Fireplace Maintenance for Better Home Safety in TexasBefore you hang your stockings by the chimney with care remember that, while fireplaces can provide warmth and comfort, if you’re not careful, they can also be a hazard and jeopardize your home safety. Keep in mind the following precautions to help ensure home safety during the winter season.

Keep Your Chimney Fireplaces Clean

  • Have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned by a licensed chimney specialist. They should be maintained annually to help ensure they are functioning safely and efficiently.
  • Be sure to keep the area around the hearth clear of debris, decorations and any other flammable materials.

Keep Fires Burning Safely

  • Be sure the flue is open before lighting your fire to help ensure the fireplace will vent properly. Do not close your damper until you are sure the fire is out.
  • When starting a fire, only use a match or commercial firelighter. Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Glass doors of a fireplace should be kept open while burning a fire. This allows the fire to receive enough air for complete combustion and to help reduce creosote build-up in the chimney.
  • Metal mesh screens should remain closed whenever your fireplace is in use to help keep embers in the fireplace.
  • Only use dry wood in your fireplace. Wet wood can increase creosote buildup, which can lead to chimney fires.
  • Do not burn plastic because it can release toxic chemicals and cause damage to your chimney, fireplace or wood stove.
  • Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended. Before leaving the house or going to bed, you should make certain to fully extinguish the fire.
  • Allow ashes to cool completely before disposing of them — ashes can take several days to cool completely. Never empty ashes directly into a trash can. Instead, place ashes in a covered metal container located at least 10 feet away from your home and any other building.

Keep the Outside of Your Home and Your Chimney Safe

  • Firewood should be stacked at least 30 feet away from your home.
  • Your roof and chimney should be kept clean of leaves, pine needles and other debris. Prune trees and branches to keep them away from your chimney for optimum home safety.
  • Install a chimney cap with spark arrester to help keep debris, leaves, branches and animals out, and to help prevent burning embers or sparks from escaping and creating a fire hazard.

Keep the Inside of Your Home Safe with Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

To help make your winter even safer, test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. A smoke detector is the most effective way to detect smoke from a fire and signal an alarm so that you can get out safely. A carbon monoxide detector can alert you to the buildup of this dangerous odorless and colorless gas. Make sure you test the detectors monthly and after you change the batteries to ensure they work properly. Keep your home safe year-round.

Insurance for Historic Homes in TexasIf your idea of a new home really means you want an older home with style and character, you will want to consider the factors of insuring an older home before you sign on the dotted line.

While home insurance for older homes isn’t always more expensive, there are several factors that could lead to higher insurance rates.

Dodgy wiring

Building standards are different from what they were several years ago and some older homes haven’t caught up. For example, some use a 60-amp electrical system rather than the 100- or 200-amp service which is common today. Others may feature knob-and-tube wiring, referring to the ceramic knobs used to hold wires in place and ceramic tubes that act as protective casings for wires running through wall studs or floor joists. It all adds up to an increased fire risk, especially when multiple appliances are in use.

Outmoded Plumbing

Galvanized steel pipes are common in older homes. The problem with this particular material is its tendency to rust, which can prohibit water flow and lead to leaks and flooding.

Roof Type and Age

What kind of roofing materials does your older home have? Depending on the answer, you could be at extra risk for wind, hail, or other damage. Is it the original roof or has it been replaced?

Antiques

Reclaimed wood, antique doors and hand-painted windows are lovely to live with — but not to replace. If older homes are seriously damaged, their hard-to-find materials and architectural accoutrements can make reconstruction a costly challenge.

Old Appliances

Old homes often have old appliances to match. A wood-burning oven, for instance, despite being a quaint accent some homeowners desire, greatly increases the risk for fire and explosions and can consequently affect your insurance cost.

These are just a few of the factors to look for in older homes. Depending on your situation, your insurer might ask for certain updates or repairs before issuing a policy. In some cases, if the home is simply too unsafe, it may not qualify for traditional homeowners insurance.

