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.

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY 4-H LAUNCHES MATCH CAMPAIGN TO BUILD 4-H ENDOWMENT

DATE: March 2015

CONTACT: Sally Stuby, Campaign Chairperson

Ph. 269-435-7432 or stuby@msu.edu

JOSEPH COUNTY 4-H LAUNCHES MATCH CAMPAIGN TO BUILD 4-H ENDOWMENT

Centreville, Mich. – Supporters of St. Joseph County 4-H programs have an opportunity to double their personal support for 4-H by helping to “Make the Match for St. Joseph County 4-H.”

St. Joseph County 4-H has set a goal of raising $20,000 locally which, if successful, will result in the county 4-H program qualifying for a 1:1 match from the Michigan 4-H Foundation of every dollar raised to build an endowment for 4-H programs in St. Joseph County.

Two local insurance agencies have teamed up to start the campaign.  Ayres Insurance Agency and Chupp Insurance, both of Sturgis, are donating $250 each to the campaign.  In addition, Fremont Insurance Company through Chupp Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance Agency through Ayres Insurance, are each contributing an additional $250 to the fund.  Jeff Brazo, Vice President or Ayres Insurance and Rod Chupp, Co-Owner of Chupp Insurance, noted that they offer this total of $1,000 as a challenge to other insurance agencies and companies to step up and support the campaign.  Mr. Chupp noted, “Agriculture is the bedrock of our county and state economy.  As such, those individuals and businesses that are fortunate enough to enjoy an active role in our agricultural community should naturally desire to help sustain that heritage through programs and opportunities such as this 4-H Endowment.”

Sally Stuby, “Make the Match” campaign chairperson, said, “Research has shown that youth participating in 4-H have better social and leadership skills, are more likely to attend post-secondary education, and are better prepared for career and life challenges.  This endowment will provide some permanent, long-term support for 4-H youth in St. Joseph County.”

County 4-H programs in Michigan have historically been funded by a partnership between federal, state and county governments, Michigan State University and gifts from private supporters.  With increasing reductions in public support for 4-H, 4-H families, volunteers, clubs, alumni and other friends are coming together to build private support to sustain 4-H in local communities.

The St. Joseph County 4-H Endowment, when doubled by the match, will provide annual support for current  4-H program delivery, for future 4-H program enhancements and other areas of greatest need that would serve to advance delivery of 4-H in St. Joseph County.

Eva Beeker, St. Joseph County Program Coordinator said, “The Make the Match campaign will help to provide money to begin new programs within 4-H to better serve our youth in St. Joseph County. Programs like robotics, geocaching and other fun yet educational areas that are of interest to today’s youth will be explored and implemented with the money that will be made available.”

The “Make the Match for St. Joseph County” campaign is made possible by grants from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation and gifts made by individual leadership donors to the Michigan 4-H Foundation.  The goal is to raise $1 million in endowment for county 4-H programs in Michigan that will in turn be doubled by the match from these leadership contributors.

For information on how you can help “Make the Match for St. Joseph County
4-H”, visit the campaign web site at www.mi4hfdtn.org/countymatch  or contact the St. Joseph County MSU Extension office at 269-467-5511.  Sally Stuby, campaign chairperson, may be contacted at 269-435-7432 or stuby@msu.edu.

St. Joseph County 4-H is a program of Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development Programs whose mission is to create non-formal, educational opportunities to help youth thrive in a complex and changing world.  The Michigan 4-H Foundation supports Michigan 4-H Youth Development programs to prepare youth for meaningful and productive lives.

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.

Quiz: How well do you know the rules of the road?

