Spring Storm Safety Tips

Will March Winds And April Showers Bring Forth More Than May Flowers?

home-insMinnesota’s winter season is reportedly among the top three coldest states within the United States. With a ranking near the top with the lowest annual temperature, it is not surprising that by the end of February many people here begin to long for the warm sunshine and greenery of summer. During the months of spring (March-May) the air does seem to feel a bit warmer, but the weather can be very unpredictable. There can be days when the temperature rises to more than seventy degrees on one day and then drops down to below freezing the next. Since the temperature fluctuates by more than just a few degrees this time of year, in addition to the lingering sleet and snow showers there is also potential for severe weather such as thunderstorms, hail, and torrential downpours. When the temperature finally stays well above freezing for an extended period of time, the accumulated snow and ice begin to melt rapidly. With the grounds already saturated from the melting snow and ice, and the likelihood of rain showers, there tends to be a greater risk for flooding.

Although it is nearly impossible to completely avoid damage if you are in the path of any storm activity, sometimes we can partially prepare or even avoid some damage by becoming aware of what the storms are capable of and by following some of the safety tips.

Spring Storm Safety Tips

Thunderstorms/ Tornados

Stormy_WeatherThunderstorms develop as a result of warm unstable air moving upwards. As the warmer air rises, it meets cooler air. When the air reaches a dew point it condenses to form clouds. The intensity of the storm depends on the amount of energy and precipitation circulated through the clouds. These storm clouds produce positive and negative charges that can generate lightning. Lightning is a spark that is created by static electricity formed when the positive and negative charges of these clouds touch. Depending on where the charges attract, lightning can also occur from the clouds to the ground. The lightning bolts are so electrically charged that they can start a fire, damage trees, and destroy property. These storms are also capable of producing high winds, heavy rainfall, and hail.

tornadoA Tornado can be the product of a thunderstorm. It is formed when warm humid air rises up against a cooler air mass combined with varied wind directions and significant speeds that cause a horizontal spinning. Rising air caught within the updraft of a rotating column of air forces the spinning from horizontal into vertical which creates the funnel cloud. The weight of the rain and hail within the storm cloud forces the funnel cloud to touch down. Tornados are the most destructive storms. They are capable of lifting off the roof of a house, picking vehicles up from off the ground, and driving objects at violent speeds into other objects. Tornados occur most often during the spring and summer months but have been known to randomly occur throughout the year.   

Safety Tips:

  • Go to the basement or lowest part of the home – Cover yourself with padding such as blankets, couch cushions, or pillows
  • Stay away from windows
  • Unplug electrical appliances
  • Mobile homes are unsafe – move to a shelter
  • If caught outdoors find the lowest ground and lay flat, stay away from trees and vehicles
  • If you are driving pull off the side of the road and try to find low ground

Hail Storms

hailHail forms when a cold front moves into a warmer climate during a severe storm. It has been described as an ice pellet that varies in size from dime size to softball size.  Hailstorms usually cause more damage because the pellets fall from the sky with great speed. Hail storms can begin without warning and there is not much time to prepare for their destruction. They can cause significant damage to vehicles, homes, and anything left outdoors uncovered or improperly stored.

Safety Tips:

  • Park your vehicles, outdoor furniture, bikes, etc. in a garage or shed
  • Stay indoors
  • Stay away from the windows
  • If you are stuck outdoors try to cover your body and head
  • If you are stuck in a vehicle, pull off to the side of the road or in a parking ramp

