What Keeps Us Positive?

2020 has been an odd year, to say the least. We are all working, in our masks, staying distanced and keeping safe. Julie, Susan, Nancy, Kelsey, Ashley and Karen come to work every day and serve the needs of our clients. Boy, are we proud of them.
What keeps us going? …

Why Your Insurance Company is Deemed an Essential Business

We all know why grocery stores and gas stations are considered essential businesses in this time of crisis. It makes complete sense! But why are insurance companies being kept open? …

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Things We Love on Valentine’s Day – an insurance agent’s perspective …

Prevent frozen pipes!

What is the number one home-related, extreme-cold weather winter claim? Water damage from burst pipes. They are terrible, messy, heart-breaking claims and we want to help protect you against having one.

Protect yourselves from lawsuits on Halloween

Are we monsters if we talk about how to protect yourselves from lawsuits on Halloween? Maybe! But we get some pretty strange calls on November 1, so we might as well tell you about ways that we have conjured up so you can, indeed, protect yourselves.

Is Rental Car Insurance Necessary?

It’s an awkward moment when you’re standing at the rental car counter, staring into the clerk’s eyes, sweating, wondering if you should buy the extra insurance he is offering. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Sending a Child Off to College: What You Need to Know

Is your child at college, living in a dorm, covered by your homeowners policy? Most homeowners policies provide 10% of content limits of your homeowners policy. For example, if your homeowners policy has $200K of coverage, you have $140K of contents coverage, which allows for $14K of property coverage for your college student, assuming that the damage was caused by an event covered in the policy. Is that enough coverage?

Hosting a Graduation Party? Are You Covered?

We know you are crazed right now preparing for graduation and planning the details of the party. We totally understand. We have kids of our own. But! It is our job to metaphorically tap you on your shoulder and ask, “Have you taken steps to protect yourself?

Graduation parties are bursting with over-exuberance and excitement. But, as hosts, you need to be vigilant that the combination of parental excitement, underage guests and available alcohol does not lead to tragedy.

Brides: It’s Not Romantic, But It’s Important

What do brides think about before their weddings? Color schemes, vows, flowers, unicorns, rainbows and puppies. It is all so beautiful!

What do brides NOT think about before their wedding? Hurricanes, deaths of family members and the venue burning down two days before the reception.

We HOPE your wedding goes off without a hitch! But alas! Disaster can strike. Just ask your wedding planner. She could tell you some stories! How can YOU protect your special day? Wedding insurance. Yes, we said it, as unromantic as it is. Wedding insurance.

Our Take On Distracted Driving – And It is Right to the Point

Let’s just get to it. Let’s not soft pedal this issue. Here are some alarming statistics from Selective Insurance:

  • Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver.
  • During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving.

Does Your Small Business Need Cyber Insurance? YES!! Seriously!

Does Your Small Business Need Cyber Insurance? YES!! Seriously! Business owners do what they need to do to protect their businesses. Most businesses invest in physical security and general liability insurance, but cyber security is usually limited to a firewall and some antivirus software. It’s not enough!! This gaping hole in protection leaves many small businesses exposed to the high cost of cyber attacks … which are increasing in frequency. According to SmallBizTrends, more than half of all small businesses experience a cyber attack or data breach in a given year. On average, these businesses experience about $880,000 indirect losses due to the damage or theft of IT assets, and another $955,000 in losses from disruption to normal operations. One cyber attack can shut down your entire network within minutes, paralyzing your operations. One data breach can catastrophically impact the privacy of all of your customers, clients and employees. Any business that retains physical or electronic records of employees, customers, or other third parties is vulnerable and can be a victim of a cyber event. And! It would likely only take one cyber event or data security breach to cripple your company or even put you out of business. Are we scaring you? We mean to. This is a real threat. Do you have a budget in place to prevent cyber attacks and to mitigate your damages should one occur? Are you regularly upgrading software, monitoring credit reports and encrypting data? And … Do you have cyber insurance? Without cyber insurance, you may be responsible for the astronomical costs arising from a cyber attack — lost business, regulatory investigations, customer communication costs, data asset losses and any court fees and settlements from legal action. Cyber insurance policies vary from company to company, but you can expect that the policies will generally cover the costs associated with payment of fines and penalties, credit monitoring, forensic investigations, theft of funds, business interruption, extortion, public relations work,  restoring private data, lawsuits, and much, much more. Are you wondering if your general liability policy will cover you in the case of a cyber attack? It will not. General liability policies usually specify that they only cover damage to a third party’s tangible property, which doesn’t include electronic data. If there is a provision for “digital data protection,” it typically only covers the loss of data from physical damage (e.g. damaged servers). So what do you do? Come talk to us. Many of our carriers offer cyber insurance. We can determine what insurance will best suit your business. We are experts. Let us advise and protect you.

Your Airbnb Will Leave You Unprotected

Your Airbnb Will Leave You Unprotected We get it. Renting your home out to earn some extra dollars is tempting. But! Your homeowners policy will not likely cover home sharing. Before you become an Airbnb — or join a similar company — contact us to see if you are covered. Most likely you are not. Most insurance carriers consider renting your home as an Airbnb to be a business. This will not be covered by homeowners insurance. And if one of your guests falls down your stairs and is paralyzed? Well, you will be responsible. Yes, we are telling you this to scare you. Home sharing while uninsured is not. worth. the. risk. Homeowners insurance, generally, covers the cost of repairing damage to your home caused by fire, wind or certain other natural disasters. It also offers personal liability protection in case someone is injured while on your property. With home sharing, you need to know what your homeowners policy allows. And, likely, it is zero coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, some insurance companies will allow you to extend your homeowners coverage to a short-term rental if it’s a one-time event and you notify the insurer ahead of time. Other companies may require you to purchase a specific endorsement – which is like an addendum — that is added on to your existing policy to cover a temporary rental.  But! If you’re renting out part of your home on a regular basis to generate income, insurance companies generally view that as a business, which is not covered by a homeowners policy. You would need to purchase business insurance and, possibly, landlord insurance. Now, a handful of insurance companies are moving toward expanding coverage for homeowners who rent out their homes through Airbnb and similar sites. That’s great! Call us. Investigate that. Please contact us if you are looking to become an AirbNb.  The penalties and risks are severe. Talk to us about what is and isn’t included in your policy and we can help you determine what’s needed to fill in the gaps. As always, our goal is simply to protect you.

