacturer’s estimated lifetime rating for roof shingles is determined under ideal circumstances, but actual conditions that your roof endures could be far from ideal.

STORM DAMAGE
Storm damage in the U.S. continues to escalate, with hail being a major cause of roof damage. Nearly all supercell thunderstorms produce hail, ranging from pea-sized to baseball-sized or larger. A hail‑producing storm moving through a residential area can cause widespread roof damage.

Many factors can quickly affect the lifetime of a roof shingle:

  • improper installation
  • improper ventilation
  • slope of the roof
  • overall climate

Proper maintenance of your roof, chimney, flashing, vents and gutters can slow the deterioration of your roof.

PROTECT YOUR HOME
Here are some things you can do to protect your roof and your investment in your home:

Inspect your roof regularly so that you can address small problems quickly, avoiding costly roof failures down the road.

  • Watch for conditions that may indicate a problem, such as:
  • Curling, lifting, clawing, granular loss and other deterioration of shingles
  • The presence of moss or algae
  • Waves or ridges in the roof line; these can indicate a problem with the roof decking or framing.

Replace your roof when condition or age indicates it may be losing its ability to divert moisture. Replacing an aging roof can help maintain your home’s top defense. If you replace your roof, please let your insurance agent know immediately to assure that your home is insured for the correct value.

CLAIMS
Finally, if you have a roof claim, look for a local, established contractor to do any necessary repairs. Be careful of unusually low bids – a roof is a major investment and a major protective feature of your home.

In Case of a Flood-Protecting You and Your Family

 

Watches / warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding, move immediately to high ground.
  • Educate your family and yourself about your community’s flood warnings.

Evacuation:

  • Plan an evacuation route.
  • Develop a plan for you and your family to communicate if you are separated when a flood comes.

Protecting Your Property

  • If you are moving into a new home, apartment or business location, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Your bank, local officials or insurance representative can inform you if your location is at risk of flooding.
  • Flood insurance is excluded under homeowners and renters policies, but it is covered under the comprehensive section of standard automobile insurance policies and some coverage is available for floods under special commercial insurance policies.
  • Flood insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is administered through the federal government and can be purchased from an insurance agent or company under contract with the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA). Flood insurance is only available where the local government has adopted adequate flood plain management regulations under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most communities participate in the program.
  • Flood insurance covers direct physical losses from floods and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels and accompanied by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tide surge or a similar situation which results in flooding. Flood insurance also may cover mudslides.
  • Coverage for the structure and contents of the home are sold separately. Buildings are covered for replacement cost but content coverage is available on an actual cash value basis only.
  • Maintain a supply of emergency materials: plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels, sandbags, flashlight, batteries, battery-operated radio, first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Install a system to prevent flood water from backing up in sewer drains.
  • Locate switches to turn off gas, electricity and water.
  • Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your stuff is damaged, this list will help facilitate the claim filing process.

©Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Contact your Ayres Group representative for information on flood insurance.

Fire up the grill (but do it safely)

Fire up the grill (but do it safely)

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of backyard grilling season. The Insurance Information Institute estimated that Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year.

Unfortunately, each summer season also brings numerous home fires and burn injuries associated with outdoor grilling activities. A study of residential fires by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported:

  • In 2012, about 16,900 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.
  • In one of every six (16 percent) home structure fires in which grills were involved in ignition, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill.
  • Overall, leaks or breaks were factors in one of every five reported gas grill fires.

A few simple tips and reminders to help you start off the grilling season safely:

  • Read the instructions and owner’s manual. If you don’t have instructions or a manual, go to the manufacturer’s website or call their customer service number to obtain a copy.
  • Use the grill as it was intended – for outside use only and in a well ventilated area.
  • Never leave a grill unattended while it is fired up and keep both kids and pets away from the area.
  • When you refill the propane tank or connect the fuel line at the start of the season, use a leak detection solution to ensure that connections are tight and leak free.
  • Keep the grill clean – check for grease and fat in the drip pans before firing up the grill.
  • Never use gasoline to start a charcoal fire. Use only charcoal starter fluid, and read the directions on its use and storage.
  • Dispose of hot coal ash properly to prevent burns or fires, handling ashes only after they are completely cooled.

