Is Your Business Prepared for a Disaster?

You may have the best plans in place for marketing, customer service, and growth, but if your business isn’t prepared for a disaster, it could all be for nothing.

When disaster strikes, businesses that aren’t prepared often don’t survive. Whether it’s natural or man-made, a major catastrophic event could close your doors forever if you’re not ready for it. It’s essential to get up and running again quickly. And this is possible only if you plan ahead.

Help prepare your business for disaster (and prevent minor events from becoming disasters) with these suggestions:

Evaluate and rate your risks

Start by evaluating your business. What disasters are you most likely to encounter? Rate them in terms of probability and severity – would your business be more affected by a hail storm or by a data breach? Once you’ve determined where your biggest risks lie, you can focus your efforts on protecting your business.

Back up data safely

It doesn’t matter the type of business; in today’s marketplace, every company relies on the electronic files that are critical to its operations. Have you backed up this information somewhere safe? Cloud storage now makes this process fairly simple for small businesses. Make sure all your critical data is backed up daily, and ensure you and your employees know how to access backups in case of emergency. You should also verify regularly that your backup systems are functional and reliable.

Communications plan

Do you have an emergency communications plan? If your business flow is interrupted by disaster, you need to be able to communicate both internally and externally, even when regular means of communication are down. Establish backup communication channels now so they’re ready when you need them.

Employee involvement

You may need to protect some aspects of your disaster preparedness measures, but do share as much of your disaster preparedness plan as possible with employees, so they know what their roles are in an emergency. Conduct drills, and develop an emergency preparedness manual to discuss in employee meetings. Answer any questions your employees might have.

Available resources

You don’t have to make these preparations alone. In fact, you shouldn’t; you have important internal resources available. Enlist the help of key employees. Assign them roles to fill if your company is faced with a disaster.

As well as internal resources, you also have a number of external resources available to you. The Small Business Administration, for example, offers emergency preparedness resources, including a strong focus on disaster recovery options. The link is www.sba.gov

Your insurance provider is also a resource. Discuss with your agent whether you have sufficient insurance coverage in the event of a disaster.

In considering your company’s degree of disaster readiness, have you now identified areas where you may not be prepared? Don’t wait; deal with these gaps now. Disasters are rarely expected. You may not know when they are coming, but you can take the right steps to ensure your business is prepared – and can fully recover – when one hits.

How to Make Your Insurance Claim as Easy as PIE

There’s been an incident. You need to start the claims process. To many in this scenario, this responsibility not only looms large, but can feel intimidating. Whether the situation involves an employee injury, an auto accident, or property damage, follow this PIE recipe to make the process faster, easier, and less intimidating.

Photograph: Capture images of the scene. Photograph vehicle damage, physical injuries, and the location of the incident. Documenting everything when it happens will help provide accurate information for all parties involved.

Inscribe: In addition to taking photos, write down all the details. Things may seem crystal clear at the time, but memories fade. Create clear notes that cover who is involved, where it happened, what time, what the circumstances were, and any other pertinent data. This material will be helpful for insurance providers as well as for you when you review the situation later on.

Expedite: File the claim ASAP. The sooner you can get all the information to your insurance provider, the better. Fresh information is clearest. Supplying details right away also allows the carrier to provide quicker and more accurate service.

As you go through this process, keep in mind that your insurance provider is your partner, there to help you through every step. Like you, the insurer wants your claims process to be as efficient and painless as possible.

Contact your agent if you have questions, and respond as quickly as possible to your insurer’s requests. Providing additional documentation or statements in a timely way will help create a seamless process for your claim.

How to Make Your Auto Insurance B.E.T.T.E.R.

For most of us, car insurance is not an expense we can avoid. The good news is, while we may not be able to eliminate the cost, we can make it B.E.T.T.E.R. Here’s how:

Buy a car with insurance in mind: When it comes to insurance, not every car is created equal. If you’re purchasing a car, consider how much the insurance will be. Vehicles with certain features and good safety records are cheaper to insure. Consult with your agent as you car shop to determine your best options.

Embrace a higher deductible: Many people get anxious at the thought of a higher deductible. Don’t be intimidated. It could actually save you in the long run. You may be able to reduce your premium by up to 40%.

Take teen discounts: Insuring your adolescent children can get pricey. Take advantage of any discounts available. Do they get good grades? Will they be away from home for college (and only need coverage during breaks)? Can you assign them to your least-expensive vehicle? Ask your agent what options are available.

Trim your coverage: Do you have an older vehicle? If you have full coverage, you may be over-insuring the car. Check its value. If it is less than 10 times the premium cost, it might be best to drop any coverage beyond liability.

Establish good credit: Research reveals that people with better credit scores make fewer insurance claims. As a result, many insurers use credit information to help determine insurance rates. Stay out of debt, pay bills on time, and check your credit score regularly to ensure all the information is correct.

Request other discounts: Talk to your insurance provider about additional discounts that might be offered. Common discounts include multipolicy, good driver, limited mileage, and antitheft devices.

Insurance gives us piece of mind, but by making it B.E.T.T.E.R., we can feel comfortable financially, too.

What Happens to Car Insurance When Crossing Borders?

