Hurricane Irene Tool kit: Preparation, tracking & insurance resources

The following are resources to help you track and prepare for Irene – along with insurance related resources should you incur any damage. As more resources become available we will add them. Also, check our consumer Twitter feed: @RenInsureInfo.
Storm Tracking
MSNBC Hurricane Tracker
Tracking Irene at the National Hurricane Center

Weather Underground – including co-founder
Dr. Jeff Masters WunderBlog
New England Emergency Resources
MA: @MassEMAMA Emergency Management Agency
ME: @MaineEMAMaine Emergency Management Agency
NH: @NHgovNew Hampshire State Government
NY: @NYSEMONY Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services
RI: @RhodeIslandEMARI Emergency Management Agency
VT: @vemvtVT Emergency Management
Hurricane Preparation
It Is Not Too Late to Conduct a Home Inventory In Preparation for Hurricane Irene
Common Sense Advice Before & After a Hurricane
Preparing an effective evacuation plan
Hurricane Irene: Checklist for protecting your technology before & during a hurricane
Disaster Planning for Small Businesses – a checklist from the
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which covers key steps for preparation, as well as an overview of related insurance issues that you need to consider.
Hurricane Preparation Tips and Disaster Preparedness – from the Insurance Information Institute
Hurricane Safety Checklist – from the Red Cross
Insurance Matters
Hurricane Irene Likely to Strike East Coast: Do You Know What Your Hurricane Deductible Is?
Hurricane & Wind Storm Deductibles
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.

Posted in Emergencies

ID theft is on the upswing and college students are at high risk

U.S. identity fraud is at an all-time high, and recent reports indicate that college students are at particular risk for ID theft, partly because it often takes them twice as long to learn that they have been swindled. Studies show that most fraud begins occurring with a week from when the data is stolen. But because college kids are less likely to track banking and credit card activity on a routine and timely basis, the fraud often goes undetected longer.

Additional risks that make college students susceptible to ID theft:
So-called “friendly fraud” — fraud perpetrated by friends and family — accounts for one in seven fraud cases.
College students are very active on social media sites, and may unwittingly share more sensitive information than they realize.
To deter ID theft, experts offer the following tips:

  • Monitor your financial accounts regularly
  • Be cautious about sharing identifying information on social networking sites
  • Learn how to recognize and be alert for phishing scams
  • Use secure passwords and change them frequently
  • Log out of your computer when you are not using it
  • Keep your computer up to date with the latest spyware and anti-virus software

For more resources on identity fraud, see the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Site and the FBI’s e-scams & warnings page.

Identity Theft Insurance

You may want to consider Identity Theft Insurance, but first be sure you learn more about what it does and doesn’t cover before you purchase – many people have misconceptions. Also, check to see how any existing coverage you have, such as Homeowners, might protect you. And do your homework before purchasing. Check The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Consumer Alert, which notes that while policies are available, they do not protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft and do not cover direct monetary losses incurred as result of identity theft. Rather, they insure you for any costs that might be incurred in reclaiming your identity, such as hiring an attorney, taking time from work, and any administrative costs such as the cost of phone calls or postage.

Homepreneurs: Beware This Common Home-based Business Mistake!


The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that there are 29.6 million small businesses in the U.S. of which 52% are home-based — and this trend is only expected to increase, according to Network Solutions Small Business Index research. We even have a new word for this vital rising demographic: “homepreneurs” — but some home-based small business owners make the dangerous assumption that their homeowners insurance will cover their business needs. In fact, it’s critical to consult with your insurance rep to understand the limits of your homeowner’s insurance in regard to your home business.

For example, many homeowners policies provide a maximum of $2,500 coverage for business equipment (computers, fax machines, etc.) in the home — while your actual investment may far exceed this figure, so you may need business property insurance to adequately cover equipment and any inventory. Additionally, depending on the nature of your business, you may require liability insurance: “If you are sued because of your home-based business activities — the company that hired you as a consultant believes your advice was dead wrong; the computer equipment you “fixed” doesn’t work; the cookies you baked made someone ill — your homeowners policy won’t protect you.”

Finally, you may want to insure against loss of income in the case of fire or natural disaster.

If you are like millions of other home entrepreneurs, your business is too important to risk with sup-optimal coverage; here are some items to consider when consulting with your agent:

  • Equipment and furniture
  • Inventory
  • Business items belonging to others in your care
  • Accounts receivable
  • Important records, documents and reference material
  • Electronic data
  • Liability for personal injury, products, services and contractual obligations.
  • Auto — be sure your existing policy covers all business uses

And you may have special considerations for disability, life, and health insurance. Your agent can help tailor your coverage to your specific needs, and protect your important home business. See also, our Small Business Insurance Tool Kit.

Insurance and Your Dog

If you are thinking of getting a dog, or even if you already have one, it’s critical as either a homeowner or renter to check with your insurance agent to establish or review your liability coverage for dog bites and other canine-related injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, and last year, the average cost of a dog bite claim was $26,166, according to the Insurance Information Institute — and costs continue to rise due to growing medical costs and larger settlements.

Most states have strict statutes holding owners directly responsible for injuries or damage inflicted by their dogs, and some insurance policies exclude dog breeds that are seen as particularly aggressive (see the Top 7 Dangerous Dog Breeds), so in addition to evaluating your ability to care for and properly train a dog, it’s vital to make sure you are covered by your policy, and take steps to minimize any risk of dog bite or other injury.

Tips for dog owners seeking homeowner/renter’s coverage for their dog(s):

  • Enroll your dog in obedience classes and work on helping the dog earn a diploma or certification
  • Schedule refresher classes for dogs who have already been trained, but are not as attentive as they once were!
  • Neuter male dogs to reduce dominance and aggression
  • Always keep your dogs on a leash and under control during walks
  • If your dog is allowed outside on your property, be sure the area is adequately fenced and protected
  • Never leave young children alone with a dog, and always teach them how to behave safely around dogs
  • If strangers make your dog nervous, be sure to separate them from new visitors in your home
  • To keep canine frustration in check, always make sure your dog is properly exercised, and don’t allow them to be exposed to teasing or taunting

Finally, if you are thinking of getting a dog primarily for home protection, be aware that money spent on increased security measures will ultimately be easier, more reliable, less expensive — and kinder to the animal.