In many parts of the US, wildfires are a constant threat. Wildfires destroy homes and property, injure and kill people and animals, and disrupt lives. We New Englanders tend to think of wildfires as only happening in the west, but that is not true. While less frequent and less damaging, there are indeed wildfires in New England. There are still some old-timers who remember a devastating Maine fire 70 years ago that destroyed towns and burned about a quarter of a million acres. People literally ran into the ocean to escape the flames. New England’s severe drought a few year’s ago was a prime condition for wildfires.
May 5, the first Saturday in May, is Wildfire Community Preparation Day. Wherever you live, it’s a great opportunity to pitch in and help your community prepare for wildfires and a good reminder to look over your family’s own fire-preparedness plan.
So get the word out May 5: being properly prepared for wildfires is your best defense.
Preparation against wildfires is a matter of taking a few simple steps:
Get the most out of your smartphone. Get community weather alerts. Install the FEMA app or sign up for the Emergency Alert System.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Radio also provides emergency alerts.
Know your evacuation route, and have a plan B. And even a plan C. You don’t always know which exit will be passable. Make plans for your pets and livestock, too.Have your bug-out bag packed. Keep a number of N95 respirator masks handy. These sub-$20 face masks will alleviate the threat from inhaled ash, grit, and other particulates.
Store your important documents in a fire-proof safe, and have password-protected back-ups of your data.
Make sure the hose will reach. You want to be able to soak every inch of your property with it.
Build with fire-resistant materials. Know the properties of the materials you’re using to build, renovate, and repair your home and outbuildings.
Make a firebreak. Keep flammable material such as leaves, firewood, and debris at least thirty feet away from your home.
Keep your insurance coverage up to date. If you’ve made renovations or additions to your property, let your insurance agent know. Go over all your insurance coverages with your agent once a year to make sure they’re up-to-date and suites to your current needs.
Fire safety works best when everyone collaborates. Get together with your friends and family on May 5 and make your community safer from wildfires.
It’s smart to review insurance basics every now and again and the Insurance Information Institute has produced some quick, simple videos on what you need to do to file a home or an auto claim. One important first step is to take the time to review your policies each year and understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover – ask your local agent if you have any gaps or exposures that leave you vulnerable. For example, most homeowners policies don’t include flood coverage. Or if you have valuables such as antiques, jewelry, or special collections, you may want to add coverage for those because your standard homeowners has coverage limits.
As for autos, here’s an interesting post on Gap Insurance and when it might make sense. Today’s long-financing options mean that you might owe more than your car is worth and you could be stuck should you total your car unless you have Guaranteed Replacement Cost coverage or Guaranteed Auto Protection (Gap insurance).
One other option is an umbrella policy, which would boost your coverage on your home and auto should you have a large lawsuit. Umbrella policies typically kick in after your regular insurance is exhausted. Learn more here.
OK, with those reminders, here are some basics about filing home or auto claims.
Flu season runs from October through May, generally peaking from December through March. Flu vaccines can take a few weeks to kick in so it’s good to get your shot early. Find out the place closest to you at the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.
Health experts say that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season, but it’s particularly important for people at high risk for developing potentially serious complications. These include:
Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
Adults 65 years of age and older
Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
American Indians and Alaskan Natives
People who have medical conditions
There are a lot of myths about the flu and vaccines – for example, many people think you can get the flu from a vaccine or that healthy people don’t need a vaccine. Harvard Medical School separates fact from fiction in 10 Flu Myths. Another common myth is that the flu is just a very bad cold – wrong! This Healthcare Triage video explains the difference.
Check out this short video clip on the value of working with an independent insurance agent. We spied it on Twitter the other day, posted by one of our great insurance company partners, Safety Insurance. It talks about the value, expertise and advocacy services that agents provide 24/7.
Joe Harrington of Markham Group, one of our Renaissance Alliance agency members,
made a good case for why you should use an independent agent in a blog post a few years ago. We think he said it well, so we reprint it here:
For some people it does not matter where they buy their insurance. That decision could be costing them money, service and proper protection. Buying insurance is not like buying gasoline at a gas station. It is an important financial decision in protecting those things that are important to you such as your family, home, autos and business.
Independent agencies differ greatly from direct insurance carriers or the internet based insurance companies. In brief, here are the three ways to buy insurance:
Captive Agents: Insurance agents that sell you the insurance policy of one (1) direct carrier.
Internet Based Agents: Agents who potentially represent multiple insurance carriers, but are unable to provide the best customer service and personal knowledge to properly protect you with your changing needs.
Independent Insurance Agents: Agents who represent an average of six – eight insurance carriers. Independent agents are able to research these carriers to find you the best combination of price, coverage and services to properly protect your assets.
Your Independent Insurance Agent:
Is a licensed professional with strong customer and community ties
Provides excellent customer service and competitive premiums because your agent can access coverage from multiple insurance carriers
Because an independent agency represents multiple carriers, the agent can provide flexibility as your insurance needs change. If your insurance needs no longer match your present insurance carrier, the independent agent can easily transition you to another carrier
Assists you when you have a claim
Is your consultant, working with you to determine your proper insurance needs
Saves you premium by looking at the best combination of price, coverage and service
Provides full service by offering a full range of insurance products such as home, renters, condo, auto, business, life and health
Knows you by name and not by a policy number. An independent agent treats you like a person