winter preparation

Winter Preparation: How to Prepare your Home for Winter

Preparation is the key to having a wonderful winter and lessening your chances of expensive damage to your home. Preparing  for the upcoming months may seem troubling. If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of preparing your home for winter, here are a few tips on how and what to look for, to simplify the winterization process. 

Plumbing problems

Frozen and burst pipes are one of the main dangers of a cold winter and can cost up to $5,000 to repair and fix the damage. To prevent plumbing problems, you need to drain all outdoor faucets (like garden hoses and in-ground sprinklers) and insulate any exposed pipes. If you plan to go on vacation, don’t forget that you need to leave the heat on to keep your pipes from freezing. You should also let your faucets drip during a cold snap as an additional safeguard against freezing.

Drafts

A cold winter draft isn’t just uncomfortable, it raises your heating bill and can even cause frozen pipes. Check weather stripping around windows, doors and vents to see what might need to be replaced. If you see any holes or gaps around the outside of your house, you can fill them in with caulk.

Heating system

Get your furnace thoroughly checked by an HVAC professional who will change your filter. If you have a fireplace, have your chimney inspected and cleaned before you start using it for cozy winter nights. You don’t want to wait for a cold night before you make sure you have a way to stay warm.

Roof and gutters

Gutters clogged with fall leaves can quickly freeze up and fail to drain off melted snow and ice. It is important to make sure that your gutters are clean before the chance of snow and ice so that all moisture drains away from your home and doesn’t pool near your foundation. While you are at it, have a professional check your roof for ice dams. Ice dams are areas on your roof where heat from your home melts ice unevenly. These areas won’t allow snow and ice to drain off properly, which can weaken your roof.

Our team wishes you a safe and joyous winter season.  On that note, please remember if you have any questions regarding your Home Owners Insurance Policy as winter moves in, do not hesitate to reach out to the Northeast – Metro West Insurance Team.

fall home maintenance checklist

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Fall is such a wonderful time of the  year. A welcome reprieve from the heat of summer, fall is a good time to prepare for the cold winter ahead. A fall home maintenance checklist is essential if you want to be prepared for winter and avoid costly and unexpected accidents or breakdowns in your home. What’s on your checklist? There are the obvious things like making sure your furnace runs or insulating outdoor spigots, but what about less obvious things like your humidifier or gutters? Check out this handy fall home maintenance checklist to keep your home in order:

Furnace

Schedule a professional tune-up of your furnace during the fall to address any issues that may have developed over the summer. Some common issues that homeowners face are noisy belts and inconsistencies in heating. These could be signs of more serious issues that a professional HVAC company can diagnose and fix. Also, don’t forget to change your air filters. Dirty filters will put more strain on your furnace plus circulate dust into your home causing allergies and sickness.

Gutters

Snow and ice will really do a number on gutters, especially if they are still full of summer and fall leaves. Overflowing gutters can cause damage to your home’s foundation by dumping water too close to the house. Take advantage of the cool, but not too cold, fall weather to check over your gutters. Make sure they are cleaned from all debris and are rust-free. Install mesh guards to keep any lingering leaves from building up again.

Freezing water

Freezing water can burst pipes and deepen cracks in your driveway. Take a two-fold approach against freezing water: first, insulate outdoor spigots using styrofoam caps that you can buy at any home store. Drain the lines leading to the outdoor spigots first to prevent any pipes bursting. Secondly, take a walk and look for any small cracks in your driveways and paths. Repair small cracks before they get bigger and pose a trip and fall threat to you and your guests.           

Humidifier

Dry air during the winter makes hardwood floors and furniture more susceptible to cracking. Give your humidifier a thorough check out before cold temperatures arrive. Keeping your humidity at an appropriate level (between 40 and 50 percent) will keep you healthier during the winter months as well. Your humidifier will make your home feel more comfortable and even help you to spend less money on heating.

