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Personal Insurance

Insurance Rates are on the Rise

Insurance companies have been warning us for years that we were going to be hit hard with rate increases.  And they meant it!

South Florida homeowners are getting hit with insurance rate increases unlike anything we’ve experienced before.  We’re seeing 30% to 40% increases over what people are currently paying and maybe more for some homeowners.

Why Insurance Rates are Increasing

Insurance rates are on the rise thanks to Hurricanes Irma and Michael in Florida, others in Texas and Louisiana, an extremely active fire season, rising claim abuses, an abundance of court litigation, the spike in reinsurance costs and many other reasons.

In addition, insurance companies are getting stricter on their underwriting requirements, including the age of your home and roof, proximity to water, and the county and state in which you live.

What was acceptable last year may not be acceptable this year. Insurance companies are licking their wounds from all the claims activity and increasing their restrictions.

Coverage You Need

At RMC, we can help you find the best coverage for your needs by maximizing your discounts and making sure you get everything that you are entitled to receive.

Not all insurance companies rate risks or look at claim’s history the same way.  Every home is different and comes with different risk.

Contact Us

Let us help you find the perfect fit for your insurance needs without sacrificing the coverage you truly need. We offer free insurance reviews to help you understand what you have and what you need.

Contact RMC Group for a free review or quote today at 239-298-8210 or [email protected].

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Personal Insurance

What is a Flood Zone?

Flood zones are geographical areas that share a risk of severe flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines an area’s zone using the Flood Insurance Study, a collection of flood risk data for specific waterways. Knowing your flood zone is important for understanding your flood insurance needs.

Special Flood Hazard Areas

Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are areas that are at high risk of flooding. FEMA will classify an area as an SFHA if it has a 1% chance of experiencing a highly damaging flood within a year.

If you live in an SFHA, other than a Zone D, and have a federally backed mortgage, your lender will require you to purchase flood insurance.

Zone A is an SFHA.  But FEMA has not established a statistically likely depth for damaging floods.

Zone AE include areas for which detailed hydraulic analyses provide elevation information for flooding.

Zone AH is susceptible to a type of shallow flooding known as ponding. Ponding occurs when runoff collects in a depression with no or limited drainage. Standing water in this zone is usually about 1 to 3 feet deep.

Zone AO is also susceptible to shallow flooding.  The most common type of flooding in Zone AO is sheet runoff, in which water flows downhill over sloping terrain. The water may reach a drainage system or channel, or it may dissipate first. Depths of sheet runoff are usually under 3 feet.

Zone AR is at high risk because a flood control structure, such as a levee, provides less protection than it once did. To constitute an AR designation, there must be a restoration plan in place for the structure, and the structure must still provide some protection.

Zone A99 is a community where a flood protection system is under construction. The construction must be federally approved and meet certain project progression milestones.

Zone D is an area with potential, but unspecified flood hazards.  This means that there has been no detailed analysis of hazards. Flood insurance is optional but recommended. Rates depend on the risk’s uncertainty level.

Zones V and VE are Coastal High Hazard Areas (CHHAs). These zones are susceptible to damage from fast-moving water and high waves that may exceed 3 feet. Base Flood Elevation (BFE) calculations are available for VE but not V zones. The VE flood zone is the newer designation for areas formerly known as V1 through V30.

Moderate Flood Hazard Areas

Moderate flood hazard areas are known as Zones B or X.  These areas are less likely than an SFHA to have a highly damaging flood but still have up to an 0.2% annual chance of severe flooding.

Minimal Flood Hazard Zones

Minimal flood hazard zones are higher in elevation than moderate flood hazard areas. These are labeled as Zones C or X.

Homeowners in moderate and minimal flood hazard areas are not required to buy flood insurance, though it is still recommended. Storms are becoming more severe nationwide, and that means a higher flood risk for everyone.

For more information on flood insurance or questions about which zone your home is in, contact RMC to speak with a licensed agent today.

