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Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 05:48

Home and Business Inventory Checklist

Home Inventory checklist

Now is a great time to take a few minutes this winter to make a home or business inventory. If disaster strikes, or your home or business is burglarized and your belongings are destroyed or stolen, an inventory makes the insurance claims process a lot simpler. Being able to provide a detailed home inventory to a claims adjuster can help you and your insurance company settle on a fair amount for your belongings and it helps you get your possessions replaced quicker. Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be completely daunting. Here are a few tips for compiling your home inventory:

  • Take one room at a time; 15 minutes at a time. Keep the task manageable by breaking it into smaller pieces by focusing on one room at a time and for just 15 minutes. Repeat until all of your rooms are complete!
  • Details, details, details. A home inventory includes a comprehensive list of all your belongings, along with receipts (if you have them), photos, and descriptions. For items such as electronics be sure to record the serial number of the item.
  • Divide and conquer. Instead of making one long list of your items, break it down by room and/or type of item, such as clothing, heirlooms, electronics, and jewelry. This will make the home inventory less overwhelming and decrease the chances that you’ll overlook something.
  • Know what your stuff is worth. If you have antiques, family heirlooms, or other valuables that don’t have receipts, you may want to have them appraised in order to determine their value.
  • Don't forget to check the attic. When taking your inventory, make sure you don’t overlook items that are stored in the closet, drawers, attic, or garage. Bicycles, holiday decorations, and sports equipment may be out of sight, but their cost adds up. Make sure you include everything – even if it’s in storage – on your list. 
  • Add it up. Once you have a full document of all your belongings, along with their values, add up all the items in your home and their total cost. 
  • Keep it safe. Store your complete home inventory with your insurance policy in a safe, easily accessible place, such as a fireproof box, safe deposit box, or other secure location. Technology today also makes it possible to keep your home inventory digitally using cloud storage.
  • Take stock annually. Remember to review and update your inventory each year, or whenever you make a significant purchase, to ensure your new items are documented.

There are many easy home inventory tools that can help and are available as apps for your Droid or iPhone, on your computer or simply as a paper checklist. Here are a few for you to check out:

There are great mobile apps that offer a home inventory tool which allows you to use your smart phone or tablet to take pictures and document important details of your belongings. It also allows you to maintain multiple inventories, so you can categorize your belongings by type (electronics, furniture, etc.) or by room in the house. This app is free and available through both the App Store and Google Play:

Know Your Stuff. An app provided by the Insurance Information Institute. Disasters can happen anytime, but with the Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory app, you’ll always have an up-to-date record of your belongings. Know Your Stuff® is a snap to use: Just take photos of your belongings and fill in a few key details. Your data automatically syncs with free cloud storage, giving you secure access whenever you want. You also can access this online at knowyourstuff.org  Download the Know Your Stuff® app for iPhone or Android.

And if your preference is to complete the task with pen and paper, here's a form you can use:

Great Inventory Form for You to Print - here's a link to a pdf form that you can print on your home computer if you prefer the traditional pen to paper way to keep organized.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 07:09

Top Homeowners Insurance Claims

water pipe burst 580x387

Weather incidents account for more than half of all homeowners insurance claims, with wind, pipes freezing and bursting, roof and flashing leaks and ice dams among the major causes of home damage during weather events.

Fire-related claims are the most expensive, however.

The five most common causes of home claims are:

  • Exterior wind damage – 25 percent of all losses.
  • Non-weather-related water damage (e.g., plumbing or appliance issues) – 19 percent.
  • Hail – 15 percent.
  • Weather-related water damage (e.g., rain, melting ice, snow) – 11 percent.
  • Theft – 6 percent.
Costliest Claim Causes

While weather-related claims are most common, fire causes the most expensive claims, accounting for nearly one quarter of the total claim costs. Fires are often caused by appliance and machinery misuse or failure, electrical problems, including wiring or outlet issues, and cooking. Hail, wind, and plumbing or appliance leaks followed fire as the most expensive claims.

Water Damage

There are typically two main causes of water damage — weather events, such as rain or snow melt, and other issues, such as pipes bursting or leaking. By comparison, more water damage is caused by events such as a pipe bursting, or plumbing or appliance issues, than from the weather.

