Preparing for a Flood Before Disaster Strikes
October 15, 2022
Flooding is the most common and most damaging natural disaster in the country. In Florida, where Hurricane Ian’s floodwaters turned towns into rivers, flood risk is higher due to the state’s frequency of storms and proximity to water. Despite this, most insurance policies do not automatically cover flooding. No matter where you live, you should check your auto and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies as an initial step in preparing for a flood to keep you and your loved ones safe when a flood interrupts your lives.
Determining Your Risk Level
To find out the risk level of your property location, visit FloodSmart.gov/Flood-Map-Zone.
Because research has found that FEMA’s flood maps underestimate the danger in some areas as climate change advances, homeowners and renters unaware of their level of risk should act on the following points:
- Are you in a flash-flood-prone area? Contact the local county geologist or county planning department to find out if your home is in a flash-flood-prone area or a landslide-prone area.
- Make a communication plan and a disaster plan for your family.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be the “family contact” in case your family is separated during a flood. Make sure everyone in your family knows the name, address, and phone number of your contact person.
- Stay informed. Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
- Inform local authorities about any special needs, such as elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability.
Preparing Your Home for a Flood
- Make sure you secure or protect any hazards in your home before the flood strikes.
- Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
- Buy a fire extinguisher if you don’t already have one. Make sure your family knows where it is and how to use it.
- Buy and install sump pumps with backup power.
- Have a licensed electrician raise electric components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12″ above your home’s projected flood elevation.
- For drains, toilets, and other sewer connections, install backflow valves or plugs to prevent floodwaters from entering.
- Anchor fuel tanks can contaminate your basement if torn free. An unanchored tank outside can be swept downstream and damage other houses.
Creating an Emergency Supply Kit
Stock your home with supplies you may need during the flood by creating an emergency supply kit. Visit the CDC’s Personal Health Preparedness page for a list of supplies you’ll want to include in your kit.
Preparing Food and Water Supplies
Make sure you and your family have enough safe food and water (for drinking, cooking, and bathing) available in the event of a flood. For more information, visit Food and Water Needs: Preparing for a Disaster or Emergency.
Reentering Your Flooded Home
When returning to a home that’s been flooded after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for your family. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for reentering your flooded home.
Reviewing Flood Insurance Options
Although you can purchase flood insurance at any time, waiting until a hurricane or major storm is threatening your home may be too late. Many policies take at least 30 days after purchase to take effect.
The National Flood Insurance Program is a pre-disaster flood mitigation and insurance protection program designed to reduce the escalating cost of disasters. This program makes federally backed flood insurance available to residents and business owners. Standard flood insurance by the National Flood Insurance Program generally covers physical damages directly caused by flooding within the limits of the coverage purchased. Private providers may have higher limits or broader coverage compared to National Flood Insurance Program policies.
Regardless of which policy you select for your business or family, any coverage is better than none. If your property experiences flooding impacts from a disaster, it is not guaranteed you will be able to receive federal assistance. If your area has not received a Presidential Disaster Declaration that makes federal assistance available under FEMA, you will not receive federal assistance.
When there is an official Presidential Disaster Declaration, National Flood Insurance Program policyholders are encouraged to apply for FEMA disaster assistance in addition to their flood insurance claim. For more information, visit National Flood Insurance Program or call1-800-621-FEMA.
Filing a Flood Insurance Claim
Flood insurance claims can be filed anytime you experience flooding on your property and can cover both a property and its contents.
If you need to file a flood insurance claim, be informed and prepared so that recovery can move quickly and smoothly. Before a disaster strikes, have updated photos of your home or business so that insurance providers can clearly examine your property and belongings. If your property has experienced flood impacts, take extensive photos of the damages before cleaning up. This will allow insurance providers to compare before and after photos to determine the extent of damages and arrange the best claim payment possible. As you’re cleaning, make a detailed list of lost or damaged items. If you have original receipts for items, hold onto those for documentation in your claim. After gathering all the necessary information, contact your insurance company to begin filing your claim.
At InsureYouKnow.org, file your auto, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, photos before and showing flood damage, an inventory of your home and possessions, and your checklists of supplies needed for emergency events. If you are impacted by a flood, also keep track on this portal of your insurance claims and interactions with your insurance company and FEMA.
Do You Realize How “Precious” a Child Is?
September 15, 2022
The cost of raising a child through high school has risen to $310,605 because of inflation that is running close to a four-decade high, according to an estimate by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.
In 2017—years before the pandemic and during an extended period of very low inflation—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected that the average total expenditures spent on a child from birth through age 17 would be $284,594. This estimate assumed an average inflation rate of 2.2 percent and did not include the expenses associated with sending a child to college or supporting them during their transition to adulthood. Since 2020, the inflation rate has skyrocketed— 8.5 percent as of July 2022—partly due to supply-chain issues and stimulus spending packages that put more cash into Americans’ pockets. The Federal Reserve has now raised interest rates substantially to control inflation.
The multiyear total is up $26,011, or more than 9 percent, from a calculation based on the inflation rate two years ago, before rapid price increases hit the economy, reports the Brookings Institution.
The new estimate crunches numbers for middle-income, married parents, and doesn’t include projections for single-parent households, or consider how race factors into cost challenges.
The estimate covers a range of expenses, including housing, education, food, clothing, healthcare, and childcare, and accounts for childhood milestones and activities—baby essentials, haircuts, sports equipment, extracurricular activities, and car insurance starting in the teen years, among other costs.
In 2019, the typical expenses to raise a child were estimated by the USDA as follows:
- Housing: 29%
- Food: 18%
- Childcare and Education: 16%
- Transportation: 15%
- Healthcare: 9%
- Miscellaneous (included Personal Care and Entertainment): 7%
- Clothing: 6%
Housing at 29 percent is the most significant expense associated with raising a child. The cost and type of housing vary widely by location. Other variables include mortgage or rent payments, property tax, home repairs and maintenance, insurance, utilities, and other miscellaneous housing costs.
