What you need to know about second home insurance

iStock_000012125494Medium-1024x682[1]Owning a vacation home can be a great investment. It’s a second home that you can go to over the summer or whenever you just want to get away from it all. But second homes can be an insurance risk due to no one being around to catch issues with the home and an empty home runs a higher risk of theft than one that is occupied regularly. But you are in luck, our friends over at the Insurance Information Institute have given us some tips to keep costs affordable.

Key factors that impact vacation home insurance costs
While the homeowners policy for your second home will provide the same types of coverage as your primary homeowners policy, the following factors will likely impact your insurance costs:

1. Location: Location is always a factor in homeowners insurance costs—for example, you need additional insurance if your dwelling is in a flood- or earthquake-prone area. With vacation homes, the very location that makes a place desirable may also make it more expensive to insure. For instance, a ski house or hunting lodge in a remote or mountainous area could be at greater risk for damage due to wildfire. A beach house may be more exposed to wind damage or storm surge from a hurricane. These location-based risks will impact the price of coverage, and in some cases, may even incur higher deductibles.
2. Property: As with any house, the age and type of building materials used in a vacation home will impact the cost of insurance. What’s also important is whether your second home is a single-occupancy house, a condominium or a townhouse. A condominium in a ski resort area, for instance, may have lower insurance costs than a stand-alone chalet. This is because a homeowners association maintains the property, and may provide some security. Importantly, the association insures the exterior of the property (the cost of it is generally included in the monthly maintenance fees). Your personal condo insurance will cover the specific areas of the unit listed in the policy, as well as your belongings.
3. Amenities: Though wonderful for relaxation, pools and hot tubs add risk to your second home. If your vacation residence is equipped with these or other special amenities, you may pay a higher insurance premium and you should also consider additional liability protection, which will increase insurance costs, as well.
Save on your second home insurance costs.
Having a second home and performing upkeep may be expensive as is, however your insurance costs don’t have to be. These are some things for you to consider while looking for the right home and insurance policy:

• Choose a location with less risk — A home further from the beach won’t be as susceptible to storm surges, for instance.
• Bundle your policies — If you insure your second home with the same insurer that provides coverage for your primary residence, you may be able to save on premiums.
• Install an alarm system — A centrally monitored alarm system that detects both fire and break-ins can help lower the cost of insurance.
• Shop around — Get at least three quotes for the coverage on your second home; review the policy costs before you renew each year to see if you can get a better rate.
Renting out your property?
If you plan to rent your vacation home to others, your homeowners’ insurance costs will likely increase and you may need to purchase additional coverage. If you rent your house out through programs like Airbnb, you will typically want to purchase insurance from them as well.

Because renting your second home entails additional, more complex risks, it’s a good idea to consult with your insurance professional and learn more about coverage for renting out your home to others.

Fireworks and Insurance: Here’s What You Should Know

art backlit dark dawnFourth of July takes all the things we love about summer and puts them all in one 24- hour celebration. For most is means no school/work, cookouts, swimming, popsicles and to top it off, fireworks.

Fireworks have been around for a long time and for many people it ignites a child-like awe at the beautiful colors lighting up the sky in its different shapes and styles. But as always, it’s important to make sure we are safe while viewing them and/or setting them off ourselves.

Dangers and Risks
According to Insurance Information Institute, in 2016 U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,100 people for fireworks related injuries and almost half of all reported fires on July 4th were started by fireworks between 2009 and 2013. In 2017, about 12,000 people were sent to the hospital due to fireworks related injuries. These injuries have been as minor as cuts and burns, to as major as permanent loss of fingers. Teens are at the highest risk for injury, so be sure to always have an adult on hand when fireworks are involved.

Check your Insurance
Before you use fireworks, try to make sure that in the event of damage, your insurance will cover it. Public events should get a public liability insurance policy to make sure that a cost claim made by a community member or event viewer can be covered. In some instances, however, the host site for the display will often have a policy in place.

If you are doing a firework display at home or on private property, your homeowners insurance will typically cover fire and other fireworks related damages. If others are injured due to fireworks on your property then your homeowner’s insurance will normally cover due to it being an injury on your property. If you are injured, you will need to contact your health insurance provider.

Never aim (even as a joke), point or throw fireworks at another person. If injury occurs due to the result of a bottle-rocket war or anything similar, insurance companies may not cover it since it is considered intentional. And besides that, it can result in serious injury!

Fireworks are legal in South Carolina, but if you are traveling to another state, regardless of if you are insured or not, make sure that shooting off fireworks is legal where you are. If it isn’t then your insurance provider will be unable to help you. 

