Sewage: The Importance of Having a Backup Plan

If you’ve experienced a sewer backup, you’re not alone. The Civil Engineering Research Foundation tells us this major inconvenience is increasing at a rate of 3 percent annually. What’s happening? There are several factors that typically contribute to this issue.

  • For one thing, aging systems don’t work like they used to. The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that the average age of U.S. sewer lines is over 30 years.
  • Combined pipelines fail to prevent backups. Some systems drain both storm water and raw sewage. When a big storm hits, they can’t always handle the volume.
  • Systems get uprooted. Tree roots often grow around or through pipes, causing damage.
  • Sanitary main blockages occur. When the city’s sanitary main backs up, many homes can be affected.

Fortunately, insurance coverage is available to assist homeowners with this less-than-pleasant event. Typically you can add sewer backup coverage to your insurance for $40 to $50 annually. Of course, you’d like to avoid the disaster altogether. Here are some actions you can take to prevent sewer backups before they happen:

  • Don’t pour grease down the drain. Even if it passes through your system, it will solidify in the main sewer line, eventually causing a clog.
  • Trim your trees. It’s not the branches you need to worry about; tree roots can require occasional trimming to prevent pipe damage.
  • Use plastic piping. This will provide further protection against tree roots.
  • Avoid illegal connections. It is illegal to connect French drains (weeping tile), sump pumps, and other flood-control systems to your sanitary sewer.
  • Use a backwater prevention valve. This valve prevents backflow, allowing sewage to flow out but not in.

Unfortunately, these precautions don’t guarantee a backup-free zone. If a backup does occur, you should photograph the affected areas, make a list of losses, and track all your expenses for repairs, cleaning, and other costs. But most important: contact your insurance company ASAP!

Filing a Homeowners Claim? Follow These 4 Easy Steps

If you’re one of the fortunate souls who has never had to file a homeowners insurance claim, be forewarned: the process can be intimidating. However, while it’s important to follow certain procedures, the actual steps are fairly simple. If your house or personal property is damaged or burglarized, here’s what to do:

  1. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Tell them what happened, providing as much information as possible. Have your policy number or the name of your agent available. If you are unable to stay in your home, be sure to let them know where you can be reached. Keep in mind some companies offer mobile apps to make filing even easier.
  2. Complete any necessary paperwork. This may sound daunting, but your agent can walk you through it. Required paperwork includes a proof-of-loss form. As well, an adjuster may come to the site to confirm damage and complete a report. If your home was burglarized or vandalized, you’ll also need to file a police report. For your own records, document your contacts with insurance representatives and officers, writing down their names, titles, and dates.
  3. Document damage. Take pictures. Use your home inventory to help with this process. If possible, safely make temporary repairs to protect your property from further damage.
  4. Record your expenses. If you complete temporary repairs or incur additional living expenses, track these costs for reimbursement.

As you complete this process, stay in contact with your insurance agent, who can partner with you to navigate these steps.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself About Insurance

Life insurance can be an important component of a financial plan, but it’s important for you to do your homework to ensure that you get the policy you need.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself:

Do you need life insurance? The primary purpose of life insurance is to protect the people you leave behind – your spouse, children, or others who depend on you.

Can you get coverage? Be upfront when applying for coverage: If you don’t, your claim may be disallowed, and your loved ones left with nothing.

What kind of life insurance is best for you? Pure term policies aren’t investment vehicles – you pay a premium, and the policy pays your beneficiaries a certain amount when you die. Whole polices combine term policies with an investment product, and build cash value.

How much do you need? Consider your family’s income needs over the course of your policy. This includes expenses such as mortgage payments, college tuition, medical bills, and funeral costs.

How much can you afford? Many people who buy whole life insurance often buy too little, leaving themselves underinsured.

What length should your term be? The length of your term will depend on your long-term income outlook.

Do you want any riders? Disability and other waivers are available; be sure to look into them.

Can you to convert the policy? If you outlive your term life insurance policy, you may want to convert it near the end of the term so you won’t need another medical exam to qualify.

Is the insurance company stable? Life insurance companies are usually in excellent financial health, but you should still check out their rating.

Do you know how to shop for insurance? Of course, you can buy life insurance on the Internet, but for a policy that’s tailored to your needs, consult your insurance advisor, who is familiar with your financial situation and your goals.

Mobile Apps ‘Weigh in’ on Your Health and Fitness Status

Mobile health management is an emerging field in medical treatment that uses technology to improve health outcomes. Among the many new technologies are smartphone apps. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll, 68 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and we’re turning to smartphone apps to monitor our fitness. For example:

  • S Health monitors steps and water intake and even your heart rate; just hold your finger to your phone’s sensor.
  • The Moves app tracks your activity calories and provides an “automatic diary of your life.” Are you most active in the morning? Consider taking a walk in the afternoon.

Other apps have been developed to help manage chronic diseases and other issues:

  • BlueStar is one of several mobile applications that can help diabetics manage type 2 diabetes and track medications, exercise, and food intake in one easy application. Users enter their glucose levels, which the application monitors, and then receive personalized coaching from the app. It can even offers decision support to the prescribing physician.
  • Cozi manages family activities, including doctor’s appointments. As we age, the number of doctor’s appointments we must manage for ourselves and our spouses can become overwhelming. Cozi juggles them for you.

