Category Archives: Around The House

how-well-do-you-know-your-stuff-create-a-home-inventory

How well do you know your stuff? Create a home inventory!

Pop quiz – without looking, see how you do answering these questions:

  • What are the makes and years of your major kitchen appliances?
  • How many pairs of pants do you own? Jackets? Shoes? Boots?
  • What year did you buy your mattress and bed frame and what brand is it?
  • Name all the power tools you own. List the contents of your tool chest?
  • What brand of dinnerware and flatware do you own and when did you buy it?
  • List all your AV equipment, the make, the brand and the year you bought it.
  • Write down everything in your living room. Include what’s in the drawers and closets.

It’s not so easy remembering that stuff, is it?

It would be even harder if you were trying to recall all your stuff right after your house was destroyed in a fire or demolished in a hurricane. That’s why it’s important to keep a home inventory. If you find yourself under the terrible stress of recovering from a disaster or even a burglary, you don’t need the added burden of trying to remember all the possessions you lost so that you can be properly reimbursed by your insurer. A good home inventory will help you document your losses and make it easier to file a claim and get it processed.

You can record your “stuff” in a notebook (old-school style), but phones and computers have really simplified the process. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick, or use your phone to take  room-by-room videos and document with photos. Or download an inventory app. Just be sure that you have multiple copies, that you store your inventory in a safe and accessible place and you keep it updated. Even if you make a hand-written version, you can scan it and keep it online in cloud storage.

If you’ve never done a home inventory, it can be a daunting job, but there are tools to help. And going forward, things will be much easier if you get in the habit of taking photos of new purchases and saving receipts. Log serial numbers, when available.

Consumer Reports offers advice on How to Inventory Your Home for an Insurance Adjuster – including this short video:

Here’s more home inventory advice from people who should know: insurers.

If you are interested in an app to help you create a home inventory, here are some reviews of top picks:

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

buying-a-used-car-dont-get-scammed-by-title-washing

Buying a used car? Don’t get scammed by title washing

You see a nice used car at the local dealership that would be great for your college-bound son. You buy the car, and a few weeks later, you get a call that your son is being held by police on a charge of car theft. What!?! You spend considerable time to prove he is not a criminal and that you recently bought the car. You clear things up for your son but the issue of the car is not so simple. You are the victim of title washing. The car is indeed a stolen vehicle so you won’t get that back.

If that sounds like a far-fetched scenario, it’s not. It’s exactly what happened recently to a Chicago couple who suffered a $24,000 loss on a used car they’d recently bought. Both they and the car dealership where they bought it were victims of a title washing ring that is now under investigation.

A title washing scam might seem like a relatively obscure thing, but it’s not. It’s estimated that used car buyers are scammed up to $30 billion a year in what the National Association of Attorneys General calls the worst problem used car buyers face. Experts say that as many as 1 in 44 titles in some states have been washed.

In simple terms, title washing is a scam in which the paperwork for stolen vehicles is faked or forged. But it’s not just stolen cars – title washing is also a way to clear a troubled car’s history, a common way to re-market cars that have been totaled, salvaged or flood-damaged. This article offers a good overview of the practice: Title Washing in America – Lemons without the Lemonade  It includes a handy list of red flags to look for when buying a used car, which we’ve reprinted below.

One lesson to be learned from this is not to rely solely on the title when buying a used car. In buying a used car, be sure to check if it has been declared stolen or totaled by searching the car’s VIN:

Of course, there are other best practices beyond just checking the title when buying a used car. See these sources for more tips:

red flags for buying aused car

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

how-to-avoid-hydroplaning-and-what-to-do-if-it-happens

How to avoid hydroplaning – and what to do if it happens

We all think about tire safety in winter when the roads are snowy or slushy and we adjust our driving accordingly. But what about in the rain? Wet, slick roads with water buildup can be quite hazardous, too. Many drivers are rather cavalier about  adjusting their driving in the rain  and are caught short when something goes wrong, such as hydroplaning.

Hydroplaning – also sometimes called aquaplaning – is losing traction over water while driving, and actually skimming or sliding on the surface of that water. Losing contact with the road is a frightening experience because it results in loss of control of the car. The formula for hydroplaning is speed, tire tread depth and water depth. It’s important to maintain your tires and slow down when it rains. Even a light rain can be hazardous, particularly in the first few minutes as rainfall mixes with oils on the road surface.