Along with the grill instructions and operating manual there are numerous sites to visit to learn more about enjoying your cookout by grilling safely.

So fire up your grill safely and enjoy the season!

Reprinted with permission. The Cincinnati Insurance Companies

A refresher on water sport and boating safety

Water sport and boating safety

As we enter the start of summer, people will spend more time on the water skiing, boating and riding personal watercraft.

But with more people on the water comes more potential for injuries. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 80 percent of all recreational boating injuries occur from May to September.

The personal and economic costs of boating injuries are high  ̶  in 2013, the Coast Guard counted more than 4,000 accidents involving 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries and nearly $40 million in property damage.

According to the Boats U.S. trade association, 36 percent of boating fatalities involved an accident where someone went overboard, and 18 percent resulted from a collision  ̶  usually with a pier or another boat.

What are the five primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents? Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and defective machinery.

Here are some boating safety tips to prevent you from being injured while on the water this summer:

  • Wear a life jacket – In 2013, the Coast Guard reported 77 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning, and a shocking 84 percent of those victims were not wearing life jackets. Be sure to wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Blow-up mattresses, water wings, foam “noodles” or inner tubes are not a substitute for life jackets.
  •  Avoid alcohol – Whether boating, waterskiing or riding personal watercraft, alcohol greatly increases the risks of an accident, regardless of whether the operator or passengers are drinking. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects are magnified by the summer sun and heat.According to the Coast Guard, where the primary accident cause is known, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in nearly 16 percent of all fatal boating accidents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates alcohol use may be involved in nearly 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation.
  • Use the buddy system if swimming – Make sure someone knows where you are at all times and know the water terrain. Scan swimming areas for drop-offs, and be aware of hidden obstacles in the water.
  • Watch for rip tides – Rip tides can occur along any coastline. Signs of a rip tide include discolored or foamy water that moves in a narrow channel away from the shore. If you find yourself caught in a rip tide, remember to swim parallel to shore until you’re outside the current, when you can swim back in
  • Be Aware of Dehydration – Perhaps the most unrecognized danger to water skiers and personal watercraft riders is dehydration. This is especially common when riding on salt water. Water skiing and riding personal watercraft can be a vigorous physical activity, and it is possible to lose a great deal of water without realizing it. When a person becomes dehydrated, reaction time and awareness are impaired.
  • Don’t Let Cool Summer Winds Fool You – While Frank Sinatra sang glowingly about the “Summer Wind,” there is a hidden danger. Cooling winds on the water can convince water skiers, personal watercraft riders or boaters that they are not receiving much direct sunlight. This is false, and many people sustain skin damage from sunburns.

Follow precautions so you can avoid the emergency room and spend more time outside enjoying the water this summer.

Sources

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Water-Related Injuries” (2014)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the United States Coast Guard 2013

– See more at: http://blog.cinfin.com/2015/05/14/water-sport-boating-safety/#sthash.qRXGv7Z9.dpuf

The insurance side of house flipping

It’s a classic TV reality show scenario: A young, ambitious couple purchases a foreclosed property and flips it for a huge profit. This quick cash flow seems too good to be true…and usually i

The thrill of flipping a home often overshadows the harsh reality that profitable house-flipping opportunities are few and far between. I can honestly speak from experience. My wife and I were one of these young, ambitious couples that decided to dabble in the exciting world of house flipping. Although the experience was rewarding and challenging at the same time, we learned some valuable lessons. Potential house flippers should consider some insurance coverage issues before making a commitment:
  • Contemplate the cost of insurance when purchasing a home. If the house does not sell within a few months, insurance is a continuing expense that needs to be included in your budget.
  • Make sure you do your research when selecting an insurance company and policy. Your local independent agent can help you. Some insurance policies provide additional coverages you may need. Consider choosing one that provides limited coverage for water damage and fungi, wet or dry rot or bacteria. These issues often go unnoticed until after a remodeling project begins.
  • Discuss with your agent insurance to value – the need to insure the home for its reconstruction cost. Just because you purchased a home for a certain price does not mean that the home can be replaced for that amount. There can be a huge discrepancy between market and replacement cost values. Your agent can also recommend builders’ risk coverage for the remodeling cost of the project.
  • Consider the cost of building materials going into the refurbished home. Your insurance agent can add an installation floater – coverage for movable property – to your policy to insure construction materials in transit and at the jobsite.
  • Allow plenty of time to purchase insurance rather than waiting until the last minute. Contact your agent and consider an insurance company that will provide coverage for a house undergoing renovation. Some companies may consider this a vacant home and deny or limit coverage for vandalism, theft or other perils.
  • Before you allow contractors to start work on your investment, first confirm that they are insured. The safest bet is to request a copy of each contractor’s general liability policy declarations page. Make sure that the policy has at least a $1 million per occurrence and general aggregate limit.
– Cincinnati Insurance Companies

