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Winter can be tough on a home. Snow, ice, wind, rain and freezing temperatures can all place stress on your home’s structure. Now that Spring is here, it’s time to start taking stock of any needed repairs or updates to get your home back in top shape. Here are a few of the things you should be doing and looking for:

  • Check windows and doors for broken or damaged frames, hinges, or locks.
  • Inspect window or door screens for rips and have them repaired to prevent insects entering your home.
  • Have your roof professionally inspected. Pooling water or hail damage can cause failures in the material and structure of your roof, but you may not even know unless you have an inspection.
  • Look for cracks in your driveway. Water from heavy rain or snow can cause cracking in concrete, and you may want to get your driveway resealed to prevent further damage.
  • Clean leaves and debris from your gutters and downspouts, or have a professional clean them if you are unable or uncomfortable. This is a basic maintenance task but one that is essential to the upkeep of your home.
  • Inspect your fences for loose or rotten panels, and replace them promptly.
  • Have a deck? If so, you’ll need to pressure wash and reseal it on a regular basis. Many experts recommend doing this every few years, depending on the intensity of the weather in your area.
  • Test run sprinklers and outdoor faucets to ensure all systems are operational. If the water flow seems low, there may be an issue with the pipes.
  • Remove debris from on and around your air conditioning unit to ensure maximum efficiency.

Homeowners Insurance Can Protect Your Home

The best way you can protect your home is with homeowners insurance. As part of your spring maintenance, check in with your Carnal Roberts insurance agent to make sure you have the right coverage for your needs.

Life insurance: you may not want to think about it too hard, but you need to. It can be difficult to consider the possibility of your own passing, but when you realize what the financial consequences of your death might be for your loved ones, you’ll realize just how important life insurance is. If you have a policy, that’s the first step. However you cannot simply let that policy sit untouched for all the years of your life. There are certain changes you may go through that would necessitate updating your life insurance beneficiaries. But what are those changes? We’ll dive into it a little deeper.

You Get Married

When you consider the many changes your life will go through after tying the knot, updating your life insurance beneficiary might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But when two become one, often combining their finances, ensuring your spouse will be taken care of in the unthinkable event of your death is one of the most loving things you can do to secure your new life together. Many couples will change their beneficiary to their spouse once the nuptials are over. In fact, depending on where you live you may be required to. The death benefits would ensure your spouse will be able to take care of final expenses, pay off your debts, and not have to experience the burden of entirely losing their partner’s income.

A Child Is Born

You may be having a child together, adopting, or taking over care of a friend or relative’s child. Whatever the case, if an important child comes into your life, you may want to take another look at your life insurance beneficiaries. Some do not recommend adding your new child to your list of beneficiaries, since they will not be able to receive death benefits until reaching the age of majority. However you can still specify to your spouse or other beneficiary that you would like the policy benefits to go towards something specific, such as your child’s education expenses.

You Start a Business

If you own a business with partners, it is possible to include them in your list of life insurance beneficiaries. However, you should also consider creating a buy-sell agreement with any business partners. This will allow your business partner(s) to use the benefits from the agreement to buy out your shares in the company in the event of your death. If you wish to protect the business you have built, make sure to speak with an experienced insurance agent to ensure you have all the coverage you need to keep your business running no matter what.

Whoever you name as your life insurance beneficiary, be sure to inform them right away. This is especially true if you choose someone outside your immediate family, since they may not even expect to be named in your policy. Life insurance benefits will not bring you back after you are gone, but they can go a long way towards protecting the people you care about.

Carnal Roberts Agency has a full offering of life insurance services, so you can get started protecting who and what you care about today.

Spring break is known as a time for fun and relaxation. It’s a chance to get away from school (and work!) for a little while and spend time with the family. However the risks involved in taking a spring break trip cannot be ignored. This doesn’t mean you should spend the entire break keeping the family holed up at home, but it does mean you should pay attention to the following safety tips while on your trip.

Be Careful On the Road

Traffic sees a large increase during the spring break season. Be sure to drive the speed limit, make sure everyone is properly buckled in, and avoid distracted driving. Have the person in the passenger seat play the role of navigator so the driver is not constantly glancing at a phone or GPS. Local law enforcement will probably be increasing their rounds during this time, so it is especially important to obey traffic laws to stay safe and avoid violations – especially since this can raise your car insurance rates! For long trips in the car, you might want to consider adding roadside assistance coverage in case you experience any issues far from home.