Edmunds offers excellent Tips for Driving Safely in the Rain. Also, check out these two videos that talk more about what hydroplaning is and what to do should it occur.

 

Technology helps, but is not a substitute for caution
While driver-assist technologies such as traction control, anti-lock brakes and lane assist technologies can help keep us safer, don’t rely on them. Be cautious and be prepared:

  • Maintain your tires – make sure the tread is good and that they are properly inflated.
  • Slow down when it rains. Many experts suggest reducing speed by about one-third.
  • Avoid standing water.
  • Disable cruise control on wet roads and when raining.
  • Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead.
  • If you do hydroplane, stay calm, ease off the accelerator, and don’t make any sudden moves that may cause a spin out.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

how-to-file-a-settlement-claim-if-you-were-affected-by-the-equifax-data-breach

How to file a settlement claim if you were affected by the Equifax data breach

Were you affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach? You might have been because 147 million records in the US alone were exposed. If you’d like a refresher on the event, we talked about it in a blog post, along with the remedies available at the time Equifax Data Breach:

Before you dismiss this as ancient history, check this out: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced that Equifax has agreed to a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.

If you were affected, you might be eligible for

  • Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring
  • A cash payment of $125 in lieu of credit monitoring
  • Payment for time, expenses or losses related to the breach (capped at $20,000)

For more details on what you might be eligible for, see the FTC’s summary of the Equifax Data Breach Settlement

Here’s how to file a claim:

  • The first step is to find out if your information was exposed: use this look-up tool.
  • If your data was exposed, you must file a claim by January 22, 2020. You can file a claim online, or see instructions for filing a hard copy. It’s a fairly easy process. Here are FAQs if you want to learn more.

It may seem nearly impossible to protect your data from being exposed, but don’t give up!  See our post on 66 ways to protect your identity and privacy for tips.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

drowning-prevention-tips-from-parents-for-parents-and-anyone-who-cares-about-kids

Drowning prevention tips from parents, for parents (and anyone who cares about kids)

Do you have kids? Or grand-kids? Or nieces and nephews? If so, this post is for you – it has valuable information about keeping those beloved kids safe in and around water. And even if you don’t have kids yourself but you simply frequent pools and beaches in the summer, we encourage you to take note, too. We offer useful tips to keep kids safe from people who know.

First, we point to a popular prior blog post that contains useful information that many people didn’t know: ” We are conditioned by movies and pop culture to think that a drowning person would yell and wave for help and splash violently to get attention. In reality, drowning is a quiet, desperate event – so quiet that every year, children die in pools and water just feet away from parents or friends who do not recognize the signs of distress.”

Drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies

We’ve also recently come across a few useful articles featuring Moms who offer great advice about protecting kids from downing. One mother, sadly, gained her expertise the hard way after the drowning death of her toddler. The other Mom gained her expertise in her job investigating drowning deaths as her job.

In A Layered Approach to Preventing Drowning, Nicole Hughes shares her sad experience and the lessons she learned from her 3-year old son Levi’s drowning death:

“Our son drowned when there were six physicians in the room, 12 adults, 17 kids,” said his mother, Nicole Hughes, a writing teacher and literacy coach in Bristol, Tenn., who now works extensively in drowning prevention, including with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Everything I read about drowning before Levi died, it was like background noise,” Ms. Hughes said. “We think it’s happening to neglectful parents” who don’t watch their children when they’re swimming. But as she learned after Levi’s death, for most toddlers who drown, it doesn’t happen in the context of time spent “swimming” — that is, time they’re known to be in the water. And drowning is the leading cause of preventable deaths in children from 1 to 4.”

In addition to offering great advice for parents to raise awareness, the article also points to a helpful  Drowning Prevention Toolkit from American Academy of Pediatrics.

The second article offers water safety tips for parents from Natalie Livingston, a Mom who investigates drownings in her role as vice president of Oostman Aquatic Safety Consulting. She knows what she is talking about – she “spent 25 years as a lifeguard and worked as the general manager of a water park for 10 years. She trains lifeguards, consults in both private and public operations, and is hired as an expert witness in drowning cases.”

