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Author: TPC Sysadmin

4 Things to Do After a Windstorm

As March begins, it’s easy to think spring is just around the corner — that is, until it snows again. You never know when you could be hit with a last minute snow storm. This past week, the northeast was hit with a rough round of snow, rain, and strong gusting winds — with more on the horizon! What do you do after a wind and snow storm if you think your house was damaged? To help prepare you and your home for the next storm that hits here are four tips for handling the aftermath of a windstorm.

after a windstorm

1. Take Photos

If you are concerned that there is damage to your home, be sure to take pictures before moving anything away from your property. Hold onto the pictures until you contact your insurance company.

2. Clear Away Fallen Debris

The best thing to do after a storm has cleared is to clear away anything that may have fallen during the storm. Tree branches and leaves that are small enough to be handled safely should be carried to the trash or moved out of the way. Remove trash or other items that may have blown onto your property during the storm as well. If entire trees have fallen, or large branches are covering your property, you will need to contact professional tree removal or lawn care services.

3. Check Your Roof

Though you should not climb onto your roof, you can check for damage around your home in the form of shingles and debris on the ground. Loose or detached shingles will not re-seal. It is important to have a qualified roofer inspect your home if you suspect that there is damage.

4. In the Event of Damage After a Windstorm

If you experience damage to your property and need emergency repairs, please do whatever is necessary to protect your home. However, be sure to keep all records, including detailed photos and receipts so that our claims staff will have enough information to proceed with handling your claim.

10 Tips For Dryer Fire Prevention

Did you know? According to the National Fire Prevention Association, from 2010-2014, dryer fires accounted for nearly 16,000 home fires. Annually, these fires resulted in $238 million in property damages and loss. There are several simple tips to keep in mind when using your washer and dryer to help you and your family prevent a dangerous and costly fire in your home. Here are 10 simple tips to start implementing in your own home this year!

1. Clean out the lint tray

The leading cause of home dryer fires is failure to clean them! Be sure to remove lint that has collected in the filter after each load of laundry, ensuring that no lint has collected around the drum. You should also be sure to clean out the vent pipe located behind the dryer to make sure no lint has collected in there, as this could also be a fire hazard. Finally, don’t use a dryer without the lint tray in place!

2. Check the outdoor vent

This is especially important in winter: ensure that the outdoor vent is not covered by snow, ice, or other debris. In the spring and summer, ensure that the vent is clear of plants and shrubs.

3. Get it checked out

Have your washing equipment inspected by a professional to make sure it is in working order. Gas dryers should especially be checked by professionals to make sure that the has line and connection are working properly and free of leaks.

4. Don’t over-load it

Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when loading the dryer. Be sure not to over-load.

5. Never leave the dryer unattended

Be sure someone is home if there is laundry in the dryer — do not leave drying laundry unattended. Be sure the dryer is off before leaving the house or going to bed.

6. Install your dryer properly

Have your dryer installer by a professional to ensure that it is installed properly.

7. Keep the area clear

Be sure that the areas surrounding the washer and dryer are clear of clothes, baskets, boxes, etc. when the dryer is in use. These things are flammable and can be fire hazards.

8. Remove flammable liquids

Detergent and other cleaning liquids kept in a laundry area are highly flammable and should be stored in a dry place a safe distance from the washer and dryer units to prevent fires.

9. Choose a metal dryer duct

Flexible ducts made of foil and/or plastic can collect lint and start to sag. Metal ducts are sturdier and more likely to contain any fire that did happen to start inside the duct.

10. Exercise caution with stained clothes

If clothes have been stained by flammable chemicals or gasoline, exercise extreme caution before washing and drying them. In most cases, they should be line-dried rather than put in the dryer.

Click for a shareable infographic!

 

5 Tips For Finding the Right Insurance Agent

Finding the right insurance agent can be confusing. If you’re going to trust someone to help protect your family’s financial future, there’s a lot to consider. Having worked with independent insurance agents for centuries, we want to help you find the right insurance agent to meet your individual needs.

Here are 5 insurance agent tips to help you find your perfect match.

1. Ask a trusted source for a recommendation

Asking a friend or family member who they’ve worked with to find their home insurance policy is a great first step. This way, you know ahead of time that the person you choose is someone that has a good reputation for delivering quality advice and service.

2. Ask questions

If you don’t have a personal recommendation, don’t be afraid to ask questions when you meet with the prospective agent for the first time — especially if it is your first time buying a home!

Some things to consider asking:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you specialize in personal insurance or insurance for businesses?
  • If I have a loss and need to file a claim, what can I expect from you in the process?
  • Is your agency a “captive” agent or are you an independent agent that can offer me choices from a variety of different insurance companies?

