Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa reviews his insurance policies

Santa is a busy man this time of year, making toys and preparing his sleigh for the big day. Like many business owners, he relies on his local Ayres Group Agent. Santa has the policies he needs to cover his workshop, employees and their products. Do you?

Read Santa’s insurance list, then contact your local Ayres Group Agent to help you check yours.

 

santa-small-infographic

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Don’t fall victim to a crime this holiday season

The busy holiday season provides numerous chances for crimes of opportunity.

From robberies to identity theft, criminals are looking for ways to steal your gifts, credit card information, cars and anything else they can take easily.

Safety starts at home

Burglaries increase by 11% during the holidays, and property stolen from vehicles increases 17%.

And there are some risky behaviors that can increase the chances of a robbery claim. More than 50% of Americans say they have left a door unlocked for a friend or family member and 52% have left a key hidden somewhere. This also means easy access for would-be burglars.

Frequently, Christmas trees are near doors or windows, providing burglars with a clear view of the presents under the tree. Consider storing gifts out of sight and putting them under the tree Christmas Eve to make them less enticing to thieves. Use timers for lights throughout the house to make the home appear occupied and help keep robbers away. Make sure doors and windows are locked before leaving or going to bed.

Related: Christmas tree fires: A deadly hazard you can prevent

While you’re spreading some holiday cheer this season, don’t forget to take these precautions to avoid becoming an unintended victim.

Christmas tree fires: A deadly hazard you can prevent

Each year, U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 230 home structure fires that start with Christmas trees. Home Christmas tree fires cause an average of six deaths, 22 injuries and more than $18 million in direct property damage annually, and the danger can extend beyond Christmas.

According to a November 2015 report on Christmas tree fires by the National Fire Protection Association, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires results in a death. Nationally, an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires occurs – meaning fires that start with a Christmas tree are more than three times as likely to result in a fatality.

Electrical failures or malfunctions are involved in nearly one-third (32 percent) of home Christmas tree structure fires. Decorative lights are involved in 12 percent of these incidents. Seven percent of home Christmas tree fires were started by candles.

Home Christmas tree fires are about equally likely to occur in December (44 percent) and January (37 percent), the NFPA found, with the 10 dates with the largest shares of home Christmas tree structure fires occurring after Christmas.

To prevent a Christmas tree fire and holiday injuries in your home:

  • Check the tree for freshness when you buy it, and inspect it daily for signs of aging. A fresh tree is green. Its needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, a fresh tree should not lose many needles.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water.
  • Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways and exits with the tree.
  • Place live trees away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, monitor water levels daily. A heat source too close to the tree causes one in six (16 percent) Christmas tree fires.
  • Use tree lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Lights for both indoor and outdoor use must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify. UL’s red holographic label signifies the lights meet safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies the light meets requirements for indoor use only.
  • Check each set of lights. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets.
  • Make sure Christmas tree lights are off before going to bed each night or if leaving your home for extended periods.
  • Check extension cords. Make sure each extension cord is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • Be aware of burnt out lights or cords too close to the tree.
  • Keep holiday candles away from Christmas trees, surrounding furniture and décor.
  • Look for the label “fire resistant,” if buying an artificial tree. Although the label does not mean the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  • Prevent shock; do not use electric lights with metallic trees.

And, as the holiday season progresses, keep an eye on the general condition of the tree. If you doubt its safety, set it outside and discard or recycle.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Coverage for your collector vehicle: Agreed value

Certain strokes of engineering border on artwork: an idea that manifests itself in the creation of something truly beautiful.

Imagine yourself behind the wheel of one of those beautiful pieces of machinery, zooming through a twisting, scenic, back country road usually reserved for a postcard. Sunlight reflects off the mirror-like finish, and the engine purrs sweetly, tuned ever so carefully down to the most minute detail.

You open your garage door and admire it, ready to climb in and escape for a while. But one large question lurks in the back of your mind: how do I make sure my investment is properly insured?

Unlike a regular passenger vehicle that you drive every day and that depreciates over time, a collector car is an investment. In more cases than not, it appreciates in value. Properly insuring the vehicle to an acceptable value is essential.