The cost of food is the second-largest expense, at 18 percent of the overall cost of raising a child. Over time, food prices have trended up, with food-at-home pricing increasing 12.1 percent and food-away-from-home pricing increasing by 7.7 percent from June 2021 to July 2022. The USDA expects rising costs for 2022, with increases as high as 10 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
Childcare and Education
Childcare and education expenses in 2019 accounted for 16 percent of the cost of raising a child, and it continues to increase.
The widespread acceptance by employers of remote work and letting employees work from home part or full-time has eased the burden of childcare costs for many families, cutting the cost by as much as 30 percent for some workers.
Education is a major expense when it comes to raising children. When it comes to kindergarten through high school, parents can choose between public and private schools. For private schools, the Education Data Initiative estimated that tuition costs an average of $12,350 per year. Associated costs, like technology, textbooks, and back-to-school supplies, could bring that up to $16,050. For a child to be in private school from kindergarten through eighth grade, the estimated cost could be about $208,650. Additional expenses for extracurricular activities such as sports, the arts—music, theater, and yearbook—and other clubs also add up and are accompanied by fees for participation, equipment, and travel, which have also increased due to inflation.
The total cost of a health plan is set according to the number of people covered by it, as well as each person’s age and possibly their tobacco use. For example, a family of three, with two adults and a child, would pay a much higher monthly health insurance premium than an individual.
Raising children is rewarding and fulfilling to many people. But it’s also become very expensive. By preparing mentally and implementing financial planning strategies, you can be well-equipped to raise your child to adulthood comfortably, even on a budget.
If you are a parent, you are responsible for raising your child and providing food, clothing, shelter, and security. Consider getting insurance coverage—including life, short- and long-term disability, and health insurance to avoid putting your family at risk financially in the event of unexpected hardship. To cope with the rising costs of raising children, live within your means, save money wherever possible, and shop around for home and auto insurance each year for the best deals. At insureyouknow.org, you can track your expenses to raise a child and file insurance policies that cover your family’s financial and healthcare needs.
College Graduates’ Guide to Insurance
May 31, 2022
Congratulations to college graduates everywhere as the graduation season kicks off in 2022! Homework continues, however, as grads meet the challenges presented by their next decisions—changing their residences, jobs, and insurance coverages. Even though this last item may not be as exciting as finding a new place to live or pursuing a lucrative career opportunity, the following options in insurance coverages are important issues that new college grads need to address.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), choosing new coverage—or holding on to existing coverage—has been much easier for college graduates who may decide to:
1. Remain on a parent’s insurance plan
Before the ACA was enacted, it was common for health insurance plans to drop dependents as soon as they graduated from college. But the ACA requires almost all health plans that offer dependent coverage to allow young adults to remain on a parent’s plan until they turn 26. So, for young adults covered under a parent’s plan, graduating from college no longer requires them to quickly find new health insurance.
2. Purchase a short-term plan
Short-term health insurance is a potential alternative for college grads who need temporary coverage to tide them over until another policy kicks in. Even for grads who have a job lined up right away, employers often have a waiting period before health insurance coverage is available to new hires. Short-term plans can be purchased at any time of the year, with immediate effective dates available.
3. Buy an ACA-compliant individual plan
For new grads who want a more robust, ACA-compliant plan that covers the essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions, a plan purchased through the state health insurance exchange is likely to be an ideal solution. For more information about marketplace insurance, visit www.healthcare.gov.
4. Check Medicaid eligibility
In 38 states, Medicaid has been expanded to cover all adults with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level. In 2022, that’s $18,754 for a single individual, except in Alaska and Hawaii where the limit is higher. Medicaid enrollment is available year-round and coverage includes pre-existing conditions. In most cases, there are no premiums. For a new grad living in a state where Medicaid has been expanded, this could be a perfect solution during the weeks or months that it might take to find a job after graduation.
5. Get coverage through a new employer
College grads may be able to enroll in group coverage at their new jobs. Employer-sponsored health insurance generally offers substantial benefits, and employers typically pay a large portion of the premiums. Employee contributions are paid through payroll deductions. Participants also may be eligible to enroll in a Health Savings Account that minimizes the financial impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Renters’ and Homeowners’ Insurance Policies
Before graduation, college students probably lived in a dorm room or shared housing with other students. Now, it may be time for them to relocate to their first apartment, condo, or house.
Renters need to understand that their landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover their belongings. Suppose renters experience an unforeseen situation, including burglary, stormy weather that causes a leaky roof to destroy their furnishings, or a fire that creates smoke damage. In these scenarios, they could be protected by renters’ insurance.
Homeowners’ insurance policies, available to college grads buying their first condos or houses, combine several types of coverage, including dwelling, personal property, other structures, loss of use, personal liability, and medical payments into one policy,
It’s a good idea for renters and homebuyers to create a spreadsheet with an inventory of the contents of their residences, placing approximate values on their belongings.
Upon completing college, grads may be ready to buy a new car that requires upgrading their auto insurance, especially if they had been previously covered under their parents’ policy. Personal auto insurance is a package policy providing four coverages—liability, medical payments, uninsured and underinsured motorist, and physical damage.
Unless a college grad is married or has individuals, such as a child or an aging parent dependent on their income, life insurance may not be needed right away. However, if young adults are single, healthy, and in a family with a good health history, they may be at an insurability peak and would benefit from the best rates on life insurance.
College graduation prompts a transition from a school-based existence to one replete with adult responsibilities, including the need to put insurance policies in place. By preparing for the unforeseen future, college grads who do their homework on insurance options and keep copies of policies, inventories of their belongings, and records of any claims submitted at insureyouknow.org, can begin living their lives to the fullest.
