Maintaining Vacant Property

(Photo Credit: Google Maps)

It is easy to understand how an unoccupied office, building, or apartment could seem harmless from the perspective of the insured. Many business owners operate remotely and maintain vacant property in other locations. Vacant properties however, can present a surprising number of challenges if not properly monitored.

Property is considered vacant if less than 31% is occupied. Because of the lack of owner or tenant presence, vacant properties are more likely to experience damage and are prone to criminal activity.

Property that has been vacant for 60 consecutive days before the loss may not be covered by an insurance claim if the following events occur:

  • Vandalism
  • Sprinkler leakage (resulting from unprotected pipes)
  • Glass breakage
  • Water damage
  • Theft or attempted theft

In addition, other covered causes of loss are reduced by 15% for vacant but insured property.

Consider taking steps to ensure that your vacant commercial property is secured and protected from loss that may occur in an owner’s absence. There are ways that both tenants and property owners can reduce the risk associated with unoccupied building space for extended periods of time. Properly setting the thermostat, or using a remote climate controlled system, and turning off the water supply when not in use prevents leaks, cracks, and water damage. Ensuring that ice dams are prevented and gutters cleaned out also helps reduce possible damage. Installing an alarm system and providing lighting around the perimeter discourages burglary, theft, and glass breakage.

Reasons To Go Paperless

The rising ubiquity of modern mobile technology means that consumers are more often using their smartphones for tasks once reserved exclusively for snail mail transactions. Our phones allow us to apply for loans, view our bank statements, trade stocks, and now, if you’re an N&D® policyholder, manage your insurance account. We have recently announced the arrival of the new My Insurance® app in iTunes. With our new app, you can sign up for the My Insurance service, view and pay your insurance bills, contact us or your agent, and review your policy information. You can also enroll in paperless billing and policy delivery.

Today, more people are electing to go paperless for correspondence like bills, statements, and other financial documents. And while everyone has their own preferences and considerations, there are good reasons to go paperless:

  • Environment – It may not seem like much when you go paperless, but the amount of paper that is saved when many people move to digital does add up quickly.
  • Security – My Insurance as well as email accounts are password protected and are more secure than outside mailboxes. Not having physical copies of financial information around the house or office eliminates the risk of theft.
  • Convenience – Electronic delivery of bills and policies means you can access your information 24/7.
  • Storage – Not having to file any papers means saving physical space and dealing with less clutter.

If you would like to sign up for My Insurance and enroll in paperless billing and policy delivery, you can do so by downloading the app on iTunes or visiting the My Insurance Website.

Protect Your Home from Wildlife Entry

(Photo Credit: Flickr)

During the spring and summer months, the Northeast sees a dramatic increase in wildlife activity as animals come out of hibernation. Mating season for most small mammals and birds occurs around this time and as a result, there is a higher possibility of homeowner property being damaged. Mothers looking for safe nesting space for their babies will look to sheltered and secure areas. Unfortunately, this can mean the walls of attics or underneath porches. This activity can also cause both interior and exterior damage to your house – damage that is usually not covered under Section I of the Homeowners’ policy. Loss caused by animals such as birds, vermin, rodents, or insects that attempt to access shelter by utilizing pre-existing structures is not covered under most standard policies. Damage caused to your dwelling by large mammals such as bears is covered under your policy, but otherwise, it is good to take steps in order to limit the ability of animals to enter and possibly damage your home.

Here are some steps that homeowners can take to “animal proof” their home:

  • Make sure that screens, windows, and sliding doors are free of holes or tears
  • Seal possible exterior entry points in places such as roof openings and vents or holes near the base of the house
  • Adding screens over vents and placing chimney caps over chimneys will help prevent entry while maintaining smooth air flow
  • Remove any hanging tree limbs and other vegetation that is very close to the house
  • Add sturdy screening to the bottoms of porches and decks

Taking these measures could greatly reduce the risk of possible damage caused by animal activity over the next few months and into the fall, saving you time, money, and a lot of frustration in the long run.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

(Photo Credit: iStock)