Hiring an INSURED Contractor this Spring

Hiring an INSURED Contractor this Spring ‘Tis the season – Here come the contractors! If you really want to enjoy your renovation/addition/repair – and I mean TRULY enjoy it — make sure that your contractor has the right insurance coverages; doing so can save you a lot of headaches and – potentially — financial hardship. What kind of insurance should your contractor have? If your contractors have employees, they should have Workers’ Compensation insurance. This covers the cost of medical bills of any employees injured while working on a project and it covers their lost wages should they have to leave the project. If you hire a contractor without this type of insurance coverage, you put yourself at serious risk of being sued by anyone who gets hurt on the job. If your contractors are sole proprietors and have no employees — or if they use independent subcontractors to assist them  — they should have Liability coverage. Liability insurance will protect you in the event that a contractor damages your property during the improvement project. The Liability coverage will pay for repairs. Now that you understand what insurance you are looking to see, here are Four Ways to Protect Yourself Before Hiring a Contractor: Ask for copies of the insurance policy. Verify that the policies have effective dates that start before your project is scheduled to begin and end after your project is scheduled to end. Let the contractor obtain all permits for work to be done. Don’t loan the contractor or crew any materials or tools. Don’t give the contractor or crew any instructions, tips or directions and do not assist on the project that is included in their work scope. Now that you know how to protect yourself, now is the time to start looking for your contractor! Spring is a few weeks away and the sweet sounds of hammers and saws will soon fill the air. Enjoy those spring projects!

Ten Steps to Lower Your Auto Insurance Premiums

Ten Steps to Lower Your Auto Insurance Premiums We know you want to save money on your insurance. Who doesn’t? Here are ten steps you can take to lower your premium. Bundle your insuranceInsurance carriers tend to give great discounts when you bundle your auto insurance with other insurances, such as your homeowner’s insurance, renters insurance, motorcycle/RV/boat insurance, or even if you have insurance on multiple vehicles. It’s worth a conversation with us to see if we can bundle the policies with one carrier.  Reach out to us before you buy a vehicleLet us know what models you’re considering and we can compare the costs. This step alone could save you a good chunk of change! Seek a low mileage discountIf you drive fewer than 10,000 miles a year, ask us if you qualify for a discount. Choose a higher deductibleIf your finances allow you to pay a higher deductible in the event you have a claim, you could save money by making this switch. We would happily help you determine whether or not the saving from a higher deductible would be beneficial. Pay your bill in fullCompanies are offering discounts of up to 10% if you pay the entire annual amount in full. Take a defensive driving insurance course!It’s easy and it’s online. Visit the home page of our website for a defensive driving course that we recommend.  You will save 10% on your insurance; this discount lasts for three years. Then you can take the course again! Maintain good creditInsurance companies know that if you have a good credit history, you will likely pay your bills on time and you have shown the ability to be responsible; studies show that responsible people tend to have fewer accidents. Thus, maintaining good credit could earn you a lower rate. Maintain a good driving recordTickets and accidents really do matter. It’s simple: Don’t get tickets and drive responsibly. Re-quote your policy with usIf your insurance premium in rising, allow us to requote your policy. Because we can “shop” insurance from so many top carriers, we can check to make sure you’re getting all your discounts, update your information and check rates at each company. This could result in nice savings for you! Ask your agent if you qualify for any other discountsThere are all sorts of discounts available with different carriers, including those for having a good credit score, going paperless, getting good grades, being a safe driver and more. We are experts in insurance; allow us a chance to see what we can uncover for you. If you are our client, we work for YOU. Call us with questions or just to have a good conversation about what you can do to save money on your insurance.

Proposing on Valentine’s Day? Make Sure You Insure the Ring

Proposing on Valentine’s Day? Make Sure You Insure the Ring Ah, love. Think sweethearts! Romance! Insurance! Jewelry losses are among the most frequent of all homeowner’s content-related insurance claims. Taking these four steps will help you protect your ring: 1. Contact your insurance agency before you pick up your ring. Find out whether you will need additional insurance. Most homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for jewelry, but many policies limit the dollar amount on jewelry to $1,000 to $2,000. With the average engagement ring coming in at $4,758 in 2018 — according to EBates — that is not going to be enough coverage. Let us explain your options. Furthermore, make sure you have coverage in place before you take possession of the ring, It should be insured from the minute you take it out of the store. 2. Send a copy of the store receipt to your insurance agency. Let us keep a record of the retail value of the ring. Keep another copy of the receipt for yourself. 3. Have heirloom pieces appraised. Antique jewelry will need to be appraised for its dollar value. You can ask your insurance agency to recommend a reputable appraiser. Once appraised, make sure your insurance agent has a copy of the appraisal. 4. Add the item to your home inventory. You do have an up-to-date inventory of your personal possessions, right? Add your new ring to that inventory. (If you do not have an inventory of your personal items, keep in mind that you can always supplement a written list with a room-by-room recording of the possessions in your home.) Now that all of that is out of the way? Go enjoy your engagement!

