Category Archives: Home Insurance

Firework Safety

When Things go BOOM in the Night

 The Fourth of July is about having fun and creating memories with family and friends – whether at home in the Milwaukee area or away at a cabin on a lake.

Unfortunately, for some families the holiday is a nightmare. Homes each year in Wisconsin are damaged by wayward fireworks and thousands of people are injured in firework accidents.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want your holiday to be happy, but also safe. So here are some tips to help you protect yourself and your property on the Fourth.

Protecting yourself (and others)

  • To minimize the risk of injury, don’t use consumer fireworks. Attend a public display conducted by professionals at the Milwaukee lakefront or a neighboring community.
  • If using consumer fireworks, always follow instructions. Do not attempt to re-light “duds” or create homemade fireworks.
  • Never let children handle or light fireworks. Even sparklers, which burn at more than 1,000 degrees, can cause third-degree burns
  • A responsible adult should always be present when children – even teenagers – are around fireworks. More than half of fireworks injuries happen to those younger than 20 years old.

Protecting your home

  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, the best way to protect your home is to not use fireworks at home.
  • Remember, fireworks can cause grass fires and other types of blazes as well. Make sure you light fireworks in a safe area, away from homes and buildings, as well as other combustible material. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  • Look out for tree limbs or bushes that could catch fire. Trimming vegetation to keep it away from your home is a good idea anyway, but it could save you from a catastrophic fire on the Fourth of July.
  • If your gutters have accumulated leaves, pine needles or other flammable material, clean them before using fireworks near your home.
  • Finally, if you won’t be home on the holiday, ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house if others in your neighborhood will be using fireworks.

With some common sense and planning, the Fourth of July can be both safe and enjoyable for everyone. Whether you’re staying at home or heading to Milwaukee’s lakefront, we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating Independence Day!

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.

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!

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!

Fire Pit Safety

Be Careful When You Play With Fire, Even in the Backyard

 It’s a great feeling to hang out with friends and family around a blazing fire in your Milwaukee area backyard — unless that fire blazes a little too much.

While a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your yard, all fires are potentially dangerous. Before you sit down to roast marshmallows, we (at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee) have gathered up some tips to help you keep that fire in the pit and away from everything else.  While this list is no way all inclusive, it will get you started in the right direction.

Are you legal?

  • Before building or buying a fire pit, check the local regulations to learn about restrictions.
  • Your fire pit may be legal, but a fire might not always be. Monitor and follow community burn bans.

What kind of pit do you want?

  • You can buy a fire pit or build one. If you choose to build, there are plenty of resources online to help you design it. If you plan ahead, you’ll have a better — and safer — spot to enjoy.
  • If you want convenience, a propane model might be right for you. They produce less smoke and have an adjustable flame.

Ready to build your fire?

  • Ensure the area under and around the fire pit is clear of flammable materials. Keep the pit at least 10 feet from any structures.
  • Before you start the fire, have a fire extinguisher or a garden hose handy.

Okay, now are you ready to build your fire?

  • Choose hard, seasoned woods. Sparks from softer woods can increase the danger of igniting something nearby.
  • Don’t use liquid fuels or paper/cardboard in your fire.
  • Don’t overload a metal pit and always use the included safety screen.

Is the fire out?

  • When you’re done, spread out the ashes and let them cool off for a bit. Then gently pour water or sand over them. Stick around for a little while to watch for flare-ups.

We want you to have plenty of nice, warm nights — without getting burned. Here’s to making memories around the fire!

Identity Theft

Your Identity Belongs to You.
Protect It!

 The Bureau of Justice indicates that 17.6 Americans (about 7% of people 16 or older) were victims of identity theft in 2014.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics – Victims of Identity Theft, 2014 the victim characteristics are:

“More females (9.2 million) were victims of identity theft than males (8.3 millions). Among racial groups, whites experienced identity theft at higher rates (8%) than blacks (5%), other races (6%), or Hispanics (5%). Victims ages 25 to 64 (8%) had the highest rate of identity theft, compared to all age groups. Persons in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more had the highest prevalence of identity theft (11%), compared to those in all other income brackets.”

The smartest way to protect yourself from identity theft is to prevent it from happening to you by keeping close tabs on your social security number and financial accounts. However, if your identity is stolen, you’ll be able to lessen problems by acting quickly.

