Wednesday, December 15, 2010


With winter starting next week, the snow has been hitting the northern part of New York.  Heavy snow fall has closed airports, roads, and has already caused millions in damage.  The southern part of the state has been getting minimal snow, but icy roads have been causing accidents and traffic tie-ups. 

The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) today issued a Safety Alert advising homeowners and businesses throughout New York State that heavy snowfall and drifting snow may create a new hazard: carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, dangerous gas, commonly known as CO.

State Fire Administrator Floyd A. Madison said that with the recent onslaught of lake-effect snows in western, central and northern portions of New York State, local fire agencies have reported an increase in calls about carbon monoxide detectors going off in homes. Madison said that the reason for these calls is that high snow drifts may be blocking furnace vents and air intakes in some homes, particularly those that have newer high-efficiency furnaces.

“New, high efficiency furnaces vent out the side of a house rather than up through the roof,” Madison said. “This type of venting and air intake must be kept free and clear of snow. If it plugs up, the carbon monoxide would go back into the home. This is why the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control is issuing this warning.”

The State Fire Administrator said that some areas of New York State have received more than three feet of snow in the last week. Many newer high efficiency furnaces have an automatic device that shuts off the furnace when the vents are blocked, but not all of them. First responders say it is important to keep a three-foot area clear around the vent and intake tubes.

The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control advises all New Yorkers affected by the recent heavy snows to inspect the area around their furnace and hot water heater vents to ensure that snow and ice are not blocking the efficient and safe operation of these fuel burning devices.  Homeowners should keep a three- foot area around the vents clear of snow, shrubs, or other potential obstructions.

If your CO alarm sounds, evacuate all family members to a safe location and call your local fire department, Madison said.

Additional information on carbon monoxide may be found at:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Home Protection Tips

All of that mild weather kind of spoiled us, but winter is hear.  Well technically it isn't yet, but it sure does feel like winter out there.  There are several things that you can do to minimize some of winter's biggest threats to your home. 

Snow Fall
Heavy snow accumulation can pose a threat to your home or business -- both as it builds up and as it melts. The three most important things to do are:
  1. Watch for snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect. For safe removal that won't endanger you or damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor for a referral.  
  2. Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and all walls. Melting snow can lead to water damage and moisture intrusion.
  3. Keep your attic well ventilated to maintain a temperature close to that of the outdoors to minimize the risk of ice dams forming. A warm attic melts snow on the roof, causing water to run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If ice builds up and blocks water from draining, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.

Melting Snow and Ice
Water intrusion and flood damage from melting snow and ice can threaten homes and businesses, but you can take these steps to help minimize the potential damage.

Immediately after the threat of physical danger has passed:
  1. Make sure the building is structurally safe to enter or reoccupy.
  2. Turn off electrical power. Do not use electricity until it is safe to do so.
  3. Ensure that natural gas sources are safely secured.
  4. Secure the exterior to prevent further water intrusion. This can include boarding up broken windows, making temporary roof repairs, sealing cracks or tacking down plastic sheeting against open gaps in walls or roofs.
When it's safe to begin cleanup:
  1. Disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and move it to a safe, dry location.
  2. Remove as much standing water as possible from inside the building.
  3. Begin to remove water-damaged materials immediately.
  4. Ventilate the home as best you can with fans and/or dehumidifiers.
  5. Contact a water extraction company, if necessary, for assistance.

By taking immediate action, you will reduce the amount of damage and increase the chance of salvaging usable materials. You'll also reduce the amount of rust, rot, mold and mildew that may develop, and lower the likelihood that the water will lead to structural problems.


Ice Dams
Ice dams are an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof. When interior heat melts the snow, water can run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off the roof, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.

To help reduce the risk of ice dams:

  1. Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris.
  2. Keep the attic well ventilated so snow doesn't melt and refreeze on the roof's edge.
  3. Make sure the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.  
Frozen/Bursting Pipes
Bursting pipes occur when frozen water causes a pressure buildup between the ice blockage and the closed faucet. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to extreme cold. To keep water in your pipes from freezing:

  1.  Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow heat transfer.
  2. Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.
  3. Keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
  4. Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.
If you suffer damage from some of these winter hazards, you might be covered under your home, condo, or renters insurance.  To find out, you should contact your current company, or call us at 888-900-2173, and we can review your coverage for you.  Taking the steps to prevent these hazards will not only save you money from having to pay for your deductible or parts of the claims that aren't covered.  They will also save you money on your premiums for years to come. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Lighting Safety

The holidays are here, and you might have already put up your lights.  I started on Thanksgiving, and finished decorating the outside of the house this past weekend.  Here are some saftey tips that are good to follow:

• Check lighting strands for broken bulbs, frayed wires, loose connection, or any other signs of wear or damage. Throw away any strands that give you cause for concern.

• Some safety experts recommend replacing light strands every four or five years to ensure that wear and improper storage don't create a hazard.

• Don't place cords under furniture or rugs. Use caution when using nails, tacks or pins to secure strands of lights; don't pierce the wire coverings with such items.

