NEWS FROM THE BLOG
Posts By: Dezray
by Erie Insurance
You probably already have a child safety seat for your car, so now it’s time to make sure baby is safe at home too. Without a doubt, your little bundle of joy is probably making you consider a home makeover. When your baby starts to explore, you’ll want to be ready.
Whether its the kitchen, the living room or the baby’s nursery, there’s work to be done to keep the littlest member of your house safe. Let’s get started.
Hot ovens and sharp tools are two good reasons to child-proof your kitchen. After all, while you’re focusing on preparing meals, you may be joined by a little one who has far more curiosity than safety smarts.
Unless you can respond with guaranteed ninja speed to the click of an opened cabinet, it’s a good idea to baby-proof your kitchen. Here’s how.
- Reorganize: Move detergents, sharp kitchen tools and small objects that are stored in baby-level cabinets and drawers to a higher place well beyond baby’s reach. Do the same with heavy, breakable ceramic and glass cookware.
- Install latches: Little latches will keep small hands out of drawers and cabinets that could contain dangerous knives and more.
- Safety-proof appliances: A small child can easily open a dishwasher, oven or refrigerator, so consider installing safety latches on these doors as well. The control knobs for your stove top can be easily reached, too, but knob covers will make them much more difficult for small hands to maneuver. Finally, check the anti-tip bracket on your refrigerator and stove. These brackets are usually installed right into the floor with an option to slide out the appliance when you clean. Using brackets can protect both children and pets if either manage to climb onto an open oven door. Anti-tip brackets can also come in handy when you’re cooking something heavy like a Thanksgiving turkey.
- Reconsider easily grabbed items: When it comes to countertop appliances like blenders, food processors and rice cookers, be aware of where the cord is at all times so it doesn’t end up in the grasp of little hands that can pull it down. Also consider forgoing a table cloth—it can be easily pulled off a table, along with anything else that happens to be resting on it.
- Corral and contain: Depending on the layout of your kitchen, you may consider placing baby gates that create a safe play area in your kitchen while you cook. If you can’t do that, the high chair is always a good option.
THE LIVING ROOM
The living room is a place where your family can kick back, relax and make memories. With a few upgrades and adjustments, it can also be a safer place for your tiny tot to play and explore. Here are some key areas you’ll want to consider when it comes time to baby-proof your living room.
- Electrical outlets: If nothing is plugged into an outlet, it’s a good idea to install plastic covers in outlets to help keep your baby from inserting fingers or objects into the sockets.
- Corners and edges: Falls and collisions with tables and other furniture can get serious when baby takes her first, bowlegged steps—and later progresses to a full sprint. For that reason, it’s a good idea to invest in furniture that doesn’t have sharp edges.
- Cabinets: Keep liquor, breakable objects and electronics out of reach with cabinet door locks.
- Furniture: Babies and toddlers love to pull themselves up on furniture. First identify which pieces can be tipped—end tables, bookshelves, entertainment centers and desks are common culprits. Then make sure those unstable pieces are securely mounted to the wall. Don’t overlook television sets.
- Chairs and sofas: Make sure these pieces are positioned well away from windows in case baby takes a spill.
- Knickknacks: Small objects that can fit inside baby’s mouth and other breakable tchotchkes should be kept well beyond the reach of little hands.
- Cords: Tuck away loose cords and cables so they can’t be used to pull down lamps and other electronics.
- Purses and bags: Keep these safely stowed away, especially when guests come over. This can help prevent your baby from accessing small objects that will go directly into the mouth, such as coins, hard candy and medication.
- Plants: The leaves of some household plants can be poisonous when ingested. Besides that, small children just can’t resist a pot filled with cool, black dirt. For that reason, it’s best to keep your house plant-free for a few years.
- Door knobs: Some babies and toddlers discover all too soon they can open the door — and bolt right outside. Thwart a would-be escape artist by keeping all exits of your home locked and secure.