Regional Differences

The leading cause of claims differs depending on where customers lived:

  • In the Northeast, wind is the most common cause of claims. The weight of ice and snow on the roofs of homes was also a common claim throughout the region. Fire is the costliest source of claims for homeowners in this area.
  • In the South, wind is the most common cause of home claims and hail is the most expensive.
  • In the Midwest and West, hail is both the most common reason for a homeowners insurance claim and caused the costliest damage. Midwestern homeowners also saw repeated problems caused by sewer or sump pump backups.

For more information on securing the best coverage for your needs, our Trusted Choice independent insurance agency is ready to provide personal assistance. Just give us a call!

In an article published by the Insurance Journal, four out of 10 small businesses are likely to experience a property or general liability claim in the next 10 years. Topping the list for the most common claim is burglary and theft, however, the most costly claim for a small business is reputational harm, which includes libel, slander and violation of privacy.

Burglary and theft affected 20 percent of small business owners in the past five years. However, burglary and theft ranked lowest out of the top 10 most costly claims, averaging $8,000, compared to reputational harm claims, which cost $50,000 on average.

A claim payout on a reputational harm claim, covered through a general liability policy, can run much higher if a lawsuit is involved, according to the insurer. If a lawsuit is involved, a general liability claim can average more than $75,000 per case to defend and settle. 35 percent of all general liability claims result in a lawsuit.

Fire claims are ranked in the top five of both the most common and costly claims. The average cost for a fire claim is $35,000, impacting 10 percent of small business owners in the past five years.

The top 10 costliest small business claims are: reputational harm, ($50,000); vehicle accidents ($45,000); fire ($35,000); product liability ($35,000); customer injury or damage ($30,000); wind and hail damage ($26,000); customer slip and fall ($20,000); water and freezing damage ($17,000); struck by object ($10,000) and burglary and theft ($8,000).

Top 10 Property and Liability Claims

Most Common Most Costly
Burglary & Theft (20%) Reputational Harm ($50,000)
Water and Freezing Damage (15%) Vehicle Accident 3 ($45,000)
Wind and Hail Damage 6 (15%) Fire($35,000)
Fire (10%) Product Liability 4 ($35,000)
Customer Slip and Fall(10%) Customer Injury or Damage 5 ($30,000)
Customer Injury and Damage(Less than 5%) Wind and Hail Damage($26,000)
Product Liability(Less than 5 percent) Customer Slip and Fall ($20,000)
Struck by Object (Less than 5 percent) Water and Freezing Damage ($17,000)
Reputational Harm (Less than 5 percent) Struck by Object ($10,000)
Vehicle Accident (Less than 5 percent) Burglary and Theft ($8,000)

top 10 small business claims

snow roof

With more snow on the way in the upcoming weeks, Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies wants to remind you to continue working to prevent property damage due to snow, ice and spring melting. Here are some terrific checklists to review and put on your to-do list:
  1. Remove excess snow from the roof. Prevent the need for water damage restoration and encourage water flow by carefully removing excess snow from the roof or hiring a contractor to do this for you.
  2. Clear gutters, drains and downspouts: When rains and rapid snowmelts are imminent, cleaning gutters and drains will direct water away from the building. Make sure a channel to the storm drain is clear of debris.
  3. Move the snow: After a winter storm, move piled snow away from the property’s foundation.
  4. Secure property on lower levels. Move items up onto waterproof shelving, to higher levels of your property, or have waterproof containers to help prevent water damage.

In addition, here is great information offered by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA):

Homeowners, tenants, and businesses should be cognizant of the danger posed by heavy snow loads on roofs, and the importance of recognizing the warning signs of potential structural weaknesses. In many instances, the risks posed by accumulated snow can be mitigated by safely removing snow from roofs. Flat and low pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, but also used in certain home designs, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations.

To safely remove snow from roofs, the following tips are recommended:

DO

  • Use a snow rake for pitched roofs (available at most hardware stores) to remove snow from your roof.
  • Start from the edge and work your way into the roof.
  • Try to shave the snow down to 2 or 3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which will risk damage to your shingles or other roof covering.
    • Keep all ladders, shovels and roof rakes away from utility wires.
    • Plastic shovels are usually best. Metal tools may cause damage to your roof.
    • Shovel snow from flat roofs throwing the snow over the side away from the building.
  • Remove large icicles carefully if they’re hanging over doorways and walkways. Consider knocking down icicles through windows using a broom stick.
  • Wear protective headgear and goggles when performing any of these tasks.
  • Consider hiring professionals to do the job. The combination of heights plus ice makes this one of the more dangerous house chores. If you choose to do the task yourself, have someone outside with you to assist.
  • Keep gutters and drains clean, free of ice and snow and keep downspouts clean at ground level.

