Insurance Agents in Arizona Talk About Break-ins

Arizona homeowners are being confronted with a rise in property crimes not just in their homes, but in their cars and storage areas. Crime statistics for 2010 show that “the city property crime rate in Phoenix was higher than the national property crime rate average by 35.05%.” Based on these and other statistics, given that the total burglary reports for Phoenix in 2010 amounted to 15,626, and the projected burglary rate for Phoenix in 2013 is 17,080. Your insurance agents want to help you make sure that your property doesn’t become part of these statistics.

To start with, here is an interesting infographic that covers many of the basic facts and statistics regarding residential break-ins. Since this information was compiled by a security system provider, it naturally promotes the use of home alarms. A security system is an important component of an overall plan, but they are too often defeated by the owners themselves. Nothing will substitute for awareness. Set the alarm for the day when you’re at work, not only at night.

It’s not just that the number of break-ins is increasing, but the types of break-ins have changed. Since more people are using garage door openers with remotes in cars, a burglar will break into a car in the driveway in order to get the remote. That’s often enough to gain entry into the house, as many residents neglect to lock the doors between the house and the garage. Remove remotes from cars parked outside. Lock your car each time you leave it.

Vacant houses are a burglar magnet because it’s so easy to tell that they’re unoccupied. An overgrown yard, shuttered windows, no cars in front, unused trash cans that are never put on the curb, notices or flyers flapping on the doors— all these signs are invitations to break in or vandalize. If a tenant can’t be found immediately, hire a property manager to check the premises daily.

It’s also become common for burglars to pose as work crews. They will drive around hauling trailers with yard equipment, shovels, pvc pipes, or other tools that give them the appearance of being on a job. It’s the most natural thing in the world to see a man walking around a house with a shovel on his shoulder, carefully examining landscaping or the foundation, and to assume he’s from a nearby nursery or a foundation repair company. What he’s actually doing, however, is looking for security wires, a vulnerable door, or a partially hidden window. Know what’s going on in your neighborhood. Look for company signage on any work trucks.

Finally, one of the most depressing trends in break-ins is the number of them that occur during summer vacation or school holidays. Unsupervised teens have been known to break into neighbors’ homes for a number of reasons:

(1) They’re familiar with the area; they know who goes to work during the day or who is away on vacation. They know who has the expensive toys and who does not have a dog or a security system.

(2) They’re bored, looking for some excitement, or trying to build up a reputation.

(3) They don’t like certain neighbors and want to exact a little revenge for a perceived wrong.

Get to know your neighbors. Take extra precautions during school breaks.  

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Arizona Insurance Agents Show You How to Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

Water damage is a primary cause for claims against homeowners insurance in Arizona. Even a paid claim cannot adequately compensate you for the time and aggravation of dealing with water damage, so we want to help you avoid this issue.

Let’s start by addressing potential water damage to the exterior of your home, or your neighbor’s home- during rain season.

The major factor in avoiding exterior water issues is the slope of the ground surrounding your house. Six inches in slope for every 10 feet, or a grade of -2% to -5% is considered ideal for drainage, but you must make sure your excess water does not drain into your neighbors’ yards.

Another factor affecting drainage is the amount of concrete around your house in the form of driveways or patios. Water that hits concrete has got to drain off somewhere, so you need to control that flow. A good solution may be to replace some of that concrete with pavers. Lay drainage pipes underneath the pavers, or install French drains. Always consult with a licensed contractor to make sure your renovations meet codes.

See that your roof is in good shape. An inspection every two to four years is adequate unless there has been severe weather, in which case you should have someone look at it right away. Damaged shingles or missing flashing indicates the need for repairs. Go up to the attic during the day to look for spots of daylight coming through the roof. Water spots on room ceilings or walls call for an immediate roof inspection.

Finally, see that your home is equipped with gutters and downspouts. Not only do they safely channel excess rainwater, they protect landscaping and add aesthetic appeal.

Now let’s look at how to head off interior water damage.