Your insurance company should be able to insure the vehicle on an agreed value basis, where you and the insurance company agree in advance that in the event of a covered total loss, the agreed value is the amount you will receive for the vehicle. Depending on the value of the vehicle, the company may require that the vehicle be professionally appraised prior to insuring it. Having an appraisal regardless of value can set your mind at ease as well as give your insurer confidence there will be no difference of opinion on the value of your treasured vehicle.

Adding a collector car to an existing auto policy also adds an element of simplicity to the insurance process. Instead of dealing with multiple policies with multiple carriers, you’ll have one policy and one carrier. The same liability coverages should apply to your collector car as they would to your everyday vehicle. In addition, the collector vehicle could also earn an additional credit from a multi-car discount.

When choosing a company to insure your collector vehicle, make sure the company can offer you agreed value as well as an option to insure the car on the same policy as your everyday vehicles. These two aspects of insuring a collector vehicle are sometimes overlooked, but are the most important considerations. Your Ayres Group agent can advise you.

By streamlining the process, you spend more time enjoying your vehicle and less time worrying about how to insure it.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

It happens: Sewer backup

Sometimes sewer backups happen. We look for someone to blame, but often there just isn’t blame to be found. How do we prevent it from happening? And if it does, how do we protect ourselves from the financial storm that follows?

Suppose for a minute that you just spent $10,000 converting an unfinished basement into your awesome new recreation room. Somehow, the sewage backup that occurred three weeks later, ruining your new carpet, furniture and recently installed drywall didn’t factor into your vision of awesomeness. What a horrible, stench-filled mess. You’re disgusted, angry and someone’s going to have to pay for this affront. Wait until you find out that someone is you.

Let’s start with your local sewer utility: wouldn’t it be their fault? The answer is “maybe,” but more likely it is “probably not.” Because sewer utilities provide a public health service, and in many cases are governmental entities, even when they are responsible they may enjoy some form of immunity or cap on damages that limits their liability. State laws vary, so this scenario could differ based on your location.

Next, the backup might not have occurred in the sewer main at all; it could have been an issue with your lateral – the sewer line running from the building to the sewer main. In almost every case, the sewer utility is not responsible for the maintenance and working condition of the lateral; the property owner is. Repairing or replacing the lateral is expensive. Thankfully, many plumbing contractors can perform a camera inspection to determine its condition. Often clogs, including root balls from trees, can be removed at a reasonable cost.

So it’s nobody’s fault, but the homeowner’s insurance policy will cover this claim, right? Again, it depends. Many homeowner (and for that matter, business) policies exclude sewer backup. Unless your policy has been endorsed to specifically provide this coverage, there is likely no coverage. Fortunately most companies are willing to add coverage for a modest premium. Check with your agent to confirm that your policy includes this coverage, or add it if you don’t.

Could this loss have been prevented? There are multiple backflow prevention devices available that can be installed by a plumber. Check with your local plumber to see if this is a sensible option for you; particularly if your property has a history of sewer backup issues. Your local sewer utility can often be a helpful resource for prevention ideas as well. These devices aren’t 100 percent effective, so you’ll want to do your homework.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Bright idea: Check your holiday lights

Holiday lights can brighten the season – literally and emotionally – but they also present potential risk for fire and shock hazards. Before installing holiday lighting, take extra time to do a safety check to protect people and property.

Holiday lights and other decorative lighting contribute to an estimated 150 home structure fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, with an average of nine deaths, 16 injuries and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 64 percent of the fires.

Reduce the risk of fire and shock from holiday lights by taking these steps recommended by theConsumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Use indoor and outdoor lights that conform with safety standards and that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Use only lights that have plugs containing fuses.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Ensure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
  • Forego electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Check labels before using lights outdoors to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – this could cause stress on the connections that could create a fire hazard.
  • Plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends switching to LED lights to reduce heat and the risk of combustion or burnt fingers. In addition to being sturdier and more resistant to breakage, LED holiday lights last longer and consume 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. It costs only $0.27 to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs compared to $10 for incandescent lights.

A new safety rule for seasonal and decorative lights went into effect in June, allowing the CPSC to remove hazardous seasonal and decorative lights from the market faster and more effectively. If lights do not meet safety standards, the agency can require the manufacturer to recall the lights and can block imports of unsafe lights.