Get it Covered

Insure your business from the start.

Question: I’m starting my business and know I should obtain various types of insurance. Since my funds are limited, what do you recommend to start?

Answer: Virtually every business needs:

  • Fire insurance extended for conditions including storms, explosions, smoke damage and other disasters
  • Liability insurance for bodily injury occurring on your business’s premises
  • Theft insurance

If you’re working at home, your homeowners policy doesn’t cover these risks for your business activities, though endorsements and riders can sometimes be added to cover some risks.

Depending on your business, you may have some particular insurance needs. For example, if you’re providing a professional service like coaching, you need professional liability insurance; if you’re starting a food-related business, you need product liability coverage.

If you have an employee, you’ll need workers’ compensation insurance. And you need health insurance unless you’re covered by an employed spouse’s insurance or have a client who will make you a part-time employee so you’re eligible to participate in the client’s group plan.

Contact The Ayres Group for a personal evaluation of your start up insurance needs.

Go out and play, but keep one eye toward home security

Good weather gives you opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors. It also gives some unscrupulous people the opportunity they are looking for to burglarize your home or car and take your valuable possessions. You cannot prevent 100 percent of the thefts, but there are steps you can take to minimize the potential problem.

 

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.9 billion in lost property in 2011: overall, the average dollar loss per burglary offense was $2,185. Burglaries of residential properties accounted for 74.5 percent of all burglary offenses.

These statistics clearly show that we have to be very aware of the potential for theft and take necessary steps to minimize this crime.

The National Crime Prevention Council offers the following tips to help you protect your property:

  • Light the outside of your home to eliminate hiding places
  • Leave some lights on in your home to make it appear occupied (timers on lights are a good option in the event you will be gone)
  • Plan landscaping to provide maximum visibility to and from your home
  • Cut tree limbs back from your home to prevent access to windows
  • Use a strong exterior door — either solid wood or metal — and add lighting at every door
  • Install locks on all sliding glass doors and place metal or wooden bars in the tracks to prevent opening
  • Make sure your windows are secure and have a good locking mechanism
  • Use strong and reliable locks; this is one of the most cost effective ways to help secure your property
  • Always keep doors and windows locked, even if you are going to be gone only a few minutes

Some additional suggestions for keeping your property safe:

  • Purchase a home security alarm
  • Let a trusted neighbor, friend or relative know when you are going to be gone for more than one night
  • Don’t allow newspapers or mail to accumulate; have a friend pick them up
  • Let your local law enforcement know if you will be gone for an extended time

While you may not be able to prevent every break-in, making a few changes in home security can help minimize thefts.

Note: This blog was originally published on April 17, 2013. The crime statistics have been updated to reflect 2011 numbers, the most recent figures available.

Source: Cincinnati Insurance Companies

Building a better summer camp experience

Spring is a busy season for parents reserving spots for their children in summer camps and activities, and many health, tennis, racquet and athletic clubs are starting to ramp up for summer.

 

If you are a club owner, you are probably finalizing the types of camps you will offer. Once you decide among sports, arts and crafts, adventure or other activities and determine the age groups you will serve, you can move on to other details. Here are some areas of primary concern:

Hiring/Leadership

Putting the right person in position to lead your camp programs is vital. You may not be around every minute of every camp day, and you want someone in charge who shares your vision and understands the mission of your organization.

The right leader can:

  • manage staff expectations
  • keep everyone organized and on task
  • react to a quickly changing environment
  • keep safety a top priority
  • communicate well

Get your leadership team in place early, and then involve them in hiring and training your remaining staff.