Livingston lists 10 in-depth, practical tips with advice that you might not think about, tips that she applies to her own children. For example, would you think to teach your child how to escape the grip of a struggling, panicked person? Or raise awareness about water depth in practical terms they can understand? Those are among the many lessons she offers.  You can also follow Livingston on Facebook at Aquatic Safety Connection for more tips. Her tips have gone viral online, and she was recently featured on Good Morning America. Take the time to check them out!

In addition to Livingston’s tips, the article offers these additional water safety recommendations:

  • Swim Lessons Save Lives
  • Learn CPR — Drowning patients need oxygen — give air first!
  • USCG approved lifejackets only — no arm floaties or inflatables
  • Designate A Water Watcher / Swim with a Lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and layers of protection
  • Enter the water feet first
  • No running
  • Stay hydrated / protect yourself from the sun
  • No drugs / alcohol
  • All water is dangerous — even inches
  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Lost / Missing kids — always check the water first

See related posts on pool safety:
Swimming pool and spa safety issues and insurance coverage

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

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

heat-wave-how-to-keep-your-cool

Heat wave: How to keep your cool

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

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

summer-safety-preventing-tick-related-illnesses

Summer safety: Preventing tick-related illnesses

Sorry to put a damper on your summer, but we’re in prime tick season right now. If you like spending time in the great outdoors, there are some steps you should take to stay safe from tick-related illnesses, which can be very serious.

Disease carrying ticks are found in all 50 states. In northern and New England states with a high deer population, black-legged ticks — also known as deer ticks — are a great menace because they can transmit Lyme disease.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that the risk of Lyme Disease is confined to the North – deer ticks can be found in all states and as weather patterns shift, tick populations are shifting, too. In the south, dog ticks and Gulf Coast ticks that carry Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and Lone Star ticks that cause meat allergies are more common. (see Ticks and Diseases in Florida)

Wherever you live, some of the most important steps in preventing tick-related diseases are knowing where and when tick encounters are most likely to happen, knowing how to dress to prevent ticks and checking yourself, your kids and your pets after outdoor activities to remove any ticks. What type of activities? Gardening, hiking, golfing, camping, walking the dog, playing in the yard … any outdoor activities, particularly those that occur in or near wooded areas.

One resource for tips on preventing tick related problems is from the University of Rhode Island. Check out the site called the TickEncounter Resource Center, with lots of great information on tick identification and removal, as well as tips for your protection, for treating your yard, and protecting your pets. It has a lot of information about the various types of ticks and diseases that they carry.

One of their primary recommendations for preventing ticks is dressing appropriately. They offer this reminder:

“What you wear when working or playing could reduce your chances of tick bites. Remember: Ticks start LOW and crawl UP; ticks do not jump, fly or drop from trees, they are down on the ground and crawl up until they find a good spot to attach. Tucking pant legs into socks is a good way to keep ticks on the outside where they may be seen or get brushed off.”

Another important thing is to make sure that after outdoor activities, you do a thorough tick check –if you can catch a tick and remove it early you can prevent disease because according to the CDC, it generally takes 36-48 hours of attachment before disease is spread.  The CDC suggests using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Ticks are great at hiding, they like warm, moist areas of the body such as the scalp, armpits and groin. Their bit is painless. The CDC says to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks.

illustration on what body parts to check for ticks

 

Also, be sure to check your pets and your clothes and gear. The CDC says:

Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

 

The Center by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers more tick resources, including prevention, information on tick removal information and more as well as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever resources.

For local alerts on ticks and other season health issues, check your state health department. Many states have created specific tick-related resources such as the ones we cite above from Florida and Rhode Island. These can be found by simply entering “ticks your state” name in Google.

 

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

cellphone-driving-laws-florida-and-massachusetts

Cellphone driving laws: Florida and Massachusetts

Florida has a new law that prohibits texting while driving, which went into effect July 1. It’s called the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. From now until January 1, 2020, drivers who break the law will get a warning, but after that, a $30 fine will be imposed for a first offense, and a $60 fine for a second offense. But that’s actually just the tip of the iceberg – there are court costs, insurance surcharges and more that can make breaking the law quite costly. Florida Today explains why your $30 ticket becomes way more expensive, breaking down additional court costs and fees that bring your actual first-time penalty to $119 in Brevard County. (Each county’s fees may differ)  In addition to that, your auto insurance rates could cost you up to 25% more per year for three years. That means that a quick text could be very costly!