Now that you are aware of what your insurance will and won’t cover, here are some tips to keep you safe while lighting fireworks:
• Always read and follow label directions.
• Never let children and teens light fireworks without supervision.
• Have water and a fire extinguisher nearby.
• Light fireworks one at a time.
• Light fireworks on a flat, open surface (preferably concrete) and away from grass, brush and other flammable objects.
• After lighting fireworks, stand at a safe distance.
• Douse all fireworks (used and unused) after completion for several hours before throwing them in the trash.
• Don’t allow kids to pick up firework material after an event.
• Keep fireworks away from children, this includes sparklers which can burn up to 2,000°F.
• Pets can be easily frightened and stressed during Fourth of July celebrations, it’s best if you take them inside to reduce their risk of injury and protect their ears from long term damage.

As stated earlier one option to view fireworks on the fourth is to go to a Community Fireworks show. There are many amazing shows happening in our state, some more notable ones can be found in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Greenville.

Go out and enjoy your Fourth of July, but you can enjoy it even more now that you know the risks and can keep yourself and the people around you safe!

Summer Safety: Grill Safety and Insurance

Nothing defines summer quite like a barbecue/cookout with friends and family. South Carolina barbecues are said to be some of the best too. But as with anything else you do this summer, it’s important to take precautions and stay safe. Keeping it simple, our friends over at the Insurance Information Institute have put together some information to make sure you can have your best cookout yet!

Hot to handle

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 5,700 grill fires take place on residential property every year, most caused by malfunctioning gas grills. These fires cause an annual average of $37 million in damage, 100 injuries and 10 fatalities. In addition, thousands more people visit emergency rooms every year because they have burned themselves while barbecuing.

In the rare instance of a grill fire spreading to your property, your homeowners insurance provides financial protection, as fire is a covered peril. A standard policy covers:

  • Damage to the house itself
  • Damage to personal possessions, such as lawn furniture
  • Damage to insured structures on your property, such as a shed or gazebo
  • Injuries to a guest, under the liability portion of the policy

Of course, the best way to enjoy a summer of outdoor barbecues is to take steps to prevent accidents, and take fast action should any occur.

Properly maintain and store your grill

Gas grills are generally safe if they are properly designed and constructed, properly maintained and regularly checked for leaks. Follow these safety tips when setting up at the start of each grilling season:

  • Search the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure there has not been a recall on your model grill.
  • Check grill hoses for cracks, holes and brittleness.
  • Check for blockages, especially in the Venturi tube that runs to the burners. These can be caused by food drippings, spiders or insects. Clear any blockages with a wire or pipe cleaner.
  • Check for leaks by running a solution of one part liquid soap, one part water along hoses and on connections. Open the valve at your tank and check to make sure that gas isn’t escaping, which will be indicated by bubbles at the leaking points.
  • Adjust hoses away from hot areas or where grease might drip on them.
  • Cover your grill when cooled and not in use to help protect its parts from inclement weather, falling leaves, and insect activity.
  • Store propane tanks outside, away from your house. Always check to make sure valves are firmly turned off.

 

Practice safe barbecue habits

  • Operate your barbecue on a level surface, away from your house, garage and landscaping.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and let everyone know where it is and how to operate it.
  • Don’t move the grill once it is lit.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Protect yourself—or whoever is doing the grilling—with a heavy apron and oven mitts that reach high on the forearm. Use very long-handled utensils designed for barbecuing.
  • Use only lighter fluid designed for grilling when charcoal grilling. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids, and never add more lighter fluid once the fire has started.
  • Never grill indoors or in enclosed areas. Charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide (CO) fumes, which can be fatal in unventilated areas.
  • Wait until the grill is cooled before storing or covering. When you’re done cooking, remember that the grill will remain hot for a while.
  • Soak charcoal briquettes with water to ensure they are cool and inactive before throwing them away.

 

Know what to do in case of an accident

Despite all good efforts to prevent them, accidents do happen. Which is why they’re called accidents—and why people have insurance! Here are steps to take if the worst should happen:

  • In case of fire get out the trusty fire extinguisher and, if the situation warrants, call 911. Fire spreads quickly and it’s better to be safe with professional help than sorry.
  • Address injuries immediately. Run cool water over minor burns, but do not cover injured areas with bandages, butter or salve. In the case of serious burns, take victims to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Again, if needed or when in doubt, call 911.
  • Assess your property damage. Once you have dealt with any injuries and the smoke clears, assess your property damage. If the situation calls for it, contact your insurance professional to discuss filing a claim.