• Keep light strands away from sources of heat or moisture. Cover the tree's water basin to ensure that lights don't come into contact with it.

• Make sure strands of lights don't dangle or lay loosely where young children can grab a hold of them. It could result in the tree toppling over or present a strangulation hazard.

• Even low wattage bulbs can get hot enough to burn small, tender fingers. Keep them out of reach as much as possible.

• Make sure a fully operational smoke detector resides in close proximity to a tree that features holiday lights.

• When decorating outside, use only lights that are approved for outdoor use. Plug all outdoor lights into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) to avoid the risk of a serious shock.

Have a very Happy Holiday Season!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Home Fire Safety for the Holidays

As the holidays approach, homeowners should take time to think about home fire safety. By taking simple measures, home fire safety precautions can prevent the devastation of a house fire. According to claims data from a major auto and home insurance company, reports of fire loss jump during the winter months. January alone accounted for 15 per cent of all fire losses reported in 2009. So make home fire safety a top priority.

Properly planned home fire safety can help prevent the majority of fire losses. This autumn, consider these home fire safety tips:

Home Fire Safety Step #1: Prepare

The first step in home fire safety is to be prepared! The best thing you can do to ensure safer winter months at home is to be proactive about your home's upcoming seasonal needs. A little time spent on home fire safety preparation will ensure that your family stays safe and comfortable this winter.

1. Inspect heaters every autumn to ensure they are in good working condition. If you have a gas heater, inspect the exhaust for carbon build up.

2. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year if you have a woodstove or use your fireplace. This is an essential part of home fire safety, because creosote buildup can cause a chimney fire.

3. Install smoke detectors on all floors of your home. Take the time to sit down with your family and prepare a fire plan. It should detail escape routes and include a designated meeting place. This is an indispensable part of home fire safety preparedness.  If you already have smoke detectors, then make sure that you change the batteries every six months.

Home Fire Safety Step #2: Prevent

An essential part of home fire protection is prevention! As you prepare for cooler weather and holiday festivities, make home fire safety part of your yearly routine.

1. Avoid overloading your outlets by using power bars for several small appliances. If you have a gas stove in your kitchen, keep rags, paper or anything that can catch on fire, away from open flames. This is an essential part of home fire safety, because many house fires are due to electrical fires and cooking accidents.

2. Inspect your home for frayed or damaged electrical cords and plugs, as well as fuses that regularly blow. Consider hiring a licensed electrician to inspect your home's electrical system to make sure everything is working properly.

3. Home fire safety is especially vital during the holidays. Christmas tree lights and electrical ornaments should be in working order with no wires showing or fraying. A pine tree that catches on fire can set an entire room ablaze in less than a minute.

4. Careless disposal of fireplace ashes can be a serious threat to any home. Ashes need four days to completely cool. Keep them in a can away from combustible materials until completely cool and then discard them.

Home Fire Safety Step #3: Insure

In addition to taking home fire safety precautions, another way to keep your family safe during the winter season is with high quality home insurance.

Make sure that you know who is insuring your home, and if you have any gaps in coverage.  I am working with a client who recently had a fire, and they are delighted to know that they have the right coverage when the need it.  You want to make sure that you are with a company who will work with you through the claims process, not against you.  You also need a trusted licensed insurance professional to make sure that you have the right level of protection in case you need it. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's time to "Fall Back"

You’ve likely heard the saying, “spring forward, fall behind,” as an easy way to remember how to set your clocks when daylight saving time begins and ends. In the spring, we move our clocks ahead one hour and “lose” an hour during the night. In the fall, we move our clocks back one hour to “gain” more time.

On Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 at 2 a.m. local time, daylight saving time ends in the U.S. Remember to set your clock one hour earlier, and enjoy the extra hour in your day.

The change to daylight saving time allows us to use less energy in lighting our homes and businesses by taking advantage of the longer and later daylight hours. It began in the U.S. during World War I as a way to save energy for war production. During World War II, the government again required states to use daylight saving time. After the war, it was up to each individual community to choose whether or not it would observe daylight saving time until 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized the length of daylight saving time.

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act which extended daylight saving time by four weeks, with the hope of saving 10,000 barrels of oil per day by reducing the use of power during daylight hours.

It is also a good time to change the batteries in your smoke detector.  This should be done every six months, so the change in time is a good time to change your batteries.  Have a safe and happy fall.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Construction Industry Fair Play Act creates presumption of employment

As if the Lead Liability Issue hasn't been enough of a challenge for contractors to deal with, now the NY State has a new law changing the rules on Workers Compensation Coverage.  Effective Oct. 26, 2010, there's a major shift in the way New York state officially views workers in the construction trades, due to enactment of “The New York State Construction Industry Fair Play Act.” The law makes it extremely hard to qualify construction workers as independent contractors.

Because the law defines “construction” so broadly (see below), activities other than “new” construction are affected. Also, the new law makes it clear that someone cannot qualify as an independent contractor merely by maintaining a workers' compensation policy, as some may have assumed in the past.

