Heat wave: How to keep your cool


cartoon of melting monster in a heat wave

Are you ready for the upcoming heat wave? More than 170 million people in the US are now under heat alerts for the coming weekend. Excessive heat is not just an unpleasant nuisance – it can be downright dangerous. The CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, more than 700 people died!

Take steps to prepare and plan for the weekend ahead. Here are some tips we’ve gathered from experts on how to minimize the effects of the heat.

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun.
  • Take it easy – avoid strenuous activity in the heat.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the early or late part of the day. Stay indoors and out of the sun in the heat of the day.
  • If you don’t have AC, plan activities in public places that are cool: movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls and other air conditioned public or entertainment places. Make a trip to your favorite local swimming hole or pool to beat the heat, but keep an eye out for thunderstorms and make sure you use sunscreen.
  • If you can’t get to a pool, take cool showers or bath. Splash yourself with cool water or soak your feet and ankles in cool water. Apply cold, wet towels on the neck, wrist, groin and armpit.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – drink plenty of water. Keep alcohol intake low – while it might make you think you feel better, alcohol is actually dehydrating. Plain water is the best.
  • Wear loose, cool, light-colored clothing. If you go outdoors, wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen!
  • Eat light, easily digestible dinners. Be careful about salty foods. Avoid using ovens or appliances that generate heat. If you cook, use a microwave or outdoor grill.
  • Take care of your pets – don’t let them get overheated or dehydrated.
  • Check in on elderly relatives or neighbors to make sure they are OK.
  • If your power goes out, check with local emergency services to find emergency cooling centers.
  • Never, never, never leave children or pets in a car alone – even for a few minutes.
  • Know the symptoms of and watch out for heat-related illnesses.

Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention. It’s nothing to fool around with.

chart with heat illness symptoms

Take the “What the Flood” quiz


How much do you know about flood insurance? Probably very little, unless you’ve had an experience with flooding or your insurance agent has discussed it with you. Check it out – take this quick What the Flood interactive quiz to see if you understand the insurance protection that would apply should common water damage scenarios occur. The quiz is promoted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), who offer great info on Understanding Flood Insurance.

Here are a few common flood insurance myths

  • Myth: I don’t need flood insurance because I already have homeowners insurance.

Reality. Homeowners insurance rarely covers flood damage – talk to your agent.

  • Myth: I don’t need flood insurance because I don’t live in a high-risk flood zone.

Reality: More than 20% of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

  • Myth: It’s already hurricane season so I am too late to buy flood insurance this year.

Reality. You can purchase flood insurance any time, but it generally takes effect 30 days after purchase for coverage to take place.

Here’s a handy NAIC infographic that shows homeowners vs flood insurance coverage:

Why not have a chat with your insurance agent to find out if flood insurance makes sense for you? Here are some great questions that NAIC offers as discussion points when you talk to your insurance agent about flood insurance.

Hurricane Season 2019: What’s shaping up


2019 hurricane season infographic

The 2019 Hurricane Season began on June 1 and runs through November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts a 40% chance of a  “near normal” hurricane season. There’s a 30% chance that the season could be worse, and a 30% chance that it could be better than the average season.

For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

But don’t let the “near normal” prediction lull you into a false sense of security – hurricane preparation is still urgent, particularly for those who live in the southeast and in Atlantic coastal areas. According to a recent Storm Surge Report by CoreLogic, the Atlantic hurricane season puts 7.3 million homes at risk with an estimated reconstruction cost of $1.8 trillion.

“Florida stands out as the most vulnerable state, with more than three times more homes at risk (2,913,886) than second-ranked Louisiana (827,032). Florida also stands out in terms of potential damage, with at-risk structures having an estimated reconstruction cost of $604 billion — a third of the total for all 19 Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast states.

Narrowing down to metropolitan areas, Miami, New York City, Tampa, New Orleans and Virginia Beach, Virginia hold the greatest risks. In the New York City metro area, which includes Philadelphia and much of New Jersey, 831,000 homes with estimated replacement costs of $330 billion stand in harm’s way. In the Miami metropolitan area, which includes West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, 827,000 homes are at risk with an estimated replacement cost of $166 billion.”

Florida hurricane prep underway – get tax-free hurricane supplies through June 6!

Florida doesn’t take hurricanes lightly. The Orlando Sentinel posts thoughts from the region and talks about past storms in their news report,  Welcome to hurricane season 2019.

Floridians should act quickly for a discount on some hurricane supplies. Through June 6, certain hurricane supplies can be purchased tax-free during Florida sales tax holiday. Learn more from the Florida Department of Revenue’s Tax Information Publication:   Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday – May 31 through June 6, 2019

Hurricane Prep resources

 

Know the signs: Stroke can happen at any age


stroke can happen at any age

May is American Stroke Month. The recent deaths of beloved filmmaker John Singleton, aged 51 and actor Luke Perry, aged 52, serve as a sad reminder of why awareness of stroke warning signs is so vital. It’s also important to have a response plan for what to do if a stroke is suspected.

