Halloween Safety Tips

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Trick-or-Treat! The famous Halloween saying and American practice since the early 1900s. All the ghouls, ghosts and goblins will be roaming tonight.

Neighborhoods and streets will be filled with children in costumes ringing doorbells asking to have their bags filled with candy. Families have decorated their homes, yards, and basements for haunted houses waiting for trick-or-treaters to come by. The spirit of Halloween has spread!

With that being said, it can be a very scary night for some. In order for the night to not get scarier than it already is, please keep the following tips in mind from us and our friends from Travelers.

Dangers At Your Home

·         Walkways are clear of any obstacles that may be hazardous

·         Walkways are well lit

·         Any decorations that involve extension cords are tucked away

·         Use battery operated candles with no open flame

Dangers on The Road

·         Drive with caution

·         Check your surrounding areas before pulling out of your driveway or turning a corner

·         Put electronic devices away

Trick-Or-Treaters

·         Look both ways before crossing the street

·         Use a sidewalk or crosswalk (if there is none, walk facing traffic)

·         Wear light colors; wear reflective tape; carry a flashlight

Don’t be too frightened by the risks of Halloween but it is important to keep these safety tips in mind while also having fun!

National Teen Driver Safety Week - October 17th, 2018

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For newly licensed drivers, getting behind the wheel for the first time can be very exciting for teens, but very worrisome for parents. At Barrows Insurance Agency, we recognize that Massachusetts teen drivers are at risk and need extra care, support and guidance before getting behind the wheel.

National Teen Driver Safety week always falls in the third week of October and is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of teen driver safety initiatives. Congress established National Teen Driver Safety Week in 2007 after a series of tragic accidents involving Pennsylvania High School students. These tragedies occurred by inexperience and driver error due to the lack of awareness on distraction such as fatigue, speeding, cell phone usage and driving with multiple teen passengers.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, young driver safety is at the top of list. There are some specific tips new drivers can take to stay safe when they get ready to turn that key and put their foot on the gas.

Some tips include:

  • Slow down- speeding is a major cause of teen driving deaths, and those in the Junior Operator License category can have their license suspended on their first offense.

  • ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT- having a properly fastened seat belt can save a driver’s life (also a safety law in Mass.). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 56% of teens who died in crashes in 2009 were NOT wearing their seat belt.

  • Don’t drive tired/feeling fatigued- trying to operate a vehicle with little sleep can also put your life at risk. According to the NHTSA, roughly 100,000 crashes each year are due to drowsy driving. This caused about 1,550 deaths.

  • Night restrictions- young drivers are prohibited from using their vehicles from midnight to 5 a.m., until they turn 18 years old.

  • Passenger limits- for the first 6 months of driving, operators under the age of 18 cannot drive with passengers who are also younger than 18 years old, unless, however it is a sibling.

  • Mobile device ban- drivers under 18 years old cannot use a cell phones and texting (THIS SHOULD APPLY TO ALL) while operating a vehicle for any reason other than informing authorities of an emergency, another Massachusetts safety law.

That feeling when you’re sitting in the drivers seat after you have finished your road test, waiting for your instructor to give you that piece of paper that says “Congratulations” is one feeling you will never forget. BUT, in order to hold on to that rewarding feeling, make sure you follow the rules of the road! Happy & Safe Driving!

 

Lawn Care Business Insurance - Choosing An Agency

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How much could you be saving on your insurance? Most lawn care businesses aren’t comparing their insurance policies as often as they should be. Lawn care business insurance has very specific coverage needs, and without the right types of insurance, you could easily be paying too much or not getting the types of coverage that you need. Here are some things you should consider when choosing an insurance agency.

Does the Agency Have Other Lawn Care Companies?

Do they offer custom tailored packages for others in the lawn care business? Or are they simply going to give you generic business insurance? The more specialized an agency is in providing insurance for a lawn care company, the more likely you are to get better service and better coverage.

Different industries require different levels of insurance. As a lawn care company, you have different coverage needs and policy details that impact your business. Insurance companies that do specialize in lawn care may even have specific plans that have been created for your needs and the ability to further fine tune them to match your insurance needs.

When making claims, a company that already deals with lawn care companies will understand your claims better and get you the help that you need. Companies that do not understand the lawn care business may have more questions about the equipment you use, your employees, and your general work operations.

What Additional Services Do They Offer?

Lawn care business insurance isn’t just about the insurance package. After all, auto insurance comes with roadside assistance, and many homeowner’s insurance policies cover emergency hotel stays. Ask your insurance company what added value they offer. These additional services are what may help you decide between similar insurance agencies.