 

Summer Safety: What You Need to Know About Pools and Insurance

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Summers in the Carolinas are famously hot! There’s no doubt about that. Fortunately for us, the summer is also the time when the pools open up and swimming becomes everyone’s number one pastime! Thanks to the Insurance Information Institute, here are some tips and information to keep yourself safe while enjoying your time in the water. 

Pools are fun—and potentially dangerous

You’re installing a pool or “home spa” hot tub in for relaxation, recreation, and fun. And it’ll be a great feature to have for backyard parties with family and friends.

  • Pool fun – An estimated 7.4 million swimming pools and five million hot tubs are in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Why is the CDC involved in pool counts?
  • Pool accidents – From 2005-2014, there was an average of over 3,500 fatal, unintentional drownings in the United States each year. More than one out of five drowning victims is 14 years old or younger.

Is your pool a ‘home pool’

Each town has its own definition of what constitutes a “home pool,” often based on its size and the depth of the water. Contact your municipality to learn the local standards and relevant safety and building codes to which you must adhere. These may include installing a certain size fence, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.

Understand the insurance implications of a pool

A pool is considered an “attractive nuisance” by the insurance industry. As enjoyable as it is, it will increase your liability risk so it’s advisable to contact your insurance professional and review your insurance if you’ve got a pool or are planning to install one.

Pool owners should consider increasing the liability portion of their homeowners policy to at least $300,000 or $500,000—more, if their assets warrant it.

You might also want to consider an umbrella liability policy, which provides additional liability protection over and above what you already have on your home.

Be sure to have enough insurance protection to replace your pool in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster—including the amount of any pool-related items, such as deck furniture.

 

Prepare and plan for anything

  • Create a barrier. To eliminate unsupervised entrance to the swimming or spa area, install a fence with self-closing gates or other barrier on all sides of the pool. If the house forms part of the barrier to the pool, install alarms on doors leading to the pool area to prevent children from wandering into the pool or spa unsupervised. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating several “layers of protection” such as locks, alarms, locks and safety covers to secure the pool and pool area when not in use.
  • Create and post a list of safety rules and strictly enforce them with guests.
  • Post emergency numbers on the home phone nearest the pool, in the event of an accident. Keep a copy and a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool.
  • Know how to shut of filters and other devices and clearly post this information so others can do so in case of an emergency.
  • Learn—and have your family members learn—basic water rescue skills, including first aid and CPR training.
  • Get your children swimming lessons as early as possible. Having a backyard pool makes this a vital and important safety skill.

Dive in…safely

  • Ask if pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. Do not allow anyone to use the pool alone (and don’t do so yourself).
  • Never leave children unsupervised—even for a few seconds. It only takes a second for tragedy to happen.
  • Block children from pool filters and other mechanical devices, as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing.
  • Don’t leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use—they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers who might then fall into the pool while trying to reach them.
  • Pay attention to the weather. Excessive heat can cause dizziness, which can dangerous around a pool. And never swim during rain or lightning storms.
  • If you have a diving board, post the depth and the rules nearby and keep the diving area clear. Never allow diving into an aboveground pool.
  • Don’t hesitate to curtail guests’ activities around the pool if you have doubts about their sobriety, their alertness or their water skills.

 

Stay safe around the pool

  • Check regularly for potential hazards around the pool. Glass bottles and electronic devices can be dangerous near the pool or around wet areas. Toys near the pool can create slipping hazards or tempt children near the water.
  • Use plastic drink ware and serving ware around the pool to minimize the danger of broken glass underfoot, and to protect your pool liner from potential damage.
  • Limit alcohol use around the water. The CDC reports that alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. Drinking negatively impacts balance, coordination and judgment—and its effects are further heightened by sun exposure and heat—including the heated water of a hot tub. Don’t allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol excessively to go into the pool.

Additional resources

For First Aid and CPR and other emergency training, contact the American Red Cross. 

Learn more about pool safety at Pool Safely.

Understanding Basic Car Insurance

th[10]Understanding car insurance can be tricky. Lucky for us, Insurance Information Institute has made it easy. You can also head on over to our website and take a look at the South Carolina specific information regarding car insurance.

Bodily injury liability
Bodily injury liability coverage applies to injuries that you, the designated driver or policyholder, cause to someone else. You and family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else’s car with their permission.
It’s very important to have enough liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. It’s recommended that policyholders buy more than the state-required minimum liability insurance, enough to protect assets such as your home and savings.

Medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP)
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car. At its broadest, PIP can cover medical payments, lost wages and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs.

Property damage liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property. Usually, this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car hit.

Collision
Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, an object, such as a tree or telephone pole, or as a result of flipping over (note that collisions with deer are covered under comprehensive). It also covers damage caused by potholes.
Collision coverage is generally sold with a separate deductible. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company and, if they are successful, you’ll also be reimbursed for the deductible.

