While spring is a common time for many homeowners to spend some extra attention on upkeep and maintenance, autumn is just as critical a season for preparing your home to withstand the potentially harsh winter weather and temperature conditions that may await you. By making maintenance part of your annual fall routine you can identify potential problems before they arise, and help prepare your home and property for what Mother Nature has to offer.
Following are some home maintenance tips from our Risk Control professionals to help you prepare for the coming winter:
More than 40,000 Americans died on the roads in 2016, the most significant increase in deaths over a two-year period in more than 50 years.1 Whether someone you love has been known to text and drive, or you have found yourself distracted behind the wheel, these tips can help avoid dangerous activity on the road.
Teens eager to drive often have parents equally concerned about keeping their new drivers safe. In fact, the rate of fatal crashes per mile driven for teen drivers is 3X that of drivers over age 20.1 The reality is that novice drivers can take years to develop real-world experience behind the wheel.
Until then, parents can set expectations for safe driving behaviors, provide opportunities to practice in a safe environment and stay involved, even after their teen earns a driver’s license. Help teen drivers stay safe behind the wheel by preparing them for risks on the road with this teen driver timeline.
One Year in Advance: Set a Good ExampleStarting long before your teen receives his or her driver’s license, demonstrate the kind of safe driving behaviors you will expect from your teen, including never driving while distracted by technology. It should be an easier conversation when it comes to setting expectations when your teen gets behind the wheel if those expectations reflect your own behavior.
While distracted driving is dangerous for all drivers, Dr. Charlie Klauer, who studies teen risk and injury prevention at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, has found that the risks are much higher for novice drivers who engage in manual-visual tasks, such as texting while driving.2
Less Than a Year in Advance: Discuss Dangerous BehaviorsParents can help teens understand how certain behaviors behind the wheel may increase the risk of a crash. These behaviors include speeding, tailgating, drowsy driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or while distracted. Engaging in two or more of these behaviors at the same time may greatly increase the risk of crashes, according to Dr. Klauer.3 Parents should discuss the importance of safe speeds, a safe following distance and being aware of potentially dangerous conditions.
Six Months in Advance: Set Specific ExpectationsTalk with your teen about his or her plans for driving. If your teen plans to drive, does he or she plan to drive every day? Does he or she plan on owning a car? Discuss the potential risks of driving, including legal and financial responsibilities, which can include insurance premiums, repair costs and fines for unsafe driving.
Establish the rules of the house, including when and where your teen is allowed to drive, so he or she knows your expectations. For example:
There are also teen driver apps that can monitor driving behavior, including speeding.
Four Months in Advance: Know the Rules of the RoadMany states have extensive learner’s permits and graduated driver’s license laws. It is important to learn the rules and guidelines for your state. Strive not to just meet the minimum requirements, such as hours driven with supervision, but to exceed them. Most state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) offer a driver's handbook, which may also be available online.
Three Months in Advance: Plan for the UnexpectedTalk with teens about what to do if they are in a car accident. Do not assume new drivers instinctively know the basics, such as getting the other driver’s insurance and contact information, calling the police, taking pictures, completing an accident report and notifying your insurance company as soon as possible.
Help them pack an emergency kit for the car and discuss what they will do if their car breaks down on the road, including getting the car to a safe place before they get out. Make sure they have the number for roadside assistance, if you have a service that they can call.
Road Test Day and Beyond: Continue the ConversationStay involved with your teen driver even after he or she gets a driver’s license. Let him or her know it’s okay to ask you for help or for more practice. Encourage your teen to only drive in conditions where he or she feels safe. Continually review the safety guidelines, including prohibition of use of portable electronic devices while driving, which you discussed before they earned their license, so it remains top-of-mind.
Remember, even after a new driver takes the keys, continuing to talk about your expectations for safe behavior can help reinforce good decisions.
The Cape Cod Reopening Task Force released a statement regarding the outlook for Summer 2020 today, after Governor Charlie Baker announced the reopening plan for the Commonwealth on Monday.
