Monday, December 22, 2014

Keeping Your Home Safe During the Holidays

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

The holiday season is a time to be spent with family and friends, reuniting and making lasting memories.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common times of year in which many homes fall victim to burglary. According to the FBI, nearly 400,000 of these instances occur during November and December alone.

Criminals are aware that expensive gifts have been shared and material objects are likely unhidden. Therefore, your friends at Blais Insurance want to provide you with ways that you can protect your home this season.

Discard empty packages discreetly.
One of the easiest ways for thieves to tell if your home is a worthy target is from the waste and empty packages by your trash.  If you have big boxes that held TV’s or computers, be sure to break the packaging down and conceal it as much as possible. You may also want to wait to dispose of packing until the day trash/recycling is collected so it does not linger around and give would-be burglars any incentive.

Take pictures of your gifts and record serial numbers.
For any high price gifts, it’s a good idea to take note of as much information as possible. This is relatively easy to do and starts with taking a picture and saving it somewhere safe. You should also write down all serial numbers if items need to be traced. Additionally, any jewelry and other expensive items should be recorded with your agent to keep it documented in case of an unfortunate situation.

Use caution when posting on social media.
If your family is looking to get away after the holidays, be sure to filter your posts.  It’s an open invitation for burglars if they know a home will be vacant for an extended period of time. Additionally, be cautious about posting the larger, more expensive gifts you received for the holidays.  If they know what’s in the home, it’ll be easier to take.

Minimize visibility to outsiders.
Another mistake homeowners make is cautiously leaving their gifts under a Christmas tree in clear sight from the road.  If these items are visible from the street, potential burglars do not have to make much effort to break into your home. In order to try to avoid this problem, keep your curtains and/or blinds closed at night or position your Christmas tree at a more discreet location.

We understand that the holidays can be a stressful time of year, but it can also be the most wonderful.  Protect your home and loved ones this season by following these preventative measures and ensure your time spent together is joyful.  From all of us at Blais Insurance, we wish you a very happy holiday season!

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Now that temperatures have begun to drop, your home requires extra maintenance to handle all that Winter can bring.  As colder days and harsh snowfalls journey northeast, it’s important that your home is properly “winterized” to survive the season.

Follow these five simple tips to ensure that your home is ten steps ahead of this year’s winter weather conditions:

1.     Clean your gutters: During Fall, leaves and other debris tend to accumulate in your gutters and will prevent them from performing properly.  Instead, excess rain water will pour out over the sides of the gutter, causing damage to the siding of your home and landscape. In addition, water that is trapped in clogged gutters can freeze in the winter, causing ice dams and damage to your gutters and roof. Learn how to properly clean your gutters here.

2.     Prepare your fireplace: If your chimney hasn’t been cleaned for some time, call a professional to remove the soot and creosote in order to prevent fires.  Also, cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and help stop birds from forming nests. If your fireplace runs on burning wood, purchase it ahead of time and store it in a dry place.

3.     Inspect and fix the exterior: Search around the outside of your home for any cracks or exposed entry points. Use weather-stripping around any doors or windows that might allow cold air to enter the home – this will save you money on heating bills. 

4.     Prevent plumbing freezes: Before they get buried in snow, drain all garden hoses around your home.  Be sure to insulate any exposed plumbing pipes to avoid bursts and inspect them for any damage.  If you go on vacation, be sure to leave your heat on and set it to at least 55 degrees.  Lastly, if you have an underground lawn sprinkler system, remember to blow out all the excess air and water to prevent damage.

5.     Check your heating system: Perform a survey of your home’s heating vents and check to see that they are not blocked or covered by anything (furniture, carpeting, etc).  Dust all of your vents and clean or replace any filters that appear damaged or dirty.  You can also call a professional to ensure your HVAC system is working properly and won’t cause any damage to your home.

Blais Insurance can offer you additional tips and services when preparing your home for winter.  Call us at 725-0070 to see what other measures you should take and to review your current homeowner’s policy to ensure your property is safe and protected for all seasons.

