Protect what is Important to You

 

Roy Wright got a text from his mom, “Our house is gone. What do I do next?” Wright’s parents lost their home in the Paradise Valley fire that ripped through California, devastating thousands of families as their homes vanished due to the wildfire.

Wright’s role as President and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and his years of experience at FEMA, prepared him for that text, but he wants to make sure all consumers have the tools they need to understand and fortify their homes against the damage of these large scale natural catastrophes.

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Roy Wright of IBHS addresses insurance leaders about resilience in the insurance industry.

“Unfortunately, this is going to be our new normal,” said Wright. “We will continue to see widespread wildfires, historic flooding, strong hurricanes and more impactful earthquakes. These threats aren’t going anywhere and we need to make sure consumers know that there are things they can do to offset some of the damage.”

A key part to consumers knowing about what they can do to ward off the devastating impacts of disasters is for the leader’s of state insurance departments to know what information to get out to the public. That’s why IBHS and the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI) invited insurance commissioners from each of the country’s zones and leaders from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to attend a full day of immersing themselves in the IBHS experience.

“Today was all about learning and seeing how we can encourage our consumers to prepare for a natural disaster,” said Ray Farmer, Director of the South Carolina IMG_9381Department of Insurance. “If you prepare well before a catastrophe, you will be resilient. We want to help educate leaders on what resiliency in the insurance market looks like. And I think thats exactly what they saw today here at IBHS.”

After a detailed presentation about the important role insurance plays in a resilient recovery and how to get the message out to the consumers about the ways homeowners can build, rebuild, or add on to their homes to make them less susceptible to wildfires, wind, flood, earthquake and hurricane, IBHS took everyone on a tour of the research center. The large research center holds several test sites that can accommodate the larger testing scenarios like fire, wind and rain on built to scale homes.

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Andy Beal, NAIC COO and Ray Farmer, Director of SCDOI, observe demonstrations at the IBHS research center.

“Simulation is a great way to test the impacts of Mother Nature,” said Wright. “For a long time, most of the studies were preformed on small models of homes. And those were great, but as technologically evolved, so did we. We have elevated our research by building actual scale roofs, homes and more. We then will test them with as realistic of weather conditions that we can simulate.”

“The advancements in technology that we’ve been seeing in insurance means more safety,” said Andy Beal, COO  of the NAIC. “Knowing the importance fortified structures and having real world evidence for the need for those standards creates safer homes, towns and a better way of life.”

One way this technology has advanced protections on homes? Wildfire fortification. Through the tests done at IBHS, the research center has documented that at least 90 percent of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed are first ignited by embers or other fires. Facts like these help organizations like the NAIC encourage homeowners to take proper mitigation to protect their homeS.

How to Fortify Your Home

Fire

Wildfire greatly impacted parts of the West Coast in recent years, bringing devastation and destruction to thousands of families. One of the biggest dangers of fire is how fast the embers can travel and how quickly they can light up homes and businesses during a fire.

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IBHS does a presentation on embers and their dangers.

“Often times people think the biggest threat is the actual flames of the fire,” said Wright. “But as you can see, the embers being carried by the wind are just as dangerous, if not more so because they can travel for quite a distance before being extinguished.”

Embers can get under your porch or in your vents, starting a fire winning minutes. But  there are ways to prevent that.

Take a look at the video below. There are two homes side-by-side, the one on the right is fortified, the one on the left is not. IBHS uses a wood burner and the fans to create and blow embers at a max speed of 12 miles an hour towards the two homes. Watch below to see why fortifying your home is so important!

You can find a complete list of IBHS’s recommendations by clicking here.

Hail and Storm

img_6297.jpgHail can damage your roof, allowing for water to seep in and other issues. Having a strong roof is important to protecting the integrity of the inside of the structure. Currently, IBHS is working to test different shingle producers in their test areas and plans to publish a comprehensive list of who stands up to the test in the near future. The new hail test area is high tech, creating precise measurements of impact and damage. In the past, the engineers had to craft hail by hand, creating different sizes, solutions and densities. But as their research grew, that task proved to be too time consuming. IBHS now has a machine that quickly and meticulously creates hail for different standards to be used in the test machine.

            Check out the video below to see a shingle test in slow motion.

 

 

You can learn more about fortifying your home against hail here. 

Hurricane and Flood

IMG_4361IBHS also tests for hurricane force winds using a tower of very forceful fans. Flooding and wind damage come with every hurricane and if you live on the coast, then you are likely to experience this almost every year! It is a great idea to make sure you have taken every step you can to fortify your home so that you can have a home to return to once the storm has passed.