The walls are painted and stenciled, the pictures are hung, the crib is set up, the mobile is installed and the changing table is fully stocked with neatly folded stacks of receiving blankets and diapers.
While it’s hard to imagine a world in which your baby is able to get into mischief, babies grow up fast. Before you know it, they’ll be on the move in a matter of months. By baby-proofing the nursery now, your child will have a safe environment she can grow into. Here are five areas you’ll want to devote some attention to.
- Cabinets and drawers: Babies can’t resist opening and closing a cabinet door or tugging on a dresser drawer, digging out whatever is stored inside. Locks will keep baby out and prevent pinched fingers, too.
- Furniture: Position furniture away from the crib should baby attempt an escape. When baby inevitably climbs or pulls on bookshelves, a changing table or a dresser, have wall anchors in place to prevent tipping.
- Changing table: It’s weird, but even infants too young to roll can achieve feats of mobility—especially when you are trying to dislodge a baby wipe that’s somehow jammed in a container. Choose a changing table with raised sides; for extra protection, always use the safety strap.
- Flooring: Some daredevil babies learn at an early age to escape from their cribs. Install soft carpeting or a throw rug to help cushion against these and any other falls.
- Cribs: Before baby is old enough to sit up or pull herself up on her own, remove mobiles or wall hangings, along with any other objects within reach.
Even a hallway needs modifications so that it’s safe for your baby—and the rest of your family. After all, slips and trips are a definite danger when parents are waking up multiple times in the night. Here are the areas you’ll want to focus on to help ensure a safe passage.
- Steps: Whether you’re busy around the house or baby is safe (you think) in the crib, it’s a good idea to set up a baby gate at the top and the bottom of the staircase. Also add anti-slip strips to uncarpeted stairs.
- Lighting: Night lights are essential when you have kids—especially if you have baby gates installed in the hallway or bedroom doorways. When you’re stumbling around in the dark to check on your waking young child, you just might forget about the baby gate you’ve set up. Keeping halls lit makes everything from a toddler’s nighttime expeditions to a bigger kid’s adventures with potty training safer.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: The National Fire Protection Association recommends that each bedroom and each floor of your home have a smoke detector. That means a three-level, three-bedroom house should have six detectors. Carbon monoxide can be a silent and deadly killer. That’s because it doesn’t take long for a malfunctioning furnace or water heater to quietly fill a house with this odorless gas. Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of the house where someone sleeps. Also install one next to every major appliance that uses natural gas. For both of these devices, test the batteries once a month.
- Rugs: Throw rugs will skid out from under little running feet. That is especially true when little feet are dashing around stairs and corners. Rubber backing or a rug pad can hold them in place.
- Windows: Shorten the long cords attached to window blinds or curtains to help prevent entanglements.
- Furniture: Anything that can tip when your little monkey attempts to climb it will need to be anchored to the wall. Get door latches and locks for drawers and cabinets. Tuck away cords attached to lamps so they can’t be pulled, and keep small and breakable objects out of reach.
Baby-proofing your home isn’t one of the more fun aspects of being a new parent. But it’s a relatively small investment of time that pays big dividends when it comes to your family’s safety.
They are a match made in country music heaven—Nashville, where they met working in the industry and then bonded over their love of making music. Their love has grown over the past 23 years, and life insurance has been an important part of their life together. As Kelley
grew her new career in real estate and Doak focused on raising their daughter, Emma, they knew they needed the financial safety net that life insurance offered.
Tragedy struck, however, when Kelley—the family’s main breadwinner—found out she had a drug-resistant type of Parkinson’s disease. It has slowly robbed her of her ability to work, and now even to care for herself. Fortunately, their insurance professional Wallene Leek had made sure that Kelley not only increased her life insurance over time, but that it had living benefits as well.
Kelley’s term life insurance policies have a disability waiver of premium, which means she never has to pay another premium. And because her diagnosis is terminal, the family is able to access a percentage of the death benefit now. That has meant the world to the Sneads.
