Thursday, December 27, 2012

Insuring Your Valuable Items

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Your homeowners’ insurance is a critical component to owning a home and making sure its value is protected from anything that might happen. But it doesn’t cover everything, especially certain valuable possessions you may have. Valuable Item coverage will provide you the protection you need for your most valuable possessions in the event of loss through theft, accident or natural disaster.

The unendorsed homeowner insurance policy covers your personal property but has limits on how much it will pay for certain items, such as furs, jewelry, collectibles, and fine art. It is best to adhere to the often-quoted proposition that special things require special coverage. Here’s a list of some of the things (this list is not exhaustive however), you may own that you should consider reviewing to make sure you have the correct coverage under your policy:

  • cameras (video or still) and related equipment 
  • china and crystal 
  • coins (rare and current) 
  • firearms 
  • furs 
  • golfer's equipment 
  • jewelry 
  • musical instruments 
  • personal computers 
  • stamps (rare and current) 
  • silverware 
  • works of fine art, including paintings, etchings, pictures and other bona fide works of art (such as oriental rugs, statuary, rare books, manuscripts and bric-a-brac) of rarity, historical value or artistic merit. 

Here are some quick suggestions for procedure if you’re thinking about getting your valuables covered by valuable item coverage:

  • Share with your agent any particular items you’d like insured to make sure they’ll be covered. 
  • Keep documentation of your valuables’ worth in a separate location in order to ensure that their value will be returned to you. 
  • Make sure you understand the limits and exclusions of your policy or rider. 
  • Consider hiring an appraiser for particularly valuable items like collections or antiques whose value can be questioned. 

If you have any questions regarding types of items covered by this type of insurance, or about how to get your own policy, don’t hesitate to contact us at 401-725-0070.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Safety During the Holidays

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

As the holiday season comes upon us, you’ll start to see more and more holiday decorations spring up around your neighborhood. The lights, the trees, and the candles, while festive and beautiful, should be handled and put up with careful attention to safety concerns. Below are a few tips for celebrating injury-free holidays.

Christmas Trees 
  • For those looking for a more authentic holiday experience, live trees may be the way to go. However, be sure to check on the freshness of a tree. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles. Also be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water to avoid it drying out. 
  • For those looking for artificial trees, make sure it is labeled as “fire resistant.” This does not mean the tree cannot catch fire, but is more resistant to fires than other artificial trees. 
  • Regardless of your type of tree, place it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. 
Lights
  • Only use lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ITSNA
  • Make sure extension chords and lights have been rated for their intended uses, especially if they are certified for outdoor use. 
  • Check sets of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree. 
Candles
  • If you use candles, burn them only within eyesight. Be sure to extinguish all candles before going to bed, leaving the room, or leaving the house. 
  • Keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, like decorations, curtains, furniture, and (especially) Christmas trees. 

For additional questions regarding safety around the holidays or to review your homeowner’s policy, please contact Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from Blais Insurance

As we all anxiously await another Thanksgiving feast, it is important to reflect on what is most important during the holiday season.

Whether staying home or traveling abroad, it is imperative to make certain the appropriate levels of protection are in place to ensure the safety and security of your loved ones.

For over 100 years, Blais Insurance has insured the homes and businesses of Northern Rhode Island and we take tremendous pride in that responsibility.

We would be happy to provide a complimentary review of your current insurance policies to make certain they are still meeting your needs. Please contact our offices today at 725.0070 to schedule an appointment.

On behalf of the entire staff of Blais Insurance, we wish you and your loved ones a bountiful and joyous Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ways to Winterize Your Home

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

A quality homeowner’s insurance policy is key to making sure your home assets are protected should the worst happen. But there are a number of ways you can care for your home that will not only protect it, but will help you save real money on heating energy and expenses.

Winterizing your home can help you start saving today. Here are a few simple ways you can feel warmer this winter without turning up the heat (and the costs):
  • Install storm doors and windows, which can increase energy efficiency by 45% by sealing drafts and reducing air flow. Making sure these are installed and securely shut can help save you a great deal of energy and money.
  • On the same track, window insulation kits are available for just a few dollars at your local hardware store, and add a buffer against draft and extra still air space.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that operates on a timer, so that you aren’t paying for heat when you aren’t in your home.
  • Wearing warmer clothes like sweaters while in your home may seem like an insignificant step, but doing so can warm you up by four degrees, allowing you to lower that thermostat and save more energy and costs.

