Go back to school safely with these tips

It is back to school time here in South Carolina, and if you’re like many families, that means getting back into a routine. Routines are a great way to make sure your life runs smoothly, but you are also at risk at becoming complacent to actively staying safe when you do the same thing five or more times a week. We are talking about transportation to and from school! Once you get the routine down, you might start doing things on “auto pilot” instead of paying attention to things around you. Here are some things to remember daily as school gets underway:

  1. Driving to school? Be aware of school busses. You must ALWAYS stop when traveling behind a bus with flashing amber or red lights. If you are traveling in the opposite direction of a bus and you see red lights flashing, you must stop as well.
  2. When should you stop for a bus: when you are on a four lane road and behind a stopped bus, you must stop. If you are coming from another direction, you do not have to stop, but SHOULD slow down and proceed with caution.
  3. Keep your eyes on the look out for pedestrians. If you do not stop for a bus, and a child is injured, you will be fined over $1,000 with an additional 6 points added to your license.
  4. School Zones mean you must drive carefully. Always be on the lookout for zone signs, signals and crossing guards.
  5. Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to drop off rules at school. Drop students off in designated areas only.
  6. Be a good example and wear your seatbelt. Don’t start your car until you hear a click from everyone’s seatbelt!Buckling your seat belt is the law – it also is smart and safe. Studies show that using a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a vehicle collision by 50%.
  7. You’ve got a lot going on, but put the phone down. It can wait. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting. Is that work email worth risking you and your kid’s lives? No.
  8. Make sure your child knows where to wait on the bus, and that they are on time. Students should be waiting at the bus stop approximately 5-10 minutes ahead of their scheduled pick up times. This allows drivers to adjust to new routes and schedules. Students should wear bright colors which helps with visibility with drivers. Students must stand at least 12 feet from the road. Remind your child how to practice safety while waiting on the bus!
    9. Make sure your child ONLY crosses streets at designated crosswalks, street corners and traffic controlled intersections. Drivers may be distracted, but if your child is paying attention, it could save their life.
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Are you prepared and protected as a small business in the event of a disaster?

When disaster strikes, many businesses are forced to close their doors while in recovery, and this puts those businesses at a high risk of never being able to reopen their doors. While you cannot escape Mother Nature, you can be better prepared with a disaster plan and enough insurance coverage to help in recovery and reopening your small business.

A recovery plan has a few elements that are important to follow.

  • Be sure to set up a response plan, and know how to use it! Make sure your employees know how to use it too. Things to include: who to notify when there is a disaster, direct steps on how to minimalize property loss and protect lives. Be sure each of these steps are written out in simple language and rehearsed often.
  • While you’re at it, include a list of names, numbers and addresses of those who would be needed in a disaster, team members, authorities, contractors, clients, insurance agents and company claim representatives etc.
  • Stay in touch with your customers. Find some way to reach out to the community and let them know what is going on. This can be done through social media or by an old-fashioned sign in the window.
  • Think about your resources: do you need back up power? Back up phones? How will you deal with team members who cannot get to work, yet the business is still open? Is your building up to code? Make sure it is. It is always a good idea to reach out to other small businesses around you and let them know what you are doing and see if they would like to collaborate on a disaster plan.

Be ready financially by following these steps:

  • Figure out what are your critical business activities. If you cannot afford to shut down for a period of time, make sure you have a backup location that you can carry out your work from.
  • Protect your data! Make sure all your financial and client data is backed up safely.
  • Review your insurance plan and make sure you have sufficient coverage to pay for damages and to cover you for other costs from loss of ability to conduct business.

Types of insurance you should consider:

  • Building coverage insures recovery of the physical location if it is destroyed or damaged.
  • Business personal property is coverage for contents and inventory damaged or lost.
  • Tenants improvements and betterments covers fixtures, installations or any changes made as a result.
  • Additional property coverage covers items like fences, pools and so forth.
  • Business income covers loss of revenue and your day to day operating expenses.

You have home insurance, but do you have this home plan?

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Keeping your house insured is important – but what about having a plan in place to protect those inside your home in case of a fire? Do you have and practice a house fire escape plan? It could be the difference between life and death in a fire.

While thinking about waking up in the middle of the night to your smoke detector going of and flames lapping through your home is very unpleasant, even scary, thinking about  and panning out how you would evacuate your home in this scenario ahead of time could save your life in the event of a fire. It is smart to practice this evacuation plan with those who are inside your home as well so that everyone has the best chance of escaping a house fire.

Most Americans think they would have plenty of time to escape a house fire, but the scary reality is that you could have as little as one or two minutes before being overcome by smoke.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows 71% of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, but shockingly only 47 % of those have practiced their plan. In a house fire, seconds matter and you don’t want to waste them trying to remember what your plan. A good escape plan has a designated outside meeting place and is practiced at least twice a year by everyone within the home.

Here are some other tips on how to best protect yourself and your family in the event of a fire.