Local 10 offers a recap of what you need to know about Florida’s new texting while driving law. There are some exceptions, which they list as:

“Some exceptions apply. The law does not apply to vehicles that are stationary or to a driver who is:
– Performing official duties, such as operating an emergency vehicle (i.e., law enforcement, fire service professionals, and emergency medical service providers).
– Reporting an emergency, a crime or other suspicious activity to law enforcement.
– Receiving messages that are:
a. related to the operation and/or navigation of the motor vehicle; b. safety-related information (emergency, traffic, and weather alerts); c. data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or d. radio broadcasts.
– Using the device in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes.
– Using the device in a way that does not require manual entry of characters, except to initiate a function or feature.”

Massachusetts cell-phone ban law in the works

Massachusetts residents take note: In June, Boston.com reported that a driver hand-held cellphone ban moves closer to becoming law. The Senate and the House have both approved versions of the law and must now reach agreement on a compromise bill. But be aware that proposed fines are costly:

The bill calls for a fine of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense. Those who commit a second or subsequent offense would be required to complete a program that “encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving.”

A third or subsequent violation would also be a considered a surchargeable incident under car insurance policies. The bill would allow an exception to using cellphones in the case of an emergency if no one else in the car is able to make the call.

Driving & cellphone use laws by state

Here’s a handy tool to bookmark: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) maintains a summary of cell-phone use laws with maps and a detailed chart listing of cellphone use laws by state.

They summarize three types of prohibitions for cellphone use laws:

  • Hand-held ban laws: Bans on hand-held phone conversations while driving are widespread in other countries and are becoming more common in the U.S. In 2001, New York became the first state to ban hand-held phone conversations by all drivers. Now 20 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
  • Texting ban laws: Texting is banned for all drivers in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Young driver phone ban use laws: 38 states and the District of Columbia restrict cellphone use by young drivers.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

take-the-what-the-flood-quiz

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.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

whats-an-insurance-deductible

What’s an insurance deductible?

Like many other industries, insurance has its own unique jargon that can sometimes make shopping for coverage seem overly complicated. Your local independent insurance agent is always happy to break things down for you and explain any language or terms that you don’t understand. One term that is commonly used in auto, health and in other insurance policies is “deductible.”

In simple terms, a deductible is the amount of money that you, the insured, must pay for a claim before your insurance will kick in.

If you have a deductible, it means that you will be responsible for any losses or payment of services up to the stated dollar amount in your insurance policy. Usually, deductibles are defined as a dollar amount, but they can also be defined as a percentage.

Deductibles can be beneficial both for the insured and for the insurance company. For the insured, it can be a way to are a way to reduce the cost of insurance: The more risk for loss that you, the insured, agree to pay before the insurance kicks in, the lower your premium. For the insurance company, it is a way to avoid the cost of processing and paying a high volume of small claims. Talk to you insurance agent about what deductible options are available to you and how they will affect the cost of your coverage.

Let’s look at an example: You are in an auto accident and your car’s damages are assessed at $1250 in damages. If your insurance policy has a $500 deductible, you will have to pay the first $500 of the damages to your car out of your own pocket and the insurer will pay the remaining $750. Generally, once the deductible is met, any future losses that you might have during the term of that policy will be covered in full.

The Insurance Information Institute has a great article on understanding your insurance deductibles that explains how deductibles work to prevent surprise costs and save money. It’s a good introduction with clear examples. They also discuss homeowners disaster deductibles for hurricane, wind/hail, flood and earthquake coverage. (Reminder: your homeowners insurance does not automatically cover you should your home be damaged by flood, earthquake, and other natural catastrophes – talk to your insurance agent about what your homeowners does and doesn’t cover.)

Businesses can also opt for deductible plans for certain types of business coverage such as workers compensation programs.

Many people are familiar with deductibles through their health insurance coverage. Learn more about health insurance deductibles at HealthCare.gov.

As with all insurance matters, you need to check your own policy. Insurance can vary by state law, by type of coverage, and by individual policy. It’s a good idea to read your policy and to ask your insurance agent to explain any terms that you don’t understand.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.