As you inspect newly purchased lights, check for:

  • wires that appear frayed, damaged or inadequate to carry the current according to the manufacturer’s instruction
  • strands that do not remain intact and functioning or pull out of the plug when stretched
  • lights that do not shut off to guard against excess current – such as with a fuse or ground fault circuit interrupter

To report a dangerous decorative or seasonal light, go online to www.SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC’s Hotline at 800-638-2772 or use its teletypewriter for the hearing impaired at301-595-7054.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace, offers additional safety tips for Indoor Lights and Electrical Decor.

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Prep your car for travel in winter weather

Smartphones offer drivers a sense of security, with the promise that help is just a phone call away. But especially in extreme conditions, don’t count on your phone alone to keep you safe or to share your location in an emergency situation. Keep in mind that location services are not always accurate depending on network coverage in your location, the cell tower your phone connects to and other variables.

Take additional precautions before winter travel in case you become stranded in your car. Before setting out, tell your family or a friend which route you will be taking. If you become stranded, it’s better in most cases to stay with your car and let rescuers find you. Keep your phone plugged in and fully charged during your trip to better ensure it operates when needed. But if your smartphone location sharing lets you down, your preparations can keep you safe and comfortable while you wait for help.

SERVICE YOUR VEHICLE

Before heading out in the winter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov website outlines items a mechanic should check on your car:

  • Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights – check that all are functioning properly.
  • Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires – make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
EMERGENCY KIT

In addition, carry an emergency kit in your car:

  • a shovel
  • windshield scraper and small broom
  • flashlight
  • battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • water and snack food
  • matches
  • extra hats, socks and mittens
  • first aid kit with pocket knife
  • necessary medications
  • blanket(s)
  • tow chain or rope
  • road salt and sand
  • booster cables
  • emergency flares
  • fluorescent distress flag
IF YOU BECOME STRANDED

If you are broken down or stuck in your vehicle in a winter storm, stay put and wait for help. Consider these tips from the Montana Department of Transportation:

  • Keep calm
  • Indicate to others that you are in trouble if you are on a well-traveled road. Use the signaling devices in your survival kit, emergency lights on your vehicle or raise the hood and tie something bright to your antenna
  • Remain in your vehicle unless you see a house or building within walking distance
  • Run the engine to keep warm, but do it sparingly
  • Check the exhaust pipe of your car to ensure snow has not blocked it. If this happens, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Exercise, clap your hands, move your arms and legs vigorously or do other isometric exercises to keep your circulation going
  • Take turns on watch if possible
  • Stay awake if you are alone
  • Ensure other drivers can see you if you are pulled over. Use hazard lights or auxiliary warning devices such as reflective triangles or flares; place the first one 10 feet from your car, the second 100 feet away and the third 200 feet away. On an undivided road, put one triangle 100 feet in front of your car, one 10 feet behind and another 100 feet behind.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Keep safe and warm when using space heaters

Many of us use portable electric space heaters to help keep us warm, but they can be hazardous if not used properly. Take precautions to keep your family safe from fire or burns.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an average of 50,100 home heating fires occurred in the U.S. each year from 2008 to 2010. About 900 fires are attributed to portable heaters. While they represent only 2 percent of home heating fires, portable heaters were involved in 45 percent of all heating fires with a fatality.

Before you use an electric space heater:

  • Check to be sure the heater is clean and in good condition. Thoroughly inspect the cord and plug of electrical heaters for damage. You can check whether it is certified by Underwriters Laboratories.
  • Place heaters out of high traffic areas and on a level, hard, nonflammable floor surface – not on carpets, rugs, furniture or countertops.
  • Place the heater at least three feet from combustible liquids as well as flammable items such as draperies, blankets and sofas.
  • Take care when moving around space heaters not to brush up against them or drag loose clothing.
  • Do not use space heaters to thaw pipes, cook food or dry clothing or towels.
  • Keep children and pets away from an electric space heater as accidental contact could result in serious shock or burns.
  • Do not place heaters under desks or other enclosed areas.
  • Never leave the heater operating while unattended or while you are sleeping.
  • Never power an electric space heater with an extension cord or power strip.
  • Never run an electric space heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting.

Note that unvented kerosene and gas heaters have been banned in many jurisdictions. Kerosene, gas and propane heaters — anything that uses combustible fuel — present additional risk of death or injury from carbon monoxide poisoning and are not recommended for use in closed spaces.

As an added precaution, check smoke alarms to be sure they are in proper working order before using electric heaters.