Be Prepared

  1. Install smoke alarms inside and outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.
  2. Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years.
  3. Ensure everyone in the household knows the sound of the smoke alarm and what it signifies.
  4. Ensure everyone in the household can unlock and open all doors and windows, even in the dark.
  5. If a room has a window air conditioner, make sure there is still a second way out of the room. Windows with security bars, grills, and window guards should have emergency release devices. Make sure you can operate these.
  6. Conduct family fire drills. Make sure everyone living in the house knows two ways out of every room.
  7. Pick a meeting place. The meeting place should be a permanent fixture, like a large tree, and should be far enough from the house to ensure everyone’s safety in an emergency.
    Children, older adults, and people with disabilities may need assistance to wake up and get out. Make sure that someone will help them.
  8. Teach your children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.

Get Out

  1. If the smoke alarm sounds or fire is discovered in your home, get out fast. Close doors behind you as you leave to help stop the spread of the fire.
  2. Doors need to be tested before opening them. Use the back of your hand to see if the door is warm. If it is, use another escape route.
  3. Close the door when escaping a fire. A closed door can limit property loss and increase survivability during a home fire.
  4. If you have to escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
    If you are trapped, close all doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around the doors with clothes or towels to keep out smoke.
  5. Call the fire department, wait at a window and signal for help with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.

Stay Out

  1. Once you are out, stay out. Don’t go back inside for any reason.
  2. Call the fire department from your safe outside meeting place.
  3. If people or pets are trapped, notify the fire department and let them handle the rescue efforts.

 

Is travel insurance a good idea?

 

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“Should I get travel insurance for my upcoming trip?”
You may have asked yourself this question right after booking a flight, a cruise or any type of tour as you are usually asked by online companies if you would like the extra security added to your total at checkout.

But how useful is travel insurance? And is it really needed?

We break it down for you:

First, you need to understand the three basic types of travel insurance and what they are good for. One type of travel insurance covers any penalties or some extra costs that you may get if you have to withdraw your reservations or change your travel plans. This can cover things from reimbursing prepaid expenses such as flights, hotels or reservations due to a death in the family, weather related issues, or missed flights. Another option is to purchase travel health insurance. This covers any gaps in your already existing insurance for such things as emergency medical expenses if you are out of the country or if you need a medical evacuation. The third travel insurance option is insurance that protects against damage, loss or theft. This covers any expensive equipment or personal items that fall outside of any preexisting insurance coverage you may have.

When considering if you will need any type of travel insurance you should base your decision on potential losses or what you feel you can afford to lose. So, check and make sure what the cancelation polices are for your flights, hotels and any pre-booked tours. This will help guide you as you weigh what needs to be covered and what doesn’t. Don’t assume that all venues and items have the same cancelation polices. Also, assess your risks. If you are traveling to a place prone to hurricane weather, during hurricane season, it might be worth your while to insure your trip in case you need to cancel because of inclement weather or an evacuation is needed.

Do keep in mind there are limits to travel insurance. Your reason to put in a claim has to be significant and verifiable. For example: if you wish not to go on a trip at the last second because the city you will be visiting is on high alert due to a security risk, you might have a compelling case. But if you simply have changed your mind and don’t wish to go, that typically isn’t a good enough reason. But it is always a good idea to make contact with the airline or places with reservations to attempt a penalty free cancelation if your insurance ends up not covering it – sometimes companies can be very understanding to your unique situation.

Is your home secure against burglary?

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No one welcomes the feeling of knowing you personal belongings have been ransacked and rummaged through. And many times items that have are irreplaceable. If you wish to keep your house secure, (and keep your insurance premiums low) here are some basic, yet helpful ways you can protect your home and belongings from theft or vandalism.

  • Invest in simple home security devices like padlocks, proper locks for your doors and windows. Bolts and bars are also good choices to slow a thief down.
  • Arm yourself with technology. A good security alarm and security cameras are great ways to deter unwanted snoops. The alarm not only can notify authorities that there’s a break in, but also it could scare a thief away. Security cameras allow you to keep a watchful eye on your property, while also being able to identify suspects if a break in does occur.
  • Trim your trees around your house. You may be  giving up a bit of privacy, but you are cutting back on the amount of cover accessible to burglars.
  • Don’t display your most precious possessions. Consider keeping your prized items out of view of windows and glass doors. Prying eyes like to survey the area, don’t give away where you are keeping the goods!
  • Your entry points should be strong to ward off any criminals. Doors should be strong, built from metal or solid hardwood. Suggested thickness is at least one-and-three-quarters thick. A good lock is nothing without a strong door.
  • Speaking of locks, deadbolt locks are the best. Ask your hardware professional to recommend a trusted brand that is pick-resistant.

It is also a good idea to create and maintain some home security habits of your own. For instance, establish a routine of going around and making sure doors and windows are locked and your alarm system is set. Avoid telling people on your social media your plans to leave your home. Don’t hide keys in “secret” places on the outside of your home – thieves are smart and they know where to look.

