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Spring Cleaning Checklist

Make these 15 preventative maintenance tips part of your spring cleaning to-do list this year

Change your air filters

For most people, you should change the filters in your heater and air conditioner unit once every three months. If you have bad allergies, then make it once a month instead. This is a simple step you can do yourself that helps extend the life of your air conditioner vents and heating system and will save you money in potential repairs.

Follow this HVAC preventive maintenance checklist

Spending a little bit of money twice a year to have an HVAC specialist come out and perform routine maintenance on your A/C and heater can go a long way towards helping you avoid expensive HVAC repairs.

Clear out your gutters

Clearing out your gutters and downspouts is a nuisance, but when gutters get (and stay) clogged, it can lead to leaks in your roof, wood rot, cracked foundations and bug problems – all of which are expensive (and often pretty gross) to deal with.

Check the whole house for leaks

Leaks can quickly become destructive if you don’t catch them in time. About once a week, inspect the whole house (the inside and the exterior) and check all the sinks and cabinets under them to look for leaks. If you find a leak in your roof while it’s small, you can get it fixed before it causes water damage (which can be crazy-expensive)!

Give the attic a run-through

When was the last time you went in your attic? For many of us, attics are forgotten storage spaces or homes to old keepsakes we convince ourselves we want to hold on to. No judgment – if you have the space to store, go for it!

But remember that your attic is a part of your home, too, and if you neglect it simply because you rarely find yourself up there, the part of your house you do use could pay the price. Give your attic a run-through every few months to monitor for leaks, pest infestations, and insulation damage, and catch them before they get out of control. This way, they’ll be easier and cheaper to fix.  

Trim your trees

The trees that add beauty and character to your yard can end up costing you big-time if branches or the tree itself falls on top of your house during a storm. Trimming your trees (or hiring someone to do so) once a year reduces your risk.

You are liable if a tree in your yard falls and damages a neighbor’s home or automobile. It’s a good idea to inspect trees for damage after a large storm or high winds. This will help to keep your insurance premiums low and avoid the hassle of filing a claim.

Test your smoke and CO2 alarms

In addition to saving you the costs of fire damages, health care, and potential carbon monoxide poisoning, making sure you have working smoke and CO2 detectors can literally save your life. Most smoke and CO2 detectors have a “test” button. Give it a try once a month and make sure you replace the batteries as often as directed.

Test your water heater pressure shut-off valve

The pressure relief valve on your hot water heater is a safety feature that keeps the unit working properly and reduces the risk of leaks or at worst, an explosion. Once a year, check that it’s doing its job.

Drain your water heater

Once a year, you should also flush your water heater (or hire someone to do so) to let out all the sediment that builds up over time. This will both make your water heater work more effectively and lengthen the unit’s life.

Have your chimney cleaned

If you don’t have a fireplace, this is one you get to skip.

If you do and you use it with any frequency, then get someone out to clean your chimney flue once a year to avoid chimney fires.

Test your sump pump

If your home doesn’t have a basement, this is one you get to skip.

If it does, your sump pump has an important role to play to help you avoid damage from potential flooding. You don’t want to figure out your sump pump doesn’t work at the moment you need it, so test it out once a year to make sure you can depend on it in any circumstance.

Check the soil around your foundation

Foundation issues are among the most expensive a home can have, and they can cause you major pain if or when you wish to sell your home. One step you can take to prevent foundation damage is to make sure the soil around your house gradually slopes away from your house six inches down for about 10 feet. That way when it rains a lot, the water will move away from the foundation toward the rest of your yard.

It’s also important to check for any cracking in the foundation or sagging of your home. If you notice either of these things you should contact a foundation repair company quickly to keep the problem from getting worse. Your homeowners policy may not cover expansion or contraction of soil leading to foundation damage so catching the problem early can help you avoid a huge repair bill.

Caulk where needed

This is a general tip on a general to-do list, but an important one. Caulk is cheap and can help you keep moisture out of crevices you don’t want it in to avoid water damage and mold. It can help you weatherize your house to keep cold air out in the winter and keep it in during the summer. Go through your house, around your garage door, and look for any spots where the caulk could use an update, or a crevice could use some new caulking.

