In the event of a sudden emergency such as a fire, tornado or other disaster, you may have just minutes to gather your family and important papers and get out of your house, possibly for good. With preparation and practice, you stand the best chance of getting out with what you and your family need and ending up in a safe place.
The first order of business is to assess your evacuation preparedness by doing a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.
The Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) suggests the following four steps to help you and your family on the road to safety.
Create a Home Inventory
Create a complete home inventory of your personal property. A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your possessions. It can also speed the claims process, and substantiate losses for income tax purposes.
To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. (Insurance Information Institute) provides free online software at KnowYourStuff.org. The software allows you to inventory your home room by room, and prompts you to enter important information such as the make, model and place of purchase of each item. You can also upload and store related documents, such as photos, receipts and appraisal forms.
Once your inventory complete, you can store it using your online account, which will allow you to access it from anywhere at any time in the event your home and/or computer is destroyed.
You may be forced from your home for several days or even weeks. Be sure to take essential items such as medicines as well as “comfort items” such as your children’s favorite toys or books. In the event of an evacuation, have the following items prepared to take with you:
- Medicines, prescriptions and a first aid kit
- Bottled Water
- Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
- Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members
- Computer hard drive or laptop
- Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)
Keep important documents in a safe place that you can access easily. In the event of an evacuation take the following documents with you:
- Insurance policies
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Drivers license or personal identification
- Social Security Cards
- Recent tax returns
- Employment information
- Wills, deeds and recent tax returns
- Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
- Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
- Home inventory
- Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town; a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
- Map out your primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable. Make sure you have a map of the area available.
In case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation, identify a specific place to meet and ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that require medical attention. With over 50 percent of the bites occurring on the dog owner’s property, the issue is a major source of concern for insurers.
Over the years, many states have passed laws with stiff penalties for owners of dogs that cause serious injuries or deaths. In about one-third of states, owners are "strictly liable" for their dogs' behavior, while in the rest of the country they are liable only if they knew or should have known their dogs had a propensity to bite (known as the "one free bite" principle).
Dog bites account for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, costing $412 million in 2009, up 6.40 percent from 2008, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute found that the average cost of dog bite claims was $24,840 in 2009, up slightly from $24,461 in 2008. Since 2003 the cost of these claims has risen nearly 30 percent. Additionally, the number of claims has increased 4.8 percent to 16,586 in 2009 from 15,823 in 2008. Insurers generally oppose legislation that would require changes to their dog breed practices. They contend that government public health studies and the industry’s claims histories show that some breeds are more dangerous than others and are higher loss risks.
If you use a kerosene heater in your home or place of business, you should take precautions against a number of serious hazards.
These dangers include:
- Fire or explosion. Fire could be caused by operating the heater too close to furniture, draperies or other combustibles, by knocking over a lighted heater, or by accidentally igniting fuel when filling the tank. Explosions could be caused by use of the wrong kind of fuel, or by operating the heater in an area where there are combustible fumes.
- Burns. Burns could be caused by direct contact with a heater, or by ignition of combustible clothing. Children especially should be kept at a safe distance from operating heaters. Even pets could be injured.
- Asphyxiation. Kerosene heaters consume oxygen as they burn. If they are operated in a small room or in an inadequately ventilated area, oxygen in the air could be reduced to a dangerous level. Reduced oxygen supply could lead to incomplete combustion of fuel and the production of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which in sufficient concentrations, or if breathed over a period of time, can kill without warning.
- Indoor air pollution. In addition to carbon monoxide, kerosene heaters can emit such pollutants as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Breathing these substances can create a risk, especially to such people as pregnant women, asthmatics, individuals with cardiovascular disease, elderly persons and young children.
These hazards can be minimized or averted by carefully following manufacturers' instructions for use of kerosene heaters, and by adopting other common-sense safety measures.
Whether you have a luxury in-ground pool, or plan to blow up an inflatable kiddie pool, it is important to consider the safety implications.
There are an estimated 7.4 million swimming pools and five million hot tubs in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, there are over 3,400 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States each year, with more than one out of five drowning victims being a child 14 years old or younger, according to the CDC. If you have a pool, the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) commends taking the following safety precautions:
- Install a four-sided barrier such as a fence with self closing gates to completely surround the pool. If the house forms the fourth side of the barrier, install alarms on doors leading to the pool area to prevent children from wandering into the pool or spa unsupervised. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating several “layers of protection” around the pool, in other words setting up as many barriers (door alarms, locks and safety covers) as possible to the pool area when not in use.
- Never leave small children unsupervised—even for a few seconds. And never leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers trying to reach them who might then fall into the pool.
- Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information so others can do so too.
- Ask if pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. If you have children, have them take swimming lessons as early as possible. And, do not allow anyone to swim alone.
- Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Also, keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
- Limit alcohol use around the pool, as drinking alcoholic beverages negatively impacts balance, coordination and judgment—and its effects are further heightened by sun exposure and heat. The CDC reports that alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation.
- Clearly post emergency numbers on the phone, in the event of an accident. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. You may also want to consider learning basic water rescue skills, including first aid and CPR training. For additional information, contact the American Red Cross.
Did You Know That...
- The FBI calls identity theft the fastest growing white-collar crime in America?
- An identity thief could steal your identity to obtain money and property by using and ruining your good credit?
- 1 in every 28 consumers was a victim of identity theft in 2008?**
- On average, victims spend up to 600 hours and $1,400 recovering from identity theft?***
** 2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report, released by the Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research.
*** 2 Identity Theft: The Aftermath - 2003, released by the Identity Theft Resource Center
What is Identity Theft?
- Identity theft is currently the fastest growing white collar crime in America.
- In cases of identity theft, criminals obtain your personal data (such as a credit card number or Social Security number) and use the information to assume your identity. Thieves may take over your existing accounts or use your name to open new accounts, or apply for loans.
- You may not be aware that your identity has been stolen until a merchant or collection agency contacts you, seeking payment for a bill you know nothing about. Or, you may be declined for a loan or employment because your credit records show defaults on loans unknown to you.
How Do Identity Thieves Get My Personal Information?
While the more elaborate schemes are the ones that often make headlines, most identity thieves still obtain a victim's information through conventional paper means including:
- A lost or stolen wallet, check or credit card.
- "Dumpster-diving," or digging through your trash for statements and other financial information.
- Theft of mail from your mailbox.
- Current findings indicate that about 11% of identity theft is traced to online, computer-based crimes. Identity thieves use fraudulent e-mails (a practice known as "phishing") and fraudulent web sites to trick you into revealing personal data online.
How Much Am I at Risk?
- It's estimated that 1 out of every 28 consumers was a victim of identity theft in 2008.**
- To assess your own personal risk of identity theft, click here and take the Identity Theft IQ Test
What Else Can I Do to Protect Myself?
Most experts agree that even if you take all the right precautions, you may not be able to prevent identity theft from happening - in part because your personal information is not always in your control. Recently, for example, consumers' personal data has been lost or stolen from companies ranging from banks to retailers to personal data vendors.
What you can do is protect yourself with coverage that helps you in the unfortunate event that you do become a victim.
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