Insurance Blog
Monday, 21 November 2016 16:03

Safety Tips for Black Friday Shoppers

By Trusted Choice Staff Writer

 

The day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year.  When it comes to cashing-in on the day’s deals, the motto is “If you snooze you lose.”

Many stores will open at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and some retailers will even open their doors on Thanksgiving eve in hopes that they can entice people out of their post-turkey dinner food coma. For serious bargain-hunters, the day is the ultimate shopping extravaganza that requires a strategic plan, including store maps and item locations, that’s hatched days in advance. Others take a less organized approach, but are still hungry for a deal or this year’s hottest holiday toy.

The combination of too-good-to-be-true deals and shoppers hopped up on copious amounts of caffeine and tryptophan can be dangerous, though. Overzealous drivers can make parking lots a zoo and sleep-deprived shoppers are less likely to pay attention to the road. Unfortunately, Black Friday, which is considered the unofficial start to the holiday season, also brings out thieves, pickpockets, and others who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.

Whether you’re leaving the house at the crack of dawn (or dusk) in search of Black Friday deals or saving your holiday shopping for the last minute, keep these safety tips in mind when navigating the parking lots and wandering the aisles.

On the Road and in the Parking Lot:

  • When backing out of a parking spot, be aware of waiting cars, others who are backing out at the same time, and motorists who speed through lanes.
  • Lock all doors and roll up all windows even when leaving the car for a short period of time.
  • When shopping, keep gifts in the trunk or hidden from view in the interior of the car. Also, put all of your packages in the trunk before departing one parking lot and driving to another. Waiting until your next shopping destination allows others to see packages go into the trunk of your car and then you departing into the mall or store.
  • Avoid parking next to vans and large trucks that block your space from general vision of others.
  • Make a mental note or write down exactly where you park your car to avoid wandering around longer than necessary.
  • During the day, park away from buildings to reduce the chance of dings from car doors or shopping carts. At night, avoid secluded areas and park directly under lights whenever possible.
  • Have your keys in hand when leaving a store. Also, look underneath your car before you reach it; criminals have been known to lie underneath in wait.
  • Bring gifts in the house with you instead of leaving them in the car.

In the Store:

  • Use a credit card to avoid thefts of large amounts of cash that are irreplaceable.
  • Shopping with a single credit card is preferable because it’s easier to cancel one, rather than several, if your wallet or purse is stolen.
  • Keep purses zipped and close to your body. Never leave a purse unattended in a shopping cart where it is more susceptible to theft.
  • Keep a reference list of phone and account numbers for all your credit cards in a safe place at home.
  • If possible, carry keys, cash, and credit cards separate from each other.
  • For freedom of motion and clear visibility, do not overload yourself with bags when leaving a store and returning to your car. It’s difficult to defend yourself with when you’re carry a lot of packages.
  • Use ATMs in well-populated, well lit locations. Do not throw ATM receipts away at the ATM location.
  • Remember there is increased safety in numbers. Avoid walking alone and leave malls and stores well before closing time to assure a more active parking lot. Ask mall security to walk you to your car if you feel you are not safe.

In additions to remembering these safety tips, you should also review your insurance policies with your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage in case an accident or theft does occur. Liability coverage will protect you if you hit another motorist, collision coverage will cover the damage to your car, and comprehensive coverage will insure you for damage by vandals or theft of your vehicle.

Published in Homeowners

Here is a piece by IIABA's Trusted Choice which give you concrete ways to prevent property crimes. 

 

Property Crime prevention

 

Are you unknowingly enticing potential thieves to damage your property or break into your home? While you want your home to be a welcoming environment for family and friends, you might be surprised how common habits might be inviting to criminals, too. According to the FBI, there were over nine million property crimes in the United States in 2010. This statistic includes vandalism, arson, larceny and theft. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for burglary and property damage with these easy-to-follow tips.

Make It a Point to Keep Everything Locked Up

While you probably lock your vehicle and the main points of entry into your home, you may overlook locking your fence gates, garage or garden shed from time to time. The San Jose Police Department strongly encourages homeowners and renters to lock all doors, windows, and any point of entry to their property to deter theft. An unlocked gate allows a thief access to your backyard, away from the view of your neighbors. Once inside your yard, a thief has more freedom to peer through windows and patio doors. Access to garages and garden sheds also gives a thief more tools to use to break into your home. For example, a ladder in your backyard could make it much easier for a criminal to enter your home from the second story—where windows are more likely to be unlocked. Tools such as drills, hammers, and crowbars are also kept in many sheds and garages and can be used to break windows and open doors. Even if a thief is unable to get into your home, your backyard likely has valuable items such as a barbeque grill or bicycle.