3. Look for testimonials

Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc. all offer testimonials of local businesses, including independent insurance agencies. Checking out the insurance agents’ online presence is a great place to start.  However, you should take balanced approach to reading these reviews rather than one extremely positive or negative post.  Website posts tend to lean towards the negative, so keep that in mind when viewing on-line testimonials.

4. Know what to expect

Independent agents are appointed by insurance companies to represent them and to sell the company’s insurance products on their behalf. The agent is paid a commission for the policies they sell — which is included in the price of the policy. Independent agents do the insurance “shopping” for you once you explain your needs, budget and expectations in terms of service.  It is very rare that you would be charged a service fee when working with an independent agent.  If your agent charges a fee in addition to receiving a commission, you should be aware of this up front and sign an agreement that stipulates the reason for the fee and your agreement to pay such a fee.

5. How will you know it’s a good fit?

You need to feel comfortable that the person you decide to choose is someone you believe you can trust if that time comes and you need professional service. Insurance is a promise on a piece of paper that you hope you’ll never need to use.  However, if you do need to “use” your insurance and file a claim, the agent who sold you the policy is your advocate during the claims process. Knowing your needs, how your policy will respond to your specific claim and how to best protect your property and your rights under the insurance policy is the agent’s job.

After asking these questions of your agent, ask yourself; “Is this a person I can trust to put my interests first when settling my claim?”  Trust your instincts and your intuition when considering all of these factors and then your final decision will be an informed decision.

Ready to get started with an agent? Use our Find an Agent locator to get started!

NFIP Lapse No Longer in Effect As Government Approves Another Extension

NFIP Lapse no longer in effect

On Friday, the NFIP announced that because of the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed through the government Friday morning, the current NFIP Authority will also extend through March 23, 2018.

However, it is important to note that NFIP did lapse at midnight on February 8, 2018, and is awaiting guidance on any impacts this brief lapse may have had. Due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding NFIP authorization, they are encouraging agents to submit new applications, renewals, and coverage endorsements ASAP.

In the Event of Future Lapses/Hiatus:

While there are a number of transactions NFIP is not allowed to conduct during a lapse in authority, below is a list of processes that can continue as normal for all policies in force prior to the program lapsing:

  • Cancellations
  • Non-Monetary & Refund Endorsements
  • Claims
    • Claims for covered losses on policies in-force prior to the hiatus, with the loss occurring during the hiatus, will be handled and paid as usual
    • The NFIP letter of credit is available during the hiatus and funds needed to cover claim payments are available to WYOs
    • Claims for policies which cannot be issued due to the hiatus may be investigated under a reservation-of-rights letter or non-waiver agreement, up to the point of payment

For more information, NFIP has also provided this link.

5 Winter Driving Safety Tips

As winter weather continues to hit us hard here in the Northeast, we need to be more conscious of our driving habits than ever. Here are 5 winter driving safety tips to keep in mind the next time a storm hits. If you do not have to leave your home during harsh winter weather, it is recommended that you don’t.

1. Don’t rush

It takes longer to slow down and stop on icy roads. Be mindful of the delay and do not try to rush if you must drive in winter weather conditions. Accelerate and decelerate slowly, keeping a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you.

2. Clear off your car

Be sure to clear off any ice and snow from your car before driving it. Excess snow or ice may fall in front of your windshield, impairing your visibility. Make sure your roof, windows, and windshields are completely clear, and be sure to check your tailpipe as well, as ice and snow can accumulate inside it.  Cleaning your roof of snow is not only a smart safety tip, it can also save you from getting a ticket, as failing to do so is illegal in many states.

3. Don’t try to power up hills

If you are approaching a hill, do not try to speed up as you approach it. Speeding on slippery roads causes your wheels to spin without traction. Let the inertia you already have power you up the hill. Proceed down icy hills with caution, using a lower gear so your engine can regulate your descent at a slower speed without hitting your brakes.

4. Warm your car up safely

Never attempt to warm up your car in an enclosed area, like your garage. Always back the car out before warming it up to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide exposure.  Check your tailpipes too in order to ensure that the exhaust isn’t caked with ice or snow and can flow cleanly without backing up CO gas into the cabin of the vehicle.

5. Be prepared

If you are going to be traveling in the snow, always go prepared. Be sure to have at least a half tank of gas, to avoid your gas line freezing. Always travel with your cell phone, gloves, extra clothes and/or blankets, a reliable ice-scraper and keep cat litter or sand in your trunk to create a balance of weight to your car on slippery roads.

