College students, it’s time to take stock of your stuff

If you are among the millions of young adults packing up to head off to college, now is a great time to take stock of all of your electronics, sports equipment, musical instruments and other items that you would need to replace in the event of fire, theft or other hardship.

Most people, not just college students, have no idea how many things they own. While big-ticket items like computers, cell phones and bicycles may come to mind, other purchases may surprise you. Consider how many pairs of shoes you own, clothing or other personal items; $100 here, $100 there, and soon you’ve tallied up thousands of dollars.

It’s important to know that the amount of insurance you have is sufficient to cover your losses. While most college students living in a dorm or other college housing have some coverage under their parents’ homeowners policy, that coverage may be limited to only 10 percent of the coverage for contents (for example, $10,000 on a $100,000 policy).

More importantly, if you are renting a house, condo or apartment, you may need renter’s insurance because your property may not be covered under your parents’ policy.

A first step in determining if you have adequate coverage is to know what you own. These tips can help:

  • While you’re packing, take a video or photographs of the things you’re taking with you.
  • Record descriptions of each item, making note of brand names and serial numbers.
  • As you make new purchases, keep your receipts as a record of costs and dates of purchase.
  • Store your list along with receipts and other documentation in a safe location away from your living space. You may want to consider uploading it to an electronic storage space.

After you have taken an inventory of your personal property, you should have a clearer picture of how much you have and how much it is worth. Next, you will want to make sure you have a sufficient limit of insurance.

Ask your local, independent insurance agent about adding a Student Personal Effects endorsement to your parents’ policy. You may also want to make sure you have replacement cost coverage, so that in the event of a loss your recovery isn’t limited to the depreciated value of lost or damaged items.

College is a time for new and exciting experiences – most of them good – but if you have the misfortune of having your things stolen or destroyed, your inventory of personal property will facilitate the claims process.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Earthquakes in the breadbasket? Understand the risk

You probably know the Midwest as the breadbasket of the country, but do you know about its earthquake history? Should that concern you? If you live in the Midwest or the East, scientists and history suggest it should.

THE PAST

In the early 1800s, three of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history hit New Madrid, Missouri. The New Madrid fault area includes northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, western Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois. With the epicenter in Missouri, damage was reported as far away as South Carolina and Massachusetts.

THE PRESENT

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the New Madrid area continues to produce small to moderate earthquakes and is the most seismically active area of the United States east of the Rockies. Based on the history of past earthquakes, USGS estimates a 25-40 percent chance of a magnitude 6 or larger earthquake in the New Madrid area within the next 50 years.

YOUR AGENT CAN HELP

Most homeowner policies exclude earthquake coverage. So protect yourself now and speak with your agent about whether your homeowner policy automatically provides earthquake coverage for your home and your personal belongings. If not, ask whether you can purchase earthquake coverage, and what type of deductible may apply.

The time to know what your insurance provides for damages caused by earthquakes is before one hits.

Contact your local independent insurance agent for details.

RELATED INFORMATION

For information about preparing for an earthquake, visit Ready.gov’s earthquake page.

For information about what to do after an earthquake, visit the Central United States Earthquake Consortium Page.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Fire danger in the construction zone

Fires are a significant hazard on construction sites. A November 2014 National Fire Protection Association report found that between 2007 and 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 5,120 structure fires in residential properties that were either under construction or undergoing major renovation.

Each year, those fires led to an average of nine deaths, 94 injuries and $265 million in direct property damage. Firefighter deaths and injuries are not included in those statistics.

But proper planning and monitoring can improve your chances of completing a project without incident.

PROJECT PLANNING
Before beginning a construction project:

  • Review the construction site, contemplating adjacent exposures that may affect the project Look at how accessible the site would be for firefighters and their equipment
  • Develop a site-specific fire prevention plan, educating employees about what to do in case of fire
  • Establish a Hot Work Permit program that requires operations involving any sparks, open flames or heat-producing activities to follow safety protocols before, during and after work has been completed.

DURING CONSTRUCTION
Throughout construction, conduct thorough on-site inspections. Trained representatives of your project management team should inspect the site daily and retain all documentation. Inspections should include:

  • Active construction areas
  • Material storage areas, including special consideration for flammable items
  • Construction trailers and temporary structures Site perimeter and adjacent property exposures
  • Mobile construction equipment storage areas

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • All construction trailers, storage trailers and offices should be made of noncombustible material and be at least 50 feet away from the construction site and at least 30 feet from each other.
  • Fire department site access areas must be clearly identified, maintained and unobstructed at all times. Access to fire hydrants or qualified water supplies for firefighting must be readily available whether adjacent to or within the boundaries of the project site.
  • Store all combustible materials safely and consider ordering them as needed to minimize the amount on hand. Spontaneous combustion of paint solvents, oily rags and similar materials discarded with trash can lead to a major loss.
  • Establish and strictly enforce a no smoking policy throughout the duration of the project.
  • Provide fire extinguishers, rated not less than 2A, for each 3,000 square feet of the protected building area. The travel distance from any point of the protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher must not exceed 100 feet per Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. When there are multiple levels, OSHA requires an extinguisher be placed near the staircase on every level.
  • Enforce good housekeeping in areas around permanent electrical installations, preventing accumulation of debris or combustible materials near live electricity. Temporary electrical equipment should have ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Install and activate an automatic sprinkler system as soon as possible after the building shell has been completed.
  • Collect all demolition and construction material as soon as possible. Removal of discarded materials should be done by a qualified disposal service on a regular basis – daily, if necessary –to eliminate accumulation of refuse. Position dumpsters away from buildings. Use metal containers with close-fitting lids for rags. Avoid burning any refuse, but if unavoidable, burn at least 150 feet from buildings. Some jurisdictions prohibit open burning; remember to follow any local burning bans and observe any red-flag warnings in wildfire and forest fire areas.
  • Provide safe temporary heaters. Secure them on a solid base away from any woodwork and keep the floor free of all combustible material. Before leaving, be sure the heater is turned off.