Drought Eased by Rain and Your Call to Action
May 1, 2022
Is it raining today or is rain in the forecast this week? Rain can bring relief to drought—a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water. Droughts can last a single season, a whole year, or for many years, and can affect a few hundred or millions of square miles.
Public health implications of drought include concerns about water, food and nutrition, air quality, sanitation and hygiene, recreational risks, and infectious and chronic diseases.
Reduced stream and river flows can increase the concentration of pollutants in water and cause stagnation that kills fish and other aquatic life. Many parts of the United States depend on groundwater as a primary source of water. Groundwater sometimes contains naturally present germs and harmful chemicals from the environment, such as arsenic and radon. More often, human activities contaminate groundwater.
What Can You Do? Learn to correctly use fertilizers and pesticides; maintain septic systems; properly remove or store wastes; and prevent chemical spills at work sites.
Food and Nutrition
Drought can limit the growing season and create conditions that encourage insect and disease infestation in certain crops. Low crop yields can result in rising food prices and shortages, potentially leading to malnutrition.
What Can You Do? Whether you grow your vegetables or buy them at a farmer’s market or grocery store, select drought-tolerant vegetables specifically bred for drought resistance. Popular choices include lima beans, pole beans, corn, mustard greens, okra, squash, Heatwave II tomatoes, Black Diamond watermelons, and most herbs.
The dusty, dry conditions and wildfires that often accompany drought can harm your health. Fire, combined with dry soil and vegetation, increases the number of particulates suspended in the air, such as pollen, smoke, and fluorocarbons that can irritate the bronchial passages and lungs, making chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, and bacteria pneumonia worse.
What Can You Do? Learn about CDC’s EXHALE strategies to help people with asthma achieve better health: Education on asthma self-management; X-tinguishing smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke; Home visits for trigger reduction and asthma self-management education; Achievement of guidelines-based medical management; Linkages and coordination of care across settings; Environmental policies or best practices to reduce asthma triggers from indoor, outdoor, or occupational sources.
Sanitation and Hygiene
Having water available for cleaning, sanitation, and hygiene reduces or controls many diseases. Drought conditions create the need to conserve water, but conservation efforts should not prevent proper sanitation and hygiene.
What Can You Do? Your attention to personal hygiene, cleaning, hand washing, and washing of fruits and vegetables can be done in a way that conserves water and reduces health risks. Install low-flow faucet aerators in your business and home to reduce water consumption while maintaining hand washing and other healthy hygienic behaviors.
If you engage in water-related recreational activities during drought, you may be at increased risk for waterborne disease caused by bacteria, protozoa, and other contaminants such as chemicals and heavy metals.
What Can You Do? The best way you can prevent swimming-related illnesses from spreading is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. This means that if you or your child has been sick with diarrhea in the past two weeks, you should stay out of the water. To protect yourself from the most common swimming-related illnesses, keep water out of your mouth when you swim and dry your ears after you swim.
Increases in infectious disease can be a direct consequence of drought. Viruses, protozoa, and bacteria can pollute groundwater and surface water when rainfall decreases. If you get your drinking water from a private well or if you have an underlying chronic condition, you may be at higher risk for drought-related infectious disease.
What Can You Do? To prevent the spread of acute respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses from person to person, be diligent in handwashing. If you get your drinking water from a well, check it at least every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems and test it once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, you should test for those as well.
Conditions associated with drought may negatively impact people who have certain chronic health conditions such as asthma and some immune disorders. Drought-related changes in air quality, such as increased concentrations of air particulates and airborne toxins resulting from freshwater algal blooms, can irritate the eyes, lungs, and respiratory systems of persons with chronic respiratory conditions.
What Can You Do? By making healthy behavior part of your daily life, you may prevent the exacerbation or occurrence of chronic disease conditions. Heed warnings about adverse weather conditions and stay indoors, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and take prescribed medications. Talk to your health care provider if symptoms worsen.
Diseases Transmitted by Insects and Animals
In periods of limited rainfall, both human and animal behavior can change in ways that increase the likelihood of vector-borne diseases. During dry periods, wild animals are more likely to seek water in areas where humans live. These behaviors increase the likelihood of human contact with wildlife, the insects they host, and the diseases they carry.
Stagnant water provides additional breeding grounds for certain types of mosquitoes that can transmit the West Nile virus to humans.
What Can You Do? If you collect rainwater, don’t let the water get stagnant and become a manmade mosquito breeding area. Dump out any standing water, including in outdoor pet bowls and flowerpots. Pick up litter—bottles, cups, cans, car tires, and other containers that can hold water—on your property. Keep your lawn free of overgrown trees, brush, weeds, and tall grass. Plant mosquito-repelling herbs, flowers, and plants, including peppermint, lavender, marigolds, and feverfew.
Your portal at insureyouknow.org is an ideal place to keep track of your home insurance and maintenance records, annual surveys of your property, and records of repairs and purchases needed for water resources, including septic systems or wells.
Resolve to Go Paperless in 2022
December 30, 2021
In January, follow the example of the U.S. government that has committed to moving to a paperless archival system by December 31, 2022. The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) directive for government agencies to transition to electronic records has prompted them to take steps in their modernization journeys.
The government faces multiple challenges with paper records, such as burdens on the workforce and high costs to manually create, use, and store nonelectronic information. As an individual, you may face similar dilemmas in dealing at home with your printed files, insurance records, and other important documents that would be difficult to replace if damaged or destroyed by natural disasters or accidents.