DON’T

  • Unless approved by a registered professional engineer, don’t add your weight or the weight of equipment to the roof.
  • Don’t use a ladder since ice tends to build up on both the rungs of the ladder and the soles of your boots.
  • Don’t use blow torches, open-flame, or electric heating devices like hair dryers or heat guns to remove snow and ice.
  • Don’t try to remove ice or icicles from utility wires or meters. Call your utility company for assistance.

How to Recognize Problems with Roofs

  • Sagging roofs
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

What to Do if You Have Problems

  • If you notice any signs that you have a problem with your roof, or suspect a gas leak, leave the building immediately without touching light switches and call 9-1-1 from safely outside.
  • For general questions, call your local building or fire department business line.

Other Safety Tips for Homeowners

  • Clear snow away from furnace and dryer exhaust vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.
  • Clear snow from fire hydrants near your home or business.
  • Clear snow from storm drains near your home or business to prevent street flooding.

#  #  #

Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agencies has four offices in eastern Massachusetts—Wayland, Bedford, Hudson and Winthrop. We are here to help you make sure you have the coverage needed to maximize your protection in the event of damage or loss. Call us! 

wedding season liability

It's not surprising that February is National Weddings Month. In time, you will have picked out the table linen, found your dream venue, and figured out a way to seat all of your family members in one room without them strangling one another—it must be time for your wedding! Family conflicts included, as much as you plan, you can never predict everything that may or may not happen on the “big day”. It is important to consider the many different ways you can protect your big day from being ruined by illness, a late vendor, or bad weather. It is best to contact your Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent as soon as you make the decision to be married (jewelry insurance anyone?), because your agent can walk you through the steps of obtaining wedding insurance as well. Every wedding is different so you also have options to add a “rider” or additional protections for the following: 

  • Military service—if you or your “soon-to-be” is suddenly called to duty.
  • Gowns and tuxedos—if the dress is damaged when you pick it up or the store suddenly goes out of business.
  • Gifts—if gifts are not covered by your homeowners or renters insurance, provides protection against theft or damage of gifts.
  • Honeymoon—in case you need to cancel your trip due to illness, bad weather or other circumstances.

Keep in mind that venues usually have their own insurance policies, so it is important to do your research to avoid paying double the cost. If you get married at your home or at a private property, you will need an additional stipulation to your policy to protect your event. 

Be sure to talk to us at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker before making major decisions like paying deposits for venues and limos. May your wedding day be filled with security, happiness, and plenty of wedding cake! 

Here's a terrific infographic to share:

Wedding Infographic

 

 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 05:02

Love your Valentine's Gift!? Insure it!

Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day, and thoughts of people everywhere turn to … jewelry. 

Love isn't likely to be a cheap thrill this Valentine's Day, as consumer spending related to the holiday is expected to reach an all-time high thanks in part to the last several months of domestic job growth and wage gains. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will shell out more than $19.7 billion for Valentine's Day.

About one of four Americans buys jewelry, spending $2,000 per year on average, and industry experts expect jewelry sales to grow by at least 5% annually through 2025. Those who don’t buy shiny things for Valentine’s Day may prefer other types of valuables, such as electronics, artwork, antiques, wine and furs.  

Whatever the purchase, American consumers should take steps to safeguard and insure their valuables. Having the right insurance coverage will provide financial protection and is an important first step after receiving a Valentine's gift of value. 

According to the Insurance Information Institute. (I.I.I.), jewelry losses are among the most frequent of all home insurance content-related insurance claims. Fortunately, there are four relatively simple steps everyone can take to ensure adequate protection for their new jewelry:

 1) Contact your insurance professional immediately. Find out how much coverage you already have and whether you will need additional insurance. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal items such as jewelry; however, many policies limit the dollar amount for the theft of high-value personal possessions—such as jewelry—to $1,000 to $2,000. So, you would be covered if the item were destroyed by disasters listed in the policy such as a fire or hurricane, but if your expensive new present is lost or stolen you would need separate insurance to be covered, pointed out the I.I.I.