A number of winterization methods can also help pay for themselves with certain federal tax credits that make saving on energy tax deductible. Investing in a tankless water heater, or going solar, for instance, can be used with a federal tax credit that pays 30% of the cost for solar water heaters, or up to $1,500 for conventional systems.

Many of these simple steps can help you save money and energy for your home. Start making these changes before the temperature drops!

If you have any additional questions regarding winterization for your home, please contact Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Safety for Drivers and Children

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays here at Blais Insurance. And while we enjoy the excuse to dress up and eat more candy than we can handle, we also know that safety is an important issue on Halloween.

In this week’s post, check out a few important tips to keep in mind on October 31st.

Driving on Halloween 
  • Trick-or-treaters tend to come out between the hours of 4:00PM and 9:00PM, so be especially careful when it becomes dark out. 
  • Be sure to drive slowly, and do not pass stopped vehicles, which may be dropping off children. 
  • Even if you’re vigilant, children can dart out into the street at spots other than intersections; so keep an eye out at all times and avoid distractions by waiting until you’ve stopped to use your mobile phone. 
  • Children often won’t stop or see your vehicle approaching, so always yield to young pedestrians on a night when so many will be out and about. Practice this caution with other drivers, too, by always signaling, communicating, or putting on your hazard lights when pulling over to drop off or pick up kids. 
Keeping your own trick-or-treaters safe 

If you’re a parent, you want your kids to have as much fun as possible on this exciting holiday. But keeping your own trick-or-treaters safe is paramount to making sure they have a worry-free evening.
  • Teach your children how to safely cross streets; they should look both ways and cross only at corners and crosswalks. 
  • Consider indoor community Halloween programs for younger kids. 
  • Brighten up their costumes, or give them flashlights and glow sticks so drivers can see them. 
Halloween is a great day for kids to have fun and use their imaginations. We at Blais Insurance think being as safe as possible ensure that your children have the most fun.

If you have any additional questions regarding safe driving, please contact Blais Insurance at 401- 725 -0070.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

School Bus Safety

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Like you, we at Blais Insurance value our children’s safety more than anything else. Over 23 million of our children ride to school every day in a school bus. And while these buses are still considered one of the safest modes of transport, it’s important to understand the real risks involved in getting on and off a bus, as well as walking to bus stops.

Here, we offer some safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help students, parents, and motorists stay safe around buses.

When waiting at the bus stop, parents should encourage their children to stand at least 6 feet away from the curb, and to wait still until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver indicates that it’s okay to step onto the bus.

If your children must cross the street in front of the bus, be sure that they walk at least 10 feet ahead of the bus before they cross, so that they and the bus driver can see each other.

Finally, children should never walk behind the bus, as the driver may not be able to see them.

Even if your children do not take the school bus, it’s important to keep watch for others if you are a driver. Watch for children when backing out of your driveway and check both sides of the sidewalk.

Be sure to be alert and aware on the road, to drive slowly, and to be aware of children playing or waiting around bus stops. Additionally, it is important to know the school bus laws in your state, what different school bus lights indicate, and when it is safe to stop or continue when driving behind a school bus.

If you have additional questions about safe driving and how it relates to your auto insurance policy, please call Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life Insurance: Protecting Your Loved Ones After You’re Gone

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

If someone in your life depends on you financially, chances are you’ll want to be sure they are taken care of even after you’re gone. Life insurance is the best way to provide for your family after your passing.

The money provided (known as the death benefit) may offset or replace the income loss and can help your family meet many important financial needs like daily living expenses, mortgage payments, college savings, family emergencies and much more. Additionally, in many cases, there is no federal income tax on life insurance benefits.

Owning life insurance can provide an added sense of security for the insured and beneficiaries. Buying life insurance is all about peace of mind for your family and how you’re able to provide it.

There are various types of life insurance, which range from simple term life insurance (payment made only if death occurs during the term of policy), to the more complicated whole life insurance (payment made whenever the insured dies).

When shopping for life insurance, it’s best to use an independent insurance agent that will search the entire market to find the appropriate plan and rates for you and your family or business.

Because Blais Insurance represents many of the nation’s top rated carriers, we are able to easily search for simple term coverage or more advanced permanent whole life or universal life coverage, depending on your needs.

If you have questions about your life insurance needs and would like additional information, please call Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summertime Pool Safety

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Having a pool in your backyard is refreshing for those hot weekends and summer block parties. If you have recently installed a pool at your home and are ready to enjoy the water, remember to consider insurance and water safety.