Increase Your Dwelling Protection

In general, it’s best to have enough dwelling protection to cover the cost of rebuilding your home should it be destroyed by a fire, storm, or other risk. Take careful stock of the rare or expensive architectural elements and be sure to factor them in when deciding how much it will take to restore your home.

Extended Roof Surface Coverage

If your roof is vulnerable to wind or hail, you’ll want to know that you can get damaged materials lp. If your home is destroyed, your dwelling protection can get it back to where it was, but construction may not end there. Extra rebuilding could be needed to bring your place up to today’s safety regulations. Without building codes coverage, this cost would fall to you.

Check with Your Independent Insurance Agent

Overall, the wisest advice is to meet with your independent insurance agent and go over the details of your insurance needs for your new ‘older’ home. Chances are very good that he will even have some sound advice that you didn’t know was available to you.

Distracted Driving Nowadays the first thing that comes to mind when talking about distracted driving is texting and cell phone use, but the fact is it isn’t just texting or using a cell phone. Any activity that diverts a driver’s attention puts that driver, passengers and everyone else sharing the road at serious risk.

A partial list of what counts as a distraction besides texting and cell phone use are: eating and drinking, smoking, attending to or disciplining child passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player or adjusting temperature controls.

Traffic safety experts classify distractions into three main types: Manual, visual and cognitive.

  • Manual distractions are those where you move your hands away from the task of controlling the vehicle. Reaching for a soda in the drink carrier is an example of a manual distraction.
  • Visual distractions are those where you focus your eyes away from the road. You drop your soda, and when it spills all over the floor of the car, you look down at your ruined shoes and stained slacks: that’s a visual distraction.
  • A cognitive distraction is when you’re mind wanders away from the task of driving. You start to consider whether you can afford to replace the clothes you just ruined, and what stores have sales this week, and you’re no longer paying attention to the essential job of driving — cognitive distraction.

This is why texting has such a bad reputation: it always involves all three types of distraction, all at once.

Researchers found that talking on a cell phone quadruples your risk of an accident, about the same as if you were driving drunk. That risk doubles again, to eight times normal, if you are texting.

Sending or receiving a text message distracts a driver for about five seconds; at highway speeds that represents a distance of about 300 feet in which the car is essentially out of human control, driving itself.

According to the NHTSA, over 3,331 people were killed and over 387,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents connected to drivers who are distracted. That represents 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 17 percent of all accidents that caused injuries.

Young drivers are at the greatest risk for distracted driving incidents. Some researchers speculate that this is because inexperienced drivers are the most likely to overestimate their ability to multitask.

Insurance Options after Retirement in TexasInsurance plays an important role in your life no matter what stage of life you’re in. But the real challenge comes with managing your assets after you retire. Besides life and health insurance, your auto and home insurance are important to maintain during retirement.

Auto Insurance

Mature drivers are some of the safest on the road. They have fewer accidents and tend to drive safer cars. Your insurance company may give discounts to safe drivers between the ages of 50-70, so be sure to ask. Bear in mind that statistics show that older drivers also have higher rates of fatal crashes based on miles driven. In fact, more so than any other group except very young drivers. As an older driver, you should expect to see your rates begin to rise. Many states mandate discounts for seniors who have successfully completed driver refresher training. The AARP, for example, offers one such state-certified program.

If you’re a senior driver, it’s good to know that you are considered among the most experienced drivers on the road. Being mobile and getting around is important to you, especially if public transportation is not readily accessible. Yet, as a group, older drivers, particularly after the age of 70, are involved in more serious accidents and more vulnerable to injury. It should be an individual and family decision when it is no longer safe to get behind the wheel.

