Tag 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.

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.

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.

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!

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!