Fire exposures are high and constantly changing throughout the course of construction. Key personnel on site must always know it’s their responsibility to follow fire control procedures. Contractors have a responsibility to make sure that a fire control plan is specific, adequate and – most importantly – executed.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Consumer alert: Check your circuit breaker

Millions of Americans may be in danger from defective electrical equipment in their homes, yet may not be aware of the risk. If you reside in a home with electrical circuit breakers and panels installed in the mid-1950s through the early 1980s, have your equipment inspected and replaced, if necessary.

 

During that period, Federal Electric, later known as Federal Pacific Electric Co. (FPE), manufactured electrical distribution equipment, including STAB-LOK circuit breakers and panels. A circuit breaker is designed to cut off the flow of electricity when there is excessive electrical demand or a short circuit, also known as arcing. A defect in the FPE equipment could prevent this from happening, causing a fire.

While STAB-LOK breakers and panels are no longer manufactured, millions are estimated to remain in residences throughout the country. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded an investigation of the equipment in 1983, but due to budgetary constraints the Commission chose not to undertake a full assessment of the STAB-LOK breakers. More information is available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Because of failure rates and questionable Underwriters Laboratories (UL) acceptance testing, The Cincinnati Insurance Company’s Loss Control department recommends that a qualified and licensed electrician replace these circuit breakers and panels with new equipment.

More information about STAB-LOK equipment is available in this investigative report by NBC Bay Area Channel 11. For help in identifying STAB-LOK circuit breakers and panels,

Consumer alert: Check your circuit breaker – The Cincinnati Insurance Companies blog

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.
Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Replacement cost for your home’s contents

If you want to restore the comforts of your home in the event of a loss, it’s best to choose replacement cost coverage on your household contents. It could be worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars to your family.

Most homeowners insurance policies cover personal property for its actual cash value. To cover your contents for the cost to replace them – new for old –  request replacement cost contents coverage.

WHAT IS ACTUAL CASH VALUE?

Actual cash value is replacement cost minus reasonable depreciation. The actual cash value of your household property is what the items are worth at the time of a loss. For example, a television set usually lasts about 10 years. If you own a 5-year-old TV, about half of its life is used up. While you would pay $800 to replace it with a new one, its actual cash value is around $400. Homeowners insurance usually pays actual cash value (after the deductible) for your damaged or stolen TV.

REPLACEMENT COST CONTENTS COVERAGE IS AVAILABLE

With replacement cost contents coverage, no deduction is made for depreciation. Your homeowners insurance pays the full replacement cost of a new item of the same kind and quality, minus the policy deductible. Most policies require that you actually replace the item before replacement cost is paid.

Ask your local independent agent about replacement cost contents coverage. It lets you recover costs up to the full amount of your contents insurance limit. For example, your 10-year-old TV has an actual cash value of $100, but it would cost $800 to replace it with a new one. With replacement cost contents coverage, you could receive the full $800 for the new TV, subject to policy conditions, deductible and content limits.

This coverage would not apply to rare or antique items, those with sentimental value, or items insured under special limits of liability.

Talk to your local Ayres Group agent to learn about options to insure your comforts of home at appropriate values.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

7 questions to ask your agent about homeowner insurance

When you’re shopping for homeowner insurance, remember that policies can vary widely. Some coverages may be included, and others may be available for additional premium.

 

Here are some questions you might want to ask your independent insurance agent:

    1. Is my home covered for full replacement cost? This is one of the key distinctions between homeowner policies, and you’ll want to know the answer. If your home is covered only for its current market value – or worse, your loan amount – you are likely underinsured and would not be able to rebuild the home to its current state in the event of a loss. Make sure the insured value takes into consideration all of your home’s features. The cost to rebuild is likely to be significantly more than the current market value or your loan amount.
    2. How much is the deductible on my policy? The deductible is the amount of a loss that you pay. If you can afford a high deductible with savings or other resources, you can usually reduce your premiums. Your agent can help you find the right balance.
    3. Does my policy include earthquake coverage? Not all policies do. If yours doesn’t, you may be able to obtain earthquake coverage for additional premium. Your agent can advise you on the need for earthquake coverage in your area. Don’t assume that you don’t need it.
    4. How much coverage do I have on the contents of my home? Contents coverage is usually a percentage of the insured value of the home. Some policies automatically provide contents coverage of 50 percent of the value of the structure, others provide 70 or 75 percent. And, you may be able to increase the amount of coverage for additional premium.
    5. Does my policy insure against water damage from sewer backups, sump overflows or water pressure from below the ground surface? Most standard policies do not provide coverage for these losses, but you may be able to obtain coverage for additional premium.
    6. Does my policy provide any coverage for disappearance of jewelry or silverware? While a policy may provide a specified limit of coverage for theft of these items, “mysterious disappearance” of these items may not be covered. Ask your agent to clarify this, and inquire if coverage is available at additional premium.
    7. Does my policy provide any liability coverage for slander, libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy or identity theft? Some homeowner policies automatically cover these items while others require an extra premium. Know before you buy.

Ask your Ayres Group agent to help you evaluate your needs and your situation so that you have no surprises should you have a claim.

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.

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

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

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