Fortunately, a pool is considered separate from your dwelling and is therefore covered under the “other structures” section of your homeowner’s policy, similarly to sheds, detached garages and gazebos. 

However, if you have a number of detached structures, or if your pool was on the expensive side, the standard coverage may not be enough. If this is the case, you may want to consider adding a higher amount of coverage for your specific structures.

While evaluating your insurance coverage, you should keep in mind that, no matter the type of policy, insurance will not cover damage done to your pool by freezing, thawing, pressure, or weight of ice or water. This is why it is so important to “winterize” your pool if you live in cold climates.

Not only should you think about the insurance coverage for your pool, but also take a moment to consider liability coverage. Installing a pool increases your chances of liability if someone is injured or killed as a result of using your pool. If you are a homeowner with a pool, we strongly recommend you consider increasing your liability coverage or purchasing an personal umbrella liability policy. 

Remember, it is always best to set up some pool safety rules to decrease your potential liability exposure.

If you have any additional questions regarding insurance coverages for your pool, please contact Blais Insurance at 401- 725 -0070.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Enjoy the Grilling Season with These Safety Tips

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

During these warm summer months, the family grill is used on a regular basis. While backyard barbeques are fun, they can also pose safety hazards. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that 5,700 grill fires occur on residential properties each year and 32% of those grill fires start on patios, terraces, screened-in porches or courtyards.

These unfortunate statistics should motivate all grillers to pay close attention to the safety tips we have outlined below.

Always use your grill outdoors. If you use your grill indoors or in an enclosed space, like a tent, it can pose a significant fire hazard. It can also expose occupants to toxic gases or potential asphyxiation. Additionally, remember to keep your grill away from siding, deck rails and eaves.

Keep the grill in a designated safe area. Make sure your grill is placed at a safe distance from lawn games and foot traffic and make sure children know not to come near the grill. It’s also important to remember not to position your grill under low-hanging branches.

Examine your grill before initial use. Prior to lighting up your gas grill for the first time, be sure to check the hose of your propane cylinder for leaks. If you own a charcoal grill, remember to purchase proper starter fluid, rather than charcoal that is self-lighting. This type of charcoal uses additives that can cause bad tasting food.

Maintain your grill to avoid fire hazards. If you detect a leak in your gas grill, turn the propane tank off immediately and call a professional to service the tank. Should you detect a leak while cooking, get away from the grill quickly and call the fire department. While using your gas or charcoal grill, remove grease or fat buildup below the grill to keep it from igniting.

Store your grill correctly. Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you need to store your gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside. Store charcoal grill lighter fluid in a safe place away from children, pets and heat sources.

Blais Insurance hopes that with these tips, you and your family can have an enjoyable, safe grilling season. For any additional insurance questions, please contact Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Home Safety Tips While Away on Vacation

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Returning home from a relaxing sun-soaked vacation is never fun, and it can be made worse if you return to find something gone horribly wrong in your home. Below, Blais Insurance offers a few suggestions to help keep your property secure while you travel.

Ask your neighbors for help. Give a trusted neighbor a key and ask them to periodically check the interior of your home to look for anything unusual such as open doors, fallen branches or broken windows.

Don’t let your home look vacant. To make your home less attractive to thieves, we suggest you arrange for someone to gather your mail and newspapers and mow your lawn. We also recommend you mimic everyday activities by setting timed lights to come on in the evening, or by keeping a car parked in the driveway.

Turn off your water supply. Water damage is the leading cause of homeowners’ insurance claims, because even a small leak can cause significant damage if left undetected. When water leaks are combined with warm summer temperatures, they can lead to expensive mold problems. You may want to consider purchasing a water-flow sensor that ties into your home alarm system to detect water flow that is not normal.

Protect appliances and electronics from power surges. Consider unplugging your television, computer, and other countertop appliances. Unplugging these items not only keeps them from being damaged in the event of a power surge, it can also save you money. According to the Consumer Energy Center, many appliances use power even when they’re turned off.

In the unfortunate event that you do experience a loss while away on vacation, it is important to contact your independent agent at Blais Insurance as soon as possible at 401-725-0070. However, simply taking a few precautionary steps before you leave on vacation will keep your home safe and provide peace of mind while you’re away.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Clean to Protect Your Home


By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

This past winter, Rhode Islanders were fortunate to escape harsh weather conditions. However, cold temperatures and even the smallest amount of snow can cause wear and tear to your home. While completing your spring-cleaning, Blais Insurance suggests adding the following tasks to your list. Checking certain items around your home can shield your property from hazards and protect you from potential insurance claims.

