Home Preparedness

Buying a Home

  • Before you begin house-hunting, check your credit history. Many insurers take into account this important financial responsibility indicator when determining whether to insure you, and at what price.
  • Consider a home’s design and age in the insurance equation. Older homes typically cost more to insure. And brick or masonry structures typically have lower premiums than wood framed homes.
  • Understand the natural disaster profile in your target neighborhood. Floods and earthquakes are generally not covered under a standard policy. You may need additional coverage.
  • Shop around. Contrary to popular belief, you are not required to purchase insurance from the company your lender recommends.
  • Once you move in, create an inventory of your possessions and store the information in a safe place. The free and new Home Inventory mobile app from NAIC lets you quickly capture photos, descriptions and serial numbers so you don’t under-report losses should you need to file a claim.
  • Consider installing protection devices in your home, such as smoke detectors, a burglar alarm, a sprinkler system, deadbolts on doors or security devices for windows. Many insurers offer a discount if you have these safety features.
  • Alert your insurance company when making any major home improvements, usually anything more than $5,000. You will want to update your homeowners policy to reflect the new enhancement and prevent being underinsured.
  • Determine if you need to purchase an endorsement or floater to cover additional possessions, e.g., jewelry, antiques, art, collectibles, etc.
  • If you decide to start a home-based business, understand that most standard homeowners policies don’t cover home-based business losses. Consider purchasing additional coverage, such as professional liability insurance professional liability insurance and coverage for business property.


As with any insurance policy, you should evaluate the benefit of coverage on an individual basis. Your landlord’s coverage will take care of damage to the building’s structure. However, if you want to protect your personal belongings, you may want to consider buying a renter’s insurance policy. In addition to personal belongings, some policies will also cover living expenses if your apartment or home is uninhabitable due to damage.

Tips on Renters Insurance

Know there are two standard renters insurance policies:
  • Broad Form – covers personal belongings against specific events, such as fire or theft. This is the most commonly purchased renter’s policy. Typical coverage under this form includes damage from fire, lightning, explosion, smoke, vandalism, theft and water-related damage from property utilities.
  • Comprehensive Form provides coverage for a range of events, unless specifically excluded by the policy. Considering the potential amount of coverage, the premiums for this policy may be higher. Location also may be considered when choosing your form. If you live in an area prone to violent storms, such as hurricanes, consider purchasing a comprehensive policy that specifically addresses storm damage.
Know the difference between Actual Cash Value and Replacement Cost
  • Actual cash-value coverage – will reimburse you for the cost of the property at the time of the claim, minus your deductible. It’s important to account for depreciation when considering this coverage option. For example, if you lose an audio system that was purchased five years before the claim, you will be reimbursed for the current value of the system. This may result in a lower claim payment than you expect.
  • Replacement cost coverage – will reimburse the full value of the new audio system — after you purchase the new system and submit your receipts. While the up-front cost is greater, you are more likely to receive accurate compensation for your possessions.
Additional Coverage

If you have unusually expensive items, such as fine jewelry or an art collection, you may consider adding a “rider” to provide extra coverage. Your agent can help you determine if an additional rider is needed.

Does everyone need Renter’s Insurance

It’s always a good idea to take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. But, not everyone needs renter’s insurance. Dependents, such as college students, are automatically covered under their parent or guardian’s policies. On average, a dependent is covered for up to 10 percent of the parent’s policy. Double check with your insurance agent regarding the specific provisions of your policy.


Preventing Accidents in the Home:

Electrical Safety

Treat electricity with respect. Misuse or abuse of electricity can cause accidents and fatalities.

  • Have your wiring installation checked at least once every five years by an approved contractor, or immediately if you are buying an older property
  • Do not use appliances with worn or damaged wires
  • Have electric blankets serviced and checked regularly
  • If an appliance appears faulty stop using it and have it checked at once
  • Never overload an electric socket
In the Kitchen

The kitchen is where some of the most serious home accidents occur. Specific cooking safety tips are available in their own section of this Be Prepared webpage. Here are some additional general tips.

