Essential new pre-Halloween coverage: zombie insurance

When we posted our list of tips to help you prepare for a healthy and safe Halloween earlier in the week, we overlooked one important and growing threat: zombies. As we approach a weekend of goblins and ghouls, are you sure you’re adequately covered against the growing threat that the undead pose? It is suspected that each year, untold millions are lost in personal property damages – but generally, traditional insurance companies won’t recognize claims for zombie-inflicted damage.
Never fear, as your trusted agents, we’re looking out for your interests. We go to great lengths to source those hard-to-find coverage options – so we are pleased to introduce a new protection plan, My Zombie Insurance. Their tag line says it all: “Zombies don’t care. We do.”
Of course, as with all coverage, we think it’s important to ensure you have a range of options to choose from, so here’s a brief video clip about another choice from the Life Group National Zombie Insurance Fund – “for when the undead come knocking at your door.”

Don’t let Halloween turn into Nightmare on Your Street

Halloween is one of the nation’s most popular holidays. We love the annual ritual of scaring ourselves and our favorite kids silly, all in the spirit of good-natured fun. But as much fun as it can be, when you tally up the associated risks to kids, pets and property, the holiday can truly earn its nickname, “fright night.”
Potential problems
Unfortunately, kids experience a lot of injuries at Halloween. While the media can play up the dangers of poisoned candy and predators, the most common injuries to kids at Halloween are more pedestrian: eye injuries, burns, and being hit by cars. Other Halloween dangers include an increase in fatalities related to driving while under the influence; a high rate of fires, vandalism, and property crimes; and a spike in incidents of animal cruelty. For the property owner, there’s a veritable witches’ brew of liability issues. Any injuries that occur on your property can be considered your liability – whether it’s a little Cinderella who trips on her gown or a vandal who breaks his leg while egging your house. If partygoers drink too much alcohol while at your house, you may be held liable for any injuries that occur when they drive home. And if your teen’s Halloween “pranks” result in any property damage, you might have parental liability for the cost of that damage, depending on your state law. Other risks you may encounter include vandalism to your home or your auto and home fires triggered by candles and decorations or overloaded electrical outlets.
Most people enjoy a fun, safe Halloween and odds are in your favor that you will too. But there are simple steps you can and should take to minimize your risk and keep things safe. One thing you can do in advance is to check with your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners or rental insurance is up to date and that you have adequate protection. Find out your deductible (how much you have to pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in) and the extent of your liability coverage.
Keeping kids safe:

  • Equip kids with flashlights. Add day-glo or illuminating trim on their costumes.
  • Make sure costumes are fire-safe and flame-resistant.
  • Ensure costumes don’t impair vision or present a tripping hazard.
  • Masks can limit visibility – colorful face paints are a cute, creative, and safer alternative.
  • Make sure kids are dressed warmly enough and have comfortable, non-slip footwear.
  • Costume accessories and props should be short , pliable, and soft – no hard, long, pointy, or sharp objects
  • Inspect all candy before kids eat it. Be alert for choking hazards and watch for anything that is loose or unwrapped.
  • Don’t let kids walk while eating candy on a stick – very dangerous if they trip.
  • Don’t let kids eat homemade treats unless they were made by someone you know very well
  • Stick to familiar neighborhoods and familiar houses
  • Kids shouldn’t enter any homes unless they know the neighbors well
  • Kids without adults should keep in groups
  • Walk on sidewalks. Complete one side of the street, cross carefully, and complete the other side.
  • Use cross walks and crossing lights whenever possible.
  • Drive with great caution over the weekend, particularly after dark – excited little goblins may dart out from anywhere.

Other safety matters

  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Take care not to overload electrical circuits with lights.
  • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
  • Keep porches and walkways well lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards; Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway.
  • Don’t forget about your pets – they could be upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish. Keep them inside and away from the door so they don’t frighten or nip at your guests.
  • Be careful not to let your pets eat candy, which can be toxic to them.
  • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
  • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.

Halloween vandalism can range from “mild” pranks to more serious and willful property damage. A well-lit house and motion-activated lights may help to protect your property. If you have a garage, keep you car locked up. If you don’t, you might want to check your car before bed or very early in the morning – that way, if your car has experienced any “mischief” such as a dousing of shaving cream, silly string, eggs, or other food matter, you may be able to hose it away before the sun bakes it in. Some of these substances can cause scratches or dents; others can be corrosive to your paint. Pressurized water from your hose is your best clean-up ally.
Call your agent
If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won’t forget them later.
Other helpful resources
Safe and scary: Tips for home decorating and costumes
Tricks for making your Halloween party safe
Driver safety tips for Halloween Eve
Halloween Car Cleanup Guide – how to remove eggs, shaving cream, silly string, and more.