1. Monitor water use. This sounds elementary until you realize that a significant amount of water damage is caused by overflowing tubs, toilets and sinks. Make sure that sinks are equipped with overflow drains. Always supervise children in the bathroom and kitchen.

2. Fix malfunctioning appliances immediately. A constantly running toilet is a disaster waiting to happen, and when it finally gives, it will do so in the middle of the night. Water heaters that are 10 years old or older should be replaced. Not only will you head off a sudden 50 gallon deluge, you will enjoy the savings of new energy efficient models. Inspect your dishwasher door’s seals or gaskets, and replace them if they are hard or cracked. Periodically check your washing machine’s drain hose to see that it is clear and uncrimped to the stand pipe (you’d be surprised what sometimes happens to those missing socks).

3. Dehumidify wet basements. Control minor seeping with an oil-based masonry waterproofing paint. Major seeping problems may have to be addressed with a French drain or other pressure relief systems. Get expert advice on this.

4. If you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures, protect your pipes by covering exterior spigots and allowing interior faucets to drip during cold spells.

5. Know where your home’s water shutoff valve is located and how to operate it. Should you experience sudden flooding from a water supply line failure, shutting off the water quickly will mitigate damage.

Contact any one of our insurance agents, they will be glad to help.

Insurance Agents Offer Safe Driving Tips

With the start of the new year and Winter winds blowing, the snow birds have arrived in Arizona. While these visitors are welcome, the increase in traffic can cause an increase in accidents and insurance claims. Insurance agents would like to offer some safe driving tips for natives and for those who are visiting the state.

Vehicle Safety

Before you get behind the wheel make sure that all of your tires are inflated properly. A low tire could indicate a problem that will make it more difficult to drive, or even cause an accident. Always use your safety belt. This will help reduce injuries for you and your passengers if you do get involved in an accident. If you are driving a rental car, make sure you know where everything is before you start driving. This includes lights, wipers, radio, air conditioning, and mirror controls. Adjust all of the mirrors to ensure you can see clearly.

Double check the dashboard for any warning lights. Proper maintenance on a vehicle will not only improve performance, but improper maintenance can impact insurance claims. Once you are comfortable and everyone is buckled up, you are ready to go.

Of course be sure to follow all traffic signs and obey all traffic laws. These laws are for everyone and help keep us all safe.

Dust Storms and Monsoons

Arizona is in a desert that is subject to frequent dust storms. The high winds sweeping across the dry desert can blow dust onto highways and reduce visibility. Visitors from the north may be familiar with blizzard conditions where blowing snow reduces visibility. Dust storms are much the same, though they don’t make the road slippery. If you are caught in a dust storm turn on your lights and reduce speed accordingly or pull over to the side if the storm is severe. If you decide to pull off the road, be sure to get as far over to the right as possible.

Deserts are not the first environment where people expect floods, but they do happen in Arizona. These flash floods can cover roads with a torrent of water that is dangerous to cross. Areas where floods are common will have signs that say, “do not cross when flooded”. These signs are there for your safety, so find another way to get where you are going.

Don’t cross washes that have swollen with recent rain. There is no way to predict if another rain will send a sudden flash flood down the wash. These flash floods are strong enough to wash away even a large vehicle.

Night Time Driving

Statistically speaking, night time is the most hazardous time to drive in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. It is important to be particularly cautious when driving after dark. Here are some quick tips to help:

  • Slow down so you are driving within your vehicle’s headlights.
  • Dim your headlights if you are following another driver.
  • Keep your headlights clean.
  • Go slow on curves.
  • Avoid using light inside your car while driving.
  • Do not drive if you are tired.
  • Obey the speed limit (55 mph on federal highways, 65 mph on rural interstates).

Driving safely and following all applicable laws will help avoid costly and dangerous accidents for you and your family.