 To properly insure jewelry, consider purchasing additional coverage through a floater or an endorsement. In most cases, these add-ons to a homeowners or renters policy would also cover you for “mysterious disappearance.” This means that if your ring falls off your finger and is flushed down a drain, or is lost, you would be financially protected. Floaters and endorsements carry no deductibles, so there is no out-of-pocket expense to replace the item.

 2) Obtain a copy of the store receipt. Forward a copy of the receipt so that your insurance company knows the current retail value of the item. Keep a copy for your records, and include it with your home inventory. If the item was purchased on sale, also get a copy of the appraised value of the item.

 3) If you received an heirloom piece, have the item appraised. Heirlooms and antique jewelry will need to be appraised for their dollar value. You can ask your insurer to recommend a reputable appraiser.

 4) Add the item to your home inventory. An up-to-date inventory of your personal possessions can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance, and speed up the claims process if you have a loss, so remember to add your new jewelry to your inventory. And if you don’t yet have an inventory, celebrate your engagement by creating one with your fiancée. To make creating a home inventory as easy as possible, the I.I.I. offers free Web-based software and apps, available at Know Your Stuff® - Home Inventory.

Finally, if you don’t think you need renters insurance, think again. A 2013 Insurance Information Institute poll found that 96 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance but only 35 percent of renters had renters insurance. If you rent your home, renters insurance can provide important financial protection in the event your belongings are stolen or destroyed.

Contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker insurance agents for more information and make certain you secure the right coverage for your special Valentine's gift!

 

Who is liable if a holiday guest gets food poisoning or drives home drunk? As millions of Americans host and attend holiday parties across the street and across the country, many may be unaware of the risks they may be taking. Party hosts need to understand their responsibilities when inviting people into their homes and serving food and drinks.

If you’re hosting a holiday party, make sure you follow these important safety tips:

  • Do your homework. When hosting a holiday party, you should look to the liability portion of your homeowners or renters insurance policy to protect you if you are sued and found liable for an accident involving a guest who consumed alcohol or got sick after consuming food at your home. Make sure you regularly review your liability coverage limits to ensure you are adequately covered should an accident or illness occur.
  • Watch what you eat and feed others. Even if food was prepared outside your home by a caterer, another guest, a local deli or the neighborhood pizza joint, you could be held liable if someone becomes ill from consuming it on your property. Make sure that you check food and don’t put anything out that you suspect may be undercooked, spoiled or contaminated. Use only reputable food purveyors. Follow proper food handling, heating/cooling and storage recommendations. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Know your state laws and statutes. In many states, party hosts can be held liable if a guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident. Many courts have found hosts liable for damages their party guests cause as a result of consuming alcohol and then driving motor vehicles. Many states have also enacted statutes that can be interpreted as mandating non-commercial social host liability. 

So, if a guest or third party is injured in an accident that is related to alcohol consumption and the drinking can be linked to you, you could be held responsible for the payment of medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost time from work and—in the worst case—claims for wrongful death resulting in huge monetary settlements.

  • Mix up the activities, not just the cocktails. If the party centers around drinking, guests will likely drink more. Schedule entertainment or activities that do not involve alcohol. Provide safe, filling food for guests and alternatives to alcoholic beverages.
  • Party elsewhere. Host your party at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license, rather than in a home or office, to decrease your liability.
  • Call a cab, get a room or have a slumber party. Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who cannot or should not drive home.
  • Just say no. Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated. Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end. Stay alert and always remember your responsibilities as a host. You might also consider hiring an off-duty police officer or professional bouncer to discreetly monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
  • Consider an umbrella policy. While holiday partygoers and hosts alike should act responsibly and know their limits, consumers need to acknowledge that most risks cannot be entirely eliminated. But planning ahead and learning about what’s involved in hosting a reception is the best defense. Purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy—providing $1 million or more in additional coverage over the limit of a standard homeowners or renters policy—may be a prudent move for the frequent party host.

Here are important shopping tips from the mass.gov website, the official blog of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for you to use and share!

 

With the holiday season underway, knowing your rights as a consumer might be just as important as knowing where to get the best deals.

The Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation (OCABR) and the Office of the Attorney General (AGO)provide important tips about consumer protection, theft, warranties, and more so you get the most out of your gift buying.