When you do have to leave your home unattended for a trip, ask a neighbor to check in on things. Stop newspaper deliveries so the unread papers don’t pile up in the driveway, signaling that you are not there to get them. Use automatic timers to turn lights, radio, or TV on in various parts of the house. These measures will help give the appearance that someone is home, which is a big turn off for burglars

Check with your insurance company to see what discounts they offer for having qualifying security devices in your home. This could lower your premiums and make you safe all in one go!

How safe is your sport of choice?

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If you or your child is actively playing a sport, you should know the risks and be prepared for any medical treatment that might be needed as a result of an injury. Good, solid health insurance will make paying for injuries a bit better, but knowing the potential risks and costs up front is smart. For questions on health insurance, please visit the SCDOI website. 

Visits to emergency departments for concussions, especially among children, are on the rise according to a new study.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics these serious visits have doubled for children 8 to 13 and increased over 200% for young adults (age 14 to 19).

Hard hits to the head are potentially very dangerous and when left undetected and untreated concussions can result in long-term brain damage. In extreme cases they can be fatal.

“While the first hit can prove problematic, the second or third head impact can cause permanent long-term brain damage,” according to an article published by HeadCase.  “Cumulative sports concussions are shown to increase the likelihood of catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability by 39%.”

It is important to know the signs of a serious head injury.

These include:

  • Unconsciousness.
  • Inability to remember the cause of the injury or events that occurred immediately before
  • or up to 24 hours after.
  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Difficulty remembering new information.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Trouble speaking coherently.
  • Changes in emotions or sleep patterns.

If you suspect an injury, seek medical help immediately.

So how safe is the sport that you or your child plays?

Here are the top ten most dangerous sports for concussion-related injuries, according to Insurance Information Institute.

  1. 12% Ice Hockey
  2. 10% Snowboarding
  3. 9% Water Tubing
  4. 8% Football
  5. 8% Lacrosse
  6. 7% Horseback Riding
  7. 7% Rugby
  8. 7% Wrestling
  9. 6% Soccer
  10. 6% Cheerleading

While concussions and other traumatic brain injuries are a concern, it should also be noted that South Carolina ranks in the top five for most water related deaths and accidents. In 2017 there were 151 accidents, 13 deaths, 85 people injured and just under $3,000 worth of property damage caused by watercraft accidents.

For sports injuries in general, According to the National Safety Council (NSC) basketball was the most dangerous sport in 2015, with 493,011 injuries reported followed by biking, with 488,123 injuries, and football, with 399,873 injuries.

This year, be aware of the dangers associated with your sport of choice. Choose well reviewed protective gear where needed, and always practice safety within the game.

And for those unfortunate moments when accidents do occur, be sure to have health insurance for you and your dependents.

How to be prepared for a hurricane

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The upcoming storm season begins Friday, June 1 and runs through the month of November. South Carolina has been hit hard the past several years, first with the flood of 2015 and then experienced hurricanes, including last year’s Hurricane Irma. We need to plan and prepare now so that our homes and families are protected against whatever Mother Nature sends our way.

How to prepare for hurricane season:

Make an emergency plan and discuss the plan with your family. Engage your family in making a plan, so that everyone knows what to do and when to do it.
Know Your Evacuation Zone- Know Your Zone is a public education campaign to inform the citizens and visitors of South Carolina of the hurricane evacuation zones and their vulnerability to storm surge. Please visit scemd.org/KnowYourZone to learn more. Prepare an emergency kit. Make sure you have nonperishable food, water and a first aid kit handy. It is best to also collect important documents and keep them in one place for easy access in the event of an evacuation. Review your insurance policy. As you make your preparations, review your insurance policy as it is important to know what your policy covers and what it excludes long before a severe weather event occurs. Review your policy with your agent to understand the coverage and exclusions. Prepare your home and property. Develop a room-by-room inventory of your home. Take pictures, write down items in each room. A home inventory checklist in available on our website here.

 

Why is it important to have flood insurance? 

Water that enters the home from street flooding, an overflow of a creek, river or stream or storm surges are generally covered by flood insurance – not a homeowners or renters policy. Coverage is available for homeowners and renters.
Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To learn more about flood insurance, ask you agent and visit http://www.Floodsmart.gov.
Regardless of whether your property is considered to be in a flood zone or not, it is a very good idea to consider purchasing a flood insurance policy. The 1000 year flood event of 2015 is testament to the fact that floods can occur at any time, not only associated with hurricanes and wind events. As we witnessed from this event, many areas that have never flooded did during that event.

 

How to spot a scam:

Unfortunately, often there are individuals that may try to take advantage of people as they are working to recover. While it is important to always safeguard your personal information, it is especially important following a natural disaster. As you work to recover and repair your property you will likely be sharing your personal information with government officials, financial institutions, insurance personnel such as adjusters as well as contractors and repairmen. You must stay alert and ask for identification of these individuals before providing your personal information.
Contact the company or organization the individual is representing and verify their identity. Do not provide personal or financial information to someone until you have verified their identity. Send your information securely.  For home repairs, do not pay in full upfront for repairs and make sure you have a copy of a written contract before the work begins.

 

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