The Law Has Changed: Smoke Detector Installations

The Law Has Changed: Smoke Detector Installations This is not going to be our most riveting blog. Nothing about cool local events or winter driving tips. But! This is information that every homeowner, renter and landlord should have. So we will give you the important details in the short version and then a link which will give you more information. First, some disturbing numbers: On average, seven people die every day from home fires — mostly impacting children and the elderly — and 36 people suffer injuries every day as a result of home fires. More than $7 billion in property damage occurs every year. (redcross.org) What does that mean for you? What changes in the law affect us all? The law: Any replaced or added smoke detectors after April 1, 2019 are required to be 10-year battery powered or hardwired.  After this date, traditional removable smoke alarms will be unavailable for purchase in NY State. (Sale and rental transactions are not subject to the requirement of new smoke detector law, but we encourage sellers and landlords to click the link below to get more details.) Want to learn more? Here is the link for more information: https://mailchi.mp/nysar.org/nysar-legal-lines-first-quarter-1363277?e=a9a059f7e6 Furthermore, Carbon Monoxide alarms must be installed in all new and existing one- and two-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings and rentals having any fuel-burning appliance (including natural gas, oil, propane etc.), system, or attached garage. For more information, here is the link: http://www.nyshcr.org/AboutUs/Offices/HousingOperations/2010_C01.htm If you have any questions about the protection you have on your policy, please feel free to call us and we will review your policy with you.

7 New Year’s Eve Safety Tips

7 New Year’s Eve Safety Tips New Year’s Eve comes with a lot of expectations and pressure to have a wonderful and memorable night. This can involve drinking, big parties, going out and fireworks. Make sure you keep the following tips in mind while making plans for your celebrations. Don’t drink and drive! It has been said many times, but you can never say it enough. If you plan on going out for New Year’s Eve, designate a sober driver, take a cab, plan to sleep over at the host’s home, or arrange for a sober driver to pick you up. Don’t ever drive while under the influence. Plan for guests’ safety. If hosting a party, plan a way to have guests get home safely or have a place for them to sleep over if they don’t have a sober driver. Consider pet safety. Animals get frightened around loud noises. Make sure you give proper attention to your pets, so they don’t run away in a panic, cause car accidents, bite people, or get lost. Keeping your pets inside can help avoid these issues. Make sure any pet that has a chance to get outside is properly tagged. Make a plan with your kids. If your kids are old enough to drive, make sure they understand the rise in accidents during the holidays and encourage them to stay in one place rather than party hop. Don’t leave your car overnight. New Year’s Day is the second most active holiday for car theft. If you must leave your car, make sure it is locked and try to pick it up as early as you can the next day. Be mindful at public events. Don’t go any place by yourself, make sure you have a cell phone on you, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t set your drink down anywhere unattended. Don’t use fireworks or flare guns without understanding local laws and safety rules. See the following regulations on fireworks for New York State: Permitted: Ground-based or hand-held sparkling devices including cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, and wood sparklers/dipped sticks, party poppers, and snappers. Prohibited: Aerial consumer fireworks, firecrackers and chasers, skyrockets, roman candles, bombs, and metal wire sparklers. Enjoy your celebrations and be as safe as possible. When things go wrong it can ruin an evening … or worse! Stay safe, stay smart, and make this New Year’s Eve unforgettable for the right reasons!

Holiday Safety Tips

Holiday Safety Tips Protect your home during the holidays from fires, winter weather, and burglary. What can you do to be more prepared?  Don’t post your travel plans online. This may be hard during the holidays, but don’t post information about scheduling, when you are leaving, or when you will be back. This is prime information for burglars. Inform a trusting neighbor when you will be out of town and let them know of anyone who is expected at your home while you are away. Your neighbors can keep an eye out for any unexpected visitors. A friend, family member, or neighbor can stop by to keep snow clear, and an eye on the mail. This can help make it look like someone is home. Keep your presents and valuables safe. Don’t leave packages outside and try to keep presents out of site. Putting presents under your tree looks nice, but if they are by a window, this can be an open invitation to thieves. You can also inform delivery people of special instructions on where to leave packages. Consider a package locker or a drop box to keep larger packages out of sight until you can bring them inside. Decorate carefully this season. Avoid possible electrical fires and other home fires brought on by an open flame. Inspect your Christmas lights to make sure there are no broken bulbs or frayed cords. It is safer to use electric candles for decoration rather than an open candle flame. Keep your tree watered as fire will spread quickly on a dry tree and don’t connect more than three strings of lights to one single extension cord. Check all smoke alarms to make sure they are all functioning safely. The colder weather can lead to using a space heater, an indoor fireplace or woodstove. Never leave a space heater or fire unattended especially with children or pets in the home. Move flammable materials away from the heat source and avoid using a space heater if it has an exposed heating unit or wires. Have your heating sources inspected and serviced before the cold weather approaches. By staying on top of your maintenance outside of your home, you can help safeguard your property from possible winter weather damage. By keeping your gutters clear you can prevent damage from ice and you can allow melting ice and snow to drain properly rather than seeping into your home and causing water damage. If you have trees in your yard or close to your home, make sure you have properly removed any dead branches to avoid debris and any possible damage to your home, car, or individuals. Stay ahead on upkeep on stairs, railings, and decks. Small issues can become larger or more dangerous when covered in ice and snow. You can use caulk to seal cracks and openings to prevent cold air from entering your home or warm air leaking out. Remember, the holidays are a time to enjoy family and cozy up next to the fireplace on a snowy day. During this busy and merry time, we can’t overlook simple precautions to ensure that your home and your family are safe this winter season. Enjoy your holidays and be safe.

Frying a Turkey This Thanksgiving? See These Safety Tips!

Frying a Turkey This Thanksgiving? See These Safety Tips! Deep frying turkeys has been a rising trend through the last decade, leading to a rise in injuries, home fires, deaths, and property damage due to deep-fryer fires. Remember these tips as you prepare to deep fry a turkey for this Thanksgiving! Never place a frozen turkey in the hot oil. Defrost your turkey fully and dry it before placing in the frying. Do not use a fryer in the rain or snow. Keep the fryer away from any combustible structures such as your home, a deck, or trees. At no time should you leave the fryer unattended. Always keep children and pets away from the fryer. Be prepared with proper equipment. Have a fire extinguisher nearby (dry-powder) and wear proper safety gear such as eye protection and grill mitts. If using a propane fryer, leave a few feet between the tank and the burner. Do not overfill the fryer and keep it on a level surface. Keep an eye on the temperature. When getting ready to place the turkey in the oil, turn the burner off until the turkey is submerged. Let the oil cool completely before disposing. Last but not least, ENJOY!