Presumption-of-employment established. This new law (S.5847-F) creates a strong legal presumption that construction workers are employees. This represents quite a paradigm shift in an industry where a large portion of workers traditionally have been treated as independent contractors.

The “presumption” of employment can be overcome, so these workers can be classified as independent contractors—but only if they meet certain very specific criteria. To be treated as independent contractors, they must qualify as a separate business entity (as defined), plus meet certain tests showing true independence from the contractor that hires them.

Willful misclassification of construction workers carries stiff new penalties—and a greater chance of being detected and penalized, due to heightened information sharing among state agencies.

Summary of legal tests. The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) has boiled down the law's somewhat complicated tests into a simpler, more understandable three-part formula. The DOL's explanation for construction workers is a good place to start, in understanding the ramifications of the new law:

“The law says that you are an employee unless:

• you are free from direction and control in performing your job; AND

• you perform work that is not part of the usual work done by the business that hired you; AND

• you have an independently established business.

Your employer cannot consider you to be an independent contractor unless all three of these facts apply to your work.


Notice requirement. As of the law's effective date (Oct. 26, 2010), contractors are required to post information on its provisions at job sites. The DOL, as required by law, has developed a poster that will fulfill this requirement, as well as a fact sheet. The DOL poster and related information can be viewed here:

How the law works. First, the law adds some new definitions:

“Construction” is defined very broadly to embrace not just new construction but also repairs, demolition, excavation, etc.

“Contractor ” means any legal entity engaged in construction in New York, including both general contractors and subcontractors. (The law is designed so that independent contractors who qualify as separate business entities automatically are considered “contractors” in their own right. Thus, in turn, these individuals become subject to the law's requirements with respect to any workers they may hire.)

“Employee” (as defined in Workers' Compensation Law) is amended to include any individual performing services in construction for a contractor who does not overcome the presumption of employment.

Here's the “presumption” part: “Any person performing services for a contractor shall be classified as an employee unless the person is a separate business entity OR all of the following criteria are met, in which case the person shall be an independent contractor” [emphasis added]. In other words, the “person” here can be either a natural person or a business entity; and in each case the law applies certain tests before it will consider them an independent contractor.

Test for independent contractors. To be considered an independent contractor, an individual performing services for a contractor, must:

• be free from control and direction in performing the job, both under contract terms and in fact;

• perform services outside the usual course of business of the contractor for which the service is performed; AND

• have an independently established business.

Test of independently established business. To be considered a “separate business entity” from the contractor for which services are performed, the business must meet ALL of the following (for exact language, consult the text of the law):

• be free from direction or control (except as to the desired result);

• not be subject to dissolution upon severance of its relationship with the contractor;

• have a substantial capital investment in the business, beyond ordinary tools, equipment and a personal vehicle;

• own the capital goods, gain the profits and bear the losses;

• make services available to the general public or business community on a continuing basis;

• file federal taxes as an independent business or profession;

• perform services for the contractor under the business entity's name;

• furnish the tools needed to perform the job;

• obtain and pay for any licenses or permits in the business entity's name;

• if necessary, hire its own employees without contractor approval, pay them without reimbursement from the contractor and report its employees' income to the IRS;

• not be represented to others by the contractor as an employee; AND

• have the right to perform similar services for others on whatever basis, and whenever it chooses.

Enforcement. The bill imposes stiff penalties for failing to classify construction workers properly, which extend to certain individuals who are corporate officers or shareholders. Mandatory information sharing among the Workers' Compensation Board, the Labor Department and the Department of Taxation and Finance make it more likely that a contractor coming to the attention of one state agency will be scrutinized by the others. Workers who question their status or become whistleblowers are protected from reprisals.

For more information about how this law may impact your business, give us a call at 516-799-6900.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's getting cold, time to turn on the Heat!

Had to break down and turn on the heat last night.  I enjoy the colder weather, but the family was complaining that it was too cold. It's a good thing that I had the furnace serviced a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, many people let their service go because they need to save some money, but that can lead to a major hazard, the oil burner puff back!

What You Need to Know

A puff back can be caused by a malfunction of the combustion chamber inside the oil burner.  Explosions can be caused by the oil vapors which build up inside the oil burnerThis may seem like a harmful and frightening situation. However, if the fumes made by the malfunctioned gas burners revert back to the vents and air ducts in your home, it can cause damage to the home and will lead to poor indoor air quality and can heavily affect the air circulation as well.

Anything that comes into contact with the fumes will be covered in petroleum based particles and soot when that malfunction happens. There is a misconception that puff backs basically mean that dust is being blown back. However, the proper definition is that it is a release of oil-based particles that can do much more damage compared to dust.

When it comes to puff backs, there are primarily two ways they can spread: either they spread rapidly or they can spread gradually. Often times, puff backs appear as dark circles on your ceilings, walls and furniture. This makes it hard to notice there is actually an on-going problem happening. You might even think that they are just dirty finger prints. It may seem like only dirt or dust but when you try removing it you will realize that it is actually oil-based and cannot be removed easily.

