Over the river and through the woods in Milwaukee…

Millions of Americans will do some traveling this holiday season – the majority of it by car. Winter weather creates a unique set of challenges on the roadways, whether you’re simply driving around Oak Creek or headed to New Berlin.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we’d like to help you not only enjoy your holiday season, but help ensure you’ll be around for future holidays, too! So please take these winter-travel safety tips to heart.

Prepare your car for winter

Before leaving on your trip in SE Wisconsin, give your car a thorough check-up. Do wipers need to be replaced? Are your fluid levels where they should be? Tires in good shape? And – we know you’ve heard this before, but bear with us – your car should have an emergency kit. Pack it with jumper cables, blankets, a first-aid kit, flares, water, a flashlight, etc. A shovel and sand are good ideas as well.

Before you leave

Know where you’re going and check weather conditions along your planned route. Let someone know your itinerary. If your car has snow or ice on it, make sure it is completely cleared off before you depart. Don’t forget to clear your headlights and other lights, along with the roof – ice and snow blowing from your car could create a hazard for other drivers.

When you’re on the road

Are roads snowy or icy? Take it slow. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, and make sure you leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road. Watch for ice patches on bridges, overpasses, and shady spots. Remember, having four-wheel or all-wheel drive does not mean your car will stop or steer better on ice.

Of course, sometimes it’s best not to drive in snow and ice at all – stay home if you can.

If your vehicle becomes disabled

Nobody wants to think about being stranded on the side of the road in a storm, but it happens to thousands of people every year. If your vehicle is disabled, be sure to stay with it. Run your engine and heater for short intervals, and open one of your windows slightly to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. Light two flares (remember that vehicle emergency kit? Now’s the time to use it) and place one a safe distance from both the front and rear of your vehicle. Note your location with mileposts, exit numbers or cross-streets, and call the authorities or a tow truck.

We hope you enjoy your holidays with friends and family, and we look forward to serving you in the New Year!

Boat Winterization

Tucking your boat in for the winter?

 For boat enthusiasts everywhere, the end of boating season can be disappointing because on-the-water adventures are ending and the task of winterization is beginning.

Taking the time to protect your watercraft through the winter requires an investment of time, labor, and money. While winterization is an absolute imperative that can help prevent damage, think of the process not as a chore, but a chance to dream about next spring when you’ll be ready to go boating on Little Muskego, Pewaukee Lake, etc.

To help you get started, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee have compiled two essential steps to follow.

1. Find the best storage place indoors or outdoors

  • If possible, find a place to have your boat spend the winter out of water and well out of the way of inclement weather.
  • If you are storing your boat outdoors, check on the level of security. For example: Is it a locked facility? Are there cameras?

2. Be thorough in winterizing or find a pro

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the steps to winterizing your boat can be easily found via many online resources. Your boat’s owner’s manual also could be a great help, as most will include detailed winterization instructions.

Regardless where you get the details, you will ensure a better start next boating season if you follow a comprehensive checklist to get your boat ready for winter.

If you’re opting out of the do-it-yourself category and instead trusting the pros, you’ll want to find a shop that specializes in winterization. Get an appointment well in advance of the assault of inclement weather. To find the best option, consider getting a reference from a fellow boating enthusiast.

However you choose to prepare your prized watercraft for the frigid days of winter, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee hope you enjoy the cooler season as you await the return of spring!

Heading to Sturgis?

Motorcycle trips

Whether you’re taking your Harley and heading across country, or just hitting the Wisconsin back roads, we want you to be safe this summer. Here are a few top tips:

No one’s too old to wear a helmet

The bottom line, a motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to sustain a fatal head injury in a crash than a rider with a helmet.* Wear other protective gear as well: heavy leather or synthetic gloves, long pants and jacket, and over-the-ankle leather boots.

In a crash, the SUV wins

When cars and motorcycles collide, it’s usually because the driver of the car failed to see the cyclist. With more SUVs on the road, it’s even more critical to take extra steps to become more visible. Use your headlamps—both night and day—and wear yellow, red, or orange jackets to make yourself easy to see. Make a point of positioning yourself in your lane for visibility.

New Gear? Update your policy

Some companies (Safeco for instance) offer special coverage for custom parts and equipment—but you have to make sure each piece of equipment is listed on your policy and/or that you have receipts. Any time you buy new leathers or customize your bike, call the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 or email info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com before you head out on the highway.

Teen Driving Safety

Talking to Your Teen About Safe Driving

When teens begin to drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council, the sobering statistics start to pile up:

• Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens ages 14 through 18.
• A teen’s crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers.
• Being in a car with three or more teen passengers quadruples a teen driver’s crash risk.
• More than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

You can help your young driver make better decisions behind the wheel. Set a good example yourself. Have a serious discussion about the following issues, all of which have a large impact on the safety of teen drivers:

• Speed: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding continues to grow as a factor in fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Thirty-three percent of such accidents in 2011 involved excessive speed. While a lot of emphasis is rightfully placed on the risks of driving under the influence or while distracted, the danger of speeding is just as important.