They’re easy to install and intuitive to use. Plus, medical and fitness apps offer their benefits with few downsides.

Cruising Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

While a relaxing cruise may seem like the least risky of all travel adventures, a recent study by Fast Cover Travel Insurance found that more than half of the costliest travel insurance claims arose from cruising risks.

Out-of-country treatment: When traveling abroad, many injured travelers find their domestic health insurance will deny coverage for medical expenses incurred outside the U.S. And even if your health insurer does pay for out-of-country medical treatment, foreign or cruise medical providers likely won’t be in your health insurer’s network; that means you pay out-of-network medical costs up front, which may seriously cramp your vacation budget. Repatriation (returning patients to their home nations for treatment) can easily exceed $10,000, and is not covered under many health plans.

Before you nation hop – even if it’s on a cruise – contact your health insurer to determine what benefits apply to out-of-country health costs.

Medicare: If you’re on Medicare, for example, reimbursements for travel medical expenses are limited, often with the following exceptions:

  • Medical service while traveling between Alaska and the continental U.S. through Canada
  • Coverage for cruise ship medical care if a ship is within six hours of arriving at or departing from a U.S. port
  • Nonurgent outpatient care expenses, if you live adjacent to Mexico or Canada and travel to the nearest hospital in those countries for treatment.

So before your next cruise, don’t worry about an unanticipated illness or injury and how you might pay for treatment. Consider travel insurance. It’s surprisingly affordable and can also cover travel delays or cancellations and lost luggage, as well as providing local assistance should medical problems arise. Repatriation is also a major benefit option available under most travel insurance plans.

Cruise lines design their trips to be relaxing events. However, an injury or illness can seriously disrupt your vacation. Talk to your agent to determine if travel insurance is right for you.

Technology creates new opportunities and options for your business. Most of these are good; some aren’t. In today’s marketplace, businesses must be prepared for cyber threats. Here are five you should watch out for:

  • Hacktivists-These tech pros are on a mission to make a political point or embarrass your company. Their actions can range from benign to seriously damaging.
  • Criminal hackers-Not to be confused with hacktivists, criminal hackers are trying to accumulate funds illegally. Think of them as online thieves. Their hope is to find a way into your system to siphon your funds.
  • Intellectual property threats-Hackers may seek out technical plans, blueprints, patents, or other secured information. This intellectual property gives them access to sensitive information at a great cost to your business.
  • Terrorism-These hackers aren’t looking for monetary gain, and they definitely aren’t playing an embarrassing prank. Terrorists may want to steal information that aids in a physical attack.
  • Disgruntled employees-The other four types of cyber threats are all external; this one operates from the inside. An unhappy employee has access to passwords and other insider information and can use his or her insider status to inflict damage on your company.

Stop hackers in their tracks

To protect their companies and their employees, business owners must be prepared for these threats. However, it’s not about trying to avoid being hacked. You should expect these cyber threats to happen; no one can avoid them entirely. The goal is to make breaches as small as possible, and to act quickly to minimize damage.

Business owners should realize they can stop a hack in progress. Strong security and careful scanning can alert you to hackers’ activity. Hackers’ reconnaissance missions are often lengthy; on average, 240 days pass before they’re noticed. Try to spot them early to begin identifying who they are, what systems they’re in, and how you can cut them off.

Contain and act quickly

Once the hackers are ensconced, you need to implement a predetermined plan to handle the attack. It’s essential to have analytics and legal teams at the ready to intervene; if a plan is not already in place before a cyber threat happens, the proper resources cannot be moved quickly into place to handle the issue.

Something else to keep in mind is focus. Too often, companies and legal teams are worried about potential litigation later on. The initial focus must be on surviving the current threat.

Being aware of these potential threats can help business owners understand their vulnerabilities and prioritize protective measures. Because these attacks are nearly inevitable, company owners must take steps to prepare on all fronts.

Cyber insurance

A key part of your preparation is cyber insurance. These policies cover liability for data breeches, and they’re essential. Without insurance, a nasty cyber attack could bankrupt your company and destroy all you’ve worked for. Discuss cyber insurance with your commercial insurance agent, who can help you select the coverage that’s best for your company.

Stop Thief! Protect Against Business Burglaries

If a thief breaks into your house and steals your TV, your homeowners insurance policy usually covers your losses. But what about a business burglary? Will insurance save you from these thieves?

Typically, yes. A business owner policy (BOP) covers theft. However, it does work a bit differently from homeowners insurance by providing additional protection business owners need. In addition to theft, fire, and liability, a BOP includes business interruption insurance.

If a thief walks away with the tools you need for construction work, the computer required to run your office, or the inventory you rely on for sales, your policy will help cover your lost operation time. It will keep money coming in while you are unable to run your business.

But like homeowners insurance, business owner coverage offers either actual value or replacement value for reimbursement of stolen property.

If you receive actual value, you will get the worth of the item(s) minus depreciation. With replacement value, you receive the amount it will cost to replace the item. The type of coverage you have for your business helps determine the rate of the premium.

Each owner must decide which is the most cost-effective for his or her business. Consult with your agent for advice on determining what is best for you.

Regardless of coverage type, you should keep complete records of all items at your business site. This can include receipts, photos, or a video documenting what is on the premises. This will provide proof for your claim and help expedite the process.