Be Careful with Your Trash

Even what you throw away for curbside pickup can make you a target for theft, says the Bristol Herald Courier of Virginia. Perhaps you took advantage of Black Friday deals after Thanksgiving and scored a great price on a large  flat-screen television. After unpacking a television, gaming console, or computer, many people leave the boxes at the curb for recycling or trash pickup. Unfortunately, most packaging for expensive electronics shows pictures, brand names and specifications of the products in plain view. Placing boxes at the curb makes your home a target for thieves looking for electronics to steal. When unpacking electronics, break down the boxes and packaging instead and place them in black trash bags.

Maintain Your Home's Lawn and Landscape

Did you know that your landscape might entice property thieves? According to a presentation by the City of Mesa, Arizona Police Department, the way in which your home is landscaped and maintained affects your risk for theft. For example, large, untrimmed shrubs and bushes can give criminals a place to hide—especially at night. Be sure to keep hedges and bushes cut back so that the majority of your yard can be easily seen from a number of vantage points. On the other hand, shrubs and bushes can deter theft as well. Thieves are less likely to attempt to break into windows with landscaping underneath. Small bushes can provide an obstruction to otherwise easily accessible windows.

Light Up Your Property

Dark properties are alluring to those with malicious intent. Hiding under the cloak of darkness makes sneaking around someone's home much easier. The San Jose Police Department recommends keeping your home's exterior well illuminated with motion sensor lighting. This type of lighting can be found in hardware stores throughout the country. Because the lights are activated by movement, you don't have to worry about lights staying on night and day. If you choose to install motion sensor lights, make sure they illuminate your backyard, the sides of your property, and driveways or pathways. When installing this type of lighting, the higher the light is mounted the better, so that criminals cannot reach the bulbs to unscrew them.

Consider Using a Security Alarm

Security systems come with a variety of features to suit almost any budget. From basic systems that sound off loud alerts when an armed point of entry or window is breached to high-tech systems that allow for surveillance from a tablet or smart phone, there is likely a system that offers the best features  for your needs. Not only is the loud sound of a security alarm a major deterrent, many systems alert your local police department that your security has been compromised in some way. Furthermore, signage such as picket signs and window or door decals from your security system company can deter criminals as well. Many homeowners and renters insurance policies offer discounts for homes armed with security systems. Talk to your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent regarding home security discounts.

One of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker's Trusted Choice agents can make sure you have the best policy to protect your property, and even provide you with more helpful tips for preventing theft and vandalism.

Published in Homeowners

Here's are important tips to get your fireplace ready for the winter season from our friends at Trusted Choice

 

fireplace

Once the sun sets this time of the year, you feel the cool air creep in. It’s those crisp, cool evenings that often give homeowners the itch to start a fire in the fireplace and curl up on the couch. Before you have your first fire of the season, take these safety steps to ensure a relaxing, cozy night doesn’t turn into a stressful situation.

  1. Hire a professional to clean and inspect your chimney. In addition to creosote build-up, therecan be other issues such as leaves or birds’ nests that pose a problem. The chimney structure and liner should also be looked over carefully for any signs of deterioration.
  2. Stock up on seasoned hardwood. Ideally, you want wood that has been split and stacked for at least 6 months. Not only will you get more heat out of this type of wood, but it leaves less creosote behind, reducing the main risk factor for a chimney fire.
  3. Have the right supplies. Use kindling instead of a flammable lighter fluid, and build the fire on a metal grate. Use a metal screen or glass doors to keep sparks from flying out of the fireplace. Store matches and lighters up high.
  4. Move items near the fireplace. Over the summer, the hearth might become a place to store any number of items, including magazines, books, pillows, and toys. Make sure all items are moved a good distance from the fireplace.
  5. Educate children about fireplace safety. Make sure they know to stay away from the fire and never play with matches or a lighter.

There’s nothing better than the first fire of the season. Gazing into the flames and hearing the wood crackle is the perfect way to end a long day. Before you use your fireplace this fall, follow these steps to ensure a safe experience.

Published in Homeowners

Gather Emergency Supplies

Here's a terrific checklist from the CDC. If a disaster strikes in your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for several days. You may think that you will have enough time to run to the grocery store, but stores quickly sell out of important supplies following emergency warnings. Unfortunately, about half of adults in the United States do not have the resources and plans in place for a possible emergency. Preparing emergency kits for your family is an important step in keeping them safe and healthy during a disaster.

