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Q&A

Small drones may not be a big issue if the drone is used for personal, non-commercial use only. But a host of other issues arise when a camera equipped drone is used to pry or spy on someone’s personal space.

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is flown by a pilot on the ground or autonomously by way of an on-board computer. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, an estimated 30,000 commercial and civic drones could be in the US skies by 2020.

Commercial drones are used in Agriculture to monitor crop health and livestock; Construction to monitor land conditions and for mapping; Inspections and Patrol for power lines, pipelines, traffic, oil rigs and more; News for aerial reporting; Real Estate for aerial photography; Insurance for claims and underwriting operations; Entertainment for movie and television production; Delivery by flower shops, drycleaners and pharmacies; and also in Bars and Restaurants for table service.

Risks include invasion of privacy, inadequate insurance, personal injury and property damage.

If you are using drones for a commercial purpose, most insurance companies have markets to provide the liability coverage for as low as $500/year. Contact your agent for more information.

Many people may not be aware that Wisconsin requires homeowners to install both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to help save lives.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by consumer products. “Anything that burns a fuel – such as a furnace, fireplace, generator, gas appliance or car – can produce CO. It’s vital to properly maintain and operate these pieces of equipment to prevent CO from building up in your home,” said Ron Von Haden, CIC, Executive Vice President of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (PIAW). Following are some important safety tips:

  • When warming up a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor in a garage, even if the door is open.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow as CO could build up inside the vehicle, even if it is outside a garage.
  • Keep fireplaces and gas stoves clean and well vented.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • NEVER use gas or charcoal grills inside the home.
  • Be sure generators are located in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.

Initial symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea or dizziness. “If your detector sounds or you are concerned about CO levels, get everyone out of the house and call 911 from a safe location,” noted Von Haden.

People assume insurance companies are not willing to pay claims. This could not be further from the truth. As in any legal contract, the insurance company is bound by the terms in the policy. It is very important for policyholders to read their policies and understand what they are purchasing. If you need coverage for something that is not listed in the contract, you should speak with your agent.

Insurance companies are a business and are heavily regulated by the states where they provide policies. Merrimac Lodi Mutual Insurance Company is regularly audited by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to assure they have enough money to pay projected losses, handle claims fairly, and abide by the contracts written. The rates charged are also evaluated by the state’s commissioner’s office to assure that they are adequate for the coverage they provide. In addition, the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act was adopted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 1990. The purpose of this was to establish proper claims handling procedures for insurance companies and establish fines and actions when these standards are not met.

Insurance companies provide an avenue to transfer your risk of a financial loss. If a covered loss happens, the insurance policy is triggered, assuring you that you will be restored to your original financial position prior to the loss.

Routine maintenance such as cleaning equipment, greasing fittings, checking lubricants and belts for proper wear and tension are all very important to reduce the likelihood of a fire. Checking for leaks in oil, fuel, exhaust or hydraulic lines is also very important. During harvest, take time to be safe. Clean the combine often and when the day’s work is done, let the combine cool down outside away from other equipment and buildings. Before refueling, let the equipment cool for 15 minutes and extinguish all smoking materials or other flame sources. Wipe off any excess or spilled fuel. Store all flammable liquids in an approved container. Last but not least, be prepared. Experts suggest carrying at least one fully charged 10lb ABC fire extinguisher. Better yet, carry two: one in the cab and one that can be reached from the ground. Some farmers even keep a water truck in the field nearby.

To learn more about combine fires and research to reduce those fires, visit the South Dakota State University website.

The typical homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover flooding. Nearly every homeowner and business has some type of flood-related risk, yet many do not have flood insurance. 20% of flood insurance claims originate in low to moderate risk areas, as classified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The risk is real, which is why flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is an important part of any homeowner’s and business owner’s insurance coverage program.

Flood insurance covers direct physical loss caused by “flood.” In simple terms, a flood is an excess of water on land that is normally dry. Here’s the official definition used by the NFIP.

A flood is “A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters;
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;
  • Mudflow; or
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.”

If this spring finds you in need of flood insurance, contact your agent for assistance with coverage through the NFIP.