 

  • Call your credit card companies immediately. Explain what happened, and ask where to send a copy of the police report.
  • Call and report to the police. Make several copies of police report.
  • Complete a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Theft Affidavit and FTC report (call 1-887-ID-THEFT to request the forms).
  • Call your bank. They can place an alert on your Driver’s License number and Social Security Number, and freeze your account.
  • Call fraud units of credit report agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

 

Fortunately, identity theft protection is available as an endorsement on most homeowners’ policies at a small cost ($15-$25 per year). The coverage reimburses certain expenses associated with identity recovery. Customers can also get guidance on how to protect themselves from ID theft before it happens and may receive assistance with identity restoration.

If you’re interested in learning more, call the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 or e-mail info@InsuranceCenterMilwaukee.com

Jewelry Protection

Have some new jewelry in the house? Protect it!

Valentine’s Day is near and love is in the air. Well, love and a few other things, such as chocolates, candle-lit dinners, candy hearts that say “Be Mine” – and, of course, jewelry.

It’s exciting to receive jewelry from a loved one — or to give it as a gift.  If you’re lucky enough to have some new jewelry in your Wisconsin home this Valentine’s Day, you should take a few minutes to think about something you probably don’t find exciting or romantic: insurance.

Don’t know where to turn? Don’t worry. At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we think it is exciting to help our customers protect what’s most important to them — so we’re ready to help and can answer your questions.

Things to consider when insuring jewelry:

You may need to purchase additional coverage. Your home policy covers valuable items such as jewelry, but there are limits/exclusions.  If the cost of replacing your jewelry exceeds that limit, you will want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage. You can check your policy or give us a call at 414-744-6614.

An advantage of scheduling a piece of jewelry is the deductible. Scheduled jewelry can have a different deductible than the rest of your policy.  As always, this impacts your policy premium, so take a look at your deductibles whenever you make a change to your policy.

Do you need an appraisal? You may need to have an independent appraisal if the insurance company requires it.  It is best to have one on file even if they don’t require one.

What kind of coverage is offered? You’ll want to determine if items are covered no matter where they are, whether in Wisconsin or on an international trip, and if the policy has replacement cost.

Pictures can be helpful. Lost or stolen pieces of jewelry sometimes can be recreated if the jeweler has a good photograph available.

Is the value of your jewelry mainly sentimental? If the answer is “yes,” you might consider foregoing insurance. Talk to us at 414-744-6614 before making that decision. That’s why we’re here.

Of course, it’s important to store your jewelry securely when it’s not in use; a safe in your home or a safe-deposit box is best. We want your jewelry to be replaced if it’s lost or stolen, but we’d rather have your sentimental and valuable pieces stay with you and your family.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we hope your Valentine’s Day is awesome!

Contact Us!

For further questions and assistance, please contact us at 414-744-6614 or info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com

Condo Insurance

Condo or Condon’t — Condo Insurance

You’ve taken the plunge and opted for the condo life.  Now that the papers are signed, it seems like everything is taken care of for you—building maintenance, roof repairs, landscaping, insurance, etc.  It’s time to relax because everything is covered, right?

Not quite.  The insurance policy provided by the condo association typically covers the building structure and common areas, but what about potential damage to your unit (carpet, cabinets, etc) and covering your belongings?  Without a personal condo insurance policy, you could be left holding a large invoice if your unit is damaged in a fire, has water damage from a broken pipe, etc.

Most condos need two insurance policies.

Master Policy:  Generally provided by your condo association, this policy typically covers the physical structure of the building, including basement, roof, walls, elevators, lobbies, etc.  Coverage usually includes both physical damage and liability (for the association). Get a copy of the policy so you know what’s covered.

Personal Condo Policy:  This will cover additional structural damage to your unit, including cabinets, appliances, personal belongings, and more.  This also covers living expenses if you fall victim to a covered disaster and are displaced from your condo.  Many insurance carriers, such as Safeco InsuranceTM, offer enhancements that include personal property protection in your condo insurance policy. Safeco’s Full Value Contents® protection will pay the full replacement cost of your belongings, not just what they are worth today.

Contact us today at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee if you have questions!  Our phone number is 414-744-6614.