The family has been able to stay in their home, instead of selling it, and Emma has been able to complete school. What’s more, Kelley and Doak are able to spend what time they have left without the crushing burden of financial worry. “Kelley’s disease may have taken away her livelihood, but life insurance has saved our lives at this point,” says Doak.
Is homeowners insurance enough, or do you need Flood Insurance too?
While you likely have homeowners insurance, in the case of flood, that is unfortunately not enough. This is because flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners insurance, requiring a separate Flood Insurance Policy.
But what is flood insurance, and what does it cover?
What is Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance is specialty coverage available through the Federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This coverage is made available to assist homeowners in the event of flooding from rising bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans and in cases where existing flood controls such as levies fail. Available flood insurance coverage is managed and administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
This coverage is available in two parts:
• A policy that covers property damage (your home) up to a set coverage limit (usually $ 250,000).
• A policy that covers personal property (your furniture and contents) up to a set coverage limit (usually $ 100,000).
Homeowners can purchase one or both of these policies.
What does Flood Insurance cover?
Since Flood Insurance is made available in two parts, each policy covers different things. While not an exhaustive list, here are some common things covered by each policy in the event of flood damage:
Home / Property Coverage: This policy covers the physical structure of your home as well as its foundation, plumbing, electrical, central air and heat, cabinets, kitchen appliances such as your fridge and dishwasher, and wall finishes such as drywall, plaster, or paneling.
Contents / Personal Property Coverage: This policy will cover replacement of content such as furniture, clothing, electronics, portable appliances, food, etc.
In the case of a primary residence, Flood Insurance will cover the replacement cost of necessary repairs to the property, while vacation properties and secondary residences are covered based upon the depreciated actual cash value of the repairs necessary. For more, please see Actual Cash Value (ACV) or Replacement Cost – What’s the difference?
What does Flood Insurance NOT cover?
Landscaping: As the flood insurance policies are specific to coverage for damage to your home and to your contents, damage to exterior landscaping (including trees and shrubbery), as well as fences and retaining walls, are not covered under your flood insurance policy.
Cash and Some Valuables: In addition, valuables that may have been damaged or lost, such as cash, stock certificates, bearer bonds, etc. are not covered under flood insurance coverage. Some high value items, such as expensive artwork or jewelry may have limited or capped coverage available.
Decks, Patios, and Basements: While considered part of the structure of a home to most of us, for the sake of flood insurance, they are not. There is unfortunately no coverage available under your flood insurance policy for decks and patios that may have been damaged as part of the flood. Basements meanwhile have very limited coverage, the extent of which is determined by whether the floor is below ground level. Though coverage is generally available for your furnace, often homeowners find that most of the repairs necessary in their basements are not covered. This is particularly true of basements that are below ground level. Basements that are above ground level meanwhile, may have limited coverage available for wall or ceiling repairs. Floor coverings such as carpet and vinyl, as well as contents and storage located in the basement are generally also not covered.
Living Expenses: Unfortunately, living expenses such as temporary housing or hotel stays, even though your home may not be livable, are not available under your flood insurance coverage.
Is there a deductible?
Flood insurance policies do include a deductible, which would be the homeowners responsibility. As coverage for your home and your contents are separated into two separate policies, the deductible is applied towards the available coverage for both. The minimum deductible amount is currently $ 1,000, while the maximum is $ 10,000. While a higher deductible will lower your annual premium cost, it will significantly increase your out of pocket cost in the event flooding does occur, so always choose a deductible that you would be able to comfortably afford.
Do I need Flood Insurance?
If your home is in a flood zone, near bodies of water such as streams, rivers, lakes, or oceans, or has flooded in the past, flood insurance is highly recommended. Not only does this protect your investment in the event that flooding occurs, but it creates peace of mind that is not available through a standard homeowners insurance policy.