  • Make a Plan Before You Shop — Make sure you shop smart by planning your trip before you leave the house. Compare deals ahead of time, and bring advertisements for deals with you. Before you make a purchase, learn the store’s policies on refunds, cancellations, returns, and layaways.
  • Understand Consumer Protection Law — Familiarize yourself with consumer protection law before you shop to help ensure fair business practices. Consumer rights include the right to be given true information about what you’re buying, to choose between various competitive goods, and to be protected from hazardous products. Businesses violate consumer protection law if they:
    • Charge customers higher prices than what is advertised
    • Do not post a return policy where customers will see it
    • Do not meet warranty agreements
    • Fail to provide relevant information about a product or service or tell customers misleading information

If you believe that a business has misled you or violated consumer protection law, you may want to take steps to resolve a consumer problem with the business or consider filing a complaint with the AGO. The AGO uses complaints to track unfair and deceptive business practices and also offers a free and voluntary mediation service that may assist in resolving your dispute.

  • Learn Gift Certificate Laws — Review gift certificate law in Massachusetts before you use your certificate. Gift certificates must be valid for a minimum of seven years and have no fees. If no expiration date is provided by the retailer, the card is good forever. Customers can take the remaining value on a gift certificate in cash after using 90 percent of the certificate.
  • Stay Safe While Shopping Online — Take precautions to keep your transactions safe if you decide to do online shopping. Pay with a credit card, which has extra consumer protection. Only purchase from known sellers, and check that the sites you visit are secure by looking for “https” before the URL.
  • Know What to Do in the Event of Identity Theft — Follow steps to protect yourself against identity theftif your credit or debit card is lost or stolen. Report the lost or stolen card to the card issuer right away. Call the three major credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be put on your credit file. Change your credit or debit card, account, and PIN to prevent additional fraudulent transactions from happening.
  • Be Aware of Warranties — Make sure you know what types of warranties are on the products you buy. Consumers can be protected by both express and implied warranties (oral or written promises and implied ones) on products, and a warranty can exist even if a seller does not use the word “warranty.” Warranties ensure that products are sold as they are portrayed and that you are entitled to repairs, replacements, or refunds if the products are not functioning properly. It is illegal for a business to fail to honor a warranty.

By becoming an informed, prepared consumer, you can have a safer and more satisfying shopping experience this holiday season.

Questions about safe shopping? Tweet @MassGov  and share this post with friends and family.

Sunday, 04 December 2016 20:54

Social Media and Identity Theft

 

Here's a terrific article by Dahna M. Chandler from the IIABA's (Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America) Trusted Choice portal.

Are you setting yourself up to be among the nine million people that the Federal Trade Commission estimates have their identities stolen each year? You may be doing so by the way you use social media, especially Facebook.

At last count, according to TechCrunch, there are nearly 1.4 billion users on Facebook alone. Of those, 890 million are daily users. Not all users are honest users. Moreover, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center  study, 79% of adults use Facebook just in the United States. And most of them use multiple platforms. Yet Pew found that most people on Facebook only know about 50 of their (average) 155 friends. Two-thirds of their connections on Facebook are strangers. And this is true across social media platforms.

But it’s not really the frequency with which you use social media that leads to identity theft. It’s how you use those social networking platforms. Remember, you don’t know most of the people you’re connected to well. But based on what you share—which is often shared by others, too—identity thieves may use your social media platforms to get to know you very well. Then, they can assume your identity.

Being a Tell-All Makes You a Target for Identity Thieves

You may be making the common identity thief’s work easy by what you reveal on social media, especially if you use poor security. You may think sharing pet pictures and names, favorite stores, purchases or intended purchases, or family pictures is no big deal. But that’s like walking through a mall showing everyone everything in your wallet. Did you know that identity thieves can use that information to build a personal profile on you?

“People share way too much on social media,” says credit expert Beverly Harzog. Her latest book, “The Debt Escape Plan: How to Free Yourself from Credit Card Balances, Boost Your Credit Score, and Live Debt Free,“ discusses identity theft through social media.

“Very little is needed by identity thieves to break into someone’s accounts,” she continues. “What you share can be used to hack your credit card, bank and other financial accounts.” Those accounts, of course, contain even more information about you that can be used to create a complete profile. Thieves use that information both to steal other assets and create ID documents that can be used to commit other crimes.

Most people on Facebook only know about 50 of their (average) 155 friends. Two-thirds of their connections on Facebook are strangers.

