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Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

Here's are important tips to get your fireplace ready for the winter season from our friends at Trusted Choice

 

fireplace

Once the sun sets this time of the year, you feel the cool air creep in. It’s those crisp, cool evenings that often give homeowners the itch to start a fire in the fireplace and curl up on the couch. Before you have your first fire of the season, take these safety steps to ensure a relaxing, cozy night doesn’t turn into a stressful situation.

  1. Hire a professional to clean and inspect your chimney. In addition to creosote build-up, therecan be other issues such as leaves or birds’ nests that pose a problem. The chimney structure and liner should also be looked over carefully for any signs of deterioration.
  2. Stock up on seasoned hardwood. Ideally, you want wood that has been split and stacked for at least 6 months. Not only will you get more heat out of this type of wood, but it leaves less creosote behind, reducing the main risk factor for a chimney fire.
  3. Have the right supplies. Use kindling instead of a flammable lighter fluid, and build the fire on a metal grate. Use a metal screen or glass doors to keep sparks from flying out of the fireplace. Store matches and lighters up high.
  4. Move items near the fireplace. Over the summer, the hearth might become a place to store any number of items, including magazines, books, pillows, and toys. Make sure all items are moved a good distance from the fireplace.
  5. Educate children about fireplace safety. Make sure they know to stay away from the fire and never play with matches or a lighter.

There’s nothing better than the first fire of the season. Gazing into the flames and hearing the wood crackle is the perfect way to end a long day. Before you use your fireplace this fall, follow these steps to ensure a safe experience.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 20:30

Preventing Home Fires - Heating Safety Tips

The National Fire Protection Association has these important tips as the weather gets colder, Make sure your fireplace and heating equipment are in top condition!

Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
  • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Click here for more - Heating Safety Tips

How to choose a backpack for your child. 
Kids walking home from school


By September 16, National School Backpack Awareness Day, over 79 million students will go back to school. Many will carry a heavy load to school, especially if they’re starting middle school, where they carry more books, supplies, equipment and electronics than before. It seems like they pack their school lockers in their backpacks and carry them to and from school every day. But overloaded backpacks on children can cause pain and injury that often continue throughout adulthood.

In fact, a 2009 University of California study showed that 64% of American students aged 11 to 15 complained of back pain from heavy backpacks, and 21% reported that the pain lasted more than six months. Moreover, experts say 80% of adults have experienced back pain at some point in their lives, and it can start in childhood.

But it’s not just kids’ backs that can be harmed by weighty backpacks.

“Shoulder rotator cuffs and joints, elbows, wrists, hips and legs can be injured by improper lifting or carrying of heavy backpacks,” warns chiropractor Wm. Todd Fisher, DC of Chantilly Chiropractic Center, PC in Chantilly, VA. “Further, a child’s growth plates and the discs in their back and neck can be damaged, setting them up for a lifetime of back problems,” he states.

So what’s the solution? Choose the right backpack for your child’s size and needs. Here are some keys to choosing the right backpack.

Choose Back Safety Over Stylishness

We know kids love to be “cool,” especially tweens and teens. And it’s important to get your kids things they won’t stuff in the back of the closet and refuse to use. But preventing a lifetime of back injuries may mean sacrificing a little style. Moreover, says Dr. Fisher, “Bigger isn’t better, either.” And neither is cheaper.

So how do Dr. Fisher and other experts recommend you choose a backpack? “Start with knowing your child’s weight and height,” he says. “A backpack should never fall more than four inches below the child’s waistline, nor should it be heavier than 10% of their weight.” A backpack that’s too heavy and too low causes the child to bend forward to balance it, leading to neck and back strain. So it should be at shoulder level and never sag away from the body.

Sometimes the most stylish backpacks lead to serious, long-term musculoskeletal problems in children because they break all of these rules.

Gary Sato, DC, a California chiropractor, Assistant Coach of USC Men's Volleyball and Assistant Coach of USA Men’s Volleyball during the 1988, 1992 and 2012 Olympics, agrees. The father of three, including two teens, he says, “It’s terrible to see kids have back pain that continues into adulthood, so it’s critical that parents convey to them the importance of back care over stylishness.” In other words, this is another area where peer pressure can have long-term health consequences. Besides, you can buy some stylish backpacks and still keep your kids’ backs safe.

What Features Should a Good Backpack Have?

