Tag Archives: Personal Insurance

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.

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!

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!

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

Check for Storm Damage

How to Check Your Property for Damage After a Storm

 When a big storm hits in Franklin, New Berlin, Milwaukee, etc. you hunker down inside, relying on your home to protect you and your family. Once that storm passes, it’s time to repay the favor — identifying damage and protecting your home from further issues.

The National Storm Damage Center has a number of resources and tips for homeowners. Here are three major things the agency (and the agents at Insurance Center of Milwaukee) – recommends you check after a storm:

1. Your roof: If you see missing shingles on your roof or if you notice leaking inside or out, it’s a good idea to have a qualified inspector come assess the situation.

2. Your exterior: Aluminum/Vinyl siding, brick and stucco are all vulnerable to storm damage. You’ll want to look for cracking, chipping or dings in the siding, and for holes in stucco. Look closely and at different times of the day. Some homeowners don’t notice damage until it’s too late to file a claim, and different lighting can reveal damage you didn’t see before.

3. Trees: According to the National Storm Damage Center, fallen trees and limbs cause more than $1 billion in damage annually. Check roofs, vehicles, fences, etc. for fallen limbs that may have caused damage or could pose a risk. Clean up what you are safely able to clean and rely on a reputable tree removal service to handle the rest. Depending on the circumstances, your homeowners insurance policy may help with tree removal and damage repair costs – if you experience a covered loss, that is.

A few more helpful tips:

Keep trees well maintained and trimmed. Keep limbs a safe distance from your home.

Know your insurance. Take a look at your policy so you know what’s covered, what your limits and deductibles are, etc. This will prevent any surprises during the claims process.

Take pictures. Photographs can help you show the cause and extent of any storm damage that occurs.

Of course, if you’ve suffered damage from a major storm, don’t hesitate to call us at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 for help with an insurance claim or with finding a professional property inspector.

Protection during a Hailstorm

Staying safe on the road during a hailstorm

It may sound surprising, but there are approximately 3,000 hailstorms in the United States each year. The size of hail can widely vary – from pea size to softball size. When it starts building up size, hail can cause severe damage to your dwelling, vehicle damage, bodily harm, and even death. On average, each year hailstorms cause over $1 billion in damage to property, approximately 1,500 injuries, and 80 deaths.  Hail is a main driver of homeowners insurance rates in Wisconsin as well.

One of the most frightening places to be during a hailstorm is on the road in your car. Obviously your vehicle is at great risk of damage, but even more importantly, you are in danger in the event you can’t see well enough to drive or your windows are broken by the power of the storm.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want to ensure you, your loved ones, and your vehicles stay safe this hail season. Here are some pointers for navigating a hailstorm while on the roads in in Southeastern Wisconsin.

 

  • Make sure you have a blanket in your car at all times. It can help protect you from glass injuries in the event the hail breaks your windows or windshield.
  • Turn on your low-beam headlights, and slow down.
  • Make sure you have more distance than usual in front of you so you have ample space to brake if necessary.
  • Turn on the local weather radio station to stay apprised of the status of storms.
  • If there is enough space on the shoulder of the road, pull over.
  • If there is a covered shelter to pull underneath, do so; this will reduce the damage sustained by your vehicle.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we hope you stay hailstorm-free this 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 and we will get quotes, from the 12 insurance companies that we have available, tailored for your needs. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

College Graduation – Insurance Tips

Protect your college grad with the right insurance

College graduation is an exciting time for students and their parents alike.  While the graduate is focused on job offers and first-job jitters, it’s a time of major transitions and it’s essential to prepare for what comes next.

One area new college graduates need to address is insurance.  At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we know insurance can be a confusing topic.  We also know that seemingly small missed details can result in very large losses.  We want to ensure your college graduate is protected before heading out into the real world, so we have compiled the following pointers.

