By: Whitaker-Myers | 08-05-2015

Many people come to our agency because they don't understand why their auto insurance is increasing.  The national average annual premium for one auto is around 800 bucks.  While this is an average, we all know people who claim to be paying under $600 per year and some of us have the pleasure of paying premiums over $1,000 per vehicle.  Why the discrepancy?  Is there anything we can do to keep our premiums on the low-end of that spectrum?

Understanding what factors go into your auto insurance premiums is the first step toward figuring out the pricing game.  The Insurance Information Institute recently released an article outlining 8 key factors in the auto insurance pricing game.  Some of these are within your control, and some are not.  The key factors include:

  • Driving Record
  • Vehicle Usage
  • Your Age
  • Your Gender
  • The Car You Drive
  • Your Credit
  • Where You Park Your Car and Where You Live

The last factor is really the most important and the most controllable: The type and amount of coverage you choose to carry.

I recently had someone call in because she received a $20 gift card from a national insurance provider if she called an 800-number and allowed them to offer a quote on her auto insurance.  At the end of the day, the 800-number agent offered a low premium with much, much lower coverage than what this client currently carried.  Had she opted for the low premium and then had a claim, who knows whether she would be covered!?

If you have any questions about how these factors may influence your premium, talk to you independent insurance agent today!

 

By: Whitaker-Myers | 06-24-2015

In light of the tragic shootings in Charleston, SC, we wanted to share some helpful satey tips for our friends and church insurance clients.  Thanks to our friends at GuideOne Insurance (who provide monthly tips on church saftey) for compiling the information below in their June saftey newsletter.

 

June 24, 2015
Church Violence by GuideOne Insurance

The horrific shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, that left nine people dead was a terrible reminder that bad things can happen at good places. Churches are often viewed as safe havens by congregation members, staff and volunteers, but church leaders should be aware that churches can be vulnerable to devastating violent acts, just like other businesses and organizations. Thankfully, active shooter situations are rare, but churches and other houses of worship should strongly consider preparing themselves for worst case scenarios.

Prepare to Prevent

The best way to address the risk of violence or other unfortunate acts is to be prepared. By thinking about possible situations or risks, and taking steps to minimize the likelihood of them occurring, you limit the risk of surprise and chaos when an incident happens. The following considerations may be helpful:

  • Establish a Team – Develop a safety or risk management team that will be responsible for safety issues, and designate a point person for that team.
  • Assess Your Facility – A security assessment by a professional can go a long way toward identifying the particular vulnerabilities of your church to criminal activity. Conduct an assessment in conjunction with local law enforcement, if possible, or a security professional.
  • Create a Church Safety and Security Plan – Based on the results of the security assessment, develop a security plan that defines the roles of staff and volunteers with regard to safety and security, and details the prevention measures and responses to harmful situations that may arise.
  • Establish a Communication Plan – In the case of a crisis, it is important to be able to communicate efficiently. The members of your safety or risk management team must be able to communicate with each other. In addition, create a plan of action for how your church will communicate during an event and decide how you will explain the situation to other congregation members, the public and media.
  • Seek Training – Once your security plan is in place, make sure that all involved staff and volunteers are trained on their roles. Again, the assistance of local law enforcement or a security professional in training can be very helpful.

In 2013, the federal government released a Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship that includes a section on addressing active shooter situations. Churches may wish to review this document as a guide.

Church Security Guards

Some churches have taken the step of utilizing security guards to enhance the safety of their facilities. Churches generally have three options to consider when deciding whether security guards are a good fit:

  • Off-Duty Law Enforcement – These officers typically have superior training and experience dealing with disruptive, suspicious or potentially violent individuals. Churches that feel the need to employ security guards should strongly consider the use of off-duty law enforcement officers. Many congregations have such officers within their membership.
  • Hired Security Guard Force – Another option is to hire a professional security guard service. Before doing so, check references and make sure you are clear on the guards’ backgrounds, training, and the role they will play. In addition, strongly consider a written agreement with the security agency, which includes hold harmless language in favor of the church, and have the church listed as an additional insured on the service’s liability insurance policies.
  • Own Security Guard Force – The least preferable option is for the church to utilize its own security guard force, particularly if they are interested in having armed security. In this scenario, the church is responsible for running background checks, training and supervising these individuals. Generally, the church will be held liable for the acts of its security guards with no recourse against any other entity, and the church must make sure that it complies with state licensing and certification requirements. Churches are strongly encouraged to check with their legal advisor before undertaking to implement their own security guard force.

