Am I Prepared for Another Irma?

Whether you are a believer or a skeptic of the hype, the simple fact is that hurricane Irma caused massive devastation in Florida, and could have been even worse had the storm shifted in either direction.  While a majority of Floridians only lost power, the damages will still amount into the billions. Our hearts go out to those who were affected by Irma, Harvey and any other storm we may still get hit by this year.  Despite the occasional fake video or misinformation going around, the media did their job of warning people of the potential threat to Florida.  Whether your family stayed or evacuated, the exposures faced could impact the rest of your life.

If you were fortunate enough not be directly impacted by hurricane Irma, hopefully you learned a valuable lesson.  Preparation is the vital, and yet often overlooked, element to survival.  We saw this with the shortages of fuel, water, wood, food, ice, and just about every other essential item.  Long lines on highways, gas stations, grocery stores, home improvement stores; Irma led to the largest evacuation in US history.  Were you stuck in these lines or on the road?  Did you not have the vital supplies necessary to weather the storm? What did you do after the storm?  

A day before the largest storm in over 100 years is barreling into the Florida coastline and you still don’t know whether to leave or stay.  Does this sound like a familiar scenario?  Many of us did not know if we should stick it out or leave.  Some natives and even lifers (those that travel to Florida and never leave), have heard the hype before and pay no attention to the warnings.  Some believe the media is behind driving people to consume more.  Regardless of your position, the fact is that hurricane force winds will cause substantial damage anywhere and to anything in their path.  Even if the winds don’t directly damage your property, the rising water levels from storm surge and rain could cause irreparable damage.  

For most of us, the good news is that there is time to prepare so that you are not sitting in hour long lines, or worrying if there will be enough water, food, or even shelter for you.  I have devised a helpful anagram to prepare for any disastrous situation.  Stick to the P-L-A-N to keep you and your loved ones safe before, during and after the devastation.

  • Plan – having a plan for an emergency situation sounds obvious, and will save you from wasting precious time. Fire escape plans, hurricane plans, evacuation plans, will all come in handy, but the key is to have them in place prior to needing them.  Knowing what steps to take, who is in charge of what, and where to go will allow you to beat the panic.  While others are running around stressing about what to do, your family will be at ease knowing what, where, and when.  Don’t over complicate the plan.  Keep your plan simple and easy to remember for everyone.  
  • List – A list will not only cut down on wasting time, but you can inventory your supplies to ensure the most effective use of resources.  If you only have a limited amount of water, then record the total amount you have so that you know how long it will last (about 1 gallon of water per day per person is sufficient) and will be able to ration accordingly. Remember, women and children always come first!
  • Assess – it is scientifically proven that when we panic, our brains fail to use the reasoning portion for critical thinking.  This means that under stress, we begin making irrational decisions, which could put you or your family in harm’s way.  Think clearly, and execute quickly.  Listen to the warning messages and take appropriate action, but remember not to panic because you already have a plan and lists in place, so you’re ahead of the game.
  • Neighborly – letting other people know where you will be during the storm not only help give them peace of mind, but it will help the first responders to focus their efforts.  Posting on social media, calling relatives and friends, and telling neighbors your plan will reduce stress for everyone and who knows, maybe your neighbor has a better plan than you do.  If power goes out after the storm and you are not able to reconnect with loved ones right away, try to change your voicemail on your phone to let everyone know your status.  Be kind and lend assistance.  You will have extra time that wasn’t wasted, so use some to help others that did not plan ahead.

Having a plan, also includes making sure you have the right insurance policy in place (before the storm is announced otherwise it could be too late) to protect all of your hard work.  There’s the obvious possessions like your car, home, RV, and business property, that you want protected.  But storms can even bring devastation in ways you did not think.  For instance, maybe you’re A/C, refrigerator, or water heater could not handle the power surge and stopped working.  Or your business may be up and running, but are any of your customers?  How long will your business survive without customers?  What if you work from home and both your house and business were affected?  Don’t leave these questions unanswered!  Speak with a Blankit Insurance professional today to discuss how we can help you PLAN ahead so you’re protected for the future!

Remember, by the time a named Storm is announced, you may only have less than 24 hours to secure an insurance policy before the carriers close down and to stock up on supplies before they are gone. Irma’s lesson to all of us is, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare and keep your family safe.

Protect Your Home While It’s on The Market

Tips for protecting your home and assets while it’s on the market.