Are you planning a road trip? Does your adventure include crossing international borders? If so, make sure you have proper auto insurance before you hit the highway.

Most U.S. and Canadian insurance policies cover both countries. Insurance laws differ between the two, but your policy most likely includes a provision for travel across the border. When you cross, your policy is still active. However, it’s a good idea to contact your provider to confirm. Your agent may also send you a temporary insurance card to take with you. In addition to this documentation, you should also pack your proof of citizenship.

Traveling to Mexico is different. U.S. insurance companies may provide coverage for vehicle damage in Mexico but not liability coverage; you must purchase a separate policy from a Mexican insurance provider. You may be able to purchase coverage as you cross, but having it in place before you start your trek is preferable.

Do you plan to leave your car at home and travel abroad? If you rent a car in another country, your insurance policy usually doesn’t provide coverage. You will need to purchase rental insurance. The U.S. embassy in that country can provide information about the rental car insurance requirements there. Some places require coverage which is only available in that country.

Before you travel, contact your carrier. Let them know about your trip, find out exactly what your policy covers, determine if you need any additional documentation and make plans to purchase international coverage if needed.

Be a Happy Quitter: These Resources Can Help

Everyone knows the risks of smoking. But as many former smokers can attest, quitting smoking may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Some people have attempted to quit up to 30 times before they’re successful.

Even if you’ve failed before, there are many free programs and prescription medications that can help you succeed this time. For example: The American Lung Association (ALA) offers a program called Freedom From Smoking. Available online or by smartphone, this interactive program guides you through the quitting process with support from successful quitters. Additionally, Freedom offers small-group sessions around the country; you can find your local group through the ALA’s interactive national map, by clicking on your state.

Smokefree.gov is another source of help. Whether you want to quit or you need help after you’ve quit, visit the free website and click on an appropriate link to get needed support.

Your health care insurance provider is a great resource to help you stop smoking. Medicare, for example, benefits if you stop smoking, because medical interventions are typically less costly for nonsmokers. It covers smoking cessation medications, including sprays and some oral medications (Part D coverage may offer a wider range of medications than basic Medicare), and also offers up to four individual counseling sessions plus two quit attempts per year. And did you know that most health insurance companies also offer smoking cessation programs?

If you are currently enrolled in a plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also called Obamacare), you may have some level of coverage for stop-smoking programs.

Future policy changes may impact your coverage, so if you’re hoping to quit at some point, you may want to look into these benefits now.

But never quit trying. When a smoker quits, that smoker and his or her family members all benefit. And while it’s difficult, you can do it with the help of these and other resources.

Discover the Health Benefits – and the Joys – of Walking

As summer arrives, walking can be a great way to increase your overall health. Like other forms of exercise, walking improves our mood and makes us more productive. Furthermore, as we age, the risk of falls due to balance issues increases; walking reduces the risk by improving coordination and balance. Best of all, walking can strengthen bones and muscles and help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

To meet the 30-minutes-per-day activity goal set by experts, increase your footsteps by parking far from your destination and walking. You also can carve out a time at work to do stairs, and if you have a company gym, get in early and do the treadmill. As well, ask if your local indoor mall permits early-bird walkers.

Then there’s this win-win: make a new friend while improving your health, by joining nextdoor.com and looking for neighbors who are seeking walking partners.

Track your progress electronically. There are easy-to-install apps for smartphones that track your steps: S Health tracks steps, time, and even the amount of water you drink per day. Map My Walk shows your route and mileage.

Fitbit sets a goal of 10,000 steps per day (doable in just over an hour, spread throughout the day.) Fitbit’s a wearable, so unlike your easily forgotten phone, steps don’t go uncounted; you get credit for each step.

Finally, by walking outside at this time of year, you can take advantage of a bonus not all forms of exercise can provide: fresh air and sunlight!

You May Need More Insurance Than You Think

Many people avoid making decisions about life insurance because no one likes to think about his or her own death – but if you have a spouse or others who rely on your income, it’s important to ensure they’ll be cared for if something happens to you. And that requires purchasing an appropriate amount of life insurance coverage.

When considering how much coverage is necessary, people often react with horror at the numbers, such as $250,000, $500,000, or even $1 million. “Why would I need that much?” they ask.

The fact is, you might need even more.

Many people consider life insurance a means of providing a lump sum of money that will be gradually spent down. But imagine if the money could actually work for your survivors, earning them a steady annual return. For example, a 6% return on $1 million is $60,000 a year – enough to provide the basics in many care facilities – and a 6% return on $2 million is $120,000 a year, which is a good annual income for your survivors.

Many think they’re covered by a life insurance policy provided by an employer; this is a common misconception. Companies usually only provide the equivalent of a year’s salary, which is probably not enough. As well, your employer’s life insurance benefits may not be portable should you change jobs; you might need several term life insurance policies, which can be added at different times.

If you are concerned about cost, note that there are different types of life insurance. Term life insurance, for example, is the most affordable. It pays a benefit to the survivors you name, if and when you die within the specified “term” or period of time.

If possible, purchase your term life insurance policy sooner rather than later; the younger you are, the greater your chances of being healthy in the long term, and the lower your premium will be.