In addition to being high-quality, meaning durable enough to hold heavier loads without excessive sagging and having a reflector, Dr. Fisher suggests backpacks have the following features:

  • Have wide, thick, padded, adjustable, well-made shoulder straps. This type of straps helps keep the backpack on securely and distribute the weight more evenly across the shoulders and back. They also prevent damage to the child’s flesh and muscles from cutting into the shoulders.
  • Be the right size for the child and their uses. Again, bigger is not better, but smaller than needed (like many of the drawstring bags) is not cool, either. Both can be harmful, since kids are likely to overload bigger backpacks, and the poor construction of many drawstring bags makes them inappropriate for heavier loads.
  • Have sternum and hip straps. These straps across the stomach and around the hips help balance the load of the backpacks and stabilize them on your kids’ backs.
  • Have ample compartments. Not only is this a way for kids to carry more delicate items more securely and with less damage (especially if the compartment is padded for electronics), but also the weight of the backpack gets more evenly distributed.
  • Be padded on the back and have air bladders in the right places. Both keep the contents of the backpack from injuring the body and help balance its weight.
  • Have wheels, in some cases, with sturdy pulling handles. Wheels allow backpacks to be rolled, which takes most of the strain off children’s growing bodies. But be careful with these, because wheels often mean users overload them; they have to be lifted to be carried onto the school bus and down stairs. Lifting heavy bags can cause strain, and these can cause other safety issues, too. So make sure your child’s school allows them.
choosing a backpack
 
 

Dr. Sato agrees with these features, adding, “Backpacks should also be breathable so kids don’t sweat while carrying them.” Breathability will help backpacks last longer (since the salt in sweat can break some fabrics down) and not carry odors.

How Should Your Kids Load and Carry Their Backpacks?

In order to choose correctly, you’ll need to know what your child will be carrying and how. In addition to this nifty chart provided by The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA),which shows parents and students how to both pack and wear their backpacks, Dr. Fisher has a few other suggestions. “Backpacks should not be worn lower than four inches below a child’s natural waistline because that forces them to lean forward to balance the load,” he explains. That can cause strain across the child’s musculoskeletal system, including back, neck, hip flexors, ankles and feet.

He adds they should be securely fastened on a child’s body to make sure the backpack is high and close to the body. He suggests children, “stand in front of a mirror after loading their backpack to check posture.” If they find themselves leaning forward, they should remove some of the contents of the backpack. Watch this Boston University video for additional considerations about properly choosing, loading and wearing a backpack.

Also, this video provides additional wearing information, including warning signs the backpack is too heavy. Dr. Sato says it’s OK for kids to carry additional bags if their backpacks are too heavy but, in general, kids should not be overloaded carrying them.

Where Should You Purchase Backpacks?

Start with the school’s supply list to determine what kind of backpack your child is allowed to carry to school. Then go shopping. It’s likely that the more children you have, the more budget-conscious you’ll be. Both doctors agree that this is understandable, but say that it’s just as important to consider your child’s long-term musculoskeletal health when purchasing their backpack. Don’t automatically choose the cheapest option at a discount retailer. That may not be the best backpack for your child’s size or needs.

Moreover, while there are numerous high-end brands to choose from, Dr. Fisher recommends the AirPack brand. Other popular brands are REI, JanSport, L.L.Bean, Kipling, Herschel and North Face. But whatever brand you choose, make sure it meets the criteria above, including those from the AOTA. Dr. Sato recommends that you go in to the retailer, look at backpacks and try them on your child, and then go online to buy them at the best price.

If you follow these strategies for choosing, loading and wearing a backpack, your child is less likely to be injured carrying one.

Business owners have enough to worry about besides uncontrollable threats that prevent success. Business liability insurance is one way to help prepare for and protect your business from the biggest risks you face.


Top Business Risks in 2016

A recent study done by Allianz concluded that the following three risks are considered by business owners to be among the most significant business risks for 2016:

 

You can protect your business from these threats with a variety of business insurance policies, including business liability insurance—specifically cyber liability insurance and employment practices liability insurance.


Protect Against the Top 3 Risks with Liability Insurance for Your Business

Liability claims are among the most expensive business insurance claims. Without appropriate liability coverage, one lawsuit or unexpected event can force you to close your doors. Business liability insurance can help you protect your business from the 3 top risks named in the survey.