Generally, we tend to think of stroke as a medical condition affecting the elderly – and while stroke risk does increase in older years, the reality is that people of any age can suffer a stroke. In fact, health authorities say that the stroke risk for younger people is climbing.

“The deaths of Perry and Singleton underscore the fact that strokes are becoming more common among middle-aged adults. Between 2003 and 2012, the odds of being admitted to a hospital following an ischemic stroke — the most common type of stroke — increased 35.6% among U.S. residents ages 35 to 44. For those 45 to 54, the odds increased 20.5% over the same period, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.”

It’s important to learn stroke symptoms and act immediately, because with rapid treatment, stroke damage can be limited and the person can have a better chance of recovery. Experts say to think FAST: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, and Take action, time is vital. The symptoms are ones that we might identify as a stroke in the elderly, but we might not be looking for such symptoms in people who are young or middle-aged. In younger people, these and other common stroke symptoms might be misattributed to intoxication or drug use.

Limit your risk

Here’s some good news: an estimated 80% of strokes in the US are considered preventable. There are two primary types of risk factors for stroke:

  • Uncontrollable factors, such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, family history, a prior stroke and certain health conditions.
  • Modifiable factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, a diet high in saturated fats, physical inactivity and obesity.

Learn more about stroke risk factors that are controllable and steps you can take to control them. See also: 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke.

This video depicts an elderly person who is having stroke symptoms and what happens afterwards. It’s well done. Save a life by having a better understanding of stroke and by knowing what signs and symptoms to look for.

Boston remembers its Great Molasses Disaster


We recently passed the 100 year anniversary of the huge Boston Molasses Disaster, which occurred on January 5, 1919. In today’s world, it can be hard to imagine how a household product could cause a disaster that would lead to the death of 21 people, more than 150 injuries and an entire neighborhood being leveled. That was indeed the case when 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst from a 50-foot tall North End storage tank with powerful force.

Molasses was in important staple of the day, a common sweetener. In addition to household kitchen uses, molasses was a key ingredient in rum and was once used in the manufacture of munitions.

The disaster occurred just after lunchtime on an unseasonably warm January day in a bustling Boston neighborhood. Insurance Journal describes the event:

The initial wave rose at least 25 feet high – nearly as tall as an NFL goalpost – and it obliterated everything in its path, killing 21 people and injuring 150 others. Rivets popped like machine-gun fire. Elevated railway tracks buckled. Warehouses and firehouses were pushed around like game pieces on a Monopoly board. Tenements were reduced to kindling.

Outrunning the molasses was out of the question. The first of it raced through the harborside neighborhood at 35 mph. Not even Usain Bolt, who clocked just under 28 mph at his world-record fastest, could have sprinted to safety.

The storage tank was owned by Purity Distilling Company. After the disaster, they tried to blame the explosion on bombs set by anarchists. The real source of the disaster was a confluence of predictable factors, primarily a poorly-constructed, overloaded storage tank, so badly constructed that it was painted brown to mask all the leakage.

A page dedicated to the molasses disaster with links to historical accounts says:

“Envision a disaster scene with smashed buildings, overturned vehicles, drowned and crushed victims, and terrified survivors running away covered in molasses. Like the modern-day disasters with which we are unfortunately familiar, there was chaos, terror, buildings in ruins, victims to be dug out, trapped survivors to be rescued, rescue workers among the victims, and anguished families rushing to relief centers to find their relatives. It was like any horrible disaster scene, with the addition that everything was covered in smelly sticky brown molasses.”

Agency Checklists also features an article on the disaster, including several photos. They note that the disaster marked the beginning of stricter construction codes and accountability.

“According to a Time magazine article on the flood, the resulting court case in which the U.S. Industrial Alcohol (USIA) corporation, owner of the Purity Distilling Company who operated the tanks, was forced to pay “… restitution amounting to about $15 million in today’s money” due to the structural weakness of the tanks used to hold the molasses. It was revealed during the ensuing lawsuit that the engineer who oversaw the construction of the North End tanks did not even know how to read blueprints, and that the tanks has subsequently been painted to match the color of molasses in order to hide the constant leaks in the tank.

As a result of these revelations and the tragedy which resulted from such negligence, Massachusetts instituted stricter construction codes, essentially creating the idea and requirement of “accountability in construction.”

A century ago, liability insurance was in its early days. ( IRMI: Early Liability Coverage.) Businesses rarely had adequate insurance and the courts were often a victim’s only financial remedy for damages or loss.

Today, business insurance is a social safety net that protects a business owner from financial losses and provides financial remedy for personal injury, death and property loss by third parties, as well as for a business owner’s litigation costs. In addition, insurance companies play another important role, providing an additional layer of public protection through risk and loss exposure identification during the underwriting process, as well as loss prevention expertise for business owners.

If you’re interested in more information on this unusual disaster, we’ve included a few links and a video clip of a 22-minute video documentary.