Are There Flexible Billing Options?

As a lawn care business, you’re likely not doing business throughout the year. Instead, you’re probably doing a great deal of seasonal work. You may not want to be paying high premiums during your off time. Seasonal billing options, payment plans, and other flexible billing can help you maintain positive cash flow throughout the year, rather than having to plan for extra expenditures during off seasons.

How Many Agents Will I Work With?

Ideally, you want to have a major point-of-contact with your agency; someone who deeply understands your company and your needs. But you also want to know that there’s someone else to handle your work if that agent becomes ill, takes a vacation, or is simply burdened with other work. Look at how many agents the agency has and ask questions about who you’ll be working directly with. Often, when you have an insurance question or a claim to process, it’s an urgent situation.

How Hands-On Are the Agents?

What is the scope of the work they’re providing? Are they simply going to send you a billing statement every month and wait for you to make a claim? Or will they be able to help you manage your insurance-related needs, conduct annual reviews, and make adjustments to your coverage as you grow your lawn care business?

Though nearly any insurance company can insure a lawn care business, not all insurance companies are going to be able to deliver the services, coverage, and pricing that a lawn care company needs. When choosing an agency, it’s worth it to do a little research and ask the above questions.

Workplace Fire Hazards & How to Avoid Them

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The U.S. Fire Administration reports that there were 1,345,500 fires throughout 2015, totaling 15,700 in injuries and a monetary loss of $14.3 billion. According to the Small Business Administration, as many as 30 percent of businesses that suffer a major disaster do not reopen afterwards. But how can you ensure that your business and your employees are safe from workplace fire hazards?

Prevention: Engaging in Proactive Maintenance and Protective Procedures

  • Get a regular inspection to ensure that your electrical system is up to code. Annually, you should have your building inspected by the fire department — they complete these walkthrough inspections regularly, and will also check and recharge your fire extinguishers. If you’re moving into a new building, the electrical system should be one of the first things you check.
  • Train your employees. Employees should know to avoid open flame; candles are major workplace fire hazards, as they are often left unattended and can re-ignite even if snuffed out. Employees should have regular fire drills and these fire drills should be taken seriously.
  • Have fire extinguishers available. A fire extinguisher should be in every room of the building in a visible and accessible location. However, employees should be aware that they should never attempt to put out a fire at risk to themselves; it is better for them to let a large fire burn and evacuate than attempt to fight it. Fire extinguishers are best used as evacuation tools.
  • Protect your assets. Physical documents should be kept in a fireproof safe. This includes things such as external hard drives or flash drives which could have important information on them. A significant portion of disaster recovery lies in data recovery, as many businesses are not able to function without their data.
  • Make sure your fire detectors work. A malfunctioning fire detector is a major contributor to workplace fire hazards, as employees may not know until too late that a fire has occurred. Test your fire detectors annually.
  • Consider a sprinkler system. If your building doesn’t already have a sprinkler system installed, installing one can make the business as a whole much safer. Sprinkler systems will make it easier for employees to get out of the building once a fire has started.

Reaction: Mitigating Damages and Responding Quickly

  • Empower employees. Always have an employee on staff, such as a manager, who is expressly given the position of calling emergency services as soon as possible. Empowering an individual with this responsibility is the best way to avoid “bystander effect,” in which all employees assume someone else has called.
  • Evacuate completely. Encourage employees to evacuate the building completely. Even if the fire damage appears minimal, employees should not attempt to go back in to look for other staff members or to try to get their things. A fire may still be smoldering out of sight.

You can’t always eliminate workplace fire hazards, but you can reduce your risk through the above steps. Through a combination of preparedness and employee training, you can ensure that if a fire does occur, the damage is minimal.

Massachusetts Renters Insurance 101

Is your property covered? Renting is an excellent choice for those who want to remain mobile or simply don’t want to purchase a home. But without Massachusetts renters insurance, an individual’s property could potentially be at risk. There are some things that renters should be aware of, both regarding their personal property and their rights. Here are a few highlights of what a renter should know.