• Alcohol: If drivers are under 21, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal. It’s as simple as that.

• Seat belts: Teens don’t use their seat belts as frequently as adults, so it’s important to set a good example and always have yours on. Seat belts are the simplest way to be protected in a crash.

• Phones: Distracted driving is dangerous driving, especially for an inexperienced teen. That means no calls or texting when behind the wheel — no exceptions.

• Passengers: The risk of a fatal crash goes up as the number of passengers in a teen driver’s car increases, according to the NHTSA.

Of course, any driver needs to have a good grasp on the laws and rules of the road and, because teens don’t have much experience, it’s important to have regular conversations about safe driving. How teens drive doesn’t just depend on them. It depends on you, too!

Spring Home Maintenance

Spring Maintenance for Your Home

 When springtime rolls around in the Milwaukee area, almost everyone thinks of cleaning. We probably need to do a little more of that, after all, but there’s something even more important to keep in mind: home maintenance.

When it’s time to set your clocks ahead for daylight-saving time (March 12, 2017) and change the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, give your home a checkup too. Here are some suggestions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

Interior and appliances

  • Check the basement and/or crawlspace for any signs of standing water or dripping.
  • Pull your dryer out and clean the exhaust hose and vent (lint found here is a common cause of house fires).
  • Vacuum refrigerator/freezer coils for efficiency.
  • Clean exhaust fan outlets and screens.
  • Check all air filters and replace, if necessary.

 Roof, siding, windows

  • Check for damage to your roof
  • Go into the attic. If there is visible moisture or discoloration, your roof might be leaking.
  • Examine the paint on your siding and trim. If it is peeling, you might need new paint to protect against the effects of weather.
  • Check for leaks around window and door sills. Improving your seals can lower your energy bills.

Yard and exterior

  • Check for signs of rodents and other pests.
  • Clean debris from gutters and downspouts, and make sure they are draining away from the home.
  • Trim overhanging tree branches and shrubs away from your house.

Remember, winter weather can cause significant damage that is easy to spot, but it often results in wear and tear that homeowners can miss if they aren’t looking closely. It’s well worth it to spend a little time on home maintenance this spring, so that wear and tear doesn’t turn into something more serious.

Shovel Snow Safely

Shovel snow safely this winter

Winter is here, and with it comes many traditions and activities: Holiday celebrations with loved ones in Bay View Milwaukee, skiing at the local ski hill, fireplace-lit living rooms, homemade batches of soup… …and shoveling snow.

If you live somewhere in Wisconsin when snow storms hit and your driveway/sidewalks are covered with the cold white stuff, you might want to just stay inside. But if your work and personal commitments make that impossible, you’ll need to dig out the snow shovel to make sure it’s handy before the snow flies!

For many people across Wisconsin, snow shoveling will be both a reality and a necessity this winter. At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want to ensure your efforts will get you on your way while also keeping you safe, so here are some snow-shoveling tips offered by the Boston Herald:
• Warm-up! Never jump right into an activity. Start by cleaning off your car.
• Place your hands a good distance apart on the shovel – it helps with leverage.
• Never bend at your waist.
• Push the snow when you can.
• Scoop smaller loads of snow.
• Use your legs, core and arms to help scoop and throw snow.
• Always step in the direction you throw snow to avoid excessive twisting on your lower back.

If snow shoveling is on your winter task list, we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee wish you both a clear sidewalk and a healthy body.

Winter Storms

Winter Storms Ahead: Are You Ready?

We admit it. As insurance professionals, our picture of winter isn’t always cozy. Winter storms mean traffic jams, hillsides turning to sheets of ice, and cars sliding around like hockey pucks. Cold temperatures can cause pipes to burst, ice damming on your roof, and other damage. Heating your home with fireplaces and space heaters can increase the risk of fire.

A picture-perfect winter requires a few precautions

Here are a few tips to help reduce weather-related hassles this winter.

Winter-proof your car with good snow tires, new wiper blades, antifreeze, and emergency road supplies.

Keep your attic cool to help prevent ice dams. Insulate the attic floor and make sure it is well-ventilated.

Do not overload circuits with holiday decorations or space heaters.

When winter storms hit, be smart

If you do not have to drive, stay put. If you must drive, make sure you’ve winterized your car and have a full tank of gas.

When the air is cold, keep bath and kitchen cabinet doors open so warm air can circulate around pipes under sinks. If pipes do freeze, let them thaw normally—they’ll be less likely to burst.

And if the power is out, make sure you avoid leaving candles or fireplaces burning unattended. If you use a portable generator, follow the instructions and do not use it indoors.

Know what your insurance covers

We want to help you rest easy.  You will be more relaxed when you know you have prepared your property to lessen the chance of winter storm damage. Check your insurance policy to see what is covered and to confirm the deductible you have chosen.

If you have any questions about your coverage, call us at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee and we will help you review your options.

Insurance Tips for College-Bound

A Few Tips for the Parents of the College-Bound

College is expensive enough without the added cost of unexpected accidents or theft, not covered by your insurance policy. If you have a student heading away to school, here are a few tips to help get the most out of your coverage.