       

You can learn more about fortifying your home against hurricane destruction here.

While it is impossible to be fully prepared for any natural disaster, the SCDOI, NAIC and IBHS encourages consumers to sit down with their agent and consider what risks their home faces for the disasters prone to that area. Do you need flood insurance? Earthquake insurance? Is your home fortified against hail and fire? Knowing is power, but taking that power and putting it into your home is protection. Protect the things in this life that are important to you.

If you have any questions regarding the best options for your insurance needs, please do not hesitate to contact the SCDOI if you are in South Carolina and for those elsewhere, please reach out to your state insurance department.

 

 

 

 

How to protect against water damage

file[1].jpgThe Palmetto State has seen its fair share of rain already this year. All the excess water can not only increase your risk of needing flood insurance, but also increases your risk of water damage to your home. It is always great to remember that different types of water damage will be covered by different types of insurance policies. So it is smart to review your policy when considering what type of water damage protection you need. Here are some tips from the Insurance Information Institute on how to best protect your home and possessions from water damage.

Prevent basement water seepage

 Reseal your basement. Water in the basement is often caused by cracks in building foundations or floor slabs. If you notice water seepage after heavy rain when you’ve never had a problem, it may mean that your once-waterproof cement floors and basement walls have deteriorated. Painting vulnerable areas with water sealant can prevent seepage.
Make sure water drains away from the building. Seepage is exacerbated by soil that has settled in a way to make water flow toward the building. After a storm, and especially if the ground is already saturated, rainwater that flows towards the building goes down the outside of the foundation wall potentially through any cracks.
Install a backwater valve. Though less common than other causes of basement water, sewer backups are messy. Learn more about your sewer responsibilities and install and maintain a backwater valve, which allows sewage to go out, but not come back in.

Maintain and understand your indoor plumbing systems

Inspect appliance hoses and faucets. Make it a practice every year to check hoses leading to water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerator icemakers. You may also want to invest in a water leak monitoring and shut-off system that can alert you to any leakage issues. Immediately replace any hoses that have cracks or leaks, and replace them all every five to seven years.
Inspect showers and tubs. Check the seal and caulking around showers and tubs to make sure they are watertight and reseal if necessary.
When away on vacation, shut off the water supply to the washing machine and never leave the house while the washer or dishwasher is running.
Know the location of the main water shut-off valve in your home. A damaged hose or a burst pipe can send water racing into your home. Being able to locate and shut off the main water supply quickly will save stress, money and time.
Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect against the increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
Check plumbing and heating pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have any necessary repairs made immediately.

Repair and protect your home’s exterior 

Caulk and seal windows to guard against water seepage.
Inspect your roof for missing, damaged and aging shingles and make necessary repairs.
Check your downspouts. Remove debris that may have accumulated in downspouts and rain gutters. Position downspouts so that they direct water away from the house.
Check sprinklers and irrigation systems to be sure they are not creating water damage to the walls and foundations of the house. Turn off and drain outside faucets to protect against frozen pipes.
Install gutter guards to prevent gutter clogs and keep water flowing away from the house instead of accumulating on the roof.

Protect your possessions 

Store off-season and other bulk belongings in waterproof bins, especially in areas where there are plumbing pipes or that are prone to dampness, such as basements and attics.
Never store valuables or memorabilia where there is risk of destruction from water. Water and damp also brings with it the threat of mold damage.
Keep belongings stored on shelving off the floor in basements. In case of water seepage or sewer backup, they’re less likely to get damaged.
Keep an up-to-date home inventory. Having a comprehensive list of your possessions will save time, trouble and stress in case of loss from water damage. You can download and print the Home Inventory Checklist from the SCDOI’s website by clicking here.

Basements and Storage: What You Need to Know

Basement[1].jpgBasements in homes are a bonus….but do you know what/how you should store things in one? Here are some storage tips from State Farm to keep all your belongings safe!