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Personal Insurance

What Is Not Covered by Home Insurance?

Home insurance provides you with valuable financial protection, but it doesn’t cover everything. The good news is that you can usually fill in those gaps by purchasing additional coverage.

Here are a few of the exclusions you may see in your policy, along with what you can do to increase your protection.

1. Mold and Rot

Most home insurance won’t cover damage from mold and rot because these issues generally stem from poor home maintenance.

There are some exceptions. For example, if mold or mildew develops because of a burst pipe, your insurance may cover the cost of remediation.  In general, though, your safest bet is to prevent mold growth by controlling dampness and humidity in your home.

2. Flood and Earthquake Damage

Floods and earthquakes are both standard exclusions under most homeowners’ insurance policies. You can get flood insurance and earthquake insurance through participating insurers, and it’s a good idea to consider these policies even if you don’t live in a high-risk area.

Earthquakes can cause significant damage even if you’re far away from fault lines, and increases in severe weather events mean that any home is at risk for flood damage. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that 20% of all flood claims are filed for homes in low to moderate-risk areas.

3. Sewer Backups

The standard home insurance policy won’t cover damage from sewer backups.  Neither will flood insurance. That’s partly because homeowners are legally responsible for maintaining their own sanitary sewer lateral — the pipeline between your home and the municipal sewer main in the street. Even if a sewer backup happens because of a problem in the main, you’re still responsible for the damage.

The Civil Engineering Research Foundation calculates that the number of sewer backups is increasing at a rate of about 3% per year. It is worth looking into separate coverage which can be purchased or added as an endorsement to your home policy.

4. Termites and Other Pests

Pests are another issue that insurers consider to be preventable, so most home insurance won’t cover damage from infestations. This includes:

  • Rodent-chewed wiring and drywall
  • Bed bug removal
  • Termite damage

Termites alone cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year. The best way to prevent an expensive removal process is to keep your home in good repair. Fix leaks and holes as soon as you spot them, control humidity, and have a professional pest removal service check your home every year for signs of infestation.

5. Luxury Items

According to the III, because valuable items like jewelry and collectibles are easily stolen, most policies put a dollar value limit on coverage. You can increase your protection by raising the liability levels on individual pieces or by purchasing a stand-alone floater policy.

There may also be a coverage limit for cash that you keep in your home. Take your nest egg out from under your mattress and get it into an FDIC-certified account since you’ll have little recourse if it’s stolen or damaged in a flood or fire.

A Final Word

These are several of the most common things that home insurance won’t cover, but the list isn’t exhaustive.

To discuss what your policy excludes and what you can do to keep your belongings safe, contact RMC today to speak with a licensed agent.

Categories
Personal Insurance

Factors That Affect Homeowner’s Insurance Premiums

You may not know it, but your home insurance premiums are the result of complex calculations.

Insurance companies consider many different factors, from the condition of your home to your payment history.  Some of those factors are within your control as a homeowner and others are not.

Here are some of the most important factors to consider when shopping for homeowner’s insurance, along with what you can do to keep your premiums as low as possible.

1. Deductible

A deductible is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance company will pay anything on a claim.

For example, if you have a $2,000 loss and a $500 deductible, you’ll pay $500 and the insurance company will pay the remaining $1,500 — assuming the claim is approved.

Deductibles usually apply only to property damage and not to liability claims. If someone gets injured on your property and sues, your deductible wouldn’t count against covered costs.

Most home insurance policies have a minimum deductible. If you choose a higher deductible, you’ll typically get lower rates, but you’ll pay more if you file a claim.

2. Age of Home

Older homes may be more expensive to insure because they typically cost more to rebuild. The construction materials, like hardwood flooring or wall plaster, are more expensive and more difficult to acquire.

If you own or are considering buying an older home, you can offset the increased insurance cost by updating systems like plumbing, electrical, and heating. Newer versions of these systems cost less to replace, reduce your overall insurance risk, and won’t change the aesthetics of a historic home.

