Winter months mean heightened wildfire risk

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When the thermometer hits 80 degrees in January, it is hard to remember this is our winter season. But a drive along Florida’s forested highways is a visual reminder. Much of our greenery is brown, since rainy season is months away. And, that means the wildfire risk is heightened. From January through March, the wildfire risk in Southeastern states increases.

The state Dept. of Agriculture publishes a daily Wildland Fire Danger Index and only a few counties are currently at moderate risk (thanks to some recent thunderstorms). But the wildfire threat is present until we hit the summer months, so you’ll be hearing those Smokey the Bear commercials on the radio. Smokey’s familiar refrain (“Only you can prevent forest fires.”) is a refresher on some of the simple things to avoid, such as making sure your car does not start a wildfire. Hot cars parked on dry grass is like a match to a fireplace log.

Smokey knows 90% of wildfires are caused by humans. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has tips on reducing wildfire risks. Top tips: Create defensible space by removing decayed leaves and trees near your home, and build with fire resistant materials.

#1 reason for unpaid hurricane claims? Minor damage

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The 2016 hurricane season is a wrap, and you are probably seeing a few news stories detailing the number of insurance claims from Hurricane Matthew, as well as the  insurance claims from Hurricane Hermine. More than 87 percent of claims from Hermine are closed; almost 78 percent of claims from Matthew are closed. But the news headlines do not focus on that positive note. Instead, they point out that about a third of claims from the storm are unpaid. You have to read down six paragraphs in the newspaper story to find out why. I’ll tell you in the second paragraph below.

There are two primary reasons claims are closed without being paid:

  1. Storm damage was minor and under the amount of the hurricane deductible, or
  2. The damage was not covered by the policy.

Everyone knows headlines don’t tell the whole story. They are designed to attract attention and are not written by the reporter, but by someone looking to grab the reader.  To be truly informed, we have to look beyond the headline, true?

Insurers have encouraged policyholders to report storm damage even if it is minor because Florida has a calendar year hurricane deductible. That means storm damage from more than one storm in a season counts toward the deductible amount.

Damage not covered from the storms would include falling trees that do not damage an insured property, such as your house or fence.

Now you know rest of the story.

Business strategy for 2017: Plan for 3-day waiting period for business interruption insurance

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During hurricane season, emergency preparedness professionals suggest that people have enough food and water around to last three days. Business owners need to plan for three days on their own, too. But it’s not about food and water; it’s about cash reserves.

One important coverage for a business owner to consider is business interruption insurance. It is triggered due to a slowdown or suspension of a business’s operations due to a covered peril, such as a fire or hurricane. And, it has limitations that must be recognized, with the most important being the typical waiting period of 72 hours before coverage kicks in.

Why is there a waiting period? It exists to lower the cost of insurance coverage and to encourage the business to take necessary, immediate steps to minimize business losses. There are ways to reduce or remove that waiting period, at an additional cost. However, knowing the coverage does not go into effect the moment the lights go out is the first step to planning for it. Many small businesses do not do that. After every natural disaster, they learn about it too late.

Business owners should find insurance coverage that matches their business size, that suits their particular needs, and they must remain confident in their understanding of how a commercial insurance policy works. Now is the time for small-business owners to take a hard look at their risks and make a plan for 2017.

According to the Small Business Administration, 99.7% of all businesses are small. If that sounds surprising, understand the SBA defines “small” as a business with fewer than 500 employees. About 80% of businesses are VERY small, as in under 10 employees. Thinking big is a success strategy as necessary for the sole proprietor as it is for the CEO of a giant corporation. It includes thinking about how to make it through the first 3 days after disaster strikes. With a well-conceived plan, the disaster itself may certainly ruin your day (or month), but it won’t ruin your business.

Don’t want your car stolen? Take the keys!

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Car thieves love Honda Accords. They are also rather fond of the Honda Civic. Both models are ranked as the top two most-stolen cars in America. The fact they are also among the most popular cars has a lot to do with it, of course. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) keeps track of this data, and there’s quite a lot to keep up with since a car is stolen about every 46 seconds.

Make it a safely scary Halloween

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The trick-or-treaters are coming! You’ve stocked up on candy; have you taken stock of the safety of your property?

It’s great when homeowners spookify their home for the season. But you don’t want to put the scare into Halloween revelers with hazards that may cause someone to go bump in the night on your property– and sue you for the damages.

Matthew Recovery: 40,000 insurance claims so far

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As of this morning, there have been nearly 40,000 insurance claims filed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew. Those numbers will surely rise in the coming days as people continue to find damage to their property related to the storm that hit Florida a mere four days ago.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation released Matthew claims data on October 12.  About 90% of the claims were for residential property damage. So far, there have been 1,800 flood claims reported by people with flood policies through the National Flood Insurance Program, and 28 claims for private flood insurance, which is coverage outside the government program.