“We are cautiously optimistic that our friends, relatives and guests will return to the Cape this summer for respite and a return to a traditional vacation,” said Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and Facilitator for the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force. “This optimism is supported by our recent traveler sentiment survey. The volume and pace of this summer is expected to differ from prior summers, but 67% of our opt-in visitor database is reporting they are likely to visit the Cape this year.”The Chamber is the region’s tourism council, which promotes Cape Cod and the Islands to visitors from around the world.
While beaches officially open statewide May 25th, most town-owned and Cape Cod National Seashore beaches on Cape Cod have remained open and will be open this Memorial Day weekend. There is hope that restaurants will begin to serve dine-in customers and expand to outdoor dining where able, beginning at some point in June. Many restaurants are open for take-out service with new safety and ordering protocols including dozens of the region’s famous take-out seafood establishments, clam shacks, and ice cream parlors. Accommodations of all types are clean, stocked with supplies and are scheduled by the state guidance to reopen in early June as well.
Governor Baker’s reopening plan lists a return to dine-in for restaurants (with a possible restriction to outdoor only seating) and allowance of leisure accommodations in phase 2 of his reopening plan, which would begin no earlier than June 8th. The Governor has made clear that decisions on moving to phases 2, 3 and 4 of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan will be dictated by public health surveillance data including rates of hospitalization, positive tests, and morbidity.
While Memorial Day has traditionally been the unofficial start to summer, this year’s calendar is creating an ironic opportunity, with 14 more days of summer in 2020, Northcross reported. Memorial Day falls this year as early as possible on May 25th, and Labor Day falls as late as it can, on September 7th; the additional 14 days of summer provide a cushion to summer business cycles that may be muted by stay at home orders just now lifting.
“Over the past several weeks as we have planned for reopening on Cape Cod our aim has been to save lives and livelihoods,” State Senator Julian Cyr (D- Truro) Member and Public Information Officer for the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force. “We all know that the 2020 summer season will be different than what we are used to; indeed we expect a muted season. But opportunities to enjoy this special place will still be plentiful this summer with all Cape Cod has to offer.”“Moving out of the ‘stay at home’ phase into the ‘start’ phase of reopening, allows everyone to plan, knowing there are at least three weeks between phases,” said Wendy Northcross. “Currently, accommodations and restaurants are serving guests under restrictions in Phase 1. Phase 2 plans for restaurants and accommodations and some attractions to reopen with guidelines.” Those guidelines include social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations training and cleaning rules, which apply to all business and social organizations. Northcross is participating in a working group organized by the Governor’s office on restaurants, accommodations, and tourism to advise on safe reopening prior to Phase 2, when these sectors are expected to begin reopening.
Given the highly seasonal nature of many businesses on Cape Cod, which serve their guests on a leisure travel experience during the warm weather months, the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force has been instrumental in pushing for advancement of the reopening date and guidance for the region and state’s many tourism amenities,” said State Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) Member of the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force. “If we do this right, giving confidence to the consumer and ensuring the health and safety of our workforce and residents, we expect to have the reawakening of our tourism businesses in just a few weeks’ time.”
In order to help businesses follow best guidelines for mandatory safety practices, Sean O’Brien, Director of Barnstable Health & Environment and Member of the Cape Cod reopening Task Force has marshalled county resources to prepare information for businesses to access for best practices on cleaning and operations.
“We will be publishing FAQs on topics like testing, best practices for entities ranging from boating to farmer’s markets and everything in between,” said Sean O’Brien.
The County’s Department of Human Services will compile health metrics, and the Cape Cod Commission will publish a new economic data dashboard and track business impact through a new survey tool. All will be on one central Cape Cod website which will launch in the coming days.
“Guidance to towns on how to quickly ramp up outdoor dining, accommodate more pedestrian flow and town-regulated activities that may need adjusting at this time is being vetted and shared with the 15 towns,” said Kristy Senatori, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commission and Member of the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force.