You’ve dusted every nook and cranny, pulled rogue weeds from the garden bed and strategically placed cut flowers in every room of the house. However, if you feel a bit unsettled when you close the door and leave for a showing of your home, you’re likely not alone. Unfortunately, houses for sale can be targets for theft, liability lawsuits and more – particularly during an open house while there a lot of people milling around at once. Here are a few ways you can protect your home while it’s on the market so that you can feel more at ease:

Inform the neighbors

If you’re not returning directly home after a showing, ask a neighbor to swing by and make sure your doors were locked after the showing. This will keep your home safe from unwanted visitors who may know your home is for sale – and that there are unfamiliar guests coming in and out.

Hide the valuables

Don’t keep high-value items visible in the home while it’s on the market, especially jewelry, collectibles and other items that can be easily stolen. Keep these items in a large, heavy safe or secure a safe deposit box at your bank to stash them while your house is on the market.  Other items to remove from sight: your Social Security number, blank checks, prescription medications and anything else that someone might be able to snatch unnoticed.

Slips, trips and falls — oh my!

If someone gets hurt on your property, they can hold you liable and sue. Since potential buyers aren’t familiar with your home and you’re not there to warn them about “that one loose floor board,” make sure to prevent injuries and resulting lawsuits with these preventive measures:

  • Repair loose and uneven flooring, especially on porches and decks
  • Check banisters and railings to be sure they are secure
  • Secure rugs with non-slip padding
  • Keep hallways and stairwells clear of clutter
  • Make sure your home is well lit inside and out

Avoid accidental property damage

Potential buyers (especially serious ones) likely want to know the ins and outs of your home. Some will test appliances and faucets for functionality. But will they remember to turn off the gas burners and the bathroom sink? To avoid property damage caused by fire, water damage and other potential threats, ask your real estate agent to communicate these concerns to the selling agent. The selling agent can double check to make sure everything is turned OFF before leaving the premises.

Gun safety

Gun owners – you may think your gun is well concealed in your bedroom closet, but potential buyers likely will poke around in there to get an idea about storage space. If you keep a gun in your home, make sure it is unloaded, locked in a gun box and out of sight. This can prevent accidental injuries and theft.

Dog bites

If you are a dog owner, consider what you will do with your pet while your home is being shown to potential buyers. Your best bet? Remove dogs from the premises. This will not only make your home more appealing to non-animal lovers, but it also eliminates the threat of dog bites. While Fido might be your most loving companion, you never know how he’s going to react when strangers come a-knockin’. If you can’t remove your pooch from the house, secure a dog crate that can be placed indoors or out, so that the animal can be safely contained during the showing.

If you have particular concerns about your property, communicate these to your real estate agent. You can always request that he or she is present for any showing of your home. Also talk to your insurance agent if you have questions about the types of coverage you have for property damage and personal liability lawsuits. Since your home is likely your biggest investment, make sure you protect it and your financial livelihood while it’s on the market to get the biggest bang from your home sale buck.

How to Protect Your Home Office

Today’s home offices far surpass their predecessors. No longer simply furnished with desks, file cabinets and sticky notes, modern home offices often serve as extensions of a jobsite workspace, complete with expensive computers, monitors, scanners and printers.Have an office in your home? Protect it. Whether you work full time at your house or occasionally bring work home, you need the proper insurance. Just because you work at your house doesn’t mean your home insurance policy covers your equipment or machinery. In fact, it probably doesn’t.Here are a few options for home office protection.

Your homeowners insurance policy

You rely on your homeowners insurance to safeguard the structure of your house and its contents, why not use the same policy to cover your home business equipment? Actually, a standard home insurance policy — if it protects business equipment at all — typically limits the replacement value of business equipment to at most $2,500. For many, that’s not enough for a laptop and printer, much less a desktop computer, scanner and whatever else you may need to get the job done.

If your home office represents an extension of your regular office space, you can cover it with homeowners insurance, but understand that your policy has strict limits for high-value items such as electronic equipment. If you work from home full time, it’s another story. You may have to purchase an endorsement to raise coverage limits. Let your agent know about your home office and get professional advice on how to proceed.

Home policy endorsement

If you run a business from your home, even if you simply sell candles or print stationary, tell your insurance provider. Filing a home insurance claim for a business item could put you in hot water with your carrier and your claim could be denied.

Conversely, purchasing a home policy endorsement could strengthen your relationship with your provider and raise your limits for business equipment or inventory.  Typically an endorsement will increase limits from about $2,500 to $5,000, but it can boost your limit to $10,000.