During the winter months the mercury can drop below freezing in every part of the nation. Temperatures below Zero Degrees Fahrenheit can cause pipes to freeze in a dwelling, cottage, garage, or barn. These losses cause MILLIONS of dollars in damage each year and all of these losses CAN BE AVOIDED. Here are some things you can do to avoid damage during a cold spell:

  • Insulate all water supply pipes.
  • Seal any building openings near pipes that will allow cold weather in, such as foundation cracks or broken windows.
  • Keep the heat above 55 degrees.
  • Shut off the water main or the water pump when you are gone for a couple days or more.
  • Drain the water pipes when you are out of the building for an extended period of time. Then flush all toilets and open all faucets. Remember to put RV antifreeze in all your drains to protect the “P” trap from freezing.

If you have a frozen pipe, first shut off the water supply before you attempt to thaw out the pipe. NEVER use an open flame or salamander heater when attempting to thaw out a pipe. Using these items directly on a pipe will ignite surrounding combustibles. Use a hair dryer and thaw them out evenly and patiently. A 1/8 inch crack in a pipe can send 250 gallons of water through the structure every single day. Prevention is the Key!

There’s nothing like outdoor grilling. It’s one of the most popular ways to cook food. But, a grill placed too close to anything that can burn is a fire hazard. They can be very hot, causing burn injuries. Follow these simple tips from Acquire Restoration and you will be on the way to safe grilling.

Safety Tips:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

Charcoal Grills:

  • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid away from heat sources.
  • If using an electric starter, be sure to use an extension cord intended for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

It is very difficult and overwhelming to recall all that you owned following a loss. Preparing a list before something happens is much easier than writing one after a claim.

With all the technology we have access to today there is no reason not to organize videos, photo albums, or spread sheets that are easily accessible for such a situation. Here are some tips for making your Home Inventory:

  • Make your inventory as complete and detailed as possible. We will require a detailed list before paying your claim.
  • Take pictures and videos of each room in your house including storage buildings, attic, and the garage. Don’t be afraid to open up cabinets and drawers also.
  • Keep your inventory, appraisals and receipts in a safe location. You should also have a backup somewhere off the premise with the same information.
  • Save your inventory and other items onto a computer and in “The Cloud” so they can be accessed from anywhere.

Remember, we want the claim experience for our clients to go as smoothly as possible and having a Home Inventory is an excellent way to expedite the claim process.

  1. Above everything, make sure that the people are safe. Evacuate! The value of a life far outweighs the value of property.
  2.  Dial 9-1-1.
  3. Notify surrounding properties/tenants if there is an exposure to danger.
  4. Contact your insurance agent as soon as “reasonably possible.”
  5. After the loss, when it is safe to re-enter the property, take necessary steps to protect the property from further damage. This includes having a contractor board up windows to prevent water or trespassers from entering the building. Keep receipts for any temporary repairs as your insurance company will likely reimburse you if the loss is covered by the policy.
  6. Make a list of the damaged property. The insurance company will want this. Photos are also helpful. Do not throw anything away.
  7. If the property is uninhabitable, and the loss is covered, save receipts for hotels. Most homeowner’s policies provide “Additional Living Expense” coverage for these charges. If you need a more permanent solution, your adjuster will provide you with direction for rental spaces.
  8. DO NOT have contractors make repairs, remove debris, or start rebuilding without approval from the insurance company. They have the right, under the policy, to inspect the damage.

Heating systems are one of the main causes of winter fires. Wood burning appliances, such as stoves, fireplaces or furnaces, can be more problematic unless extra precaution is used. Most often, unintended fires result from poorly maintained or improperly installed wood burning appliances. To avoid experiencing a fire loss from a wood burning appliance, consider the following:

CHIMNEYS:

  • Hire a professional to properly clean and inspect the chimney.
  • Remove all visible creosote. It is the leading cause of chimney fires.
  • Repair any deficiencies, especially if the chimney flu is cracked or damaged.
  • If a metal chimney was removed, reinstall it, along with a spark arrestor (chimney cap).

WOOD BURNING APPLIANCE:

  • Hire a professional to perform an annual inspection of your wood burning stove, fireplace or furnace.
  • Repair or replace damaged, weakened or deficient appliances.
  • Move all combustibles a safe distance away (at least 36 inches) from the appliance, including the wood supply, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer.
  • Burn only well-seasoned hard wood. Unseasoned wood, paper and garbage drastically increases creosote development, which can lead to a chimney fire.
  • Store flammable liquids away from the wood heating system, in a separate enclosed area.
  • If using a boiler, check for proper fluid levels in the system.
  • Remove ashes with a metal bucket and lid. Immediately take ashes outside spreading them a safe distance away from all buildings and combustible material.
  • Keep a current 10lb fire extinguisher near the wood burning appliance.