It’s time to winterize your home

If you have been putting off winterizing your home, you may have woken to a little seasonal reminder this morning. Looking out the window this mid-October day, it is unusual to see snow falling here in central Massachusetts – as it is in other parts of the Eastern seaboard. If you want a sneak peak of what the season is likely to hold in store, check out AccuWeather.comcom’s Chief Meteorologist and Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi’s winter weather forecast for 2009-2010.
In this post, we’ve gathered up a variety of links and resources to help you in planning for winterizing your home.

Now’s The Time To Winterize Your Home
Before Winter Storms and Extreme Cold – tips from FEMA for preparing your home and your car for severe weather
How to Winterize Your Car
Homewizard – free service to help you to save energy costs, improve safety, and extend the useful lives of your home and appliances. You can sign up for monthly email reminders of various household maintenance tasks that you should be scheduling, or see the maintenance library.
Energy Money Saving Tips
20 Free Ways to Save Energy
Cheap Ways to Stay Warm this Winter
How to weatherstrip your windows – (video)
Winter Emergency Kits
Emergency Car Kit
Basic Disaster Supplies
72-Hour Family Emergency Kit

Seasonal road hazards: deer, moose and other ruminants

It’s that time of year again: peak deer-car collision season. More than half of all vehicle-deer crashes annually occur in October through December, with November being the peak month. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more than 150 fatalities each year are caused by vehicle-deer collisions. Deer are fast, unpredictable and can appear out of the blue. A police camera caught this startling video clip of a near-miss with a deer.
But deer aren’t the only four-legged danger – moose and elk are serious road hazards, too. Larger, taller and with more body mass than deer, a bull moose can reach up to 1500 pounds. And because they are tall with long legs, they often come right in through the windshield when hit, a serious danger to car occupants. See this mammmal size comparison illustration to get an idea of how big moose, elk, deer, and other wildlife can be.
IIHS has issued a chart of state fatalities from crashes with animals, tracking the years 1993 to 2007. They note that many of these deaths were preventable:

“Most of the crash deaths occurred after a motor vehicle had struck an animal and then run off the road or a motorcyclist had fallen off a bike. Many of these deaths wouldn’t have occurred with appropriate protection. The study found that 60 percent of the people killed riding in vehicles weren’t using safety belts, and 65 percent of those killed riding on motorcycles weren’t wearing helmets.”

Here are some resources to help you assess your state’s relative risk when it comes to large animals in the deer family:
Likelihood of hitting a deer by state (PDF)
Moose populations in selected states
Elk population by state
Driving tips to avoid colliding with deer and moose

  • Wear your seat belt
  • Be particularly cautions at dawn, dusk. Most collisions occur between 5 and 10 pm.
  • If you see one deer, there may be others – deer travel in herds
  • Heed posted signs warning about wildlife – they are there for a reason
  • Avoid speeding. Slow down around curves
  • Scan the sides of the road – watch for movement.
  • Be particularly alert on roads with woods, farmland, and water
  • Be cautious and slow down at night. You may see deer eyes reflected in your lights, but moose eyes don’t reflect light.
  • Watch other traffic – if you see cars stopped or slowing, it may indicate an animal
  • Flash headlights to warn other drivers
  • Don’t try to outrace or beat a crossing animal
  • Use high beams when you can
  • If you see an animal, honk your horn. Your lights may freeze or confuse an animal.
  • Motorcycles are particularly vulnerable – a cyclist may even be charged by a large animal

What to do if you hit a deer or a moose
Stop your car, put on hazard lights. You want to be visible so that no other car will hit you, your car, or the animal. Avoid approaching an injured animal, which can be very dangerous. In some states, if there are no injuries and your car is drivable, you would not be required to report the collision to the police. If you are unsure of the state law, call police. They will alert game wardens or the appropriate authorities to handle the animal. Some states will let you keep an animal for the meat, but you may need a permit. Report the accident to your insurance agent as soon as possible.
Drivers should be aware that not all auto insurance will cover deer or moose collisions. Comprehensive insurance is required to pay for damage incurred from an animal collision. Some people only have collision coverage and don’t carry comprehensive.