“The single biggest determinative factor for what’s possible this summer season depends on the personal responsibility of residents and visitors alike,” said State Senator Julian Cyr. “That means everyone covering their nose and mouth with a face covering when unable to keep distance between others, washing hands and surfaces, maintaining distance from others, and watching out for symptoms. Adherence to these health precautions will both prevent spread of coronavirus and allow us to safely reopen.”“While we expect this summer to be different from any we’ve experienced in our lifetime, we do believe the lure of Cape Cod’s plentiful and beautiful beaches, miles of hiking and biking trails, 47 golf courses, boating and outdoor recreation are the right prescription at the right time. We will be here to safely and warmly welcome our guests,” said Wendy Northcross.
The average cost to wall off a room can run you anywhere from $2,000 to a whopping $10,000. It’s certainly one of the more effective and permanent options, but not everyone’s existing budget is that flexible, nor is everyone able to renovate their space (we’re looking at you, renters). Whether you’re in the process of saving up for a true wall or you’re simply seeking creative, decorative room divider ideas, consider these seven designer suggestions.
1 Tall, Closed Shelving
Short of building an actual wall, a very tall closed shelving unit will instant create division between two spaces in a room. Alessandra Wood, the vice president of style at Modsy, recommends something akin to the Ikea Billy System (starting at $69; ikea.com) or Ikea Pax System (starting at $330; ikea.com). “These pieces come in an extra tall version, so they sit just below the ceiling giving the illusion of a wall. They also add a ton of additional storage, so they’re super useful,” she says.
Since the units will be floating in a room, you’ll want to make sure everything is anchored in so it doesn’t tip over. “When I did this in my former studio, I actually put a desk on the backside, bolted everything together, then bolted it to the wall,” says Wood.
2 Open Shelving
If you want to create division without completely enclosing a space, then open shelving could be the perfect room divider idea.
“I love this option because the bookshelf itself lends the height and depth of what a wall would naturally provide, but it offers you more opportunity to add storage or decor to a room while letting light flow through,” says Lindsay Pumpa, an interior designer based in South Florida. “Installing this is as simple as deciding where you want the room divide," she says. "Because this is a piece of furniture, you don't have to worry about it being permanent and you can move or adjust it as your needs change.”
A heavy, wide piece will help prevent the shelf from toppling (bolting it down is also a great safety measure). Pumpa recommends the Modloft Pearl Bookcase ($1,099; modloft.com), and the CB2 V Bookcase-Room Divider ($799; cb2.com) is another option.
3 Metal Chain Link Curtain
“When you want to break up a room and make an impact, a chain curtain will accomplish both,” says interior designer Katie Stix, the design director at Anderson Design Studio. “I like this wall alternative because it’s groovy, different, and luxurious feeling, and it can even be considered art. At the same time, it breaks up a large space to add drama and some privacy.” You’ll likely need to have a piece custom installed by a local metal artist, or you can consult a company such as Boegger, which offers a variety of metal curtains to choose from.
4 Sofa and Credenza Combo
Strategic furniture placement is a simple way to organically divide your room. For instance, a sofa paired with a console table or credenza can create an intimate living room on one side and whatever your heart desires on the other—say, a dining space, reading nook, or children’s play area. Or if you’re in a studio apartment, an extra tall headboard also offers a sense of division.
“By utilizing furniture rather than building a wall, you have the option of moving the items around and it won’t block the natural light, which ultimately makes a space feel larger,” says Diana Weinstein, an interior designer and founder of DW Design in New Jersey. “When creating the illusion of division within a room with furniture, I recommend investing in quality pieces that you can have for years and move to different rooms if you get tired of the design layout.”
One option Weinstein recommends is pairing CB2’s Avec Emerald Green Sofa with Brass Legs ($1599; cb2.com) with the Coyne Credenza ($999; cb2.com).