Floods

Flood InsuranceFlooding is one of the most devastating and frequent natural disasters that occur.  Low lying areas are more prone to flooding than others. Flooding occurs when the ground becomes saturated with heavy rains, fast melting snow/ice, or the combination of both. The most common types of floods are River Floods and Flash Floods. With river flooding, there is a short amount of time to prepare for the worst. As the rivers begin to rise, they can be monitored for hours or sometimes days prior to them reaching their crest. The most dangerous flooding is Flash Floods which occur when there are heavy downpours that produce large amounts of rain within a short period of time. These types of floods are the most dangerous because they hit without notice and don’t give you time to prepare. The waters rise rapidly and begin to flow at increasing speeds that sweep away whatever is in the path. Almost half of flash flood deaths occur in vehicles when the drivers underestimate the speed and depth of the water and try to drive through it. According to Wikipedia encyclopedia, The largest flash flood in Twin Cities history occurred on July 23–July 24, 1987. Dubbed locally The Super Storm, more rain fell from this event than any other in recorded Twin Cities history. The storm caused damage to 9,000 homes, killed two people, and caused $27 million in damage.   

 Safety Tips:

  • Seal off the basement of your home to avoid water leaks
  • Unplug everything from the outlets on all level of the home
  • Try to avoid walking in the flood water, if it can’t be avoided use a pole or something to aid you with leverage.
  • Never drive through a flooded area, there can be potholes beneath and the water depth may not be what it appears – water speed is often underestimated
  • If you are warned to evacuate don’t hesitate to move to higher ground

Unlike other natural disasters, flooding is not covered under homeowners insurance.   However, it can be purchased in addition to your homeowners insurance. Check with your agent to learn more about Flood Insurance.

If you live in Minnesota and need help with any type of insurance reach out, we’re happy to help.

By: Insurance Advisors, Inc.

Planning To Move? A Change of Address Could Save You Money on Your Insurance

Moving Could Save You Money Your Home and Auto Insurance Policies

car-girlWhen you make the decision to move, finding a suitable place is the first step. Whether you are a renter or preparing to buy your first home, house hunting is not an easy task and it requires an extensive search to accommodate all of your family’s needs. Although finances can play a key role in your decision, there are many other factors to take into consideration.

When you begin your search try to find a few places that you can keep in mind while you continue to shop around.

  • Do a quick inspection of each property to make sure that there aren’t any noticeable issues with wiring, water leaks, or any type of damage that may end up causing you to make costly repairs after you are settled in. The location of your new home is just as important as the structure itself.
  • To avoid the intimidation of moving into an area that you are unfamiliar with be sure to take the time to check out the neighborhood. Research the crime statistics in the area, compare the distance you will be traveling to and from your job, visit the schools, locate the town hall/police station, and find safe access to parks/lakes.  This will allow you to be more at ease with the safety of your family and your possessions when your move is finalized.

The next step in the moving process is choosing the best insurance plan for your new place. Renter’s/ Homeowner’s insurance and Auto insurance can be lower depending on where you choose to live. First, you should be aware of how your insurance rates are determined. Insurance companies use similar criteria when preparing your quote as you would use when preparing for your move. Each company uses the information differently which is why rates vary from each insurance company. Each insurer must file with the state the procedure on how they arrived at your current rates. They also must conform to that procedure. State regulations require the information used for the rates to be reviewed randomly.

When getting your Home and/ or Auto insurance quote, the rates are usually based on some of the following criteria:

Location:

Some neighborhoods experience more crime than others, there is a higher potential for theft and vandalism to your home and possessions in these areas. Some areas are more secluded and may experience less crime, but then the possibility for a fire or other disaster when the homeowner is away may go unnoticed in those areas causing more damage, so this also becomes a greater risk. Rates vary from state to state due to natural disasters. Some areas are more prone to flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes.

Age/Construction:  

The type of construction, whether it is made of brick, wood, or concrete will have some bearing on your rates. Rates will widely depend on what the cost would be to replace the home if it was a total loss. Premiums are higher for homes that are made with higher quality materials and elaborate fixtures. If your home is older the wiring, water pipes, or the roof may be in need of repairs. You can invest in some remodeling/upgrading of the alarm systems, rewiring, roof repairs, upgrade the heating units, and replace old pipes to potentially lower your rates.