  • Landlords can’t charge anything they want for security deposits. Most states have an upper limit on how much a landlord can charge, even if there are mitigating factors, such as a poor credit score.
  • Landlords have to make necessary repairs, such as heating and air conditioning repairs, and perform maintenance in a reasonable amount of time. If they do not, you may be able to make the repairs yourself and take out the amount of the repairs from your rent.
  • Before entering your home, a landlord has to give prior notice. This notice has to be reasonable: they need to notify you in 24 hours and give you a time parameter. They cannot tell you they will be entering “sometime in the next month” or anything equally vague.
  • Landlords have a duty to mitigate their damages. In other words, if you leave early in your lease, they can charge you for leaving early, but they cannot charge you the full amount of the entire term without making an honest effort to fill the space. If another tenant steps in, they cannot collect rent from you both.
  • You need to be provided your deposit back at least 30 days after you’ve moved out. If the deposit was consumed by repairs and other expenses, then the landlord will need to itemize these before the 30 days is out. In most states, the deposit cannot be used for rent that was owed.
  • Landlords cannot keep your property because you didn’t pay rent, and, in fact, that may be a case for your Massachusetts renters insurance policy. They are not allowed to throw out or damage your property until it has been legally abandoned.
  • Landlords cannot perform self help evictions, which are evictions that include changing the locks, turning off utilities, or otherwise forcing you out through unpleasantness. They also cannot evict you without a court order. Damages related to this may also fall under your Massachusetts renters insurance policy.
  • Landlords cannot retaliate against tenants by evicting them or ending their lease because the tenants have complained about or enforced their own personal rights.
  • A lease that has verbiage stating what is illegal is not necessarily a legally binding clause of the contract, as the local laws will trump the legality of the clause.  In such a situation, a tenant may be able to terminate the agreement, due to this.

Tenants need to know their rights, because landlords do. If you decide to rent, you should brush up on the Landlord-Tenant code in your area, in addition to getting a renters insurance policy that suits you and your property.

How to Inventory Your Home - Learn to prove your assets in the case of a claim

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After a fire, flood, or windstorm, how does your insurance company know how much to reimburse you? Apart from the appraised value of your home, your insurance company will use your list of assets. A detailed inventory of your home will be needed, in addition to documentation regarding how much that item cost. If you don’t inventory your home, you may find yourself being reimbursed for far less than you are actually owed.

1. Walk Through Your Home

You can begin to inventory your home by walking from room to room, listing the items inside of it. If the item has a serial number, write it down; this will become important if you lose your items or if they’re stolen. Be as descriptive as possible: rather than “black coffee maker” write down the make, model number, and when the maker was purchased.

You can make the list anywhere: paper, a spreadsheet, or a text document. What’s most important is that you are as detailed as possible and that you update this list frequently.

2. Take a Video Record

Smartphones have made it easier to take a visual record of your assets. Get video and photos of your home, so anything that you miss will be recorded and you’ll have clear documentation regarding what you had. Make sure digital copies are saved somewhere other than just locally; you don’t want your list to be on a computer that is damaged in a fire or a flood.

Visual records are also a good way to show that you had an item at a specific date and that it was in good condition. This can be important if there’s some dispute about the current condition of an item and whether it is worth replacing.

3. Save Digital Copies of Receipts

Receipts, appraisals, and other documentation should all be digitized so you can upload them to the cloud or to another document server. Digital copies are far less likely to get lost than paper copies, which can easily be damaged or stolen.

You can either take photos of documents or scan them in, depending on what you have available. It’s most important that the data is legible. Receipts are particularly important to digitize because many of them will fade over time.

4. Keep Your Records in Multiple Places

Ideally, your records should be kept in multiple places. Online storage, an external hard drive, and a paper copy will all ensure that it’s unlikely that you’ll lose your notes. You can even download an app that you can use to inventory your home and keep your data in it ( iOS | Android ) . This can be very useful, because you can immediately make a claim with the information from the app. You can also export the information to save it separately.

Get started on your home inventory today to protect yourself from potential disaster. Every year, inventory your home for new items and make sure you keep documentation as you add items to your property. If you ever need to put in a claim, you’ll find it much easier.

Independent Contractor (what you need to know)

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Being an independent contractor certainly has its perks: determining your own projects and hours, choosing your own pay scale and not having to answer to a corporation or company that doesn’t seem to care so much about the individual worker. That said, sometimes there are downsides to being independent. For example, it can be a lot easier for disgruntled clients to sue you, and the damages can be far more costly without a larger company backing you up. Here’s what you need to know about independent contractor insurance

Lawsuits Are Very Real Threats

Clients can become unhappy with contractor work for a wide variety of reasons, many of which can lead them to file a claim against you. More often than not it is because the work did not turn out to meet the client’s expectations, but lawsuits can also arise from flaws causing the client or someone else getting injured, from the work not meeting the client’s community or municipal standards, etc.

