Spring Severe Weather 101: Storm Safety & Preparedness

Spring Severe WeatherAs sure as April showers bring May flowers, every spring day brings a greater risk of spring severe weather in the majority of the United States.

According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes the US around 25 million times a year, killing an average of 51 people annually.

If thunder has been audible within the last 30 minutes, lightning is close enough to strike. Though no outdoor location is safe with lightning in the area, here are few tips to remember if caught outdoors in a thunderstorm:

  • Get out of water. Immediately head toward dry land.
  • Stay low. Avoid hills and other high elevated areas.
  • Avoid conductive objects. Do not seek shelter near metal objects or under solitary trees.

Vehicles with hard metal tops (no convertibles!) can be a safer alternative, though substantial buildings are your safest bet against lightning. While inside, remember the following:

  • Stay away from doors and windows, and avoid direct contact with concrete floors and walls.
  • Avoid using electrical devices and corded phones.
  • Avoid contact with sinks, faucets, showers, or any outside water sources.

Lightning is by no means the only risk. In 2013, flooding took 82 lives in the US while causing over 2 billion dollars in damage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of flood-related deaths occur from vehicles being driven into water-covered roadways.

The penultimate rule of thumb in flood safety: Never attempt to cross covered paths or roadways. It only takes six inches of fast-moving water to knock over an adult, while small cars can be swept away in 12 inches.

Spring is the perfect time to review your insurance policy and develop a strategic disaster plan.

In addition to insuring your home, Rue Insurance is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact us at 609-586-7474 or http://www.rueinsurance.com today.

For up-to-the-minute severe weather forecast information, visit NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center on the web at www.spc.noaa.gov.

Employment Practices Liability

 

Did You Know Employment Practices Liability Claims are on the rise?

Management Liability

The current level of workplace morale, the state of the economy, and legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act has led to an increase in employment practices Liability – related claims and lawsuits.   Claims can come from current employees, former employees and job applicants. The procedures that employers use or don’t use in hiring, firing and managing their employees can translate into huge defense costs and legal awards to plaintiffs for unintentional errors or oversights.   As the name suggests, Employment-Related Practices Liability Coverage provides broad insurance protection from employment-related claims and lawsuits brought against a company, its managers and its directors and officers. It covers such things as age and gender discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discipline and termination and negligent decisions involving hiring, promotion and compensation.  Too many businesses believe their General Liability or Professional Liability policy will cover them for these types of claims.  Most General Liability or Professional Liability policies will exclude this exposure or may provide very minimal coverage.

Here are just a few claims examples:

A maintenance worker sued his employer for disability discrimination and wrongful termination. The employee alleged that he was put on involuntary leave of absence and subsequently terminated after he informed his employer that he had multiple sclerosis. The jury awarded the plaintiff $286K. 

A female employee sued a parts company for sexual harassment and retaliation. She alleged that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor over a two month period and that the company failed to investigate after she complained. She also alleged that she was terminated after complaining. The jury awarded the plaintiff $6.8M: $6.75M for punitive damages and $50K for compensatory damages. 

A former convention center manager sued the facility for age and race discrimination when a less qualified, younger employee was given the position of director of marketing. Jury awarded $659K.  

The EEOC sued a “tool and die maker” for race and gender discrimination in hiring practices. EEOC alleged that the African-American and female applicants were turned down for all positions except clerical. The matter settled for $940K.  

A movie theatre settled a sexual harassment claim brought by the EEOC on behalf of teenage boys against their manager for $765K. The claim alleged that the theater failed to check the manager’s background, which would have revealed that he was a convicted sex offender. 

If you would like to obtain a premium indication for this important coverage, please contact a Rue Insurance representative at 1-800-272-4RUE.

Frozen Pipes & Ice Dams

 

Roof Snow Removal

Ice Dams Ahead

Protect your property and stay safe in the cruel winter weather – follow these safety steps.

The recent winter weather has created difficult travel conditions and the impact of ice, snow and freezing temperatures may lead to power outages and potential property damage—specifically from frozen pipes and ice dams.

Freezing temperatures can be especially damaging to water piping. A few simple steps can do a lot to prevent destructive pipe freezes:

  • Open the doors on cabinets where plumbing is located. This can help allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  • For pipes that are at risk of freezing (both hot and cold water pipes), let water drip from faucets.
  • Keep the heat in your home set at a minimum of 55 degrees.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated interior areas, such as crawl spaces and attics.  Wrap pipes in heat tape.

