Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Spring Home Maintenance for Savings

copyright: premier roofing

We’ve already seen how some basic cleaning can save you money in efficiency dollars, and in this post we’re going to expand that to include exterior maintenance and prevention.

It’s a good idea to give your house an annual whole house physical to catch issues before they get out of hand, and do routine maintenance that will extend the life of your home. In the case of home ownership, a penny of maintenance can be worth tens of thousands in repairs. Catching issues before they get out of hand will save time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Outdoor Inspections-
Roof–  Checking out your roof might seem like a daunting, ladder requiring task, but if you know what you are looking for, a simple pair of binoculars should do the trick. Below are some of the basic things to look for. If you see any of these,  call a roofer to come out and inspect further (or contact your homeowners insurance carrier if the damage is following a storm).
Cracked or Missing Shingles
– Shingles That Have Shifted

copyright 2002 Guardian

 –Nail Pops-                                                              copyright frisby construction

Chimney Check-Up

Even if you don’t use your fireplace or chimney, it is important to look it over regularly from the outside. Look carefully for anything missing or gaps between the bricks. Also beware of any greenery growing on chimney, as it is a signal that water is getting in between the bricks, which can ultimately lead to the chimney becoming unstable, dangerous, and expensive to fix.  Another indicator of water is something called “efflorescence”, which appears as an almost chalky white  layer on the outside of the chimney (see picture)In some cases, a special sealer can be applied to stop or repair the water damage, but in other cases an actual chimney repairman will have to be called.

Exterior Inspection

Take some time to walk all around the house and look over the exterior walls and foundation, paying special attention to trouble prone areas like under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Check to see that everything, including siding, looks in tact, as holes and misaligned siding can make way for carpenter ants and wookpeckers.

It’s a good idea to do a similar mini-inspection after any storms, especially those with really high winds, hail or if any trees fall. If you notice anything, take a picture and call your homeowners insurance and they can tell you what to do.

Top to Bottom In the House

Attic– Head to the attic and look for signs of insects or critters colonizing up there like animal droppings or bee/wasp nests. Also look carefully for mold, which can appear as gray or black blotches that look like staining. Good insulation, and proper ventilation will help deter mold growth.

Basement– Down here the things you want to look for are insects (again!),  and mold. As you probably know,  basements can be prone to dampness, which can lead to mold growth. Just like in attics, mold appears as a gray or black staining on wood. Installing a dehumidifier in the basement can help keep it dry.

Be sure check the interior foundation for any cracks in the masonry. If you see anything, call a qualified repairman to take a look at it. Avoid putting caulk into the crack or trying other DIY solutions. Foundation issues can be serious and ultimately affect the structural integrity of the house and should be handled by a professional.

If you live in an older area or historical house: While you are down there, keep your eyes peeled for areas that may have been built to cover up hidden passageways or uneven basement flooring that may be hiding buried treasure.

Maybe??

 

Hot Water Heater

During your whole house physical, be sure to take time to inspect your hot water heater.  Check it for signs of leaks or corrosion.

Resources:
Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
 www.bobvilla.com
Money Saving Home Maintenance

 

Cyber Security Awareness Month- Tips for Your Teens

Tips for Teens on Cyber Safety

While PCs are likely a prerequisite for school-bound young adults, securing laptops or desktops is unlikely to be a top priority. Don’t let high school and college students head off to the classroom or campus life without the knowledge they need to protect their computers and the valuable information on them. The strategies below – tailored specifically to young adults – will help to avert online disasters.

Be on guard when you shop online. You can save a bundle by buying books and other school supplies online. But, when it comes to giving out your financial information, stick to companies you know and trust or to well-established retailers. Before you click the buy button, always check out the seller, what you are buying, and the payment details.

Work securely from wireless networks. Today’s world means you can access the Internet from a variety of public locations, from a coffee shop to a library to a train station. But, open networks run an increased security risk and are vulnerable to security breaches. When you can, choose networks that have a network security key, which means information sent over them is encrypted. Connect to a standard or wired network for the most protection.

Steer clear of peer-to-peer and file sharing networks. You always need to pay special attention to what you download and share online – peer-to-peer networks are often swamped with malicious files. And it’s not just music and movie downloads that you need to be aware of; malware often piggybacks on other freebies that promise ringtones, smilicons, and screensavers.

Navigate social networking sites with care. Social networking and other Web 2.0 features make communicating, socializing, and sharing information easier than ever. But they also open you up to a variety of online threats, so you need to be on guard when logging into online hotspots like MySpace and Facebook. To avoid phishing and malware installations, use caution when you check messages, click on advertisements, and access links in other members’ profiles.

Be wary of sharing your PC. You should not loan your computer out to friends and peers but, if you do, make sure they are operating under a limited-user account and not the all-powerful administrator account. This will minimize infections in the event of an accident.

