Preparing for Severe Weather

Minnesota’s Severe Weather Week is April 21-25

Stormy weather ahead sign with lightning bolt beside it. With beautiful spring weather come the dangers of severe weather and tornadoes.  Severe storm and tornado season in the Midwest typically occurs between April and July but the Midwest has seen tornado’s as early as March and as late as December. The Midwest experiences the most tornadoes during the month of May.

Minnesota will hold several severe weather activities during the week of April 21 – 25, 2014.

Local communities will focus on these topics each day:

  •  Monday – Alerts and Warnings
  • Tuesday – Severe Weather, Lightning and Hail
  • Wednesday – Floods
  • Thursday – Tornadoes (including practice Tornado drills)
  • Friday – Extreme Heat

The most important events will take place on Thursday, April 24, 2014, as Minnesota will conduct two state wide tornado drills.  Local communities will be testing their tornado warning systems at 1:45 pm and again at 6:55 pm. These drills are designed to have people practice “take cover” drills in the locations that they are typically at, during that time of day.

What to Do During a Tornado Event

In A House with a Basement

In A House with No Basement Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

In A House without a Basement

Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

In an Apartment, Dorm or Condo

If you live in an apartment that is on an upper floor, get to the lowest level of the building that you can immediately. This could be an underground parking garage or a neighbor’s first floor apartment. Then move to the most interior area possible, away from windows.

If you live in a high-rise apartment building, you may not have enough time to get to a lower level, so picking a place in the hallway in the center of your building is the best idea such as a stairwell.  If that is not available then a closet, bathroom or interior hall without windows is the safest spot in your apartment during a tornado.  Power loss during a tornado storm is common, so avoid elevators and keep a flashlight handy.

In An Office Building, Hospital or Store

Follow instructions from facility managers. Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building — away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

In A Mobile Home

Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

At A School

Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In A Car or Truck

Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive away from its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible — out of the traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can accelerate the wind while offering little protection against flying debris.

In The Open Outdoors

If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In A Shopping Mall, Large Store or Stadium

Listen for instructions from building security. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows. Move away from any glass.

In a church or theater

If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

Storm Warnings and What They Mean

Tornado touching down






  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Severe thunderstorms are likely – keep an eye on the sky and listen to the radio or watch your local TV new station for more information.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning – this warning is issued when severe weather has been reported by trained weather watchers or appears on local weather radar.  Warnings of this nature mean that damage to personal property or danger to life is imminent to those in the path of the storm.
  • Tornado Watch – this weather warning indicates that tornadoes are possible.  Watch your local TV news station or listen to the radio for more information.
  • Tornado Warning – a tornado has been sighted by trained weather spotters or indicated by radar. Take shelter immediately.

As with any type of emergency have an emergency plan. Start with an emergency kit.  Include the following items:

  • Water – 1 gallon for each person per day and enough water for at least 3 days.
  • Food – have enough non-perishable food for at least 3 days.
  • A battery powered or hand crank radio and a weather radio, with extra batteries.
  • Flashlight/Lanterns with extra batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • Emergency whistle
  • Dust mask for each person to filter contaminated air, plastic sheeting and duct tape for creating a shelter at the disaster site. (i.e.: your home or cabin)
  • Wet wipes, garbage bags for personal sanitation
  • Tools needed to turn off utilities
  • Can opener to open non-perishable food
  • Local area maps
  • Chargers for cellphone (inverter or solar)

Also have a fireproof /waterproof, portable container that includes important family documents such as, but not limited to: insurance policies, identification and bank account records.  Keep your insurance agent’s contact information on a separate piece of paper as well as in your list of contacts on you cellular device.

If you suffer injuries from the result of severe weather or a tornado, seek medical treatment immediately.  Once you have determined everyone is okay, assess the damage.  If local authorities are requiring you to evacuate you should take your emergency kit and your important document container with you. If there isn’t time for retrieving these items, take your family and pets and get to safe shelter.  Your family and pets are most important and the other items can be located at a later date.

Once things calm down, you can then contact your insurance agent and begin the process of filing a claim. Take the time to read your policy to make sure you know what will be covered and what will not.

Download our free claims process tip sheet.
Free insurance claims process tip sheet download button.

By: Insurance Advisors, Inc.


Ice Dams: Ways to Prevent Them

Ice Dams | Home MaintenanceWinter is coming and it is always brutal one for the Midwest. The record amounts of snow and cold can create icicles on the roof and although they may look pretty, they may hold a more serious problem; Ice Dams!