Since most insurance companies offer bundles for home and auto policies, you could save money on your current auto rates as well as your homeowner’s insurance when you choose to bundle. Auto insurance rates are calculated much the same way as homeowner’s. Where you live, what you drive, and your driving record will all be considered when getting your quote as well as some of the following criteria:

 Location: 

Certain areas are more prone to theft and vandalism than other areas. Many companies research the crime statistics in the area where you live and use it to base your rates.   Some more congested areas are also a factor since there is more of a chance for an accident in areas with more traffic. If you have moved to a place that shortens your weekly commute, and you are driving fewer miles, this also is figured.

Driver Age: 

Age helps to determine your experience as a driver. Younger drivers tend to be higher risks because they lack experience in many situations that can occur on the road. Other drivers that may be a risk are those who tend to not drive regularly. Often times their skills may not be as sharp. Driving records are also used in determining rates.

Type of Vehicle:

Vehicles that are sporty, fast, and expensive are generally highly rated and result in higher premiums. Sports cars usually result in high premiums because they are more apt to be involved in accidents that result in excessive damages and injuries. Vehicles that are more expensive may have higher rates based on how much it would cost to replace the vehicle if it was a total loss.

Lastly, make it a priority to notify the postal service of your move so that you will get your mail delivered to your new address. You should also directly contact your insurance company, bank, DMV, and the IRS. Mail is forward to the new address for up to 12 months. After that time period, the post office returns the mail to the sender unable to forward. The sender will need to track down your current address and resubmit the mail.  If there is no forwarding address on file, you will not get the mail. In some cities if your name is not listed as a resident on your current address, you may not get your mail delivered to that address. The postal service has made it easier than ever to change your address. You can go online, make changes on the phone, or stop into the branch.

If you have or are planning to move in Minnesota, talk with one of our agents for a Free Home and Auto Insurance Quote.

By: Insurance Advisors, Inc. 

Are You Prepared for Another Cold Minnesota Winter??

Prepare for the Coldest Part of Winter

Bundled Up GirlIf you thought that November was cold…Welcome to January, the coldest month in Minnesota!  With average high temperatures in the 20’s and lows around 4 degrees, it is not surprising that nearly half of the home’s energy is used for heating this time of year.   During the winter season not only can energy costs skyrocket, but there is a greater risk for accidental fires in the home.  Alternative heating sources such as propane/space heaters, wood stoves, and fire places are a great way to reduce the fuel costs, but may be an accident waiting to happen if improperly used or maintained.  This type of negligence is the leading cause of fire related deaths during the season.   The cold weather in Minnesota sneaks up on us quickly.  When you get ready to use your furnace, be sure that the filters have been replaced, and it is working properly.  Also, change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors regularly. Taking the necessary precautions to prevent hazardous situations could decrease the risk of fire and prevent the loss of priceless possessions, your entire home, or even the life of a loved one.

If you own your home, Homeowner’s Insurance will protect you in case of a fire.  If you are a renter, some rental properties will be required to carry insurance that covers the dwelling, but you may want to research Renter’s insurance to protect your belongings and to ensure you have a place to stay in case you are displaced due to a fire.

To avoid accidents in the home and keep your family safe while trying to conserve energy, follow some of these tips below for the cooler months ahead:

Winterizing the Home

  • Cover the windows with plastic inside and out to prevent drafts
  • Seal off any air leaks with caulking
  • Check weather stripping around the doors
  • Turn off water valves outdoors and properly drain
  • Clean chimneys chutes, flues, and fire place interior prior to use

 Heating Alternatives

  • Keep flammables away from the heat source
  • Use a heavy duty screen around the fireplace to keep ashes and sparks contained.
  • Be sure to have a working carbon monoxide detector, smoke detectors
  • Never use your oven for heating purposes

Energy conservation

  • Monitor your thermostat
  • Turn space heaters off at bedtime or when you are not at home
  • Keep lights off in areas that are not in use
  • Use LED lights when possible
  • Close doors to rooms that are not in use

If you have any questions on your Home Insurance call (763) 536-8006 or visit DivingRates.com

School Bus Safety & Awareness

School Bus Safety Tips & Facts

School bus safety awareness.It’s that time of year where the dog days of summer goes from swimsuit clad kids to kids loaded with school supplies and heading to the bus stop!