Information for this article provided by: Winterizing Your Home and How Often Should My Gutters Be Cleaned?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Preventing Puff Backs

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

It’s inevitable - colder days are coming.  Although winter isn’t on the horizon just yet, we at Blais Insurance always have your best interest at heart and want to make sure that you are ready and prepared.

As heating your home soon becomes a necessity, many will be turning to furnaces or wood stoves to keep warm. However, if not maintained these heat sources can create some unfortunate occurrences known as puff backs.  Frustrating as they may be, puff backs are preventable. 

Below you will find the basic facts and ways you can avoid these hassles and stay warm without worry:  

What are puff backs?

A puff back is a dirty and potentially dangerous event in which smoke and soot are released from a furnace, often resulting in oily black clumps of soot being distributed throughout the house. These occurrences create a foul odor and are quite difficult to clean.

How do they occur?

Puff backs occur when the furnace does not ignite properly due to a buildup of oil fumes and debris.  This faulty trigger sets off an explosion in which soot and other debris are sent through the exhaust system and then into the heating system vents.

How can I prevent puff backs?

The most effective form of prevention is inspecting and performing regular maintenance on your furnace to keep it in proper working condition.  This can include checking for oil leaks and paying close attention to any odd scents.   Be sure to keep the area clean of debris, hair and other particles that could ignite an issue.

What do I do if a puff back occurs?

In the instance that a puff back occurs, immediately turn your furnace off.  From there, we suggest following this checklist for optimal clean-up:

    Assess the situation and the amount of damage that was done
    Wash all affected clothing and fabrics in the house - some may require professional dry cleaning
    Throw away all exposed food
    Call a repairman to fix the malfunctioning oil furnace
    Call a cleaning service to take care of the soot and chemicals
    Locate a puff back specialist as they will be able to thoroughly clean and deodorize all affected items and surfaces.

Typically, your current homeowners policy will cover damage to your home and contents caused by a puff back. However if a puff back occurs, we recommend that you do not attempt to clean it yourself, as you could cause more unnecessary damage. Call us today at 725-0070 for more information and to ensure that you are properly covered.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Fire Pit Safety Tips

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

As these final summer nights begin to cool down, accidents with backyard fire pits seem to be heating up. Although gathering with friends and family around a fire is a great way to spend an evening, if not handled correctly, it could pose serious threats to your safety. 

At Blais Insurance, we want you to be better informed about potential hazards before igniting a danger to yourself or others.  For all types of fire pits, we offer you these vital tips to ensure that your summer nights are spent with less worry and more fun:

Tip 1: Consult with building officials, local codes and certified professionals before installing a fire bowl no matter what it uses for fuel — wood, natural gas, propane or gel – as codes vary from city to city.

Tip 2: Make sure the area right around your bowl is clear of branches or foliage that could catch fire. A good rule of thumb would be to allow at least six to ten feet of cleared space from the bowl.  Make sure there is nothing flammable around the area, such as overhead tree branches.
Tip 3: Most fire bowls made for burning real wood come with a mesh cover. Once your fire is lit and has burned down a little, be sure to use the screen. This keeps sparks from floating out of the bowl and any flammable debris from blowing into the bowl.

Tip 4: Never leave a fire unattended - when the people go in, the fire goes out! Resist putting your fire out by dumping a bucket of water on it. This will just raise a cloud of steam, send ashes flying and make it harder to light the fire the next time. 

Tip 5: Even though you'd like to spend more time relaxing and less time building the fire, never use accelerants like charcoal lighter fluid or gasoline to light the fire.

Tip 6: Take wind into consideration when deciding placement and type of fire bowl. Burning embers can get blown out of the fire bowl, so choose a protected area if you are going with wood as your fuel.

Tip 7: Remember that the metal in fire bowls gets hot. Let it cool thoroughly before attempting to handle the cover or moving the bowl.

