Tag Archives: homeowners insurance

5 ‘Must Do’ Steps to Insuring Your Engagement and Wedding Rings

Once you have the perfect wedding rings picked out, it’s important to make sure you protect your precious investment. According to The Knot’s Real Weddings Study, Americans spend an average of $6,351 on an engagement ring. Here are some tips for adding your rings to your homeowners or renters insurance policy, along with other ideas for keeping them safe.

1. Find out the current value.

Your insurance company needs to know the current value of your wedding rings to provide sufficient coverage to repair or replace them. Keep the original purchase receipt on hand and make sure to inform your insurer with details about the gem’s four Cs — color, cut, clarity and carat size.

2. Have the ring appraised.

If your ring is an heirloom that has been passed down through generations in your family, find a jewelry store that has a certified gemologist or a quality appraiser on staff. Be prepared to pay up to a few hundred dollars for the appraisal and to drop your ring off for a week or so. When the appraisal is completed, you’ll receive an insurance replacement report that informs the retail replacement value of the ring. The insurance replacement document also will include information about the physical properties of the stone and metal. The gemstone will be described by characteristics such as shape, weight, clarity, color, polish, symmetry and fluorescence, which dictate the price of the ring.

Be sure to have your ring appraised every few years as the cost of precious metals and stones fluctuates. This step will ensure that you have the right amount of coverage because when the price goes up, you’ll be fully insured for the replacement value. And when the price goes down, you’ll save on premiums.

3. Stay organized.

Don’t toss that receipt! If you need to replace your ring, you’ll need to provide some paperwork for a speedy claims process: the original receipt, the appraisal certificate, any warrantees or coverage policies from the jeweler. Keep everything together in a file or folder so that it’s organized and easily accessible.

“First and foremost, always keep an up-to-date inventory of your possessions,” said Jane Li, Mercury’s senior product manager. “Be sure to take photos, provide descriptions, documentation to support what you paid for the item, and include the purchase date, serial numbers and copies of receipts when possible.”

At the same time, take stock of any other expensive jewelry or valuables you have on hand, and gather the receipts and certificates for those. When you get your ring insured, you can also get coverage for your other valuables, too.

4. Inquire about coverage options.

If you already have a homeowners insurance policy, call your insurer and ask about coverage options for your rings. Most homeowners policies provide minimal coverage for jewelry and high value collectibles, so you may need to purchase a “personal articles” or “floater” policy to provide protection for these items. This way, if you lose your wedding ring while scuba diving on vacation or damage the metal band while working, your insurance company will pay the cost to replace or repair the ring. There is an extra cost for these policies, however, and this cost will be determined based upon the value of the items you are insuring. Talk to you agent to learn more about these policies.

5. Keep your ring looking brand new.

If your ring is a family heirloom and you had it appraised, the gemologist or appraiser will let you know if there need to be any repairs. Some common repairs include fixing the prongs that hold the gemstone in place and cleaning the ring and stones. Also make sure that the ring fits snugly, so it doesn’t slip off during exercise or other activities.

Once you have your ring professionally cleaned, it’s a good idea to clean it on your own at least once a month by soaking it in a mixture of warm water and dishwashing soap for 30 minutes. Gently brush any diamonds or gems with a soft toothbrush and let the ring air dry to avoid scratching the metal.

When doing housework that involves harsh chemicals like bleach, avoid wearing your ring so you don’t damage the metal. Take off your ring while doing work with your hands, such as gardening or crafting, and put it someplace safe until you’re finished.

At home, invest in a safe for when you aren’t wearing your ring. When traveling, be sure to stow away your rings in the hotel room’s safe. While it’s good to know you have insurance in case something happens, you should always take precaution to protect your rings as best as possible.

Marissa Hermanson is a lifestyle and wedding expert whose work has been featured on The Knot, Southern Living and Cosmopolitan. She currently writes for Larson Jewelers, an online jeweler offering a wide variety of unique wedding rings.

5 Steps to Take When You’re a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the top consumer complaints in the U.S., according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with nearly 400,000 complaints lodged in 2016. Common schemes criminals use to steal someone else’s identity include dumpster-diving to steal unshredded bills and other documents containing personal information; sending suspicious emails or phishing scams to trick victims into revealing account numbers and passwords; stealing mail to obtain preapproved loan and credit card offers; credit card breaches and ransomware attacks. Thieves use this information for anything from opening accounts and stealing your money to getting medical treatment.