What not to store in a basement:
Electronics: Stashing gadgets you might use in the future – an old gaming system, for example – in an unfinished basement may seem like a good idea, but evaluate how climate-controlled your space is. If you’ve not finished any of the space, bulky and pricey electric items such as power drills or kitchen stand mixers are better off on ground level or above. If your basement is finished, make sure that any TVs or other electronics are in a moisture-free space, off the ground.
Artwork: Still figuring out what to do with that painting you purchased on a whim? Don’t leave it in an unfinished basement. Humidity and poor ventilation can damage delicate paintings, photographs, and other items.
Flammables: Many DIY materials such as paint and other home supplies – think extra propane tanks – pose a fire risk, particularly if adjacent to gas-powered appliances. Follow manufacturer recommendations for storage.
Books and documents: Poor ventilation and humidity can wreak havoc on anything with a paper component. Unless your space is finished and not subject to big climate variations, store books above ground and in sturdy, leak-proof containers. Store hard-to-replace documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards higher than the basement in a locked fire box.
How to store things in a basement
If your basement gets damp: Invest in mold-proof storage containers to store anything that might attract moisture, including books and clothing.
If your basement is unfinished: Install shelving units so you can keep items you’re storing in the basement off the floor.
Clothes: Keep extra or seasonal clothing in sealed containers off the basement floor, if possible.
Furniture: Place foldable items stacked neatly against a wall so they’re accessible but retrievable. Any fabric or foam pieces, such as cushions, should be cleaned and stored off the basement floor.
Bulk household and kitchen supplies: Larger quantities of necessities, including toilet paper, paper towels, disposable dishes, and any other household items, should be stored on shelving off the ground. That way, even if your basement floor does get damp, it won’t damage these items.
Non-perishable food: As with bulk household supplies, stash the extras on shelves off the basement floor.
Outdoor accessories: The basement is a good spot for yard accessories or other gardening supplies. However, heavier outdoor furniture can remain outside under all-weather covers.

So you got an expensive Valentine’s Day gift? Now what?

Did you receive a lavish Valentine’s Day gift today?

insure-your-love-valentines-day-intelliquote2[1].pngWhether it’s a diamond engagement ring or other posh jewelry, after you’ve thanked your sweetheart, don’t forget to protect your precious gift with the right insurance.
This insurance should give you some financial protection to soothe your sadness if the piece gets damaged or disappears.

Thanks to U.S. News, here are seven facts to know about insuring your most beloved belongings.

1. Sentimental value is not insurable. Gifts from your valentine might seem priceless to you, but insurers won’t share your passion. They allow you to insure a personal possession for its actual or appraised value only, not its sentimental value.
2. Homeowners or renters insurance may not cover the full value. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your dazzling Valentine’s Day gift will be completely covered by your homeowners or renters insurance. Standard policies come with caps, such as $1,000 or $2,000, on certain types of high-value items, such as jewelry, watches, furs and fine art. So, if your gift is worth more than your policy limit, you could fall far short of the cost to replace it.
3. Homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t cover an accidental loss. If you need to make an insurance claim on an expensive belonging, the type of loss you experience is important. For instance, if your gift is damaged or lost due to a peril that’s covered by your policy, such as a theft, fire or windstorm, you’ll get a payout up to the cap, minus your deductible. But what about mishaps, like accidentally flushing a diamond ring down the drain, finding a large gemstone missing from its setting or having a valuable ring slip off your finger in the ocean? Unfortunately, these upsetting misfortunes won’t be covered – unless you buy an add-on to your policy, which goes by different names, such as a rider, floater or endorsement.The extra coverage increases your home or renters premium, but covers any type of calamity that might occur to your gift, including maddening accidents. The additional rate depends on various factors, including the insurer, the item and where you live, but could range from $10 to $85 per $1,000 of value.
4. Riders don’t require a deductible. While adding a rider slightly increases your homeowners or renters insurance, the good news is that it doesn’t come with a deductible. That means that if your Valentine’s Day gift mysteriously disappears, you won’t have any out-of-pocket costs to replace it, up to your coverage limit.

 

5. Separate valuables insurance is an option. If you don’t own a home or have renters insurance to begin with, you can buy a separate policy just for your valuables – although it typically costs more than an add-on policy. Studies show that most renters don’t have a policy and mistakenly overestimate the cost. Coverage for renters is surprisingly inexpensive, so if you’re in the uninsured renters camp, don’t dismiss its ability to protect your finances. A renters policy not only protects personal belongings from theft or damage at home – but also at off-premise locations, such as in your car, storage unit or while you’re traveling. Renters insurance also gives you liability coverage worldwide and pays your living expenses if you are displaced from your place while covered repairs are being made.
6. Gift recipients are responsible for insurance. If you buy an expensive gift for your valentine, you’re responsible for insuring it. But once you give it away, the lucky recipient bears the burden of insuring it. So, make sure to pass along a copy of the receipt or appraisal, so the next insurance company knows the current value of the item.
7. It’s wise to keep a home inventory. It’s a good idea to maintain an up-do-date inventory, including pictures or video of your belongings. Keep it in several safe places, such as a storage account in the cloud, on a flash drive, in a locked filing cabinet or in a bank safe deposit box. While you may never get over the loss of a precious gift, the more documentation you have, the easier it will be to make a successful insurance claim.