Tip 8: Make sure what you use for your pit is approved for its intended use. The wrong material could explode or shatter.

Tip 9: Keep a bucket of sand, dirt or cold ashes handy, along with a shovel or metal rake. Move partially burned logs away from each other so they begin to cool and use the sand or dirt to cool and smother the coals.

Tip 10: Keep a fire extinguisher close at-hand.  It should be a dry-chemical extinguisher with a Class B and C or multipurpose rating, such as the one you have in your kitchen. Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, and squeeze the trigger slowly.

Remember that at Blais Insurance your safety is our biggest concern. Be sure to call us today to learn more about how to protect your home from any potential dangers and discuss your current policy at 401.725.0070. 

Information from this article was provided by: Top 10 Tips for Using Fire Bowls and Fire Pit Safety.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Being Prepared Keeps Families Safe

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

In 2012, approximately 365,000 fires occurred in homes throughout the U.S., resulting in almost 3,000 deaths and over 12,500 injuries.  Though the rates of these instances have been declining over the past decade, Blais Insurance wants you and your family to be fully prepared in case of an emergency.

As fires spread rapidly through your home, they leave you with as little as two minutes to escape.  This is why it is necessary to take full precautionary measures and be ready at a moment’s notice.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, here are some essential tips to ensure your family’s safety:

    Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.
    Draw a floor plan of your home and mark two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.  Mark the location of each smoke alarm.
    Practice your escape routes with your family members to be sure everyone knows all possible routes and memorizes their options.
    Plan routes from each floor in case the fire begins from lower levels of the home and make it impossible to leave from the bottom floor.
    Designate an outside meeting place (i.e. a mailbox, neighbors driveway) that is a safe distance from your home for everyone to meet back at after they have escaped.
    Inform guests about your family’s escape plan, especially those who are staying overnight.
    Perform monthly fire drills, and have your family practice getting low in case of toxic smoke on their escape out of the home.

Remember in tall buildings to never use the elevator in the event of a fire, and to talk to your building manager about posting evacuation routes for each floor. When searching for an apartment or high-rise home, be sure to look for one with an automatic sprinkler system, as these can extinguish a home fire in less time than it takes for the fire department to arrive. 

- If you have an elderly resident living in your home, various other precautions should be taken to ensure their safety as they may require more assistance in case of an emergency.  The U.S. Fire Administration has created an entire packet for these instances and can be accessed here:

- For more fire safety tips and access to printable lists for your home, visit

At Blais Insurance, your safety and security is our top priority.  For a complimentary review of your current policies, call us at (401) 725 - 0070.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Department of Business Regulation Issues Alert on Ride-Sharing

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

This past week, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, Insurance Division, issued their Consumer Alert 2014-4: Participation in Ride-Sharing Programs/Potential Insurance Implications. This document outlines the insurance implications for those who engage their vehicle in ride-sharing, and the potential gaps that could affect them in the future.

Ride-sharing is the fast-growing system of offering your vehicle for personal transportation services. These types of operations involve pre-arranged services using an online-enabled application to connect with potential passengers.  Companies such as Lyft, UberX, and Sidecar are some familiar examples of these types of programs.

As this type of transportation is becoming vastly popular in urban areas, these potential insurance implications are important to be informed about, so below are the general summaries of each that are highlighted in the document:

-       Operators/drivers who intend to offer for hire transportation services must be licensed by the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) and maintain a minimum of $1.5 million commercial liability insurance
-       Such drivers much also obtain a Hackney Operator’s License issued by the DPUC prior to offering their services.
-       R.I. Gen. Laws require these services be provided in vehicles bearing “Public Registration License Plates.”

The document also covers the potential gaps in Personal Auto policies that one should talk to their agent about immediately prior to engaging in ride-sharing:

-       Liability Coverage: exclusions of this type of coverage for the ownership or operation of a vehicle as being used to public or livery conveyance.
-       Medical Payments Coverage: most policies exclude this coverage for any insured for bodiy injury if occurred while vehicle is being used for public or livery conveyance.
-       Coverage for Damage to your Auto: your policy will not pay for loss to your covered auto or any non-owned auto while being used as a public or livery conveyance.

