Thursday, December 17, 2009

Safe Driving This Holiday Season

This holiday season, I am sure you all have a party or two to go to. Here is some information on the dangers of drunk driving & how to keep yourself safe this holiday season.

Every day, 36 people in the United States die, and approximately 700 more are injured, in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion.

The latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study revealed there were nearly 13,500 alcohol-related fatalities—one death every 39 minutes.

What can I do to help reduce drunk-driving incidents?
The best way to help curb the nation’s drunk-driving crisis is not to contribute to the problem. If you’ve had too much to drink, do not attempt to drive. Instead, call for a cab or ask a sober friend to take you home.

Likewise, never accept a ride from someone who has been drinking. And, do not allow intoxicated friends to get behind the wheel of a car.

How can I protect myself from drunk drivers?
It is estimated, approximately four million innocent people are injured or have their vehicles damaged in alcohol-related accidents each year.

To protect yourself, wear your seat belt at all times, and make sure children are secured in child safety seats in the back seat. Also, be aware of the warning signs of drunk drivers.

What are the warning signs of a drunk driver?
Be cautious of any driver who:

  • makes unnecessarily wide turns;

  • straddles lanes or drives on the median line;

  • drives at night without headlights;

  • drives at speeds below the speed limit;

  • brakes erratically or stops without cause;

  • accelerates or decelerates rapidly; and/or

  • nearly strikes an object or curb.

What should I do if I encounter a drunk driver on the road?
If you notice a driver displaying any of the warning signs, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle and do not attempt to stop it.

Instead, note the vehicle’s license plate number, the vehicle’s description and the direction in which it is traveling. Then contact the police from a cell phone or nearby pay phone. Your action could save lives.

I’m hosting a party and I’m concerned about my guests drinking and driving. What can I do to reduce the risk?
Home hosts have a duty to serve alcohol responsibly and conscientiously. They need to see intoxicated guests do not get behind the wheel of a car, creating a risk of harm to themselves and others on the road.

Follow these tips to ensure safety when serving alcohol at your next party:

  • Serve alcoholic drinks only upon request, and offer nonalcoholic beverages such as sparkling water, fancy juice drinks and soft drinks.

  • Avoid making alcohol the main focus of the social event. Entertain guests with music, games and dancing.

  • Always serve food when serving alcohol. High-protein foods such as meat and cheeses take longer to digest, slowing the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol. However, try not to serve salty foods, which make people thirsty and inclined to drink more.

  • Be careful not to serve alcohol to minors. Limit access to the bar if minors are on the guest list, and verify the ages of young guests before serving them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It’s winter—pay special attention to fire safety

December, January and February are the leading months for home fires and fire deaths in the U.S. On average, more than one-third of home fire deaths in the United States occur during the winter months. Here are tips to help you protect your family and your home.

How can I heat my home safely?
According to a report from the National Fire Prevention Association, heating equipment fires are the second-leading cause of fire deaths in American homes and the biggest fire culprit December through February. According to the association, most fires could be avoided by taking simple safety precautions.
  • Select equipment that bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Be sure the equipment is installed by a trained professional, in compliance with local fire and building codes.
  • Keep all portable heaters (whether powered by electricity or fuel) at least 36 inches from anything that can burn—including furniture, bedding, clothing, pets and people.
  • Run space heaters only when you are in the room and awake. And, supervise all children and pets when the heaters are in use.
  • If you are using a portable kerosene heater, use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer. Store the kerosene away from heat or open flame in a container approved by your local fire department, and be sure it’s clearly marked with the fuel name.
  • Have your chimney inspected (and cleaned, if necessary) prior to the start of every heating season.
  • If using a wood stove, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for installation, use and maintenance.
  • When disposing of the ashes from your fireplace or wood stove, first make sure all embers are extinguished. Put water on them to be sure. Discard away from the home.

What hazards should I look out for during the holiday season?
’Tis the season for celebrating—more entertaining, more cooking and an increased risk of fire. Keep your family safe this holiday season with these tips.

  • Use care when burning candles. Make sure they are in sturdy holders, kept well away from decorations and out of the reach of children or pets.
  • Never use candles to decorate your Christmas tree.
  • Don’t leave items you’re cooking unattended—it’s the leading cause of fire in the U.S.
  • Choose an artificial or fresh Christmas tree and place it well away from heat sources. Water fresh trees every day.
  • If using an artificial tree, make sure it’s flame retardant.
  • Replace any lights with frayed or damaged cords. And, always unplug all lights before leaving home or going to sleep.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Be sure the candles in your menorah have burned out before you leave the house or go to sleep.

