Pumpkins & perils: preparing for a fun & safe Halloween

With Halloween just around the corner, we offer Ray Villafane’s gallery of pumpkins for inspiration. Ray just might be the pumpkin master – so his videos of pumpkin carving tips might be instructive. Or you can see him in action – he was featured on CBS news.

For more pumpkin carving inspiration and advice, we point you to Extreme Pumpkin, which has some terrific and suitably terrifying / horrifying examples of bizarre pumpkins (…but as your insurance advisers, we advise you to take great care with any of the power tool and pyrotechnic options.) The Pumpkin Gutter’s galleries are also impressive, offering a combination of artistry, humor, and horror. And if you are of a mind to do-it-yourself, check out Pumpkin Carving 101, which had a lot of useful how-to information.
To reduce the risk of fire, we recommend glow sticks or battery-powered flickering LED lights to illuminate your pumpkin.

Have fun, stay safe
It’s important to have fun on this great holiday – but it’s also important to be safe. While we are focusing on zombies and monsters, it’s important not to forget about the more traditional hazards to people and property. Courtesy of the Independent Agents & Brokers of America, we offer the following safety tips:

  • Prevent Accidents: Remove or move lawn furniture, or any other obstacles, to avoid accidents or damage. Ensure your home’s entry is in good condition, free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on your property.
  • Fire Dangers: Prevent fires by making sure pumpkins containing candles are placed at a distance where a child’s costume cannot be ignited or a curious guest may tip it over. Extinguish all candles before going to bed and use battery operated lights wherever possible.
  • Costume Safety: Be careful with costumes. All disguises should be made from flame-resistant materials and shouldn’t be too long or contain sharp accessories. Try to avoid masks that may obscure vision and try to use hypo-allergenic make-up instead.
  • See and Be Seen: Encourage each trick-or-treater and adult chaperones to carry a flashlight. Apply light-reflecting material to costumes.
  • Don’t be a Scary Driver: Drive sober, slowly and even more carefully than usual on Halloween. Watch for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes in the road.
  • Power in Numbers: When walking, travel in groups and cross only at corners and crosswalks—never between parked cars—and stay on well-lit streets.
  • Unwelcomed Guests: Scare away potential property vandals who often use the chaos of Halloween night to strike by keeping outdoor lights on.
  • Pet Safety: Keep pets inside. Warn your children to stay away from animals as they go door-to-door. Halloween night can be stressful, even on the friendliest dog or cat or other creatures.
  • Candy Inspection: Cavities aren’t the only candy-related risks on Halloween. Inspect all children’s treats. Never eat unwrapped items, collect candy only from those you know and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray and/or inspection service. Throw away any suspicious candy.
Posted in Safety

Homeowners Insurance Coverage: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If a tree falls and damages my roof during a storm, am I covered? Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home if it is destroyed in a fire? Does my policy protect me if my neighbor falls down my front stairs?
Most people don’t have a lot of questions about their insurance coverage until a problem occurs – and then we get questions. As insurance agents, we’ve heard them all – and we don’t mind answering them, that’s what we’re here for. But some consumer questions are very common – we hear them time and time again. For answers to the questions posed above as well as to other common coverage questions, see the FCIC’s online brochure, Am I Covered, which was developed by the Insurance Information Institute. It’s a good primer on homeowners insurance, touching on some of the most frequently asked questions. It also explains what is and isn’t covered in a standard homeowners policy, points out gaps in coverage that might exist, and offers suggestions for what to do to increase coverage.
We’re always happy to answer your questions, but for the folks who like to poke around and do their own web-based research, you can’t do better than the Insurance Information Institute’s consumer resources for Homeowners and Renters Insurance.

Posted in Homeowners

Deluge! Wondering about your insurance coverage for water & flood damage?

The East Coast has been slammed with downpours that have been swamping roads and requiring rescues as the storm cut its path up the eastern seaboard. The flooding has already claimed 5 lives. Now, drenching rains are bearing down on New England.
No doubt many will be checking their policies and calling agents in the next day or two to find out what is and what isn’t covered in terms of water and flood damage. The Insurance Information Institute offers this useful video:

Insurance coverage
Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, so unless you have a specific flood policy, you may be out of luck. Check to see if you have a “sump pump failure” rider to supplement your homeowners, which may offer some relief.
Even if your homeowners policy doesn’t cover flooding, if you have experienced anything more than minor damage, you may want to file a claim:

  • When your insurer investigates the actual cause of the loss, you may have some coverage.
  • If you are eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assistance, you will likely need a letter of denial from your insurer. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate any assistance that insurance already covers.
  • Your insurer and agent may be able to suggest resources and service firms for emergency restoration professionals in your area. They may have other resources and advice available to help you mitigate and recover from your loss.
  • If you have comprehensive insurance as part of your standard auto insurance policy, you may be covered for water or flood damage to your car. You would need to contact your agent to check the specific coverage provisions in your policy.