On the other hand, there are also times when puff backs are extremely rapid. In just a short span of time, this may cause severe damage to your property and your house as well. When this happens, you will notice that everything will start to get covered by soot and you should take the necessary precautions since a potential explosion can occur.

How to Handle Puff Back Situations

Keep in mind that you need to act quickly so that you can minimize the damage if you notice any sort of puff back. When it comes to restorations in terms of what has been damaged by puff back residue and soot, the best thing to do is to hire a restoration service professional. However, if you don’t have the means to hire a professional restoration service, there are still a few ways you can handle the situation yourself. Always remember to wear a protective mask and the right disposable clothing so you can prevent direct contact with the toxic soot.

Checking the furnace and the oil burner is the very first thing you should inspect. Testing should be your priority since this may very well be the primary source of the problem. It is highly recommended that you seek the help of a professional technician. Eliminating the source of the problem before treating its effects should be one of the first things you should do. The malfunctioning oil burner is the main source of the problem.

If you have a gas leak inside your house, it can lead to higher levels of carbon dioxide that can be extremely hazardous to your family’s health. This situation may also be considered as a puff back. The carbon dioxide levels must be tested if you are experiencing dizziness or nausea when you are inside your house.

Installing carbon dioxide monitors is advisable so that the carbon dioxide levels can be tested frequently. When you notice carbon dioxide levels increasing slowly, this is a clear indicator of a gradual puff back and this need to be addressed until it worsens. Make sure you take the initiative and inspect if there are any problems with your oil burners or if there are any gas leaks when you start seeing that the levels of carbon dioxide in your house are rising.

Puff Back Restoration Services

Professional puff back restorations offer various services, including specialized vacuuming services. Since ordinary vacuums cannot clean puff backs, professional services use a heavy duty vacuum to remove the soot from the surface and store it instead of allowing it blow out into the air. Another service would be structural cleaning, which restores your house to its original state if the whole house or parts of it is affected by puff backs. The extreme options would be demolition or a complete shut down if the majority of the property is affected.

Upholstered furniture and carpets are prone to soot since it is an oil-based material. Hence, this will make it difficult to remove on your carpets and upholstered furniture. Restoration services should be able to remove the soot using their specialized methods. Moreover, since a smoky odor may be emitted by puff backs as well, puff back restoration services apply odor removal processes to eliminate the odor from the affected areas. If a puff back adheres to your clothes, the best thing to do would be to ask restoration services to wash and dry clean them so they can be restored to their original state. Even if you think you can wash the clothes on your own, you may not have the cleaning agents and the necessary appliances to clean the clothes well.

Preventive Tips on How to Deal with Puff Backs

When it comes to puff backs, the best thing to do is to implement preventive measures. To be able to make sure that you won’t fall victim to puff backs, it is highly advisable to make routine checks on your oil burners and furnace. Acting immediately by getting in touch with a restoration service as soon as possible to minimize the extent of the damage is another important thing to do if you find yourself in a dire puff back situation.

Some home insurance policies protect you from the puff backs, so the cost of the cleanup should be covered.  But it is better to avoid the situation by taking the time to have a routine check of your heating system every year.  Call us now to see if you have this valuable coverage. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

More Rain, water damage and flooded basements

We had a break on Wednesday, but the rain is really coming down today.  We have been getting many calls about water damage and basements being flooded.  The questions always come out as to what to do, so here are some helpful hints as to what is covered and what is not:

Water Damage:  Most home policies will cover from water damage, except from a flood.  So if you have water in the basement that is seeping in, this is normally excluded.  If you have a roof leak, you need to determine where the leak is coming from.

We had some pretty powerful winds last night, so you might be missing shingles.  If that is the case, then the shingles and water damage should be covered.  If there is evidence that there has been a leak for a long period of time, then it wouldn't be covered. 

Home insurance covers an event.  This is know as "Sudden and Accidental" damage.  If you have mold or rot, then the damage has been there over a long period of time, which is caused by maintenance.  So if your roof is old and leaky, the new water damage should be covered, but not the roof. 

Basement Flooding: The amount of rain we are having is causing the ground to be so saturated, that the water is looking for a place to go.  Basements are usually the first place to have a problem.  Some people have French Drains or Sump Pumps because this is common in their area.  If you have water back up coverage, and the drain or sump pump gets backed up, the damage would be covered. 

If you have Flood Insurance, damage to your home and mechanical equipment in the basement would be covered by ground water.  Contents aren't covered, so furniture and personal belongings won't be covered.  Just the walls, electrical outlets and wires, washer, dryer, refrigerator, a/c, heating, and other permanent part of the house would be covered by flood.

What to do:  The first thing to do if you have water damage is to stop further damage.  Get someone to patch the roof, or get a pump to get the water out of the basement.  Then you need to get someone to clean up the damage.  Mold can be a problem, so you need to minimize it. There are companies that specialize in water damage cleanups out there.  Many insurance companies will send one out just to stop further damage.

If the damage is minimal, you might not want to file a claim.  Home insurance rates in New York have been climbing because of all of the recent storms that we have had over the past two years.  On Long Island, it is getting tougher to get coverage, especially on the South Shore.  Fortunately, I have several companies who have great rates to help.  If you have any questions, give us a call. 888-900-2173

Friday, September 17, 2010

No Hurricanes, but a Tornado?