Home Insurance

Unlike auto insurance, where the state sets minimum coverage limits, the bank that holds your mortgage usually requires you to have homeowners insurance. Once you pay off your mortgage, it’s still important to have protection in case of fire, burglary, and natural disasters. Ask if your insurance company provides discounts for retirees, because you spend more time at home; take time to properly maintain your property; and take prompt action to correct small problems before they become big problems.

If you work at home, you may need a supplemental liability policy that covers your work-related activity. Consider also an umbrella policy to protect your accumulated assets. Real estate, securities, and savings could be wiped out by one lawsuit. Umbrella coverage adds another layer of protection above what is provided in your standard homeowners and auto policies. Generally, an umbrella policy is very affordable, and provides an additional million dollars or more in liability insurance.

Business Owners Insurance Odessa, TXIf you’re a small business owner, carrying the right insurance coverage is essential to protecting your business and personal assets. Fire, theft and vandalism can shut down your business or require replacement of expensive equipment. A business owner’s policy (BOP) can protect you against all of these risks and more. It is simply a policy that provides both property and business liability insurance in one packaged policy and is designed to cover the basic needs of small to mid-sized businesses at an affordable rate.

Here are three of the most common BOP insurance myths and why they are wrong:

Myth 1: Business owner’s insurance policies are only for bigger businesses, so you don’t need one.

The exact opposite is true. Business owner’s insurance policies are designed specifically for small businesses. A BOP insurance policy conveniently rolls property damage and business liability insurance into one policy, making full coverage very affordable.

A business owner’s policy also includes business interruption insurance, which compensates you for any business income you lose due to a covered peril. A major disaster can shut your business down for weeks or even months. Business interruption insurance will ensure that you survive the closure.

It’s not just disasters that can close a business. A kitchen fire can easily shutter a restaurant for weeks. The property damage portion of a BOP covers damages to the kitchen equipment, and business interruption coverage helps cover any lost income.

Myth 2: Your general liability insurance covers a business interruption and business property loss.

Absolutely not.  General liability does not protect you from property damage or business interruption, both of which can be very costly.

General liability covers acts you commit, or things that happen at your business location. If a customer slips and falls in your grocery store, or a customer gets food poisoning from a pizza served at your shop, general liability covers their medical expenses as well as any resulting lawsuits.

A general liability policy does not cover damage to your business property. The property damage portion of a BOP covers loss or damage to your physical space, equipment, inventory, machinery, furniture and supplies, as well as losses due to theft.

Myth 3: Your personal umbrella policy covers a business equipment loss.

Personal umbrella policies are designed to cover personal, not business, liability. While coverage does extend to business equipment in certain circumstances, low coverage limits usually apply.

Personal umbrella policies cover bodily injury and property damage liability and pay legal fees for libel, slander and false arrest. Unfortunately, business coverage is extremely limited. In most cases, the maximum allowed for business equipment under a personal umbrella policy is $2,500. A personal umbrella policy is usually associated with a homeowners or personal auto policy and only extends coverage to business property if those underlying policies offer business coverage, which is rare.

Home Insurance Midland, TXHome sweet home is a well-loved place to be. That’s why making sure you have the right homeowner’s insurance is so important. Owning a home is a lot different than renting.

The typical homeowner’s insurance policy covers damage resulting from fire, windstorm, hail, water damage (excluding flooding), riots and explosion as well as other causes of loss, such as theft and the extra cost of living elsewhere which the structure is being repaired or rebuilt.

Your homeowner’s policy also covers your legal liability (up to policy limits) if you, members of your family or even your pets hurt other people or their property, not just in your house, but away from it, as well.

Three ways to insure the structure of your home:

  1. Replacement Cost. Insurance that pays the policyholder the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation, but limited to a maximum dollar amount.
  2. Extended Replacement Cost.An extended replacement cost policy, one that covers costs up to a certain percentage over the limit (usually 20%). This gives you protection against such things as a sudden increase in construction costs.
  3. Actual Cash Value. This covers the cost to replace your home minus depreciation costs for age and use. For example, if the life expectancy of your roof is 20 years and your roof is 15 years old, the cost to replace it in today’s marketplace is going to be much higher than its actual cash value.