3. Roof

Insurance companies pay special attention to the condition of your roof when determining your insurance rates. An older or damaged roof increases your vulnerability to storm and water damage, so an insurance company is likely to charge you more. Upgrading that old roof may qualify you for an insurance discount that can help offset the cost of replacement.

4. Home Security

According to the Insurance Information Institute, you can save up to 5% just by installing a burglar alarm, smoke detector, or deadbolt locks. If your alarm system alerts local emergency responders, or if you upgrade your fire protection system to add sprinklers, you can save as much as 20%, depending on your insurance company

Different companies have different requirements for home security and fire protection systems. Before you invest in a system, check with your insurance company to find out how much you could save.

5. Public Protection Class

Insurance companies also calculate your home’s fire risk using the Insurance Services Office’s Public Protection Classification System. The system uses factors like fire department quality, water supply system, and fire alarm systems to score a community’s fire response system on a score of 1 to 10. Lower scores mean that it’s easier for firefighters to get to your home, and that may mean lower rates.

6. Proximity to the Coast

Coastal areas are at higher risk of hurricanes and windstorms. If you live near the ocean, your insurance company may require you to carry a separate hurricane deductible.

Homes near the coast also have a higher risk of flooding. Flood insurance is excluded from most standard homeowner’s policies, so you’ll have to purchase a separate policy.

7. Swimming Pool

A pool in your yard increases your liability risk. In the summer of 2017 alone, at least 163 children under 15 died from drowning in pools or spas. Nearly 70% were under age 5.

Because the potential for loss is so high, the Insurance Information Institute recommends that all pool owners increase their liability coverage to at least $300,000. That extra coverage is important, but it will drive up your insurance premiums.

A swimming pool is also expensive to replace. That can also increase your premiums because it increases the overall cost of rebuilding your home.

If you don’t want to get rid of your pool, you might be able to mitigate the additional cost by installing safety measures. Install a secure fence around your pool so that no one can swim — or fall in — without your knowing about it, and definitely don’t install a diving board. It’ll drive your rates up even more.

8. Dogs

In 2019, there were 17,802 dog bite claims filed nationwide, costing homeowners $797 million. The average cost per claim is also going up, so it’s no wonder that insurance companies can be wary of covering aggressive pets or breeds.

Some insurance companies avoid insuring people with certain “aggressive” breeds, like Pit Bulls or German Shepherds. Others make decisions based on the individual dog and whether it has a history of biting.

Regardless of breed, if a dog bites someone, an insurance company will consider the dog to be more of a liability and may increase the owner’s premiums or remove the dog from the policy. Some will reinstate coverage if the dog completes behavior training or is physically restrained.

9. Insurance Score and Credit History

In most states, insurance companies can use your insurance score and/or credit history to determine your homeowner’s insurance rates. Your credit score tells a company how likely you are to pay your premiums on time. Your insurance score predicts whether the company will take a loss by insuring you.

Both scores are calculated based on your personal borrowing history— debts, repayment history, number of accounts in use, and so on. That makes this one of the easiest cost factors to control. By paying your credit card balances off every month, avoiding defaults, and staying out of bankruptcy, you can control your home insurance rates.

Key Takeaways

Educating yourself about your homeowner’s insurance rates makes you a more informed consumer.  It lets you shop around more effectively and choose the right amount of coverage for your needs.

If you have questions about your home insurance rates, contact RMC today for a free homeowner’s quote.

Categories
Personal Insurance

Homeowners Occupancy Explained

One of the most common misunderstandings found when working with agents and their buyer clients is how a new home will be used.  While this might not seem important at the time of purchase, it can create major problems in the event of a claim if the property is not properly insured.

Why Does It Matter?

Simply put, insurance claims may differ depending on who is living in the property and how often the property is being used. For instance, a home that is occupied full time by the owners will be far less likely to suffer damage due to vandalism or fire than one that is left unoccupied for 6 months of the year.