Driving Hazards Brought on by Fall Weather Changes

Driving Hazards Brought on by Fall Weather Changes It’s that time! Changing weather and shorter days can affect your daily commute. Be prepared and stay alert this fall with these tips: Beware wet leaves! Precipitation increases as the weather cools down, bringing more rain and snow. This can lead to less grip for your tires, especially on wet leaves … and those wet leaves can be as slippery as ice. In wet conditions, be mindful of leaves on the road Make sure you have enough tread on your tires; driving with tires that are worn down can lead to hydroplaning, especially for fast drivers If you find yourself hydroplaning, remove your foot from the gas and grip the steering wheel tightly to calmly make steering adjustments. Don’t slam on the brakes. Beware deer! Hunting season is here – right now. Deer are most active between October and January, particularly during dusk and dawn. Drive cautiously during those peak hours Use your high beams to increase visibility Pay attention to road warning signs for deer crossings Wear a seat belt to decrease your chances of injury If a deer dashes in front of you, don’t swerve; this could lead to more damage. It’s better to hit a deer than hit a tree. Usually, it is less damage to you and the vehicle. If you hit a deer, pull off the road safely to examine the vehicle. If you need to make an insurance claim, it is best to call the police and get a police report. Take photos of the damage. Beware darkness! Days are getting shorter, making commutes darker, which is a peak time for accidents. Make sure you stay attentive during these darker hours Use your headlights Keep a safe distance from other vehicles As you are driving on your regular commute, look around for places to swerve if you need to avoid an object or animal in the road. Schools = Kids! Be mindful of back to school driving. Pay attention to road warning signs of school zones, crosswalks, and bus stops Familiarize yourself with bus safety and school drop-off procedures. Remember! It is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off kids. If you have any questions about your current auto insurance and what coverage is best for you, please contact one of our customer service representatives today.

2019 NYS Labor Law Changes for Small Business Owners

2019 NYS Labor Law Changes for Small Business Owners As a business owner in New York State, there have been some recent changes to requirements and Labor Laws with which we must comply. As of October 09, 2019, all employers in NYS are required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. Each employer that does not currently have a sexual harassment prevention policy in place is encouraged to adopt the NYS model policy. If an employer does have a prevention policy in force, they must ensure that their policy meets the minimum standards listed below: The policy must prohibit sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights. The policy must provide examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment. The policy must include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws. The policy must include a complaint form. The policy must include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensure due process for all parties. The policy must inform employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially. The policy must clearly state that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior to continue. The policy must clearly state that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful. If you do not currently have a policy in place, we strongly encourage you to adopt the model policy provided by NYS. Once adopting a policy, employers must provide each employee with a copy of its policy in writing. With the employee’s receipt of the sexual harassment prevention policy, we encourage employers to have each employee acknowledge receipt of the policy in writing and post a copy where it is easily accessible by all employees. In addition to adopting a sexual harassment prevention policy, employers must provide their employees with sexual harassment prevention training.  Like the model policy provided by NYS, they have also provided a model training program that meets the state guidelines. Please visit the following website for model policies, training, complaint forms, and more information. https://www.ny.gov/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace/employers Support Local, Buy Local, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

Tips to Keep Your Football Tailgate Safe

Tips to Keep Your Football Tailgate Safe Football season has officially arrived. And with that, tailgating season has begun, too. We know what it takes to host a successful tailgate, but it’s important to keep yourself, your cars and your guests safe, too. Here’s what you need to know before the big tailgate…we mean game. Plan Ahead From what to eat, to how to pack, to what the weather is going to be like, it’s important to start with a plan. When you decide on what food you’ll be serving, make sure it’s stored properly (meaning the temperature and proximity to other foods–we’ll get into that below). The next is to find out what the weather is going to be like. Depending on where you live and how far into the season you are, you could come across all conditions (sun, heat, rain, cold or even snow), it’s important to dress the part and pack items to keep you cool or warm during the tailgate and big game. Food Prep and Storage Whether you plan to grill or have pre-made food to keep cool, it’s important to make sure the food stays at a safe temperature for eating.  If you have food that you’re planning to grill, common foods such as burgers or hotdogs need to be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the website GrillingCompanion. Grilling Companion also has an app that you can download for added convenience during the tailgate. Prepared foods like subs or deli trays should be in a separate cooler. On a cold or comfortable day, food can be left out for roughly two hours, before it should be consumed or tossed. On a hot day, limit that time to one hour. Safety and Sanitation If you’re planning to grill, it’s a good idea to come prepared with the essentials (yes, including the prized “Grill Master” apron). It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy in case something goes wrong. Bring a plastic container to store dirty cooking utensils after you’re done cooking and serving guests. For more grilling safety tips, check out this detailed list from the National Fire Protection Association. It’s also a good idea to have plenty of paper towels, hand sanitizer and garbage bags on hand. Paper towels carry fewer germs than cloth towels, especially after handling raw and undercooked food. It’s always a good idea to have hand sanitizer available and ready before cooking or making your way through the food line. And finally, garbage bags keep the tailgate clean and your neighbors happy. Don’t forget the D.D. We know there’s an elephant in the room…what about beverages? Pre-game rituals often mean a pre-game beverage (or two). It’s important to identify a designated driver. In doing so, you eliminate the possibility of an impaired driver getting behind the wheel. Additionally, encourage tailgate party goers to have plenty of water to stay hydrated and food in between drinks. In some instances, tailgating can turn into an all-day or evening event. It’s important to make transportation arrangements before you arrive. Heading Home After the fun and festivities, make sure your tailgate area is cleaned up and garbage is disposed of in the designated area. Also, take a survey around your car. Make sure there aren’t any cans or bottles, or other items that you could run over and that could cause damage to your vehicle. There’s likely to be traffic when you’re heading out of the tailgate, so it’s important to drive with caution when you’re exiting the parking lot. Check out these tips about safe driving in parking lots. Most importantly, enjoy the game and tailgating for the day. This article is republished with permission from Erie Insurance, Written by Jennifer Sonntag and originally published on Erie Sense, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