Homeowners liability endorsement

Though a policy endorsement raises limits for property and equipment, it doesn’t help with liability. A liability endorsement can raise your legal protection for slip-and-fall accidents that may arise from reception of business deliveries or clients on your property.

This additional liability coverage only is available for businesses with few on-site customers. If your business relies on regular clients coming to your house (if you’re a hair stylist, for example) your carrier most likely will deny coverage.

In-home business or business owners policy

An in-home business policy provides more extensive protection for property and liability. It also typically includes coverage for lost documents and important records, lost income should your house become damaged, and liability for certain products and services. This policy is only available if you have fewer than three full-time employees, and its limits typically are $10,000. If you need more protection, check out a business owners policy, or BOP.

No matter what kind of work you do, the space in which you complete it probably matters to you. As needs for business equipment and machinery evolve, choosing the proper way to safeguard your workspace can get tricky. Nonetheless, fully covering it can keep your job happy, healthy and productive. Who wouldn’t want that? Blankit is here to help, just a click away.

Think You’re Covered? 6 Problems Your Home Insurance May Not Pay

Standard home insurance doesn’t handle these situations, so be sure to upgrade your policy.

If you’re like many homeowners, you bought your home insurance policy, got standard coverage and haven’t given it another thought. Unfortunately, that type of thinking could lead to gaps in your coverage.

standard homeowners policy offers coverage for a wide variety of perils — theft, vandalism, fire, wind, lightning and ice, among others — but not for everything. Here are six situations where you need to bolster your policy to get help.

Mold

Mold in your home is bad news. It can cause major health problems for you and your family, and can even make your house uninhabitable. Insurance providers handle mold in a variety of ways. Some limit coverage for damage caused by mold, while others don’t cover mold at all.

Every state except Arkansas, New York, North Carolina and Virginia has adopted an ISO mold limitation for homeowners insurance coverage, which allows insurers to exclude coverage unless the condition results from a covered peril. For example, if the water from a burst pipe in your home causes mold, your insurer might cover it.

The solution: If you find out that you aren’t sufficiently covered for mold, you can purchase a separate rider to cover mold in your home.

Pests

From mice and rats to termites and bed bugs, standard home insurance policies do not cover damage from pests. That means if a rat chews through your electrical wiring or termites destroy the wood support for your roof, you’re on your own.

The best way to tackle this issue is through prevention. Keep an eye out for signs of pests around your property. If you see something suspicious, call an exterminator before the problem gets out of control.

The solution: Schedule annual termite inspections. By the time you see damage, it could be too late.

Sewage back-up

Backed-up sewers can wreak havoc on a home, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Most agents will ask you about this coverage when you’re buying a home insurance policy, but many consumers ignore the topic.

The solution: Add this coverage to your policy — it generally only tacks $40-$50 onto your premium, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Floods

That’s right, standard home insurance policies do not provide coverage for flood damage. For flood coverage, homeowners must purchase a flood insurance policy through a private insurance carrier for through the National Flood Insurance Program.

While many mortgage lenders require flood coverage as a loan condition, homeowners in moderate- to low-risk flood zones may have the option to forgo it altogether.

Before you decide to take a chance, you should know that 25% of all NFIP claims come from people outside of mapped high-risk flood areas.

The solution: Purchase a flood insurance policy; they start at as little as $129 a year in low-risk areas.

Earthquakes

When the earth shakes, don’t expect your home insurance provider to pick up the tab on damage to your home. Earth movement or earthquakes are not covered by standard home insurance. Homeowners who live in shaky parts of the country should see if their insurer offers a rider on their current homeowners policy, or search for a separate policy all together.

The solution: Add earthquake insurance — the cost varies widely according to the risk in your region.

Sinkholes

Common in states like Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, sinkholes can cause cracks in walls, floors and even in your home’s foundation. However, sinkholes are not covered by standard home insurance. Sinkholes are defined as earth movement and, therefore, would fall under earthquake coverage.

The solution: Add earthquake coverage. In some states, insurers offer specific coverage for sinkholes, but you should talk to your insurer to see if it’s an option.

If you aren’t sure what’s covered by your specific home insurance policy, call your provider and review your coverage with a licensed agent. An agent can not only help you better understand your policy, but also assist you in adding coverage if necessary.

How dangerous is my water heater to my house and family?

What’s the Life Expectancy of a Water Heater?

Florida seems like its always hot out, but we cant live without our hot water. Second only to air conditioning, water heating is the second highest user of electricity in a Florida home.  Accounting for as much as 18% of utility bills. And while it may seem as though your water heater can withstand the test of time, it’s not made to last forever.