Pack an emergency supply kit. Here's what you'll need:

At Least a 3-day Supply of Food and Water

  • Water - one gallon per person, per day
  • Food - foods that are easy to make and won't spoil, like canned soup, dry pasta, and powdered milk
  • Manual can opener
  • Basic utensils to prepare and serve meals

Health Supplies

  • 3-day supply of all medicines, at a minimum
  • Medical supplies like syringes, a walking cane, or hearing aids with extra batteries

Personal Care Items

  • Soap
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Baby wipes
  • Contact lenses or glasses

Safety Supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Multipurpose tool (that can act as a knife, file, pliers, and screwdriver)
  • Whistle

Electronics:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides weather updates during emergencies. Look for a radio labeled "NOAA Weather Radio."
  • Flashlight
  • Radio (battery-powered, solar, or hand-crank) for updates on the situation
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Extra batteries

Documents

	Map, cash, key, and copies of important documents

Keep copies of your important documents, cash, spare keys, and maps in you emergency supply kit.

  • Copies of important documents such as insurance cards and immunization records
  • Paperwork about any serious or on-going medical condition
  • Your completed family emergency plan, complete with family and emergency contact information.

You should also keep

  • Extra cash
  • Maps of the area
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys

Taking Care of Others

You may need additional supplies to make sure the whole family is ready.

For Children

  • Baby supplies like bottles, formula, baby food, and diapers
  • Games and activities for children

For Pets

	A wet dog on a floatation device with a bag of supplies on a flooded street.

Plan ahead so you’re ready to take care of your pet during an emergency.

  • Food and Water:
    • A 3-day supply of food and water for each pet. A cat or a dog will generally need 1 gallon for three days.
    • Bowls or bottles
    • Manual can opener
  • Cleaning Supplies:
    • Depending on the pet, you may need a litter box, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach
  • Health and Safety:
    • Medicines and medical records stored in a waterproof container
    • First aid kit with a pet first aid book
  • Transport supplies:
    • A sturdy leash, harness, and carrier to transport pets safely. A carrier should be large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for several hours.
  • Comfort Items:
    • Pet toys and the pet's bed, if you can easily bring it, to reduce stress
  • Paperwork:
    • Current photos and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them, and to prove that they are your pets, in case you become separated from them
    • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and telephone number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care

Keep these tips in mind!

	A storage box of emergency supplies including a first aid kit, flashlight, water bottles, and crackers.

Check and replace your supplies throughout the year.

Personalize

Every family is unique. You may have emergency needs not included in this list. Also, remember to update your kit according to changing needs of your family.

Be sure it's ready to use

In a disaster situation, you may need to get your emergency supply kit quickly, whether you are sheltering at home or evacuating.

  • Once you have gathered your supplies, pack the items in easy-to-carry containers.
  • Clearly label the containers and store them where you can reach them easily.
  • Remember that certain items, like medications and paper documents, need to be kept in waterproof containers.

Keep it Fresh

Check the expiration dates on food, water, medicine, and batteries at least two times per year. It's extremely important that all items in your kit are functional at the time of an emergency.

Involve Children

Families can make emergencies less stressful by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Ready Wrigley can help!

  • Ask your kids to think of items that they would like to include in an emergency supply kit, such as books, games, and pre-packaged foods.
  • Your kids can mark the dates on a calendar for checking emergency supplies. Tell them to remind you when it's time to check the supplies.
  • Include kids in planning and creating disaster kits for family pets.

Know Your House

Find out where your gas, electric, and water shut-off locations are, and how to turn them off.

Prepare For Everywhere

Emergencies can happen anywhere. Remember to prepare supplies for home, work, and vehicles.

More information:

  • Emergency water supply
  • Emergency food supply
  • Pet Emergency Checklist
Published in Homeowners

Home security is an important topic these days. Unfortunately, a home burglary happens once every 15 seconds in the United States. This translates to a staggering 2.2 billion burglaries each year. Burglars targeting residences will mainly strike during daytime hours when they assume most homeowners are at work. Many people are surprised to learn that the main point of entry for burglars is through the front door. Deadbolt locks help a lot, but they are not enough to deter a determined burglar. A home security system can be a crucial defense against thieves. The best security system for you might take some research – but we hope this guide will help you make the right decision for your family.

 

 

What Are the Advantages of a Home Security System?

Most people purchase home security systems mainly to protect their homes from burglars. In addition to serving as an effective deterrent against property crimes, these systems can also save your home from excessive fire damage and protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. They are typically equipped with several types of sensors that can notify a team of experts of problems around the clock. This way, if you leave an appliance on and it begins to smolder, the security company can have the fire department at your house within minutes to contain any flames.

Another advantage to having this type of system installed in your home is that most insurance companies will reward you for being proactive. They do this in the form of significant discounts on your home insurance policy. These discounts can range from 2 to 20 percent and this can help to mitigate the cost of 24/7 monitoring of your home.


What Features Should I Look for in a Home Alarm System?