 

  • Review your family’s current insurance. The first step when considering insurance for your new graduate is evaluating the coverage you have currently.  Make an appointment with your agent, who can advise on whether it’s appropriate given the pending changes, and whether it will cover your son or daughter.
  • Know the law. Most states require drivers to have auto insurance, and most of those have minimum policy limit requirements.  Consult with your agent, to make sure they are covered adequately.
  • Read your lease. Many apartment, condominium and home rental properties require tenants to maintain renter’s insurance, which covers the contents of the home in the event of a robbery, fire, liability claim, or specified other losses. Make sure you know the terms of your son or daughter’s new lease.
  • Don’t end up liable. Any renter or owner is exposed to liability risk. To ensure there is adequate coverage in the event someone gets injured on your son or daughter’s property, speak with your agent about liability insurance.
  • Don’t gamble! Never go without. It’s simple: your son or daughter should always have insurance in place. Be sure to discuss with your agent what types they need.

We, at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, congratulate you on the graduation of your daughter or son!  Please contact us with any questions at 414-744-6614.

Getting Your Boat Ready for Summer

Get started early to get your boat ready for summer

If you love the water, few things are better than boating season.  Summer just wouldn’t be summer without spending those long, hot days on Pewaukee Lake, Big Muskego, etc., cooling off with a lazy dip in the water, dropping a line in hopes of catching a “big one,” or having an action-packed day of waterskiing and tubing.

Boating is not without its share of pre-summer preparation.  Without making the preparation a priority, it’s easy to find yourself midway through July still on dry land.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we want to ensure you are the first one in line at the boat launch this summer, so here are a few tips for being ahead of the game.

  • Tune it up. It’s always a good idea to have your boat winterized at the end of each season and make sure to get a full tune-up before you hit the lake this summer.  
  • Charge it. Make sure your battery is fully charged.
  • Clear it out. If there is any gas from last season still in your tank, fill it up with fresh gas as well as a stabilizer; this will prevent buildup in the gas lines and injection system.
  • Give it a test. Before you get the boat all the way into the water and off the trailer, lower your motor into the water and make sure it will turn over.
  • Plug it up. Ensure your drain plug is in and the bilge pump is functioning properly.
  • Double- and triple-check. The last thing you want is to get all the way to the lake and realize you don’t have an updated registration or are missing your life vests.  Double check that your documents are updated and that your boat is fully stocked with everything you need.

We at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee wish you a fun-filled and safe boating season!

If you have insurance questions about your boat, please call us at 414-744-6614 or send an email to info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com

Flood Insurance

What you should know about flood insurance

 You’ve probably heard this story before — someone loses a home due to a flood and learns after the fact that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage.

At the Insurance center of Milwaukee, we want to talk to you about the risks you may face – before a loss occurs – so you can determine what insurance coverage is appropriate. Spring is a prime season for flooding, so now is a good time to review flood insurance.

In 1968 the U.S. government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Available to homeowners, renters, and business owners, this insurance often is required to obtain a mortgage in areas at high risk of flooding.  You also might want to look into a policy just for peace of mind, even if you don’t live next to a river that may flood. According to the NFIP, nearly 25% of the program’s claims occur in moderate- to low-risk areas. Check out the questions and answers below to help determine if flood insurance is right for you.

Is flood insurance available in my area?

To participate in the NFIP, a community must adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance with rules regarding construction in certain flood-prone areas. In exchange, the government makes flood insurance available within that community. Most communities in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties participate, but just give us a call at 414-744-6614 and we’ll help you determine if your city participates. You can also visit http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm

 What does it cover?

The NFIP provides coverage for both the structure and its contents. Coverage for contents is optional in some cases, giving you flexibility in choosing coverage.  Please note that not all structures can be covered (for instance, a building completely over water).

Keep in mind that you typically can’t purchase flood insurance and have it take effect the next day. There is usually a 30-day waiting period. (There are exceptions to this rule however, particularly when the insurance is required by a lender and is purchased during the process of securing a mortgage.) If you think you need flood insurance, don’t wait to buy a policy!

How much does it cost?

As with all insurance policies, the cost of flood insurance varies depending on your situation. If your home or business is in a high-risk area, such as a “special flood hazard area,” your premium naturally will be higher than those in low- or moderate-risk zones. Premiums are based on how old the building is, how many floors it has, the location of its contents, your deductible and more. Renters insurance is typically less expensive, as renters generally insure their belongings and not the building.

Where can I find more information?

As always, we are happy to help you determine your insurance needs. Stop by our office in Bay View or call us at 414-744-6614.