Be prepared: Get the free Red Cross Tornado App

tonado-appHere in New England, tornadoes aren’t the norm — but we do have occurrences, as was seen in Revere this week, along with several other sightings. There have been 162 tornadoes in Massachusetts alone since 1950, according to the National Weather Service – has a roundup of Tornadoes of Massachusetts Past. Springfield is still recovering from the June 1, 2011 tornado, in which three were killed. And the older crowd among us may recall the horrific tornado in Worcester in 1953, which killed 93. Wikipedia has a historical roundup of Tornadoes in New England

With the rarity of events, tornadoes are not top of mind awareness for people when bad weather looms. Get the free Red Cross Tornado app to have everything you need to know to prepare for a tornado in the palm of your hand. To download: text “GETNADO” to 90999 or search “Red Cross Tornado” in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Some of the app features include:

  • Step-by-step instructions to help you know what-to-do even if the cell towers and TVs are down. Prioritized actions for before, during, and after requires no mobile connectivity.
  • Audible siren that automatically goes off even if app is closed when NOAA issues a TORNADO WARNING helping to reduce the chance of sleeping through an actual warning.
  • Push notification sent when a WARNING expires – especially important if power goes out while you or your family are in your safe room.
  • Info on how to assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of power outage or evacuation and how to make an emergency plan.
  • Info on the difference between a tornado warning and a tornado alert.
  • Red Cross location-based open shelters map for when you need it most.
  • Learn how to deal with food and water impacted by floods and power outages.
  • Let others know where you are with the Toolkit’s strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions.

Aftermath of storms in pictures; also, cellar flooding & insurance links

It’s been an incredible two days of rain, storms, flooding and tornado warnings here in New England. Yesterday, there was a confirmed tornado in Wolcott CT (see video) and the National Weather Service is investigating whether a tornado occurred in Revere today. (Update: Revere tornado confirmed – see a video of damage.)

Hopefully, your damage isn’t too bad but one thing seems apparent: many communities are suffering damage from flash floods. We note a lot of traffic to our blog posts about problems in the home – here are links if you need them: Water in the basement: What does insurance cover? and Does homeowners insurance cover a flooded basement?

Meanwhile, we’ve embedded some tweets with visuals of the damage below – see more photos of Revere damage as photos are posted on Twitter.

Celebrate National Blueberry Month


July is National Blueberry Month – and they’re in season locally right now. The wild blueberry is the official fruit of Maine, which produces about 25% of all lowbush blueberries in North America. Blueberries are often called a “superfood” by nutritionists – check out the infographic below to see why. And check out these delicious-sounding recipes and cooking tips. Here’s where to “pick your own” in Massachusetts, in New Hampshire, in Connecticut, in Rhode Island, in Maine, in Vermont.

Click to enlarge – Courtesy of: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council


The Claim Game: Filing an Auto Claim


Filing an auto insurance claim is never fun. But with these simple steps from the Insurance Information Institute, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble. “The I’s on Insurance: The Claim Game, Auto” will put you on the road to a satisfactory claim filing experience, giving you the basics on what you should know, what your policy covers and the most important information to record when you’re in an accident.

Brief Encounters

We had a good response to our “Dads Changing Diapers” Father’s Day post so as long as fathers are proving a popular topic, we can’t resist these amusing TV ads. Thankfully, we don’t actually know any fathers who do this, but the ads are pretty amusing anyway – it’s a good attention-getting gimmick for the product. Silly fun. For more silly fun, check out our humor archive – much of it related to insurance.

This hedgehog knows how to party

OK, Friday afternoon in the summertime? We’d say it’s time to party. What could be better than a tiny hedgehog at a tiny birthday party? Not much cuter than that … but after all those extra sweets, it might be time for some hedgehog dentistry. We hope he has dental insurance to cover that work!

And if you haven’t reached maximum cute level, then we close out with tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos.

The Internet was made for this.

Powerful video reminders: stay focused while driving this summer

A public service ad from Volkswagon uses a clever and persuasive way to drive home an important point.

A public service announcement from Honda illustrates things from a different perspective

This moving AT&T documentary shows just how quickly life can change

A California graphic designer takes photos of people texting while driving and uploads them to a site called TwitSpotting – he feeds these images to billboards in San Francisco

Gauging Your Distraction – Interactive game

From One Second to the Next: Powerful
Director Werner Herzog’s 35-minute documentary film takes a tough look at the aftermath of a split second error – texting while driving.

Distracted Driving Laws

The benefits of working with your local independent insurance agent

We liked this video clip from Liberty Mutual, one of our partner insurance companies, that speaks to the benefits of small businesses working with independent agents.

Whether you’re seeking commercial or personal insurance, an agent can bring a lot of value to the table. There are plenty of online price comparison tools, but getting the right coverage to protect your business, your personal assets and your family involves more consideration than just price. Explore some of the other advantages to working with an independent agent in the links below. And we invite you to check our expert list of independent Renaissance Alliance members in the sidebar or find a New England insurance agent near you.

4 Advantages of an Independent Insurance Agent
FinancialWeb summarizes a few key benefits of working with professional independent insurance agents.

Why Use an Independent Insurance Agency?
Our own Renaissance Alliance member Joe Harrington of Markham Priest Insurance talks about 3 ways to buy insurance and lists some of the benefits of an independent agent.

Insurance: An easier way to comparison shop
At the personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly, April Dykman talks about the experiences that led her to use an independent agent instead of flying solo.

Benefits of an Independent Insurance Agent
Safeco, one of our partner insurers, talks about what to look for in a good insurance agent.

Benefit from the personal attention of a Travelers independent agent
Another of our partner insurers offers a testimony to the benefits of buying insurance through an independent agent.

The Best New England July 4 Fireworks & Celebrations


Maybe we have a little bias going on, but we don’t think any other geography does the 4th of July like New Englanders … from the classic celebration with the Pops on the Boston Esplanade or an 1800s style celebration at Sturbridge Village to Bristol’s Oldest 4th of July Celebration and 3 days of activities on the Enfield Town Green. Here are some pointers to the best Fourth of July celebrations in New England:

But we can’t let this blog post pass without a seasonal alert about firework safety. In 2013, there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who sustained injuries related to fireworks — a giant increase from 8,700 injuries in 2012.


Did you know that sparklers account for 31% of all fire-work related injuries? Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees as hot as a blow torch, hot enough to melt some metals. This video uses dummies to show what can happen with backyard fireworks.