Falling victim to identity theft can be an unsettling experience and many people don’t know where to begin to restore their good name and credit, what to do or even who to call if it happens to them.

Here are five important steps to take immediately if you fall victim to identity theft:

1. File a police report – This is the first step to take if there is any indication of identity theft. Many fraud departments will require a copy of this report to validate a customer’s status as an identity theft victim.

2. Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus – Fraud alerts signal creditors to verify a person’s identity before authorizing a new credit account in his or her name. Place 90-day alerts with the three major credit bureaus: Experian at (888) 397-3742, Equifax at (800) 525-6285 and TransUnion at (800) 680-7289, as soon as you suspect your information has been compromised. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb to follow before falling victim to identity theft is to check your credit reports at least twice a year. This will alert you to unauthorized credit cards, loans or other activities that are associated with your name. Free reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.

3. Cancel all credit and debit cards – This will go faster if you keep an up-to-date list of credit and debit card numbers at home in a secure location for quick reference.

4. Contact banks and credit unions – Be sure to close checking accounts and any other connected (e.g., savings, loan, credit card) accounts. If necessary, request stop payments on uncleared checks and stolen check numbers. Open a new checking account and request new debit and credit cards, if applicable.

5. Contact other providers – Notify your homeowners, condo or renters insurance carrier, as well as your auto insurer of your situation, so you aren’t dinged with unpaid premiums and to make sure they know no one else is able to file claims under your name. You should also contact the places (e.g., libraries, gyms, and wholesale clubs) where you have memberships.

Mercury Insurance has partnered with CyberScout, the leading data security and identity theft protection firm, to help Mercury customers proactively manage their identities and work to repair them if theft is suspected. This coverage is available to Mercury homeowners, renters and condo owners policyholders. Contact Integrity First Insurance Services to learn more @ 805.495.1122.

Preparation for Mother Nature

Heat waves, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes torment Americans every year. During 2011-2013 the U.S. experienced 25 weather- and climate-related disasters, costing $175 billion in total damages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Not everyone can pack up and move to Michigan – one of the states with the fewest occurrences of natural disasters – but there are steps you can take to prepare your home in the event a natural disaster strikes.

Scenario: Your home is located in a flood zone.

  • First and foremost, make sure you have flood insurance because standard homeowners and renters insurance policies usually don’t cover flooding. Flood insurance policies are available through the National Flood Insurance Program and typically have a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before they go into effect.
  • Elevate furnaces, water heaters and electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home’s projected flood elevation and make sure they’re secured to a solid structure.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Consider constructing barriers to prevent water from entering the building, as well as sealing basement walls with waterproofing compounds.
  • Locate the main power switch for utilities, as well as the main gas valve, in case you need to disconnect and close them during a storm.                                                                        Scenario: Hot, dry conditions may spark a wildfire.
  • Plant fire-resistant plants and shrubs.
  • Install fire-resistant roofing materials.
  • Regularly clean your roof and gutters and mow the lawn, clearing away clippings and dry twigs immediately.
  • Keep garden hoses attached to faucets to aid fire personnel.
  • Set aside household items like rakes, axes, saws, buckets and shovels that can be used as fire tools.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy, fire-resistant drapes.
  • Mercury Insurance offers additional tips to help plan ahead and protect your home in the event of a wildfire.
  • Install screens over attic vents with a mesh size of 1/8 inch.

Scenario: An earthquake might occur.

  • Fasten shelves securely to walls and make sure large or heavy items are stored on lower shelves.
  • Secure heavy items to walls (pictures and mirrors) away from beds and areas where people sit.
  • Hire a professional to repair defective wiring and leaky gas connections. Also seek professional help to look for signs of structural damage and to repair deep cracks in ceilings and the foundation.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Keep a wrench near your main gas valve and learn how to turn it off.
  • Secure water heaters, furnaces, gas appliances and furniture by bolting them to wall studs.
  • Install cabinet latches to prevent them from opening and spilling contents, such as dishes and glassware.

Before any type of disaster strikes, you should also have an emergency plan in place for your family that includes a designated meeting place, emergency contact numbers and evacuation plan. Practice your plan at least twice a year to keep it fresh in everyone’s minds and make adjustments as needed. And if you have a pet, incorporate them into your evacuation plan, too.