Types of Occupancy

There are three main occupancy types: primary, secondary, and seasonal.

A primary home is where the owner(s) live most of the year. Typically, this is the address on their driver’s license.

Secondary occupancy is a property where the owners live part of the year; using it on weekends or vacations. They have a main home elsewhere, but the secondary residence is never shut down for a long period of time. The owners come and go throughout the course of the year.

Seasonal properties are just that; they are occupied for a season and then shut down for an extended period; typically, for three months or more.

Other Times to Review the Occupancy

Occupancy is not just a consideration at the time of purchase. As people’s lives change over time, so can the way they use their homes. Primary residences can become secondary. Secondary can become seasonal. And sometimes, what started out as owner occupied can become a rental property.

It is important for property owners to notify their insurance agent if any of these changes take place. Insurance policies can be changed or rewritten to reflect the change in occupancy. It’s better to change the policy than to learn after you have filed a claim that you have the wrong type of insurance policy.

It is also important to consider they type of occupancy when a property is listed for sale. Will the owners be living in the property during the process or have they already moved.  Have they removed the furnishings? It then becomes important to understand the difference between the type of insurance needed for a property that is vacant and a property that is unoccupied.

Vacant or Unoccupied

Most homeowners’ policies exclude damage caused by vandalism or burglary if the property has been vacant for 60 days or more. Vacancy is not a defined term in most insurance policies, however the best way to think of it, is a property that is without any contents. An unoccupied property on the other hand is one that is still furnished, but the owners have no plans to occupy it.

As a real estate agent, if you are listing a property that is either unoccupied (the owners have moved to a new location) or vacant (the personal property has been removed), it is worth mentioning to your seller clients that they need to notify their insurance agent of the change. That way the insurance policy on that property can be written appropriately without any issues.

Conclusion

It is important to understand the different types of occupancy because if a claim were to arise during the sale of the home, it could hold up the selling process.

As a real estate agent, knowing the basics to help your buyers and sellers through the process will allow you to show more value and provide excellent service to your clients. Which in turn will allow for them to return to you for future property transactions or refer you to family and friends. And aren’t referrals the key to all business?

For more clarification on home occupancy issues or to answer any general insurance questions you may have, contact RMC Group at 239-298-8210.

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Personal Insurance

3 Ways to Lower Your Carbon Footprint For Earth Day and Beyond

On April 22, the 50th annual Earth Day is expected to include more than 1 billion people in nearly 200 countries taking part in what the Earth Day Network calls “the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.”

Since the first Earth Day in 1970 (which was connected to the passage of the Clean Air Act that year), there have been many environmental victories—such as passing and strengthening laws for cleaner air and water, expanding Marine Protected Areas, reducing over-fishing, even improving our ability to predict extreme weather events.

Scientists say more progress is needed if we are to slow the impact of climate change, and carbon emissions are a major threat, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Since the mid-1800s, the agency notes, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by about 40%. Because of their warming effect on the planet over time, carbon emissions can contribute to severe weather, rising sea levels, and other significant issues.

You might think the problem is so big there’s nothing you can do about it—but there are many ways you can help reduce these emissions. Here are three things the environmental organization Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty (COTAP) recommends to lower your carbon footprint and do your part to help the planet:

  1. Don’t drive so much—and when you do drive, be fuel-efficient. Driving a conventional vehicle burns fossil fuels, so the less you drive, the less carbon you emit. (Even electric cars typically have a carbon footprint, depending on the type of energy used to charge them.) You also can lower your emissions by keeping your car well-maintained and driving sensibly: To maximize your gas mileage, don’t speed excessively or accelerate suddenly, and make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  2. Limit your air travel. Everybody loves vacations, but airplane flights generate a lot of carbon emissions: For every round trip transatlantic flight, 30 square feet of Arctic sea ice is lost, according to Climate Central, an independent organization of climate scientists and journalists. When you want to get away, choose shorter flights, or try “staycations” closer to home. Also, if you travel for work, consider videoconferencing tools instead.
  3. Look around the house. There are plenty of other ways to lower your impact on the environment—and saving energy in your home is a great start. Make sure your home is insulated properly to keep things warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer without cranking the thermostat up or down. Choose appliances that are energy-efficient. Even something as simple as replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs (and turning lights off when you’re not using them) can help.