As government agencies transition to electronic records, many are experimenting with new technologies to sort through electronically stored information. Universities and businesses also have guidelines for storing electronic records in online repositories that they strive to:
- Back up regularly
- Comply with all privacy and security requirements
- Allow for shared access through a network or a cloud-based program
- Organize in such a way that records can be identified and purged appropriately
- Set up to migrate content to a new system upon replacement
- Maintain through regular software updates
After you review the electronic storage practices of the government, universities, and businesses, establish your own ground rules for storing your important records at InsureYouKnow.org. Keep in mind the following tips:
- A systematic plan for keeping track of important documents can save you hours of anxious searching for misplaced items. It also can help you reduce the number of nonimportant papers cluttering your home.
- It is important to carefully store valuable papers which would be difficult or time-consuming to replace. Original hard-to-replace documents are ideally kept in a safe deposit box or a fire-proof, waterproof, burglar-proof home safe or lockbox. Scanned copies can be stored at InsureYouKnow.org where they will be readily accessible.
- Electronically stored records must be legible, readable, and accessible for the period of limitations required. It is important to back up electronic files at InsureYouKnow.org in case of a computer malfunction in your home office.
- Wherever you live, there is always a risk of fires, floods, and other disasters, and your home and important documents could be destroyed. If you have stored photographic images, you’ll have records accessible whenever you need them, including keeping peace of mind knowing documents are indestructible at InsureYouKnow.org.
Valuable papers can be sorted into two types: those needed for day-to-day use and those needed occasionally.
Examples of valuable papers used frequently include:
- Drivers’ licenses
- Credit cards
- Health insurance cards
- Bank account records
- Identification cards
- Special health documentation such as COVID-19 vaccinations, allergies, disabling conditions, prescriptions, and blood types for family members
Examples of valuable papers used occasionally include:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates
- Deeds, leases, and property records and titles
- Income and employment records
- Insurance policies
- Income tax records
- Military papers
- Divorce decrees
- Social Security records
- Retirement and pension plans
Regular filing and reviewing of paper and electronic documents are important. Making decisions on when to discard old, printed files and purge electronic versions may be difficult but worth the effort to keep accurate, up-to-date records.
Track Your Gifts on a Home Inventory
December 14, 2021
Lucky you! You’ve been nice, not naughty, so, you may be rewarded with gifts galore this holiday season. What’s on your wish list—a smart TV, a laptop computer, or a sporty new vehicle? In all the excitement of opening and enjoying your generous bounty, remember to keep track of your new acquisitions by adding them to your home inventory. If you’ve never compiled a home inventory, you can start with recent gifts and then add older possessions. You’ll also want to update your home inventory regularly and add new items or delete possessions you no longer own.
Why Should You Maintain a Home Inventory?
In the event of a burglary, fire, or another disaster, if you have an up-to-date home inventory, you’ll be able to file a detailed insurance claim quickly, settle faster, and receive compensation promptly. You also should review the current value of items you own in case you need to increase your home insurance coverage.
What Should You Include in a Home Inventory?
- A description of each item you possess, including the make, model, and serial number
- The estimated value of the item/replacement cost
- Appraisal or cost at the time of purchase
- Purchase date
- Receipt and source of purchase
- Photos of each item taken with your cell phone or digital camera
- Detailed description about the item if received as a gift
How Do You Make a List?
Here are some suggestions to help you organize your list:
- By room. Choose a room and list all the contents. For example, start in your living room and list everything, like your TV, sofa, recliner, and side tables. Remember to list even the mall stuff, like books, knickknacks, and decorations on your shelves.
- By groups of items. Or group together items like antiques, artwork, clothes, collections, jewelry, kitchen items, furniture, musical instruments, and miscellaneous items.
- Off-site items. Make sure you include belongings you keep in a self-storage unit covered by your homeowner’s insurance.
Although you may be faced with the daunting challenge to document all your possessions in compiling a home inventory, persevere even if you can’t get it all done immediately. It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than not to have any assets recorded.
Should You Reevaluate Your Insurance Coverage?
While you’re documenting all your possessions, look at high-value items such as jewelry, musical instruments, artwork, camera equipment, and electronics. Keep in mind that your homeowner’s insurance might put a special sublimit on certain types of items. Realize that just because you have an item on your home inventory list, doesn’t mean you will get paid for it. Check your policy’s declaration page for special limits for specific categories of merchandise. You may need to purchase an insurance rider for items such as jewelry and specialized collections.
For example, a common homeowner’s insurance policy puts a $1,500 limit on theft coverage for jewelry and watches. If you have valuable items, you can “schedule” them. Scheduled personal property is an add-on to homeowners’ or renters’ insurance to insure high-value items for their full value.
Make sure your policy covers the replacement value of your possessions, not the actual cash value. An actual cash value payment would pay you only the depreciated value of your items, not new replacements.
If you live in an area that’s prone to earthquakes or floods, you could consider earthquake insurance or flood insurance. Without them, your home and belongings won’t be covered in certain disaster situations.
After you have created a detailed home inventory, you can store it at insureyouknow.org. You’ll be able to access your list of possessions and add, delete, or refine entries regularly. With a current record of your newly acquired and older possessions on file, you’ll be prepared if you need to file an insurance claim or reevaluate your insurance coverage.
Safely Enjoy Summer Fun in the Sun
May 29, 2021
With students out of school and parents ready for a vacation, your summer planning may lead to seasonal activities and events outside during the warmest time of the year. While making a list of your fun in the sun options, keep in mind your family’s health and safety while avoiding the dangers of heat-related illnesses, water-related injuries, grilling hazards and food poisoning, allergy attacks, and the stress of traveling.
The Federal Occupational Health agency offers the following tips for balancing fun activities and sun safety.
Prepare for Heat and Sun
A big part of staying safe in the heat and sun is being prepared. Have an idea of how long you will be out in the sun and the heat, and then plan accordingly by:
- Limiting your outdoor activity, especially midday when the sun is hottest.
- Wearing and reapplying sunscreen as indicated on the package.