It’s not a matter of if, but when your water heater will eventually stop working and worse, LEAK! Make sure your Insurance has your back.

The Problem with Aging Water Heaters
Blankit HeaterWater heaters typically contain a sacrificial anode rod, which is a magnesium rod several feet long  that’s screwed to the top of the unit to prevent rusting. Over time, these rods get smaller and smaller, without this protection the tank will rust from the inside out. The outer shell you see on the outside is merely a cover for insulation around the true steal pressure tank on the inside. Even a ‘glass lined’ tank will begin to rust, an example of this is your bathtub, how many times have you seen rust around the ‘glass’ porcelain on a tub? Never trust the outer tank and never underestimate the age of the water heater by its outside appearance.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, water heater failure is one of the top five sources of residential water damage, costing an average of $4,444 per incident after the deductible was paid. Remember that water damage can quickly lead to mold and health problems. No flood is ever easy to deal with.

As a result, most home insurance companies require a four-point inspection for older homes – and if the water heater is over 25 years old, they will request that it be replaced for the owner to obtain or renew coverage. The cost of a new heater is a fraction of the damage an old one can cause. A new heater will also have better insulation and can produce more heat.

How Long Do Water Heaters Last?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question. In addition to factors like water quality and general maintenance, water heater life expectancy depends a lot on the type of unit you have. Don’t risk it, change it. Most water heaters will leak before the elements stop heating.

Conventional Storage Water Heater
Conventional storage water heaters are the most popular type of water heating system for the home. They operate by releasing hot water from the top of the tank when you turn on the hot water tap. Meanwhile, cold water is replaced through the bottom of the tank, to eventually heat up. The true storage tank will be on the inside and needs to drained every six months to prevent sediment build up and reduced capacity.

Water Heater Life Expectancy: 10-15 years ESTIMATED- Usual Manufactures Warranty 6-10 Years

Tankless Water Heater
Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank, and provide hot water on an as-needed basis. When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit, where it is then heated and released. Tankless Units are a great option if your electrical panel can handle the increases electrical load of an tankless unit. Usually this requires at least a 60 amp dedicated breaker. Please consult a licensed electrician and plumber before installing a tankless unit.

Water Heater Life Expectancy: 15-20 years ESTIMATED Usual Manufactures Warranty 10 Years on Water Carrying Components, 1 Year Electrical.

Heat Pump Water Heater
Working like a refrigerator in reverse, a heat pump water heater uses electricity to transfer heat instead of generating heat directly, making it more energy efficient than a conventional water heater.

Water Heater Life Expectancy: 10-15 years ESTIMATED- Usual Manufactures Warranty 6-10 Years

Solar Water Heater
Solar water heaters use the sun’s heat to provide hot water in a home. They are a cost-effective way to generate hot water since the fuel they use – sunshine – is free.

Water Heater Life Expectancy: ~ 20 years ESTIMATED- Usual Manufactures Warranty 10 Years

Tankless Coil and Indirect Water Heater
Tankless coil and indirect water heaters use a home’s space heating system to heat water. A tankless coil water heater provides hot water on demand without a tank, while an indirect water heater requires a storage tank.

Water Heater Life Expectancy: 10-11 years

Is It Time to Replace Your Water Heater?
Here are six ways to detect if you need to replace your water heater:

The water is a rusty or non-clear color
The water isn’t getting hot enough, or isn’t getting hot at all
The water has a strange odor or metallic taste
You hear loud popping noises while the water heater is operating
There are leaks surrounding the water heater, which could indicate a serious problem
The water heater is more than 10 years old or nearing the end of its life expectancy
If you need to replace your water heater, we recommend hiring a professional to install it. This will ensure that the equipment is installed properly and to code.

Preventing Water Heater Failures
While there are steps you can take to improve the overall health of your water heater, like draining it twice a year and testing the pressure-relief valve, the best way to prevent a water heater failure and subsequent water damage is to replace it when it has neared its life expectancy or if it has continuous issues. Know where your water heater is. Your water heater may be in your garage, in a closet, under your ac unit in a closet, under your kitchen counter, or in a laundry room. Find where yours is today and check the manufacturing date. Remember, the outside tank will show no signs of the inner tanks true condition.

Blankit has created a homeowners guide to help answer all of your most pressing questions about your homes mechanical systems. Sleep safe and sound knowing your protected with Blankit!