  • Plan your storage areas carefully so that heavy items are not kept on high shelves, and items in daily use are within easy reach
  • Take extra care with hot water, tea, coffee or soup. If there are young children around, they could get scalded
  • Keep knives sharp and in good condition and out of reach of children
  • Keep panhandles turned inward so that children cannot reach them and pull them over
  • Use a cordless kettle or one with a coiled lead so that children cannot pull on them.
Safety Glass

Ordinary glass is dangerous – particularly at low level – because it breaks into large, jagged pieces which can cause serious injury. Safety glass is specially made. There are two main types: laminated glass and toughened glass. When it breaks it breaks safely – in a way unlikely to cause injury

  • If ordinary glass is in use, you can help reduce the risks
  • Make sure that people know that the glass is there and see that the area is well lit
  • Never let children play near glass – they could easily crash through it and receive a serious injury
Medicines and Cleaners

Chemicals of any sort, in the form of medicines or household cleaners should always be treated with caution.

  • Consider having a proper lockable cabinet fitted in the kitchen for medicines and chemicals where it is more likely to be supervised
  • Keep medicines in their original containers, clearly labeled
  • Do not take other people’s medicine, or let them take yours
  • Return leftover medicines to the pharmacist for destruction – don’t hoard them
  • Keep medicines, chemical and cleaning products such as bleach, bathroom cleansers where children cannot see or reach them
  • Chemicals used in the garden, garage or workshop need to be used and stored with great care. Store them in a safe place where children can’t see or reach them
  • Keep cosmetics, perfumes and essential oils away from children
DIY and Garden Safety

Two of the biggest factors in DIY accidents are over-ambition and lack of knowledge

Be realistic and don’t tackle a job unless you really have the ability. A competent, qualified person should always carry out gas and electrical renewal or repair work.

  • Keep any tools clean and in good repair, and give each one a quick check over before you use it
  • Always plan ahead – accidents happen more easily if you are unprepared and rush
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes when mowing the lawn and keep your feet and hands well away from the mower blades
  • Stop and disconnect all electrical appliances and tools before working on them
  • Ensure that all tools, paint and chemicals are kept safely out of the reach of children
  • Take extra care with sharp cutting tools
  • Follow makers’ instructions very carefully when using adhesives, especially the instant type
  • Keep children and pets away when carrying out DIY
  • Some plants and berries are poisonous or can cause an allergic reaction
  • Keep all products in their original containers.
Preventing Falls
  • Install lights at the top and bottom of stairways. Make sure there is a stair rail
  • Mount grab bars and use nonslip mats in bathtubs and showers
  • Provide safety gates in homes with small children
  • Put nonstick backing on all area rugs
  • Remove all spills from floors at once
  • Pick up all clutter on stairs and floors. Clear out any obstructions, debris or any other obstacles that create a potential falling hazard
  • Repair any damaged stair steps. Fix torn carpeting, loose boards, or uneven steps
Be Aware of Drowning Dangers
  • Supervise young children in bathtubs or when they are near water
  • Enforce water and pool safety rules with your children. Make sure they use flotation devices until they learn how to swim proficiently
  • Empty all wading pools, buckets or other water receptacles when not in use
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Studies have shown success rates were much higher when CPR was administered while waiting for paramedics to arrive
  • Construct a four-sided, fully- enclosed and locked fence around all swimming pools
  • Clear all pool areas of toys after use to discourage small children


Travel Preparedness Tips: How To Be Ready When on the Go

Before you leave
  • Know your destination’s vulnerability to natural disasters (hurricanes, storm surges, earthquakes, flooding, wild fires etc) and be alert.
  • For young children, make an identification card stating the family name, hotel and phone number, including your name and cell phone number. Use a safety pin to attach it to a piece of their clothing. If they wander off, someone will be able to identify them. If you have little children who don’t know your name or your cell phone number, write your cell number on their arm with a permanent marker. You can get really creative with magic markers for short day trips.
  • Pack a travel-size emergency supply kit with water, snacks, a first-aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, extra batteries and an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers.
  • Pack extra supplies of critical items, such as prescription medications and baby formula, in case your return is delayed by a disaster.
  • Make copies of all essential documents: passports, prescriptions (write down both the generic and the name brand names for your medications), ID’s, insurance cards, etc. Laminate if possible!
  • Let family and friends know your itinerary and how to reach you.
  • Develop a communications plan and make everyone in your traveling group aware of the plan. Make sure everyone has the cell phone numbers of the others in your group. Designate an out-of-area person to contact in case your group is separated during an emergency and unable to place local calls.
  • If traveling internationally, register with the U.S. Department of State through a free online service at step.state.gov. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows travelers to enter information about upcoming trips abroad so that the Department of State can better assist them in an emergency.
During your trip
  • If traveling by car, check the forecast for your entire route before and during your trip. Weather conditions can change drastically, especially if thunderstorms are expected.
  • Bring along a travel weather radio, which will automatically switch to the weather radio station closest to your travel area and will alert you to any hazardous weather.
  • Become familiar with the names of the counties you are traveling through because hazardous weather warnings are issued by county.
  • If you are in a vehicle when a tornado warning has been issued or you see a tornado approaching, seek shelter in a sturdy building until the storm passes. If you’re unable to reach a sturdy building, pull over and find a low area, such as a ditch, and take cover there.
  • Familiarize yourself with emergency plans in your hotel or place you are staying as soon as you arrive.
  • Know safe shelter locations and evacuation routes at campground, hotels or resorts. Pack a travel size emergency preparedness kit that includes water, snacks, first aid kit, and hand crank flashlight and radio.
  • Have someone check on or take care of your pets in case severe weather strikes while you are away.
  • Always keep your vehicle’s fuel tank above half full. Power outages or severe weather could keep you from refueling
  • Have a map and familiarize yourself with the area of destination. Do not rely on cell phones or computers as your only navigation source.
  • If disaster strikes your vacation spot, you can register on the American Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” website at www.safeandwell.org so family and friends will know that you are safe.