- Pacing your activity; starting activities slowly and picking up the pace gradually.
- Drinking more water than usual and not waiting until you’re thirsty to drink more.
- Wearing loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing that protects your skin.
- Wearing sunglasses and a hat.
- If possible, taking breaks from the heat and sun in a shady or air-conditioned location.
Dehydration is a safety concern, especially during the summer months. Be sure to drink enough liquids throughout the day, as your body can lose a lot of water through perspiration when it gets hot outside. Drinking plenty of water can be part of good nutrition, too. Snacking on water-rich foods like raw fruits and vegetables also can help keep you hydrated.
Without enough fluids, you may experience dehydration. Look for these signs:
- Extreme thirst
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramping
- Feeling lightheaded
- Foggy thinking
Learn more on the MedlinePlus Dehydration page.
Heed Water Safety Precautions
Swimming is an enjoyable way to both cool off and get some exercise, but it also takes extra precautions and vigilance. To lower the risk for water-related injuries or accidents:
- Always have adult supervision for children who are in or around water.
- Do not swim alone, and swim near lifeguards whenever possible.
- Learn to swim.
- If you have difficulty swimming, wear a life jacket when participating in water-related activities.
- Wear a life jacket when boating.
- Know local weather conditions and forecasts before swimming or boating.
For more information, visit CDC’s Water-Related Injuries page.
Additional summer safety reminders include the following tips from National Insurance Services:
Eliminate Grilling Risks
Grilling is a great way to make a delicious meal, especially during summer get-togethers and events. However, grilling carries a number of risks—from fire to food poisoning—that you must be aware of to keep your outing safe and enjoyable. Experts say that food poisoning peaks in summer months for two main reasons: bacteria grow fastest in warm, humid weather, and people generally do not pay as much attention to cleanliness when eating outside.
General Safety Precautions
- Do not allow children and pets to play near the grill until it is completely cool, and you’ve had a chance to put it away.
- Place your grill at least 3 feet away from other objects, including your house, vehicle, trees, and outdoor seating.
- Before using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to make sure it is not leaking and is working properly.
- Only use starter fluid for barbecue grills that use charcoal. Do not use starter fluid for gas grills.
- If you suspect that your gas grill is leaking, turn off the gas and get the unit repaired before lighting it again.
- Never use a match to check for leaks.
- Do not bring your grill into an unventilated or enclosed space, such as a garage or inside your home. This is not only a major fire hazard, but it’s also a carbon monoxide hazard.
- Never grill on wooden decks, porches, or balconies.
Carcinogen Hazard Preventions
- Cook leaner meats that drip less grease. Opt for a turkey burger or a lean cut of beef, and cut visible fat from poultry. When fat drips into the coals or flames, smoke travels up to the meat and releases carcinogens.
- Marinate meat to reduce carcinogens by 87 percent. Herbs contain polyphenolic antioxidants, which prevent the formation of carcinogens on the meat’s surface.
- Scrub your grill with a wire brush after every use. This will prevent bits of leftover food from dropping into the grate and creating carcinogen-filled smoke.
- Use a nonstick cooking spray on the grill rack to prevent meat buildup.
Follow Food Safety Tips
- Wash your hands. You should do this before all types of food prep, and grilling is no exception. If you’re outdoors and there is no bathroom, use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Consider carrying moist towelettes for cleaning your hands.
- Separate raw and cooked food. Don’t use a plate or utensil that previously touched raw food to touch cooked food unless the utensil has been washed with hot, soapy water.
- Marinate your food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
- Make sure food is cooked thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or until they are brown all the way through. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of being cooked—the sooner, the better.
Warm weather and high humidity can put a strain on seasonal allergy and asthma sufferers. It’s a peak time for certain types of pollen, smog, and mold. Below are some survival tips to help you manage your allergies during the summer months.
- Protect yourself during prime allergy time—stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when outdoor pollen counts are usually the highest.
- Avoid extremes—going between intense outdoor heat and indoor air conditioning can trigger an asthma attack and other allergy symptoms.
- Wear a mask when mowing the lawn or if you know you are going to be around freshly cut grass. Also, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes to remove any pollen that may have collected on your body. You should also dry clothing inside, rather than on an outside line.
- Patrol your yard for weeds such as nettle or ragweed and oak, birch, cedar, and cottonwood trees—they all can trigger allergies.
- If you’re allergic to bees, protect yourself. Wear shoes, long pants, and sleeves. It’s also a good idea not to wear scented deodorants, hair products or perfumes, as all of these can attract bees.
Travel Safely this Summer
The following tips can help you plan for a safe and fun road trip:
- Buckle up for safety; you’ll avoid a ticket, and more importantly, should you get into an accident, you’ll increase the odds of surviving the crash and reducing injuries for both you and your family.
- Get a good night’s sleep; drowsy drivers can be as dangerous behind the wheel as drunk drivers. And don’t think coffee or opening windows will be enough to keep you awake— there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep.
- Take a break from driving if you feel yourself getting drowsy. Get out of the car for some exercise or switch drivers if you have that option.
- Do not drink alcohol and drive—you put yourself and anyone around you in danger.
- Conduct a pre-road trip inspection on your vehicle—taking just 10 minutes to ensure your car’s tires are properly inflated, that the fluids are topped off, and that everything under the hood is all right—to identify and mitigate problems that could lead to future breakdowns.
Review CDC’s travel tips on the following topics that are continuously updated as needed:
- Domestic Travel During COVID-19
- When NOT to Travel: Avoid Spreading COVID-19
- Safer Travel Tips for Families with Unvaccinated Children
- Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs
- Travel Health Notices
- Cruise Ship Travel
- International Travel During COVID-19
- Travel Recommendations by Destination
- After International Travel
- Travel Planner
- Travelers Returning from Cruise Ship and River Cruise Voyages
- Travel: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
- Travelers Prohibited from Entry to the United States
- Communication Resources for Travelers
When planning your summer vacations, keep track at insureyouknow.org of your health, automobile, boat, and travel insurance policies, as well as passports and COVID-19 vaccination records, for you and your family members. In case you face an emergency or need to prove your coverage, you’ll be able to refer to your secure documents online.