Comprehensive
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object. Comprehensive covers events such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals such as birds or deer. It will also pay to repair your windshield if it is cracked or shattered.
Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a separate deductible, although some insurers may offer the glass portion of the coverage without a deductible.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage reimburses you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured driver or a driver who doesn’t have sufficient insurance to pay for your total loss. This coverage also offers protection in the event a covered driver is the victim of a hit-and-run or if, as a pedestrian, you are struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Spring brings storms…are you ready?

meteorologists-predict-tornados[1].jpgSpring – when everything is blooming and growing- also when some pretty nasty storms can roll in. Lucky for us, the Insurance Information Institute has several handy tips to help you stay protected this spring.

What is a tornado?
A tornado—also known as a twister—is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground. Tornado intensity is measured by the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, which rates tornadoes from 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage.

How common are tornadoes?
An average of about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide each year. Twisters are more common in the central United States, though they can occur almost anywhere in North America, including in large cities.
Tornadoes can happen at any time of year or at any time of the day or night, though they happen most frequently between early spring and July, and between the hours of 4pm and 9pm.

What are the warning signs of a tornado?

  • Dark greenish skies
  • Large hail
  • Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
  • Loud roar, like a train

Despite the fact that meteorologists are now better able to predict them, tornadoes can strike with little warning. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared well before a tornado approaches. In communities with a history of tornado activity, there may be a tornado warning siren and/or a digital messaging system to alert residents that there is a twister coming and that they should seek proper shelter immediately.

What’s the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?
Both tornado watches and tornado warnings are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/ National Weather Service. However, there are critical differences between the two alerts.
A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Be alert to changes in the weather, account for all family members, and listen to local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Move cars inside and keep car and house keys with you. If time permits, move lawn furniture and equipment inside to minimize flying debris. If a tornado siren sounds, stay inside and take cover.
A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been spotted or is indicated on weather radar in your area. This means danger is imminent and you may only have seconds to take cover.

What to do when a tornado has been sighted
When a tornado warning sounds or a tornado has been sighted, do not try to outrun it. Stay calm but quickly seek shelter in the safest place possible.
If you are at home, the safest place to be is underground. Basements are usually the most protected area, but if this is not an option take cover in central part of the house away from windows—for example in a bathroom, closet, interior hallway or under a heavy piece of furniture.
If you are in an office building or skyscraper, go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building—away from glass and on the lowest floor possible—and crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter and, if they are not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off elevators, you could get trapped if the power is lost. If you are in a tall building you may not have enough time to evacuate to the lowest floor.
If you are at school follow the staff instructions and go to an interior hall or room in an orderly way as directed. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
If you are in a car or truck, abandon the vehicle and seek shelter in sturdy structure. If you are in open country, seek shelter in the nearest ditch. Lie flat, facedown on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.
If you are in a mobile home, get out! Even if the home is tied down, you are probably safer outside.

Safety precautions to take after a tornado
Tornadoes can cause dangerous damages, so take caution with potential hazards after the storm.
Stay in your shelter until after the storm is over or until emergency personnel have arrived.
Check the people around you for injuries. If necessary, begin first aid or seek help.
Check your utility lines and appliances for damage. If you smell gas, open the windows and turn off the main valve. Don’t turn on lights or appliances until the gas has dissipated. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power.
Outside, watch out for downed power lines and stay away from any puddle with wires in them. These could be carrying deadly live current.
Be aware there may be leaking gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. The oil from these can be present in water or on the ground, so avoid using matches or lighters.

Recovering from a tornado
Damage caused by tornadoes is covered under standard homeowners and business insurance policies, and under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.
If you sustain tornado damage:
Contact your insurer as soon as possible and start the claims filing process. After tornadoes and other disasters, insurance companies will reach out to those with the worst losses first.
Take photos of any damage. A photographic record is useful when making insurance claims.
Make temporary repairs to prevent further loss from rain, wind or looting; these costs are reimbursable under most policies, so save the receipts.
Make a detailed list of all damaged or destroyed personal property. If you have a home inventory, it will be extremely useful here. Don’t throw out damaged property until you have met with an adjuster.
Don’t rush to sign repair contracts. Do your homework, deal with reputable contractors and get references. Be sure of payment terms and consult your insurance adjuster before you sign any contracts.
If your home is uninhabitable because of tornado damage, your homeowners or renters insurance provides coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) such as hotel bills or meals out. Save all related receipts and, if you have vacated your home premises, make sure your insurance representative knows where and how to contact you.
Talk to your insurance professional if you have any questions about any part of your insurance coverage.