You should also have an emergency kit that is easily accessible and includes basic survival items.

  • One gallon of water per person
  • Non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (and extra batteries)
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Can opener
  • Blankets
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Portable charging station for cell phones

FEMA recommends keeping three-day supplies of food and water for each family member.

Consider packing prescription medications, glasses, important financial documents, copies of insurance policies (and your agent’s contact information), a recent copy of your household inventory, birth certificates, social security cards and other identification in a portable waterproof container. It’s also a good idea to include $500 cash in small bills since ATMs and credit card processing units may be inaccessible during a power outage.

If you’re affected by a natural disaster, Mercury Insurance recommends taking the following steps to facilitate the claims process:

When filing a claim

  • Contact your insurance provider immediately to report a loss.
  • Be prepared to provide your policy number.
  • Do not remove debris or damaged property that may be related to your claim.

Steps after filing a claim

  • Prepare a detailed inventory of destroyed or damaged property.
  • Offer photos or videotapes of your home and possessions to your adjuster, if these are available.
  • Keep copies of communications between you and your adjuster.
  • Keep records and receipts for additional living expenses that were incurred if you were forced to leave your home and provide copies to your adjuster.

Ready.govFEMA and the American Red Cross offer additional tips for protecting your home and family before, during and after a disaster.

Three Major Insurance Events of Which Every Homeowner Should Be Aware

Purchasing a home can be a rewarding, pricey and overwhelming experience, especially for first-time buyers. And, if your aren’t a Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg or one of the many others found on the Forbes 400, chances are your house will be one of the most significant investments you’ll make, so choosing the right home isn’t a decision that’s made lightly.

Shopping for a home can be exhausting as you research neighborhoods, tour homes, apply for a loan, negotiate the purchase price, organize inspections, and wade through a seemingly endless stack of paperwork. You also need to select an insurer and homeowners insurance policy. This is critical, as it will protect your investment for as long as you own your home, so it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make. To protect your investment, your belongings and loved ones, following are some tips for both new and veteran homeowners.

1. Fire and water damage are the two most prevalent causes for insurance claims.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports that there were 63,312 wildfires and 3,595,613 burned acres in the U.S. in 2014. Additionally, according to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 487,500 structure fires in 2013, which resulted in $9.5 billion in property damage and amounted to approximately one home structure fire per 85 seconds. There are several steps a homeowner can take, both inside and outside of the home, to prevent becoming one of these statistics.

Inside:

  • Install at least one smoke detector on each floor and check them regularly to ensure they’re working. Be sure to put in fresh batteries at least twice a year.
  • Don’t overload wall outlets or use items with frayed electrical cords.
  • If you have a chimney, hire a chimney sweep to inspect and clean it before cold weather arrives. It’s also a good time to check and be sure that your chimney cap is in good condition to catch any stray embers coming up the chimney stack.
  • Keep flammable items (e.g., curtains, furniture, etc.) away from portable heaters.
  • Don’t leave lit candles unattended and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your home. Make sure everyone knows how to properly use it and have it inspected once a year.
  • Never leave a lit stove unattended and keep flammable materials away from the burners.
  • Be sure to have an escape plan in the event of a fire and practice it with your family twice a year.

Outside:

  • Regularly mow your lawn and clear away clippings, dry twigs and branches from buildings. Be sure to clean your roof and gutters of leaves and other debris that can become a fire starter.
  • Keep branches trimmed so they don’t hang lower than six feet and bushes pruned to no higher than 18 inches.
  • Keep garden hoses attached to faucets to aid fire personnel, if necessary.
  • If a wildfire starts, track smoke and its impact on your visibility to determine if you should evacuate prior to an official evacuation notice being put in order. Monitor if the fire and smoke change direction to determine your safest evacuation route.

Using fire-resistant materials around your property and on your home provides added protection and may even save you money in the event of a loss. For example, fire-retardant plants like rockrose, ice plant and aloe resist ignition. Fire-resistant shrubs to consider when landscaping include hedging roses, bush honeysuckles, currant, cotoneaster, sumac and shrub apples, and hardwood, maple, poplar and cherry trees are less flammable than pine, fir and other conifers. Speak with your local garden center to learn more about the plants that can protect your home from fires.