Before You Turn the Key to Your New Home
March 15, 2021
Are you in the market for a new home?
Before buying a home, you’ll need a down payment, the closing costs, and, if you are getting a loan from a mortgage lender, proof of homeowners insurance to protect the mortgage lender’s investment to cover the costs to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by a fire, lightning, a tornado, theft, vandalism, or some other covered event.
When shopping for a homeowners policy, you are encouraged to get quotations from multiple insurance companies, including your current insurer from whom you may get a better deal. You should consider coverage for your house, your possessions, additional living expenses if you’re displaced, and legal concerns if a visitor is injured at your home. In this last scenario, you may be held responsible for related medical bills, legal costs, and potential court awards up to the maximum amount determined by your homeowners insurance policy.
Keep in mind, a typical homeowners policy does not include coverage for earthquakes or floods. Depending on the location of your home, your lender may require you to add riders for additional insurance coverage for natural disasters. If you have valuable possessions, including expensive jewelry, camera equipment, or a fine art collection that exceed the dollar limits of your homeowners policy, you may need to purchase extra coverage known as a Personal Articles Floater (PAF) for those items.
Provisions of a Homeowners Policy
Your homeowners insurance policy will have the following standard elements that define the costs the insurer will cover.
· Damage to the Interior or Exterior of Your House
In the event of damage due to fire, hurricanes, lightning, vandalism, or other covered disasters, your insurer will compensate you so your house can be repaired or even completely rebuilt. As indicated above, destruction from floods or earthquakes, as well as poor home maintenance, are generally not covered and you may need separate riders if you want that type of protection. Freestanding garages, sheds or other structures on your property also may need to be covered separately using the same guidelines as for the main house.
Clothing, furniture, appliances, and most of the other contents of your home are covered if they’re destroyed in an insured disaster.
· Personal Liability for Damage or Injuries
Liability coverage protects you from lawsuits filed by others, including injuries experienced by visitors or caused by your pets. For example, if your dog attacks someone on or off your property, your insurer will cover medical expenses.
· Hotel or House Rental If Your Home Is Being Rebuilt or Repaired
If you need to vacate your home damaged by a covered event, a provision known as additional living expenses, will reimburse you for the rent, hotel room, restaurant meals, and other incidental costs you incur while waiting for your home to be repaired. Depending on the fine print of your policy, your expenses will be set by strict daily and total limits that you can expand if you’re willing to pay more in coverage.
Different Types of Homeowners Insurance Coverage
There are essentially three levels of coverage.
· Actual Cash Value
Actual cash value covers the cost of the house plus the value of your belongings after deducting depreciation (i.e., how much the items are currently worth, not how much you paid for them).
· Replacement Cost
Replacement value policies cover the actual cash value of your home and possessions without the deduction for depreciation, so you would be able to repair or rebuild your home up to the original value.
· Guaranteed (or extended) replacement cost/value
The most comprehensive, this inflation-buffer policy pays for whatever it costs to repair or rebuild your home—even if it’s more than your policy limit.
Comparison of Home Insurance Companies
When looking for an insurance carrier, consider the following tips.
· Compare Statewide Costs and Insurers
When it comes to insurance, you want to make sure you are going with a provider that is legitimate and creditworthy. Your first step should be to visit your state’s Department of Insurance website to learn the rating for each home insurance company licensed to conduct business in your state, as well as any consumer complaints lodged against the insurance company. The site also should provide a typical average cost of home insurance in different counties and cities.
· Review Each Company
Investigate home insurance companies you’re considering via their scores on the websites of the top credit agencies (such as A.M. Best, Moody’s, J.D. Power, Standard & Poor’s) and those of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and Weiss Research. These sites track consumer complaints against the companies as well as general customer feedback, the processing of claims, and other data. In some instances, these websites also rate a home insurance company’s financial health to determine whether the company is able to pay out claims.
· Look at Claims Response Data
Following a large loss, the burden of paying out-of-pocket to repair your home and waiting for reimbursement from your insurer could place you in a difficult financial position. A number of insurers are outsourcing core functions, including the handling of claims.
Before purchasing a policy, find out whether licensed adjusters or third-party call centers will be receiving and handling your claims calls. Look for a carrier with a proven track record of fair, timely settlements and make sure to understand your insurer’s stance on holdback provisions, which is when an insurance company holds back a portion of their payment until a homeowner can prove that they have started repairs.
· Check on Current Policyholder Satisfaction
Ask any potential insurance agent for the company’s retention ratebased on the percentage of policyholders who renew each year. Many companies report retention rates between 80 percent and 90 percent. You can also find satisfaction information in annual reports, online reviews, and recommendations from friends and relatives you trust.
· Get Multiple Quotations
Request quotations from multiple insurance companies, including any insurer with whom you already do business for insurance on your automobile, boat, or other property. As a loyal customer, you may be offered a better rate.
- Ask about Discounts for Seniors
Some companies provide a special discount for seniors or for people who work from home. The rationale is both these groups tend to be on-premises more often—leaving their houses less prone to burglary.
After you’ve selected your new home, submitted your down payment and closing costs, and arranged for homeowners insurance, keep a record of all these transactions at InsureYouKnow.org. You’ll also be able to keep annual records of your property tax fees, homeowners insurance premiums, any claims you file, and corresponding payments to cover damages or thefts of your property.