What Every College Student (and Parent) Should Know About Insurance

What Every College Student (and Parent) Should Know About Insurance College can be an exciting time for young people. It often serves as the first major step on the road to independence. For a parent, it can be both exciting and sad to watch your child leave home. This time also can be fraught with worries. Will they get enough to eat? Will they succeed without help? Will they and their possessions be safe away from home? The last question, of course, is a significant concern and, for parents of first-time college students, the ins and outs of insurance coverages are not always clear. From auto coverage to renters insurance, there’s a bit to learn about the life of a college student. Protecting Possessions When a student moves to college, she or he often brings many belongings from home. In addition to clothes, shoes, and toiletries, most college students take stereo systems, cell phones, laptops, jewelry and other valuable items to their dorm room. At home, possessions are protected under a homeowners policy. But what happens when a child is away at school? ​In an environment where theft is a real problem – there are approximately 798 burglaries for every 100,000 students – proper coverage is important. For students living in dorms, the family’s homeowners insurance can protect many possessions. But don’t take this for granted. Be sure to contact your insurance agent to verify the coverage you may already have. Some policies limit coverage on dependents’ dorms to 10% of the value of the home’s total coverage amount. So be sure you know the coverages for your homeowner’s insurance policy. Students living off-campus should consider renters insurance (as should anyone living in an apartment) for coverage of their personal property such as stereos, televisions, furniture and other possessions. Coverage on most homeowners policies is limited to dorms, not other forms of student housing. So a renter without a stand-alone policy might not have any protection at all. Renters insurance costs average $190 per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This coverage can provide peace of mind by providing protection not only for personal possessions but also for liability and additional living expenses, especially for those on the cusp of adulthood. Staying Safe on the Road For many college students, especially those living on campus, driving becomes significantly less important than it was in high school. Campus transportation and walking to class are common, and this trend is only increasing with the rise of ride-sharing services. But college students still need insurance if they drive when they’re home for summers and holidays. Some new students bring their cars to college. If this is the case, it’s important to notify your insurance company. In order to maintain appropriate coverage, your insurer must know where a car is located primarily, even if that means parking on campus a few hundred miles away from home. Students who will be commuting from home to college may also want to reconsider their coverage, especially if they are driving long distances. Check with your insurance agent about what coverage is needed. ​College can be an exciting time for students across the country. The right insurance coverage can help protect students while they pursue the American dream of higher education. This article is republished with permission from Selective Insurance Group and originally published on Selective. EC Cooper, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

7 Tips to Prevent Identity ‘ID’ Theft

In Today’s World, It’s Not A Matter of If, But When You’ll Be Impacted By Identity Theft. Not only do we have coverage for ID Theft, here are 7 tips you can easily do to prevent Identity Theft. Every two seconds there’s a new victim of identity fraud*.  We can provide our customers with the protection needed from ID Theft with LifeStages Identity Management Services. This is a personalized service that provides proactive education, risk-reduction strategies, identity theft protection, privacy management, and unlimited 24/7 resolution support to help fight identity theft and fraud.  This is more than just detection and reactive monitoring. It is help when you need it to restore your good name. EC Cooper offers enhancement endorsements to provide you with the best coverage for ID Theft.  Contact us for further details. Here are 7 tips to prevent ID Theft and save you some time and aggravation. Protect your Social Security Number. Your Social Security number is a master key to your personal data. Don’t carry your SSN card in your wallet or write it on your checks. Only share your SSN when absolutely necessary. Freeze or Lock your Credit Reports. Contact the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion) to request a freeze of your credit reports. This restricts access to your credit so new credit accounts cannot be created or opened unless you unfreeze your account. Locking your credit accounts are generally easier than freezing, but the protection is not as strong. All three credit agencies offer a smartphone app to lock and unlock your credit. Passwords are your friend. Do not use the same password across multiple accounts, especially with your financial accounts and non-financial accounts. Keep the password complex and not easily guessed. It’s not hard to find your pet’s name or mother’s maiden name. Monitor your regular mail. Stolen mail is one of the easiest ways to have your identity stolen. Collect your mail promptly. If you are away from home for more then several days, place a postal hold on your mail. A shredder is an ally. Any mail or forms printed from your computer that have any personal information should be destroyed. This includes junk mail, and especially credit card offers. Stop the offers. Stop a majority of pre-approved credit card offers. They make a tempting target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from each credit bureau (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion) marketing list. Call toll-free 1-888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). Or opt out online at optoutprescreen.com. Review your credit reports on a yearly basis. One of the best ways to protect against identity theft is to monitor your credit history. You are entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the credit reporting bureaus. You can order for free from com, 1-877-322-8228, or by mail. The New York State Attorney General’s Office has a short checklist on checking your credit reports. We can help you, but protection starts at home. *SOURCE: Javelin Strategy & Research, 2014 Identity Fraud Study. Buy Local, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

Are You Covered When an Employee Claims Harassment, Discrimination?