Reactions to a Violent Incident

Knowing what to do during a violent situation can help to keep those around you safe. Protecting those in the congregation should be your first priority during this kind of event. Also, by having a plan in place, you will feel less panicked and the situation will run more smoothly. For example, the following are things to consider in the event of a violent episode:

  • Call 911 whenever it is safe to do so;
  • If the intruder is within the building, remove everyone from the premises as quickly as it is safe to do so;
  • If evacuation is not possible, implement lockdown procedures for areas of the building, such as youth or children’s areas, when it is appropriate to do so;
  • If the intruder is outside the building, lock doors and close off areas to stop the intruder from entering the facility if possible;
  • Act calmly and quickly to control panic situations; and
  • Have a designated leader take charge and implement your crisis communication plan.

Although your church can never be completely ready for an act of violence, your facility can and should become better prepared for responding to criminal acts, as well as communicating during a crisis.

By: Whitaker-Myers | 06-05-2015

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, sewer lines across the country average over 30 years old.  The study also found that the number of backed-up sewers in the U.S.. is increasing steadily at a rate of 3% annually.

Most people assume that their city or county water service charge helps fund these types of repairs, when in fact, municipalities are responsible for only the maintenance and repair of the city sanitation main sewer line.  If the main sewer line becomes blocked, water can back-up into homes through floor drains.

Most homeowners insurance policies only provide coverage for damage caused by overflow or discharge of installed plumbing, heating, air conditioning units, and appliances.  Most of these policies clearly EXCLUDE coverage for water damage caused by back-ups of sewers and drains.

This coverage can be added to your homeowners policy by simply asking your local independent insurance agent.  A water back-up and sump discharge or overflow endorsement can be added to your policy to provide additional coverage for sewer and drain back-ups as well as overflow and discharge from sump-pumps.

Homeowners are entirely responsible for the maintenance and repair of any sewer lateral pipes, including those portions that extend beyond the property boundary and into the street of public right of way.  Faulty or defective maintenance is excluded--claims for tree root damage can be denied under this exclusion, for example.

A few simple tips for helping reduce the risk of a sewer or drain back-up:

Dispose of cooking oil properly - when hot oil is poured directly down a drain, it eventually cools and solidifies, leading to a potential blockage over time.

Only flush bathroom tissue - bathroom tissue is specially manufactured to deteriorate rapidly, while other paper products do not break down quickly and can lead to blockage.

Ensure proper plumbing connections - NEVER connect a French drain or sump pump to your sewer sanitary lines.  A sudden rain shower could produce an influx of water all going to the same place and debris and silt from the ground water could lead to a blockage resulting in stinking sewer water in your basement!

Choose plastic - plastic PVC pipes are the most reliable way to prevent tree roots from entering your drainage and sewer systems.  Plastic piping is also less likely to collapse or break.

Keep yourself and your home stink-free by reducing your risks and buying inexpensive water back-up coverage for these smelly disasters!

By: Whitaker-Myers | 05-29-2015

Congratulations to our friends and partners at The Doctor’s Company. 

Their “A” rating with a stable outlook is well-deserved!  Read the full press release here.               
 

To our many physician clients protected by the nation’s #1 provider of medical malpractice insurance:  Here’s another reason you have to trust The Doctors Company.

Friends, we knew you’d want to see this.  Way to go, TDC!

 

 

By: Whitaker-Myers | 05-19-2015

“What is a driverless car?,” many people are asking. Technological advances in automation could help drive-down auto insurance rates and provide wheels to previously non-driving demographics.  Google isn’t the only company researching driverless vehicles. Every major automobile manufacturer has a driverless car research unit racing to become the category killer who figures out this technology (and the public safety implications) first.
 

Who will benefit?

Special Needs Community – Many adults in the special needs community will benefit tremendously from driverless car technology.  While these individuals may be able to buy their own groceries, getting to the store has been a challenge—particularly in rural communities like Wooster and Ashland, Ohio where public transportation simply doesn’t exist the way it does in major cities.
 

Older Drivers -- By the year 2025 more than one quarter of the drivers on U.S. roads will have their 65th birthday in the rear-view mirror.  That number is 15% higher than it was at the turn of the century.

What’s Next?

Before the driverless revolution begins, we will begin to see many new safety automations come standard in our vehicles. These will include Blind Spot Warning Systems, Assistive Parking Systems, Smart Headlights, and Drowsy Driver Alerts (to name a few).  Since auto insurance is based on the chance of loss, nearly any risk mitigation system will undoubtedly help drive down the cost of personal auto insurance for those drivers who are reading the signs.
 

For more, read the Thomas Frey’s article, “Going Driverless” at http://www.futuristspeaker.com/

Image Credit: dragon2000.co.uk