Ice Dams form when the warm attic causes the snow on the roof to melt.  As the melted snow, now water, hits the edges of the roof where there is no heat it refreezes and creates an ice dam. The damage begins when the melted snow hits the frozen dam and pushes the water back, seeping through cracked shingles and poorly sealed vents forcing the water to flow into the attic or between the sidings of an exterior wall.  Once in the attic the water may leak through to the exterior walls and the ceilings.  The water damage can cause stains on the ceiling and walls.  Mold can also begin to form where there is constant moisture from the leaks.

Ways to Prevent Ice Dams

  • One way to prevent ice dams is to use a “roof rake” or “push broom” to pull the snow off the roof after it snows. You can purchase a roof rake from your local hardware store.  Roof rakes provide a safe way to remove the snow from your roof without having to climb up on a ladder or the roof.  If you use a push broom you may need to climb up on a ladder or the roof itself to use it effectively.  Make sure someone is around when you do this in case you fall off the roof.  If you are using a ladder, have someone hold the ladder steady while you are on it.
  • Make sure your attic insulation is adequate.  Proper insulation minimizes the amount of heat entering the attic. Make sure the roof vents in the attic are clear of anything blocking them.
  • Ensure the ridge vents or soffit vents are clear of debris and snow.
  • Check exhausts in the other parts of your house such as in your kitchen and bathroom.  Make sure they are vented to the outside of the house and NOT into the attic.
  • Clear your gutter spouts of debris so that nothing blocks the draining of water when the weather warms up.

Clearing the Ice Dams

Creating channels in the ice so the water has an exit from the roof is a good way to remove some of the water as it melts.  Be careful not to cause any damage to the roof shingles when creating the channels.

Put sodium chloride tablets inside the leg of an old pair of panty hose and throw them up on to the roof.  They will help melt the snow and ice. Sodium Chloride tablets can be purchased at your local hardware store.

Some people install heat tapes or cables on their roofs but the verdict is out on whether they are very effective or safe.  In properly installed tapes or cables pose risks of electrocution during installation as well as a fire hazard to the building from overheating while in use.

If you are not comfortable clearing ice dams on your own don’t hesitate to hire a professional.  But before you say “yes” to the professional, do your homework.  Get quotes from more than one company.  Check the company out with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the company you hire is licensed and bonded.

Check with your insurance agent regarding coverage of ice dams and the damage your home may have received from an ice dam.

By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.

Recommended Reading: “The Four Agreements”

"The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel RuizRecently, a colleague recommended a small, but powerful book called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Rooted in traditional Toltec wisdom beliefs, four agreements in life are essential steps on the path to personal freedom. It’s message is a simple but effective code of personal conduct. He asserts that maintaining these simple agreements will open the door to more meaningful and accepting relationships, both personally and professionally.

Whether we are selling ourselves, our products, or our services, it is apparent that we need to bring a simplicity back to the forefront for the sake of preserving our relationships and professional integrity. Here are “The Four Agreements”:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

They are so simple, it’s almost cliché, right? Let’s dilve more deeply into what Mr. Ruiz is trying to express.

Be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself, or to gossip about others. Remember to use the power of word in the direction of truth.

Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you; it is a projection of their own reality You will be far less vulnerable to needless suffering if you strive to be immune to the opinions and actions of others.

Don’t make assumptions. It’s the only way to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want.

Always do your best. In any and all circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. When we focus on excellence, our regrets are reduced, and we are empowered to grow in all areas of our lives.

These four simple agreements are essential to living a more positive, balanced life. And, all of them are fundamental to developing stronger, more balanced relationships.

10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Qualities of a Leader| Insurance AdvisorsWhile finding a new and unique idea is rare enough; the ability to successfully execute this idea is what separates the dreamers from the entrepreneurs.

Here are some key qualities that every good leader should possess, and learn to emphasize.

  1. Honesty.  Whatever ethical plane you hold yourself to, when you are responsible for a team of people, it’s important to raise the bar even higher. Your business and its employees are a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behavior a key value, your team will follow suit.
  2. Ability to Delegate.  It’s important to remember that trusting your team with your idea is a sign of strength, not weakness. Delegating tasks to the appropriate people is a crucial skill o develop as your business grows. The emails and tasks will begin to pile up, and the more you stretch yourself thin, the lower the quality of your work will become, and the less you will produce. The key to delegation is identifying the strengths of your team and capitalizing on them.
  3. Communication. Knowing what you want accomplished may seem clear in your head, but if you try to explain it to someone else and are met with a blank expression, you know there is a problem.  You may want to focus on honing your communication skills. If you can’t relate to your team, you won’t all be working towards the same goal.
  4. Sense of Humor. Morale is linked to productivity, and it’s your job as the team leader to instill a positive energy. That’s where your sense of humor will pay off. This helps to keep a healthy and happy work environment, in which your employees look forward to working, rather than dreading it.
  5. Confidence.  Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires and maintain the team morale. Keep your confidence level by staying calm and confident, and your team will take your cue.
  6. Commitment. If you expect your team to work hard and produce quality content, you’re going to need to lead by example. Once you have gained the respect of your team, they are more likely to deliver the peak amount of quality work possible.
  7. Positive Attitude.  Keep everyone motivated towards the continued success of the company, and keep energy levels up. The office mood should be a fine balance between productivity and playfulness.
  8. Creativity. It’s important to think outside the box. Some decisions will not be so clear-cut.
  9. Intuition. Drawing on past experience is a good reflex; eventually though, you need to depend on your gut instinct for answers. Learn to trust yourself.
  10. Ability to Inspire.  Make your team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. Acknowledge the work that everyone has dedicated and commend the team on each of their efforts. It’s your job to keep spirits up, and that begins with an appreciation for the hard work.