Also, be sure your homeowners insurance reflects the amount of coverage you need to replace your home and possessions. This could mean checking to be sure you have replacement cost coverage.

Call our agency. We’ll be glad to review and explain your coverage to you. 888-565-2212

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey

Have you ever deep fried a turkey or perhaps you are thinking of deep frying a turkey this year? What started out as a Southern tradition, had become a mainstream way of cooking a turkey, especially at Thanksgiving.

Whether its a plain turkey or the ever popular, turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck & then stuffed with a chicken, whatever your taste, and whenever you choose to cook it, if a tasty deep-fried bird is in your plans, keep in mind that while it can be a very social and fun time with friends and family, it can also be very dangerous.
The biggest rule when using turkey fryers is to never leave them unattended! Many dangers associated with turkey fryers are due to consumer misuse or inattentiveness, and really, it is a two-person job. To prevent the risk of a tip-over, overheating, or spilling hot oil that could lead to fire and severe burns, it’s important that turkey fryers be used under close supervision and with extreme caution.
Here are some safety tips when frying a bird:
  • Turkey fryers should be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and other material that can burn.
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks, in garages or in any covered area.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Keep the gas supply a safe distance from the fryer, and if the oil begins to smoke, immediately turn the supply off.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don’t watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow them near the turkey fryer. The oil inside can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching the pot or lid handles. The sides and handles of a fryer become very hot. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed. The National Turkey Federation recommends 24 hours of thawing for every five pounds of bird before cooking in a turkey fryer.
  • Be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 911 for help.
Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Council recommends consumers follow these safety guidelines as they prepare to use a turkey fryer:
  • Make sure there is at least two feet of space between the liquid propane tank and fryer burner.
  • Place the liquid propane gas tank and fryer so that any wind blows the heat of the fryer away from the gas tank.
  • Center the pot over the burner on the cooker.
  • Completely thaw and dry the turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add. If these are not available:
  • Place turkey in pot.
  • Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about 1/2 inch of water.
  • Remove and dry turkey.
  • Mark water level.
  • Dump water, dry the pot, and fill with oil to the marked level.
For more tips and topics, email Have a safe & Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don’t be tricked by Halloween fire hazards

Halloween can be a fun-filled time for children and adults alike. This Halloween, be sure to pay attention to certain fire safety guidelines to keep the trick or treaters safe and sound.

How can I keep my child’s costume safe?
Whether buying one or making your own, be sure fabrics for costumes and decorative materials are flame resistant. Don’t permit your children to go trick or treating with candles; instead, outfit each with his or her own flashlight. To be more festive, there are Halloween-themed flashlights created just for this purpose. Costumes should be made without billowing or long-trailing features that present a higher risk of igniting.

What hazards are in the home?
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, fires caused by candles have been soaring in recent years, as many families use candles to decorate during this time of year. When decorating, keep in mind that dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these items away from heat sources. Illuminate your jack-o-lanterns with small
flashlights instead of candles. Keep exits clear in case evacuation becomes necessary.

Are there other safety issues I should consider?
Although Halloween can be a lot of fun for children, certain safety precautions should be taken to ensure that the festivities are safe as well as fun. Keep in mind these safety tips when sending your child out trick or treating:

• Only visit the homes of people you know.

• Children should trick or treat in groups or with adult supervision.

• Wear reflective clothing so that motorists easily can see children crossing the street.

• Don’t eat any of the treats until you are at home and an adult has inspected all the goodies.

Planning ahead can keep your children and home safe this Halloween.

More questions? Call us 888-565-2212 or email us

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Answers to questions you may have before going on vacation.

How can I secure my house or apartment while I’m away?
Create a lived-in look to deter burglars. Do this by stopping newspaper and mail deliveries, asking a neighbor to park their car in your driveway occasionally, and putting lights on a timer or asking a neighbor to turn lights on in the evening. Use a telephone answering machine or call forwarding to quiet ringing telephones. And, make sure that all windows and doors are locked to make entry difficult for intruders.