Keep Warm – Keep Safe!

Did You Know? Thirty-eight percent of all equipment breakdown losses are mechanical in nature. These losses are typically excluded under your homeowner’s policy. Homeowners may rely on a warranty or service contract for protection. This may be problematic as most warranties or service contracts provide limited coverage, require a service call fee, and do not cover the expenses when the homeowner has to live elsewhere while repairs are being made.

Merrimac Lodi Mutual Insurance Company offers an affordable alternative to costly product and home warranty plans – Equipment Breakdown Coverage through your Homeowners Insurance Policy. The modern home contains many expensive systems and appliances subject to equipment breakdown. These include but are not limited to: Washers and Dryers, Computer Equipment, Dishwashers, Freezer Units, Garbage Disposals, Heat Pumps, Heating and A/C Systems, Refrigerators, Home Security Systems, Microwaves, Ovens, Sump Pumps, Sound Systems, Swimming Pool Equipment, Televisions, Water Heaters, and Well Pumps. In other words, “if it uses electric power, it is most likely subject to Equipment Breakdown.”

Equipment Breakdown Coverage protects you against unexpected repair or replacement costs due to an electrical, mechanical, or pressure systems breakdown. In addition to coverage, loss prevention information and loss adjustment services are customized at a fraction of the cost of limited home warranty products. Best of all, this additional coverage follows the terms and conditions of your insurance policy.

Contact your agent today for more information about this added protection.

A personal umbrella insurance policy is designed to provide additional insurance liability for injuries to other people or damage to their property. Umbrella insurance is not just for the wealthy any more. In today’s legal climate, a personal umbrella is an important tool to protect your assets. Large lawsuit awards and damages are in the news with increasing frequency. These monetary damages could exceed your home, farm and auto liability limits. Plain and simple, if you want to know what an umbrella policy is, it is an insurance policy that is designed to keep you out of court.

Umbrella insurance is liability coverage that goes above and beyond what your homeowners, renters and auto insurance policies provide. Umbrella coverage has higher limits with a broader range of coverage, including claims involving bodily injury, property damage and issues such as libel, slander and defamation of character. If you’re sued or found liable for damages, umbrella policies will pay not only the monetary damage costs, but also attorney fees and other court costs. Having such coverage can prevent another party from going after your assets if damages and legal costs exceed the limits of your regular policy.

Umbrella policies are affordable. Rates start at around $150 per year. Umbrella costs will increase based on the number of cars, drivers, homes, tickets or accidents, young drivers or toys you may own. Typical policies start at $1 million in coverage and are sold in million-dollar coverage increments. You’ll usually need to carry minimum underlying liability coverage on your home or renters policy before you can buy umbrella insurance.

Ask your agent today how an umbrella policy can help protect your current and future assets, and most importantly, provide you with peace of mind!

A house lit up with lights for the holidays is a beautiful sight to behold.  Some do not believe holiday lights pose a hazard because their lights do not feel hot to the touch, even after hours of illumination.  However, property insurers, fire departments and the National Fire Protection Association will attest to an increase in fires during the holiday season partly because of hazards associated with decorative lighting.

A house lit up with lights for the holidays is a beautiful sight to behold.  Some do not believe holiday lights pose a hazard because their lights do not feel hot to the touch, even after hours of illumination.  However, property insurers, fire departments and the National Fire Protection Association will attest to an increase in fires during the holiday season partly because of hazards associated with decorative lighting.

  • Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalled holiday lighting you may own.
  • Use U.L. approved lighting.
  • Replace old strands that don’t have fused plugs and replace burned out lights and fuses right away.
  • Consider buying LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler.
  • Inspect each electrical decoration for cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires and loose connections.
  • Make sure cords are not pinched, stapled or mounted in a way that may damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Unplug electrical decorations before going to bed or leaving the home.
  • Use good quality extension cords and keep them uncoiled to prevent overheating.
  • For exterior lighting, use lights designed for exterior use only and be sure to plug into an outlet protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

Lights and decorations add to the splendor of the season.  Have a safe holiday!