In order to protect your business from cyber incidents, PR disasters, and the impact of new technologies, you need:

  • General business liability insurancealso known as Commercial general liability insurance (CGL) is the most basic form of business liability insurance.

General liability insurance definition: A contract that protects a business against claims due to injuries, accidents, and negligence. It can protect your business from costs related to bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, legal costs, judgments, and personal injury claims such as libel and slander. To protect your business from more specific types of emerging threats, you may need to purchase additional liability policies.

  • Cyber liability insuranceis important for any business that uses electronic information. If you are sued because of a data breach or other cybercrime, your business could be responsible for paying legal fees, court-ordered judgments or settlements, and any other court-mandated costs. Your general liability policy may not appropriately cover these costs.

Cyber liability claims are also extremely costly in terms of fines, public relations costs, and other expenses you must pay on behalf of your affected customers.

While cyber liability policies continue to evolve because of the ever-changing nature of the threats, most cyber liability insurance policies protect your business assets by covering your legal defense costs, as well as any settlements and judgments that you are ordered to pay. Cyber liability insurance also helps businesses repair their reputations and damage to their brands in these situations by providing coverage for PR and other related expenses.

  • Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI)is another form of liability insurance for your business that is becoming more important as technology changes. EPLI provides protection from claims and lawsuits brought against a business, its officers or directors, or its employees and managers for discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and other employment-related allegations.

In addition, EPLI covers claims related to employee benefits mismanagement. In today’s interconnected society, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which new technology makes it possible for an employee’s benefits enrollment or personal health information to be made public inadvertently. EPLI insurance would protect you in such a circumstance.


Other Kinds of Business Liability Insurance to Consider

In addition to the risks named in the Allianz study, most businesses face a variety of other threats that could lead to a liability claim. Depending on your type of business, you may need to consider a number of additional business liability policies to protect your assets.

  • Errors and omissions (E&O) insurance:Also referred to as professional liability insurance, this policy will protect you from loss or damage arising from poor or misleading advice, or an act of negligence that leads to a client's financial loss.
  • Liquor liability insurance:Coverage that protects any business that sells or serves alcoholic beverages, including restaurants, nightclubs, and bars, that can be held liable for damages or injuries caused by intoxicated patrons.
  • Product liability insurance:If your product causes any form of injury or damage, product liability insurance will cover compensation and possible legal fees if you are sued.
  • Environmental impairment liability (EIL) insurance:A specialty insurance policy created for companies and contractors who engage in jobs or production that have toxic by-products. EIL insurance will cover many of the costs related to spills, leakage, or contamination, including fines and cleanup costs.
  • Pollution liability insurance:A business insurance policy that covers the costs associated with pollution cleanup, as well as liability claims for pollution-related injuries, illnesses, or deaths.
  • Event liability insurance:Standard personal or commercial liability policies will not cover the varied exposures related to special events. Event liability policies can be tailored to your specific event, from small, one-time events to large, elaborate affairs.

How to Know if Your Insurance Policy is Right for You

Business liability insurance—in all of its forms—is essential to the long-term success of your business. Every business liability policy must be tailored to your unique business, or you face having limited or no coverage when you really need it.

Consulting with an independent agent who represents multiple insurance companies is the best way to ensure that you can find the best basic and specialized commercial liability insurance to address all of the insurable risks inherent in your business. Working with your local independent agent, you will determine the type and amount of coverage you need based on:

  • Business size, type and value
  • Type of work you do
  • Type of risks
  • Level of liability

Your agent can seek out the best coverage—from multiple insurance companies—to meet your needs and budget.


How to Find the Right Commercial Liability Insurance Agent

Our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker insurance agents are trained to be one of your most trusted business advisors—no different from your accountant, lawyer, or banker. Don’t trust your business to just anyone. Choose an independent insurance agent who will be as invested in protecting your business as you are. Whether you need small business liability or corporate liability insurance your agent can help you evaluate specific business risks and the various liability risks your company faces.

Our agents represent multiple insurance companies, providing you with a broad range of options to meet your needs. Find an agent in your community today and start addressing your top business risks.

Data Breaches. Malware. Hacking.

Recently cyber attacks are always in the news, and no one is immune.Shocking statistics reveal this ever-present and expanding problem has serious consquences for all business organizations. Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance gladly shares these tips to protect your business from this devastating threat.