Considering Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance Can Protect Your Vacation Investment

Whether your family is headed to Europe or Disneyland, travel insurance can protect against possible financial losses if you are forced to cancel, delay or interrupt your vacation. So, while considering your holiday destination, evaluate your need for travel insurance.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance can protect against the loss of non-refundable travel costs, such as airfare, hotel and tour expenses. Other types of travel insurance offer protection against losses due to medical emergencies, damage to personal property, and even a death which may occur away from home on vacation.

Before you buying travel insurance, check the refund policies on prepaid expenses. Some will refund your money if you cancel months in advance, but few will offer any refund if you cancel at the last minute.

If you’re working with a travel agent you trust, ask about his or her experiences with any recommended travel insurance companies. Have their customers filed claims? Were those claims paid? If you’re planning an adventurous vacation (i.e. skydiving, scuba diving), ask if the insurance will cover those activities.

What Is and Isn’t Covered?

Travel insurance policies aren’t all the same. If you buy travel insurance, be sure to review the policy, especially the list of covered reasons for canceling your trip. For example, a travel insurance policy may not reimburse you if you decide not to make a trip because a conference was canceled.

Before purchasing a travel insurance policy, ask about pre-existing conditions and age limits. Some policies cover pre-existing conditions if you buy the coverage within a week or two of booking your trip. Others won’t pay for pre-existing conditions or charge a higher premium to cover them. Some insurers charge more for older travelers.

Cruise and tour operators may offer Cancellation Waivers. Keep in mind that waivers aren’t insurance policies and aren’t regulated. Read all of the restrictions before you buy a Cancellation Waiver.

Before you buy travel insurance, review the policies you have now. If you have life, health or homeowners insurance, you may not need to buy certain types of travel insurance. Read your policy and speak with your insurance company or agent to learn what personal property and medical coverage you have while you’re traveling. Also, ask what insurance benefits you may have if you use a credit card to pay for the trip.

No policy can guarantee your safety when you’re traveling, but knowing you’re covered for medical emergencies or the loss of personal property may help you relax and enjoy your vacation.

Major Types of Travel Insurance

Trip Cancellation/Delay/Interruption Insurance
  • Trip Cancellation – Reimburses you for pre-paid travel expenses if you aren’t able to take your trip because you or a family member becomes ill or dies.
  • Travel Delay – Reimburses you for pre-paid expenses if you aren’t able to take your trip because of a travel delay, such as a flight delay or cancellation.
  • Trip Interruption – Reimburses you for pre-paid expenses if your trip is cut short because you, or a family member, become ill or die, or because of any other misfortune listed in policy. Covered reasons might include bad weather, airline strikes, terrorism, bankruptcy, jury duty, or fire or flood damage to your home.
Medical/Accidental Death Insurance
  • Medical/Health – Reimburses you for medical and emergency dental expenses that you have because of an illness or injury while you’re traveling.
  • Medical Evacuation – Provides emergency transportation to take you either to a hospital in the geographic region where you are or for transportation back to a hospital near your home.
  • Accidental Death – This coverage is usually split into three parts:
    1. Air Flight Accident – Covers death or dismemberment during flight only.
    2. Common Carrier – Covers death or dismemberment while traveling on public transportation such as a plane, ferry, train, bus or taxi.
    3. Accidental Death – Covers death or dismemberment at any time during a trip.
Baggage/Rental Car Damage Insurance
  • Baggage Loss – Reimburses you for lost, stolen or damaged personal items. This usually doesn’t cover personal items that may be lost or damaged by an airline. If you buy baggage insurance be sure to review the policy for the list of property that wouldn’t be covered. Some of your property may exceed the limits allowed.
  • Rental Car Damage – Reimburses you for damage or loss to a rental vehicle. If you have this coverage you may decline the “collision damage waiver” rental car companies offer. This coverage doesn’t provide liability protection.
Protecting Your Home