When cleaning up the outside of your home, remember to do the following:
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. Hire a professional if your roof needs repair.
  • Remove dead limbs or branches from your yard. Keep healthy trees and bushes trimmed and away from utility wires and your home.
  • Safely store oil and gas for lawn equipment in a vented, locked area, such as an outdoor shed or your garage.
  • Repair cracked, broken or uneven driveways and walkways to provide a level walking surface.

While sprucing up the interior of your home, consider the following:
  • Inspect your smoke detectors, and make sure that there is one on each floor of your home. Test them often, and change the batteries as needed.
  • Make sure the light bulbs in all your fixtures are the correct wattage as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Replace high-intensity bulbs (such as incandescent) with fluorescent bulbs that do not produce as much heat.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets or other power sources. 
  • Keep a fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional.
  • Check your water heater for leaks or corrosion.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint and dust.

Blais Insurance believes that these spring-cleaning tips will help you to avoid costly insurance claims. It is also a good idea to review your current homeowners’ insurance policy to make certain it is still meeting your needs. If you have questions about your home insurance policy, please call Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Green Homes Can Save You More Than Energy


By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Every year on Earth Day, many take to their neighborhood parks or back yards to clean up trash, rake away debris and freshen up mulch. While “going green” for your neighborhood is an excellent way to show your eco-friendliness, applying the same practices to your home can help the environment, and could also save you money on your home insurance.
In order for a home to receive insurance discounts for energy efficiency, it must comply with the standards of either Green Globe or Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED). Most insurers use LEED standards to define green certification, and LEED ratings range from certified to silver, gold and platinum. Homes are rated on energy-efficiency, water efficiency, indoor air quality, environmentally sensitive site development, recycled and reclaimed building materials and other sustainable features.
Due to the increasing number of federal and state incentives available to build green homes, more insurers have been offering green home insurance coverage options. For example, Travelers insurance offers up to five percent savings on premiums to homeowners already certified by the LEED rating system. Additionally, for homeowners repairing, replacing or rebuilding with green materials after a loss, some insurance carriers reimburse you for using sustainable materials such as bamboo, energy-efficient appliances and paints made from zero volatile organic compound (VOC).
Unfortunately, not all states offer insurance discounts for green-certified homes, so be sure to check with your independent insurance agent to see if you qualify for either an insurance discount, or reimbursement for rebuilding with sustainable materials. For more information on green-certified insurance discounts or reimbursements, please contact Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Add a Home Inventory to Your Spring Cleaning

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Now is the time of year when people put away winter coats, air out their homes and clean up their yards. With all the spring-cleaning you plan to do, Blais Insurance suggests you conduct an inventory of all the personal property in your home while you clean.

Documenting all of your personal possessions may seem like a daunting task, but adding a few extra minutes to each room as you clean will save you time and unnecessary stress in the future.

The benefits of performing a home inventory far outweigh the tedious task. Maintaining proper records of your items will settle insurance claims faster, lessen your burden of proving your lost property, and relieve stress during estate planning. You will not have to remember all of your lost possessions, or potentially forget items that you could have been compensated for.

A home inventory is free, and multiple ways exist to complete one. You can organize your items by video tapping them as you walk throughout your home. Blais Insurance suggests video tapping your items in coordination with other documentation such as special software or perhaps an Excel spreadsheet. If you have a working knowledge of Excel, you can create a spreadsheet, arranging the information in a way that would make it easy to update. Updating items can be made even easier if you decide to download software from sites such as knowyourstuff.org. Software that helps with home inventories can make the process simple and fun. Lastly, you will want to keep the inventory outside the home!

Remember, it is not so much about having a list of every last thing you own as much as it is about having a place to start in the event of a significant insurance loss. If you would like further information about an inventory for your home, please call Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070, and we would be happy to answer your questions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Every Business Owner Should Investigate Professional Liability Insurance

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

You may think that Professional Liability Insurance, also known as Errors and Omissions Insurance, is only for doctors and lawyers, but it is important to understand that this coverage is now available to many other businesses.

Your commercial general liability insurance is important to have, but does not cover for errors involving you rendering your expertise. Professional Liability Insurance protects you from client or customer claims involving this special kind of error. These claims can get costly and time-consuming regardless if a long litigation process leads to a settlement or not – and don’t forget the attorney fees.

You should consider looking into whether or not Professional Liability Insurance is available for your small business. It could save your business if it cannot afford the cost of the claim. Some businesses without this protection try to pass their financial burden down to future customers to make up the loss, but many businesses eventually close their doors.