5 Floor to Ceiling Light Installation
Let there be light and artful division. A floor to ceiling light installation is similar to the metal curtain idea, only it doubles as an ambient light source. Kelly Dunn, the head interior designer at Fathom Design Company, says one of her favorites is the Abacus Floor to Ceiling LED Linear Suspension ($2600 to $3700; lumens.com), which isn’t as cost effective as some options, but still offers a striking solution.
“This particular piece can be customized to any height or width and each of the bulbs move on a vertical slide, so you can use it as a living element to add a unique vibe depending on your needs for the evening,” she says. You can also DIY a series of down-lit strings or install curtain string lights, such as Twinkle Star 600 LED Window Curtain String Lights ($32; amazon.com), if you’re seeking a less expensive option.
6 Wooden Dowel or Rope Installation
For a similar floor-to-ceiling room divider idea that doesn’t involve plugging anything in or working with an electrician, opt for a DIY wood or rope installation. "Working in NYC residential, I design a lot of small spaces. One of my favorite recent techniques is to hang wood dowels from the ceiling,” says Dunn. “It separates the space organically while adding texture and filtering light nicely. It also helps your overall space look larger, keeps your natural light intact, and still gives you the vibe of multiple spaces in a single room.”
Pumpa agrees, adding that rope also works. She says, “I love a rope wall because it divides the space and adds a unique decorative element. Plus, you can take creative liberties in the way you fasten the rope—straight tie versus a zig-zag design—and choose whether you want a cleaner rope versus a looser hemp weave.” She says you can either create a movable stand-alone piece, or anchor the rope to the ceiling and floor for a more permanent feel.
7 Plants and Large Planters
Those with a green thumb can utilize plants and large planters to create a faux half wall. “Not only will you be creating a sense of privacy within a space, but you are bringing in color, a feeling of life, and great energy with live plants. And it’s no secret that plants are also great for the quality of air,” says Weinstein. “There are a ton of great options in a variety of sizes, and by playing with the height of plants you can create as much division to a space as necessary.” Try West Elm's Citycape Planters, Tall Double ($299; westelm.com) with your favorite plants.
You know that sinking feeling you get when something goes wrong with your house?
Whether it’s a stolen bike or a burst pipe, your first reaction may be to call us to file a claim. In reality, filing a claim “just to be on the safe side” could cost you -- in more ways than one.
But won’t your insurance just deny claims that are too small? Not necessarily. Find out how to decide which claims to file and which to pay for out of pocket:
Should you file a claim?
Some types of events, think fire or theft, are too serious and expensive to tackle on your own. Anything causing significant damage that would be impossible to pay for, even with your emergency fund, is probably a good claim candidate.
Here are a few common scenarios and how you might want to deal with them:
You recently filed a claim. Think long and hard before submitting another. Most underwriters assume one claim every 10 years is average. Filing more could be cause for a rate increase.
The claim is related to home maintenance. Nope -- upkeep falls squarely on you. If it’s revealed that you’ve let your maintenance schedule lapse on things like plumbing or HVAC systems, your homeowners policy could even be canceled.
The cost to repair the damage is well over your deductible. Yes, report away. Say a tornado takes out the whole back half of your house. In this case, filing a claim is the only way to make your home liveable again.
When it comes down to it, you have homeowners insurance for a reason. If you need it, use it.
Just be smart about when you do and you could save yourself a lot of stress and a good chunk of money.
Have questions about whether or not to file a claim? Reach out anytime.
You’re driving to work when your favorite podcast suddenly stops playing. You know you shouldn’t look at your phone, but you hate sitting in silence during your commute. What do you do?
Do you glance around for cops, then tap around on your phone until the story starts up again? A lot of us do this — but it isn’t the safest choice.
Beyond breaking the bad habit of distracted driving, here are four more behind-the-wheel behaviors to leave behind.
1. Don’t rely too much on fancy technology. If we let ourselves become less engaged drivers because we’re expecting blind-spot notifications and attention assist to save us when we’re tired or preoccupied, we aren’t really any safer. Continue your same careful driving habits and let these innovations give you an extra boost.
