Archive for the ‘preparedness’ Category

Got Valuables? Get Insurance!

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous painting of all time. It also holds claim to the largest insurance valuation for a painting in history. In 1962, when the Mona Lisa went on tour from Paris France to Washington DC and New York City, The Louvre assessed the cost to insure the painting for the duration of the trip. The valuation at the time was $100,000,000. Ultimately, The Louvre declined the insurance as the premiums to insure the masterpiece were greater than the highest security precautions available.

Today the Mona Lisa sits comfortably on display at The Louvre inside a sealed enclosure of 1.52″ think bullet proof glass and a permanent interior temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit and a consistent 50 percent humidity. With over 9,000,000 visitors each year and the Mona Lisa being the most popular exhibit in the Louvre, there’s no question the painting warrants some serious protection measures.

da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is secured inside an environmentally protected enclosure including nearly 2 inches of bulletproof glass.

 

It’s unlikely that you or I will ever require such extreme protection measures for our valuables, however anyone in possession of valuable artwork would be foolish not to expend some extra effort to protect it. A good home security system is a good start, however a smash and grab-type burglar who knows what he’s after isn’t likely to be deterred much by an alarm. Once that valuable item is stolen odds are that it’s gone for good. This is where insurance comes into play.

A standard homeowners insurance policy provides little protection for damaged or stolen valuable items. Never assume that your home insurance is going to properly cover you for valuable works of art, jewelry, furs or other valuable collections. The proper way to insure these items is specifically insuring each of these items on a valuable items schedule. Often referred to as a “rider” or a “floater,” this form of insurance not only insures specific valuables at predetermined limits, but it broadens coverage to include losses that would not ordinarily be covered on a homeowners insurance policy. When specifically “scheduled,” coverage options include mysterious disappearance and breakage. Additional coverage options may include an “agreed amount” or “appraised value” coverage.

For more information or to obtain a quote to properly insure your valuables, contact a member of our team at Fitts Insurance. We’ll be happy to take the time to explain your coverage options and place this valuable coverage for you.

 www.fittsinsurance.com

 

 

Frozen Pipes

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Water FaucetHere at Fitts Insurance, we took MANY water pipe claims this week.  Our mild winter came to an abrupt end with the record freezing temps this past weekend.  Frozen pipes, burst pipes, flooding, water damage, and the resulting clean up were on tap for some clients. And though we may be out of the deep freeze at the moment, there is still some winter left to weather. 

The following information on how to prevent or deal with frozen pipes may be needed next week or next winter.  In either case, this is information that homeowners, tenants, and businessowners alike should know or have on hand as a reference for when it is needed.

There are three common causes of frozen pipes according to the American Red Cross and any one, or a combination of them, can cause a pipe problem:

  • Rapid drop in temperature
  • Poor insulation
  • Thermostats being set too low

Not all pipes need special care but those that are exposed to the outdoors, nearest the building’s outer walls, or under the foundation are the ones that are most at risk.  And since Mother Nature is beyond taming, that leaves us with doing our best to protect ourselves and our property from her harsher moods.  So what can you do?

  • Set your thermostat to the same temp day & night.  Nights are usually colder, so turning down the heat is not a good idea
  • Use heat tape, heat cables or foam sleeves to wrap the pipes
  • Remember water freezes at 32 degrees. When it’s in the 20s and teens, we are already well below freezing!
  • Make sure you have enough insulation in the outer walls to keep the cold out
  • Check to see that your garage door and other exterior doors are closed
  • Open hot & cold faucets to a slow drip
  • Seal any leaks or cracks that allow the cold air in
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow heat to reach un-insulated pipes near exterior walls (remove any household cleaners and chemicals out of the reach of children)
  • Know the location of your internal shut off valves in case a pipe bursts or leaks
  • If you are going away, shut off the water supply line to your washing machine
  • Drain and shut off all outside spigots
  • Mark the shut off to the main water supply line so it can be easily identified
  • If you are going way, set the thermostat to 60 degrees
  • Have someone check on your house when you can’t be there
  • Use a temp-controlled thermal convection powered hot water recirculation valve
  • Use a product called ICE LOC which prevents pipes from rupturing by taking up the expansion of the frozen water
  • Use a RedyTemp, a device which utilizes an internal water contacting temperature probe to monitor the temp of the water inside the pipes