Garage Safety: Protecting Your Classic Car

Steps for protecting your classic car before disaster strikes

Your garage is a safe haven for your beloved classic car, but is it as safe as it could be? classic carHere are our top tips for making sure your garage is in tip-top shape.

For starters, it’s a good idea to make sure your garage is stable. Are the roof and siding sound, are the windows fully glazed and well calked, and are the gutters and roof free of debris?

While you’re checking, be sure to trim shrubbery or branches and tree limbs that overhang the garage or could brush against the building in a high wind. Not only will your garage and home be safer, it will look better. Also make sure that any outside doors  have deadbolts which protect against intruders and keep high winds or flying objects from knocking doors open. As an extra precaution, make sure your house number can easily seen from the street to ensure the emergency help can find you quickly.

If your garage is like most, in addition to your collector car, you probably have a lawnmower, tools, cleaning supplies and all kinds of lawn implements. All of these things can cause damage if they get loose due to high winds or flood waters.  But it’s relatively easy to reduce the risk.

  • Store rakes, shovels and other hanging tools in cabinets and secure them with hooks. If cabinets aren’t feasible, secure tools to their wall hooks with small bungee cords or rubber straps.
  • Cover your car when it’s being stored to help protect it from flying debris.
  • If you store your car elevated, be sure to support it on sturdy jack stands under the suspension, which should always be under tension. Never use concrete or cinder blocks.
  • For long-term storage, always disconnect the battery. Also, if you know a storm is coming, be sure to pick up from the ground any battery tenders and extension cords to keep them out of water.
  • Secure heavy objects such as drills or toolboxes and appliances with safety straps.
  • Install safety latches on cabinet doors and drawers to prevent them from opening and spilling their contents.
  • Fasten ceiling lights and other hanging equipment to supports by using safety cables.
  • Install flexible gas lines and automatic gas shutoff valves if your garage is heated.
  • Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher in your garage.

Get FREE Classic Car Quotes from DivingRates.Com

Hagerty Insurance Agency LLC

Heat Stress & Heat Stroke

Be aware of yours and other’s risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and fainting.

To avoid heat stress, you should:MC900217602

  • Drink a glass of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes and at least one gallon each day.
    *Avoid alcohol and caffeine. They both dehydrate the body.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take frequent cool showers or baths.
  • If you feel dizzy, weak, or overheated, go to a cool place. Sit or lie down, drink water, and wash your face with cool water. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical help quickly.
  • Work during cooler hours of the day when possible, or distribute the work load evenly throughout the day.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness. It happens when the body can’t control its own temperature and its temp rises rapidly. Sweating fails ad the body cannot cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency care is not given.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but can include:

  • Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness
  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F.)

If you suspect someone has heat stroke, follow these instructions.

  • Immediately call for medical attention.
  • Get the person to a cooler area.
  • Cool the person rapidly by immersing him/her in cool water or a cool shower, or by spraying cool water on the individual.
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101 – 102 degrees.
  • Do not give the person alcohol to drink.
  • If emergency medical personnel do not arrive quickly, call the hospital ER for further assistance.


Homeowners Insurance: Sewer Backup or Overflow?

Sewer backup or system overflow: Which is it?Backup or Overflow

The weather in the Midwest has been quite wet this year, which brings to mind two sometimes confusing and misunderstood types of property claims. What’s the difference between a sewer backup and a plumbing system overflow?

A great deal of rain can overtax the sewer systems. This can cause water to flow backward through the property owner’s lateral pipes, through the drain, and into the basement. When water outside the insured’s plumbing system flows backward through the plumbing into the property, this is a backup claim.

A backup is different from an overflow. An overflow occurs when there’s a blockage in the plumbing system. When the toilet is flushed, there’s nowhere for the water to go due to the blockage, so the toilet bowl overflows. The water that’s causing the damage never enters the sewer system. An overflow can also occur when there’s blockage within the lateral pipe. The water from the property flows down the lateral and because of the blockage, the water has nowhere to go so it overflows the floor drain or a lower-level bathroom causing damage.