In addition to having the right insurance coverage, the I.I.I. offers these five preventive measures to keep your home safe:

  • Make it time-consuming to break into your home. Dead-bolt window and door locks can slow a burglar down. You may also obtain a discount of 2 to 5 percent on your insurance policy for installing these devices.
  • Make it noisy to break into your home. Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective systems ring at an outside service, which alerts the police, fire department and other emergency services. A sophisticated alarm system could result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent.
  • Make sure you have strong doors. Outside doors and frames should be made of metal or solid hardwood and be at least 1¾-inches thick. Each door must fit its frame securely. Even the best lock will not deter a burglar if it is installed in a weak door. Garage doors also need strong locks. If you have a tool shed, keep it locked since burglars can use the tools to break into your home.
  • Turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet. If you save personal information on your computer, make sure it is difficult to access. You don’t want a hacker at work while you are on vacation.
  • Keep valuables under lock and key and well hidden. Do not leave personal documents in your home office or desk–burglars know to look for them there. Put critical documents in a lock box or safe somewhere else in the house. Keep copies of important documents at another location–a relative’s home, for example. Expensive jewelry should also be hidden somewhere other than the bedroom or left in a safety deposit box at the bank.
  • Keep your home well lit. Mount exterior lights out of reach of would-be burglars in your yard or on your house. Put indoor lights on a timer so that they go on and off at appropriate times, making it look as if the house is inhabited.
  • Make the house look inhabited. Leave blinds or curtains open in their usual position. Put indoor lights on a timer. If you are going to be away for an extended period, arrange to have your lawn mowed in the summer and your driveway shoveled in the winter.
  • Arrange to have mail picked up or held by the post office. Stop newspaper deliveries and ask a neighbor to pick-up “throw-away” circulars.
  • Ask a neighbor for help. Ask a neighbor you trust to keep an eye on your home while you are gone. You may also want to tell your local police you will be away.
  • Only tell people you know and trust that you are going away. Be careful not to discuss your vacation plans at the supermarket or hairdresser or other public places where you don’t know who may be listening.

Standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for theft of personal possessions and damage to the home caused by the break-in. With replacement cost coverage, which is only about 10 percent more than actual cash value coverage, damaged property is replaced without deducting for depreciation.

Spring Cleaning

Glass Claims
  • It’s baseball season. Be aware of where you park your vehicle at the ball field.
  • Park far enough away from baselines to avoid damage from foul balls. One or two comprehensive claims can affect your insurability and rates.
  • Also, be careful when parking near lawn care crews. Be cognizant of where your car is parked.
  • Rocks slung from lawnmowers result in numerous damage claims to vehicles each summer.
  • If you’re cutting grass and you sling a rock into a neighbor’s automobile or home window, your neighbor could file a claim against your homeowner’s liability coverage for the damage you caused.
Dead Trees
  • Look for trees that aren’t putting out new growth and that may be dead.
  • A dead tree could be a hazard. It’s often cheaper to cut it down rather than pay for expensive deductibles if it falls onto your home or car and results in you having to turn in an insurance claim on your property.
  • If a dead tree on your property falls on a neighbor’s property, they could file their damage claim on your insurance.
Yard Work

Be careful doing landscaping and yard work when constructing retaining walls or adding “fill” dirt. Altering a natural slope or changing drainage and direction of water flow can result in the flooding of lower lying homes or property. What seems like a small amount of water can have costly effects on adjoining property. Damage from these kinds of actions to adjoining property, if paid for by an insurer, could result in the insurer coming to you for payment if a determination is made that your actions contributed to the resulting damage. It could also result in a claim being filed on your insurance policy for reimbursement.

Spring Clean Up

Make sure when having work (painting, light construction, yard work) done around your home that the person doing the work is licensed, insured and has their own equipment. If injured while using equipment (ladder, mower, etc….) that you provide, you could be held liable for resulting injuries or damage if the equipment you provided was defective. Numerous home owner liability claims are reported each spring from workers falling off defective ladders which were provided by the homeowner.