The consumer alert clarifies that ride-sharing should not be confused with a ‘share-the-expense’ car pool, as those gaps in policies will not apply during such instances.

We encourage you to read more about this new alert here. If you are considering using your vehicle to participate in these types of services, please contact Blais Insurance at 725.0070 and we would welcome the opportunity to review your options to make certain you are fully protected.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life Insurance Can Help Families Cope With The Unexpected

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Preparedness goes a long way toward coping with the curveballs life throws at us. It’s not necessary for us to report for spring training to be ready for the unexpected, but a consultation with our insurance agents could help whip us into solid financial shape.
Your agent can show you how families can leverage life insurance to replace income when a breadwinner passes or when a relative such as a grandparent wants to help out with college or wedding expenses. 

Studies show that when the income of a principal earner is lost, it takes families several years to recover financially. It’s possible to alleviate some or all of such a burden with life insurance, which can pay for funerals and burials; credit card debt; loans; legal fees; estate taxes; immediate household expenses; long-term obligations; or future costs. I am confident you want to ensure that your family will not lose its home, medical expenses will be covered or your children will be able to pursue their educational goals.  

Life insurance coverage can also be used to replace retirement savings a family was anticipating. With the appropriate coverage, a spouse or domestic partner will still have a stable and comfortable retirement even if his or her significant other has passed away.

Ask your agent if a select term or whole life insurance policy that covers one or two income producers is best for you and your family. Also, inquire about what policy riders, some of which might remain level for 30 years, are suitable. In addition, you might be able purchase a children’s term rider that you can convert at the time of expiration to provide lifetime coverage for each child.

Because grandparents are considered to be extended caregivers of children, they can purchase life insurance in a grandchild's name. Such policies are an excellent tool families can utilize to provide financial protection for their most precious “possessions.” If a child is under the age of 14 ½, parents must sign the policy.

We would be happy to sit down with you to review your options and design a plan customized to your specific needs and budget. To schedule a complimentary policy review, call Blais Insurance at 725.0070.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Important New Year’s Resolutions

By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC

Many things can change over the course of a year. Since January marks the beginning of a new year, it’s important we take the time to complete some essential tasks. As you’re making resolutions to eat healthier you should also consider accomplishing some of the following tasks in 2014:

Review your current insurance polices. Often times your needs for insurance change—reviewing your policies can ensure that you are receiving the right amount of coverage. If you have made improvements to your home, you may need to increase your coverage. If your teenage son receives his driver’s license you will need to add him to your auto insurance. Every year you should make an appointment with your agent to review your insurance policies. You may uncover potential gaps in coverage and perhaps even discover new ways to save money.

Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. You need to change your batteries in every smoke detector and CO alarm once a year and you should test each alarm once a month to ensure it is working properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 73% of smoke alarm failures are due to missing or dead batteries.

Replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters. Changing a filter is inexpensive and will cut down on energy costs. It is recommended you continue to replace them every 3 months.

Insulate your pipes. Insulating your pipes can prevent them from freezing and save you from costly water damage in the future.

Put together an emergency kit. The wintertime in New England can mean big snowstorms that could leave you stranded. You should always make sure you have the essentials in case of emergency: fire extinguisher, first aid kit, battery powered flashlight and radio, water and nonperishable food items, and a game plan. Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do in an emergency.

Update your inventory list. You'll need an accurate list of your possessions if you ever have to make a home insurance claim. After receiving gifts for the holidays, you probably have some additional items in your home. Make sure you have an up-to-date inventory and consider a special rider to cover expensive items that may exceed the limits of your homeowners policy.

We would be happy to sit down with you to review your options and design a plan customized to your specific needs and budget. To schedule a complimentary policy review, call Blais Insurance at 725.0070.