According to a recent Paychex blog, "Experts uniformly agree that educating employees about the threats of data breaches and cyber theft is a critical step in protecting your company's invaluable data. But while most small businesses understand the need for a comprehensive data security program, many still believe hackers are only interested in going after big companies, and therefore may not take all the precautions that they should. In fact, statistics compiled by the National Cyber Security Alliance paint a disturbing portrait of small business vulnerability:

  • Almost 50 percent of small businesses have experienced a cyber attack.
  • More than 70 percent of attacks target small businesses.
  • More than 75 percent of employees leave their computers unsecured.
  • As many as 60 percent of small and medium-sized businesses that experience a data breach go out of business after six months.

A breach or attack can result in a significant loss of income, particularly if the small business involved lacks cyber liability insurance. If news of the breach goes public, the damage to the business's brand may be insurmountable."

In addition to a hacker getting into your system, data theft can occur if an employee’s computer is stolen, or if an unauthorized person is able to access a computer in your office. It could even be a disgruntled employee who carries out data theft. Any business that collects and stores sensitive information from customers, including credit card information, contact information, credit information, social security numbers, medical information, etc. is at risk for data theft.

Here are a few tips to reduce your risks for cyber attacks and data theft of sensitive customer information: 

  • Change the passwords you and your employees use to log into your technology systems on a regular basis
  • Avoid emailing sensitive information, but if you do, use a secured email service
  • Have employees lock their computer screens when they step away from their desks
  • Avoid having unescorted/unsupervised visitors walking through your office
  • Don’t open strange email attachments or click unusual links in emails, especially from an unknown sender as they may be scams
  • Have a written technology policy in place so that all of your employees understand the expectations and rules guiding how your business handles sensitive data
  • Consider Cyber Liability insurance

Loss of electronic data is not covered under most commercial theft policies because it is not a tangible asset, and most general liability policies also exclude coverage for your costs to notify customers of potential data theft, pay for the costs of investigating the loss or the costs of potential fines, penalties or lawsuits that result from a failure to protect the data. A cyber liability policy can provide your business with coverage that will help you cover several costs, including the expenses to inform your customers and regulatory authorities about the possible exposure of data.

To protect your small business from these exposures, consider a Cyber Liability Policy. Our Trusted Choice® Independent Insurance Agents at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker can help you identify the risks your business faces from data theft, and can help you identify a policy to cover those exposures.

 

Gather Emergency Supplies

Here's a terrific checklist from the CDC. If a disaster strikes in your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for several days. You may think that you will have enough time to run to the grocery store, but stores quickly sell out of important supplies following emergency warnings. Unfortunately, about half of adults in the United States do not have the resources and plans in place for a possible emergency. Preparing emergency kits for your family is an important step in keeping them safe and healthy during a disaster.

Pack an emergency supply kit. Here's what you'll need:

At Least a 3-day Supply of Food and Water

  • Water - one gallon per person, per day
  • Food - foods that are easy to make and won't spoil, like canned soup, dry pasta, and powdered milk
  • Manual can opener
  • Basic utensils to prepare and serve meals

Health Supplies

  • 3-day supply of all medicines, at a minimum
  • Medical supplies like syringes, a walking cane, or hearing aids with extra batteries

Personal Care Items

  • Soap
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Baby wipes
  • Contact lenses or glasses

Safety Supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Multipurpose tool (that can act as a knife, file, pliers, and screwdriver)
  • Whistle

Electronics:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides weather updates during emergencies. Look for a radio labeled "NOAA Weather Radio."
  • Flashlight
  • Radio (battery-powered, solar, or hand-crank) for updates on the situation
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Extra batteries

Documents

	Map, cash, key, and copies of important documents

Keep copies of your important documents, cash, spare keys, and maps in you emergency supply kit.

  • Copies of important documents such as insurance cards and immunization records
  • Paperwork about any serious or on-going medical condition
  • Your completed family emergency plan, complete with family and emergency contact information.

You should also keep

  • Extra cash
  • Maps of the area
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys

Taking Care of Others

You may need additional supplies to make sure the whole family is ready.

For Children

  • Baby supplies like bottles, formula, baby food, and diapers
  • Games and activities for children

For Pets

	A wet dog on a floatation device with a bag of supplies on a flooded street.