Having done all you can, you still may find it was not enough and your pipes have frozen.  Now what?  Here are a few options to try:

  • To thaw a frozen pipe, first check the pipe for  the area where frozen
  • Heat the area around the frozen part with an electric space heater, a hand-held hair dryer, or a heat lamp with a reflector to prevent a fire.  NEVER use a blow torch or open flame!
  • DO NOT use electrical appliances in or near standing water
  • If there is flooding, turn off the main water valve and call 911

Should you find that in spite of your efforts, the pipe remains frozen, keep the faucet(s) open and call a plumber immediately.

You can find more information, pictures, diagrams, step by step instructions and video at:   http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Frozen-Water-Pipes

Should you have a claim from a frozen pipe or have a question, you can call us at 508-620-6200 or email us at info@fittsinsurance.comYou can also put a claim in directly by contacting your company.  Claims information for your company can be found on our website: www.FittsInsurance.com.

Christmas Tree Safety

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Tis the season to remind everyone about Christmas Tree safety.  Take a look at this video Christmas Tree Fire Comparison  showing a comparison between a real tree that has been watered daily and one that has not.  Then check out the safety tips below for picking not only a beautiful tree, but a safe tree! 

Seasonal Tasks and Preps

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CWF.Lakeview cem 1 10.15Each season comes with joys, events and a list of things to do while it’s here.  Fall is no different with its beautiful colors, fairs, harvest bounty, Thanksgiving, as well as changing temperatures, hurricanes, tornados, early freezes and the ever possible nor’easter with howling winds and driven snow. The gardens must be closed, outdoor equipment put away and the house gotten ready because we know winter is not far behind.  For us hardy New Englanders, we take these changes in stride; after all, we have chosen to live here. (Though after last winter, we are asking Santa for a milder winter and are praying to the weather gods for mercy this year!)Roof Ice

While we would love to be able to help ALL of you with your fall and winter tasks and then share a favorite beverage, the best help we can offer is our insurance expertise in the form of information and education about insurance coverages that can help when even the best preparations fail.  That is what this newsletter, the monthly emails, our Facebook posts and mailings are all about.  We can’t call and personally speak to ALL our insureds on every topic, so we use the other avenues available to us to keep you informed.  We promise that we will be here if you call us with questions or need more information or a quote on coverages.

 So here are some seasonal tasks that are good loss control measures and may help you avoid a claim:

  1. Clean gutters well & make sure they’re working.  Nothing grows an ice dam like a clogged gutter!
  2. Chimney and furnace cleaning make for more efficient heating and help avoid puff backs.
  3. Trim trees and bushes near the house.  Wind & snow can make them bang against the building.
  4. Service your car, do winter preps, check tires, fluids and have an emergency kit in the trunk.
  5. Tune up winter equipment – snow blowers, chainsaws, and drain summer equipment properly.
  6. Have your rock salt, snow rake, shovels in place or easily accessible.
  7. Check for good weather seals around your windows and doors.  Reseal any cracks.
  8. Check your policy if you are hosting a party.  Make sure Host Liquor Liability is included so you will be covered should any of your guests get too “merry.”
  9. Cyber Liability is not just a new coverage – it is a necessary coverage with all the media devices that carry our information.  Adopt early; don’t wait till you are hacked.
  10. If you will need a generator should the power go out, NOW is the time to buy one.
  11. Make a reasonable budget for holiday giving and keep track of spending and NO GOING OVER!
  12. Change your passwords on all your devices and digital accounts to help prevent hacking.