When it comes to deciding on a home security system, think “layered security.” Layered security is having more than one type of protection. This can include sensors on the doors and windows that trigger home alarms, alarm services that include security cameras mounted outside your residence, and motion sensors that can turn on lights and activate alarms. Glass-break sensors are also a smart addition, as many wireless sensors will not detect the shattering of glass.

Some features that you can expect the best home security system companies to provide include:

  • Control panels and keypads
  • Smoke and heat detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Motion sensors
  • Wireless window and door sensors
  • Glass break sensors
  • Pressure mats
  • Panic buttons
  • Alarmed screens for your windows
  • Video monitoring
  • Flood monitoring in your basement, bathroom and garage
  • The ability to monitor and control your system remotely

Not all of these features may be important or appeal to you. The best home security system for you is one that offers everything you want at a price you can afford. There are many home security companies out there, so there is no need to compromise and give up a feature you want just because the company you choose does not offer it.

How Do I Select the Best Home Security System Provider?

Hiring a home security system provider is easy; hiring the best home security system provider takes a bit a research. Consumer Reports recently noted that the range of services and costs among home security companies varies significantly. Because you have many options and the prices can vary greatly from company to company, it’s a good idea to make careful comparisons when you shop.

  1. Assemble a list of providers near you. You may want to include both smaller, local companies and large national companies in your list.
  2. Compile a list of features that are important to you. Eliminate any companies on your list that do not offer those features.
  3. Research each of these companies online. Sites such as Consumer Reports and Angie’s List will provide unbiased reviews of the companies you are considering. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure that the companies you are considering are trustworthy. Eliminate any companies that are rated poorly by these sites.
  4. Research price quotes from companies on your list. Keep in mind that there may be additional, less obvious fees such is if you must pay to lease the equipment used each month or if there are added costs if the service alarm is activated.

Based on the rates, narrow you list down to three or four companies and arrange to have each of them come to your house to give you an quoted price for installation and monthly service fees.

An important factor to consider when choosing a home security system is customer support and monitoring. Customer service should be friendly and efficient and the representative who came to your home should have been knowledgeable about what the company does and does not offer.

Home security systems include round-the-clock monitoring and can range from $20 to $60 per month, depending on the company and the features and services you choose.

Beware of Hidden Costs or Pitfalls

Scams and of hidden fees may be charged by one company, but not others. For example:

  • Early termination fees: Some companies will require you to sign a contract for a given number of years. Sometimes this is required of all customers and other times it is offered as a way to get discounts or free installation. Be aware of high early termination fees that are are applicable even if you move out of the house.
  • Promises by a salesperson: Sometimes, less scrupulous sales personnel will make promises to entice you, but if these terms are not in the contract you sign, you could be locked into an agreement that isn’t ideal. Be sure to get all sales agreements in writing and included with your contract.
  • Security company liability limits: If your home is broken into or damaged, your home security company may be liable for a portion of your losses. The liability limit your security company has may cover the deductible on your home insurance policy, or it may be used to cover your entire loss. Some companies have very low limits for how much liability they will pay and you may be agreeing to these low limits when you sign the contract. Be sure to ask about this and read the contract carefully.

Do Not Rely Exclusively on Your Burglar Alarm

While home security systems can alert authorities of an intruder in your home, unless you live next door to a police station, you should not expect the police to arrive instantaneously. Burglars will still have time to grab some belongings and run. This is where layered security comes in. By taking additional precautionary steps, you can minimize your risks.

Some things you can do to keep your property safe include:

  • Always lock your door when you are not at home
  • If you have an alarm system installed, be sure to use stickers on your window or signs on the lawn to alert potential burglars that you are protected
  • Even if you do not have a dog, “beware of dog” signs may give a burglar pause
  • Keep your lawn and front porch clean and well kept, so that the front door to your home is easily visible by passers-by
  • Leave a radio on and tuned to a talk station when not at home
  • When you go on vacation
  • Ask a neighbor put some garbage in your cans and put them out on collection day
  • Put in a stop mail request with the post office
  • Put some lights on timers
  • Avoid advertising that you are on vacation by posting on social networking sites

 

Get Peace of Mind Knowing that Your Home Is Protected

Of course, home security systems are not all created equal. The brands available to you may vary depending on your home’s specifications, and it is possible that one company might better meet your budgetary and some security needs than another. The important thing is that you review everything that your prospective companies offer before making a decision about which is the best home security company for you.

Once you have chosen a home security system and install it in your home, you can breathe a little easier knowing that your family and your possessions are safely protected from the dangers of fire and theft.

And of course, as an additional measure of protection, make sure your insurance is up-to-date and you have the best coverage for your needs. Contact us at Baldwin / Welsh & Parker (BWP) for personal attention.

Published in Homeowners
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