Every May, the NHTSA and state governments come together to coordinate Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which strives to spread awareness about motorcycle laws and education designed to keep everyone on the road safe. The number of deaths and injuries caused by accidents involving motorcycles is staggering, and many of these are caused by non-motorcycle users of the road. It’s important to understand safety issues facing motorcycles in traffic, regardless of whether your vehicle has two wheels or more. Below is a list of safety tips you should familiarize yourself with before your next ride:

For Motorcyclists:

  • Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet while riding. You are much more likely to experience severe brain damage caused by head trauma in a crash if you are wearing a non-compliant helmet.
  • Wear brighter, more reflective gear, especially while traveling at night, and make sure your lights are functioning, bright, and visible (unblocked).
  • Lane splitting may help save time and avoid getting rear-ended in heavy traffic, but it can also be very dangerous and illegal. If you’re going to filter forward, make sure it is done safely, with courtesy, and only where it is legal.

For Other Road Users:

  • Because motorcycles are smaller than cars and trucks, they can be more difficult to spot, especially in blind spots. Always check your blind spots & mirrors, use your turn signals, and use extra care when you know motorcycles are nearby.
  • Give more following distance to motorcycles. This gives motorcyclists room to perform emergency stops or maneuvers for road hazards like gravel, potholes, standing water, cracks, or train tracks that passenger vehicles can usually continue over at reduced speed.
  • Share the road with motorcyclists, but not the lane. Motorcyclists should always get a full lane width, even if it may look like there is room for a car.

For Everyone:

  • Never operate any vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Leave the phone in your pocket and just focus on the road. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.
  • Take time to rest during long trips so you stay alert, awake, and ready for the road ahead.

You can learn more about Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month at the NHTSA’s website.

Spring Cleaning For Insurance Policies

house and garden
(Photo Credit: Fotolia)

Once all of the snow melts and the temperatures begin to rise, it’s always a good idea to conduct a bit of spring cleaning. And while you and your family are dusting around the house and donating old clothes, it is also a good idea to review your current insurance policies and make sure their coverages are still adequate. If you have recently made improvements to your home, bought an expensive piece of jewelry, or plan on going somewhere for vacation this summer, now is a good time to talk to your agent to ensure you’re fully covered. The Insurance Information Institute has a quick spring cleaning insurance coverage checklist to help you decide if your policies need a bit of spring cleaning this year. You can view the list here.

Understanding Employment Practices Liability Risk

superior court
(Photo Credit: Fotolia)

Many businesses underestimate the potential risk involved with not having employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). Having a code of conduct and expertise in human resources helps mitigate most forms of unlawful employment practices, but incidents can and do still happen. Every business is exposed to employment practices liability, an area of professional liability that includes:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Wage/Hour Law Violations
  • Intentional Emotional Distress
  • Wrongful Termination
  • False Imprisonment

The laws regarding these illegal practices are interpreted and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which recognizes eleven types of employment practices discrimination: age, disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex, and sexual harassment.

Employment practices don’t deal with just full-time employees either. Volunteers, part-time workers, contractors, customers, and vendors can all file charges against an employer for an alleged violation of these laws. With these types of charges on the rise, it is important for business owners to fully understand the laws surrounding employment practices as well as the tools needed to best protect them from potential lawsuits. For more information about employment practices liability, visit our Employer Protection resource page.

Laws Enforced by EEOC.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. USA.gov, n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

Discrimination by Type.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. USA.gov, n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

What is Automatic Emergency Braking?

automatic emergency braking
(Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company)

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Transportation (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced that twenty of the world’s largest car manufacturers pledged to make automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems standard on all of their new vehicles starting no later than September of 2022. The NHTSA estimates that this commitment from automakers will make AEB systems standard three years sooner than through a formal regulatory process. The IIHS estimates that during those three years, standard AEB systems will prevent 28,000 rear-end collisions and 12,000 resulting injuries.

Automatic Emergency Braking is a forward collision mitigating safety feature that helps prevent or reduce the severity of collisions. AEB integrates radar/laser and cameras along with a computer that gauges a vehicle’s speed relative to an object (a slower or stopped vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) in front of it. In the event of an imminent forward collision, the car’s AEB system warns the driver of the possible collision, using alert sounds, lights, and/or tactile feedback such as vibrating the steering wheel.

If the system detects that the driver is not doing enough to avoid hitting the object, i.e. the driver may be distracted, fatigued, or experiencing a medical problem, AEB will apply the brakes to stop the vehicle, ideally with enough time to avoid the collision, or at least greatly reduce its severity.

Currently, AEB systems are available on about a quarter of new cars, and the NHTSA now considers automatic braking in its 5-Star ratings. The IIHS requires new vehicles to come with AEBs in order to qualify for a Top Safety Pick+, the highest award possible. According to the IIHS, vehicles with an AEB system are 14 percent less likely to experience a forward collision than vehicles that do not have it equipped.

You can read the official press release about the automaker AEB commitment on the NHTSA’s website.

Daylight Saving Time Spring Checklist

Daylight Saving Time

It’s time to “spring forward” for daylight saving. Since the time change occurs twice a year, daylight saving is the perfect time to perform basic maintenance in and around your home:

  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check to see if they have expiration dates, and change the batteries.
  • After a winter of using your fireplace or wood stove, have your chimney cleaned and inspected.
  • Check your fire extinguishers’ gauges to make sure they are still charged sufficiently. If they’re low, contact your local fire department to find out where to recharge them. Extinguishers must always be recharged after use. Make sure one is always easily accessible throughout your home.
  • Check outside railings, stairs, and walkways if you have them for needed repair after the winter.
  • Check trees for signs of damaged branches that might need to come down. Consider contacting a tree professional.
  • Perform spring maintenance on appliances and home systems:
    • Change filters in your HVAC systems as needed, or have them serviced.
    • Clean your refrigerator—wipe down the inside and vacuum underneath and behind to ensure optimal operating efficiency.
    • Drain the water heater to flush out sediment.

(Did you know that sudden damage to these home systems and appliances caused by accident, breakdown, or human error is typically not covered under most warranties or service contracts? Repairs can often cost thousands of dollars. Read more on how to protect these systems.)

  • Change your windshield wiper blades. If you have snow tires, plan to remove them as the weather gets warmer and snow and ice are no longer on the horizon.
  • Contact your insurance agent to review your coverage to make sure it’s still adequate, especially if you’ve had any major purchases or life events in the last year.

Daylight saving is a helpful calendar reminder to do these routine maintenance tasks. We’ll make sure to publish one in the fall as well, which will be somewhat different due to seasonality.

Business Continuity – Emergency Generators

Emergency Standby Generators Infographic
(Photo Credit: Mutual Boiler Re)

U.S. businesses lose $150 billion annually due to blackouts and weather-related events. Most commercial businesses today have emergency generators, which is an important first step. But it’s important to make sure the generator has been properly installed, and to perform routine maintenance, as illustrated by the infographic above (click to view full version).

How to Prevent a Dryer Fire

Dryer
(Photo Credit: iStock)

Did you know failure to properly clean and maintain a clothes dryer is the leading cause of a dryer fire? Here are some precautions to help prevent these fires:

  • Have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional, and make sure it’s properly grounded
  • Don’t use the dryer without a lint filter, and make sure to clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry
  • Remove lint that has collected around the drum and wash the filter screen to remove chemical residue every six months. Vacuum the motor area to remove dust and lint. (You may have to remove a panel.)
  • Use rigid or flexible metal venting material to vent outside. Vacuum out accumulated lint twice a year.
  • Make sure that the outdoor vent flap isn’t blocked or covered and will open when the dryer is operating, especially when snow starts to pile up.
  • Clean commercial dryer vents regularly—they get a lot of use and have a common venting system.
  • Don’t overload your dryer.
  • Turn off the dryer if you’re going out and when you are going to bed.

These tips are courtesy of the Office of the State Fire Marshall, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Fire Protection Association. To find more detailed information, view these NFPA dryer-safety tips.