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!

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.

Five Ways to Get your Car Stolen

Five sure-fire ways to get your car stolen

 Most people would say their car is one of the most valuable assets they own, however, some people make it easy for thieves to drive off in their pride and joy.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we don’t want you walking out your door to an empty driveway or leaving Mayfair Mall only to find some broken glass left behind in your parking space. So take care to avoid these five mistakes.

 

  1. Leaving your car running … and unattended. We know it can be chilly in the mornings and who wants to wait in a cold car while it warms up? Well, a thief certainly won’t mind the chill — as he’s driving away in your car while you’re finishing that cup of coffee in your kitchen. If your car is running, you should be in it.
  2. Keeping a spare set of keys inside the car. Law enforcement agencies say this is a great way to turn a car prowler into a car thief. They’re already breaking into your car to get a phone, laptop, etc. What do you think they’re going to do when they find a set of keys?
  3. Leaving valuables in plain sight. Seems simple, but we’ve all made this mistake. You’ll just be in the store for a second, after all, so who cares if you leave your smartphone on the front seat? Or items from your other errands in the back seat? Be smart — if you have to leave items in your car, put them in the trunk, or at least hide them as best you can. And do it before you get to your next destination.
  4. Leaving your car unsecured. The best thieves can work wonders with a window that’s left open even just a crack. While the worst thieves can steal a car that’s been left unlocked.
  5. Assuming nobody would want to steal your car. Think your car is too old or too undesirable for a thief to bother? Scrap metal is worth money, so never assume that your car is safe — even if you think it’s just a “junker.”

 

Keeping thieves away helps to keep everyone’s insurance costs down, so avoiding these mistakes not only will save you hassle, it will save you money as well. So stay safe, not only on the roads, but in the parking lots as well!

Contact Us!

 At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time shopping 12 top rated companies for you. 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!

Preparing for Winter Weather

Fall is quickly slipping away, but there’s still time to get ready for winter weather. Extreme cold is always a possibility here in the Milwaukee area, so we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee have compiled some tips to help you stay safe and limit damage.

Preparing your home

  • Perform basic winter maintenance — insulate your attic, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and insulate water pipes that run along outer walls. When temperatures drop, keep the cabinets under sinks open to allow warmer air in.
  • If you use a fireplace or wood stove, have the chimney or flue inspected each year. Make sure your house has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and test them monthly.
  • Check your emergency supplies and ensure that you have adequate food and water, along with a battery-powered radio, in the event of an extended power outage.
  • Never use gas-powered generators or barbecue grills indoors. These can allow deadly carbon monoxide to build up.

Preparing your car

  • Have your vehicle serviced according to manufacturer recommendations. Check the antifreeze level.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full, which helps avoid ice in the fuel tank.
  • Replace wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure your tires are in good shape and have the proper air pressure.
  • Check to confirm your battery has a good charge, your heater and defroster are working well, and that your emergency lights are functional.

Preparing yourself

  • Always wear temperature-appropriate clothing, such as hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Remove any wet clothing immediately. And keep spare clothing or a blanket in your car trunk throughout winter in case you are stranded.
  • Stay hydrated. You might think this is more important when it’s warm outside, but it’s just as vital in winter.
  • Be mindful of physical exertion and the amount of time you’re spending outdoors. Shoveling snow is hard work, so don’t overdo it!

Winter is a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to snowmobiling and skiing as much as you are. So get your house, car, and body ready, so you can have a great season!

Contact Us!

 At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, 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!