Posts Tagged ‘safety’

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.

Hackers Gonna Hack, Scammers Gonna Scam – Be Smart, Be Safe

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We admit it.  We love social media!  From Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (yes, we confess, even those food pics that make us hungry) e-mails, Skype, Face Time and so many new modes that are being created, we say “bring it on!”

Social Media Pic2Because during our busy days, when we can not be present with the people we love, these modes of communication are what link us to our families, our friends, our business dealings - let’s be honest – OUR LIVES!  So it makes sense that something so important, so vital to our daily lives, would be something that we should guard, protect and keep safe.

But hackers, scammers, phishers, trollers and assorted other nefarious people know that when you are busy, harried, and stressed by the demands of life and the new demands of staying connected on all these social media options, they can slip right in and rob you of it all – with disasterous results that can have long term effects.  We don’t want that for our insureds.

So here is an email we just received from one of our friends and we post it for you as a cautionary tale in hopes that you will never have to go through the same situation.

A person I follow on Facebook sent an email today:

I received a message from Facebook along with their logo, stating that my account would be suspended because I violated their policy and that I needed to verify my account or they would temporarily shut it down.  I filled out the form - with my login information.  Stupid—I know better than that!  But it looked real and I didn’t take time to really think it through because I was in a hurry and just wanted to resolve the problem.

That night I could no longer access my administrator account.  Then, when I went to my Facebook page, I found posts for all sorts of unrelated products THAT I DID NOT POST and posts from friends who also received some of those posts.  So I set about getting rid of them all only to find my password was changed and I could not delete the posts.

The end of the story is still being worked out by our friend and we hope it is only their Facebook account that was hacked and that the info taken was not enough to open other accounts or give the hackers access to additional private information or their online accounts.

We advise you NEVER to respond to an email request for account information through a link within that email or call a number provided in that email.  Instead, go directly to the public address or phone number and contact the inquirer directly on a secured line to see if they actually contacted you.  We want you to be educated, be aware, be careful, and be safe.

For more ways to protect yourself, see the following article on phishing:  www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Phishing 

 

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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

 

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.

 

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

 

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

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.

Five Effective Landscaping Tricks That Protect Your Home From Burglars

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Roughly two million burglaries occur each year. Protect your home and family when you implement five landscaping tricks that don’t compromise your home’s exterior appearance or value.

1. Place Hostile Plants by Entryways Burglars typically target easily accessible windows and doors. By placing hostile plants loaded with thorns, briars and brambles near these entryways, you discourage potential burglars. Several hostile plants to consider include roses, holly, raspberries, bird’s nest spruces, needle bushes and Spanish bayonet.

2. Trim Shrubbery Near the House Overgrown shrubs, bushes and flowering plants look untidy, and they give burglars plenty of places to hide. They also prevent neighbors and anyone on the street from seeing suspicious behavior near your home. Protect your home when you keep shrubbery trimmed to lower than three feet tall all along the exterior of your home. Remember to trim plants away from the sides of your home too.

3. Use Noisy Ground Cover Burglars try to be as quiet as possible, but noisy ground cover around your windows and doors alerts you to their every move. Pea gravel or other crunching stones do the trick, and you can find these burglar deterrents in colors that match your existing landscaping.

4. Install Short Privacy Fencing Tall fences and tree barriers increase privacy, but they also obscure burglars. Install short fencing with an open design instead. If you already planted trees or shrubs, trim them so that the canopy starts at eight feet or higher off the ground.

5. Turn on the Lights Most outdoor landscaping includes lighting of some sort. Opt for strategically placed motion-activated lighting as you reduce your chances of being burglarized. Place these lights near all your doors and windows and along pathways. They frighten burglars away and warn you when someone walks near your home.

Your home’s landscaping adds beauty and value to your property. It also deters burglars. Talk to your insurance agent today and discuss additional landscaping tricks that deter burglars and protect your home.

Why Each Roommate Needs a Renters Insurance Policy

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You and your apartment, dorm or house mate might share living expenses, but you each need your own renters insurance policy. It’s an investment that replaces your possessions if they’re damaged, stolen or lost. Learn why this $15 per month policy is an important part of your living arrangement.

Be an Individual

Whether you and your roommates are strangers, best friends or cousins, purchase separate policies. Most renters insurance companies won’t include two or more unrelated people on a policy, so be an individual and purchase your own policy.

Cover Deliberate Damage

Maybe you and your roommate get along great until you have a big fight and he or she deliberately damages your valuables. If that happens and you and your roommate share a policy, you won’t receive a payout to replace the damaged item.

Protect Your Future Insurability

Let’s say your roommate’s car is vandalized. Your combined policy pays the claim, but since your name is also on the policy, your ability to purchase affordable insurance is negatively affected for the next three to seven years. Separate policies protects your future insurability.

Keep the Payout

Joint insurance policies include payout checks made out to both parties. So when your valuable electronic equipment is stolen, both you and your roommate have to sign the check. Purchase separate coverage to ensure you receive the full amount you’re due.

Cover Liability

When a visitor trips or falls and decides to sue you, renters insurance can cover the liability. Slander and libel may also be covered. Have your own policy to cover your liability.

Know the Limits

Despite purchasing separate policies, your renters insurance might include financial limits. Discuss coverage caps with your insurance agent to ensure your vintage guitar or art collection is covered.