Mortgage holders also require that homes for which they have an interest maintain flood insurance when deemed appropriate or necessary (such as properties near bodies of water or that are located in flood zones).
Where do I get Flood Insurance?
Flood Insurance is available through most local insurance agents, and can be purchased at the same time you purchase or renew your homeowners insurance policy.
“We’re Here for You” ®
by Abby Badach on
Cruising with the windows down is one of summer’s greatest simple pleasures. But if you’ve got kiddos in the back seat, don’t forget to stay alert when you roll them back up.
Power windows can cause injury if little fingers, hands or limbs are in the way. Injuries can be more serious – or even fatal – if the window closes on a child’s head or neck. A 2007 study estimated that 2,000 people each year are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from power windows, and half of those are children.
As a parent, here are 4 things you should know:
- Power windows can exert an upward force of 30-80 pounds.
For context, it takes just 22 pounds of force to injure or suffocate an infant, according to kidsandcars.org. What’s more, the force needed to push a button to roll up a power window is a mere two pounds.
- Some window switches are safer than others.
Newer cars will have the safest type – “lever” style, which have to be pulled up to raise a car window. They are mounted vertically and harder to activate by accident. (In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made these mandatory for all U.S.-manufactured vehicles.)
If you have an older car (pre-2006), watch out for these styles mounted horizontally on the door’s armrest – they’re easier for children (or you!) to hit by mistake:
- Rocker switches are rectangular and move the glass up when you press one short end and down when you press the other.
- Toggle switches move the window when pushed forward or pulled back.
- Look before you close
Before you roll up your windows, make sure the path is clear. Many injuries happen, unfortunately, when adults simply forget to check on kids in the backseat first.
- A little prevention goes a long way.
First things first: If your car has a backseat window lock, use it!
Also, talk to your kids. Teach them never to play with window switches, stand on passenger door arm rests, or stick their heads out of a car window.
Finally, if you’re not in the driver’s seat, make sure to take the keys out when you leave. Leaving the ignition in the “on” or “accessory” position leaves the power window switches activated.
If you’re a dog lover, you probably look at your dog and think warm fuzzy thoughts. Your insurance company, on the other hand, probably sees danger signs.
This is especially true if the dog’s breed happens to be prohibited under homeowners insurance policies. Known by insurance companies as “excluded dog breeds,” “aggressive dog list,” “dangerous dogs list” or simply “bad dog list,” this collection of prohibited dogs consists of breeds that are widely considered to be a financial risk to insurers.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, claims related to injuries from dogs account for one-third of all homeowner liability dollars insurance companies pay out every year. In 2016, that figure was $602 million from more than 18,000 claims—an average of $33,000 per claim. That’s a lot of money.
This makes insurance companies wary of dogs that traditionally display a propensity for aggression, so homeowners whose dogs fall into that category will pay higher premiums. In some cases, depending on the homeowner’s location and the insurance company, it may even be impossible to obtain coverage.
The specific dog breeds prohibited by insurers vary from company to company, but at least five appear on every list. Note that not only pure-bred dogs are banned, but any mixed breeds as well:
- Pit Bull
- Presa Canario
- Chow Chow
Statistics show these are some of the most aggressive dogs around and have been the cause of many reported attacks—some of which are fatal. According to the Centre for Disease Control, dog attacks resulted in 279 human deaths in the U.S. over a 20-year period, and Pit Bulls and Rottweilers alone accounted for more than half of those deaths. In a separate long-term study that analyzed 658 documented deaths resulting from dog attacks, 53.5% were attributable to Pit Bulls.
Owners of these types of dogs may feel discriminated against. After all, every individual dog differs by not only personality but also, importantly, upbringing. Isn’t it unfair to ban an entire breed because of the bad behavior of a few?
One alternative could be to deny coverage or impose higher premiums based on the risk associated with a specific dog, rather than its breed. This would require insurance companies to assess a dog’s history of behavior, training and other personal criteria to determine if they are dangerous.