Arizona Insurance Agents Offer Tips on Kitchen Fire Safety

There’s nothing nicer on a cold winter morning than cooking up a good hot breakfast to share with someone you love. Even kitchen klutzes can figure out how to brew coffee and scramble eggs. But make sure you’re awake before you stumble into the kitchen and turn on the stove, because studies by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that the number-one cause of home fires and home fire injuries is cooking, and most of those cooking fires start on the stove. In consultation with the NFPA, your insurance agents should offer these tips for making sure your kitchen experiences are happy ones:

  • Don’t store plasticware or anything flammable in an oven or microwave. Always check inside an oven before turning it on. Completely clear off the stovetop before turning on a burner.
  • Stay focused on cooking. Once you turn on a stovetop burner, don’t leave the kitchen without turning it off. Always keep the stovetop in your field of view when working in the kitchen.
  • In a small kitchen, don’t allow more than one other person to help you cook. Unless this is a special teaching session with one child, keep children away from the stove.
  • Keep a clean kitchen. Grease and food spills can catch fire. Clear clutter away from the stovetop. Have paper recipes encased in plastic, and when you need to refer to them, put them on a counter away from the stove.
  • Use pots and pans of adequate capacity on the stovetop and in the oven to prevent spills.
  • Be careful not to overheat oil or grease. Use cooking thermometers when in doubt. Immediately turn off the heat under any grease that starts to smoke.
  • Roll up sleeves and tuck in loose shirts. An apron is good for more than keeping stains off good clothes; it can keep good clothes from getting scorched.
  • Use the back burners first, and turn pot handles out of the way. Make sure all pots have lids that fit, and have them accessible while cooking.
  • Keep pot holders in a designated place where they are easy to reach when you need them and easy to put away when you don’t.
  • Use timers to remind you what’s cooking where.
  • Keep a charged fire extinguisher in or close to the kitchen.
  • Keep a box of baking soda nearby because…

…if you do have a kitchen fire:

  • Pour baking soda on a grease fire, NOT WATER. Water will cause burning grease to splatter.
  • Turn off all burners and the oven.
  • Slide a lid firmly over a pan with burning contents and leave the lid on until the pan is cool.
  • Use the fire extinguisher that you kept charged and ready. Point the nozzle at the base of the fire, not the flames.
  • If the fire gets out of control, make sure everyone is out of the house. Get out yourself before calling 911. Shut all doors behind you.

We hope this list will help keep your winter cooking pleasant! For more information, please contact our insurance agents.

Finding the Right Insurance Agent in Arizona

There’s more to choosing insurance than just searching for quotes on the internet or finding the lowest price. Your choice of  insurance agents can affect the quality of service you receive and your level of satisfaction. Choosing the right agent is essential to getting the most for your premium dollars.

When you start looking for an insurance agent, be aware that there are two types of agents. Independent insurance agents work with several different companies whereas Captive agents have a dedicated book of business with just one insurance company.

The obvious advantage to an independent agent is that you may receive quotes from more than one insurance company and you may end up with a lower premium overall. Getting a lower price, however, may not always translate to a better deal. An agent is more than just the middleman in a business transaction; a good agent should also be an advocate for the customer.

There can be advantages to a Captive agent as well. These agents have well-established reputations and working relationships with the insurance companies they do business with. It is likely that they know the personnel in the claims department and management well and are known by them. If they are a valued agent, they can be an effective advocate in the case of a disputed claim.

Before you decide on an insurance agent, get references and check their ratings from existing customers. Consider what types of services you want from your agent. You want someone who is on your side and looking out for your best interest.

Are you looking to place all of your insurance business with the same agency? If so, make sure they do business with insurance companies who handle multiple lines of insurance such as home insurance, auto insurance, commercial insurance, etc.

Ask about their customer service department. Will there be a dedicated agent assigned to you? Take time to find out their protocol when reporting a claim and who will be your liaison with the insurance company. Do you feel comfortable that your agent will go to bat for you in the event of a dispute between you and the insurance company?

How well do they understand your individual needs, and have they explained why they recommend certain coverages and limits? How often do they review your policy and will they alert you to any changes or updates to your policy that you ought to be aware of? Will they give you comparative quotes or recommend changes if there are rate increases?