Liability Insurance Can Save You A Lot in the Long Run

It is true that liability insurance can seem like an unnecessary expense when you take a look at premium payments. But the truth is that you can often work out an affordable payment plan, and the cost of premiums pales in comparison to the cost of a lawsuit. Having a good liability policy in place ensures that you don’t end up using your own money to pay for legal claims, which ultimately can mean the difference between staying in business and being forced to close due to bankruptcy.

Knowing Your Legal Requirements

Depending on your location, there may be some local laws in place concerning your insurance requirements. In some areas, for example, independent contractors are required by law to have a minimum coverage limit of $1 million. The next step is to talk with an experienced insurance agent about finding a policy that both fits your needs and follows the law.

Have You Tested Your Smoke Alarms Recently? 

Have you tested your smoke alarms recently? If you haven’t, it’s possible that you, your family, and your possessions could be at risk. Smoke alarms are only useful if they actually work, and many smoke alarms could either be malfunctioning or completely dead. To avoid unnecessary risks, you need to test your smoke alarm at least once every year — and ideally once every six months. 

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Do You Need to Test Your Smoke Alarm?

It’s easy to assume that your smoke alarm works because you remember the last time it went off. But what you may not realize is that the batteries may have died… or that you may have actually disabled the smoke alarm the last time it went off. In 60% of home deaths due to fire, the smoke alarms either were not present at all or did not work. Further, the risk of death is reduced by 50% if you do have a working smoke alarm.

Almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms that did not work had missing or disconnected batteries, often due to disconnected smoke alarms. 24% of the failures were caused by dead batteries, and only 7% of the failures were caused by hardwired detectors.  (source: NFPA)

Testing a smoke alarm is important because a smoke alarm can malfunction at any time. Smoke alarms are actually fairly complex, they have different types of sensors. Some sensors detect smoke, whereas others detect chemicals. Some detect just fire and some detect carbon monoxide. Just because the smoke detector goes off occasionally if you burn something while baking, it may not go off during an actual fire. It may not be able to detect “smoldering flame,” even if it can detect smoke — and smoke doesn’t always happen until it’s too late.

The Process of Testing Smoke Alarms

Testing smoke alarm is really very easy. A smoke alarm will have a button on it that says “test.” Press the button, and the smoke alarm should go off. Don’t worry, the alarm is just going to go off for a few seconds before it stops.

That means your smoke alarm is active. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe. Your smoke alarm will start periodically beeping if it needs to have a battery replaced, which is how you can know that it is low power. But none of this tells you whether the sensors are correct. For that, you simply need to make sure your smoke alarms are current and use new sensor technologies.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk?

What if your battery dies when you aren’t around to hear it? If you’re going on a vacation, you might not even notice. You can reduce your risk by replacing your batteries on a regular basis, such as every six months. And you can further reduce your potential risks by getting a wired smoke alarm.

Most smoke alarms should be replaced after about ten years. After ten years, you may not know whether it has the best sensor technology, or whether its sensors may have potentially malfunctioned. Many new smoke alarms have multiple types of advanced sensors, such as ionization and photoelectric. Ideally you will want a smoke alarm that has every type of sensor available.

In addition to reducing your individual risk, you should also consider the placement of your smoke alarms and the number of smoke alarms you should have. You should ideally have a smoke alarm every floor of your home, especially in halls, bedrooms, and kitchens. The more smoke alarms you have, the better protected you are.

You can also consider advantageous upgrades such as smart systems, which can alert you wherever you are and therefore mitigate your risks.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter Weather

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Is the winter weather getting you down? If your home seems to be just a little colder than it should be (or you keep constantly hearing your furnace kick on), you might need to do some extra maintenance. Here’s a quick check list you can use to improve insulation and the effectiveness of your heating.

1. Check Drafts Around Outlets

Outlets, panel covers, and other inset wall fixtures can sometimes be drafty. Cold air can circulate inside of your walls and end up coming out of these areas, ruining the effectiveness of your insulation. Take a caulking gun and seal the areas around your outlets.

2. Replace Your Weather Stripping

Weather stripping isn’t meant to last forever. In fact, most weather stripping is going to have to be replaced every few years. Take out your old weather stripping around your doors and replace it with brand new, energy efficient weather stripping. Consider also checking for gaps beneath doors that could impact your insulation.

3. Caulk Any Holes in Walls

Walk around the exterior of your home and see if there are any holes that need to be caulked. Like weather stripping, caulk does eventually wear down and wear away. Caulking is frequently going to appear around outside pipes, windows, and so forth — and you may see that it has degraded. Use exterior caulk in these areas. You can also find paintable caulk if you would like to match the color of your home.