Plan ahead so you’re ready to take care of your pet during an emergency.

  • Food and Water:
    • A 3-day supply of food and water for each pet. A cat or a dog will generally need 1 gallon for three days.
    • Bowls or bottles
    • Manual can opener
  • Cleaning Supplies:
    • Depending on the pet, you may need a litter box, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach
  • Health and Safety:
    • Medicines and medical records stored in a waterproof container
    • First aid kit with a pet first aid book
  • Transport supplies:
    • A sturdy leash, harness, and carrier to transport pets safely. A carrier should be large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for several hours.
  • Comfort Items:
    • Pet toys and the pet's bed, if you can easily bring it, to reduce stress
  • Paperwork:
    • Current photos and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them, and to prove that they are your pets, in case you become separated from them
    • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and telephone number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care

Keep these tips in mind!

	A storage box of emergency supplies including a first aid kit, flashlight, water bottles, and crackers.

Check and replace your supplies throughout the year.

Personalize

Every family is unique. You may have emergency needs not included in this list. Also, remember to update your kit according to changing needs of your family.

Be sure it's ready to use

In a disaster situation, you may need to get your emergency supply kit quickly, whether you are sheltering at home or evacuating.

  • Once you have gathered your supplies, pack the items in easy-to-carry containers.
  • Clearly label the containers and store them where you can reach them easily.
  • Remember that certain items, like medications and paper documents, need to be kept in waterproof containers.

Keep it Fresh

Check the expiration dates on food, water, medicine, and batteries at least two times per year. It's extremely important that all items in your kit are functional at the time of an emergency.

Involve Children

Families can make emergencies less stressful by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Ready Wrigley can help!

  • Ask your kids to think of items that they would like to include in an emergency supply kit, such as books, games, and pre-packaged foods.
  • Your kids can mark the dates on a calendar for checking emergency supplies. Tell them to remind you when it's time to check the supplies.
  • Include kids in planning and creating disaster kits for family pets.

Know Your House

Find out where your gas, electric, and water shut-off locations are, and how to turn them off.

Prepare For Everywhere

Emergencies can happen anywhere. Remember to prepare supplies for home, work, and vehicles.

More information:

  • Emergency water supply
  • Emergency food supply
  • Pet Emergency Checklist

Crushed. Cracked. Lost. Stolen. Protecting Your Child's Electronic Devices!

Crushed by books. Cracked when dropped while running for the school bus. Lost in the piles and excitement of the first weeks of school. Stolen in the middle of the school day. As students return to school, repairing or replacing their everyday technology can be expensive.

Missing and damaged equipment--laptops, smartphones, iPads--create a lot of headaches, not only for their physical replacement cost, but also for relevant content that is stored on these devices.

One in ten laptops are stolen or lost in the course of their service. In addition, according to Consumer Reports, 3.1 million smart phones were stolen last year. And, a SquareTrade Study finds that damaged iPhones have cost Americans $5.9 billion since 2007 with accidental damage more common than loss or theft.

Top Laptop Loss

  • 70 million are lost annually
  • One laptop is lost every 53 seconds
  • 47% lost off-site
  • 29% are lost in transit

Top 5 Cell Phone Accident Scenarios

  • Fell out of my hand: 30%
  • Immersed in liquid: 18%
  • Fell out of my lap: 13%
  • Knocked off a table: 11%
  • Liquid spilled on it: 9%

Here are some tips to keep your child's laptop, smartphone, iPad or other electronic gizmos (and yours!) safe.

Insurance. Speak to your Baldwin / Welsh & Parker agent for information on coverage and alternative ways to insure your electronic devices.

Be Prepared! Cases and Backup Content! Invest in specially made cases that reduce the impact of falling and/or water. Make sure you make you and your child take the time to back up your device's content.

Identification. Use both high tech and low tech options to identify your device. A simple sticker with your name and contact information can reunite lost equipment with the owner. Electronic tracking systems can also be implemented that will help you find or protect your telephone's contents.

Consequences and Education. It is important to communicate with your child and come up with the consequences for lost, stolen, or damaged equipment. Make sure your son or daughter understand how much it costs to replace or repair the equipment in question. Take them to the store or to a repair shop and show them first hand. And if the worst happens? Will you ground them? Have them work to pay off the replacement costs? What are the solutions you and your family come up with?