While Waiting for the Bus

  • Arrive with plenty of time to spare; rushing to catch the bus can lead to injuries.
  • Walk on the sidewalk or if no sidewalk is available walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
  • Always walk to the bus stop
  • Stay six feet from the curb so the bus driver can see you. That’s 3 big steps for most kids.
  • Never speak to strangers and NEVER get into a car with a stranger (Parents inform your kids about the lost puppy/kitten ploy strangers may use to get them in the car)

On the Bus

  • Find a seat right away and sit down
  • Don’t hang out the window or throw things out the window
  • Use your indoor voice on the bus
  • In an emergency, listen to the driver and follow directions

Exiting the Bus

  • When leaving the bus walk six feet away from the door (three big steps)
  • Stay clear of the bus wheels and watch for moving cars
  • Never try to return to the bus for anything you may have left behind, the driver may not see you returning

Drivers Be Alert for Students and Buses

  • If you drive in a school zone during your commute be aware of the schools start and end times. Consider an alternate route to help reduce traffic congestion in the area of the school
  • Follow posted speed limits in school zones.
  • Do not pass a stopped bus if the red lights are flashing and the stop sign is extended
  • Wait for the flashing lights to stop and the bus to begin moving before proceeding

School Bus Facts*

  • School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and prevent injury
  • School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children to and from school
  • School buses keep an estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning

*These facts were provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

If your children ride the bus or walk to school from a childcare provider’s home, you should check with that provider to make sure that they have the proper liability coverage to protect your child in the event something should happen off the child care provider’s property.   Homeowner’s liability coverage is premise only coverage.

By: Chistine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors Inc.

College Student Renters Insurance

As you start to gather all the necessary items your college bound child needs for school don’t forget to think about insurance!

College student with parent looking over handbook.What’s Covered?

Most homeowners’ policies will provide coverage a student’s personal property if the student is living in dorms or university owned housing.  It is usually around 10% of what a parents’ coverage is; if a parents personal property coverage is $100,000, a students’ personal property coverage would be $10,000.

Know what they took to college!

When you and your student pack for college, take the time to make an itemized list and photograph each item, and if available include a copy of the purchase receipt.  This will make the claims process go much smoother if an item is lost, stolen or damaged.

Students living off campus might not be covered by their parent’s homeowner’s policy.    A student can purchase their own renters policy that typically cost about $100 – $150 per year for $15,000 worth of coverage.

Coverage may vary from one insurance company to another, be sure to check with Insurance Advisors, Inc. for exact details of your policy.

By: Chistine Gaffron

Download our free insurance claims process tip-sheet!
Download our free insurance claims process tip sheet.

 

Homeowners Insurance: Child’s Play can be a Liability

Homeowners Insurance and Playtime

Boy riding his bike.

With summer in full swing the neighborhood streets are filled with children playing. As you send your children out to play be aware of the liability they can present.

If your child somehow causes damage to your neighbor’s property, your homeowners insurance will cover it if your child is legally liable for the damages. If someone is injured on you property your liability coverage or a person umbrella policy should cover the claim.

It’s a good idea to know when other children are playing in your yard and to know where your children are playing if not in your own yard. If a child is injured while playing on your property you may be liable for medical and other expenses. Make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to keep any visitors to your property safe and protect yourself financially with the proper insurance coverage or a personal umbrella policy.

Scooters and battery powered toy vehicles are fun to play with but may not be covered under your homeowner’s policy if someone becomes injured or causes property damage when using them. Check with your insurance agent to ensure adequate coverage for these items.