4. Close Up Your Chimney

If you have a chimney, remember to get it cleaned out (for safety) and then keep it shut when it’s not in  use. Chimneys can lose a lot of warm air, as they are designed to vent air to the surface (and because hot air rises). Just make sure you also have a monitoring system to make sure that you can detect any potentially dangerous air issues.

5. Get Your Furnace Checked

It’s a good idea to get your furnace checked every year to make sure it’s still safe and functioning. A professional will also be able to run basic maintenance on your furnace, which will help it last even longer. Furnaces generally last anywhere from 15 to 25 years, so if your furnace is getting older, you may also want to think about replacement.

7. Seal Up Your Ducts

Does your home’s heater have less “oomph” now? It could be that the heater is working just as well but there are issues with your ducts. Over time, ducts can degrade and leaks can emerge. Further, ducts can be disrupted by pests, such as squirrels in your attic. Get a full duct cleaning and have your ducts sealed up; you’ll often save money in your energy bills as well as improving the comfort of your home.

8. Buy a Roof Rake

A roof rake is an easy way to ensure that your roof is clear — and that’s important. Without a roof rake, you could end up storing a dangerous amount of snow and debris on your roof. Eventually that could cause your roof to leak… or even begin to crack. Buying a roof rake is an easy way to maintain your roof without a lot of effort on your part, and it can ensure that your gutters remain clean as well. Roof rakes also reduce your liability, because otherwise things could easily fall on visitors and cause an injury.

By being proactive about your home’s maintenance, you can not only make it more comfortable but also reduce your energy bills! You can also reduce your potential risk, as there’s less likelihood that people could be injured on your property.

You can buy a roof rake here: True Temper Telescoping Roof Rake

 

Should anything happen due to winter weather that causes your home to need repairs, don’t hesitate to reach out to our trusted partners on our Community Page.

Why Business Auto Insurance Is Important

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Earlier this year Concord Group Insurance announced their affiliation with Auto-Owner Insurance Group, a well rated mutual insurance company that exclusively works through independent agents. The reason for the collaboration between the two companies is to better serve their customers. Combining the two groups efforts will increase their financial security as well as reach and effectively deliver quality insurance coverage to a wider range of customers. Not to mention mark the beginning of their new business auto insurance line!

As a result of this new affiliation, Concord Group Insurance has added a new line of commercial auto insurance. The Group uses a mutual insurance method to protect the needs of their policy holders, rather than the shareholders, because there are no shareholders. Adding the new auto insurance line will allow Concord Group Insurance to offer all inclusive coverage and protection plan, and the Group is actively and aggressively pricing their new commercial insurance policy. It is a different kind of policy that has not been introduced like this before in other companies so it is crucial that Concord Group Insurance set the bar before anyone else can. That being said, determining the pricing might be difficult because there aren’t other policies like it to compare it to.

With all the different insurance policies out there these days it can be tough to nail down what you actually need for your auto insurance for your business. It is common for business owners to purchase business auto insurance in order to avoid unnecessary liabilities or claims involved with company vehicles. At some point, damage or an accident might occur to one of your company vehicles through no fault of your own so it is very important to make sure your investments are covered and protected. Businesses often overlook this type of insurance and they realize when it is too late that they should have had an auto policy in their business insurance plan sooner.

With a good business auto insurance policy, a business can receive compensation in the event of an accident or damage if they file a claim for it. With all of the possibilities that could damage your company vehicles, such as natural disaster, accidents, and just general car malfunction, it is imperative that you find the best quality auto insurance.

When looking for quality commercial auto insurance, there are a few things to look for and keep in mind before you make any purchase decisions. Make sure you know what kind of insurance you need for whatever company vehicles you have. Different classes of vehicles (ie. trucks vs. an SUV) have different requirements and they vary for each state. Make sure you know what the requirements are and find an insurance company that specializes in your needs. Which brings us to the next piece of advice, always do your research. Don’t just go off of hearsay because it might not be very factual. Do the research yourself and get the facts or call us if you have any questions!

Lastly, a very important tip for security and protection purposes is to keep recordings. If you have employees driving your company trucks or other vehicles, keep a live video camera on the dashboard or somewhere that can capture important details of the vehicle. In the event of an accident, having video evidence will help you build your case and defend your claim. You will be able to see if the driver had any fault, such as if he/she was texting or lighting a cigarette, or if the accident was the fault of another person. Also, take photographs of any damage you see immediately following an accident to keep a detailed record of loss and damage.