Read more here! 

School is back in session and many high school and college students will be driving more as they commute to and from school, which makes now a good time to remind your student driver about safe driving practices.

Every year approximately 3,000 teens in the United States were killed in car crashes and more than 350,000 were treated for crash-related injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Center for Disease Control. Don’t let your student driver become part of this statistic – encourage him to stay focused while on the road and follow these safety tips:

  1. Always Stop When a School Bus Stops. Be alert for School Buses and students trying to cross the street and stop when you see a School Bus stopped or students trying to cross the street.
  2. Don’t talk on the phone or text while driving. EVER! Not only is texting or using a hand-held phone while driving illegal in many states, it’s also a dangerous distraction. Of those killed in crashes caused by distracted driving, 18 percent were the result of using a cell phone while driving. Using a cell phone while driving – even with a hands-free device – delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, according to the University of Utah.
  3. Always wear a seat belt and make all your passengers wear one, too.
  4. Abide by the speed limit. Going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excessive speed is one of the top causes of car accidents.
  5. Don’t drink and drive or ride with someone who has consumed alcohol. If you need a ride call a friend, family member, or taxi. Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for teens and one of three of these crashes is alcohol related.
  6. Keep the music down. Driving with the volume on the stereo turned up may seem harmless, but it can be just as much of a distraction as using a cell phone.
  7. Don’t try to squeeze too many people into a car. You should never have more people in a car than you do seat belts.
  8. Abide by all traffic lights and signs. Don’t run red lights or stop signs, and make sure the intersection is clear even if the light is green.

Keeping all drivers safe on the road is important and part of that means making sure the appropriate auto insurance coverage is in force. Call your Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Trusted Choice independent insurance agent to help you find the right coverage for you and/or your student driver and answer any questions you have about the insurance. You should also ask your independent insurance agent about student driver discounts, such as the good student discount, which can save you 10 to 15 percent on your premium if your student has a B average. Student drivers who have completed an accredited driver education or training course may also be eligible for a discounted auto insurance rate.

Friday, 26 August 2016 20:45

The Ultimate 8 Fall Home Maintenance Tips

 Ultimate 8 Fall Infographic copy

With spring cleaning far behind, and summer fun all but over, it’s time to start fall home maintenance. Fall is the perfect time to perform important maintenance to your home so you’re not caught in the middle of winter with a drafty house or a malfunctioning heater. We’ve compiled the top eight fall home maintenance tips, along with what you can do to ensure your home stays warm and comfortable this winter.

  1. Heating System

It’s important to inspect your heating to ensure it functions all winter long.

For conventional heating systems, you may already have a contract with the installation company. Many HVAC companies offer a fall/spring maintenance program. If not, start with your water heater. Ensure that your water heater is protected from the elements. The most favorable locations for your water heater to be is the attic, basement, or garage, where it can be safely insulated. For your heating unit, check the filters, gas lines, and flame. Make sure that you have a proper flame and oxygen flow. There should be no cracks, kinks, or holes in gas lines.

For wood stoves, check and make sure that all stove pipes are clean. Take a wire brush and scrape to remove any buildup. Inspect your catalytic combustor, which is located between the fire and stovepipes. Use a small wire brush to clean out any ash buildup. Make sure you have removed all ash from the stove before lighting a fire. Inspect the outside of the stovepipe and stove, being sure to remove any debris. Be on the lookout for creosote, which is a yellow, oily matter that should be removed.

  1. Chimney and Fireplace

Chimneys and fireplaces cause some of the most expensive damage to homes. Build-up from creosote can easily ignite, causing a devastating fire. If you are unfamiliar with inspecting a chimney, it may be worth calling in a chimney sweep, which is usually quite affordable. Make sure to leave your flu closed when not in use, and always have a fireplace screen in front of open flames to protect your home from wayward sparks.

  1. Windows

Windows may be a continual source of frustration for homeowners. There are many seal repair kits available at local hardware stores. Walk around the interior windows, placing your hand near the seal. Check for any breezes flowing through. Do the same process for doors. When you find one, mark it with a sticker or other indicator so you can tally how many repair kits you need. If a window is improperly sized, cracked, or broken, it needs to be replaced.

For doors, you can purchase draft preventers and other seal kits to improve the seal. Every 1/8 of an inch can lower a room a whole degree, so it can really pay off to have updated, well-sealed doors and windows.