Here we are in the peak of Hurricane Season, and we get hit with a nasty wind and hail storm, and possibly a tornado!  If this doesn't make you question if you have the right coverage on your home insurance, then nothing will.

Most home policies have some kind of wind or hurricane deductible today.  Usually there is some kind of a starting point, such as a specific wind speed, or a certain level of a hurricane.  The wind and hurricane deductibles will mean that you have a separate deductible for wind damage.  So if you have a fire, which is a lower probability, you will have a $500 or $1000 deductible for example.  But if there is wind damage, it could be $1000, or a percentage of the insured value of your home.

So if your house is insured for $200,000, and you have a 5% deductible, you will pay for the first $10,000 of damage before your insurance company pays to fix your home.  That is a lot of money!  It is important to know what you have before you need it. If your company or broker haven't told you, you need a new company.

Why are companies doing this?  Because the "reinsurance" that they used to buy either isn't available, or has these types of clauses in their policies.  That's right, most insurance companies buy insurance themselves.  They make most of their money on the "reserves" that they invest, but can't keep enough aside to cover a major catastrophe. 

Homes cost a lot more to repair, and in NY, the population is so dense, that most companies can't handle the potential payout of a major storm.  One major company just took a 30% increase in rates because of the possibility of a major storm hitting, and them having to pay out on wind damage.  Others have restricted where they will write business.  They are all relying on some kind of a deductible to help spread their risk.

What can you do?  Call me, or fax me a copy of your policy. I will decipher the insurance language to tell you what you have.  Many companies want you to deal directly with them because they know that you won't be able to understand or read the fine print.  So they cut their rates, and leave you high and dry when you have a claim.

So act now before the next storm hits, and you have to decipher what is covered, and how much you are out of pocket on a claim!  888-900-2173

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Earl has passed, but Peak Hurricane Season is Here!

Recent heavy rains across the United States serve as another reminder that NOW is the time to protect your family, home and/or business with flood insurance. Late summer and early fall marks the beginning of peak hurricane season - the most active time of the year for hurricanes and tropical storms - and you need to be prepared should a storm hit your community in the upcoming months. Most homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flood damage and once purchased, there is typically a 30-day waiting period for a flood insurance policy to become effective. 
The Risk is Real

Hurricanes and tropical storms bring drenching rains and high winds that can cause significant damage to a home or business and its contents. The largest amounts of rainfall from hurricanes are often produced by slow moving storms that move inland. Some of the worst damage from recent hurricanes has occurred hundreds or thousands of miles from the coast - as far north as New York in the case of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and through much of the Midwest and into Pennsylvania because of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Earl passed by with a lot of publicity, but no punch. However, all it would take was a change in course of  a few miles to the West, and it would have been a different story.  We are way overdue for a major storm to hit, and all it would take is a tropical storm to cause local flooding.  Look at Riverhead, NY earlier this year.  Those people still aren't back in their homes, and are waiting for the government to bail them out! (Pun intended)

Costly Consequences

Eight of the top ten most expensive federally-declared disasters have been caused by hurricanes. Just inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage and last year, the average individual flood insurance claim was nearly $28,000. Without flood insurance protection, many property owners may have to absorb the financial losses on their own, potentially draining their savings.

Protect Your Home or Business Now!

You need to get covered before a storm could impact your community and home. Flood insurance has a 30 day waiting period, and is more affordable than you may think. The average flood insurance policy is around $579 a year and in moderate-to-low-risk areas, Preferred Risk Policies start as low as $119 a year (that's equal to $10 a month or 33 cents a day

Call now to see how you can get this valuable coverage - 888-900-2173

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Your homeowners policy and storm damage-what's covered?

Here is a little Q&A about home insurance and storm damage in general.  These are the types of questions that we get, so I figured that I would answer them here. 

Q. Generally, how does my homeowners policy respond to storm damage to my property?

A. Your homeowners policy covers most losses that may occur to your dwelling and personal property. Commonly, losses resulting from theft, fire, wind, vehicles and vandalism are covered.

Q. What if there is damage because of a storm?

A. A standard homeowners policy covers storm damage to the dwelling, its contents and other structures such as garages and fences, up to the policy limit. Such damage also acts as a trigger for coverage of other consequential losses and expenses including removal of debris and loss of use.

Q. What if my family and I cannot live in our home because of the damage?

A. When storm damages make it necessary to leave your home temporarily, your home-owners policy covers the additional costs necessary to maintain your normal standard of living for such things as meals, lodging, laundry, transportation, entertainment, etc. You will need to present receipts for all of your expenses to be reimbursed.

Q. What clean-up expenses can I expect to recover following a storm?

A. Your homeowners policy will cover costs for removal of debris when covered property is damaged. This includes the removal of trees that fall on covered structures, but this coverage for trees usually is limited to $1,000 for a single storm.