If pipes are suspected to be frozen:

  • Learn how to shut off your water, you may be able to prevent water damage
  • Locate your main water supply ahead of time and mark it in case of emergency
  • Contact a plumber for assistance

What is an ice dam?  Ice dams can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. Without roof snow removal, the ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home.  An ice dam has the potential to cause serious damage to both your roof and the inside of your home. It is important to take the right steps to protect your home from the risks associated with heavy snow and ice.

Immediate steps you can take:

  • Clear downspouts. An easy way to help snow and ice drain off your roof is to make sure the area around your downspouts is clear. This will make it possible for your gutters to drain when snow does melt. It will also help prevent flooding when the snow and ice melts.
  • Remove snow from your roof after every storm. Use a roof rake to clear the first three to four feet of snow from your roof immediately after each winter storm to prevent ice dams from forming. While the amount of snow and ice that your roof can handle may vary depending on a number of factors such as the roof type, age and condition of the structure, a good rule of thumb is if there is more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and ice on your roof, you should try to have it removed. If you cannot reach the roof, many homebuilders, landscapers, roofing contractors, and property maintenance companies will remove snow and ice from roofs. We do not recommend using a ladder in snowy and icy conditions.  This can be extremely dangerous and is best left to the professionals.

Removing Ice Dams. If you can reach the roof safely, try to knock the ice dam off with a roof rake, or cut a channel through the ice to allow standing water to drain.

  • If you cannot reach the roof safely, consider hiring a contractor to remove it.
  • Another method is to fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it vertically across the ice dam so that it melts a channel through the dam. If you try this method, make sure you can safely position the ice melt on your roof, and make sure to use calcium chloride, not rock salt. Rock salt will damage your roof. Also be aware that shrubbery and plantings near the gutter or downspout may be damaged.
  • Look carefully at large icicles. If the icicles are confined to the gutters and there is no water trapped behind them, this does not indicate the presence of an ice dam. However, large icicles can pose a danger to people when they fall off. Try to safely knock the icicles off from the ground, making sure not to stand directly beneath them. If you cannot reach them safely from the ground, consider hiring a contractor to help.

Longer-term prevention: Ultimately, the best prevention for ice dams is to eliminate the conditions that make it possible for them to form in the first place.

  • Insulate your attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated to help prevent the melting-and-freezing cycle that causes ice dams to form. Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic, including vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures.
  • Install a water-repellant membrane. When replacing a roof, make sure to install a water membrane underneath the shingles. This acts as an extra barrier that helps prevent water from seeping inside the building.

We’re here to help make sure you’re covered for all of life’s mishaps.

 

 

How To Get a Quote for Employment Practices Liability Insurance

Recently, Rue Insurance rolled out a new way for New Jersey and Pennsylvania business owners to obtain a quotation for Employment Practices Liability Insurance. We have seen a growing demand for this important coverage from our customers. It’s our goal to help you better protect your company from what is a growing risk in today’s business climate.

epli quoteThis new platform, in partnership with United States Liability Insurance Company, can give you a basic idea of the cost of this important coverage.

The website will ask some basic questions about your business, such as What is your business?

  1. How many full time and part time employees do you have working for you?
  2. Do you have any leased or temporary employees?
  3. Do you have employees who work in certain states or outside of the USA?
  4. Is anybody looking to sue you for a discrimination or harassment issue? (Yes, we have to ask that question.)

This website will let you know if you qualify for an immediate indication and give you a premium figure. Bear in mind that if you qualify for an indication we need to talk to you first about the coverage and get more information from you before a firm quotation is given to bind coverage.

Also, the quotation is for a basic policy. There is some additional coverage you may want to consider such as 3rd party discrimination. Depending on the industry you are in, this coverage may be available.

Storm Surge Can It Affect You?

When it comes to hurricanes people think of high winds, heavy rains, flooding, and loss of power. But in addition to these dangers there is the issue of storm surge. A storm surge is a wall of water that is pushed ashore by the winds of a hurricane. A storm surge can do more damage than most people realize.

When Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, towns like Sayreville saw over 39 homes lost, and over 200 people rescued from flood waters. The storm surge from this storm was over 13 feet.

There is a train of thought that if you own a home that is not in a high hazard flood zone you should not be concerned about flood waters. Superstorm Sandy proved that theory wrong. Ask the residents of Sayreville who were displaced or lost their homes.

To illustrate this point let’s look at the FEMA Flood Map at a section of Sayreville along Main Street near Boehmhurst Avenue. We picked this area because it is around 4 miles from the Raritan Bay, the nearest body of water subject to tides.

According to the FEMA flood map there are areas north of Main Street that are in a high hazard flood zone such as parts of Miller Avenue Sayreville-Flood-Mapand Tano Lane, but the streets south of Main Street are in a low hazard zone also known as a “C” flood zone.

However, when you look at the map from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the storm surge from a Level 1 or 2 hurricane can go well past the FEMA flood zone. In Sayreville Storm Surge Mapthis map all of Boehmhurst Avenue is affected including the area south of Main Street.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced an online tool that home and business owners can use to find out how storm surge can affect an area. For New Jersey the map contemplates hurricanes up to a Level 4. Like any risk analysis tool it’s designed to give you general awareness of what can happen in your area.

With the knowledge of how a storm surge can affect your area you can better plan on what to do to keep your home safe and your business up and running in the event of a hurricane.

Need more help and insight into how to put together a disaster recovery plan? Drop us a line or give us a call.

Caution Bambi and Friends Are Out On The Town

Deer and DriversIt’s Autumn – the leaves are changing and the cool crisp air is upon us and so are the deer. From late October to mid-November deer are in mating seasson and that means the increased presence around our roads.  While deer are always a threat to drivers, this time of year the risk of an accident is higher.

Did you know that the average car repair cost from a deer collision is $3,305? That is a pretty hefty sum with Comprehensive coverage you are covered if you hit a live, running or standing deer, (but note…if the deer is dead and you hit it…that falls under collision coverage)

Regardless if you have coverage or not, it’s smart to follow some driving tips to avoid getting into an accident.

According to the Canadian Wildlife Collision Prevention Program there are certain areas that you should pay attention to

  1. Creeks and drainage that intersect roads
  2. Good habitat and forage near the roadside
  3. Water source nearby
  4. Long, wide, straight stretches of road

Now you may be wondering why that last point is important. Deer aren’t attracted to long roads but drivers tend to feel more secure on a long stretch of road so they may drive faster and not be as observant to animals. Also, when you drive faster it takes longer to stop your car and your reaction time is greatly reduced.

 Here are some other points to consider:

  1.  Deer are more active during dusk and dawn when light levels are low.
  2. Some areas post warning signs where deer or other wildlife are often seen.
  3. Deer can be unpredictable. Even if standing by the side of the road they can still jump in front of your car.
  4. Deer also travel in groups. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby.
  5. Deer are known to twist and dodge randomly when being chased by a predator. If you see a deer running along the road it could easily turn at a moments notice right into your car.

If you encounter deer or other wildlife along the road slow down. If a crash is inevitable, look to where you want to go and not at the animal. The theory is your vehicle will go where you are looking. Be careful if you are trying to swerve away from the animal. Poor road conditions like rain or snow can cause your car to spin out of control.

The Canadian Prevention Program suggests that you brake firmly and quickly, then look and steer your vehicle to strike the animal at an angle. Let up on the brake just before you hit the animal. This causes the front end of your vehicle to rise and reduces the chances of the animal coming through your windshield.

Attic Fires In a Home Can Be Deadly

When it comes to an area of your home where a fire can occur, what’s the first place that comes to your mind? You probably are thinking the homeowners-insurance-and-clkitchen, but did you know that your home’s attic is also an area of concern?

According to the US Fire Administration National Fire Data Center from 2006 to 2008 there were over 10,000 residential building fires that started in attics.

While a fire in an attic is only 2% of all fires in a residential home, they cause the most damage. The open space of an attic allows for a fire to spread unobstructed. This is especially true in older homes where an attic is a large open space covering the entire house.

Water damage from fire fighting techniques affects all lower areas of a house since the fire is being fought at the highest part of the home.