Tis the Season: Hail and Wind Claims

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Hail Stones Sciencekids.co.nzThe recent storms have generated increased hail and wind claims.  For these and for future reference when dealing with property (home, auto, landscaping) repairs, we want to put some light on activity we are hearing about so that you don’t become a victim.

Hail events in the past have led to homeowners being visited by roofing contractors and company sales representatives; many of whom are from out of state. These contractors swarm affected neighborhoods, going door to door and leaving promotional fliers, cards and brochures at residents’ doorsteps. The company representative may offer to inspect the roof for hail or wind damage, repair the car dings and dents caused by hail or clean up and trim trees harmed in the storm.

Please be careful about any company that uses door to door sales tactics and please be cautious about allowing unsolicited contractors access to your home. Our best advice: if you did not call them, do not let them on your roof, in your car, or in your yard.  If they are not insured and they fall, you are liable.

If you are concerned about the potential for hail damage to your roof, look around your property. Hail does not only impact the roof. Is there damage to the shrubs, tree leaves, siding or vehicles? If not, damage to the roof is highly unlikely. If you are still concerned and wish to report a claim, call us and we will advise how your company will be handling your type of claim.

Hiring a local, well established, licensed contractor is the optimal solution should damage exist. Please make sure all estimates and contracts are in writing and NEVER pay up front for work to be completed.

 

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Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

www.facebook.com/fittsinsurance

https://twitter.com/fittsinsurance

 

The Counter-Intuitive Rhythm of Homeownership

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drive-1232913-639x423When you own a home, there is a rhythm to its upkeep and care dictated by the seasons.  Unfortunately, that rhythm is counterintuitive; if it’s hot out, think winter prep; if it’s sunny, think waterproofing and roof issues; if it’s fall, think spring gardens.

2015 gave us an historic winter that was rough on everyone and on our properties.  Ice dams, water damage, roof issues, and damaged landscaping, were just a few issues we may have had to deal with.  But we are New Englanders and we learn from it and take action against a future repeat.  We know that summer fixes can help ward off winter wallops.  Now that summer is in full swing, here are a few things that might pertain to your home that are best done in summer to avoid problems when it is colder and harder to access the areas needing help.

Weatherstripping – you don’t want to loose heat (or cold air from your air conditioners either) through cracks and spaces in window sills and doors.

Landscaping issues – transplanting areas that are overgrown, pruning trees and shrubs that can break when laden with snow and ice, even planting for fall gardens.  Driveways can be sealed, sidewalk issues fixed and any areas that tend to pond or flood can be corrected.

Buy supplies now for heating – oil, wood, pellets are usually less expensive now than when they are in high demand during winter months.

Roof and chimney issues – easier to access and correct when leaves are not falling, rain isn’t a constant factor and snow and ice are not present.  Ice dams created havoc last winter, prepare for them now so as to avoid a repeat.

Heating Systems – now is a good time for boiler inspections, furnace tune ups and cleanings so they are ready to work well when the time comes for their heavy usage.

General fix ups – sagging gutters, tilted shutters, cracked windows, chipping paint, rusting railings, leaning fences, cracking foundations and stairs – with a little maintainence now, you can avoid bigger fixes (and more money) later as they get worse.

Here’s hoping the upcoming winter sets new records for the perfect amount of snow for winter sports but not enough to cause traffic issues or problems with our homes!

 

 

Fitts_logowithtag_JPG_60pct

Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

www.facebook.com/fittsinsurance

https://twitter.com/fittsinsurance

Insurance and Divorce

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i-love-you-1310934-640x480Statistics tell us that over half of married couples end up in divorce.  This is sad, sobering news and even with the use of a pre-nup, the process of divorce is both emotional and difficult.  There are large issues to decide when your relationship ends up in separation or divorce, and insurance may not be on the top of the list.  Nonetheless, break ups have insurance issues to be resolved and so it should be on the list of items to be discusses and decided.  While not all divorces are contentious, it is human nature to have anger, selfishness, revenge and pettiness sometimes show their faces when unraveling the marital assets.  The courts and lawyers may hammer out the final decrees, but here are the insurance areas that need to be considered.