Create strong passwords and change them regularly. Passwords help protect your computer and your various accounts from unauthorized access. Use complex passwords of at least 10 characters, comprised of letters, symbols and numbers. Do not have your browser store passwords and log-in credentials – this is especially important to remember if you are using a shared computer.

Backup your data regularly.Even the most prepared and cyber savvy among us are bound to run up against serious PC problems at one time or another. Prepare yourself for worst case scenarios (your laptop crashing the night before a term paper is due) in order to avert a complete disaster. All you need to do is set up a regular backup system for yourself by saving critical information on a CD, external hard drive or online server.

Limit the information you give out online. Don’t post too much information about yourself, whether it’s on a personal website, blog, or chat room. Identity theft is a real and growing problem, and openness on the Web can lead to someone harvesting your information for their gain.

Be skeptical of e-mail and instant messaging. Do not open e-mail attachments or click on links in instant messages from anyone, including ‘buddies’, unless you expect it. Verify the attachment before opening and scan with updated anti-virus software first. Be especially leery of odd subject lines and suspicious links. You’ll also need to watch out for phishing e-mails that purport to be from familiar organizations.

While it may seem difficult to fit cyber safety steps into the busy lives of young adults, keep this in mind: it’s easier to prepare yourself and your computer than to recover from lost data and private information after an online nasty compromises your system. So, during this school season and for the rest to come, be proactive in keeping your PC safe and secure.

source: http://www.lavasoft.com/mylavasoft/securitycenter/articles/cyber-safety-101

Contact your local agent at Penny Hanley & Howley Insurance for more information on Cyber Insurance

Cyber Attacks on Small Businesses

Below you will find some great information on how to protect your Small Business from Cyber Attacks.

Recently cyber-attacks were back in the news, and the latest attempted victim was the White House. According to an October 1st report from the Washington Post the White House acknowledged that hackers attempted to remove data from a White House computer. While the attempt wasn’t successful thanks to mitigation efforts, the attack should serve as a reminder to all small businesses that they face risks of similar attacks from data thieves, and they may not have the same level of mitigation systems in place.

In addition to a hacker getting into your system, data theft can occur if an employee’s computer is stolen, or if an unauthorized person is able to access a computer in your office. It could even be a disgruntled employee who carries out data theft. Any business that collects and stores sensitive information from customers, including credit card information, contact information, credit information, social security numbers, medical information, etc. is at risk for data theft.
Here are a few tips to reduce your risks for cyber-attacks and data theft of sensitive customer information:
  • Change the passwords you and your employees use to log into your technology systems on a regular basis
  • Avoid emailing sensitive information, but if you do, use a secured email service
  • Have employees lock their computer screens when they step away from their desks
  • Avoid having un-escorted/unsupervised visitors walking through your office
  • Don’t open strange email attachments or click unusual links in emails, especially from an unknown sender as they may be scams
  • Have a written technology policy in place so that all of your employees understand the expectations and rules guiding how your business handles sensitive data
Loss of electronic data is not covered under most commercial theft policies because it is not a tangible asset, and most general liability policies also exclude coverage for your costs to notify customers of potential data theft, pay for the costs of investigating the loss or the costs of potential fines, penalties or lawsuits that result from a failure to protect the data. A cyber liability policy can provide your business with coverage that will help you cover several costs, including the expenses to inform your customers and regulatory authorities about the possible exposure of data.
For more information on a cyber-liability policy contact one of agents at Penny-Hanley & Howley Insurance.
Information source: http://www.trustedchoice.com

Tips to Prepare for a Fire Emergency in your home

In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames. By preparing for a fire emergency, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a fire casualty.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test your smoke alarms once a month and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms every 8-10 years or as the manufacturer guidelines recommend.
  • Plan your escape from fire. The best plans have two ways to get out of each room.
  • Practice fire escape plans several times a year. Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Purchase only collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Check that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Make sure everyone in your family understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred doors and windows.
  • Consider installing residential fire sprinklers in your home.

See the educational video below

Install, Inspect, Protect


Information gathered from http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/focus/emergency.shtm

 

Cell Phones Cause Distracted Driving and Employer Liability

Recently, more attention has been given to distracted driving and the role cell phones play in driver inattention. There have been numerous studies done about the subject, and several regulatory agencies have banned their use.

In January of this year the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banned the use of cell phones in commercial, regulated vehicles unless they are accessed via a hands free device. The driver cannot reach for, dial or hold the cell phone. Only Commercial Driver License holders are subject to these requirements while they are driving a commercial vehicle. Wired or wireless hands free devices are allowed under this requirement.

Another recent development is the National Transportation Safety Board recommending last December that all states ban the use of cell phones while driving, whether using a hands free device or not. This recommendation was made after a review of some large auto, bus and train crashes the last several years where they determined that using the cell phone and being distracted was the main cause of these crashes.