Inform your agent of any changes to your property. Trampolines and swimming pools may be considered an “attractive nuisance” – a legal principle that makes a homeowner responsible if a child trespasses onto your property and injured on a trampoline or swimming pool. Not all insurance companies will provide you with liability coverage for these items. Protect yourself by adding a fence around your yard with a self-closing, latching gate. Pool alarms provide extra security and protect you from people wanting to “take a dip” without permission.

Even though you’ve provided extra protection, nothing can replace your attentive supervision when children are playing in the yard.

From all of us at Insurance Advisors, Inc. be safe and enjoy your fun in the sun!

Roof Damage: Get Covered Before It Costs You

Roof Damage – Replacement Cost VS Actual Cost Value

Fallen tree on a roof of a house.If you are wondering what kind of coverage you will have in the event you have damage to your roof from a storm; you will be happy to know that most homeowner’s policies will cover roof damage caused by fire, vandalism, “Acts of God” like tornadoes and hail and wind storms. Review your policy or contact your insurance agent for specifics of your policy.

There are two different types of coverage possible for your roof. Replacement cost or Actual Cash Value.

Actual Cash Value coverage will take the value of your roof, minus depreciation and minus the deductible. This coverage is cheaper but will result in more out of pocket expense for you at the time of a claim.

Replacement Cost coverage will cover the total cost of repairs or replacement minus your deductible.

Contact Insurance Advisors with any questions you may have regarding coverage for your home or auto insurance.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

Download our free Claims Process Tip Sheet!
Free insurance claims process tip sheet download.

RV Insurance

If you are considering purchasing any type of camper, motor home, travel trailer or fifth wheel you will want to make sure you have the right insurance for it.

You may be able to bundle your recreational vehicle with your home or auto insurance policy, but it might not give you enough coverage.

RV insurance provides coverage on Class A, B, and C motor-homes, camper vans, and motor coaches.  Your insurance agent can also provide you with RV insurance for your travel trailer, fifth wheel and pop-up camper. Inform your agent if your RV is stationary on a lot or piece of land year round. Bundles the insurance penguin next to a RV.

Types of coverage offered are:

  • Comprehensive and Collision
  • Total Loss Replacement
  • Emergency Expenses
  • Towing and Roadside Assistance
  • Campsite/Vacation Liability
  • Full Time and Stationary Travel Trailer Program

For all your RV insurance needs contact Insurance Advisors, Inc.

How to Prepare for a Flood

March is Flood Awareness Month

flooded street with flood caution sign3/16-3/23 is Flood Awareness Week in Minnesota no matter where you live, spring time can bring the possibility of flooding to your area.  With that said, it is a good idea to be aware of the different types of terms used to describe flooding and to be prepared in case of a flood.

Flood Watch:

This is issued when flooding is possible in the area that you live.  Stay tuned to your local news via TV, Radio or a NOAA radio for further information.

Flood Warning:

This is issued when flooding is actually happening or will occur soon in your area.  Evacuate the area immediately if you are advised to do so.

Flash Flood Warning:

Issued when a flash flood is occurring or will occur soon.  Walk to higher ground immediately.

Urban and Small Stream Advisory:

Issued when small streams, streets and low-lying areas are flooding.

Preparing for a Possible Flood

  1. Purchase a NOAA weather radio with battery backup.
  2. Find out what your communities official flood warning signals are.
  3. Know the elevation level of your property and how flooding may affect it.
  4. Identify any dams in the area and find out if they pose a hazard.
  5. Check with your city in regards to flood evacuation routes and where to find higher ground.
  6. Put together a disaster kit, include flash lights, a battery operated radio or NOAA weather radio and extra batteries.  Pack a first aid kit, sleeping supplies and clothing.  Stock up on shelf stable food and bottled water. Include rubber gloves and rubber boots.  If you have pets, include food and pet carriers.
  7. Place important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, property documents and personal documents (i.e. social security cards and birth certificates) in a safe place offsite.  You can also keep these documents in a fire proof portable file box that you can take with you in an emergency.
  8. Have a predetermined meeting location for family members to go to in case you get separated due to an evacuation.  Ask an out of town relative to be a point of contact for family members.  Family members can call this person and report to them that they are safe.