Q. Am I covered for protecting my property from damage?

A. Your policy obligates you to protect your property from further damage following a loss as a condition to payment of your claim. You can expect your policy to pay for such expenses to board windows and make emergency repairs. Also, property removed from your home to protect it from an impending storm receives more comprehensive coverage than what is provided at your home—for a limited period of time, it covers flood, earthquake and any direct damage to your dislocated property without exclusions. However, the expenses to remove the property from harm’s way is not a covered expense.

Q. What damages are not covered by my homeowners policy?

A. Trees, shrubs and gardens damaged or destroyed by the storm are not covered. The spoilage of food due to an inoperative refrigerator or freezer resulting from a utility line power outage is not covered by many policies, unless the appliances are inoperative because the damage to power lines or other utility equipment occurred on your property; for example, lightning damage to your circuit box or a tree falling on power lines connected to your home.

* It is important to note that unless it has been added to your policy, there is no coverage for any damage that is a direct result of flood, surface water or water that backs up through sewers or drains that is caused by an act of nature (a storm).

Q. How can I find out what is covered in my specific circumstances?

A. The information provided here includes general guidelines for storm damage coverage. You should contact our agency for definite answers and further advice.

What to do with Earl heading our way?

It looks like the worst of Earl will stay to the East of Long Island.  If the storm takes a turn towards us, or for those of you on the East End, and in Connecticut, this is what you should do during a Hurricane
  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters, and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.· Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  •  If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure—such shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building—hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an inland waterway.
  • If you feel you are in danger.
If you are unable to evacuate, go to your safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm - winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
Good Luck, and let's hope that Earl stays out to sea, and we can have a nice Labor Day weekend to end the summer.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurricane Earl Heads towards New York

The last thing anybody wants it to have the Labor Day Weekend washed out. But the potential of Hurricane Earl hitting us hear in New York is real. It is important to make sure that if we do get hit, even just by the outer bands, that you are ready. Putting together an emergency kit is a good idea. You don't have to go out and buy one, you can make one yourself. Here are some things that you should get according to

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food  
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both  
  • Flashlight and extra batteries  
  • First aid kit  
  • Whistle to signal for help  
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place  
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation  
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities 
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)  
  • Local maps  
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger  
Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses  
  • Infant formula and diapers  
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet  
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container  
  • Cash or traveler's checks and change  
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the EFFAK Emergency Financial First Aid Kit - PDF, 277Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information  
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from  
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.  
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.  
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher  
  • Matches in a waterproof container  
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items  
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels  
  • Paper and pencil  
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children  
Hopefully Earl will go back out to sea, but it is a good idea to put this together, and keep it for future use.

Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting:




Thursday, August 5, 2010

Safety Tips for Preventing Auto Accidents

Got home from practice last night, and settled in to watch Cougar Town. Yes, I'm hooked on it, it's really a funny show. Well the characters started talking about texting while driving, and how Oprah was now highlighting the dangers. It must have been a rerun, since she did that months ago. Well, Jules, the character that Courtney Cox plays, was joking around, talking on her cell, putting on makeup, and then pointing at other drivers. The next thing you know, she is driving through a fence, and into a pool. Funny on TV, but in reality, it is dangerous.

The Insurance Information Institute today released some disturbing statistics about "Distracted Driving." Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle crashes. That is more than 1.5 million collisions a year and 4,300 crashes daily, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Text messaging, changing radio stations, even turning around to talk to passengers can prove deadly, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Cellphones and text messaging are the biggest cause of most accidents, drivers are also distracted by using PDAs, laptops and navigational aids while driving. Other drivers are distracted when they eat, drink, read, write or groom themselves when their full attention should be on the road in front of them. All of these can lead to a accident.

So, what do you do? Obviously, if you need to talk on the phone, hands free is the only way to do it. You will still be distracted while talking, so that isn't even recommended. Texting, reading, and using of other electronics will take your eyes off the road. Think about closing your eyes while driving for 5 seconds. I bet you wouldn't try it, but it is the equivalent to reading text or email on a PDA.

The I.I.I. recommends the following safety tips when driving:

-Pull Off the Road
-Don’t drive while calling or texting; pull off the road to a safe location.

-Use Speed Dialing

-Program frequently called numbers and your local emergency number into the speed dial feature of your phone for easy, one-touch dialing. when available, use auto answer or voice-activated dialing.

-Never Dial While Driving

-If you must dial manually, do so only when stopped. Pull off the road, or better yet, have a passenger dial for you.

-Take a Message

-Let your voice mail pick up your calls in tricky driving situations. It's easy—and safer—to retrieve your messages later on.

-Know When to Stop Talking

-Keep conversations on the phone and in the car brief so you can concentrate on your driving. if a long discussion is required, if the topic is stressful or emotional, or if driving becomes hazardous, end your conversation and continue it once you are off the road.

-Keep the Phone in Its Holder

-Make sure your phone is securely in its holder when you are not using it so it does not pop out and distract you when you are driving.

-Don't Take Notes While Driving

-If you need to write something down, use a tape recorder or pull off the road.