Tips for Insuring Your Home to Value

It is best to insure your home for the total amount it would cost to rebuild your home if it were destroyed. That’s not the market value, but the cost to rebuild. If you don’t have sufficient insurance, your company may only pay a portion of the cost of replacing or repairing damaged items. Here are some tips to help make sure you have enough insurance:

  • For a quick estimate on the amount to rebuild your home: multiply the local building costs per square foot by the total square footage of your house. To find out the building rates in your area, consult your local builders association or a reputable builder. You should also check with your insurance agent.
  • Factors that will determine the cost to rebuild your home: a) construction costs b) square footage of the structure c) type of exterior wall construction—frame, masonry or veneer d) the style of the house (ranch, colonial) e) the number of rooms & bathrooms f) the type of roof g) attached garages, fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows or unique interior trim.
  • Check the value of your homeowner’s policy against rising local building cost each year. Check with your insurance agent to see if they offer an “Inflation Guard Clause.” This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area.
  • Check the latest building codes in your community. Building codes require structures to be constructed to minimum standards. If your home is severely damaged, you might have to rebuild it to comply with the new standards requiring a change in design or building materials. These generally cost more.
  • Do not insure your home for the market value. The cost of rebuilding your home may be higher or lower than the price you paid for it or the price you could sell it for today.

Advise your insurer and increase the limits of your homeowner’s policy if you make improvements or additions to your house.

Liability Insurance Odessa, TXTrailers come in all shapes and sizes and for some folks they’re an absolute must-have. For others they may be needed to transport a horse or livestock, and still others need a utility trailer to carry equipment for their lawn care or pool cleaning business. There are open trailers and enclosed trailers, but they all run the same risk of being involved in a collision when being driven with property in tow.

The question is: Are you covered for liability in the event that your trailer causes property damage or worse – bodily injury to another person? If your car insurance policy does not provide this coverage, you should purchase trailer insurance liability coverage so that you’re fully protected.

If you want customized insurance that covers you for liability risks involving your trailer, speak with your independent insurance agent for help finding the right coverage for your budget.

Do I Need Trailer Insurance Liability Coverage?

Accidents involving vehicles that are towing trailers are not uncommon and these large and often heavy trailers can cause serious property damage and injuries when they collide with other vehicles or objects. Mistaken turns, collisions with objects while backing up, and clipped cars while changing lanes are some common trailer mishaps that lead to liability concerns for the driver.

Runaway trailers are another hazard. If a trailer breaks free from your vehicle while you are towing it, it can roll out of control. In most cases, the trailers do not stop until they have hit another vehicle or object. It is a good idea to purchase a breakaway kit to help prevent such an incident. These will stop the trailer if it becomes disengaged.  However, a stopped trailer on the roadway can still be very dangerous to other vehicles and drivers.

What Is Trailer Liability Insurance?

Trailer liability insurance can provide coverage for injuries and damages caused by various types of trailers including boat trailers, horse trailers, fifth wheel RVs and utility trailers. It can also cover legal fees in the event that someone takes you to court. If you have a trailer for commercial use, commercial trailer liability coverage can protect your business in the event of a lawsuit.

Commercial and Personal Policy Differences

On a Commercial or Business Auto policy, trailers must be listed to be covered for Liability coverage and Comp and Collision.

For Personal Auto Policies the Liability extension of the coverage includes the trailer or towing vehicle. Comp and Collision are not included and must be added.

To fully understand that you are getting the most comprehensive coverage based on your needs, contact your insurance agent, whether you are purchasing a trailer or borrowing or renting one. Discuss and understand all the details with your auto insurance agent before you take to the road.