But this approach does not seem very tenable from an insurance perspective. Many dogs do not exhibit aggressive behavior until the day they attack, at which point it’s too late for the insurance company to refuse to pay out. In the absence of a more reliable method of predicting aggression, it appears that breed profiling is the only feasible option.
The insurance industry is in the business of evaluating risk, and all the facts about these five types of dogs suggest they pose a higher risk.
Frank Medina is owner of Frank Medina Insurance, which specializes in auto and homeowners insurance.
If you’re looking to declutter, make money and even have a little fun, a yard sale is something worth considering.
There’s more to a yard sale, though than deciding where to hang flyers advertising the sale and deciding which items you no longer need. You’ll also want to keep a few yard sale safety tips in mind.
The video above shares a few of the top yard sale safety tips. Watch it and keep the below yard sale safety tips in mind to make your day fun, safe and possibly even lucrative.
- Never leave the yard sale unattended. A quick bathroom break leaves enough time for a thief to make off with your stuff. Plan ahead and have at least one other person there to help you run the sale.
- Lock up.Even if you plan on going in and out of your house all day, it’s still important to lock all the doors. (Don’t forget to secure your garage as well.) Potential thieves may think you’re too busy to notice someone slipping inside—so better to be safe than sorry.
- Have someone dedicated full-time to the cash box. The cash box should never be left unattended. If no one can stay at one at all times, opt to keep the money with you in a bag, a money belt or an apron.
- Have someone watch small children and pets. Busy yard sales full of strangers are no place for little kids and pets. It’s hard to keep an eye on them—which could put them at risk of getting hurt or even snatched.
- Never let a stranger in your house. No matter how nice they look, it’s best to refuse anyone who asks to use your restroom or phone. It doesn’t take long to steal something or to case your house—plus it puts your personal safety in danger. Instead, direct them to the nearest public restroom or convenience store.
- Keep larger, pricier items close to your house. Also keep smaller, pricier items close to you and in full view.
- Secure any dangerous items. Make sure to keep dangerous items like knives well out of kids’ reach and to disable power tools. Also make sure to lock the fence to your pool and to block off trampolines and other play areas.
- Keep a fully charged phone with you. You’ll want it close by in case there’s an emergency.
- Scan your yard for any hazards. Help prevent injuries by picking up any stray items, securing any hoses and cords, and placing signs that direct guests any from any hazards.
- Talk to your insurance agent. It’s important that you have enough liability insurance to protect you and your family in the event a guest is hurt on your property. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance Agent can advise you on liability protection, including Personal Catastrophe Liability insurance.
Another area of concern for sellers is how to price yard sale items. Check out our tips in the next post for some pricing guidance.
This past Saturday was the annual ALS Walk at the Bloomsburg Town Park. The GCI Stampede has raised nearly $15,000 over the past 6 years in memory of our friend and co-worker Vera Hoffman!
by Amanda Prischak on May 10, 2017
Last fall, Chuck Feeney of Glenview, Illinois, noticed some unusual things around his home. It took longer than usual for water to drain from his sinks, and his home’s sump pump struggled during storms. So he decided to check out his drains’ outdoor clean outs. The verdict: not good.
“They were overflowing at that point,” he remembers. “If I hadn’t checked them, the water would have backed up into my house.” It turned out the water service line to Chuck’s house broke off at the point where the main line meets the line serving his home. Professionals had to dig up Chuck’s yard to repair the line. It was an inconvenience to him and his family—and the bill was $7,500.
Whose line is it anyway?
Unfortunately, stories like Chuck’s are not uncommon. Service lines include water lines; lines for your home’s cable, Internet and electric wiring; and natural gas, propane and sewer pipes. Most everyone is aware that these lines deliver crucial services to a home—but not nearly as many people are aware that service lines on your property are generally a homeowner’s responsibility. In most places, a city, township or utility company will not assume any responsibility for the portion of a service line that runs under your property to the public connection.