  1. Smoke Detectors, Fire Extinguishers, and First Aid Kits

Every six months, replace batteries in all the detectors in your home. Check the expiration dates on your first aid kit and fire extinguisher, and that each is up to date and in a convenient place. If you don’t have a fire escape route, this is a good time to draft one.

  1. Indoor Pipes

Winterizing pipes is one of the easiest, most valuable ways to protect your home over the winter. Most home repair stores carry fitted insulation that can easily wrap around any size pipe. If you can’t afford to do every pipe in your home, give priority to the pipes that are closest to the outdoors, or most likely to freeze. It’s also a good idea to shut off water to any area that won’t be used, and to check pipes for leaks or cracks that may grow larger with the varying temperatures of fall.

  1. Yard Maintenance

Fall leaves may be beautiful, but these can slowly rot, causing huge backup and damage in gutters. This backup will cause water to spill over the gutter and into your yard and walking areas, which can cause damage to your home and make walking conditions dangerous. Disconnect all garden hoses, and store them coiled and flat in a cool, dry place. If possible, turn of water to all outside faucets and drain them to protect the outside pipes from damage. Also, store any outdoor furniture that may become damaged from snow or ice.

  1. Roof Inspection

A roof inspection may seem overkill, but harsh winter winds and heavy snow can take a toll on your home. It may be a good idea go up to your rooftop to check for any broken tiles or cracks. It’s important to take care of any damage now to avoid repairs during the cold winter months.

  1. Stock Up on Winter Supplies for Your Home

Before prices on winter gear soars, stock up on winter items such as snow shovels, firewood, or sidewalk salt. It’s better to have the supplies now than to have to run to the store during a snowstorm!

These fall home maintenance tips are quick, easy, and affordable. It is always a good idea to brush up on home repair insurance coverage as you’re making improvements and renovations. As the adage says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - especially when it comes to home repairs.

Student Car Insurance

5 Little Known Ways College Students Can Save Money on Car Insurance                                                               

You might think you have your act together when it comes to student car insurance. College life is hectic and money is always short. To lighten the load, you did your homework to get the best possible rate. Or did you? Sure, your GPA is great, but there are other factors too. Knowing them could allow you to shave dollars from your premium and keep precious cash in your pocket. This is what goes into determining your car insurance rates.


5 Factors That Influence Auto insurance Rates for College Students

Besides your age, gender, and grades, the biggest factor that influences student car insurance is whether you take your car to school. That is because where you keep your car and how much you drive it is one of the primary ways insurance companies determine how likely you are to get into an accident.

You will need to carefully evaluate where you live and how much you drive before you decide if you’ll drive your car to school. Here are some other things to consider:

infographic about 5 factors of auto insurance for college students

1. Location. This could be a big one. If your school is in a more rural area, you will pay lower rates. Urban areas and big cities always carry higher insurance rates. The reason is relatively simple. More cars on the road, more obstacles like pedestrians, and narrow through streets all mean there is a much greater potential for you to be involved in an accident. States like New York and New Jersey have the highest car insurance rates, whereas states like Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Maine are among the lowest (Bankrate.com). There may be a bit of relief, though. If you happen to live within 3 miles of your school or job, you could qualify for a mileage discount.

2. Type of Car. Your sports car might look good on campus, but in the long run, the student car insurance rate could eat you alive. If you can, go for a larger vehicle. They are more substantial, usually made of steel, and much easier to repair. They also carry lower premiums. It may seem like insurance companies pick and choose which models to charge higher premiums for, but the law and their reasoning are sound. Sports cars are always higher because they have a large claim history (drivers like to go fast and are often involved in wrecks) and they have a much higher chance of being stolen. This is why driving a minivan may not be sexy, but is a great choice if you want a lower insurance rate. Also, newer cars like sedans and compacts give you better rates, since they require much less maintenance and have better safety features.

3. Credit History. Insurance companies will examine your credit history as a predictor of your likelihood of getting in an accident. A good credit rating could save you around $1,000 per year in premium costs. If you have a poor rating, expect a higher premium.

4. How Much Driving You Do. This one is cut-and-dried. If you can prove that you will be driving much less, then you could save a bit on your premium. To further compound the savings, try to stay on your parent's insurance plan if possible.