Water damage is the second largest cause of insurance claims; however, certain circumstances aren’t covered by a standard homeowners policy. To differentiate, damage that is caused by weather (e.g., natural flooding from hurricanes, flash floods, etc.) is referred to as flood damage and requires flood insurance, which is available through the National Flood Insurance Program. Water damage is usually caused by bursting or leaking pipes, plumbing issues, malfunctioning household appliances (refrigerators, hot water tanks, dishwashers, washing machines) and HVAC issues.

Homeowners can take the following steps to protect against water damage.

Inside:

  • Check appliance hoses once a year and replace any that are cracked or have leaks.
  • Review your appliance owner’s guide for maintenance tips to keep them in good working order.
  • Inspect pipes for cracks and leaks. If any are detected, have them repaired immediately.
  • Make sure showers, tubs and sinks are properly sealed and caulked.
  • Know the location of your main water shutoff valve so you can turn off your water supply in the event of a burst pipe or damaged hose.

Outside:

  • Keep rain gutters and downspouts free of debris. Install gutter guards to prevent debris from accumulating and position downspouts to direct water away from the house.
  • Ensure windows are properly sealed and caulked.
  • Inspect the roof for damaged, missing or old shingles and replace them.

2. Some of your belongings may have limitations to their coverage.

Certain items like fine art, rare stamps or coins, wine collections, antiques, expensive jewelry and collectibles may not be fully covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. Speak with your local insurance agent to ensure you have the right amount of coverage for everything you own.

3. Home renovations may impact your insurance rates.

If you’re considering building an addition, remodeling or putting in a pool, keep in mind that your insurance premiums will likely be impacted to protect this new investment. Square footage is one factor in determining a premium. Additionally, if renovations include higher value materials, the replacement cost in the event of a loss will go up, affecting your insurance rates accordingly. Swimming pools increase your liability exposure, which will increase your premium; however, pools can be great assets. In addition to providing a fun way to cool off on hot days, pools can act as a barrier for wildfires and an added source of water for firefighters, if necessary. And most renovations add to the comfort and livability of a home, as well as its resale value, which is well worth the added protection. Speak to your local insurance agent to determine how much your premiums will change and be sure to ask about any money saving discounts.

How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?

Every driver is different, and most vehicles are different, too. Essentially, everyone’s auto insurance needs vary based upon an assortment of factors. Whether it’s simple liability or full coverage, Mercury recommends consumers purchase the insurance package that best fits their personal requirements.

Below are some key questions consumers should ask themselves when evaluating their car insurance:

  • Am I making payments on my car?

Lien holders will often require a vehicle owner to carry collision coverage so the car will be repaired (subject to the payment of the deductible) regardless of who caused the accident. This is the bank’s way of protecting its investment in the vehicle until you finish making payments on the loan.

  • How much of a deductible do I need?

Higher deductibles lower your monthly insurance rates, but they increase the amount you pay out-of-pocket in the event of a loss. The deductible you choose is the amount you agree to pay when you use your collision coverage, regardless of fault. Some companies will reimburse the deductible if the accident is not your fault. Mercury will often even waive your deductible if the accident is clearly not your fault, so it’s very important to assess how much you can afford to pay on short notice and use that to determine your deductible.

  • What are my driving habits?

History has a way of repeating itself. A driving record littered with broken headlights, dented doors and bent bumpers may require complete insurance coverage (see collision coverage). Additionally, drivers who make long daily commutes on dangerous, busy stretches of road may also want to increase insurance coverage to protect against possible collisions.

  • Where do I live?

Location. Location. Location. Take your environment into consideration when choosing your level of protection. Living in areas with high auto theft and vandalism rates make having comprehensive coverage more of a necessity than if you reside in Smalltown, USA. If you live in an area where harsh winters, packed interstates and narrow streets are the norm, collision coverage becomes more important because the likelihood of being in an accident increases.

  • What type of car do I drive?

More expensive lines of coverage (collision, comprehensive coverage) become less justifiable as the value of your vehicle decreases as it ages. In these situations, it may make sense to decrease your level of insurance coverage to save money, but ask yourself whether the savings are enough to offset the risk of potentially having a large repair or replacement bill.

  • How frequently do I drive my vehicle?

Do you commute daily or just use your car on weekends? How much mileage do you put on your car per month? The more you drive, the more likely you are to get into an accident. Take this into consideration when evaluating how much auto insurance you need.