HOMEOWNERS (varies by state)

  • Personal Property:  Most homeowners policies will cover personal property for up to 10% of your total homeowner policy’s personal property coverage while your child is residing at school (a $100,000 of personal property coverage at your residence equals $10,000 in coverage off premises). Not all types of damage are covered, so read your policy carefully. Some items such as jewelry or expensive electronics, require special coverage. Renters insurance is strongly recommended if your child lives off campus in an apartment.
  • Documentation:  Creating an inventory of the items your child is taking to school is a good idea. Use photographs and keep receipts.

AUTO (varies by state)

  • Car Stays Home:  Keep your child listed on your auto policy if they will still drive your car while at home on school breaks as a “student away from home over 100 miles”.
  • Car at School:  Make sure to notify your agent if your child will be taking a car away to school. In most cases, if the car is registered to you and listed on your policy, it will be covered.
  • Driving a Friend’s Car:  Generally, students are covered if they are listed on their parent’s policy and are not regularly using the vehicle. The coverage would be secondary to the insurance for the friend’s vehicle which would be the primary coverage.
  • Discounts:  A full-time student meeting certain academic requirements can qualify for a good student discount (typically need a 3.0 GPA or better). Distant student discounts may also be available. Drivers under 21 who have completed driver’s education may also get a discount.

Call us at 414-744-6614 or e-mail info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com and we can walk you through the steps to ensure you have the right coverage. We’re here to help!

Boating Season

Periodically, our agency gets calls from clients after a fun weekend on the water takes a turn for the worse. Often, these accidents could have been prevented with just a few simple precautions. Here are a few tips we like – courtesy of our partners at Safeco.

Life Preservers Aren’t Just for Kids. It’s not enough to just have life jackets on board — wear them! In an accident, people rarely have time to reach for a life jacket. This rule applies to children AND adults – more people in their 30s die in boating accidents than any other age group. Today, you can even get vests for your water-loving dog!

Watch the Back of the Boat. Carbon monoxide kills in minutes. So tell your passengers where your exhaust pipes are located and turn off your engine when people are in the water, and don’t let passengers “ski” or “teak-surf” by holding on to the back of the boat. Carbon monoxide detectors are standard on most new boats; older boats have devices available typically for less than $100.

Alcohol and Boating Don’t Mix. More than 50 percent of drowning’s result from boating incidents involving alcohol. You don’t drink and drive, so don’t drink and boat.

Boats Need TLC Too. When you’re out on the water, make sure your gas tanks are vented and bilges are free of vapors, oil, waste and grease. Carry a charged fire extinguisher. Have your boat’s operating systems checked yearly by a certified marine technician. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons also offer free vessel safety checks.

Experience Counts! The U.S. Coast Guard says that operator errors account for 70 percent of all boating accidents. Make sure anyone who drives your boat is properly trained. You can also earn boat insurance discounts from Safeco and other insurers if you complete a safety course with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons.

Sites for Information:

Coast Guard: www.uscgboating.org    Coast Guard Auxiliary: nws.cgaux.org/

Safeco tips: www.safeco.com/insurance-101/consumer-tips/your-boat

Call the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 or e-mail info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com for more info on boat policies.

Grilling Safety

Summers mean backyard grilling – safely!

Just like hamburgers, brats, and hot dogs, a sizzling grill is a symbol of summer and grilling isn’t just about great food. Backyard barbecues often create treasured memories with friends and family.

Keep in mind, however, that when you grill, you’re literally playing with fire. Many people learn this the hard way, suffering damage to their homes or even serious injuries in grilling accidents.

Prevent grilling accidents by taking some simple precautions. The tips below can help ensure that you cook only your burgers — and not your house — the next time you fire up the grill.

TIPS FOR ALL GRILLS

Your grill, whether gas or charcoal, should be on a level surface outdoors, away from anything that could be ignited by flames (bushes, fences, house, deck, etc.).

NEVER use a grill indoors. Odorless carbon monoxide fumes could kill you.

Keep your grill clean and well-maintained. Check parts regularly to determine if replacements are needed.

Never leave a hot grill unattended or let children play near it.

CHARCOAL GRILL TIPS

From Kingsford.com

Do not add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. The flame could travel up the stream of fluid and burn you.

Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire.

Use flame-retardant mitts and long-handled barbecue tongs, as coals can reach up to 1,000 degrees.

To dispose of coals, allow the ashes to cool for at least 48 hours before disposal in a non-combustible container. If you cannot wait 48 hours, carefully place coals individually in a can of sand or bucket of water.

GAS GRILL TIPS

From the National Fire Protection Association

Check your grill’s hoses for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If you have a leak, and it will not stop after the grill and gas is turned off, call the fire department. If the leak stops when the grill and gas are turned off, have your grill serviced by a professional.

If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

Do not keep a filled propane tank in a hot car or trunk. When getting containers refilled, make that your last stop before going home.

Store propane tanks in an upright position, and never indoors.

From all of us at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, happy grilling, and stay safe this summer!