Every agent should be well-versed in policy language, how it affects you and whether or not the policy you want to buy is the policy you need.

Finding the right agent that can serve you both today and for the long term allows you to build more than just a business relationship, but a relationship of trust. Having an agent who knows your circumstances, your insurance needs and treats you as a valued customer instead of just a policy number will pay dividends in superior customer service for many years to come.

Burglary Prevention Tips From Insurance Agents

Arizona Insurance AgentsAlthough it’s comforting to know that your insurance agents are there and ready to help if something goes wrong, nobody wants to have to file an insurance claim.

Prevention is the key to avoiding most home insurance claims. Of course, you can’t control everything that happens in life, but when it comes to protecting your home from burglary, there are actually many relatively simple preventative steps that you can take.

The first, and perhaps most obvious step is to invest in security features such as a reliable alarm, deadbolt locks, window locks, and outdoor lighting with motion-sensors. Be sure to let your insurance company know if you do install any of these items, because it can mean lower premiums on your homeowners insurance.

But there are plenty of other things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a burglary. Don’t leave ladders anywhere that might be accessible to potential intruders. Secure sliding doors and windows. Always lock both your front and back doors anytime you go outside, and keep your garage doors closed. Don’t leave windows open when you’re away. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, and if you purchase new appliances or electronics, don’t put the box out by the curb where everyone can see what shiny new item you have inside.

Take safety into consideration in your landscaping plans, as well. Make sure any bushes or shrubs near windows aren’t providing a convenient hiding spot for intruders. Trim back any tree branches that could provide access to upper-story windows. Keep in mind that any overgrown trees or shrubbery in the yard can create concealing shadows.

It’s common for homeowners to leave a spare key hidden somewhere outside in case they are locked out. But burglars will check in the more obvious places, and even if you’re a savvy key hider, it’s still possible that someone might figure out your hiding spot. Instead, give a spare key to a friend or a neighbor you trust. Speaking of neighbors, it’s worth getting to know yours. Neighbors who know each other are better able to identify strangers and more likely to look out for each others’ property and safety.

Mostly, burglars just want to get in, take your stuff, and get out. That’s why burglaries tend to occur during the day when people are at work. If you can create an illusion that someone is home, they won’t want to take the chance. Interior lights with timers can give the appearance that the home is occupied, but make sure you have window coverings to prevent anyone from seeing clearly inside.

If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time, then you’ll need to prepare in advance. Before going out of town, make arrangements to ensure that the lawn gets mowed or the sidewalk gets shoveled. Put a hold on mail and newspapers so they won’t pile up outside your home. Neighbors can collect any packages that are delivered, or even park their car in your driveway. You can also contact the police and notify them of the dates you will be away.

Burglary results not only in the loss of your belongings but also your peace of mind. So it’s well worth the investment of time and money to do everything you can to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Insurance Agents Always Have Your Back

We all like to think of life as void of mishaps. No one ever breaks a leg rock climbing to impress a girl, careens their Yukon off the desert highway because a bee flies into the vehicle, or drives their golf cart into the pool because… well, you use your imagination. At least this is our dream that gets us through the darkest hours of the night.

Arizona Insurance agents protect for car accidents.When dawn and reason return, we can all admit that some sort of “accident” is likely to befall us at some point in our lifetimes. When these hiccups appear on your radar, make sure you have one of the finest in your back pocket. No, I am not referencing an officer of the law here, although you might meet one depending on your type of misfortune. I am referring to one of the many dependable insurance agents awaiting your call.

Arizona is one of the most gorgeous places to call home, but it also offers a series of contrasts that can make life tricky. Where else can you have a 104 degree day followed by a 60 degree night, or some of the nation’s plushest golf courses abutting the most unforgiving desert? As a citizen of Arizona, you need to be aware of these distinctions and plan ahead for them. I am talking prevention here, the enemy of pitfall.