If you have any questions about your homes insurance policy, please reach out to the Northeast – Metro West Team by clicking here.

fireplace safety

Top Fireplace Safety Tips

There are so many things to enjoy as the weather gets cooler and the leaves start falling. One of those simple pleasures is using your fireplace on a cold night. Something you might not think about, however, is fireplace safety. Any other time of the year, it might blend into the walls in your house, so it’s easy to forget. The truth is, misuse and neglect can lead to dangerous consequences. So before you get cozy, make sure to follow our tips for being safe this fall and winter.

Check the Chimney

Anything that is constantly, or even seasonally, in use needs a cleaning. Your chimney is no different. A buildup of highly flammable material will occur if you don’t take care of it. As old-fashioned as it sounds, chimney sweeps still exist, and you should definitely hire one to clean it. Once a year should be sufficient.

How old is your chimney? Check out its walls to make sure no loose pieces are coming apart from the foundation. Any blockage and structural issues require attention, sometimes from professionals.

When lighting a fire, open the flue so smoke can properly move out of the chimney. This keeps smoke and ash from redirecting into the house, especially during windy weather. Having the flue closed at all other times prevents animals or other debris from getting inside.

Inspect the Firewood You Use

The type of wood used is vital for fireplace safety. Dry wood, specially seasoned, is the best to burn. Seasoned wood is dried or aged over a period of time. The opposite of that is green wood, wood that was recently cut. Greenwood and wet wood will produce more residue and smoke. Burn the wood in smaller pieces if you want a faster burn. Of course, once the fire is out, clean any ash and wood left behind.

Be Responsible

When you want to be completely sure, use common sense to confirm all precautions are taken. Think about possible scenarios and ask yourself some questions to see if you are prepared. Are the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors new or working? Is someone constantly tending to or watching the fireplace? Is there any decor or items near the fireplace that are flammable or at risk of damage? Are you using a protective screen? Do you have a fire extinguisher? When you are alert and responsible, fireplace safety will be easy.

If you have any questions about your Homeowners or Rental Insurance Policy be sure to give us a call.

Northeast – Metro West Insurance Agency
(800) 443 7007

insurance for millennials

3 Tips for Insurance for Millennials

Millennials can’t seem to get a fair shake these days. It seems like everyone wants to blame them for one thing or another. In reality, though, millennials are just like any other generation out there: working, paying bills and trying to find insurance. But finding just the right insurance can be difficult, if you don’t know what you’re looking for. How can you find the right insurance for millennials? Here are some tips to help you sort it all out:

1) Audit All The Items You Need Insurance For

Insurance carriers may offer discounts for when you are insuring multiple items. By knowing all your insurance needs your agent can review which carriers are going to offer you the best insurance options to match your needs. In addition, this will help with your monthly bill paying tasks. It is much more convenient to review statements from one carrier if possible. 

2) Talk With Your Agent About Possible Discounts

At Metro-West Northeast Insurance Agency are agents are always a phone call away. This allows you to review potential savings. For example some carriers offer discounts for items like Security Systems, AAA Memberships, and Auto Payment Options. Keeping your agent in the loop helps them understand your needs and provide the best over all value.

3) Understand What Your Deductibles Are

When you are speaking with your agent discuss with him rates vs deductibles. An agent can better asses your insurance needs if he understands what you are prepared for should a claim need to be filed. Then after you have reviewed this with your agent place some funds into a separate account to have on hand in case a file is claimed. Depending on your personal preferences you may rather have a smaller monthly insurance rate that has a larger deductible because you are prepared for the deductible if need be. On the other hand, you may rather pay a few dollars more monthly and have a smaller deductible.

Your relationship with your agent is really the key to having the best insurance that suits your needs. Metro-West Northeast Insurance Agents take pride in understanding their clients needs. If by chance you feel your current agent is not up to speed on your current needs give them a call.

If you are not insured with an agent from Metro-West Northeast Insurance Agency please reach out and our team will provide a free assessment. 

tips for summer drives

20 Tips for Summer Drives

It is that time of year, vacation time. Are you preparing for summer adventures across several states? Not only do you need to have a plan for your summer travels such as what to bring, where you are staying, food, entertainment, and more you need to consider your long drive ahead.

