Seasonal reminder: dry trees are a fire hazard

If you haven’t disposed of that live holiday tree yet, this video is a sobering reminder that now is a good time. Experts say that live trees shouldn’t be kept for longer than three weeks, even when properly watered. The best way to dispose of the tree is to recycle it … either as wood for your own or a neighbor’s wood stove or fireplace, or through a community recycling program – some communities offer pickup services and programs that will chip trees to make mulch. This site offers links to Christmas tree recycling options by state.

Survey: Most homeowners unaware of holiday liabilities

A national survey on homeowner’s insurance issues by Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) found that about one-third of homeowners did not think or did not know if they could be held responsible in the event of an alcohol-related accident. In addition, more than 46% of the survey respondents thought they weren’t liable in the event that a guest became seriously ill from catered food consumed at the host’s home and more than 22% didn’t think they could be held responsible if a guest was injured on the sidewalk in front of their property. In fact, these are all situations in which a homeowner could have liability.
A spokesman for the IIABA suggest that homeowners regularly review their liability coverage limits with their independent agent to ensure adequate coverage, and that frequent party hosts inquire about an umbrella policy providing $1 million or more in additional coverage. IIABC also suggest the following holiday hosting tips for homeowners and business owners:

  • Limit your guest list to those you know.
  • Host your party at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license, rather in a home or office.
  • Provide filling food for guests and alternative non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Schedule entertainment or activities that do not involve alcohol. If the party centers around drinking, guests will likely drink more.
  • Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who cannot or should not drive home.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end.
  • Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Consider hiring an off-duty police officer to discretely monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
  • Stay alert, always remembering your responsibilities as a host.
  • Review your insurance policy with your Trusted Choice agent before the event to ensure that you have the proper liability coverage.

Before and after winter storms: advance planning and filing claims

With a major ice storm under our belt, many area residents are just getting power and heat back and we are facing more potential adverse weather over the weekend.

If your home has been damaged or destroyed, you may want to invest two and a half minutes to watch the Insurance Information Institute’s advice on how to file a homeowner’s claim:

Preparing for the next storm
With some advance notice, there are things you can do to prepare for winter storm emergencies. Here are a few good resources:

The American Red Cross suggests a list of supplies to include in a home emergency kit, covering such items as water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items.

Winter Power Outage Tips – an excellent resource on what to do before, during, and after an outage compiled by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Freezing & Bursting Pipes (PDF) – good tips for preventing frozen pipes.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergency – The Centers for Disease Control inform us that every year, more than 500 people die in the U. S. from accidental CO poisoning and, sadly, here in New England, we have had carbon monoxide-related deaths after the recent storms. In Massachusetts, the law states that you must have a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, excluding unfinished basements, attics and crawl spaces. You may need more than one per floor because detectors must be placed within 10 feet of a bedroom door. This is good advice for homeowners whether or not your state has a law. Be sure to refresh your batteries periodically.

Ice and cars don’t mix

Many New Englanders are waking up to icy driving conditions today. In light of this, we bring you this noteworthy video clip shot during a January 2007 ice storm in Portland Oregon. One resident awoke to a racket outside his window and captured footage of an unplanned ice-top demolition derby involving at least 15 separate accidents in a span of a just a few minutes.

With experience, an abundance of caution, and good tires, snowy conditions can generally be navigated – but ice is another matter. It’s generally best to wait until the sanders and plows have treated the roads before venturing out in ice storms.

Safe winter driving actually starts before a storm and before you even get in your vehicle. Check your tires and your tire pressure, keep your antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and gas tank topped off, and store shovels, scrapers and an emergency kit in the trunk of your car – include a bag of sand or kitty litter to give your car traction if you get stuck. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you and any drivers in your family review safe winter driving tips.

Renter’s insurance – common questions and misperceptions

In today’s tough economic climate, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) notes that many former homeowners may now be renters, either due to their own choice to downsize or due to a home foreclosure. In the light of this, NAIC offers an alert about renter’s insurance, which discusses the importance of renters’ insurance and dispels some of the most common misperceptions that people have about this type of insurance.

  • “Renter’s insurance is too expensive, and I already have enough bills to pay.” The average renter’s insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month. Replacing all of your possessions or being liable for an accident on your premises will cost much more.
  • “I don’t have that many valuables; renter’s insurance isn’t worth the cost.” Renter’s insurance policies can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Even a minimal number of items could add up to thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, which can all be covered in a basic policy.
  • “My landlord has insurance, so I’m already protected.” Your landlord has insurance for structural damage to the building, and might even be protected against damage caused by tenants. However, this coverage does not extend to your personal property, nor does it protect you from being liable for damage you might cause to the building inadvertently (e.g., a kitchen fire or a plumbing mishap).

The alert also includes other common questions and answers related to renter’s insurance. If you have questions about whether or not you need renter’s insurance, how much coverage you need, or what it will or will not cover, your independent agent is also a good source of information.

Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, the Insurance Information Institute offers a free downloadable home inventory software This software will help you create a room-by-room inventory of your personal possessions. Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you:

  • Purchase enough insurance to replace the things you own
  • Get your insurance claims settled faster
  • Substantiate losses for your income tax return