Harzog gives the example of giving your dog’s name on social media. “Some people use their dog’s name on Facebook or other social media and then use the dog’s name as part of their password someplace else,” she states. She says it’s common for people to use personal information they share—like kids’ names and birthdays and those of their significant others—on social media as part of passwords, too. Then the most determined identity thieves, who are adept at using that information to determine your complete passwords, can hack your accounts.

Moreover, weak passwords coupled with poor social media security settings make you a bigger target. So what’s the solution? Clam up online and lock down your social media profiles.

You Do Have Things to Hide on Social Media

Thieves of all kinds like easy victims; identity thieves are no exception. Therefore, don’t make yourself one. Maintain some mystery about your life online and hide information you don’t want stolen. Says Harzog, “Determined thieves will scan a year of your social media postings and piece a lot of things together about you that can be used to steal your identity.”

So if you’re a private citizen, stay that way. To maintain your privacy, there are lots of things you shouldn’t talk about or share on social media. Many of them are pretty obvious by now, like your travel plans, schedules, full birthdate, social security number or credit card or bank account numbers. But what else should you avoid sharing on social media or, if you must, share with care?

  • The types of credit cards you use and how you make purchases. You can talk about where you bought things but not what you used to make the purchase, particularly if you’re naming your credit card carrier.
  • Your banking information. Don’t reveal where you bank or the name of your credit union. Have those conversations privately, using secure email or phone.
  • Your home phone number. This is especially true of it’s the phone number you use for your credit card or bank accounts. Even if that’s not the case, that information can be easily used to determine your carrier and, ultimately, your address, which for most people is the one they use on their bank accounts or credit cards.
  • Your full address. It’s okay to say where you live generally, like your city, but not specifically, like your street and house number. Even revealing your neighborhood may put you at risk of identity theft. Stick with the closest metro area when revealing where you live.
  • Your hometown. Again, stick with metro areas, especially if you’re from a small town. And if you do reveal your hometown on your social media profiles, don’t use it as an answer to security questions online or part of a password.
  • Your high school or college alma mater. Be careful sharing this information if you use it as part of your security set-up on any other accounts, especially financial accounts.

Doubling Down on Security

Harzog says. “Don’t use any part of the information you share on social media as part of your passwords.” Use strong passwords and don’t use any information revealed on social media as answers to security questions, either. Make up your own randomized passwords, where possible.

Also, make sure your privacy settings are strong on social media and vet every online connection you make carefully. Using these strategies, you can protect yourself from the prying eyes of those who would rob you of your financial security by stealing your identity.

 

 

Winter will be storming into the area bringing snow, ice and plummeting temperatures that can wreak havoc on plumbing. A ruptured pipe can cause extensive, costly damage and disrupt your life or business. Worse, floodwater can pose numerous safety and health risks, ranging from electric shock to illness from waterborne pathogens or even toxic mold.

With your family or business on the line, you will want to do everything you can to prevent water from freezing inside your plumbing; or if the unforeseeable happens and you find your pipes frozen - taking the steps to prevent pipes from bursting and safely thaw them.

A frozen pipe will not necessarily burst if the faucet valve is open to release pressure moving down the pipe.

Start with prevention:

Here are five steps you can take right now to reduce the risk of frozen pipes. Make sure you winterize your property outdoors, draining pools and irrigation systems and hoses, insulating and covering outdoor faucets and securing doors and windows in garages and outbuildings with water supplies. Also, be sure to follow these tips from the American Red Cross:

  1. Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  2. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  3. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  4. Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  5. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

If pipes freeze, don’t panic, do this:

If you wake up one morning and the water won’t come on in your kitchen, don’t panic. While horrifying visions of water filling crawl spaces and mold spores sprouting may be unavoidable, a frozen pipe will not necessarily burst if the faucet valve is open to release pressure moving down the pipe. Take a deep breath, and then follow these American Red Cross tips to safely thaw your pipe:

  1. If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  2. Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  3. Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  4. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  5. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

These tips should help minimize the risk plumbing ruptures from frozen pipes. But sometimes nature simply shoves aside our best efforts and the worst happens. And of course, make sure you call your agent at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker to make sure you have protection in the event you find yourself facing a water damage catastrophe from frozen, ruptured pipes. 

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Waltham, MA - 781-890-3740

Hudson, MA - 978-562-5652

Wayland, MA - 508-358-5383

Winthrop, MA - 617-846-0731

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