However you choose to mark Earth Day, remember that little steps can create a big impact. Maybe you can bike to work a couple of times a month. Walk to the market instead of driving. Leave the AC off until the hottest days of summer. It all adds up—for you, for those you share the planet with, and those who will come after you, too.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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Business Insurance Personal Insurance

What You Need to Know About Coronavirus and Your Homeowners Insurance

Your homeowners insurance safeguards you against financial loss in the event your home and belongings are damaged. It also covers you if you’re found liable for an accident on your property. So, what does this have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of daily life. It’s impacting businesses across multiple industries and changing the landscape for many types of insurance.

But what about homeowners insurance?

The virus itself doesn’t have much of an impact on homeowners insurance.  But, the fallout may. People are spending more time at home working and schooling their kids. It’s a good time to double check and make any necessary changes to your insurance coverage.

Also, if you find yourself needing to make a claim, the claims process may have changed.  Your insurance company may not be sending claims adjusters into the field. Insurers are moving toward an online claims process during the pandemic. That means you will be recording damage via photo and/or video and submitting evidence to the company online.

Read on to learn more about:

  1. How COVID-19 and related lifestyle changes might affect your needs for homeowners insurance coverage
  2. How COVID-19 could impact your insurance claims
  3. How insurers are responding and adapting to the pandemic

Your Homeowners Insurance Coverage Needs

Coronavirus doesn’t impact personal property, so it’s unlikely that you will need to make any changes to your property coverage. However, the virus does impact the amount of time that people spend at home, and more time at home means more potential for accidents. You may find that you need more, or different, liability coverage.

Many people are at home working remotely for the first time. This arrangement often translates to more business assets under your personal roof. If you fall into this category, a home business endorsement might be necessary to cover your work assets, like computers and other equipment.

If you rent out a property or a room on home sharing apps like Airbnb, it’s very likely that travel restrictions and social distancing are keeping people from using your vacation rental. You should be able to temporarily halt your coverage until you need it again.

Let’s explore each of these in more depth.

Liability Coverage

If anyone in your household, including pets, causes damage to someone else’s property, then your personal liability coverage will protect you.

Now that your neighbors and kids are home from work and school, more people are out walking around.  It’s even more important that you take measures to protect yourself.

Look around your property and consider what might attract a child who’s out wandering the neighborhood. Do you have a pool? A backyard swing set that’s not fully fenced? A dog that sits outside on a leash or in a run? Any of those could result in an accident that exposes you to liability.

Adults could get hurt on your property as well.

A dog out for a walk might decide to follow a scent, causing someone to trip and fall. You never know what will happen.  So, it’s a good idea to have at least $300,000 of personal liability coverage on your home insurance policy.

If you do have a pet, find out whether you’re covered for animal related damages. Some policies exclude certain breeds.

Home Business Equipment Coverage

If COVID-19 has you working from home, find out how much of your business property is covered under your homeowners policy. Most policies only cover $2,500 for business equipment, and you may have more in your makeshift home office.

Fortunately, many insurers offer business equipment endorsements to protect your work equipment. These endorsements give you up to $5,000, and in some cases up to $10,000 of coverage. Call your agent to find out your options for increasing your business equipment limit.

Short-Term Rental Coverage

Do you have a room or second property that you rent out through Airbnb, VRBO, or a similar company? Unless you rent regularly enough to need business coverage, your coverage probably takes the form of an endorsement or rider on your regular policy.