Boat insurance midland odessa, tx

Boat Insurance

If you’re an avid angler then you are serious about catching fish. Your success depends on your boat and equipment, keeping both in tip-top shape is important. An on that same note, keeping your insurance current is equally important.  Whether you fish just for fun or compete in tournaments, be sure your insurance is what it should be to meet your needs.

Ask your independent insurance agent if your fishing and boating insurance includes the following and discuss what you may or may not need. If you compete in fishing tournaments you will want to ask whether that is included in your policy.

  • Damage Coverage
  • Disappearing Deductible
  • Consequential Damage Clause
  • Fishing Equipment
  • Protection & Indemnity (P&I)
  • Medical Payments
  • Tournament Fee Reimbursement
  • Towing and Emergency Assistance
  • Unlimited Trailering within the continental United States

And remember the importance of safety when you’re boating or fishing. In Texas alone, there are over 250,000 registered boats and the state enforces strict boating and fishing laws. Make sure you and your crew are well informed and well prepared before you leave the shore.

And if you’re new to the game and don’t have boating insurance yet, check with one of our independent agents about getting a fast, online quote here.

The bass, trout and who know how many more are out there waiting for you. Don’t let the worry of damage, injury or loss complicate your fishing fun. Contact your independent today and get all the details worked out.  You might even want to invite him to join you for a fishing trip!

Texas Cyber Insurance Policy Nowadays, even if you’re a small business, you probably need cyber insurance. The fact that over 40 percent of small businesses have been targeted in the last two years should be taken seriously. As most business, large and small, is increasingly reliant on the internet, playing it safe is just common sense. The unseen ‘bad guys’ are out there and they seem to be getting smarter by the day.

So what exactly is cyber insurance and what does it cover?

Basically cyber insurance covers your business in the case of a data breach that is related to sensitive customer information. That would include Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, health insurance info, account details and such.

So exactly what does cyber insurance cover?

Cyber insurance covers legal fees and other expenses and it also assists in the following ways:

  • Customers are notified about a hack or breach
  • Personal identities of affected customers are restored
  • Compromised data is recovered
  • Damages to your computers and computer systems are repaired

Contact your independent insurance agent to find out more about cyber insurance. While it is still relatively new to the insurance industry, there are many fine products available to ensure better security for your business.

The National Cyber Security Alliance* advises that updated computer systems, strong passwords and a well trained staff are three important ways to avoid a security breach. In addition to your cyber insurance, think defensively when it comes to protecting your business and the security of your customers.

Renters Insurance Agent Odessa, TXIf you rent a house, apartment or mobile home you should renters insurance coverage. Why?

Personal effects are not protected by the landlord’s insurance policy. Your landlord’s insurance covers damage to the building but does not protect your personal possessions.

If your personal effects are lost, damaged or stolen, renters insurance provides coverage. Renters insurance also protects you against liability claims if a visitor to your rented home or apartment is injured.

How you are compensated depends on the type of loss and the amount of coverage you have in place. You can purchase “actual cash value” (depreciated) coverage for your personal property, or you can buy replacement cost coverage for your personal possessions.

Although you aren’t required to carry renters insurance by law, your landlord can require renters insurance in your rental lease agreement. Having renters insurance protects you so that regardless of what happens on the premises, your renters insurance will cover you.

If you are required to relocate due to repairs from fire, smoke or water damage, for example, your renters insurance can cover temporary accommodations.

Renters insurance is very affordable. Depending on where you live and the coverage amount you choose to carry on the policy, the cost is around $100-$250 per year. The national average for renters insurance is $15 to $30 per month.

Texas renters insurance is very affordable. The average cost is around $15 a month for $10,000 of personal property coverage and $100,000 of liability. You can get more coverage if you need it which might total $20 a month.  Consider what it would cost if you had a major loss and did not have renters insurance. The loss of electronics, jewelry or valuable collectibles could be in the thousands, making the cost of renters insurance minimal by comparison.

Considering the affordability of renters insurance, why do so many people run the risk of not having it?