When the rules of the road change, it’s up to drivers to keep up. Take our quiz to see how well you’ve kept up.
(Answers at the end)

  1. How many U.S. states have enacted “move over” laws? “Move over” laws require drivers to change lanes away from public safety vehicles on roadsides to protect public safety personnel. If it is unsafe to change lanes, the driver must slow down to a safe speed.
    1. 10
    2. 48
    3. 50
    4. This is for real?
  2. What is the speed limit on U.S. interstate highways?
    1. 55 mph
    2. 70 mph
    3. You can drive 5 mph above the posted limit without being pulled over
    4. Speed limits vary by state, time of day and whether the highway is rural or urban
  3. When must a child passenger be restrained in an approved safety seat?
    1. Until age 3
    2. All 50 states require safety seats for children until they meet specific age, height or weight criteria, which vary from state to state
    3. Until age 5
    4. At all times, except when traveling in Grandpa’s car
  4. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have special provisions for mature drivers. These include (choose one answer):
    1. Accelerated renewal frequency, vision test, road test, restriction of online or mailed renewals or reduced or waived renewal fees
    2. Seniors are not permitted to make left turns, only right turns for safety
    3. Note required from physician before renewal
    4. Note required from adult children before renewal
  5. Financial responsibility laws require:
    1. A bond to be posted before a driver’s license is issued
    2. A licensed driver to affirm that a designated minimum amount of insurance coverage (varies by state) is in place to pay for damages for which they are legally liable in the event of an auto accident
    3. Mom and Dad to pay for any accidents Junior might cause
    4. Bank verification that sufficient funds exist to pay any claims after a crash

ANSWERS:

  1. c. All 50 states have enacted “Move Over” laws. See Get the Facts: Move Over. It’s the Law.
  2. d. Speed limits vary. Check the Speed Limit Laws chart at the Governors Highway Safety Association website for details.
  3. b. All states have child safety seat laws, but requirements vary. See the Child Passenger Safety Laws chart at the Governors Highway Safety Association website for details, and find consumer tips for selecting an age-appropriate safety seat at Parents Central.
  4. a. Check the Mature Driver Laws chart at the Governors Highway Safety Association website for your state’s laws.
  5. b., but you may get partial credit for a., depending on your state. Every state has a financial responsibility law that requires a driver to affirm that insurance is in place when a license is issued. Some states allow a bond to be posted instead of proof of insurance. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for requirements in your state.

Homeowners Coverage Changes

Homeowners claims have been an issue with most of our carriers due to the increase in the severity and frequency of storms over the past several years.
Some companies have implemented several measures to offset the high cost of claims from these storms. One of these measures is to amend coverage the
companies offer. Some of these changes are important to be aware of:
Roof claims are being settled on ACV vs RC basis: If your roof is 15 years old or older and a loss occurs, you will be paid based on actual cash value vs the cost to replace your roof. The insurance company will take into consideration the age and condition of the roof and depreciate the cost to actually replace it.
Reduction in Water Back-Up Coverage: Most of our companies automatically provide some coverage for losses that are caused by or result from water that  backs up through sewers or drains. The limit that they offer may have been reduced on your renewal policy. There are limitations to most coverages on your Homeowners Policy and needs sometimes change. It is important that you review your Homeowners policy to make sure you have adequate coverage. Some companies are offering new roof discounts or the actual cash value endorsement on the roofs can be removed if you have
recently put on a new roof. The water back up coverage limit can be increased and most insured’s with a finished basement should be aware
of this limit and more than likely will require additional coverage. Please note that these types of changes can only be made upon the renewal of your policy. Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding your policy or would like to make changes in your current coverage.

Be alert for skimmers and scammers!

Before you swipe your bank card or credit card to make a payment or complete a bank transaction, be alert for skimmer devices attached inside or over the real card reader. Criminals use skimmers to capture the information from the magnetic strip on credit or debit cards, gaining unauthorized access to consumer accounts.

 

Skimmers have become increasingly prevalent as they are easy to put in place. The skimmer device fits right over or inside the real card reader. When the card is swiped, it passes through the skimmer before going into the real reader. Skimmers have popped up at bank drive-through ATMs, gas stations and other businesses, especially in remote locations or places that are difficult to monitor.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your account information stays safe.