If my home is burglarized or damaged by fire,
are all of my possessions covered?
Under a standard homeowners insurance policy for a single-family home, the contents of the home are normally covered for at least 50 percent of the amount of insurance on the building ($50,000 contents coverage on a house insured for $100,000). A renters policy is written for a specified dollar amount, based on what you own, to cover the loss of personal belongings in your apartment. There are special limits of liability on certain items in certain situations, however. Typically, there is a $100 or $200 limit on money and $1,000 on securities, passports, tickets and stamps. There is generally a $1,000 limit on watercraft, trailers and outboard motors. For fine jewelry, furs and watches that are stolen, a usual limit of $1,000 is set. And, there is typically a $2,000 limit for theft of guns and a $2,500 limit on theft of silverware, goldware and pewterware.

A home inventory is important to have should you become the victim of a burglary or fire. The inventory is a list of your possessions, including makes, models and serial numbers. Photographs or a videotape of your belongings are other ways of recording what you own. These records should be kept in a safe place away from the house or apartment so they would not be lost in the event of fire.

What if the items I take with me on vacation are stolen?
Your belongings generally are covered by your homeowners or renters policy anywhere in the world, including items in storage facilities, suitcase contents and items lent to friends. Exceptions to this are items usually kept at another residence of yours, which then would be limited to the greater of $1,000 or 10 percent of the personal property limit shown on your policy (some restrictions also apply to theft). Typically, you would have another policy to cover all the eligible property at that location, including loss by theft.

We’ll be traveling by car on vacation. Do you have any suggestions?
Check with our agency to make sure that your policy is up-to-date, and make sure the car is in good running condition. While traveling, be sure your passengers wear seat belts and young children ride in car seats at all times. Also, keep cameras, purses and other valuables with you while on vacation; never leave them in the car.

I plan to rent a car for this trip. Is it necessary to buy the insurance
the rental agency sells?
It may not be. Prior to leaving for vacation, check with your professional insurance agent to determine if your personal auto insurance policy covers damage to a rented vehicle, as many policies do. You may want to contact your major credit card company to ask if a rental car charged to that account is covered for damage. If you don’t have one of these pre-existing coverages, it may be wise to purchase insurance from the rental agency.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Do I need a separate insurance policy for my boat?

Is my boat covered under my homeowners policy or do I need a separate policy?
Most homeowners policies provide liability insurance for smaller motorboats with outboard motors of 25
horsepower or less, and for sailboats less than 26 feet long. Typically, there is $1,500 coverage for damage to the
boat for specified perils. However, theft and windstorm are limited and sinking is not covered at all.

What type of policy is best?
Boat owners are well served by a policy specifically designed to insure watercraft, offering all-risk coverage for
the boat’s full value. A boat owners policy provides the necessary liability, hull and motor coverage. The policies
follow the format of personal auto policies; however, they vary from company to company much more than auto
policies do because they are written on nonstandardized policies.

What should I look for when I select a policy or check my existing coverage?
• Limits of navigation, or where the boat can go and still be protected by the insurance policy;
• provisions for insuring sails, spars and other property on the boat;
• permissive users of the boat;
• exclusions for how the boat is used (e.g., commercial, parasailing, racing, etc.);
• all-risk versus named perils; and
• be certain the personal umbrella policy will include an underlying boat policy.

Do you have any other advice?

Consult our agency to determine what type of insurance best meets your needs. Read and make sure you
understand your policy. Periodically review your coverage with us and be sure that your craft is registered
properly. In addition, be certain to follow all laws of boat navigation, including laws regarding drinking and
boating, which are available from the U.S. Coast Guard and your local law enforcement agencies.

Is it illegal to drink alcohol while boating?
It is against federal law for a recreational boat operator to have a blood alcohol content higher than .08
and for other vessel operators to have a BAC of more than .04 percent. State laws apply for boaters in
waters within state geographical boundaries.

What is the law in New York state?
New York state law prohibits the operation of a boat on state waters while one is impaired by drugs or
alcohol or is intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more. Violators charged with boating while
intoxicated face up to a $1,000 fine; up to one year in jail; and loss of boat operating privileges for one year.

Is boating while intoxicated a widespread problem?
Federal Department of Transportation statistics show that nearly 700 boating fatalities occur in our nation
each year. Alcohol is reported officially as a factor in 21 percent of those deaths, although experts suspect the
number is much higher.

Got more questions that we didn't answer? Call the Insurance Geeks at 888-565-2212.
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