Are You Covered When an Employee Claims Harassment, Discrimination? You probably never want to imagine a situation in which an employee, a former employee or an employment candidate sues your business for sexual harassment or discrimination (on the basis of, for example, age, sex, race or disability). Unfortunately, though, it does happen. Sexual harassment has been in the news media spotlight a lot lately, following allegations of inappropriate behavior made against celebrities and public figures. These days, hiring, firing and day-to-day employee management can be risky business. Responding to charges like these can cost thousands of dollars, even when allegations are found to be groundless. Many business owners may not realize—or may realize too late—that they have a gap in their insurance coverage. Are you covered? You can help protect your business by adding Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage to your business insurance policy. Most standard EPL insurance policies offer a measure of protection against lawsuits brought against your business by employees alleging wrongful acts (sexual harassment or discrimination) or wrongful termination. You can purchase and add the coverage to your business policy as an endorsement. Businesses that routinely deal with the public may also want to consider third-party EPL coverage, which covers harassment and discrimination liability claims against employees by nonemployees—typically customers, clients and vendors. EC Cooper’s EPL coverage is provided through Erie Insurance’s via Hartford Steam Boiler and is serviced by a team of professionals experienced in handling these types of claims. How to help prevent a problem. In addition to checking on your insurance coverage, you also need do all you can to prevent claims in the first place. Businesses should have harassment and discrimination policies in place and conduct employee training routinely. EC Cooper customers have special access to loss prevention information through a website from Hartford Steam Boiler and a legal advice helpline managed by an employment defense law firm. The website has an extraordinary number of resources, including sample employee handbooks, policies and checklists and a library of online training programs. If a covered claim occurs, EC Cooper Erie customers also have access to claims professionals and attorneys who have experience with these sensitive matters.[1] One of our EC Cooper reps can tell you more about the benefits of the EPL insurance coverage and the resources available, as well as provide you with a quote. [1]Coverage and associated services provided under an arrangement with The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. Coverages, benefits, limits and deductibles will vary. Conditions, exclusions and limitations will apply. Refer to our disclaimer for more information. Talk to an EC Cooper agent for state specific policy information. This article is republished with permission from Erie Insurance,  Written by Carolyn Sennett and originally published on Erie Sense, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

Ways to Prevent Porch Pirates from Pilfering Your Packages

Ways to Prevent Porch Pirates from Pilfering Your Packages There’s almost nothing more convenient than online ordering. But when your work hours don’t align with the delivery schedule, it can leave a nice crime of opportunity for package thieves. One study by InsuranceQuotes.com estimates that 23 million Americans have had a package swiped from their doorstep before they could retrieve it. With two-thirds of Americans reporting they shop online at least once a month, the problem is likely to stick around. Here are a few steps to protect your deliveries from so-called “porch pirates.” Go-go gadget. Various smart gadgets on the market can be helpful devices when it comes to securing packages. A video doorbell could let you view and speak to the delivery person at your door through your mobile device, so you can simply request they leave the package in a less conspicuous spot — or you can activate your smart lock and have them leave it inside your door. Contact your carrier. Do a little detective work, and you may uncover some options through the delivery service. Many carriers now offer flexible options that let you schedule or reroute deliveries. For example, you could have them dropped off and held at a retailer near you, or deposited in a secure locker. Before you order, check the alternative offerings from the carrier. Check your credit card policies. Some credit card companies offer protection against package theft to help you recover your losses. For specifics, get in touch with your credit card company to find out if this protection is available and for how much. Alternative deliveries. Avoid the unwanted situation altogether and send the deliveries where swiping is far less likely. Your workplace, if your employer allows it, is one excellent option. You can also ask neighbors or family members who are home during the day to accept your deliveries and have your packages routed to their place. Just be sure to give them a little something for their trouble. Finally, read about holiday burglaries. [ originally published by Erie Insurance on Dec 7, 2017, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.  ]  

Staying Afloat in a Sea of Social Media Lawsuits

Staying Afloat in a Sea of Social Media Lawsuits For businesses, small and large alike, having an online and social media presence is not only a competitive advantage, it is absolutely imperative. This competitive edge enables businesses to engage with customers directly and build their brand, however, they also leave businesses vulnerable to potentially expensive legal actions. What your business puts online, from disparaging comments about a competitor to copyrighted information, your company is liable. Cyber Liability In order to best protect your business, acquiring media-liability coverage under a cyber liability policy usually offers the best coverage for these potential threats. The things that a cyber policy can typically cover are things related to network security and business interruptions due to a breach. All policies are not alike though, and need to be researched thoroughly as this is market is new and emerging. Company Policy Although carrying an insurance policy is a great way to combat potential cybersecurity losses, promoting a social media company policy can help to create a solid foundation for employees to become educated on ways to minimize risks in and outside of the work place. An effective policy may include points that target online security measures, guidelines on how company information is shared, and even the acceptable uses of social media as it pertains to their job. Blog Safety Review, review, and review again. This is one aspect of your company that may require the advice of a legal professional in order to avoid giving advice or opinions that can be seen as a negligible act. Information in your blog is something you can be held responsible for as a company, and even media insurance may only potentially cover you in the event of loss. Watkins Glen, NY 14891.  

Safety Awareness. It’s easy to be safe with these simple tips.

May is Safety Awareness Month Seat Belt Safety For the majority of us behind the wheel, we are buckled in before the car even begins to move. Or, at least that is how it is supposed to be. Seat belts are an essential safety device in your vehicle that can save you from major injuries in a minor accident and could even save your life in the event of a major accident. The Facts: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one of the safest choices for drivers and passengers alike is to buckle up. In 2015 the NHTSA Reported That: 13,941 Lives were saved by proper use of seat belts. 2,804 Lives could have been saved if seat belts had been used properly. 90.1% Of reported drivers use a seat belts. According to the NHTSA “cops will be stepping up enforcement on motorists not wearing their seat belts.” 1 Safety for Young Passenger’s Just as important as your own safety is safety for your passengers. For younger passengers, it is imperative that they are placed in proper equipment such as car or booster seats. These safety devices must be installed by the directions on order to properly function in the event of an accident. For all other passengers, encouraging that they buckle up each and every time is vital in the safe keeping of everyone on the road. Motorcycle Safety From four-wheels to two, we all share the roads. Although we may rely on the experience of a seasoned rider to make safe and responsible decisions, keeping them safe is the responsibility of us all. Considering the number of motorcycles on the road make up only a fraction of the total vehicles driving daily, injury and fatality rates are staggeringly high. According to the National Safety Committee (NSC) more than 4,900 riders and passengers died in crashes while more than 17-times more non-fatal injuries were sustained in 2015 alone2. What do we know? Motorcycles can be small and hard to see. With such a compact size motorcycles can often hide behind other vehicles and easily in our blind spots. A great way to reduce the risk of causing an accident is to look more than once. Scanning all directions and identifying potential hazards can also help to recognize what is around you and reduce potential accidents significantly. Equipment can save your life. As quantified by the NSC, helmets are about 37% effective in preventing fatalities among operators and 41% effective among passengers3. This one simple addition to your ride, a helmet, could be the difference between making it home. Nearly 2,000 motorcyclists who chose not to wear a helmet in 2015 died from injuries sustained while riding. Not all bikes are created equally. From cruisers to sport bikes, each motorcycle is much different than the last. A simple rule of thumb to keep in mind when picking out a new bike is to stick with something in your ability range. Just a little safe love from your friends at EC Cooper. Please drive safe and be safe.  