We put together 20 tips to consider as you get ready for your trip that will help you keep your eye on the road and ensure a safe, happy and memory of a lifetime trip!

  1. Get plenty of sleep the night before your long drive.
  1. Make sure your vehicle is in condition to take you on a long trip. This includes filling its gas tank and properly inflating its tires.
  1. Have your phone fully charged before your trip. In case of a problem, you can call emergency services right away.
  2. Have snacks with you to keep up your sustainability. Do not consume caffeinated drinks if you are driving, as their effects only last temporarily and get worse over time.
  3. Do not drink before driving. Even though you will not get erratic behavior after just one drink, it will cause you to become drowsy.
  4. Fasten your seatbelt to not only stay safe on the road but to also avoid a ticket from a police officer.
  5. Pull over every few hours and get some rest, get out of the car and stretch your legs, or stop somewhere and eat.
  6. If you have kids, make sure that they have something to occupy themselves with, such as novels or crossword puzzle books.
  7. If possible, share driving responsibilities with another person that you are driving with.
  8. Turn on the radio and/or listen to music to help you stay awake.
  9. Do not use your cell phone while driving. If you are using it as a GPS, keep it in a safe place within your reach, yet out of your line of sight.
  10. In cases of extreme traffic, use your GPS to find a detour that you can use to keep moving and not get stuck.
  11. As a backup plan, bring a traditional map with you, in case your GPS fails or is not reliable.
  12. Sign up for AAA or a roadside assistance program from your insurance provider.
  13. Conserve gas by going at the speed limit. It requires less fuel to drive slower.
  14. Stop at a gas station and refill your tank once you have 25 percent remaining.
  15. For food, avoid convenience stores and gas stations, and instead stop at a grocery or drug store, as you will get a larger and healthier selection of food.
  16. In case of a large storm, pull over and stop on the side of the road. Resume driving once the weather improves.
  17. Keep all valuables in either the trunk or glove compartment, this includes money that you may have to pay for parking or toll roads.

 

The key to a great trip is to plan ahead. Take your time and have fun! We would love to hear from you, do you have any special tips that you do to prepare for your vacations? Comment below.

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

 

21606849 - funny little girl swims in a pool in an yellow life preserver

7 Pool Safety Tips for a Fun Filled Summer

Summer is the perfect time to spend time with family and friends and to enjoy your pool. Create beautiful memories but, most importantly, keep safety in mind. Follow these seven tips to ensure everyone has a safe and happy pool season.

Pool Safety Tips to keep your family safe.

1. Install a Fence

The fence should be at least four feet high. Make sure the fence has a self-locking gate and doesn’t have lawn furniture, shrubs or anything else that would provide a boost to a child trying to climb over the fence.

2. Supervise Your Kids at All Times

Make sure your kids are always within an arm’s reach. Designate an adult to keep an eye out on the kids all the time, ignore your phone and have someone else attend to the grill. Young or inexperienced swimmers should always wear arm floats or life jackets.

3. Teach Your Kids to Swim

Enroll your kids in swimming lessons or teach them to swim yourself. The best way to prevent accidents in the pool is to make sure you know the skill level of all swimmers.

4. Establish Pool Rules

Establish easy-to-remember pool safety rules. Post the rules where everyone can see them and encourage safe behavior. Keep things simple, write a few basics on a whiteboard, such as “no diving”, “swim with a buddy”, and “no running”. You can also purchase an inexpensive pool rules sign and install it near the pool gate.

5. Never Swim Alone

Even experienced swimmers can experience emergencies while in the water, like leg cramp or heart attack. If you choose to swim alone, make sure someone in the household knows where you are.

6. Don’t Skip Maintenance

Check your pool equipment regularly, repair non-slip surfaces when they wear out and make sure all ladders and railings are secure. Maintain proper chemicals levels – test the water regularly and make sure it is clear and there are no leaves or debris floating in the pool.