Purchase Adequate Coverage

You don’t know how much your possessions are worth until you create an inventory list. Then, purchase replacement value coverage. Although it costs about 10 percent more than cash value coverage, it allows you to replace the damaged, lost or stolen item at its current cost rather than the purchase price minus depreciation.

The decision to share living space with an apartment means you share expenses too. Make sure each roommate purchases a separate renters insurance policy, though, as you protect your possessions.

PROTECTING A BUSINESS FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUITS

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By now, employers should all realize and understand that sexual harassment is illegal. However, what employers might not be aware of is that the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings in June of 1998 that expanded what is termed sexual harassment; expanded the responsibility that employers have to provide a work environment that’s non-hostile; and did away with harassed employees having to prove that their company holds some responsibility or that their career suffered from lack of promotion, firing, demotion, or such. Employers are now directly responsible for employee behavior, thereby giving harassed employees more recourse in bringing about legal actions against employers. Work-related harassment and discrimination cases have been climbing steadily since the Civil Rights Act of 1991 allowed for trial by jury, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in legal cases involving discrimination. In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the amount of annual employment harassment and discrimination cases being filed grew by more than 13% between 1997 and 2009.

Any employer that’s ever been involved in a sexual harassment suit can attest that the cost to settle or defend a sexual harassment lawsuit can be jaw dropping. The average award for damages in these types of lawsuits is around $650,000, and that isn’t even including the secondary cost from workplace disruption, bad publicity, and those involved in the suit being absent from work.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

The first step in protection is understanding what is defined as sexual harassment. State and federal law prohibits behavior that involves an employee in authority basing professional expectations or decisions regarding a subordinate employee being willing or unwilling to exchange sexual acts. The following are examples of such behavior:

  • Altering expectations of job performance when a subordinate repeatedly refuses advances for a date or sexual encounter.
  • A superior demanding sexual acts in order for a subordinate to receive a raise or promotion.
  • Disciplinary action, including termination, of a subordinate that refuses sexual advances or ends an existing romantic relationship.

However, sexual harassment doesn’t always involve a subordinate/authority figure relationship. An offender can be anyone from a coworker to a customer or business vendor. The offender can be male or female, as can the victim. Furthermore, the victim doesn’t even need to be the employee actually harassed. Anyone that’s affected by the harassing or offensive behavior can be termed a victim; for example, an employee that overhears two other employees discussing a taboo subject. The two employees directly involved might not be offended, but if the overhearing employee is offended, then it can constitute sexual harassment.

Verbal, visual, physical, or written behavior that causes another employee to view the work environment as hostile, are unwanted, or focus on the sexuality or gender of another person may constitute as sexual harassment. Specific examples of such would be teasing, suggestive objects or pictures being displayed, and repetitively requesting sexual acts or dates verbally or in writing.

Protection with Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI).

After knowing what constitutes sexual harassment, businesses can further financially protect themselves with Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI). This is an insurance to protect employers when an employee makes the claim that their legal rights have been violated. Although policies vary, EPLI generally doesn’t cover criminal or civil penalties and punitive damages. EPLI does generally cover settlements, judgments, and incurred legal costs arising from an array of incidences – wrongful termination, employment contract breaches, employment and promotion failures, wrongful disciplinary actions, wrongful emotional distress infliction, negligent employee evaluations, employee benefit plan mismanagement, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Coverage is specific. So, before purchasing a policy, decide who should be covered. For example, should full and part-time employees, contracted persons, supervisors, department heads, subsidiaries, company divisions, and so forth be covered or not? One other note about EPLI is that it’s mandatory for employers to report incidents within a reasonable amount of time. Some policies might feature an ERP (extended reporting period) or prior acts. The length, cost, and availability vary by carrier.

Purchasing EPLI has been challenging for small companies in the past. However, the 2004 rate increases have somewhat plateaued. Some rates have even decreased. Keep in mind that EPLI cost is figured based on the business type, employee numbers, and past lawsuits associated with the business.

Prevention of Harassment Lawsuits.

Prevention is the cornerstone in decreasing the risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Prevention steps include the following key elements:

  • If the business has EPLI, any incident should be reported immediately.
  • Create, communicate, and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for workplace sexual harassment.
  • Have an effective harassment complaint process in place and take immediate, consistent, and appropriate action when a complaint is made.
  • Thoroughly document all complaints and the following investigation and actions.

Tax Season Riddled With ID Theft Scams

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LAdyThe IRS says more than 3,000 taxpayers have been victimized by phone scammers claiming to be IRS agents and demanding payments by either by pre-paid debit cards, or by deposit into online payment accounts.

The IRS says it doesn’t call taxpayers to discuss their accounts, so anyone receiving such a call should hang up quickly.

Another potential danger for taxpayers is identity thieves using personal information to file fraudulent tax returns, and stealing their refunds. A number of states have enacted stricter identity verification methods to try to reduce this threat.

Tax season also brings with it an increase in email phishing scams in which criminals send emails claiming to be from the IRS, in the hopes victims will enter personal information into a false IRS or banking website.

Scammers are also trying to exploit confusion about the Affordable Care Act by demanding people pay ACA-related tax penalties to them.

All these scams highlight the importance of taking active steps to protect your identity, and the need for heightened vigilance during tax season.

Maria Cordeiro is client services manager for Chubb Personal Insurance.  Posted: 17 Mar 2015 08:34 AM PDT