Going on vacation? 5 steps to secure your home while you are away!

Summer vacation is always fun but there are some steps that you should take ensure that your home is protected.

1. Secure your property. Check to be sure all doors and windows are locked. Bring in valuables and any outside furniture that might be damaged in a heavy storm. If you have an alarm system, motion detectors, or outside lighting, be sure they are set for while you are away.

2. Avoid giving signals that you are away. Try to make things look as normal as they would if you were at home. Cancel mail and newspapers so they don’t pile up. Use timers to turn on lights at night. Arrange to have grass mowed.

3. Be cautious with sharing on social networks. Unless your friends list is strictly limited to family and a few trusted friends, don’t announce your travel plans on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Be careful about checking in with FourSquare or other services that give your location away. Be cautious about posting and sharing real-time updates and photos that telegraph the information that your home is empty.

4. Ask a neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your property while you are away. Leave contact information and a key for emergencies. A trusted neighbor might even leave a bag of trash in front of your house on trash day or occasionally park in your driveway.

5. Check your home and auto insurance before you go away to ensure that your coverage is up to date and that you have adequate coverage. Know what policies you have and with what insurers. Make sure that you bring your insurance agent’s telephone number in case you need it while away.

Here are some other good tips from experts:
Tips to Secure Your Home While on Vacation
Don’t Leave Your Home Vulnerable to Break-in, Flooding While on Vacation

Pool & spa owners: Minimize your risk with simple steps for safety

If you own a pool or a spa, you need to see this excellent video from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. It takes a three-step approach to minimizing the risks associated with pools and spas: steps for making a safer water environment; steps to ensure that your kids are safer; and steps to ensure that you are prepared should an emergency occur.

A good summer safety plan: Don’t be a lightning strike victim!

June 19 to June 25 is Lightning Safety Week. It’s good timing because we are approaching the heaviest lightning season. Hopefully, we’ve already had our fill of extreme weather this year, but there are no guarantees. In an average year, there are 57 fatal lightning strikes, most occurring in June, July and August. There have been 4 lightning fatalities so far this year – three of them occurring during agricultural work and one related to tornado search-and-rescue. The National Weather Service keeps track of lightning fatalities for the current year, as well as for prior years going back to 1959. Last year, there were 29 fatalities, a remarkably low year. The top 5 states for lightning fatalities over the past 10 years are Florida (62), Colorado (26), Texas (24), Georgia (19), and North Carolina (18).
Not everyone who is struck by lightning is killed – many survive to tell the tale. You can read some harowing stories of lightning strike survivors – there’s even a support group: Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors.
Your odds of being hit by lightning are about 1 in 700,000 – but experts all agree that you should take care not to make yourself a target. For a little motivation, you might visit Human Voltage, a page that NASA compiled to document what happens when people and lightning converge.
The National Weather Service has 5 simple words of safety advice: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!. We’re reprinting Here is their safety advice:

“There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.

The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles are safe options. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are not safe.

When inside, do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, plumbing, and corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe. Also, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.

Lightning Victims: If someone is struck by lightning, they may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and monitor the victim. Start CPR or use an Automated External Defibrillator if needed.”

Additional resources:
Indoor Safety
Outdoor Safety
Lightning Safety on the Job
Lightning truths and myths

Massachusetts tornado response: emergency resources

The following are resources to help you respond to any tornado-related damage you may have suffered. As more resources become available we will add them. Also, check our Twitter feed: @RenInsureInfo.
Emergency response tips

  • Stay out of badly damaged buildings
  • If your home or business is badly damaged, try to shut off utilities or contact utility companies
  • Be cautious of any outdoor hazards such as debris, downed wires, tree limbs. Wear sturdy shoes or boots.
  • Take photos of any damage before cleaning up
  • Contact your insurance agent and / or your insurer.
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage
  • Discard any food that may have been spoiled or contaminated
  • Check with local authorities for local alerts

Claims reporting: Direct links to Renaissance Alliance insurance partners claims reporting pages – list includes 40 of the state’s major insurers. If your insurer is not listed here, contact your independent agent or the Mass Division of insurance’s main number (617) 521-7794 or the Consumer Information Hotline (617) 521-7794.
Tips for claims reporting: What consumers should know when faced with a loss – Important, but sometimes difficult, filing a claim can be one of the most frustrating processes during a crisis or following a major disaster. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers tips for what your insurance company needs to help you avoid problems getting your claims paid.
Other resources
MA Governor declares a state of emergency
Follow emergency traffic & roadway updates on MA Department of Transportation Twitter feed
Mass Emergency Management Agency
CDC: After a tornado
What to do before, after & during a tornado (PDF)
Protect yourself from mold
USA.gov: Locate in-person services near you
News reports and videos
ABC: Massachusetts Tornadoes: At Least 4 Dead; Springfield, Westfield Hard Hit – includes video clips
III: Massachusetts and Tornadoes