So, what exactly do you need to do to safeguard life, limb, and property in our unforgiving climate? You can divide these needs into two categories- people you love and stuff you love. First, think about the most important things in your life- the people. No one wants to talk about life insurance because death is icky. I get creeped out too, but buying life insurance just in case is not going to kill you. Plus, this is about your family, not you. You’ll be dead, so what will you care? Your loved ones are still going to have all the desires and necessities they do now, so take care of it. Life Happens is a nonprofit organization that provides a very non-threatening introduction to life insurance, such as why you need it and how much you need. Peruse this site and then contact your agent.

When you have conquered your own mortality and lived to tell of it, then you need to turn your attention to protecting the stuff. The major players here are of course your house and automobiles. Again, Arizona is unique in that we boast a large number of residents who may not reside here all year. If you are one of these individuals, be sure to appropriately prepare the home for your absence. Everything from taking your most valuable items to a bank’s safety deposit box, to turning off the water main, to hiring a landscaping crew to care for your yard, must be done before you leave. Even if you are not leaving during the summer or flying north, you must give the article “How to ‘Summarize’ your Arizona Home Before Flying North” a look. It has some very helpful hints, whether you are novice or veteran at the migration.

The rest of you need to make sure that your house and its contents are adequately covered. Spend time taking stock of what you have and communicate that earnestly to your agent. Agents are experts, so allow them to help you set the guidelines. Don’t forget to mention things like the number of bedrooms, building materials used, or whether you have a pool. Be thorough so your agent can provide you with the full coverage you need. The same goes for your cars. Auto policies can seem complicated on the surface, but the insurance agent can translate for you. In case you zoned out, the key to finding the appropriate home and auto insurance here is open communication with your agent.

So you won’t break a leg, drive your car off the road, or sink a golf cart. But if you do, you’d better have a dang good insurance agent.

Insurance Helps You Pick Up the Pieces

The defining mark of a catastrophe is that it is unexpected. If we knew something dreadful was about to occur, we would probably take the time to get things in order, collect our most precious belongings, and do anything in our power to try and prevent the catastrophe from ever happening.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how the world works and catastrophes occur before we know it. Then we’re left to pick things up the best that we can.

In Arizona, a catastrophe to your home might occur when the wind changes direction and a wildfire moves in the direction of where you live.  Or, maybe you forget to turn off your main water valve before you leave town and a burst pipe floods your home. A catastrophe could happen when a strong storm knocks an electrical wire down on your roof.

So, how do you begin to pick up the pieces if something catastrophic does happen to your home. Where do you even start?

According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star“Most homeowners have an ally they may not think of in a major home repair crisis.” That ally is none other than your insurance agent.

In the article, Tim Jankovsky, a Tuscon Insurance agent, states that Homeowners insurance carriers in Arizona frequently maintain a list of approved vendors.”  These vendors might include specific trade experts, like roofers or plumbers, restoration experts, or emergency cleanup crews.

So, if a catastrophe occurs, call your insurance agent as soon as possible to get a list of their approved vendors. “Using that service… may not only speed up getting help to your house, but could save you money on work the insurance company doesn’t cover.”

Your insurance agents might not be able to help you predict or prevent a catastrophe from happening, but they will be there to help you pick up the pieces.

Insurance in the Arizona Desert

Arizona Insurance AgentIf you live in the Arizona desert, you know you live in a unique location. I mean, really, how many times have you heard, yeah, but it’s a dry heat? No other place lights up the front yard cacti at Christmas time or fries eggs on the sidewalks, just because they can. ‘Chances are’ you will also find these things to be specific to living in the Arizona desert.