Check your washer and dryer

The washer and dryer often sit out of sight in a laundry room, making it easy to overlook issues. Make a point to check around the washer for possible leaks. And check your dryer for lint buildup, which can cause fires.

While your homeowners insurance policy will likely cover water damage from a malfunctioning washer, the damage must be sudden and accidental. But if your home suffers water damage due to a continuous leak, you may be on the hook for the repair bill without the help of your insurance company.

Clean refrigerator coils

Family Handyman predicts that 70% of refrigerator service calls can be avoided with this simple step. Cleaning your fridge coils twice a year will save you money on both repairs and energy costs.

This complete list of home repairs can cost you stress, inconvenience, and of course, money. A little bit of time and money in proactive home maintenance tasks can save you a lot of that trouble and keep your house in tip-top shape.

Source:  The Zebra

Fireplace Holiday Preparation

With the holidays, we want to feature our fireplaces with holiday decorations.  Here are a few tips to keep your safe this holiday season.

It is essential that you have your fireplace professionally cleaned by a chimney sweep at least once a year If it is wood-burning.

Once you’ve assured that you can operate your fireplace safely, there are other things you need to do to eliminate hazards:

  • Be sure your home has working smoke alarms on every level.
  • Get an alarm that alerts you if carbon dioxide poisoning becomes a threat.
  • Dispose of ashes with great care and assurance that an unexpected fire will not start due to hot ashes.
  • Only burn seasoned firewood, meaning wood that is low in moisture.

Some tips specifically for the holidays include:

  • Don’t place wrapped packages or gift boxes near the fireplace because they are highly combustible. Keep all combustible materials at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, candles, and portable heaters.
  • There are additives in wrapping paper which makes it burn at extremely high temperatures; don’t burn wrapping paper in your fireplace.
  • Do not discard garbage in your fireplace, including wrapping paper and boxes.
  • Keep an operable fire extinguisher nearby not only for possible fireplace mishaps but also in case your Christmas tree combusts.
  • Never dispose of a Christmas tree by burning it in your fireplace. The wood of the Christmas tree has not been properly dried or seasoned and is not safe to burn.

Cyber Monday is Here

Cyber Monday is expected to set new online records with a 17.5% increase from last year or $7.7 billion in sales.   If you are one of the millions shopping online, here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Shop from a secure computer since phones and computers can be compromised – use antivirus software and keep your operating system and internet-facing apps up to the latest version
  • Shop using a secure connection – make sure the urls you are using are HTTPS which assists in keeping you safe.
  • Search for deals on retailers sites, not on search engines – rather than use a browser to find your favorite stores, go directly to them.
  • Use trusted vendors – you can be redirected to fakes and open to scammers
  • Don’t fall for “too-good-to-be-true deals – you might get these offers from emails, text messages, pop browsers and social media (especially social media)
  • Plan ahead and don’t be rushed – one tip to follow is to look for an extra “.cc” at the end of a url attached to a trusted website.  Again, go directly to the vendor.
  • Review credit-card and bank statements regularly during the shopping session – we can’t guarantee that a transaction doesn’t match your purchase.  If you see a discrepancy, contact your bank or card issuer
  • Don’t use debit cards online – use a credit card.  If using a debit card, use the prepaid kind with a set spending limit.
  • Use unique passwords and logon information for every site you visit – use different passwords on different sites – why if a hacker gets your password, it can be used on other websites.
  • If you’re shopping from a tablet or smartphone on Cyber Monday, use a trusted vendor’s app, not a web browser – since browsers don’t show the url of a vendor, make sure you go directly to the vendor.
  • Never install software on your mobile device from a website link or code – always use “official” store such as Apple’s iTunes App Store or Google Play store.

Follow these tips and have a safe Cyber Monday.