Driving (or Not) with Auto Insurance
February 15, 2021
Although you may not be driving as much during the COVID-19 pandemic as you did in previous years, you still need to have auto insurance if you own a vehicle. The following tips may help you establish or review your auto insurance policy as you dream about taking road trips while your motionless car is parked in your driveway.
Visit Your Auto Insurer Online
Before the pandemic, you may have felt comfortable visiting your auto insurer’s office to apply for or review your auto insurance policy, or to file a claim for a car accident, vandalism, car theft, hail, fire, floods, falling objects, and collisions with animals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, claims are processed virtually. You can use your insurer’s mobile app or website and go through the entire claims process from the comfort of your own home.
In the event of an accident, you may be able to upload photos of your car’s damage that your insurer can use to estimate a repair and then send you a payment quickly.
Get Insurance Before You Buy a Car
Shop for car insurance before you buy a car so you can drive your new car off the dealer’s lot. There are four basic kinds of car insurance coverage: property damage liability, bodily injury liability, collision, and comprehensive. Review each one of these types of coverages carefully and decide which ones fit your needs. You might also want to consider getting protection in the event of an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
You’re going to need proof of insurance when you buy a car before you can take it home with you. Follow these steps to get insurance:
- Have a make, model, and year in mind. In the process of car shopping, you’ve most likely identified the types of cars you’re interested in buying. An insurance agent can give you quotations for a few models, so you can budget accordingly.
- Compare quotations from multiple car insurance companies. An independent insurance agent or online car insurance comparison site is an efficient way to price shop. Rates vary considerably among insurers, so you will want more than one or two quotations.
- Understand what coverage types you’ll need. Most states require you to carry car liability insurance. Also, if you’re taking out a car loan or lease, your lender or leasing agent will most likely require collision and comprehensive insurance.
- Ask your insurance agent to set up a policy. If you have the car picked out and know the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can have your policy ready to go before you arrive at the dealership. If you don’t have the VIN yet, ask if the agent can set up a policy with the information you have, like the drivers in your household and the address where you’ll keep the vehicle. Once you decide on the car, call the agent with the VIN to complete the purchase of the car insurance policy.
- Ask about bundling. Some insurance companies offer discounts to protect all your property with one insurer. Multiple-policy discounts can apply to combinations of home, auto, and life, and even motorcycle insurance.
Look into Pay-Per-Mile Insurance
If the pandemic has drastically altered your driving behavior since you aren’t commuting to work or going on road trips, you might want to look into an alternative car insurance model like pay-per-mile insurance.
In this plan, you’ll get charged a base rate per month plus a per-mile rate. Your monthly bill will depend on how much you drive. For example, if you drive 600 miles in a month at a $29 base rate and a $0.05 per-mile rate, your bill for that month would be $59. But, if you do return to commuting to your office you could end up paying more per month than with a traditional car insurance policy.
Reconsider Dropping Optional Coverage
If you have an older car and you’re considering dropping collision and comprehensive insurance to save on your insurance policy, Forbes Advisor recommends that you reconsider. Dropping coverage could leave you with a significant coverage gap. But you don’t have to drop both. It may be better financially to drop collision insurance but keep comprehensive insurance, which pays for repairs, such as ones caused by hail or falling tree branches that don’t involve your own driving.
Check on Auto Policy for Delivery Job
If you’ve taken on a delivery job and use your car for deliveries from a restaurant, grocery store, or other business, check with your car insurer to see if you need a commercial auto policy. If you’re involved in an accident while working, your personal auto policy may not cover your claim and you could be held responsible for repair bills and medical expenses.
Cover Your Teenage Driver
If you have a teen who’s driving, you’re going to pay a premium rate for his car insurance. Adding an inexperienced teen driver to your insurance will add an average of about $1,700 annually to your car insurance bill, based on Forbes Advisor’s research.
But there are ways to reduce anxiety about teen driving. By being a good driver role model, you can spend time driving with your teen and instill safe driving habits, including not using a phone while driving. If your teenager keeps accidents and violations off his driving record, the result will be substantially cheaper rates.
Protect Senior Driver’s Rates
If you are a senior driver with a perfect driving record, with no accidents or claims, you might wonder why your car insurance rates have increased. You might be in excellent health for someone your age and you might feel that your insurer is discriminating based on how old you are. However, insurance companies are legally allowed to charge any premium they want based on your driving record or age. Even if your reflexes are sharper than many other drivers of your age or drivers who are younger, your insurer will place you in the senior driver’s category along with other senior drivers whose reflexes are not as sharp as yours.
The following methods can help senior drivers save money on car insurance:
- Change your driving status. If you are retired, then changing your driving status to pleasure or leisure can help you save money. This status covers all of your daily routines that are non-work related. Drivers who are placed in this category will be seen as a lower-risk by their insurers and they will pay less on their insurance rates.
- Ask for a senior discount. Many insurance companies offer a discount to seniors who take a defensive driving course. These courses are not expensive and you can can stream them online at home. They can help you refresh your driving skills and knowledge and teach you how age-related diseases and medication can affect driving.
- Drop a driver from your policy. There are some states where not all the licensed drivers from a household are required to have car insurance. In order to reduce your policy rates, you can exclude anyone from your policy who no longer drives. Usually, those persons are older spouses or parents. Also, you can change the primary driver from your policy to someone from the household who is younger, but only if that person is the one who is driving the most.
- Improve your car’s safety. Another method used by drivers of any age to save on car insurance is to install safety devices on the vehicle. You can lower your premiums if you install safety systems like rearview cameras, lane drift, parking assist, and collision warning systems.
- Shop around. Maybe the best option you can have to lower your insurance rates is to shop around and compare different car insurance quotations. Insurance companies have different premiums for different groups of people. Compare insurance quotations to find an insurance rate and coverage to your advantage.
At InsureYouKnow.org, file copies of your proof of insurance, policy documents, and any car insurance claims or correspondence you file with your auto insurance carrier.