Here are some tips from an insurance agent’s perspective

  • Chances are, you have a pool. In the Phoenix metro area alone, 30% of single family homes have a back yard pool. Along with floaties and chlorine, you need to have adequate liability coverage.
  • Chances are, you drive through a construction area on your way to work. The starting, stopping, potholes and detours all take their toll on you and your car. Keep your air-conditioned car cool by knowing and providing sufficient protection for you and your family.
  • Chances are, you might have a boat, a jet ski, or a canoe. I know, weird that you move to a desert to buy watercraft, huh? Believe it or not, Arizona residents rank high on the list of boat ownership. We have a bunch of man-made lakes and year round boating, so why not? Just be sure that you protect your property as well as cousin Elmo, skiing behind you.
  • Chances are, you start your car to let it cool off, rather than warm up. You crack your windows, cover your dash, and put a towel over the steering wheel and ignition. The intense Arizona heat is hard on your auto and your body. Stay informed and protected.
  • Chances are, you have seen a scorpion, rattle snake, or gila monster. None of which are good for your health. Even if you have never seen Wiley Coyote or the Roadrunner, people in Arizona love the great outdoors. So when you are exploring that mine, hiking that canyon, or four-wheeling at Four Peaks, be sure you are always equipped with a first aid kit and training on snake bites, burns, and stings.
  • Chances are, you have driven beside a golf cart. Since the Valley of the Sun is the home to thousands of retirees, (Snow Birds) you may see golf carts driving on the road beside your pick up truck. Caution is required for these slow-paced vehicles.
  • Chances are, you have trouble getting a reservation for dinner in the winter in Arizona. This probably doesn’t have a thing to do with insurance, but I just thought I would throw this in.

In Arizona, we are proud of our landscape, our lifestyles, our homes, and our businesses. Protecting these things that are so important to us is essential. We know that its a dry heat, and that Santa wears a cowboy hat. We love our differences and protect them well. Chances are, your insurance agent is an important part of your life as well. Your insurance agent can discuss coverage to protect you and your family. Chances are, one day you will thank him or her!

Keep Your Pool Safe and Prevent Insurance Claims

As the summer heats up, many Arizona residents want to cool off in their own pool. While splashing around in the water can be a great source of family entertainment, backyard pools can also be potential liabilities. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I):

There are over 3,400 fatal accidental drownings in the U.S. annually, with children ages one to four having the highest drowning rates. Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury related deaths for children ages one to 14 years old, according to the CDC. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning another four children will be treated for “nonfatal submersion injuries” which can cause brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g. permanent vegetative state).

Pool owners need sufficient liability coverage to cover their pool. Most homeowners insurance policies have at least $100,000 of liability protection. However, since pools are considered an “attractive nuisance,” homeowners may need additional liability coverage. The I.I.I. recommends at least $300,000 to $500,000 of liability coverage for pool owners. Homeowners also need enough insurance coverage to replace the pool if it is destroyed by a natural disaster.

Homeowners need to be aware that they can be liable for damages even if the person injured was using the pool without permission. In addition to purchasing sufficient liability coverage, homeowners should also consider the following safety precautions:

  • Completely surround the pool with a four sided fence that is at least 5 feet high, as required by law. If a residence makes up one side of the pool enclosure, there must be a barrier between the home and the pool that is at least four feet high.
  • Install an appropriate pool cover. Arizona requires a motorized, key-locking, ASTM approved pool cover.
  • Layer child safety measures such as pool alarms that sound when a child enters the water, self-closing latches that prevent a child from opening the pool gate, and alarms on exterior doors or windows that will alert when doors leading to the pool are opened.
  • Install a VBG compliant pool filter. Keep children away from pool filters or other suction devices and make sure that supervising adults know how to shut down the filter in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure that pool guests know how to swim. Proficient swimmers should accompany beginners, and adults should supervise children at all times.
  • Have emergency supplies such as ring buoys, reaching poles, and a first aid kit easily accessible. Post emergency numbers on the phone. Keep a phone close to the pool.
  • Regularly check the pool area for hazards such as glass bottles or toys that could cause an accident. Keep radios or other electronic devices away from the pool.
  • Restrict alcohol use near the pool. Alcohol is involved in almost half of water related deaths for both adults and teens.
  • Learn basic life-saving techniques such as rescue breathing and CPR.

Taking these basic safety precautions can help you and your friends safely enjoy your pool this summer. Pool safety doesn’t just prevent claims on your homeowners insurance policy, it also saves lives.

For more information on pool safety, you can view the state guidelines at the Arizona Department of Health Services website.