Prepare your home

  1. Familiarize yourself with how to shut off you water, gas and electricity at the main switches and valves.  Learn how your heating system works and where gas pilots are located on your gas appliances. Before you leave turn the electricity off at the main breaker if you think your electrical outlets will be under water.  If time allows place sandbags around the outside of your home to help keep the flood waters out.
  2. If you live in an area that has a high potential for flooding consider having a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve.  Have your electrical outlets, switches and circuit breaker panel installed 12 inches above the expected flood levels for the area.
  3. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Regular homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. You must purchase separate flood insurance to be covered in case of a flood.  First check to make sure your community is registered for the national flood program, then check with your insurance agent for pricing.  In some cases, you may need a certificate of elevation to get the best rate.  Flood insurance policies take a minimum of 30 days to go into effect from the time of submission, unless mandatory coverage is requested for a loan.  Insurance companies may not issue you a policy if there is a threat of flooding in your area due to an impending storm (like a hurricane).

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors

Ice Fishing Safety

Minnesota Ice FishingA very popular winter past time in the upper Midwest is Ice Fishing.   There are many ways of enjoying fishing on a frozen lake in the winter.  You can walk out on the lake, drill a hole in the ice and start fishing with nothing but the blue sky above you.  You can fish in a portable ice house that protects you from inclement weather. Or, once the ice is thick enough, you can put a more substantial ice house out on the lake at the beginning of the season and leave it there until the required removal date at the end of fishing season. Ice house removal dates vary from year to year so check with your state’s DNR for the specific ice house removal deadline.

Before venturing out on frozen ponds, lakes or rivers CHECK the THICKNESS and CONDITION of the ICE! Be aware that snow covered bodies of water may not be safe.  Snow acts as a “blanket” preventing water from freezing completely.  The snow may also be hiding cracks or open water.

When going out on the ice keep some sort of sharp object close at hand that you can use as a spike to jab into the ice and help pull yourself out of the water if you fall in.  It could be as simple as a screw driver, ice chisel or hand spikes purchased from the store.  It is also a good idea to wear a life vest, which may help keep you buoyant if you do fall into the water.  However, DO NOT WEAR the life vest in an enclosed vehicle.

Minimum Clear Ice Thickness for these scenarios:

Walking                          4 Inches

Snowmobile or ATV       5.5 – 6 Inches

Automobile                     8-12 Inches

Pickup/Truck                  12-15 Inches

Transporting Ice Houses

In Minnesota wheeled fish houses have to be licensed as highway vehicles, registered with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and follow all rules of the road during transport of the house on public roads.  They require proper lights and trailer lights.  The width of the wheeled fish house may not exceed 102 inches or 8.5 feet.  If your trailer weighs more than 3,000 pounds it is also required to have brakes.

Fish House Safety

At the beginning and during the fishing season you should check your fish house for safety hazards.  Most fish houses are heated with propane fueled heat sources.  Check your propane tank for leaks at the connections to any gas lights, stoves or heaters you may have it connected to.  Check the hose lines for leaks as well.  Keep your propane tank outside the fish house.

Check to make sure you have adequate ventilation inside the fish house for the type of heater you are using to heat your fish house.  Vents may need to be checked for birds nest or other debris after being stored for the off season.  If the vent is on the roof, make sure you keep it clear of snow!

Equip your ice house with a Carbon Monoxide Detector, as well as a Smoke Detector and a Fire Extinguisher!

Always check with your insurance agent on coverage for your ice house and your fishing gear.

Be Safe and Good Luck Fishing!

*Source: MNDNR