7. Know How to Respond in Case of Emergency

Keep a first aid kit and rescue equipment by the pool; learn CPR and take water safety classes and teach your kids what to do in case of emergency. Being prepared will help you, your family and your guests feel more relaxed.

Taking these steps for pool safety will ensure a fun-filled summer.  Do you have a pool? Give us a call to review the pool coverage on your homeowner’s policy.  Contact us at (800) 443-7007 and one of our team members will be happy to help.

boat insurance

Boating Safety Tips: Preparing for Spring Boating

Spring is upon us and it is time to prepare your boat for the first launch of the year. Reviewing boat safety is always a good idea before the first cruise of the season. This includes an inspection of your boat and the equipment you have onboard. You will also want to make sure all of your documents are up to date, as most marinas will require proof of boat insurance before issuing a slip. Here is a short list of tips to prepare for the upcoming boating season.

Preparing Your Boat

Complete legal requirements first and verify that your registration, boat insurance, license, and decal are all current. A boat insurance policy provides property damage and bodily injury liability, giving you added peace of mind when out for a day of sun, wind, and water.

Once you have all paperwork in order, it is time to inspect your boat.

  • Check the hull for any damage that may have occurred in the offseason.
  • Ensure that your engine and water pump are working properly.
  • Test navigation lights, GPS, radars and radios, and purchase replacement bulbs and batteries.
  • Check and repair, if needed, all onboard safety equipment.
  • Life jackets are crucial to safety on the water with one jacket per person required. Check that no holes are present and that they will still fit your friends and family.
  • In the event of engine failure, you will need paddles or a trolling motor to return safely to shore.
  • Do you have the correct type of flares?
  • Have you inspected your anchors, anchor lines, and dock lines?
  • Has your fire extinguisher expired?
  • If you are transporting your boat to launch, do not forget to assess the trailer. Examine all tires, hitches, wires, and bearings before transport.

Safe Boating Tips

Once your boat has passed its seasonal check up and the time has come for your first departure. There are precautions that should be taken to ensure a fun and safe time on the water.

  • Look up weather conditions before leaving the marina to avoid being caught in a storm.
  • Each person on the boat should wear their life jacket at all times.
  • Develop a float plan to alert someone on shore if you are gone longer than expected.
  • Do not rely on your cell phone as the only means of communication. Multiple devices such as radios, walkie-talkies or locator beacons with spare batteries are good choices.
  • A secondary captain should be capable of operating the boat should the need arise.
  • Avoid alcohol while on the water.

Following the rules of the water will ensure a safe and happy boating season!

Before your next trip on the water, be sure you have the coverage you need for your boat insurance. Our team is happy to assist in helping answer your questions and making sure you are fully covered. Call us at (800) 443-7007.

spring safety tips

Spring Safety Tips

The weather is getting warmer,  trees and plants are beginning to bud and bloom, and soon enough spring will have sprung once again. Along with better weather and beauty, spring also brings with it potential safety hazards in and around your home. It’s a good idea to observe the following safety tips and prepare your home and property accordingly for the additional risks of springtime.

Safety Tips for the Great Outdoors

  • Get a battery or crank-operated weather radio for severe spring weather like tornadoes and thunderstorms. The NOAA is still the best source for real-time weather and emergency services updates during natural disasters and storms that are prevalent in the spring.
  • Head inside when you hear thunder or see lightning. Try counting to thirty between the flash of the lightning and the sound of thunder. If you don’t make it to thirty, get to shelter quickly and remain there until at least thirty minutes after the last thunderclap.
  • Never attempt to cross flooded roads or streets on foot or in your vehicle. Even six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet and sweep you away. If you are in your vehicle and water is rising around you, immediately get out and seek higher ground. Even large cars and trucks can be swept away by as little as two feet of rapidly moving water.
  • Keep a stock of emergency supplies like water, canned and dried food, a can opener, and other necessities handy throughout the spring in case severe storms or flooding knock out power and utilities in your area.