  • Who uses my vehicle?

Is it a family car? Do multiple drivers use it? Not everyone may be as experienced as you, so consider who else will be driving your vehicle before purchasing auto insurance. Liability may be enough protection for you, but is it enough for your teenage son or daughter?

  • What can I afford?

Money talks, especially in today’s economy. Look for a plan that protects you and still fits within your budget. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing expensive auto insurance that doesn’t offer enough protection. Mercury offers a variety of insurance discounts, ranging from good student to multi-car, which make protecting your vehicle more affordable.

  • How much do I have to protect?

If you own a home, have multiple vehicles and there will be teenage drivers using your vehicles, you will probably want a lot more coverage because you have more to lose in a serious accident. Conversely, if you rent an apartment and own an older car, you may not need as much coverage.

Whatever your situation, it’s always a good idea to speak with an insurance agent. Insurance can be very confusing and a highly trained, professional agent is your best resource to help get the right coverage at the best price. Mercury only sells through independent agents, so you can be sure you’ll get excellent advice and a package specifically tailored to meet your needs.

Understanding Car Safety Ratings

Understanding-Car-Safety-Ratings

Although newer vehicles are generally more expensive to insure than older ones, consumers can often get discounts if their new vehicles have the latest safety features. Advances in crash and accident avoidance technology mean that consumers who buy a new vehicle equipped with the latest safety features are often less likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.

Safety ratings are a function of two major factors: prevention—how well the vehicle is designed to prevent an accident—and, crashworthiness—how well the vehicle performs in a crash.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks its Top Safety Picks based on good, acceptable, marginal or poor performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and evaluations of seat / head restraints for protection against neck injuries during rear impacts. Crash tests are conducted on a half-dozen types of vehicles, including large cars, mid-sized cars, small cars, minivans, mid-size SUVs, and small SUVs. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for a full report on recalls and defects.

Currently, some of the top-rated safety features are:

  • Adaptive front airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Side curtain airbags
  • Knee airbags
  • Electronic stability control
  • Anti-lock braking systems
  • Brake assist
  • Tire pressure monitors
  • Back-up sensors
  • Park assist
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Smart headlights
  • Crash-alert systems (such as OnStar)
  • Built-in car seats

Technology is ever-improving, and, as time goes by, manufacturers and the government are standardizing these features. Doing your homework ahead of time and knowing what your options are can make the decision-making process smoother and get you into that new car faster!

Insurance 101 for College Students … And Parents Too

college-student-insuranceMoving away from home to go to college is an exciting time for most kids. It’s their first real taste of independence, but this newfound freedom also comes with increased responsibility.

Mom and dad aren’t around anymore to nag you about the hours you spend on your smartphone or to wake you up for school in the morning, but this also means they aren’t there to fix problems either. What, for example, would you do if someone were to steal your precious smartphone?

Students can easily get swept away in the excitement and bustle of the college social scene, forgetting that not everyone they meet at school has the best of intentions. Crime exists in most communities, and college life is no exception. According to the FBI, 97 percent of crimes reported by college students in 2012 were property crimes and a whopping 41 percent of these crimes occurred on campus grounds.

Students bring many pricey belongings from home – electronics like laptops, smart phones, tablets, televisions and gaming systems are common dorm room items. They may also have a skateboard, bike, vehicle or combination of all of the above.

Another on-campus threat to personal property is fires. Firefighters responded to an average of 3,870 college housing structure fires per year1. These fires caused an annual average of $15 million in personal property damage and losses.

So, how can you protect your belongings while you’re away at school? The first step is to check with your insurance agent to see if your stuff is covered under your homeowners insurance policy. Some policies, like those offered by Mercury Insurance, will extend coverage to college students living away from home.

Another option is to purchase renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is designed to protect property owners in the event that their belongings are stolen or damaged in a fire. It will also provide liability coverage in the event someone is injured while visiting your apartment or dorm room.