10 Tips for Preventing Winter Home Fires

The months from December to February are peak months for house fires, with the number of fires increasing significantly between December and January. According to the Red Cross, fires can occur at any time, but spike on Saturdays and Sundays between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. As you and your family use the fireplace, space heaters, and other heating methods this winter, you may benefit from a few additional fire safety tips! Here are 10 tips for preventing winter home fires this season.

1. Only burn dry firewood

When lighting your fireplace, be sure to only use firewood — treated or painted wood will release chemicals into your home, increasing the risk of fire. Additionally, be sure that the wood you choose to burn is dry and cured, with no dampness.

2. Clean your chimney

Ideally, chimneys should be cleaned a minimum of twice a year. Before lighting the fireplace for the first time of the season, be sure the chimney is clean and free of obstructions.

3. Check smoke detector batteries regularly

It is recommended that smoke detectors batteries be checked a minimum of twice a year, but in the winter months, the Red Cross encourages families to check the batteries once a month to ensure they are working properly.

4. Use a safety screen on your fireplace

A safety screen will stop logs from rolling out of the fireplace, and prevent sparks from spreading into the living area and igniting. This is especially important if you have carpeting or hard wood flooring in front of your fireplace!

5. Use space heaters carefully

Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer for use, ensuring that the heater is on a flat, stable surface. Be sure that all space heaters are turned off before leaving the room or going to bed at night.

6. Check the water heater

It is important to check the health of your hot water heater, especially in older homes. As water heaters age, the heating element and thermostat can deteriorate, causing a flash fire, especially if it’s located in a location susceptible to wind or change in air supply.

7. Clean out dryer ducts

Many home fires begin in the laundry room, because many people neglect their dryer ducts. The duct connecting to the back of the dryer can collect flammable lint, and should be cleaned out at least once a year.

8. Add firewood slowly

Keep an eye on the fire as it burns in the fireplace, adding wood slowly as needed, rather than all at once.

9. Open the damper and fireplace doors

It is important to keep fireplace doors open while a fire burns to allow heat to circulate through the room. The damper should also be kept open throughout the length of the fire.

10. Keep heated areas clear

Don’t place anything directly in front of a heat source, whether it’s a fireplace or a space heater, as this can increase risk of a fire.

 

Click here to download a shareable fire prevention infographic!

10 Winter Safety Tips to Help Beat the Winter Blues

Winter is hitting the east coast in full force this year, and spring has never felt further away. With more freezing temperatures, snow, and ice on the way, many are wondering what they can do to prepare their families and their homes for the rough weather. Here are 10 winter safety tips to help ease the winter blues.

1. Protect Your Pipes

  • Let cold water drip from the faucet — running water helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • If you’re going to be out of the house for extended time, leave the heat on at a temperature no lower than 55°.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed.

2. Use Space Heaters Safely

  • Use as directed in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Place space heaters on a flat, level surface.
  • Keep anything flammable at least three feet away.
  • Be sure to turn it off when leaving the room or going to sleep at night.

3. Layer Up!

  • Wear layers throughout the winter to keep warm.
  • Be sure to wear gloves and a hat when going outside to prevent losing body heat.

4. Use Caution With Fireplaces

  • Use a glass or metal fire screen to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Be sure to clean out the fireplace regularly; a thick layer of ash restricts the air supply to logs, resulting in more smoke.
  • Use dry wood when lighting a fire. Wet wood causes smoke buildup.

5. Don’t Forget Your Pets

  • Bring pets inside the house when temperatures drop.
  • Ensure that all animals have access to unfrozen water at all times.

6. Prepare Your Car

  • If you have to drive in winter weather, be sure to do so during the day if you can.
  • Keep bagged salt or sand in the trunk for extra traction or to melt ice.
  • Clear snow from your car’s headlights and windows.
  • Keep a cold-weather prepardness kit in your car, including a blanket, gloves, bottled water, a shovel, etc.

7. Shovel Safely

  • Shoveling is a strenuous activity to do, especially in extreme temperatures — be sure to take frequent breaks in a warm space.
  • Push the snow when possible instead of lifting it.
  • Keep your back straight when lifting, and be sure to lift with your legs, to prevent injuries while shoveling.

8. Prepare Your Roof

  • Get your roof inspected prior to winter storms to ensure that it can sustain the weight of a heavy snow.
  • Clean our gutters in advance of winter storms to prevent damage and falling gutters.

9. Be Prepared for a Power Outage

  • Be sure to have plenty of flashlights and batteries on hand.
  • Regularly back up critical computer files.
  • Stock up on extra food and water, including a manual can opener and food that doesn’t requires cooking.
  • Store extra clothes and blankets for when power and heat are lost.

10. Prepare for Cold-Related Illnesses

  • Frostbite and Hypothermia are the two most common illnesses related to cold weather. Be sure to know the signs and symptoms.