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Five Tips to Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Torrential rains and flooding continue to impact many parts of the country, causing a big jump in water damage claims. Mechanical breakdowns are also culprits when it comes to these types of losses. But there are many ways you can protect your home from these unfortunate events, including the following.

  1. Your home’s drainage system should be checked to verify that proper water drainage occurs. For example, gutter downspouts should extend the proper distance from the foundation.
  2. Your yard should be properly graded to slope away from your home to allow surface water to adequately drain. French drains can also assist in this process.
  3. A sump pump system should be considered in your basement to keep unwanted water out of this vulnerable part of your home.
  4. Periodically check your washing machine hoses since these hose failures cause millions of dollars of water losses each year. Hoses should be replaced at the first sign of wear. Consider upgrading to the heavy-duty wire mesh hoses or stainless steel hoses during this replacement.
  5. Ascertain the location of your main water shutoff valve. Water shutoff valves should be installed on water lines under toilets and sinks and water lines leading to outside faucets.

It is also a good idea to procure flood insurance, even if your home is not in a high-risk flood zone, as many of these losses occur in moderate- to low-risk flood zones. For high-value homes, also look into excess flood insurance available from private insurers.

Taking these precautions now, before disaster strikes, will help keep your home safe from damage and decrease the need for expensive repairs.

Copyright 2015, International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Stafanie, CPCU, API
Personal Lines Underwriting Specialist

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of … Your Car?

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

8 Tips to Prevent Car Theft

Today is the most important day of your life. Today is the day you fight back against the thieves and scoundrels of America’s underbelly. It’s the day you hold fast our resolve and defend your unalienable right to mobility. That’s because today is the day … that we teach you about auto theft.

So that was a bit of an exaggeration. But in all seriousness, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about car thieves. Whether you’re thinking about it or not, auto theft is a real possibility for many Americans, especially in urban environments. In 2013 alone, almost 700,000 cars were reported stolen. But did you know that there are some really easy steps you can take to minimize your risk? Below are 8 easy steps to reduce your risk of auto theft.

  1. Store your car in a garage: You don’t have to leave home to have your car stolen. A car can be stolen right out of a front yard. To make your car more difficult to access, store it in a closed garage. This means renting if you live in the city, but it’s an investment worth considering. If you can’t park your car in a garage, park it as close to your home as possible, preferably under a streetlamp. Which brings us to number 2…
  2. Park your car in a well lit area: Obviously, you wouldn’t want to leave your car in a seedy part of town, but car theft can happen anywhere. It’s important to remember that thieves don’t like to be seen doing their thieving. To make your car a less likely target, park among other cars, preferably near a door or window. A car on its own is more tempting, but if it is stolen, being near a door or window will allow for more witnesses. You should also strive to park in an area that’s well lit. Cars parked under streetlamps are far less likely to be stolen than cars parked in a dark alley behind a roadside cafe. If you have the option to park your car under a streetlamp during the day, do it. That way, if you end up leaving it longer than expected, you’re still covered.
  3. Keep your car looking nice: You might be thinking, “But if my car looks nice, won’t someone be more likely to steal it?” Not necessarily. By keeping your car looking nice, you alert would-be thieves that you care about your car. If an owner cares about his or her car, he or she is much more likely to install an alarm and much more likely to notice its absence. To a thief, the worse a car looks, the less chance of being caught.
  4. Have an alarm sticker: Like number 3, this is an obvious way of stating, “I care about my car. Leave it be.”
  5. Actually have an alarm: It’s not all about looks after all. If the sticker doesn’t stop a car thief, loud screeching will certainly help.
  6. Hide your valuables: Never leave anything tempting in plain sight. A thief would much rather steal a car with a laptop in the front seat than an old fast food bag.
  7. Don’t leave your windows open: You might think leaving your windows open just a crack will let a little more air in, but that crack may be just enough for a thief to pry the window and unlock the door. Leaving that window open “just a crack” might let a little more than air into your car.
  8. And last but not least…

  9. LOCK YOUR CAR: This one goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Locking your car is your first line of defense. Don’t do the thief’s job for him. If you use a fob to lock your car, make sure to double check that the doors have locked. Occasionally key fobs can malfunction, leaving your car unprotected—or worse—thieves can actually jam the signal, preventing your doors from operating properly.

So there you have it—8 easy tips to help prevent auto theft. Start building safe habits now, and reap the benefits in the long run. For more safety tips, subscribe to our blog or follow us on social media!

Sources:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/advice/how-to-prevent-car-theft/
http://jalopnik.com/5937504/the-ten-best-ways-to-keep-your-car-from-getting-stolen/
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/things-car-thieves/story?id=20938096

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Volunteer Firefighting Teaches Valuable Skills

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Firefighting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was always around the firehouse with my family, so it seemed only natural that I would find my way to the service at some point.

As a volunteer firefighter, I have made relationships with the men and women I served with and learned incredible lessons that will last a lifetime. As a firefighter, I fought the natural instinct to run away from fire and instead push strong into burning buildings. I have worked long hours fighting field fires and have spent numerous hours training. I have helped deliver babies and cheated death by resuscitating those on the brink.

Firefighting is more than axes and engines; it is a way of life. It helps you learn to appreciate every moment life offers and see how fragile it can really be.

My time in the fire service has taught me many of the skills I use in my current position with Pekin Insurance. Firefighters spend a great deal of time on building construction so we know how a fire will behave and how to attack it. This knowledge helps me when preparing estimates for damages to homes, regardless of the cause of loss. The time I spent on accident scenes helped me understand and recognize different types of injuries based on the damages to vehicles and point of impact. This correlates directly to dealing with bodily injury claims. The greatest skill I learned is the ability to talk to people during stressful situations and to help them understand what happens next.