To maximize your college experience, here are a few tips to protect personal property:

Cover personal belongings with an insurance policy. Students who live on-campus may have coverage available through their parents’ homeowner’s policy. Some companies have policy options that extend personal property coverage for students away from home. Students living off-campus may not be covered by their parents’ policy and should look into purchasing renters insurance.
Create an inventory. Record the value of all personal property to determine the right amount of coverage needed in the event of a loss.
Always lock doors. Talk to roommates and make sure to communicate the importance of securing personal belongings.
Conceal valuables. Never leave electronics or other valuables out in plain sight, and do not advertise their presence on social media.
Secure valuable electronics, like TVs and laptops, to stable fixtures with locking mounts in your room so they can’t be easily removed. Also, protect personal electronics with passwords to guard accessibility and discourage theft.
Use a bicycle lock when you’re out and about or for added security while on-campus. Steel and titanium locks are difficult to cut and provide thieves with a challenge. Reinforcing these locks with cable locks, which can be threaded through wheels, will provide extra security.
Install or activate an alarm if you have a vehicle on-campus. Insurance companies frequently offer discounts for vehicles equipped with anti-theft devices. Students with good grades – at least a B average – may be eligible for an additional discount as well.
Ensure your auto insurance is up-to-date. Coverage for vehicles left at home while in school should be maintained to protect the vehicle from theft or any damage that may occur while it is parked. This will also protect you if you forget to notify your agent to add coverage back to your vehicle when you return.

Consult with your local Mercury agent to learn more about renters insurance and they’ll help build the protection plan that best suits your needs.

The bottom line: with greater independence, comes greater responsibility.

1 The National Fire Protection Association reports this annual average occurred during the five-year period from 2009-2013.

Yearly Disaster Preparation Check-Up

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When was the last time you thought about an emergency-preparedness plan? “Never,” is the answer most people would give, which could have terrible consequences if you happen to be caught in the middle of a disaster. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), natural disasters in the U.S. have increased 700 percent since 1950 and reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate severe weather events are also occurring more frequently, so now is the time to get prepared.

September is National Preparedness Month, but since disasters can strike at any moment, it’s important to   prepare before disaster strikes …Today. Creating an emergency plan is a good start, but remember, you should review it with your family annually. For example, do you have a newborn in the family? Did you adopt a pet? Have emergency kit materials expired? If you’ve experienced any of these or other changes, then you need to update your plan to make sure you’re prepared. Here are six things to consider during your routine yearly disaster preparedness check-up:

  1. Check emergency kit materials
    Refresh everyone’s memory of where the emergency kit is located.  Check expiration dates of materials in the kit to assure perishable items will last for at least another year, including food, water and batteries. According to FEMA, here’s a full list of materials to include in a basic emergency kit.
  2. Update your emergency plan
    A basic plan should have a meeting place in case disaster hits and your home becomes unsafe, as well as at least two escape routes. Each year, make sure to remind everyone of the meeting place, ensure it is still a safe location and evaluate everyone’s escape routes to avoid new obstructions. Take into account any special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members who don’t speak English and pets.
  3. Know how to turn off your utilities
    Learn where the utility shut-offs are located and how to operate them. Turning off gas mains can prevent leaks and turning off electricity can help prevent potential fires started by electrical sparks. Additionally, turning off your water main can help prevent flooding.
  4. Practice home safety
    Home safety should be observed year-round, not just in the event of an impending disaster. Install smoke detectors in each room of your home and replace the batteries every six months. Store heavy items on the lowest shelves. Combustible items such as firewood, picnic tables, boats and flammable liquids should be kept separately and 50 feet from your home and other structures.
  5. Prepare your insurance
    Getting ready for a natural disaster actually starts by choosing your insurance policy. Ask yourself: Do I have enough insurance to repair or replace my home if it is damaged or destroyed? Mercury recommends you get an insurance check-up from your agent or broker once a year to help you make an informed decision about the coverage you need.
  6. Catalog your property
    Recovering from a disaster takes time. To ease this process, keep a detailed inventory of your property and update it annually. Photos and videos of your home can be presented to insurance adjusters to help your claim. Mashable, a technology blog, provides a list of eight home inventory apps that make creating inventory of your property easy. Visit the Mercury Insurance website for additional tips to help with the claims process in the event your home suffers damage.

Be proactive about disaster preparedness. You’ll be investing in your family’s safety, property and peace of mind.

Protect Your Home While on Vacation

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We all look forward to vacations. Whether you’re planning on soaking up the sun on a tropical beach, or camping in a local park, it’s great to get away. You can relax and enjoy time with your family and friends and forget about the pressures of home and work for a little while … or so you thought.

You’re not the only one who likes it when you go away … burglars love it, too.