2. Don’t assume other drivers are paying attention, well rested or sober. Learn to spot the signs of impairment: wandering out of their lane, swerving, erratic braking, inconsistent speed and getting too close to other cars or objects. Keep a safe distance from these potentially dangerous drivers.
3. Don’t let your insurance make you complacent. Even if your collision deductible is low, don’t let your guard down. Dealing with car repairs and the other driver after an accident — not to mention the injury risk — probably isn’t worth it.
4. Don’t neglect routine maintenance. Overheating, breaking down or blowing a tire can be terrifying and dangerous. Fortunately, these problems can often be prevented with regular maintenance. Check your tire pressure and fluids monthly and have a trusted mechanic inspect your car thoroughly once or twice a year.
Have questions about your auto coverage? Reach out today to discuss your policy.
Dog Car Safety: What Are the Safest Cars for Dogs?
For dog owners, our furry friends are often considered members of the family. While many cars & trucks can be suitable for the needs of dog owners, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure that driving with a dog goes safely and smoothly.
In general, dog owners should look for key features such as a spacious interior, seats that can handle the wear & tear, and ample cargo space to store not only your luggage but your pet's stuff in the event of a road trip. Here are some picks worth considering.
Dog Safety Considerations
You’re enjoying yourself at your kid’s soccer game when suddenly it hits you: You left the front door unlocked.
Do you run home immediately and miss the rest of the game, or do you cross your fingers and hope for the best? With new advances in home safety technology, you don’t have to make this choice.
Installing devices like smart locks and sensors can help keep your home safer— and might even reduce your insurance costs. Here’s how:
No more worrying about forgetting to lock the door. With a tap of your mobile device, you can lock and unlock your home from anywhere. You can also program smart locks to automatically lock whenever you leave your home — reducing the chance of an incident.
Solar Power Integrations.
Want to save energy and potentially earn tax credits? Investing in solar-powered security lights or security cameras can help you do just that.
This emerging security technology gives peace of mind by creating a virtual bubble around your home. When you're out of the security bubble, you'll default to “away” mode. If there's movement within the bubble while you're away, you’ll get a push notification.
Fire and Leak Sensors.
Today’s advanced sensors can quickly detect danger and then take action to protect you. For example, in the case of a fire, the sensor can automatically enable a smart thermostat that shuts off air conditioning, slowing the spread of smoke.
Ready for added security in your home? Reach out to learn more about your safety options and how they might impact your insurance costs.
Accidents happen on the road. A deer could dart across your path, a tree branch could come crashing down or you could make a simple mistake as you hurry to get to work.
Does your policy kick in after these kinds of events?
Let’s look at five things that could easily happen to any driver and see if they’d be covered.
Your Friend Wrecks Your Car
Your friend’s car is in the shop, so you lend them yours for the day. What happens if they end up involved in a fender bender?
Your insurance typically follows your vehicle. If you have collision insurance, the damage may be covered. If your friend caused the accident, your liability insurance could help cover the losses others suffer, too.
A Tree Falls on Your Truck
A storm rages through the night and you wake up to find a big tree lying across the hood of your truck. Not to worry — comprehensive auto insurance most likely covers damage from storms.
A Pothole Takes Out Your Muffler
What looks like a shallow puddle ends up being a massive pothole, resulting in a jolt, a thud and some serious damage. Though your deductible may be too high to cover minor issues, in a situation where significant repairs are needed, you may choose to file a claim.
Your Car Is Vandalized
Someone keyed your car and damaged your paint job pretty badly. Your comprehensive insurance should cover you, so you might want to file a claim if the damage exceeds the amount of your deductible.
Oops! You Backed Into Something
In a rush to get to work, you forget to open the garage door and backed right into it. (Hey, it happens.) With collision insurance, you can file a claim for the damage.
Need to adjust your coverage? Have questions about your deductible? Reach out today to discuss your policy.