-Don't Eat or Drink While Driving

-Spills, both hot and cold, can easily cause an accident. If you have to stop short, you could also be severely burned.

-Groom Yourself At Home

-Shaving, putting on makeup, combing your hair or other forms of preening are distractions and should be done at home, not while driving.

Make sure that you share these tips with Teens. They are less experienced in driving, and are also more likely to use these devices. I know, you are busy, and need to multi-task. But having your day interrupted by an accident will be a lot worse than taking a few minutes to pull off the road and take care of business.

For more information, call us at 888-900-2173.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another wicked storm hits NY

I took the day off to do some fishing with my cousin, and was wondering why all of those LIPA and Verizon trucks were heading to the Hamptons. The storm that we were hit with Wednesday night turned out to be a fierce one. I was in Hyde Park when it past through, and they put out a Tornado warning. Well we lost power up there during the down pour, and the wind was whipping, but it didn't seem to be that bad.

Well when I got to Montauk, the Captain was frantic. A tornado did touch down in Montauk, and ripped roofs off of several houses. Of course, I came in today to the massive claims. But hey, that is why I do this. I'm here for when people have an unexpected event that would otherwise ruin them if they didn't have the right protection.

Now I say protection instead of insurance for a reason. You need to make sure that you are properly protected for when you need it. Several people that had bought an insurance policy, weren't "protected" from the damage from the tornado. Was it because it was an "Act of God?" No. "Act's of God" are usually covered, except for floods.

It was because they didn't know that they had a wind deductible. What is a wind deductible? Well if you have a claim, you decide how much you will pay out of pocket to share the cost of the claim. Some people carry lower deductibles and pay more for there insurance. It is a great way to lower your monthly costs.

But many policies now have "Wind" or "Hurricane" deductibles. These are the things that you need a true Licensed insurance professional help you determine. Many 800 numbers will sell you one of these policies and never tell you about them. The last thing you need to find out is that you have a higher deductible for specific events.

So, what is a Wind or Hurricane deductible? Wind deductibles are usually a percentage of the coverage, or a higher set dollar amount than the all other perils deductible. They sometimes have thresholds, like wind speeds, before they kick in. So if there is a storm with 75 MPH winds, and you have a house insured for $200,000, you might have a 2% deductible, which means you are out of pockect $4,000 instead of the $500 that you would pay for a fire or other loss.

Hurricane deductibles kick in at 5% to 8% and some are for any hurricane. So if the storm has winds of 75 MPH, but it is a winter storm, you would pay either your wind or other perils deductible. But once it has a name, like Bonnie, and the winds are 75 MPH, you are now out of pocket $10,000 to $16,000 for that same house.

My job is to tell you about these differences. Many of our competitors have the attitude that it will never happen, so they don't warn you. So take the time to send me your policy, and I will do their job for them. I don't want you to have no roof, and no way to pay for it even if you aren't a client of mine. I will take the opportunity to get you a proposal for alternatives at the same time. Call me now before the next big storm hits New York.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why was an accident my fault, when I wasn't at fault?

In New York, back in 1975, a law was passed called the Comparative Negligence law. It established how insurance companies were to settle accident claims based on who is at fault, and to determine the percentage at fault. The problem is that logic is thrown out the window. Basically, you are always partially at fault except in a few instances:

1. You are hit while parked
2. You are hit from behind
3. There are witnesses to say that you weren't at fault

Now the witnesses can't be somebody in your car. I have seen where the insurance companies accepted a neighbor or friend, even though there was an obvious conflict of interest.

So how to you make sure that you can keep your rates low, after you have an accident. The first thing to look for is Accident Forgiveness. Many companies offer some version of it, so review your policy to see how "Forgiving" it really is.

The next step is to avoid an accident. Drive defensively, as if everyone else doesn't know how to drive, and anticipate what they will do wrong. Just because you have a green light, don't assume that the other car coming up to the red light will stop. This is one of those situations where you can be 50% at fault because no one stepped up to be a witness.

If you know that you are about to get into an accident, don't tense up. That is how you get hurt. The people who don't know an accident is coming usually don't get injured. Doesn't help with rates, but it is a good tip.

After an accident, try to get the police there. Don't expect them to help much, but they won't take a report that will help you if they aren't on the scene. Most police reports just say vehicle 1 and vehicle 2 were in an accident. But they will sometimes state driver inattention, wrongful turn, etc. which the insurance companies will use to determine who is at fault.

A few things to know about who is the majority at fault:

1. The person making the turn is usually 80% at fault. So even if you have green arrow, and get hit by someone blowing a stop sign or red light, unless you have a witness, it is your fault.

2. The person pulling out of a parking spot or driveway is usually 80% at fault. Not seeing the other car isn't an excuse, even if they are speeding.

3. If you hit a pedestrian, you are at fault.

There are many other situations that can arise, but these are the ones that I see the most. There are strategies that you can use to determine who you should hit, but way too complicated to put here. Hope this helps, if you have any questions, give me a call. 888-900-2173.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is No-Fault Anyway?