The FBI reported an estimated 2,103,787 burglaries in 2012, which resulted in an estimated $4.7 billion in property losses and an average of $2,230 loss per burglary.

Guess which months have the highest burglary rates … that’s right, July and August. And it’s not a coincidence that these are the two most popular travel months, too. Thieves are opportunists who prey upon the naive, unobservant and ill-prepared, and they love it when they know homeowners won’t walk in on them in the middle of a robbery.

So how do you protect your home when you’re away? Nothing is foolproof, but here are few tips that can help protect your home when you’re away for an extended period of time.

  • Secure your home. Often times burglars don’t need to forcibly enter a home because they can easily get in through an unlocked door or window. It seems simple, but make sure everything’s locked before you leave, including windows located on the second floor and higher, and entrances from the garage into the house. Don’t hide spare keys under door mats, rocks or other easy-to-find places. Instead, give a copy to a trusted neighbor in case of an emergency. Keep shrubs trimmed below window-level so as to not create inadvertent hiding places for thieves, and cut back tree branches that would allow an agile climber access to upper-level windows, balconies, ledges or the roof. Installing an alarm system and activating it every time you leave the house provides an added level of security, which may qualify you for an additional homeowners’ insurance discount. And, just in case, place dowels in sliding glass doors and windows to prevent them from unwanted opening.
  • Notify a trusted neighbor.Neighbors are a great resource for recognizing when unfamiliar vehicles or people are in the area. Tell your chosen neighbor when you’ll be away, if you have anyone who’s scheduled to stop by your house in your absence and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
  • Make your home appear occupied. Don’t let your mail and newspapers pile up while you’re away. Instead, ask a neighbor or friend to regularly bring them inside, or stop your delivery services until you return. Arrange for someone to mow your grass and trim your hedges in your absence. Setting light timers is another way to give the appearance that someone’s still around.
  • Don’t share plans on social media. Social media makes it easy to share great vacation experiences with family and friends, but it also has become a great way for burglars to learn when you will be away. It happens all the time, but just in case you don’t believe us, take a look at what happened to this unsuspecting family in Fontana, Calif. when they went on vacation to Las Vegas.
  • According to SocialMediaToday.com, 54% of burglars say posting status and whereabouts on social media is the most common mistake homeowners make. So, while you may be tempted to check-in at every trendy hotspot you visit or show off photos of you lounging by the ocean or pool … don’t (at least until after you get home). If you’re a social media addict who breaks out in hives at the idea of not sharing every moment of your life online, hire a friend to housesit and keep an eye on things for the duration of your trip.
  • Know what your insurance policy covers. Mercury Insurance recommends that you speak with your local insurance agent before your vacation to ensure your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers potential losses that may occur in your absence. Additionally, keep an up-to-date inventory of everything that own to make the claim’s filing process easier, if necessary.
Flood Insurance Thousand Oaks CA

Warning: Winter Storms Are Coming, Get Flood Insurance Now!

Prepare your home and business for predicted floods and storms.

While the weather is dry and sunny in Southern California, be warned that it’s not due to continue: El Nino is coming and this winter is predicted to be a wet one! Despite California not being known for it’s rain and flooding, this only makes our land more precipitation-intolerant. The land has been in such a drought that experts say that when it does rain, the land will become overwhelmed with water and flooding will occur quite rapidly.

What are viable flood defenses that you can put in place to protect your building? You may be turning your homeowners insurance policy, expecting that to cover damages in the event of flooding – but you’ll be disappointed. Standard homeowners insurances don’t provide any flood insurance coverage whatsoever. Due to the extensive damage and destruction flooding can do to a house and belongings, insurers smartly decided to withdraw this coverage, instead setting up flood insurance as a stand-alone policy.

Luckily, your Californian flood insurance policy would apply to homes, condos, mobile homes, businesses and rentals that are in flood zone areas. At Integrity First Insurance Services, our flood insurance policy can offer:

  • Building, contents, replacement cost coverage
  • Standard flood insurance coverage
  • Optional excess flood coverage
  • Affordable rates!

Before you rule out any additional coverages, ensure that you select the best policy, at the best price for your home and belongings. Luckily, personal property needn’t be lost forever and your home can be restored without breaking the bank!

Serving the Conejo Valley within California with quality insurance, contact Integrity First Insurance Services, located in Thousand Oaks.