Safety Tips for Inside Your Home

  • Check the batteries in your smoke detectors, and remember to change them out every time Daylight Savings Time changes.
  • Sign up for a PO box at your local Post Office, and send and receive mail there to protect yourself against identity theft.
  • Ensure all your door locks are in good working order, and you should have a deadbolt on all doors with exterior access.
  • Keep shrubs, hedges, and trees trimmed and well maintained to protect sightlines on your property and eliminate places an individual could easily hide when breaking into your home.
  • Don’t leave your garage door open while working in the yard unless you can keep it in your line of sight the entire time.

Safety Tips for Vacation

  • Don’t post plans about departure and return publicly on social media before you leave, and do not post photos while you are traveling. Disable GPS features on social media apps to prevent your mobile device from advertising the fact that you are away from home, too.
  • Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check out your home while you are away. Tell them to feel free to park in your driveway, and request that they pick up any flyers or papers that accumulate in your driveway in your absence.
  • Asking the post office to hold your mail deliveries until you return is highly recommended.
  • Turn off your garage door opener.
  • Use timers to mimic a typical lighting pattern for your daily activities inside the house.
  • Make sure your answering machine message on your landline phone does not imply that you are away for any significant amount of time.

Final Thoughts

Following these safety tips is a great way to keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe and secure during the warmer, more active months of spring. Remember to review your homeowners, car, and personal insurance annually to ensure your coverage is sufficient, and consider contacting Northeast Insurance should you require additional insurance. Let us help you protect your home and family during the spring and throughout the rest of the year.

dealing with identity theft

9 Tips For Dealing With Identity Theft

Identity theft is the term for what happens when a third party obtains your personal data and information that allows them to pose as you online. Typically, identity thieves apply for lines of credit or access your financial accounts and other sensitive information to steal as much of your money or open as many lines of credit as they can and leave you on the hook for their fraudulent activity.

Your personal data can be compromised if a financial institution is breached by hackers seeking to obtain usable identity information, and by the time breaches are discovered it may already be too late to save your credit. The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from being victimized by identity thieves. Here are 9 quick tips to protect yourself from identity theft.

1. Beware Shoulder Surfers in Public Places

At the ATM, on your phone, or even at your computer, people are on the lookout to steal personal information like passwords or PIN numbers by watching you enter them on a keypad or mobile device. Use biometric (fingerprint, facial recognition) security on your smartphone or mobile device to authorize apps that access your personal or financial data. Identity thieves often start looking for vulnerable or inattentive people in public places when choosing likely targets, so protect your information and keep your screen and keypad private.

2. Require Photo ID Verification

Don’t sign your credit cards. Write “CID” or “Ask for ID” on the signature line. It’s a small measure, but it can make all the difference in identity theft prevention if you don’t know your credit card has been stolen and someone is attempting to use it.

3. Wipe Out Old Data Storage

Selling or trading your old laptop, smartphone, or tablet? Wipe your data storage clean with an app like ShredXP to ensure that all sectors on the drive are set to 1 or 0, rendering any personal data whatsoever illegible. Identity thieves will often connect old hard drives taken from used computers to search for recoverable personal or financial information that has not been “digitally shredded”. 

Additionally, if you keep financial data on physical media like CDs, DVDs or magnetic tape backups, make sure you destroy them completely. There are specialized shredders that are designed to destroy optical storage media like CDs and DVDs as well.

4. Monitor Bank and Credit Card Statements Regularly

Check those charges and debits on your accounts. Someone may have access to your account and you may never know it until the charges start showing up. You have a limited time to dispute charges as fraudulent, so checking monthly is vital to preventing identity theft and maintaining your credit.

5. Shred Everything

Put anything with financial data on it in a crosscut paper shredder and don’t bag it up separately from regular trash. More identity thieves than you’d think go “dumpster diving” to find critical financial and personal information.