Unfortunately, this has also gained the notice of the trial attorneys. In any major crash where a cell phone may be involved, plaintiffs’ attorneys are going after the cell phone records. They have been successful in using these records to increase jury awards. A Florida family was awarded $21.6M from the employer of a driver that was using their cell phone; an Alabama trucking company was ordered to pay $18M; an Arkansas lumber company paid $16.1M; a paper company paid $5.2M in similar circumstances.

What can an insured do about it?

With the employer being the target in cases like this, insured’s need to have a strict written policy banning the use of cell phones (talking or texting) while driving. Compliance with state and federal regulations should be considered a minimum standard.

With increased accidents surrounding cell phone use while driving you must be sure you have a policy in place to protect yourself and your employees.

Does your company have a policy regarding the use of cell phones?  If not, have you considered putting one in place?

Be safe, use a hands free device while driving.

Penny-Hanley & Howley Insurance

reference  source http://qbena.com/personal-business.aspx

Use your voice and cast your vote on November 6, 2012

There are only 60 days left before the November Election.  Regardless of your political affiliation, you should exercise your freedom and right to vote on this day.  Changes can only happen if your voice is heard.

Here is a little history on voting:

Only Free White Men with Property Can Vote

There is no right to vote in the United States Constitution, so each state’s standards have evolved separately unless federal laws were passed that applied to every state. When this country was founded, only white men with property were routinely permitted to vote (although freed African Americans could vote in four states). White working men, almost all women, and all other people of color were denied the franchise.

By the time of the Civil War, most white men were allowed to vote, whether or not they owned property, thanks to the efforts of those who championed the cause of frontiersmen and white immigrants (who had to wait 14 years for citizenship and the right to vote, in some cases). Literacy tests, poll taxes, and even religious tests were used in various places, and most white women, people of color, and Native Americans still could not vote.

African American Men Get the Vote

In 1866, the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution was passed, guaranteeing citizenship to the former slaves and changing them in the eyes of the law from 3/5 of a person to whole persons. Then, in 1869, the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to black men, with most women of all races still unable to vote.

1869 also marked the beginning of “Black Codes,” or state laws that restricted the freedoms of African Americans. Among the freedoms restricted was the freedom to exercise the right to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, hiding the locations of the polls, economic pressures, threats of physical violence, and other strategies to suppress the African American vote were either found in the Black Codes or flowed from them.

While strategies such as these are no longer legal, some have argued that the misallocation of voting machines in 2004 so that whites in Republican-leaning districts had short lines and minorities in Democratic-leaning districts were forced to miss work to wait in long lines was equivalent to placing a new poll tax on African American and other minority and poor voters.

Women Get the Vote

Initiatives to promote voting for women have been traced back to the 1770s, but the modern movement for a vote for women traces its beginning to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, when supporters of a Constitutional Amendment to allow women to vote came together. While their movement was slowed during the Civil War years, the two major suffragist organizations united after the war and pushed forward with a movement that culminated, after many difficult years, in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos Get the Vote

Some Native Americans became American citizens if they gave up their tribal affiliations in 1887, but many did not become United States citizens until 1924. Many Western states, however, continued to deny the right to vote through property requirements, economic pressures, hiding the polls, and condoning of physical violence against those who voted.

Asian Pacific Americans were considered “aliens ineligible for citizenship” since 1790, and interim changes to naturalization and immigration laws in 1943, 1946, and 1952 give the franchise to some but not all immigrant Asian Pacific Americans. Nevertheless, because citizenship is a precondition of voting, immigrant Asian Pacific Americans did not vote in large numbers until after 1965, when the immigration and naturalization laws were changed.

Asian Pacific Americans born on American soil were American citizens and had the right to vote. When 77,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were put in American concentration camps during World War II, however, their right to vote was not allowed.

For Mexican Americans, those in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas were supposed to get voting rights along with American citizenship in 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ended the Mexican American war. Property requirements and literacy requirements were imposed in those states to keep them from voting, and violence and intimidation were used against anyone who dared to exercise the franchise.

The Sons of America organized in 1921 to fight for equality and the right to vote, but all Mexican Americans did not receive the right to vote until 1975.

If you would like to read more on Voting History check out http://www.iwantmyvote.com/recount/history/

Casting your vote on November 6, 2012 is your right and freedom.  Please be sure to vote.

 

 

Sorry for the Two Week Delay

Hello subscribers and readers. I apologize for no new posts for the past two weeks. I was busy studying for the insurance exam (It’s such a pain in the behind) and now that’s out of the way, I can provide you all with helpful information once again. Hope all of you were patient enough and would continue reading the blog. I will try not to let that happen in the future and if a situation does occur, I will notify you all beforehand this time. If you would like me to cover a specific topic about insurance, don’t hesitate to ask.

Happy weekend everyone 🙂