5. Driving Record. This is the most important factor by far. You are young and full of potential. You are also squarely in the high-risk category. Even a speeding ticket will make your insurance rate skyrocket, simply because you are already in a category with a higher risk. Make sure your driving record is as clean as possible so you can get the best rate.

Finally, consider getting a huge break on your insurance by leaving your car at home. Doing so can save you thousands of dollars. The best way to accomplish this is by trying to remain on your parents’ insurance policy. Most insurance companies will allow you to stay on your parents’ policy if you:

  • Are under 25 years old
  • Attend a college or university within 100 miles of your home
  • Attend a college or university more than 100 miles from home, but drive your vehicle only when you are home for school breaks

The number of miles that you drive in a year also heavily influences how much you will pay for car insurance. If you keep your car at home rather than at school, you will drive less. If you must bring your car to school, use mass transit as much as possible, live on campus if you can, and consider carpooling where possible. Restaurants and other entertainment options are not beyond the scope of possibility if you take advantage of public or mass transit. Besides, you are there to learn after all, right?


What Discounts Are Available to College Students for Car Insurance?

As a student, you may be eligible for several discounts.

Resident Student Discount. This echoes what was mentioned previously. Choosing a school that is far away and only driving when you’re home on break is a dream come true for your insurance company. They will usually give you a nice break for this, since there's much less chance for you to be involved in an accident.

Early Signing Discount. This is something you can take advantage of, but it is time-sensitive. If you're shopping for new car insurance before your current policy has lapsed, there are insurers that will give you a discount for not procrastinating.

Multiple Policy Discount. If you need other types of insurance, consider using the same insurance company for them. For instance, if you need renters insurance, getting both your renters insurance and auto insurance policy from the same company will make you eligible for a discount.

Other discounts that college students might be eligible for include:

  • Good student discount
  • Safe driver discount
  • Pay-in-full or automatic payment discount
  • Driving school discount
  • Anti-theft discount
  • Safety equipment discount
  • Data tracking discount

Ask one of our Trusted Choice agents about these discounts when you shop for your policy.


What Car Insurance Coverage Is Necessary for Students Away at College?

Even for students away from home, good car insurance is a necessity. While you’ll want to buy the most affordable student car insurance available, you shouldn’t limit your coverage to your state’s bare minimums. This could leave you at risk if an accident occurs with one of the nearly 13% of uninsured motorist roaming the roads. In some states, that's as high as 25%, according to the Insurance Research Council.

infographic young drivers alcohol percentage

Remember, you can be the most responsible driver to ever hit the road, but that still won’t protect you from the actions of those around you. According to recent statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 33% of drivers 21 to 24 years old were involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents. This is the highest of any age group. Furthermore, consider the fact that 18% of all college-age drivers report driving under the influence at some point in time, while just over 37% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were reported to be binge drinkers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The bottom line: Just because you might be responsible doesn't mean everyone else is. At the very least, you must carry your state’s mandated minimum liability coverage. But is that enough? Not likely.

To ensure you are protected, auto insurance for college students should include the following types of coverage with appropriate coverage limits:

  • Collision coverage is protection for physical damage to your vehicle when it hits or is hit by another vehicle or object, such as a tree.
  • Comprehensive coverage pays for losses from almost all other types of damage to your vehicle other than that resulting from a collision, such as theft, fire, vandalism, weather, birds or animals, glass breakage and so on.
  • Medical payments coverage, or personal injury protection, helps pay for medical, dental and funeral expenses for you or your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are in an accident involving a hit-and-run driver or a driver who does not have auto liability coverage. It takes the place of liability insurance that the other driver should have, but does not.
  • Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if another motorist is at fault for a collision but does not have enough insurance to cover your losses.

How Do College Students Find the Best Car Insurance Rates?

The best car insurance for you as a college student will provide protection not only for liability risks, but also for injuries, collisions and other types of risks to you and your vehicle. And it will provide all of those things at a price that that isn’t burdensome.

First, contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker (BWP agents. Your agent should be able to find quotes from numerous reputable insurance companies so that you can find the combination of coverage and price that best suits your needs and budget. When comparing quotes, make sure that the coverage and limits are the same for each quote. It doesn’t pay to compare apples to oranges.

Our local BWP Trusted Choice® agents can help you find the student car insurance you need, and will help you save money by finding all of the discounts that you are eligible for.  

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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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