As an adjuster, I am given the responsibility to keep the promise, to go Beyond the expected,® and to help our clients through the claims process after the smoke clears, the dust settles, and the emergency personnel go home.

Jessica
Adjuster

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Do I Need Rental Car Insurance?

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Whenever you have rented a vehicle from a rental car company, have you been overwhelmed with the legal wording in the contract?

When the car rental agent asks the question, “Would you like to purchase insurance or sign a waiver?” are you unsure how to respond?

Do you know if your personal automobile policy provides rental car coverage? What if my child who resides with me wants to rent a vehicle; does my policy provide coverage for him or her to rent the vehicle?

A Pekin Insurance® personal automobile policy provides coverage for a vehicle rented by an “insured” as a temporary substitute vehicle. An insured is defined as the individual named on the policy, their spouse (if a resident of the same household), and any resident relative.

The coverage provided is the broadest coverage carried on your personal auto policy. If you only carry liability insurance, then your personal auto policy will pay up to your policy limits for an accident where it is determined the insured is legally liable. For the policy to pay for the damage caused to the rental car itself, you must carry physical damage coverage on an owned vehicle.

The personal auto policy only provides liability and/or physical damage coverage. The personal auto policy does NOT provide coverage to a rental vehicle for the following losses:

  • Diminution in value – the monetary difference between a car’s pre-accident value and the car’s value after an accident and repair.
  • Valet Parking – when a rented vehicle is being parked by a valet.
  • Loss of use to the rented vehicle.

The above coverage may be added to your Pekin Insurance personal automobile policy with the purchase of our Auto Guard endorsement.

Knowing what coverage your policy provides should give you the confidence that you will make the correct decision about the purchase of insurance the next time you need to rent a vehicle as a temporary substitute for a vehicle you own.

Becky
Senior Personal Lines Research & Development Specialist

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Ancient Form of Exercise Offers Numerous Health Benefits

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Yoga was developed in the 5th or 6th century BCE in India. The term “yoga” has been applied to a variety of practices and methods. Well-known Hindu schools of Yoga include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Laya Yoga. In India, it traditionally encompasses meditation and spiritual core. Yoga came to the attention of the educated western public in the mid-19th century along with other topics of Indian philosophy. There was a second “yoga boom” in the 1980s as the West connected the practice to heart health, legitimizing yoga as a purely physical system of healthy exercise. The West, in the early 21st century, typically associates the term “yoga” with Hatha Yoga as a form of exercise.

Everyone can practice yoga. It improves flexibility, makes you feel less stiff and tired, and improves strength and endurance, as nearly all poses build core strength in deep abdominal muscles. After 8 weeks of yoga practice, flexibility improves 35%. The practice brings attention to breathing and relaxation and increases awareness of balance and stability. No weights or machines are needed, just the ability to lift and hold our own body weight. Since 2001, the popularity of yoga in the United States has risen constantly. The number of people who practiced some form of yoga has grown from 4 million in 2001 to 20 million in 2011.

The three main focuses of Hatha yoga (exercise, breathing, and meditation) make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors. A recent Norwegian study indicated it can enhance our immune system at a cellular level and can ease the amount and severity of migraines after only three months of practice. After 8 weeks of daily yoga, sleep quality for cancer survivors and insomniacs improves. It makes individuals mindful of eating and improves awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. Long-term yoga users in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well as reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. There is evidence to suggest that regular yoga practice improves mood and anxiety more than some other metabolically matched exercises, such as walking.

As you can see, yoga has a deep international history, takes a minimal amount of equipment and space to practice, and is shown to have numerous health benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine supports the integration of yoga into exercise regimens as a form of stretching and as an enhancer of breath control and of core strength. Whether you practice it alone, in your home with one of the many yoga DVDs available, or in a group atmosphere with a trained yoga instructor, it can be very enjoyable and beneficial to your health and well-being.

Wendy
Quality Control Examiner

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Basic Tips for Improving Your Odds of Surviving a Tornado

Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

We have already experienced some severe weather in the Midwest, despite the fact that we are just beginning to enter what many consider to be “peak season.”

May, June, and July have historically witnessed the highest number of tornadoes in the Midwest and Upper Midwest. There is plenty of safety information from a variety of sources, some very basic and some very detailed. I think what follows is a happy medium of good, easy-to-follow safety information. You and your family should take a moment to review these tips to maximize your enjoyment of the otherwise great weather that lies ahead!

BASIC TORNADO SAFETY TIPS

In Homes:

  • Go to the basement or a small interior room or hallway on the lowest level. In a small room or basement, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or the staircase. Avoid the corners of the room!
  • Stay away from windows! Do NOT open windows, as the strong winds in advance of the tornado can shatter the glass and cause severe injuries.

In Mobile Homes:

  • Leave the mobile home immediately and go to a substantial structure. If there isn’t a shelter available, lie flat in a ditch, ravine, or culvert and cover your head with your hands.

In Schools, Health Care Facilities, and Shopping Centers:

  • Go to the predesignated shelter. Interior hallways on the lowest floor are usually best.
  • Stay away from large windows and glassed areas.
  • Stay away from large rooms, such as dining halls and gymnasiums.

In High Rise Buildings:

  • Go to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Avoid elevators!

In Vehicles:

  • Abandon the vehicle immediately! Lie flat in a ditch, culvert, or some other type of depression if it is relatively deep, and remember to cover your head with your hands.
  • Highway overpasses are NOT acceptable storm shelter areas, for a variety of reasons.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado! Tornadoes are known to travel as fast as 60 to 70 m.p.h.

The American Red Cross is a good resource for additional tornado safety information. Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/tornado.

Diana, CPCU, AU, INS
Personal Lines Research and Development Specialist

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