As Chuck’s example shows, that can spell serious trouble if your service line is damaged and requires repair. Damaged service lines almost always cost several thousand dollars—and the bill can climb as high as $25,000 if the repair is complicated.
How service lines become damaged
There are many ways that service lines become damaged. Some of the most common causes include tree roots, animal interference, an artificial electrical current, the weight of vehicles pressing down on the lines and simply old age. Like anything, lines and pipes don’t last forever.
No matter what the cause, the effects can be disastrous. Besides repairing the actual service line, a homeowner may have to dig up landscaping, driveways and sidewalks. Everything from trees to shrubs to entire walkways can be ruined and in need of replacement as a result of the repair.
Help for homeowners
If you already knew that service lines are your responsibility as a homeowner, it’s probably because you’ve received solicitations for service line coverage from utility companies. Many people buy several separate policies to cover their service lines since typical homeowners policies without any special endorsements don’t cover service lines.
Until now, anyway. ERIE recently became one of the first insurance companies to offer Service Line Coverage as part of two popular homeowners policy bundles: ErieSecure Home® Plus, which has a $10,000 limit, and ErieSecure Home® Select, which has a $25,000 limit. Either one of these policies includes coverage for your service lines.* The coverage was added to new and existing policies at no extra cost.**
One of the main benefits of having Service Line Coverage through ERIE is convenience. Instead of paying for multiple service contracts through multiple utility companies or a third-party corporation, you have coverage for underground service lines in one policy. This may be less expensive than arranging several individual polices. Even more, you get other valuable coverages in an ErieSecure Home® bundle as well as the backing of ERIE’s award-winning claims service.
Chuck, the customer from the beginning of the article who faced a broken water line last year, can personally vouch for the Erie Insurance homeowners coverage. It covered his $7,500 repair bill, less the deductible, and gave him needed reassurance during a difficult time.
“ERIE responded to me right away,” he says. “I was thrilled to have this coverage so I didn’t have to foot a $7,500 bill! I definitely recommend talking to your agent and getting a policy that includes the Service Line Coverage.”
Contact an Erie Insurance agent to learn more about this important coverage.
*Lines from a home to a septic tank are covered, but lines from a septic tank to a leach field are not covered.
**Coverage is not available in all states. See individual policies for specific coverage details. Coverage is subject to terms, conditions, limits and exclusions. Please talk to an Erie Insurance agent for state-specific policy information.
by Amanda Prischak on
Would you believe that some organization experts estimate that 30 percent of all garages don’t even house a car? That’s because people would rather use their garage as a storage shed than a home for their vehicles.
If this sounds like you—or if space is getting tight—you might want to add your garage to your spring cleaning list. In order to make the job more painless, here are nine hacks to help organize your garage. (One friendly reminder: As you clean and organize, keep an eye out for any potential fire hazards.)
1. Simply nailing angled wooden brackets to a wall is the perfect storage solution for lawn chairs and more.
2 Bungee cords can help corral all those basketballs, soccer balls and more. Simply hook a few into sturdy surfaces and place sports balls in a neat pile behind the cords.
3. If your yard tools are all over the place, try rolling up a PVC tube and placing some screws into the place where the edges meet to create a tool slot.
4. Use mason jars or any other glass jar to stash nails and screws.
5. Hang a magnetic strip on a wall and use it to hold metal tools like scissors, screw drivers and more.
6. Use a big basket to hold beach gear like boogie boards and snorkeling gear. No more searching the whole garage to find what you need!
7. An easy way to make your garage more aesthetically pleasing is to apply inexpensive floor tiles to the walls.
8. Horizontally nail a strong paper towel holder into a wall. Voila—you now have a way to neatly stash your garbage bags!
9. If you collected more unneeded items than your regular trash pickup can handle, check out Bagster.* You can buy these bags at many home improvement stores; when your haul is ready, simply call the company to schedule a pickup.
*Erie Insurance does not endorse this product.