Look before you swipe

Look for signs of tampering or bulkiness of the card reader you are about to use. If it looks too thick, damaged, loose or just does not look right, report it to the bank or business and use a different machine. Consumers have even reported parts of skimmers coming off the ATM. The FBI offers additional tips and illustrations of what to look for.  If you see someone tampering with or hanging around an ATM machine, report this information as soon as possible to law enforcement or the bank or related business hosting the machine. Sometimes criminals hang around machines to collect information via a Bluetooth connection or wait for an opportunity to add a skimmer or make changes to a machine.

Protect your chipped card

Many newer credit cards have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. The chips use a wireless, electromagnetic field to transmit information across short distances. Criminals use small remote skimmers that can be concealed in a pocket to collect information from the RFID chip. With these skimmers, the card need not be physically swiped to compromise the information. The electronic pickpocket need only walk a few feet away from you to collect information from the chip.

To prevent information theft, use a card carrier with a lined casing to shield the signal from the card. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation put out a Consumer Alert describing additional measures you can take, such as stacking several RFID-equipped cards together.

What to do if you’re hacked

If you do fall victim to a skimmer or RFID scam, immediately report it to law enforcement, providing as many details as possible. Contact the security department of your bank or the retailer whose card was compromised. Close the account and put a fraud alert on your credit file. Find additional information to protect your accounts on our identity theft prevention site and from the Federal Trade Commission.

Smart parents monitor smartphone, tablet gifts

Planning to get your kids a smartphone or tablet this holiday season? With schools using technology in classes and kids being exposed to these devices at an early age, the question is often a matter of when, not if. Parents may have questions and concerns about how to keep kids safe online. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

SET THE RULES

The first thing you can do to help protect your children online is to set ground rules:

  • Outline how much time during the day they can spend on the device
  • Establish who your children can call
  • Discuss how to behave respectfully online

For a fee, many cell phone providers offer parental controls and location services to help you manage usage times and limit who your child can place calls to and receive calls from.

You may also want to consider having your child sign a cell phone contract with you.

SOCIAL NETWORKING SAFETY

With devices come apps, and many social networking apps involve setting up a profile and sharing information around common interests or activities. These apps can be fun and addicting, but if you aren’t familiar with them yourself, they can be intimidating. Check out the sites and services your child uses.

Discuss what is and is not appropriate to post, so that your child doesn’t share more information online than you are comfortable with. The following tips from the National Crime Prevention Council can help your child think before he or she posts:

  • Should I share this? Will the information I share put me or someone else in danger?
  • Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with? Is it a good idea to let everyone know my exact location?
  • Am I selecting online friends that I can trust? It’s not just about what I post, but how others may use that content.
  • Is the information I am sharing transparent? Before I share information to the public, does my post give out too much personal information?
PREVENT CYBER BULLYING

Cyber bullying involves threats or harassment that happens online. This can be words or pictures that are posted with the intention of hurting someone’s reputation or feelings. The OnGuardOnline website sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission gives tips to recognize and prevent cyber bullying and provides additional resources for parents. The Cyberbullying Research Center also provides guidelines for parents.

Five simple tips before hitting the road this holiday season

 

The Ayres Group offers offers five simple tips before hitting the road this holiday season to help improve travel safety:

  1. Whether your trip is 50 or 500 miles, take time to check, change or top-off your oil, coolant, brake and transmission fluids. This helps important car systems to perform well.
  2. If your windshield wipers are not working well or are more than six months old, it’s a good idea to replace them. Bad windshield wipers make driving in the rain on unfamiliar roads more dangerous.
  3. Have your tires checked and consider having them rotated.  Err on the side of caution by replacing any tires that look suspect, as tire blow-outs can be dangerous. Replacing a flat tire while on your trip can also deflate an enjoyable family getaway.
  4. Check your headlights and taillights to make sure all are working. New bulbs are easy to install, inexpensive, improve visibility and safety. Importantly, in most states you can also receive a traffic violation for a non-working vehicle exterior light.
  5. Perhaps the most simple and often forgotten pre-road trip tip is to clean your windows on the inside and out to increase visibility.  During the holidays, many are traveling on unfamiliar roads and often in the dark, so having good visibility is important.