Fall Home Safety

Household safety tips change with the season

As days get shorter and nights get longer, our habits begin to change. Most of us typically spend more time at home and less time outside. That usually means resuming favorite fall pastimes like watching football games and drinking hot cocoa on the sidelines of our little ones’ soccer games.

Arriving along with the season of autumn is a host of safety hazards we didn’t have to think about over the summer, creating the need for a little extra vigilance. As the temperatures drop and you settle in for the approaching cold spell, consider the following pointers for ensuring you and your family stay not just warm, but also safe!

Warm up carefully. All types of heating units can be dangerous. If you use a wood-burning fireplace, secure it with a screen to prevent sparks, and make sure the fire is completely out before you retire for the night. In addition, make sure a qualified chimney sweep inspects and cleans your fireplace flue once per year. If you depend on your home’s furnace, make sure it has been inspected before you start to use it again. If you have any space heaters, make sure they are in good working order (no frayed cords) and out of the reach of children.

Enjoy ambiance safely. If you use candles to add a warm glow to a cold night, make sure they are safely out of reach of children, can’t be overturned by pets, and are not close to flammable items such as blankets, paper, or furniture. If you’re known for falling asleep before heading to bed, extinguish all candles early in the night to avoid an unsafe, all-night burning situation.

Exercise yard safety. If you’re going to be pruning trees and shrubs, hanging Halloween decorations, raking leaves, or engaging in other yard activities, use caution: be careful on ladders, avoid power lines, and put away yard tools when you’re finished.

Be grounded. Have weather-friendly shoes and boots handy for the whole family. This is the season for slippery driveways and walkways. Without proper footwear, you can find yourself on your back or in the hospital.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we wish you a fabulous fall season!

Contact Us!

We can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@InsuranceCenterMilwaukee.com. We want to help you meet your goals and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Renters Insurance

The Importance of Renters Insurance

If you live in a rental or apartment, there is a 60% chance that you don’t have the proper insurance. Despite the fact that rented homes are more likely to be burglarized than owner-occupied properties, nearly 60 percent of renters don’t have renters insurance.

Why does it matter?

“If you rent a house or apartment and think that your landlord is financially responsible when there is a fire, theft or other catastrophe—think again,” warns the Insurance Information Institute*. Landlords may have insurance to protect the building, but your landlord’s policy won’t replace your personal possessions. The best way to protect yourself financially against theft, fire, etc. is to buy a renters insurance policy.  Renters insurance can cover your possessions, liability, and additional living expenses. Let’s take a look at these three types of protection:

 Possessions

Standard renters insurance protects your personal belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, windstorm, water, and other disasters listed in the policy (see the policy for details) – floods are not covered. There are “special form” policies available as well and they cover many more perils than standard “broad form” policies.

To decide how much insurance to buy, you need to know a ballpark value to replace of all your personal possessions—including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, dishes, and even towels or bedding (most people insure their “stuff” for $20,000-$100,000). There are two types of settlement options for your possessions if there is a claim:

Actual Cash Value pays to replace your possessions minus an amount for depreciation up to the limit of your policy.

Replacement Cost pays the full cost of replacing your possessions (with no deduction for depreciation), up to the limit of your policy. The price to add replacement cost coverage is minimal, so always ask for replacement cost.

Note that most renters policies offer only limited coverage for items such as jewelry, guns, etc. If you own these items, you may want to supplement your policy with an endorsement. An endorsement is added to the policy providing additional insurance for valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy such as accidental loss.

Liability

This coverage is not what you typically think about when you think renters insurance.  Renters insurance policies usually provide liability protection in the event you unintentionally cause injury to others or damage their property.  It also pays for damage or injury caused by your pets.  If you are sued, the liability portion of a renters policy may pay for both the cost of defending you in court and for the damages, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000.

Additional Living Expenses

Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is typically included in a renters insurance policy. If the home or apartment you are renting is damaged or destroyed and you need to live elsewhere while it is being repaired or rebuilt, renters insurance will cover your additional living expenses—namely the difference between your regular living expenses and the additional costs incurred by having to live away from your home, such as hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, etc.

A typical renters policy costs $10 – $40 per month. Contact us today at 414-744-6614!

*Insurance Information Institute, September 30, 2009