Health Insurance

If you had your health insurance through your spouse’s employer, then once your divorce is final, you have to get your own coverages.  It is important that there are no gaps in the date of coverage from the time you leave the company plan to the time you start your own plan.  The kids can stay on the company plan or go with your new plan depending on the custody agreement.  The court may decide this for you as well as who will pay premiums if that becomes a new expense for you.

Providing COBRA for the party no longer covered by the company plan is required of the employer for up to 36 months.  The company must be notified within 60 days of the divorce.  If you choose to go with the COBRA coverage offered by your ex’s company, you are 100% responsible to pay for those premiums unless the court assigns payment to your ex as part of the support agreement.  It would be wise to shop around for a new plan before you just accept COBRA as prices for Health Insurance do vary.

For a legal separation, it is the same as divorce but make sure you check to see what the company policy is when it comes to separation.  Some companies only recognize a legal divorce, others treat separation and divorce as if they were the same.  You or your lawyer should have the conversation with Human Resources before you start making any changes.  If you find yourself in legal separation mode and the divorce is dragging, you are not obligated to keep the insurance on your ex unless the court orders it.  If the court orders your spouse to keep the insurance in place, you can keep your current plan with the employer, unless the employer says no and then the spouse must get and pay for COBRA or another plan to not be in violation of the court order.

Finally, for both separations and divorce – make sure you update the name and address on all documents and policies.  If there are health proxies in place, next of kin notices, and contact names involved, these must be changed too.

Life Insurance

The purpose of Life Insurance is to protect the income of the providing spouse, with the beneficiary of benefits usually being the receiving spouse.  Life Insurance replaces income to the surviving spouse if the providing spouse dies.  Ownership is key on a life policy as only the owner of the policy can change the beneficiary and they have control of the policy’s cash value.  This can become an issue with remarriage as there is no way to know what the ex-spouse/owner has done – even if actions were courted ordered because there is no method to monitor their actions.  It may be best to take control of the life policy AND pay the premiums – which could be part of the divorce settlement.

Again, names, addresses and beneficiaries should all be changed when the divorce is final.

House / Homeowners / Tenants Insurance

The house is always a big item to deal with in divorce.  At the very least, one of you will have a new location in which to live soon.  Home/tenant insurance must change from the one policy location you share, to now two policies covering where you both will live, contents you have with you and your personal liability exposures.  Floaters or schedules should reflect the actual items each party ends up with when the divorce is final. An ownership change in the property requires a name change on the main policy.  If the woman keeps the house but changes her name, that must be reflected on the policy too.  If the change involves removing a name from the current policy, BOTH people should sign the request and it should be made in writing to avoid issues and one spouse removing another without their knowledge or consent.  You lawyer should be able to help you with this if it becomes nasty.

Car Insurance

If each of you owns a car, titled in your own name, then it is an easy change.  Each person will get their own policy in their name with the car they own.  Update the name on the policy, the mailing address, garaging location and billing method.

If both own a car, the title must be changed to show only the new owner.  That person will have the insurance policy in their name for that car.  If you have both owned the car and been on the same policy, you can not remove the other without their consent or remove the vehicle with their consent.

Don’t make changes until the divorce is final.  Change requests should be in writing, signed by both parties and include name changes, address changes, ownership change, garaging and usage change, and billing method change.

These changes may cause you to lose policy bundled discounts like: Multi-car; Auto and Home credits with the same company; Occupational / Affinity Group discounts

Disability & Long Term Care 

This can be a big issue for the now single party because they will not have that automatic next in line person to care for them if something occurs.  Changes here will depend on how the disability components are set up.  Was it set up to compensate for lost earnings due to a disability or is it used in place of retirement benefits from work during the marriage.  Review these issues with your lawyer to best decide on how or if the disability benefits will continue now.