Protecting Pipes

Frigid Weather/Protecting Pipes

Take the following precautions when the temperatures plummet:

Protecting your home
  • Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes inside walls from freezing.
  • Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
  • Identify the location of the main water shutoff in your home. Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, shut off the water immediately to prevent them from bursting.
  • If your garage is attached to the house, keep the garage door closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.
Take special care if you plan to be away from home
  • Keep the temperature at a minimum 65 degrees.
  • Ask a neighbor to check the house regularly. If there is a problem with the frozen pipes or water leakage, attending to it quickly could mean far less damage.
  • If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from bursting or freezing.
If damage occurs

If you discover that pipes are frozen, don’t wait for them to burst. Take measures to thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance.

  • If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills. You don’t want the water to do more damage than it already has.
  • Call your agent. Follow up with a written explanation of what happened.
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. And make sure you save the receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.
  • Remove any carpet or furniture that can be further damaged from seepage.
  • Make a list of the damaged articles.

Tree Trimming

Tree Trimming Safety Tips

Tree trimming or pruning, when involving all but very large limbs and branches, is a task that can be handled by the average homeowner. Read more: www.doityourself.com/stry/easy-tree-trimming

For tree felling or more intricate jobs it is always best to contact a tree trimming professional

Use The Proper Tools and Protection


Pruning shears – Available in both scissor and anvil action models, the scissor design is often preferred because it makes a cleaner cut.

Lopping shears – Operated with both hands, this scissor-action tool can slice through branches up to 2 inches in diameter.

Pole pruner – Good for reaching higher branches.

Rope saw – Allows cutting of branches located higher on the tree while you remain on the ground.

Portable buck saw – Light weight but very strong.

Chainsaw – For larger jobs, and intended for use by professionals or highly experienced homeowners only.

Tip: Sharpen tools regularly to ensure a clean cut

Personal protection

Hard hat and safety glasses


Sturdy, non-slip boots

Climbing equipment – such as safety harnesses, ropes, lanyards, slings, and carabiners appropriate to job to help keep you secured in the tree

When using a chain saw also include

Leg Protection

Face Shield

Hearing Protection

Before beginning work

Inspect the tree and surrounding area:

  • Storms and high winds can fall or lean against power lines
  • Never touch a power line or a tree touching a power line (call a professional)
  • Avoid risky heights and dangerous drops, allow a professional, who has the proper tools to trim tall branches
  • Trim low branches that are in the way first
  • If tree is leaning in one direction, this could play major role in direction tree will fall
  • Ensure the tree has no interlocking branches or vines from another tree
When cutting

One of most obvious dangers in cutting limbs or felling a tree is the risk of the tree falling on you or someone else. Many homeowners or DIY’ers run serious risks when climbing a tree or ladder

  • When felling a tree the angle of your cut generally determines direction the tree will fall
  • Ladders can be unstable. Do not use ladder if you are stretching or straining while working at high height
  • Do not use a chainsaw or power tool while on a ladder
If you must climb the tree
  • Never anchor or tie yourself to the limb you are cutting on
  • Always tie ladders into the tree
  • Do not cut safety lines. Keep ropes and harnesses away from chain saws and other cutting equipment
  • Use extra caution if working on a slope
  • Use an aerial device or call a professional to trim trees that are not safe to climb
  • Remove cut limbs from tree so that you don’t accidentally use them for support when you descend
Prevent injuries from trees and limbs
  • For limbs that cannot be dropped safely, lower them with a rope
  • Do not leave cut branches in a tree
  • Do not turn your back on a tree where branches are being cut or a tree is being felled
  • Always make sure of your surroundings. Talk with children, family members to ensure they know what work you are doing and you know where they are as you work
If using a chainsaw
  • Read the operator’s manual carefully before using the saw
  • Always be alert.
  • When carrying chain saw, always turn engine off
  • Do not refuel chain saw while it is running, turn engine off and wait at least 5 minutes for it to cool down before refueling
  • Never smoke while refueling
  • Never work alone
  • Keep hands and feet away from wood that is being cut
  • Ensure your chain is sharp
  • Make sure chain tension is correct. If it’s too loose, it could come off during operation. If it’s too tight, it could damage the saw
  • Never operate the saw above your chest. Reaching above your chest makes the chain saw hard to control.

Home Preparedness Videos

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