Don’t let equipment breakdown ruin your day

Imagine coming home from a weeklong vacation to find that an electrical outage damaged the air-conditioning compressor, and your AC is out.

Or, you arrive home from work on a Friday after a long, hectic week, planning to settle in to enjoy the latest movies. As soon as you kick off your shoes and click the power button on the remote, you realize something is wrong. You discover that a power surge during a storm earlier in the day has fried your home entertainment equipment.

Sudden and accidental breakdown of your home’s mechanical systems and electrically powered equipment can disrupt the peace and relaxation you enjoy at home. Equipment breakdown insurance can help you manage these unexpected events.

While insurance does not cover wear and tear, it may be available to cover the cost of diagnosing and repairing insured equipment and to reimburse you for additional living expenses when you are displaced by a covered loss.

Your insurance agent can advise you on whether equipment breakdown coverage is included in your homeowner policy or whether you should consider broader coverage available by purchasing an endorsement or policy addition.

You can purchase equipment breakdown insurance that includes coverage for heating and cooling systems or equipment that generates, transmits or uses energy:

  • computer equipment
  • home theater and audio system equipment
  • wine cooling units
  • swimming pool equipment
  • refrigerators
  • other appliances

Also consider coverage that extends to the equipment used in another structure on your premises, such as a pool house or outbuilding.

Equipment breakdown coverage generally excludes coverage for: piping that is part of a fire protective sprinkler system, water piping other than boiler feedwater piping, boiler condensation return piping or water piping forming a part of a refrigerating or air conditioning system; appliances other than those permanently installed; personal electronic devices; software; and pinball machines, arcade electronic games or video gaming systems. It also generally excludes business property, property not owned by the insured and property not at the residence.

Be aware that equipment breakdown coverage offered through your insurer is not a home warranty. Home warranties generally limit covered property or charge additional premiums for each item. Equipment breakdown through a policy feature or endorsement would cover your equipment and personal property for one premium.

Give yourself the peace of mind and convenience of insurance to help manage life’s unexpected events.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group independent agent.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Beware of falling televisions

College and professional football season prompts many fans to upgrade their televisions. Where viewing is concerned, bigger is better. But bigger can also be more dangerous, with larger TVs creating unanticipated hazards at home.

More than 17,000 children – one every 30 minutes – are treated in emergency rooms across the country for TV-related injuries every year, and the rate of children being hurt from televisions tipping over has nearly doubled in two decades, according to a 2013 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When families purchase new televisions, they often move their older, bulkier sets to other rooms and place them on bookcases, dressers or small tables that were not intended for televisions. That creates instability. Older cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions are front-heavy, making them more prone to tip over.

To help keep your family safe:

  • make sure the new television is anchored
  • ensure older televisions are anchored or placed on sturdy surfaces

Up to 12,700 pounds of force strikes a child when an l unanchored CRT television (screen size 19-32 inches) topples off furniture, based on a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission test. About 2,100 pounds of force strikes a child when a flat screen television in the same size range falls. This is the equivalent of 10 times the force of two NFL linemen colliding at full speed.

The CPSC examined 51 deaths from 2010 to 2012 involving television tipovers and found:

  • 88 percent were children under 4 years old
  • 60 percent involved either 27- or 32-inch televisions

CPSC estimates that emergency rooms treated 9,800 TV tipover injuries to children younger than 9 each year between 2011 and 2013. Children under 3 accounted for most of the injuries.

On its Anchorit.gov website, CPSC offers these tips to prevent injuries from falling televisions:

  • Place the TV on sturdy furniture appropriate for the size of the TV or on a low-rise base.
  • Secure the TV to the furniture with straps, brackets or braces to prevent the TV from sliding.
  • Mount flat-screen TVs to the wall or to furniture to prevent them from toppling over. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure a secure fit.
  • Place any large, heavy CRT TV on a low, stable piece of furniture. If you no longer use your CRT TV, consider recycling it.
  • Secure top-heavy furniture to the wall with brackets, braces or wall straps.
  • Place electrical cords out of a child’s reach and teach children not to play with them.
  • Remove items from the top of the TV and furniture that might tempt kids to climb, for example, tablet computers, toys and remote controls.

Maximize your family time and minimize time in the emergency room by making sure TVs are anchored and stable.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com