Long Term Care plans are individual policies and usually not impacted by divorce except for a name and address change and a married discount will be lost.

Divorce is by no means an easy season, but there are plenty of people who have passed this way and they can give you great emotional support.  When it comes to the legal issues, don’t hesitate to depend on your lawyer for help.  And when it comes to insurance issues, don’t hesitate to call us to help you through it all.

 

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Fitts Insurance Agency, Inc.

2 Willow Street, Suite 102

Southborough, MA 01745

 

888-697-6542

508-620-6200

(f)508-481-0227

www.FittsInsurance.com

www.facebook.com/fittsinsurance

https://twitter.com/fittsinsurance

NEW MOTOR VEHICLE LIGHT LAW IN EFFECT

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wet cars

If you have day time running lights…manually turn your lights on to avoid a ticket or surcharge.

Massachusetts has a new law for all drivers to remember.  The law involves the use of both head and rear lights whenever the use of the wipers is needed.  As of April 7, 2015 you can be stopped for non-compliance and ticketed.  Although the ticket amount is nominal, it is a surchargeable violation that will impact your insurance premiums for up to six years. The law is intended to increase safety and visibility of vehicles on the Commonwealth’s roadways.

Mass General Law Chapter 85, Section 15, signed into law in January, requires that front and rear motor vehicle lights be activated in all of the following conditions:

  • When windshield wipers are on;
  • When low light or weather conditions prevent other vehicles or persons from being seen at 500 feet; or
  • From ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.
  • Relying on daytime running lights for these conditions is not sufficient under the law.

The law is fairly easy to comply with; just turn on your wipers and lights during the appropriate situations.  It may be a bit trickier if you have daytime running lights.  Typically, running lights do not activate your rear lights, just the headlights. You will have to check to make sure that both the front and rear lights are ON if you intend on relying on your daytime lights.  Check with your car manual, vehicle manufacturer, or maybe easiest of all, with a friend who can see the back of your vehicle as you drive and be able to tell you if the rear lights are on when the daylight running lights are activated.  If they are not, then to comply with this new law, you will have to manually turn on your lights so that both the front and back lights are lit.

 

 

Be Prepared For Volatile Spring Weather With a Home Emergency Kit

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Heavy rains, floods, hurricanes and tornados can all threaten your home and family this spring. While no amount of preparation prevents volatile spring weather, a home emergency kit helps you prepare to be safe and survive.

Survival Essentials

A warm blanket, spare set of clothes and matches could make the difference in your survival. Pack these and all other essential supplies you might need in an airtight container that’s easily accessible.

Food and Water

The Red Cross suggests families store two weeks’ worth of food and water, which means you’ll need one gallon of water per person per day and a variety of easily prepared, non-perishable foods. Don’t forget to stock baby and pet food if necessary, too.

First Aid

Minor bumps and bruises can occur as your family rushes to safety. Your first aid kit should include basic first aid supplies like bandages, antibacterial cream, burn cream and pain reliever. Pack prescription medications, hearing aid batteries and other specialized medications if needed.

Hygiene Items

Toilet paper, toothbrushes and diapers are essential. Hand sanitizer and bleach should also be included in your emergency kit.

Stay Connected

You’ll want to stay connected to the outside world and signal for help, so include a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, your cell phone and chargers in your emergency kit. A flashlight and whistle for each person is also a good idea.

Tools

Whether you have to dig out of the basement or open a soup can, tools come in handy. Stock a multipurpose tool, work gloves, scissors, shovel, screwdriver set, hammer and manual can opener in your kit.

Important Papers

In the rush of an evacuation, you may forget to grab your purse or wallet. Copy important papers like your driver’s license, birth certificate, insurance policies and medical information. Store them, extra cash and your family’s emergency contact information in a waterproof bag to keep them safe.

This home emergency kit will play a big role in keeping you safe when volatile spring weather strikes. Update your insurance policies, too, as you stay protected and prepared.