We Launched a Podcast!

LogoPod.pngWe are excited to share this with you!
Today, the SCDOI launched a new podcast program titled Insurance Matters. The first episode explores data security within the insurance industry, featuring Director Ray Farmer and host Katie Geer.

This is a project the SCDOI looks forward to growing better and better with each episode and will always be on the lookout for great topics.

Click here to listen to the first episode!

Don’t Fall Prey to Scammers!

Deceiving-man[1].jpgIt is a sad fact, but often times crafty (and not so crafty) scammers target the These schemes take advantage of isolation, ease of trust, higher savings, and lack of tech savvy, among other things.
Sadly, fall prey to these scams. Most of these tricks are played against seniors over e-mail and phone, though some are even done by door-to-door advertising. According to Senior Living, scammers offer all sorts of things…credit cards, charity donation requests, home improvement offers, investment opportunities, banking and wire transfers, insurance offers, health products, and sweepstakes and contests.

The team over at Senior Living have put together a comprehensive document to help protect yourself and your loved ones from being scammed. If you would like to learn more about the scams that prey on the elderly, click here for the full article.

Insuring Hired Workers

 

Home-Renovation[1].jpgRemodeling or having work done on your home can be tricky business. It can also be expensive if accidents happen to workers inside your home or property – and from time to time, accidents do happen!

If accidents happen to the people you have hired to do work on your home or property you could be held financially responsible. You should understand what type of coverage the company that you’ve hired as, as well as what type of additional coverage might be ideal for you to consider. If you have doubts about your coverage, it is always best to speak with a trusted insurance agent on the matter.

The Insurance Information Institute offers a wealth of knowledge on this topic. Check out their original post for more details and helpful links.

But if you are wanting just a brief overview…here is what you need to know!

Company Contract Workers 
In-home care workers examples:  nurse, physical therapist, cook o21.-Home-Health-Care-Holland[1].jpgr  housekeeper

  • Determine who is the employer: in most cases the worker you hired is an employee of that business and insured under their auspices. If you find you are considered the employer…contact your insurance agent for advice.
  • Get a copy of the businesses certificates of insurance: these will  provide documentation that the firm covers a worker’s compensation. If the company offers health and disability insurance, it is safe to say you can feel comfortable that any worker injured on your property will receive medical treatment at the company’s expense and not any of your own.

Occasional Workers
o-BABYSITTERS1216-facebook[1].jpgOccasionally in-home hire examples:  babysitter, yard worker, small home improvement projects.

  • Check your policies: review your current no-fault medical coverage in your homeowners policy or renters insurance. If someone other than an immediate family member is injured on your property, you can submit their medical bills directly to your insurance company for reimbursement. Make sure your policy limits are adequate to your needs.
  • Know your liability insurance: depending on your current homeowners and renters coverage and your assets, you may elect to raise the amount or buy more coverage through an umbrella liability policy.

Permanent Full- or Part-Time Employees

  • If you hire one or more home workers on a permanent, regularly scheduled basis, working-from-home-how-to-skillfully-lead-remote-employees_1580_40008009_0_14109995_500[1].jpgconsider purchasing workers compensation insurance. Workers comp provides coverage for medical care and physical rehabilitation for an employee who is injured on the job, as well as lost wages if the employee is severely hurt and no longer able to work. In the worst-case scenario, it also provides death benefits.
  • Find out if your state requires workers compensation for the type of employees you’re hiring (ex. housekeeper, gardener, etc.).
  • Determine the mandatory requirements workers comp coverage.
  • Don’t ignore the law. It’s important to note that if you’re required by law to buy workers compensation insurance and you fail to do so, your homeowners or other applicable policies will not pay for any fines, court awards or any other penalties against you.

If your employee is going to drive your car

asian-girl-driving-car_2560x19201-e1548778728756.jpgWhatever the nature of the employee relationship, it’s important to inform your auto insurance company if the person you hire is going to drive your car. For example, if you’re going to lend your car to a worker to pick up groceries or take an aging parent to the doctor, your insurer needs to know about the additional driver for auto insurance purposes. Whatever the employee car usage, your insurer can explain your options.