2021 Benefits for a Happy, Healthy, and Productive Workforce
December 30, 2020
According to a study by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, 42 percent of the U.S. workforce worked from home in 2020. New challenges for a stay-at-home workforce include balancing work while caring for children or the elderly, dealing with mental health and other medical issues, and having opportunities for options in their work schedules. In response to these issues, some proactive businesses plan to provide child-care enhancements, telehealth benefits, and other flexible opportunities in 2021 to keep employees happy, healthy, and productive.
Child Care Benefits
For working parents, COVID-19 has been a balancing act of work and home responsibilities. At the beginning of the pandemic, 60 percent of parents had no child care support and they currently spend, on average, 52 hours per week on child care, homeschooling, and other household tasks according to a Boston Consulting Group survey.
One of the most innovative trends of 2021 will be to offer expanded support for child care. Some employers will boost child care benefits to include tutoring services, emergency child care support, virtual support groups for parents, onsite day care in the workplace, in-home child care for work-at-home employees, and virtual activities to keep kids occupied. These supportive measures will help alleviate stress at home so parents can be more focused and productive at work.
Mental Health Support
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees struggling with mental health challenges seek support from employers to cope with stress, anxiety, and burnout. Employers can offer telehealth resources and other virtual health tools like meditation apps, access to professional therapy, sleep tools, resilience training, and one-on-one behavioral coaching.
In a recent survey of employers by the Business Group on Health, two-thirds of businesses said they offer online mental health support and that is expected to grow to 88 percent in 2021. The stress of the pandemic combined with increased access to telemedicine will result in expansion of mental health benefits. Patients who are uncomfortable seeking help for stress and anxiety in person may experience less apprehension in a telemedicine environment.
Most employers also are providing increased access to other online mental health support resources such as apps, videos, and additional on-demand information. Still others are implementing manager training to help supervisory staff recognize mental and behavioral health issues and direct employees to appropriate services.
Since the pandemic began, an unprecedented number of people have scheduled virtual medical appointments, fearing potential exposure to the coronavirus. As telehealth availability increased in 2020, more patients began opting for this type of care. Even those not worried about contact with COVID-19 have appreciated the convenience of not missing a day of work to spend hours going to a doctor’s office in person.
Telehealth options have been expanding for years with both healthcare providers and health insurance carriers offering consumers the option to seek non-emergency care for minor illnesses from the comfort of their own homes or offices.
Additional telehealth alternatives will likely be added to many employee health plans as a way to address concerns over direct contact during the COVID-19 pandemic and because of the overall convenience of virtual visits.
Improved In-office Benefits
During the pandemic, patients who have gone into a doctor’s office have been met with thermometers, sanitizers, fewer fellow patients in waiting rooms, and shorter waiting times. Consumers will continue to demand in 2021 a streamlined in-office experience without a loss of efficiency in the administration of healthcare.
Flexible PTO and Sick Leave
The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined
the workplace and employers’ leave policies to expand paid time off (PTO) and to
provide more flexibility around work hours.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March 2020, ensured all employees receive two weeks of paid sick leave to care for themselves or loved ones.
Taking time off includes not only
going on a vacation but also allows for leave for family and caregiver roles to
achieve a good work-life balance that helps employees be productive at work and
more present in their personal lives. With many employees having no place to go
for an extended vacation, employers are also changing PTO policies out of
concern employees won’t use allotted paid time off during the pandemic.
Some employers are allowing employees to carry over a portion of unused PTO into 2021, while others are experimenting with PTO sharing programs, so employees can donate their vacation time to a charity, a general company fund, or a specific colleague.
A combination of adjusting time off policies, offering more flexible work schedules, or adopting new policies in general are some of the ways employers will address these concerns in 2021.
As the pandemic sent shockwaves through the U.S. labor market with layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs, employers made sure to support employees through financial challenges with benefits like early wage access, automated savings programs, and education resources.
Many employers provide optional benefits like additional life or disability insurance as well as offering employees resources and education to reduce stress and enhance financial well-being. Some programs include educational sessions on common topics like reducing debt, while others include complimentary meetings with financial advisors. A few companies have opted to solve their PTO dilemma and financial stress by allowing employees to directly apply a PTO payout to student loan debt.
Health and Fitness Options
The transition to remote work means employees may be more sedentary than in an office building. To help employees alleviate stress and stay physically active, new virtual fitness offerings have become a must-have employee benefit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countless employers are taking
their wellness programs online, offering virtual yoga, kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do,
and other types of fitness classes. Wellness contests such as virtual fun runs,
walks, and biking competitions also have been popular.
Some employers have hosted virtual lunch and learning programs, as well as online happy hours, and collaborative movie viewing. Many have introduced online gaming sessions, which have included trivia contests, Zoom bingo, and competitions for best virtual backgrounds. Still others are relying on old-fashioned but Zoom-friendly games such as Scattergories, Pictionary, Charades, and Heads-up.
Expansion of Other Benefits
Many employers will continue to make their benefits plans more attractive by increasing the availability of additional voluntary benefits such as life and disability insurance, home, auto, and pet insurance, financial counseling, and legal services. These options can often differentiate one business from another helping to attract and retain qualified employees.
Employers are also finding creative ways to reward remote staff with food delivery service gift cards and subsidies to pay for home office equipment such dual monitors and comfortable, ergonomic office chairs, as well as Internet or cellular services that they use for work.
In 2021, out-of-pocket costs are predicted to increase from 5 to 10 percent for healthcare premiums. Insurance claims for preventive and elective care that were put on hold during the pandemic also may increase maximum costs and deductibles.
If your employer institutes any new benefits or offers you upgraded options designed to contribute to your happiness, health, and productivity, keep track of your employment benefit changes at InsureYouKnow.org.