There’s a good chance that you’re not using that coverage right now and won’t need it for a while. Ask your insurer if you can pause the coverage until you need it again.

How COVID-19 Impacts Homeowners Insurance Claims

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, online and automated claims processing started to become a trend. Now, social distancing means that it’s no longer an option for most people to have an adjuster come to their homes, so virtual claims are the new norm.

Much of the claims process is the same. The primary difference is that, after you file a claim, you won’t wait for someone to come inspect the damage. Instead, you write up a report in your own words, make a list of what was damaged or stolen, and take photos or videos as evidence of the damage. Then you’ll submit your report and evidence virtually and await your reimbursement.

Insurers might still insist on sending adjusters for larger claims, but you can expect that to happen less frequently.

How Are Home Insurance Companies Responding?

Online claims adjustment isn’t the only process that insurers are changing during the crisis. Some are offering financial aid and forgiveness to customers who are experiencing financial difficulties due to closures and cancellations.

In California, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has called for companies to offer a minimum 60-day grace period for payments. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and several other states are also asking insurers to waive late charges and extend grace periods. David Sampson of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) has asked all insurers nationwide to be similarly flexible and to relax deadlines around claims filing.

Many companies in the homeowners insurance space are extending inspection deadlines in cases where homes require repairs for policies to remain in place. Insurance company representatives may be working from home, but policyholders shouldn’t expect disruptions in service.

These are industry-wide guidelines and patterns, but every insurer will be making its own decisions. If anything about your coverage is in question, give us a call. We are standing by and fully operational to provide you with customer support.

Categories
Personal Insurance Retirement Plans

7 Ways to Improve Your Finances During Financial Literacy Month

April is tax season, so a lot of people are thinking about their finances these days. But if you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking in the short term: What’s my refund going to be—or how much do I owe? And what is that going to do to my monthly budget?

It’s good to be thinking about those things. It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Financial Literacy Month, which is also in April, gives you the perfect chance to do just that. Surveys have showed that an alarming number of Americans lack even basic financial knowledge; in an era when we collectively have trillions of dollars in consumer debt, and many people live paycheck to paycheck, that can be a recipe for disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! This Financial Literacy Month website, created by nonprofit credit-counseling firm Money Management International, features tools and resources to help you understand your finances better and build a bright financial future. In that spirit, we’ve come up with seven tips that can help you become more savvy with your money. Some are easy things you can do today. Others might take a little more work. But all are worth the effort!

  1. Make your saving automatic. It’s important to have money set aside for emergencies—and to save for retirement. But once your paycheck hits your account, it can be a lot easier to just spend it all. The solution? Schedule automatic transfers to a separate account for your emergency fund, your retirement plan, or both. Start with something like 10%. You might even find that you don’t miss it.
  2. Pay your credit cards off every month. If you can’t do this now, pay them down until you can. One popular way is the “snowball” method, which in a nutshell, works like this: Make only the minimum payment on all of your debts—except the smallest one. Put as much money as you can toward that. When the smallest debt is paid off, repeat the process and continue until everything is paid!
  3. Check your tax withholding. People love getting big tax refunds, but that really means you’ve loaned the government your money over the course of the year—interest-free. For example, instead of a $2,500 refund in April or May, you could have more than $200 extra in your paycheck every single month. Wouldn’t that be nice?
  4. Don’t throw away free money. Who would do that? Well, you—if your employer offers a match on your retirement savings and you don’t contribute enough to get the full amount. Say your company matches the first 3% of salary you contribute to a 401(k); you should save as much as you can, but at the very least, you’d want to save that 3%.
  5. Pay less for services. Are you paying more than you should for cable, internet or your mobile service? Maybe not—but you won’t know unless you ask. Often, companies have discounts or special packages available, especially if you’re a loyal customer and you haven’t been on a promotional deal for a while.
  6. Consider a credit card that rewards you. This can be a great way to earn points toward free travel or other rewards, just for buying the things you would buy anyway. Don’t spend more than you normally would just to get rewards, though. And remember, if you regularly carry a balance, the rewards probably won’t outweigh the interest you’re paying. (Go back to item #2 in our list.)
  7. Track your spending for a while—and then review it. You probably spend money on a lot of little things without realizing how much it adds up. Maybe you get takeout for lunch a couple of times a week, or stop for coffee every day on your way to work. Try tracking everything you spend for a month or two. Then, take a look at your habits.