Getting the Safest Car for Your Teenager

Whether it is a gift for graduation, birthday surprise, or time for your teen’s first car, getting the safest vehicle is a priority for many without spending a fortune. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was founded in 1959 with a mission to support safety efforts produced by others but years later became the forefront of highway safety research. Each year IIHS publishes a list of the safest cars for teen drivers. With safety as their number one priority, IIHS has added even more criteria to their used car ratings guides in order to generate a list of vehicles best for teens. Among these changes, they now require better side and head restraint scores as well as factoring in the scores from small overlap front-end crash protection. The article provided by IIHS even offers some recommendations on basic principles that increase the overall safety for your teen driver. In the most recent report, IIHS has added new budget based suggestions for the frugal shopper. The “best choices” listings start at $20,000 and under while the “good choices” listings begin under $10,000. Between these two list there are more than 100+ great options for your teen driver. If you or your teen is looking to get a vehicle, you definitely need to review this list first.      

5 Tips for a Safe Summer that You Probably Never Thought Of

Winter is finally over, and the weather is beginning to warm up, which means summer is right around the corner. And we have 5 tips for you to have a fun, safe, and happy summer. Now our idea of safe and happy is to make sure you are protected and worry free. Just a few minutes of review can save your summer from the unfortunate. Trampoline and Pool Liability: If your summer fun includes jumping into the pool or jumping on a trampoline then this needs to be on your checklist. Whatever your choice may be, there are risks of injury with both. This time of year is perfect for reviewing your coverage for your protection in the unfortunate case of an accident. Wooden Decks and Playsets: All wooden structures should be inspected before the kick off of summer. You need to inspect your structures for termites, rotting, cracking, and other unsafe damage. Check for nails or screws that raised up and boards that might have warped. Providing a yearly coat of sealant can help prevent some of these common issues. (This is also part of our Spring Cleaning Checklist.) Hot Car Safety: As the weather begins to rise outside, it is also rising inside your car. Even on cool days, the sun can raise the car’s interior temperature to unsafe levels and cause serious injury or death in some cases.  It is always best to double check and leave no one unattended. This includes your pets. Flood Coverage: With spring showers here and the snow all melted, flood season is here as well. This is a great time to review your coverage in the event of a flood. This is not just for your home, but also for your business. So review your policy to keep your business safe and open this rainy season. Classic Car Coverage: Ah, riding the road with the top down and enjoying the sun. After a long winter indoors and covered up, it is not only important to review your classic car for general maintenance, now is a good time to review its insurance coverage. This coverage is not your typical everyday car coverage and should be reviewed annually to make sure your classic car is road ready and insured. We may be an insurance company, but this is truly important. It’s recommended that you review your insurance policies once a year. Look for any changes in your coverage. This is not limited to you making any major purchases or alterations to your home or business. A lot can change in a year. Verify that you are properly covered for peace of mind. From all of us here at E.C. Cooper, please have a safe and fun summer.  

6 Spring Cleaning Tips to Prevent Homeowners Insurance Claims . . . And possibly save you money.

Winter is almost over and the warm weather is rapidly approaching. That means it’s time for Spring Cleaning. But, in addition to making the house feel clean and refreshed, there are a few things that you should do that will help prevent some costly homeowners’ insurance claims. And a penny saved is a penny that can be spent elsewhere. So here are the top 6 super-easy things you should do this spring (while you are doing your regular cleaning, of course). Change the air filters in your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) – Changing the filter can extend the life of your HVAC, maintain healthy air quality, help keep energy costs down, and keep the repair man away. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – Batteries should be replaced approximately every six months to make sure the detectors are working properly. The best time to remember this is when you adjust your clocks for Day Light Savings, change those batteries. Clean your dryer lint hose – At a minimum, pull the hose off the back of the dryer and use a vacuum cleaner to get the lint that snuck past the lint trap. This is one of the leading causes of house fires and is easily preventable. Clean gutters and down spouts – Make sure you don’t get a large buildup of debris so that water can flow through gutters and down spouts easily. Remember, gutters and spouts direct water away from the roof and house to prevent damage. We don’t want a birdbath on the roof. Check the Roof and the walls – Snow and ice can be especially harsh on roofs and sidings. Besides the obvious, missing shingles, saggy roof, holes in the siding, look for holes critters might have created to escape the cold. Find and fix any tripping hazards – Look for the easy stuff, dead branches, new holes in the yard, and the not so obvious stuff, broken bricks or flagstones, cracked sidewalks and driveways that settled a bit during the winter. Don’t forget the deck. Check for nails or screws that raised up and boards that might have warped or rotted. We want to prevent injuries. For additional suggestions and a complete list, download our checklist! Now you can relax and enjoy your spring and summer in peace.