The largest cause of attic fires is electrical malfunction.  Powered equipment like whole house fans, powered roof vents, or HVAC equipment are sources within an attic to consider. It’s a good practice to have these systems inspected or maintained each year.

Whether you maintain equipment in your attic or not, it’s imperative that you have a smoke/heat detector in your attic. Most homeowners have smoke detectors in bedrooms and hallways, but they don’t always catch smoke from an attic fire.

Having a detector in your attic that is connected by wire to your other smoke detectors will serve as an early warning system. In a connected system when the detector in the attic goes off so do the other detectors.

When deciding on what kind of a detector to buy, check with the manufacturer. In most cases you will need a heat detector. The average smoke detector that goes into a bedroom or hallway may not work properly in an attic where the summertime heat can be very high.

Insurance Requirements For Contractors Under the NJ Home Elevation Law

After Super Storm Sandy many homeowners were required to raise their houses to be in compliance with new regulations for flood insurance.  Many of our customers were in a bind to find contractors who did home elevation work.  Once an experienced contractor was found, the next hurdle was does the contractor meet the insurance requirements to perform this home elevation.

Home Elevation

In August 2014 Governor Christie signed into law the requirement that contractors doing home elevation work have to carry a certain kind of insurance and have a certain level of experience.

Under the new law a contractor will have to carry a minimum of $1,000,000 of Commercial General Liability coverage.  This provides coverage for bodily injury or property damage to others that occur during the raising of a house.  An exclusion found in a general liability policy is there is no coverage for damage to the house that is being raised.

With that in mind the new law also requires that the contractor carry another insurance policy that covers the actual house being raised.  The law refers to this policy as “Cargo or other insurance that specifically covers home elevation activities.”  In the Insurance Industry we call it a Riggers Liability policy.  The limit of this policy is $1,000,000.

There is mention, too, that the contractor shall also provide $500,000 of coverage for the contents of the residential premises that are damaged during the home raising but not covered by the homeowners own insurance policy.  So if you have a house being raised and resulting damage comes from this work, your insurance carrier will have to be notified because they may pay for at least the personal contents in your home.

When it comes to experience the law now requires that the contractor has 5 years in performing this kind of work.  If the contractor does not have the required experience then the employee of the contractor doing the work must have the required 5 years of experience.

The NJ Department of Community Affairs will be the government agency that is responsible to figure out the additional rules and regulations which have yet to be revealed as of the writing of this article.

If a contractor says to you that they carry insurance, ask them for a “Certificate of Insurance.”  Their insurance company or insurance agent can provide them one.

The insurance certificate will have two different areas to show Commercial General Liability and the Riggers Liability coverage mentioned above.

The Myth of Cybercrime and Small Businesses

Cybercrime Graphic“Cybercrime” – It happens to giant retailers like Target, where the personal information of 70 million customers was compromised from a point-of-sale system breach in late December last year.

It happens to e-commerce behemoths like Ebay, where the personal information of 233 million users fell victim to 2014’s biggest hack thus far.

The truth? No business is too small.

Smaller businesses are often attractive targets for cybercrime due to their weak—or often nonexistent—security measures.  Here are the main reasons why:

  • “We’re too small.” Hackers can target thousands of small businesses in a single batch. Techniques originally created for larger, sophisticated targets are trickling down to virtually anyone.
  • “We don’t have anything a hacker wants.” Whether it’s credit card information, simple customer details, or various bits of intellectual property, all unsecured data could be seconds away from the black market.
  • “We’re safe.” Simple ignorance may be the biggest issue, and the statistics don’t lie. Around 85% of small business owners feel they are safe, yet a staggering 40% don’t even have data backed up in a second location.

Within six months of a cyber attack, roughly 60% of small business will be forced to close. Don’t join that statistic. Follow these steps:

  • Make sure antivirus software is up to date.
  • Secure Wi-Fi networks.
  • Train employees in cyber security principles.
  • Use a firewall for your Internet connection.
  • Backup all important data in a local drive.
  • Control physical access to your computers and network components.
  • Require individual user accounts for each employee.
  • Change passwords regularly.

In addition to the listed tips, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a tool for small businesses that can create and save a custom cyber security plan for your company that will address your specific business needs and concerns.  It can be found at www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner.

The bottom line: Take the time to assure you’re being proactive—not reactive—in dealing with cybercrime.