 To keep from losing everything you’ve worked for, Blais Insurance suggests you investigate the availability of Professional Liability Insurance for your type of business. Every Professional Liability Insurance policy will differ according to your industry, location or type of product or service you provide.

Call us today to learn more about this important coverage for your business at 401-725-0070.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don’t Lose Money When Your Power Goes Out

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

When Tropical Storm Irene hit, most of us were without power long enough for the food in our refrigerators to spoil. How much money do you think you threw out when tossing the spoiled food? There could have even been important value to items in your refrigerator, such as medications that need to remain refrigerated, or steaks you were saving for a family barbeque, that were destroyed. It could have been really costly for you if you stocked up for a few months on refrigerated products, perhaps in a freezer kept in your garage or basement.

After the destruction of a large storm, homeowners quickly learn what is and is not covered by their standard homeowners policy. Did you know that a standard homeowners policy does not cover food spoilage as a result of power failure from a source off the residence premises?

In order to be covered for unexpected food spoilage due to power interruption, you would need to add a Refrigerated Products Endorsement to your policy. For a small premium, only dollars per year, you can add insurance that will cover up to a pre-determined amount for items in your refrigerator or freezer. Typically, there is no deductible for this protection.

If you have ever had to throw an expensive amount of food out, you know how frustrating it can be. Before a winter storm hits and you loose power again, call Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070 to discuss a homeowners’ policy that provides this important coverage.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Insuring Your College Student

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

If you have children away at college, it may be wise to take a second look at what kind of insurance coverage they have for their car and any expensive items they have at school.

Many parents jump at the opportunity to lower their auto insurance rates by taking their child off their auto insurance while they are away at school without their car. However, this may not be the wisest move. Consider the risk if your child borrows a friend’s car while at school. Blais Insurance suggests you leave your college driver on your insurance policy to avoid uncovered liability claims. If you tell your insurer that you child is away at school and does not have access to their car to drive, then your insurer may reduce your rate because your college driver doesn’t have immediate access to the car and is now a lower risk.

Not only should you consider keeping your college student on your auto insurance, but you should also think about all the expensive items such as phones, iPods, laptops, TVs and cameras that accompany most college students to school. If any one of these items were stolen or damaged, it could be very costly to replace it. You have a couple of options when it comes to insuring your child’s belongings. You should review your homeowner’s policy before your son or daughter goes off to college to be sure it extends to coverage for items in your child’s dorm.

If you are interested in discussing these options for your soon-to-be college student, contact Blais Insurance at 401-725-0070 to learn more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don’t Let Your Insurance Lapse When Selling Your Vehicle

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Have you ever had a car dealership ask you for a copy of your insurance policy before test-driving a car? We’re guessing not. A dealership wouldn’t ask you for your insurance because they already have that detail covered with their own coverage for their cache of cars. Just like a dealership doesn’t take chances when giving test drivers permission to take their cars for a trial, neither should you when allowing someone to test drive the car you’re trying to sell.

No one buys a used car without test-driving it first, so it is important to keep your insurance on your vehicle during the time you’re trying to sell the car. If an accident occurs, the owner of the car would be primarily responsible.

When you see the increase in your policy from adding a new vehicle don’t fret, once the old vehicle sells, perhaps within a week or two, the premium will go down upon deleting the now sold vehicle. At Blais Insurance, we are always available to answer your insurance questions, and welcome the opportunity to do so. Please call us at 401-725-0070.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don’t Drop Comprehensive and Collision Coverages in the Winter

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

After the Holidays, it can be an expensive time of year paying all the bills, and you may be thinking of dropping your comprehensive and/or collision coverage on your older car to lighten your monthly premium payment. However, we suggest you consider these reasons to keep coverage at least during the winter months.

The winter can be an unpredictable time, because weather patterns range from blizzards to golf ball-sized hail. Comprehensive coverage covers your car in non-collision claims that arise outside your control – like that tree branch that fell on your car because it snapped from wind or the weight of heavy snow.

Just as winter weather can be unpredictable, so can the slippery conditions of wintry roads, and car accidents are far more likely to occur when roads become slick. Collision coverage is important to maintain because it protects you from damages done to your car in an accident, whether it’s your fault or not.

Blais Insurance recommends that should you decide to drop comprehensive and collision coverages for whatever reason, it only makes sense to do it after the perils of winter have passed. If you have any additional questions about car insurance, please call us at 401-725-0070.