I can't tell you how many times that I speak to people, and they say that their accident is a "No-fault" accident. Unfortunately, in New York, there is practically no such thing. Every accident is considered to be partially your fault. But that is another topic.

The no-fault law was established in 1974 to provide injured parties in an accident with sufficient medical treatment and income replacement without having to go through a lawsuit. Prior to no-fault, on 14% of liabilty claims reimbursed accident victims for their economic loss, and it took almost 16 months for people to collect the money.

No-fault provides what is know as Personal Injury Protection (PIP)Benefits. These are different from the injury lawsuits that you see the commercials on TV. Those claims are part of the liability protection that you carry on your auto insurance policy. PIP benefits provide "Basic Economic Loss" benefits for eligible injured parties. They cover medical expenses, income loss, other expenses incurred (e.g. housekeeping, transportation, etc.,) and a death benefit.

Because of this, your health insurance is secondary to your car insurance if you are injured in a car accident. You are also limited in suing somebody for these coverages. That is why it is important to make sure that if you are shopping for insurance, you compare ALL of the coverages that provide YOU and YOUR FAMILY protection.

Most direct companies will cut corners on these valuable coverages for several reasons. One is to claim that they can save you 15% or more in 15 minutes. They know that most consumers are only looking at the liability limits and deductibles. Another reason is to cut costs. Medical costs are rising at more than double the rates of inflation. A third reason is fraud. No-fault fraud has it's own industry in New York, and this industry knows the loopholes in the law.

So make sure you review your policy to make sure you have enough coverage if you were injured in an accident. Can you live on $2000 a month if you couldn't work? Would $50,000 be enough to cover your medical bills if you were taken to the emergency room in an ambulance.

Call me to review your policy to make sure that you have the right coverage. 888-900-2173

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Flood Insurance Reauthorized! For now...

Congress finally got around to reauthorized the FEMA Flood insurance program known as the NFIP. This program is one of the only ways that homeowners can acquire flood insurance for homes in coastal areas, river flood plains, and other higher risk zones. Unfortunately it is only reauthorized until September, so you need to act now to get this protection in place for Hurricane Season.

Many homeowner's feel that they don't need this valuable coverage. Many assume that their home insurance will protect them, or that they don't live on the Mississippi, or by a bay or ocean, so they are safe. The problem with that thinking is that most flood claims happen in the lowest risk areas.

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Flood damage can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states. This past Spring, one street in Riverhead was damaged, and several homes in Smithtown have been determined to be unlivable.

All floods are not alike. Some floods develop slowly, sometimes over a period of days. But flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud, and other debris and can sweep away most things in its path. Overland flooding occurs outside a defined river or stream, such as when a levee is breached, but still can be destructive. Flooding can also occur when a dam breaks, producing effects similar to flash floods.

Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds, or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Every state is at risk from this hazard.

On Long Island, we are seeing more homes damaged in areas where the water table is rising. The rain accumulates, and then gets into the home, causing thousands of dollars of damage. People who have lived in their homes for 50 years are suffering flood damage for the first time.

If you are in a low risk zone, the coverage is less than $1 a day. But it takes 30 days to take effect, so you can't wait until the next big storm to take out a policy. Give us a call, and we can work up some scenarios for how you can protect your home.

For more information, check out the release from FEMA:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Car Seat Safety

Last week was the end of the school year, and with that comes summer play dates. One of the mom's offered to pick up my daughter for an end of year party at her house. I asked if she needed my booster seat or if she had enough. I was shocked when she told me that her 6 year old, 40 pound daughter doesn't use one.

I will chalk it up to the fact that there is no real publicity out there about booster seats for older children. There is a law in NY that regulates child seatbelt, car seat, and safety restraints.

"Every child under age 16 in the vehicle must use a safety restraint. If under age four, he or she must be properly secured in a federally-approved child safety seat that is attached to a vehicle by a safety belt or universal child restraint anchorage (LATCH) system. A child under age four who weighs more than 40 pounds may be restrained in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. A child of age 4, 5, 6 or 7, must use a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or a child safety seat (The child and safety restraint system must meet the height and weight recommendations of the restraint manufacturer.)"

If you don't follow the law, you can pay a pretty hefty fine. But more importantly, this is for the safety of your child. Anyone under 100 lbs. can be injured by seatbelts and airbags, so extra care needs to be taken with children. Even if you are a "Good Driver," I have seen many accidents where the only thing the driver did wrong was to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

So please, take the time to use a car seat, booster seat, and the proper seat belt. And make sure that you follow the directions to install them properly.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saving Money on Auto Insurance

Hello out there. It has been a long time since I posted. Here is a quick update on saving money on auto insurance. First, make sure you are getting all of your discounts. Here are some to check:

Safe Driver - no tickets or accidents in 3 or 5 years
Home Owner - Own a home, you can pay less
Reduced Mileage - drive less than 7500 miles a year, let us know
Defensive Driving discount - take the online class and save 10%
Pay In Full- save up to 10% if you pay in full
EZ Pay - go on the automated payment plan, and don't worry about missing a payment
Good Payer - pay your premium on time, and save money

These are only a few, so call us for more savings!