So how are these two claims covered? The homeowners policy affords coverage for an overflow of the plumbing system up to the policy limit; however, damage from water that backs up through sewers or drains, overflows or discharges from a sump, sump pump, or related equipment is specifically excluded.

How do you get coverage for a sewer backup or sump overflow on the homeowner’s policy? With a Water Backup and Sump Overflow Coverage endorsement. The endorsement provides coverage for water backup or sump overflow for both personal property and structural damage from water.

How you can prevent sewer line backups?

There are several preventative measures homeowners can take to minimize the occurrence of sewer line backups.

  • Proper disposal of grease and food: Grease, fats, gravies, sauces and cooking oils should NEVER go down your kitchen drain.
  • Proper disposal of paper products: Anything that does not easily dissolve as easily as toilet paper should never be flushed. Even facial tissue should be avoided; it does not dissolve as easily as bathroom tissue.
  • Install a Backwater Prevention Valve. These fixtures allow sewage to go out , but not come back in

Download our free insurance claims process tip sheet.
Insurance claims process tip sheet.

Sources: Horizon Services
West Bend Insurance Company

Ice Dams

Dealing With Ice Dams on RoofsIce Dams | Home Maintenance

An ice dam has the potential to cause serious damage to both your roof and the inside of your home. When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. The ice then forms a  line or “dam” at the edge of the roof. As more snow melts, it keeps getting bigger. Once the dam gets large enough, the melted snow that pools up behind it can force its way back under the roof shingle and then leak into your home!

Two key factors interact to cause these types of problems:  insulation and ventilation. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-freezing cycle. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.

Most importantly, remove snow from your roof! Clearing the snow from your roof immediately after a winter storm can help prevent ice dams from forming. Clear your downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear.

What are the indicators of an ice dam?

If you notice water damage on ceilings or exterior walls, it can be an indication that an ice dam is formed and ice and water have forced their way into your attic area. Regardless of the circumstances – if water damage occurs from freezing or other sources, call a professional property damage company. They have trained technicians who will mitigate the loss to prevent further damage and the provide restoration services to return the property to a pre-loss condition.

Source:  Will Southcombe, Director of Technical Services, PuroClean

Flood Insurance: What Isn’t Covered

What’s Not Covered by Flood InsuranceFlood Insurance

Generally, physical damage to your building or personal property “directly” caused by a flood is covered by your flood insurance policy. For example, damages caused by a sewer backup are covered if the backup is a direct result of flooding. However, if the backup is caused by some other problem, the damages are not covered.

  • Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner.
  • Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers such as stock certificates.
  • Property and belongings outside of a building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools.
  • Living expenses such as temporary housing.
  • Financial losses caused by business interruption or loss of use of insured property.
  • Most self-propelled vehicles such as cars, including their parts.
  • Paneling, bookcases, and window treatments such as curtains and blinds.
  • Carpeting, area carpets, and other floor coverings such as tile.
  • Drywall for walls and ceilings (below lowest elevated floor).
  • Walls and ceilings not made of drywall.
  • Most personal property such as clothing, electronic equipment, kitchen supplies, and furniture.

Flood Insurance for Basements and Areas Below the Lowest Elevated Floor

  • Basements; crawl spaces under an elevated building
  • Enclosed areas beneath buildings elevated on full-story foundation walls (walkout basements)
  • Enclosed areas under other types of elevated buildings.
  • Make sure to ask your agent for additional details on basement coverage.

Flood Insurance: The Basics| Flood Insurance: What Isn’t Covered | Preparing for a Flood

Vitamin C: The Benefits

How Does Vitamin C Help You?Vitamin C | Oranges

It’s well known that Vitamin C helps fight the common cold and helps keep your immune system up, but there are other great benefits that it can help your body with. Vitamin C can help lower blood pressure, blood vessel dilation, lowers blood lead levels, & eye functionality.

Lower Blood Pressure: With lower blood pressure you reduce the probability of hypertension, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or even a stroke.


Blood Vessel Dilation: Properly dilated blood vessels an help prevent  diseases like atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, angina pectoris (inadequate supply of blood to the heart), and stroke.

Lead Levels: A low level of lead exposure to adults isn’t dangerous, but in infants and developing children a small amount can be extremely harmful. Some possible complications include behavior or attention problems, hearing problems, kidney damage, and slowed body growth. Seizures, coma, and death can happen at higher levels of exposure.

Eye functionality: Without vitamin C your chances of forming cataracts and vision loss from macular degeneration greatly increase. Some studies show that long-term consumption and a higher intake of vitamin C may reduce and fight these diseases.

Information gathered from: