News

Summer safety: Preventing tick-related illnesses

Sorry to put a damper on your summer, but we’re in prime tick season right now. If you like spending time in the great outdoors, there are some steps you should take to stay safe from tick-related illnesses, which can be very serious.

Disease carrying ticks are found in all 50 states. In northern and New England states with a high deer population, black-legged ticks — also known as deer ticks — are a great menace because they can transmit Lyme disease.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that the risk of Lyme Disease is confined to the North – deer ticks can be found in all states and as weather patterns shift, tick populations are shifting, too. In the south, dog ticks and Gulf Coast ticks that carry Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and Lone Star ticks that cause meat allergies are more common. (see Ticks and Diseases in Florida)

Wherever you live, some of the most important steps in preventing tick-related diseases are knowing where and when tick encounters are most likely to happen, knowing how to dress to prevent ticks and checking yourself, your kids and your pets after outdoor activities to remove any ticks. What type of activities? Gardening, hiking, golfing, camping, walking the dog, playing in the yard … any outdoor activities, particularly those that occur in or near wooded areas.

One resource for tips on preventing tick related problems is from the University of Rhode Island. Check out the site called the TickEncounter Resource Center, with lots of great information on tick identification and removal, as well as tips for your protection, for treating your yard, and protecting your pets. It has a lot of information about the various types of ticks and diseases that they carry.

One of their primary recommendations for preventing ticks is dressing appropriately. They offer this reminder:

“What you wear when working or playing could reduce your chances of tick bites. Remember: Ticks start LOW and crawl UP; ticks do not jump, fly or drop from trees, they are down on the ground and crawl up until they find a good spot to attach. Tucking pant legs into socks is a good way to keep ticks on the outside where they may be seen or get brushed off.”

Another important thing is to make sure that after outdoor activities, you do a thorough tick check –if you can catch a tick and remove it early you can prevent disease because according to the CDC, it generally takes 36-48 hours of attachment before disease is spread.  The CDC suggests using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Ticks are great at hiding, they like warm, moist areas of the body such as the scalp, armpits and groin. Their bit is painless. The CDC says to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks.

illustration on what body parts to check for ticks

 

Also, be sure to check your pets and your clothes and gear. The CDC says:

Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

 

The Center by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers more tick resources, including prevention, information on tick removal information and more as well as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever resources.

For local alerts on ticks and other season health issues, check your state health department. Many states have created specific tick-related resources such as the ones we cite above from Florida and Rhode Island. These can be found by simply entering “ticks your state” name in Google.

 

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Cellphone driving laws: Florida and Massachusetts

Florida has a new law that prohibits texting while driving, which went into effect July 1. It’s called the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. From now until January 1, 2020, drivers who break the law will get a warning, but after that, a $30 fine will be imposed for a first offense, and a $60 fine for a second offense. But that’s actually just the tip of the iceberg – there are court costs, insurance surcharges and more that can make breaking the law quite costly. Florida Today explains why your $30 ticket becomes way more expensive, breaking down additional court costs and fees that bring your actual first-time penalty to $119 in Brevard County. (Each county’s fees may differ)  In addition to that, your auto insurance rates could cost you up to 25% more per year for three years. That means that a quick text could be very costly!

Local 10 offers a recap of what you need to know about Florida’s new texting while driving law. There are some exceptions, which they list as:

“Some exceptions apply. The law does not apply to vehicles that are stationary or to a driver who is:
– Performing official duties, such as operating an emergency vehicle (i.e., law enforcement, fire service professionals, and emergency medical service providers).
– Reporting an emergency, a crime or other suspicious activity to law enforcement.
– Receiving messages that are:
a. related to the operation and/or navigation of the motor vehicle; b. safety-related information (emergency, traffic, and weather alerts); c. data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or d. radio broadcasts.
– Using the device in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes.
– Using the device in a way that does not require manual entry of characters, except to initiate a function or feature.”

Massachusetts cell-phone ban law in the works

Massachusetts residents take note: In June, Boston.com reported that a driver hand-held cellphone ban moves closer to becoming law. The Senate and the House have both approved versions of the law and must now reach agreement on a compromise bill. But be aware that proposed fines are costly:

The bill calls for a fine of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense. Those who commit a second or subsequent offense would be required to complete a program that “encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving.”

A third or subsequent violation would also be a considered a surchargeable incident under car insurance policies. The bill would allow an exception to using cellphones in the case of an emergency if no one else in the car is able to make the call.

Driving & cellphone use laws by state

Here’s a handy tool to bookmark: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) maintains a summary of cell-phone use laws with maps and a detailed chart listing of cellphone use laws by state.

They summarize three types of prohibitions for cellphone use laws:

  • Hand-held ban laws: Bans on hand-held phone conversations while driving are widespread in other countries and are becoming more common in the U.S. In 2001, New York became the first state to ban hand-held phone conversations by all drivers. Now 20 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
  • Texting ban laws: Texting is banned for all drivers in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Young driver phone ban use laws: 38 states and the District of Columbia restrict cellphone use by young drivers.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Take the “What the Flood” quiz

How much do you know about flood insurance? Probably very little, unless you’ve had an experience with flooding or your insurance agent has discussed it with you. Check it out – take this quick What the Flood interactive quiz to see if you understand the insurance protection that would apply should common water damage scenarios occur. The quiz is promoted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), who offer great info on Understanding Flood Insurance.

Here are a few common flood insurance myths

  • Myth: I don’t need flood insurance because I already have homeowners insurance.

Reality. Homeowners insurance rarely covers flood damage – talk to your agent.

  • Myth: I don’t need flood insurance because I don’t live in a high-risk flood zone.

Reality: More than 20% of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) claims come from outside high-risk flood areas.

  • Myth: It’s already hurricane season so I am too late to buy flood insurance this year.

Reality. You can purchase flood insurance any time, but it generally takes effect 30 days after purchase for coverage to take place.

Here’s a handy NAIC infographic that shows homeowners vs flood insurance coverage:

Why not have a chat with your insurance agent to find out if flood insurance makes sense for you? Here are some great questions that NAIC offers as discussion points when you talk to your insurance agent about flood insurance.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

What’s an insurance deductible?

Like many other industries, insurance has its own unique jargon that can sometimes make shopping for coverage seem overly complicated. Your local independent insurance agent is always happy to break things down for you and explain any language or terms that you don’t understand. One term that is commonly used in auto, health and in other insurance policies is “deductible.”

In simple terms, a deductible is the amount of money that you, the insured, must pay for a claim before your insurance will kick in.

If you have a deductible, it means that you will be responsible for any losses or payment of services up to the stated dollar amount in your insurance policy. Usually, deductibles are defined as a dollar amount, but they can also be defined as a percentage.

Deductibles can be beneficial both for the insured and for the insurance company. For the insured, it can be a way to are a way to reduce the cost of insurance: The more risk for loss that you, the insured, agree to pay before the insurance kicks in, the lower your premium. For the insurance company, it is a way to avoid the cost of processing and paying a high volume of small claims. Talk to you insurance agent about what deductible options are available to you and how they will affect the cost of your coverage.

Let’s look at an example: You are in an auto accident and your car’s damages are assessed at $1250 in damages. If your insurance policy has a $500 deductible, you will have to pay the first $500 of the damages to your car out of your own pocket and the insurer will pay the remaining $750. Generally, once the deductible is met, any future losses that you might have during the term of that policy will be covered in full.

The Insurance Information Institute has a great article on understanding your insurance deductibles that explains how deductibles work to prevent surprise costs and save money. It’s a good introduction with clear examples. They also discuss homeowners disaster deductibles for hurricane, wind/hail, flood and earthquake coverage. (Reminder: your homeowners insurance does not automatically cover you should your home be damaged by flood, earthquake, and other natural catastrophes – talk to your insurance agent about what your homeowners does and doesn’t cover.)

Businesses can also opt for deductible plans for certain types of business coverage such as workers compensation programs.

Many people are familiar with deductibles through their health insurance coverage. Learn more about health insurance deductibles at HealthCare.gov.

As with all insurance matters, you need to check your own policy. Insurance can vary by state law, by type of coverage, and by individual policy. It’s a good idea to read your policy and to ask your insurance agent to explain any terms that you don’t understand.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

What’s most likely to kill you? Check out your odds for National Safety Month

It’s National Safety Month, which is a great time double down on safety both at work and at home. But where to start? One way to think about safety practices and injury prevention is to focus on the types of injuries that are most common and most likely. With the summer approaching, expect that any day now we will start seeing alarming stories about shark danger. While no one wants to get attacked by a shark and it’s certainly good to take precautions, in reality, there’s a greater chance you will die by choking on your lobster roll than by being eaten by a shark. Media attention to sensational stories about crime, disasters and unusual tragedies tend to distort our sense of what the real risks we face actually are.

The National Safety Council puts things in perspective in this short video:

The purpose of insurance is to offer you financial protection from accidental risks and calamities that may befall you. But even when you are properly insured, it’s still in your best interests to try to manage those risks as best you can because insurance may not make you whole – particularly when the risk involves life and limb. We often don’t do a good job of managing our risks. Sometimes, what we fear the most is actually less risky than other common every day occurrences. Human nature being what it is, people often worry more about rare events and can be too casual about dangers that are more pervasive.

Learn the top causes of unintentional injury and death in your homes and communities from the National Safety Council, or see this chart and learn more on Mortality and Risk from the Insurance Information Institute.

Plus, check out one of our most popular past posts: What are the odds? Mortality calculators, where we various tools and calculators that let you assess your mortality. Don’t miss one of the web’s longtime favorite sites, the Internet Death Clock, where you can calculate optimistic or pessimistic estimates of how much time you are likely to live.

Despite the odds, one sad fact remains: None of us get out of here alive, so as the late Warren Zevon advised, “Enjoy every sandwich.” And as long as you are thinking about odds, it might also be a good time to think about taking care of your survivors:

Life Insurance Survey: Most people have too little.

A few other past posts on the topic of risks and dangers

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Hurricane Season 2019: What’s shaping up

The 2019 Hurricane Season began on June 1 and runs through November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts a 40% chance of a  “near normal” hurricane season. There’s a 30% chance that the season could be worse, and a 30% chance that it could be better than the average season.

For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

But don’t let the “near normal” prediction lull you into a false sense of security – hurricane preparation is still urgent, particularly for those who live in the southeast and in Atlantic coastal areas. According to a recent Storm Surge Report by CoreLogic, the Atlantic hurricane season puts 7.3 million homes at risk with an estimated reconstruction cost of $1.8 trillion.

“Florida stands out as the most vulnerable state, with more than three times more homes at risk (2,913,886) than second-ranked Louisiana (827,032). Florida also stands out in terms of potential damage, with at-risk structures having an estimated reconstruction cost of $604 billion — a third of the total for all 19 Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast states.

Narrowing down to metropolitan areas, Miami, New York City, Tampa, New Orleans and Virginia Beach, Virginia hold the greatest risks. In the New York City metro area, which includes Philadelphia and much of New Jersey, 831,000 homes with estimated replacement costs of $330 billion stand in harm’s way. In the Miami metropolitan area, which includes West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, 827,000 homes are at risk with an estimated replacement cost of $166 billion.”

Florida hurricane prep underway – get tax-free hurricane supplies through June 6!

Florida doesn’t take hurricanes lightly. The Orlando Sentinel posts thoughts from the region and talks about past storms in their news report,  Welcome to hurricane season 2019.

Floridians should act quickly for a discount on some hurricane supplies. Through June 6, certain hurricane supplies can be purchased tax-free during Florida sales tax holiday. Learn more from the Florida Department of Revenue’s Tax Information Publication:   Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday – May 31 through June 6, 2019

Hurricane Prep resources

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Motorcycle Mania: Your spring guide to insurance, safety, training, laws and more

Despite the good news that motorcycle fatalities are trending down in recent years, motorcycle riders still represent a disproportionate share of traffic fatalities. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a good time for riders and those who share the road with motorcyclists to double down on safety as we all get ready for the warmer weather and summer road trips. Here’s a guide to important information that you need to be prepared and to ride safely, as well as to comply with licensing, insurance and other legal requirements. .

Motorcycle Laws

If you operate your motorcycle on public roads, you must register it with your appropriate state authority and must be licensed to drive it.

AAA Digest of State Motor Laws – Motorcycles

State-by-State Guide to Motorcycle Laws – helmets, headlights, passengers, noise restrictions and more

III: State Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws (chart form)

State Highway Offices

Motorcycle insurance

Most states require that you carry at least a minimum insurance coverage – Florida, Montana and Washington are exceptions. Those states that do require insurance vary as to coverage requirements; most require a minimum of liability insurance to cover bodily injury and property damage.

Whether required or not, we think it’s pretty risky to go without coverage. Should an accident occur resulting in an injury or property damage, without insurance, you are on the hook. In fact, it is generally worth looking into expanding your coverage beyond the minimum. Options to consider are comprehensive and collision, which would cover other potential losses, such as replacement if your bike were stolen or damaged.. In some states, uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage is required; in others, you may be required to have specific coverage for passengers.

Motorcycle owners sometimes ask if they can cancel insurance in the winter when they aren’t riding but that can be risky and leave you exposed if the bike is stolen. Some insurers offer winter lay-up insurance options.

Talk to your independent insurance agent, who will be able to recommend the best coverage for your local requirements and your particular circumstances. Be sure to ask if there are any discounts that you may qualify for, such as for bundling multiple policies, for being a safe driver, for having participated in training, or any other circumstances.

For more, see the Insurance Information Institute (III): Find the right coverage for your bike

Motorcycle Safety

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a valuable resource. It is a not-for-profit resource, internationally recognized for comprehensive, research-based, Rider Education and Training System (RETS), which promotes lifelong-learning for motorcyclists and continuous professional development for certified coaches and trainers. MSF also actively participates in government relations, safety research and public awareness campaigns.

Check for available trainings and download their popular guide, You and Your Motorcycle: Riding Tips. Check out their other guides for three-wheelers, scooters, off-highway riding and more.

III: Background on: Motorcycle crashes

NHTSA: Motorcycle Safety

Choose the right helmet – how to find the right fit for safety

Helmet safety ratings – Make sure your helmet has the DOT symbol on the outside back; this means it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218.

Motorcycle Industry Council Tire Guide

NHTSA: Safety Issues and Recalls – search by VIN

Additional Resources

How to Prepare your Motorcycle for Spring

Consumer Reports: Motorcycle Buying Guide & Ratings

Motorcycle Club Listings

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Boat Safety Week in two words: Wear It!

It’s National Safe Boating Week May 18-24, a good reminder to all boat owners and boat lovers to review boat safety best practices and to take the “Wear It” Life Jacket Pledge. And if your boat represents a serious investment, it’s also a good time to think about insurance.

Why are life jackets important? In 2017, the Coast Guard counted 4,291 accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and approximately $46 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

Life jackets may not protect you against property damage, but they will help to save lives. But simply having life jackets on board is not enough – accidents happen too fast to access them. Being a good swimmer isn’t enough – an injury or water-logged clothes can interfere with even the strongest swimmer’s abilities. Another big objection is that jackets are too hot, too restrictive, or don’t look “cool,” but new, lightweight jackets are slimmer, cooler and less restrictive. Plus, as for the coolness factor – bicycle helmets didn’t look cool at one time, until they became a sporting fashion statement. Do your part to make life jackets cool.

The U.S. Coast Guard life jacket requirements for recreational vessels:

  • A wearable life jacket for each person must be aboard
  • Life jackets must be U. S. Coast Guard approved
  • Jackets must be proper size for the intended wearer
  • In good and serviceable condition
  • Properly stowed (readily accessible)

The Coast Guard puts out a brochure that talks about the different types of life jackets and how to ensure a good fit.

Before you take put any boats int he water, make sure you know the federal laws as well as any state laws that might apply. The US Coast Guard offers links and resources on boat regulations and laws, including federal and state laws, navigation rules, and more.

Talk to your independent agent about Boating Insurance

Do you need boat insurance? Your homeowners or renters insurance may cover canoes and small sailboats or powerboats, but larger boats require a separate policy. Talk to your independent agent about the coverage you do have and whether it applies to any boats that you have. Typically, liability coverage would need to be added as an endorsement to a homeowners policy. The Insurance Information Institute offers a good overview of boat and watercraft insurance, as well as safety best practices.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Imposter scams top the FTC fraud list for 2018

In 2018, people reported losses of nearly $1.48 billion in fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) That was a $406 million over what consumers reported losing in 2017. One in every 4 people who report fraud to the FTC suffer some monetary losses.

The FTC, which monitors fraud through its Consumer Sentinel Network, has collected tens of millions of consumer reports about fraud, identity theft, and other consumer protection topics over more than 20 years. In a recently issued report, The 2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (FTC), the FTC summarizes nearly 3 million consumer reports. Reports encompass both those in which money was lost, as well as those in which mo money was lost.

They sort consumer reports into 29 top fraud categories, and of those categories, in 2018, the three that topped the list of reports were:

  • Imposter Scams -18%
  • Debt collection – 16%
  • Identity theft – 15%

chart- top 10 fraud categories

Related: Imposter scams top the list of 2018 consumer fraud complaints and Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling.

Some other key fraud report findings include:

  • Telephone was the method of contact for 69% of fraud reports with a contact method identified
  • Wire transfers continue to be the most frequently reported payment method for fraud
  • Those aged 20-29 reported losing money to fraud in 43% of reports, while people aged 70 – 79 reported losing money in 15% of their reports.
  • People aged 70 and older reported much higher median losses than any other age group.
  • States with the highest per capita rates of reported fraud in 2018 were Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Delaware, and Maryland.
  • States with the highest reports of identity theft were Georgia, Nevada,California, Florida, and Texas

You can search the full report to find a breakdown of information on fraud by state – here are more highlights.

consumer fraud infographic

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Know the signs: Stroke can happen at any age

May is American Stroke Month. The recent deaths of beloved filmmaker John Singleton, aged 51 and actor Luke Perry, aged 52, serve as a sad reminder of why awareness of stroke warning signs is so vital. It’s also important to have a response plan for what to do if a stroke is suspected.

Generally, we tend to think of stroke as a medical condition affecting the elderly – and while stroke risk does increase in older years, the reality is that people of any age can suffer a stroke. In fact, health authorities say that the stroke risk for younger people is climbing.

“The deaths of Perry and Singleton underscore the fact that strokes are becoming more common among middle-aged adults. Between 2003 and 2012, the odds of being admitted to a hospital following an ischemic stroke — the most common type of stroke — increased 35.6% among U.S. residents ages 35 to 44. For those 45 to 54, the odds increased 20.5% over the same period, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.”

It’s important to learn stroke symptoms and act immediately, because with rapid treatment, stroke damage can be limited and the person can have a better chance of recovery. Experts say to think FAST: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, and Take action, time is vital. The symptoms are ones that we might identify as a stroke in the elderly, but we might not be looking for such symptoms in people who are young or middle-aged. In younger people, these and other common stroke symptoms might be misattributed to intoxication or drug use.

Limit your risk

Here’s some good news: an estimated 80% of strokes in the US are considered preventable. There are two primary types of risk factors for stroke:

  • Uncontrollable factors, such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, family history, a prior stroke and certain health conditions.
  • Modifiable factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, a diet high in saturated fats, physical inactivity and obesity.

Learn more about stroke risk factors that are controllable and steps you can take to control them. See also: 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke.

This video depicts an elderly person who is having stroke symptoms and what happens afterwards. It’s well done. Save a life by having a better understanding of stroke and by knowing what signs and symptoms to look for.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.