The 5 Most Effective Home Winterization Tips

The 5 Most Effective Home Winterization Tips We are experiencing one of the lowest temperatures on record according to some experts. Mixed in with some unseasonable spring weather in January. But then again it seems to get colder each year, making it imperative that our homes are always properly winterized. That said, there are a couple of things you can do to keep your home warm and energy efficient during the winter. The below winterization tips should help keep your home warm and frustration free through the winter. Prevent busted and leaked pipes with insulation One of the most common complaints from homeowners is that their pipes start to leak every winter. Some even report ruptures in the pipes which can cost a lot to get repaired. The easiest way to prevent all of this from happening is to invest in high-quality pipe insulation. At around $2 per 6 feet of foam insulation, you’re not just preventing your pipes from suddenly rupturing but also lowering your heating bill. Ideally, you’ll want to tackle the insulation process yourself which is pretty simple. It will also help you save quite a bit as compared to hiring a contractor or handyman for the job. Run fans in reverse Even though turning on the fans is something you do in summer but have you considered running it in reverse during winter? If you have a ceiling fan which runs counterclockwise running it in reverse or clockwise will make your rooms warmer. The reason being that hot air usually rises to the ceiling leaving you feeling cold below. When the you run the fans in reverse it circulates the hot air down. This alone can reduce your heating costs by 10%. Seal all the ducts According to recent studies, as much as 30% percent of hot air escapes from the ducts. The best thing to do is hire a professional to inspect the ductwork for leaks and then fix those problems right away. Sealing the ducts properly can help an average home save up to $150 each year according to a study by the American Solar Energy Society. The other benefit of properly sealed ducts is that your home is protected against dust and mold. Bubble wrap the windows Do you suspect draft is coming in from the windows despite them being closed? There are numerous reasons for this happening which include the windows being too old, cracked or don’t close as tightly as they should. According to the US Department of Energy, you can save up to 30% on your energy bill every year by just taping bubble wrap across the windows. Bubble wrap will allow light through but not the draft. Also, the bubble wrap can be easily removed and stored away come May! Add more insulation to your home Insulating your home is one of the best and most efficient winterization tools when it comes to saving energy and obviously, money. Adding more insulation between the walls, attic floor, and basement ceiling can make a world of a difference. Another incentive to add more insulation is the fact that the federal government will reimburse 10% of your costs for up to $500. Low-income homes can easily qualify for around $7000 worth of winterization improvements. You can find out more about this by contacting the local energy agency. Get homeowner’s insurance to prevent sudden out of pocket expenses Home owner’s insurance helps keep you covered in the event you require something to be repaired or replaced. Things like busted pipes, weather damage, etc. are all covered by a comprehensive homeowner’s insurance. You can find out more about home owner’s insurance policies and how they cover your losses by clicking here.

Do I need Renters Insurance?

Do you like your stuff? Then the answer is Yes.

The real question is, “WHY do I need renters insurance, what exactly does that cover, and how much is it?”

If you decide you need renters insurance (and since you are reading this you probably do) then here are 7 questions you need to know to ensure you are getting the best policy for your needs . . .

What Do You Do If You Are in an Auto Accident

STOP immediately but do not obstruct traffic. ASSIST injured. Have someone call police. SECURE names, phone numbers, addresses of other drivers, witnesses, injured persons. SECURE make, model, and license numbers of all vehicles involved. DON’T hastily accept claim settlement at the scene of accident. REMAIN calm, courteous and consistent in your version of accident. NOTIFY your insurance company as soon as possible

Tips to Make Your Home Safer

Being on top of upkeep is a great way to keep your home or business safe. Accidents happen at home more than anywhere else, here are some tips to consider: Clean up your stairways. First, remove any toys, books and folded laundry from your stairways to avoid falling accidents. Next, Make sure your rails are secure. If they wobble (or you don’t have any rails), have them fixed or installed. Take Extra care with candles. Keep candles away from kids, pets and anything flammable. Always make sure you extinguish candles before leaving the house or going to bed. For added peace of mind, consider swapping traditional candles for LED versions. Secure your TV. A falling TV could cause serious injury to someone in your house; this is especially common when it comes to kids. Mounting your TV to the wall, anchoring furniture with anti-tip brackets and installing anti-tip straps on the back of any non-wall-mounted TVs can largely reduce the risk of a tipping accident.  Inspect your walkways. Your front walkway is a common spot for a slip-and-fall accident, so have any cracked or uneven areas fixed as soon as possible. During winter, be sure to clear your sidewalks and steps of snow and ice accumulation. Use extension cords carefully. Don’t use electrical extension cords unless it’s on a temporary basis. Electrical extension cords should never be used in place of permanent wiring. Also, while using any cords do not cover them with a blanket or rug to avoid over heating and never over-pack an outlet. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. While some smoke detectors may seem like they go off too often, they are life savers. Test both your smoke and your carbon monoxide detectors once a month to make sure they’re in good working order. Clean out dryer vents. Frequently cleaning out your lint screen sometimes isn’t enough to keep your dryer vent from becoming clogged and starting a dryer fire. Have a Handyman come in at least once a year to give the vent system a good cleaning. Doing so will reduce the risk of a dryer fire and keep your machine running efficiently. Of course, another way you can protect your home is with the right homeowners insurance. An E.C. Cooper agent can tell you more about affordable options and get you a free quote here. – See more at: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/

Odessa File Athletes of Year announced

EC Cooper is proud to sponsor and supporter of our community. These young adults are our future. From The Odessa File. Sophomore Gillian Clark has earned The Odessa File Athlete of the Year Award at Odessa-Montour High School, while junior Patrick Hazlitt and senior Ian Chedzoy have earned the same honor at Watkins Glen High School. Plaques were presented to the three honorees Monday by Mike Stamp of the sponsoring E.C. Cooper insurance firm at the Watkins Glen State Park Pavilion before the start of the Top Drawer 24 ceremony there. Each honoree is a three-sport athlete.

Welcome to our New Website & News Blog

EC Cooper has a new website! Through our newly revamped website and blog, our wonderful service team will update you on the latest news from the insurance world that could affect you, and we will also be offering regular lifestyle tips. We work to serve the best interests of you, your business, and your family! And as always you may request a free quote! Our blog will be your first stop for not only the latest information but also community events in Watkins Glen and the Finger Lakes area. Our new website is fully responsive, this means no matter which device you’re looking at it on, your phone, a tablet or laptop it will look the same without having to pinch and zoom. I encourage you to browse through our new innovative website to see all that we have to offer. And if you still want to call or drop in, we are always available to guide you through the insurance shopping process for all of your insurance needs. We work to serve the best interests of you, your family, and your business. Now I’m not going to take the credit for designing and building this.  It’s way over my head. I would appreciate your feedback, suggestions, or questions for future blog posts.  Your insurance issues and questions will be answered here. As always we appreciate your business and your referrals. Mike Stamp