Source: Tom’s Guide

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips

Here are some cooking safety tips to follow as you get ready for Thanksgiving:

  • Keep your cooking area clean and clutter free.
  • Be cautious of your surroundings
  • Immediately turn off unused burners/appliances
  • Never leave unattended cooking – this is the major cause of fires in the kitchen
  • Keep children and pets away from  the cooking area by declaring a 3 foot “kid-free zone” around the cooking area
  • Keep potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic away from the cooking area
  • Always use turkey fryers outside and a safe distance from the house and on a flat surface
  • Make sure turkey is completely thawed
  • Thaw a turkey approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight

 Follow these tips and have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thanking Our Veterans on Veteran's Day

Twenty-five million veterans are living among us today.  These men and women selflessly set aside their civilian lives to put on the uniform and serve us.  On behalf of all the members of our agency, we want to say “thank you” to all our Veterans. 

Daylight Savings Time Ends

Sunday, November 4th, is the end of Daylight Savings Time.  What does that mean, you gain an hour of sleep?  So don’t forget to turn your clocks back an hour before going to be on Saturday, November 3rd.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace

According to a recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately a third of women and a quarter of men report being a victim of violence by a partner at some point in their lives.   This means an employee being a victim or perpetrator is higher than you realize.

Protecting our employees at the workplace requires an action plan and implementation plan for prevention and intervention strategies to address domestic violence within the workplace.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, businesses lose $729 million each year in lost productivity related to domestic violence.  60% of employees experience domestic violence reported losing their jobs as a result, either because they were fired or had to quit.

If you’re an employer what signs should you look for:

  • Unexplained bruises.
  • Unusually quiet/withdrawn.
  • Frequent absences.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Wearing concealing clothing, even in warm weather.
  • Depression and/or anxiety.
  • Change in performance attitude.
  • Frequent breaks or appointments with friends/family.
  • Receipt of harassing phone calls.

If you have an employee exhibiting any of these signs, intervening in a sensitive and private manner to encourage he/she to seek help before the problem escalates.

How do you protect your employees; by being proactive.  Establish a comprehensive policy to insure that employees can report abuses, to provide services the employer for the victims, and disciplinary procedures for perpetrators.

Source:  Nobert Alicea, MA, CEAP, EVP of EAP+Work/Life Services

Are your wedding rings insured?

Couples spend thousands of dollars on their wedding rings.  Did you know that your renter’s and homeowner’s insurance has limits? Most policies only pay out a maximum of $1,500 to $2,500, a fraction of what you might have spent.

To insure that your rings are properly covered, let us check out your renter’s and homeowner’s policy. If additional coverage is needed, we suggest you obtain an appraisal and then we can arrange for either a jewelry policy or a jewelry floater.

How much will this type of insurance cost?  Usually an annual rate of $1 to $2 for every $100 your rings are worth.  The average $5,855 engagement ring would run between $59 to $118 annually to insure.

Don’t wait, give us a call at the agency, to discuss.

Source:  Investopedia

Falls Drive Up Construction Workers’ Comp Costs

More than 30% of workers’ compensation claims stem from construction sites are the results of falls from elevated surfaces according to Nationwide Mutual Insurance.

Falls from elevated surfaces are more severe than other injury claims because these accidents result in more time away from work, damage to multiple part parts, and more short- and long-term disability leave.  

To assist you and your workers in fall prevention, you can download the Fall Protection in Construction Flyer.   

Source:  Business Insurance, Nationwide, and OSHA

Safety Driving Tips in School Zones

With children back in school, now is a good time to remind you about safety tips in a school zone.

  1. Look for school zones signals and obey the speed limits posted.
  2. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
  3. Never pass a bus loading or unloading children.
  4. Unless licensed to do so, never use handicap or emergency vehicle lanes or spaces to drop off or pick up children at school.
  5. Yield to pedestrians in cross walks, and take extra care in school zones.
  6. Avoid using a cellphone, unless it’s completely hand-free, while driving in a school zone.
  7. Watch out for school crossing guards and obey their signals.
  8. Never pass a vehicle stopping for pedestrians.
  9. 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children, stop far enough back to allow them to safely enter and exit the bus.

Keep these safety tips in mind when driving in a school zone.

Source: Property Casualty 360