6. Encrypt Your Email and Messaging

Using end to end encryption ensures all messages you send or receive via email are invisible to any third party, up to and including government agency efforts to read your email and messaging. Hackers can’t access the contents of your email unless they somehow manage to get ahold of your private encryption key. It is an extremely effective means of preventing identity theft, and it takes minutes to configure.

7. Check Your Credit Annually

Everyone gets a free credit report once a year from the Big Three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). Go over your credit report and verify that what’s on the report matches your records and accounts. If some unknown lines of credit or creditors show up, you may already be a victim of identity theft.

8. Always Use 2-Factor Authentication

This is a critical security measure to prevent identity theft via financial and social media sites and apps. 2-factor authentication sends a text or email to an account or number you have entered on the site every time you login from an unfamiliar location, device, or computer. If you are actually logging in, you can approve that login from your device. If not, you are now aware that your account is under attack and can shut that attacker out.

9. Keep Your Social Security Number Secure

As the defacto national ID number for millions of Americans, access to this number should be protected at all costs. Do not carry your Social Security card on your person, but keep it in a safe place where it isn’t susceptible to damage or decay. Any identity thief with your full name, home address, and even the last 4 digits of your SSN can assume your identity online and wreak havoc on your financial life.

Never use your SSN as part of a username or password either, and never give the full number via telephone or in reply to an email. If you must enter your social security number online (for example, when filing taxes or applying for financing), check to make sure the connection and site are secure by the lock symbol in the browser bar and “https://” at the beginning of the web address.

In summary, do what you can to protect yourself from identity theft, and be smart about how you protect and preserve your personal data. Use these tips to keep yourself from becoming “low-hanging fruit” for identity thieves, and remember to always protect your personal data when online and in the real world.

Have you been affected by Identity Fraud? How did you handle it? Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts and any tips that helped you get through what can be a stressful time.

Space Heater Safety

Space Heater Safety: 7 Tips To Keep Your Home Safe

During colder months utility bills can be tough to handle, so many people have started turning to space heaters to cut down on energy costs. Space heaters save money by, allowing people to only heat the room or space they occupy rather than having a central heating system that expends energy to fill an entire structure.

Other reasons for using space heaters are for areas that aren’t served well by other heating systems, temporary heating when it will only be necessary for a short time, or targeted use for an individual that isn’t comfortable, while others in the room are.

With so many people using space heaters for so many different reasons it’s important to know they need to be used safely. Space heaters carry risks that aren’t associated with other heating systems, and with over 43 percent of home heating fires caused by space heaters every year, following these recommended tips for use is critical.

  1. Place space heaters on hard, flat, non-flammable surfaces. They are designed to be placed on floors, and because of how hot they get, they should never be placed on something that can catch fire.
  2. Turn the heater off when it is being left unattended. While it may be nice to come back to the room and have it nice and toasty, leaving a space heater on without someone being alert in case of malfunction means you could return to a devastating fire.
  3. Spaces that hold flammable chemicals, such as garages or shops, are off-limits to space heaters. The types of fumes that come from combustible materials can fill areas where they are stored and may be ignited by space heaters.
  4. Always plug directly into the wall outlet, and unplug when not in use. Extension cords, surge protectors, and other outlet expansion products are not built to handle the electrical load of a space heater. Many electrical fires occur when people fail to plug space heaters directly into the wall.
  5. Establish a three-foot safe zone around the heater. By keeping the heater at least three feet from fabrics, curtains and other flammable items will help ensure they don’t catch fire. Also be sure that small children and pets aren’t able to get within that three-foot zone as they can be injured or cause the heater to malfunction by tipping it.
  6. Plug only the heater into the outlet, having a second device or cord plugged into the other port in the outlet can cause too much of an energy load on the outlet, which can cause the outlet to overheat.
  7. Keep working smoke and heat detectors operational throughout the home or office to alert anyone of possible danger.

When using space heaters, safety first. To stay up to date and learn more tips, area happenings and more stop by our Facebook page and follow us.