You’ll find areas where you can save, likely without even feeling like you’re making a sacrifice. Insurance is an important tool for your financial well-being, too. Even though it’s easy to think of insuring your car or home as protecting your “stuff,” insurance really protects your finances. After all, insurance can’t prevent your car from being hit by another driver—but it can pay for the repairs, so that money doesn’t come from your pocket.

Take a little time to think about your finances this month, and try one or more of the tips above. As with many things in life, when it comes to money, small steps can have a big impact!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Categories
Personal Insurance

Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings Time is also Daylight Safety Time

Don’t forget to move your clocks forward one hour this Sunday, March 8, 2020, to observe Daylight Savings. We here at RMC Group want to remind you it’s also a great time to improve your family’s safety.

Be safe in your home

Health and safety agencies often use the approach of Daylight Saving Time to remind people to change the batteries in their smoke alarms. The American Red Cross suggests you test your smoke alarms and talk with your family about your fire escape plan. Whether you live in Florida, or elsewhere, practice the plan too – at least twice a year.

Daylight Saving is a great time to check your emergency preparedness kit to make sure it’s fully stocked with fresh supplies.

Carbon Monoxide a concern too

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 people die annually in the US from carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC recommends changing the batteries in your CO detectors when moving your clocks forward this Sunday.

The CDC says the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

See the CDC’s site for more ways to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.

We here at RMC Group hope these tips help and that you’ll consider sharing them with the people you care about so they can live safer lives too.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

Categories
Personal Insurance

Power Outages and Food Safety: Toss It Or Keep It?

It seems like the power always goes out when it’s either way too hot or way too cold – talk about inconvenient. Also inconvenient? Not knowing whether your food is safe to eat during and after an outage.

Obviously you want to err on the side of caution here. And, since you shouldn’t taste food to help determine whether it’s safe (harmful bacteria doesn’t always have a rancid smell or taste), here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you decide what to keep and what to toss once the power’s back on:

  1. Throw away meat, poultry, and seafood once it’s been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
  1. Discard milk, sour cream, yogurt, and soft cheeses after four hours at 40 degrees or higher. Butter and margarine, as well as hard and processed cheeses, should be OK.
  2. Toss mayo, tartar sauce, horseradish, and creamy dressings after eight hours at 50-plus degrees. Vinegar-based dressings, along with ketchup, barbecue sauce, peanut butter, etc., are likely fine.
  1. Refreeze food that still contains ice crystals, or is still below 40 degrees.
  1. Dispose of all food that has come in contact with flood waters or firefighting chemicals. Even if it looks unharmed, it could still be unsafe.

We know it’s frustrating to have to throw out food, so try this simple trick to potentially help preserve it for longer: When the power goes out, keep the fridge and freezer doors tightly shut. The longer you keep them closed, the cooler they stay.

As for the cost of all that spoiled food? Your homeowner’s policy may help, but check in with your agent first. If the value of the damages you claim is less than your deductible, you won’t have any coverage. However, if you have both home damage and spoiled food, filing a claim is the way to go.

Finally, why not prepare for the next power outage? Having appliance thermometers in your fridge and freezer, as well as picking up a food thermometer, will help eliminate some guesswork. And, maintaining a nonperishable food supply (you’ll need a can opener too) in a safe place – somewhere cool that’s not susceptible to flooding – means you’ll have something to eat no matter what. Be sure to replace items as they expire or get used.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.