Training

Training for camp leaders and staff should cover:

  • emergency medical response – defibrillator (AED), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid
  • your established camp policies and protocols
  • swim safety, including lifeguard training
  • emergency weather training
  • discipline policies
  • abuse awareness and protocols
  • communication plans and other safety protocols for field trips and activities

Partnering with recognized community organizations – such as the Red Cross for lifeguard or CPR training, child advocacy groups, local hospitals or local police, fire and EMS services – can increase the credibility and effectiveness of your training. Make sure your staff members – especially younger members – gain some basic understanding of childhood development and behavior.

Activities

Pools – Define expectations and responsibilities for your camp staff and lifeguards to assure smooth swim times. Be clear if camp staff need to remain in the pool area to provide extra supervision while lifeguards are in charge.

Field Trips – A cornerstone of most summer camp programs, field trips also present some of the biggest safety challenges. Unfamiliar locations with unknown hazards – along with the added element of contact with the public – call for heightened awareness and protocols. Increase staffing or add volunteers to reduce the ratio of children to adults. Take frequent head counts and position staff members where they are most needed. Protocols should prevent a sole staff member or volunteer from being alone with children.

Transportation – Whether you use parent volunteer drivers, own or lease vans or buses or contract a third-party bus company, have measures in place to assure safety.. When using a bus company, your contract should hold the company liable for any injury that occurs while campers are on the bus. For in-house transportation, hire trained drivers and check their driving credentials.

Allergies – As you prepare for summer camp thoroughly review participant applications for allergies, medical conditions or personal issues. Involve staff in action planning and in sit-down meetings with parents and guardians to assure each child has a safe and fun summer.

Equipment – Inspect the play set and other equipment, picnic tables and anything that may have been in storage since last summer to make sure everything is in good working order.

Providing a wonderful camp experience for the children you serve can be a rewarding experience for you and your staff, create memories for the youth and help cement the families as dedicated, satisfied members of your club. Planning for the expected – and the unexpected – can help everyone involved confidently focus on the fun!

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

The top 5 reasons to promptly report a claim

Your insurance policy is merely a promise until you have a claim, but many people hesitate to report a claim to their insurer. Here are five reasons why you should promptly report a claim if you have an incident.

    1. TO ASSURE THAT COVERAGE IS NOT AFFECTED
      Coverage is contingent on prompt reporting. Your policy defines specified conditions and requirements for coverage, and one of them is usually your duty to report a loss just as soon as practical after the loss occurs.
    2. TO HELP RESOLVE YOUR CLAIM PROMPTLY
      Early investigation is vital in determining liability and damages. Obtaining key evidence, scope of damages and interviewing all parties while information is clear assures your claim is accurately assessed and given every consideration.
    3. TO IMPROVE SUBROGATION SUCCESS
      Prompt reporting is vital when subrogation is needed to pursue a claim against the responsible party. Subrogation enables an insurance company, after paying a loss to its insured, to recover the amount of the loss from another who is legally liable for it. Prompt claim reporting makes it easier to determine facts, obtain expert reports and collect evidence early on, leading to a higher likelihood that the not-at-fault policyholder can recover the deductible. It also helps keep claim costs – and therefore insurance costs – low.
    4. TO PREVENT ADDITIONAL DAMAGE
      By reporting your claim early, immediate remediation can prevent further damage. This ultimately lowers claim costs and helps keep premiums low.
    5. TO PROTECT THE ABILITY TO DEFEND A CLAIM
      The insurance company has an opportunity on claims involving injury or damage to people other than the policyholder (third parties) to negotiate an early economical settlement. Late reporting could allow key evidence to be lost or destroyed, leading to a not-so-positive outcome for all parties involved. (The Ohio Insurance Institute’s glossary defines third-party coverage and first-party coverage.)

Let the insurance professionals do the work for you. You are paying a premium and deserve to have a complete policy review, inspection and investigation to determine if you have coverage.

When in doubt, ask your agent or insurance company for advice on whether to submit a claim. Always report it promptly (even as a “record only”) so you adhere to your policy conditions and duties.