Protect Your Valuables

While it’s true that renters and homeowners insurance policies can cover your valuables even if you bring them out of town with you, you still want to do everything you can to avoid filing a claim. Never leave them in plain sight in your car or hotel room. In fact, it’s a good idea to make use of the hotel safe, if available. Additionally, try not to bring high value items like jewelry, watches, and laptops or tablets. If you have to bring your valuables with you, be sure to check your limits of liability with your insurance agent before the trip to ensure you have all the coverage you need for the items you plan to take.

Refrain from Posting About the Trip on Social Media Until It’s Over

Many of our online “friends” might actually be more like casual acquaintances. You never know who could see your social media posts about being gone for spring break; anyone with bad intentions and your personal information could choose to take advantage of the situation. There have been numerous reports of homes being broken into after someone saw on social media that a family was away on vacation. Of course you want to share the amazing photos you’re taking and post updates on the fun times you’re enjoying, but it is safest to leave the posting for after you arrive back home.

Spring break is a wonderful time to get away from the everyday stresses of life. By following just a few simple safety precautions, you can keep your vacation from turning into a nightmare. Contact your agent at Carnal Roberts Agency to review the coverage that can protect you from the risks of traveling over spring break.

For some, it’s an easy question. You need commercial auto coverage when your business owns company vehicles – whether it’s one or an entire fleet. However this is not the only instance in which a commercial auto policy is recommended. If you often use your personal vehicle for work purposes, besides commuting, you just might need a commercial auto policy, too.

You Do Not Always Need a Commercial Auto Policy

As we previously stated, simply driving your own car back and forth to work is not a situation where you need to consider commercial auto insurance. Neither is giving rides to coworkers or taking your car out on a coffee run for the office.

What Kind of Use Might Necessitate Commercial Auto Coverage?

However, if you use your personal vehicle to transport tools or equipment to a job site, you should be considering a commercial policy. This is especially true if the tools and equipment are expensive and their damage or theft would put your company at risk. Another instance in which you might consider commercial auto coverage is if you use your own car to travel long distances for work, or to transport clients. Even a teenager who delivers food with his own car poses a liability to his company.

It Is Different for Rideshare Drivers

There is a slight exception in the case of rideshare drivers working for companies such as Uber or Lyft. Most commercial auto policies do not offer the coverage rideshare drivers require for their unique needs, although some insurers have started offering rideshare insurance.

It All Depends on Frequency

If you only occasionally use your own vehicle for work purposes, it is likely you will only need personal auto insurance. On the other hand, if your use of your own car for business needs is frequent and ongoing, you should talk to your agent about your options.

Commercial Auto Policy or Modified Personal Auto Policy?

Your insurance agent is equipped to advise you on whether you truly need a commercial auto policy for your own vehicle. Commercial auto coverage can be expensive, but it may be possible to modify your personal auto policy to take occasional business use into account. Otherwise, your Carnal Roberts independent agent can shop the market to find you the best quotes for commercial auto insurance.

According to a study by the Insurance Information Institute, around one in 250 insured homes files a theft claim each year. Although this is not the most common claim, it is significant enough that insured homeowners should be looking into their options for getting the best home security. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and there are now some rather impressive and very effective systems available to protect your home and help you avoid property damage theft claims.

Smart Doorbells

This is not your average doorbell. A smart system features a camera that can show you who is outside your door – even if you are not home. Many smart doorbells also allow the homeowner to speak to doorbell-users via intercom. Since thieves will often ring doorbells to check if a home is occupied, being able to see and speak to any visitor, threatening or not, is an attractive security advantage. If you are able to respond to the potential thief, making them think you are home, they may well leave your house alone.

Smart Locks

In our modern age, no one should be leaving a spare key under a doormat or plant. These common hiding spots are the first place a burglar will look, and unless you check the spot every day your key could be stolen, copied, and returned without you ever knowing. A smart lock system gives you the ability to lock and unlock your exterior doors from anywhere at any time. Many systems allow you to check the status of your locks remotely, and some will alert you to any attempt to tamper with the lock. You can also create codes for people you need to let into your home. It is important to note that your smart lock system will need strong encryption and two-factor authentication (such as a passcode and a fingerprint) in order to be safe from hackers.

Video Monitor Systems

Similar to smart doorbells, a video monitoring system allows you to check up on your home even when you’re far away. However, these systems take the surveillance a step farther since they can monitor any areas of your home that you wish – your only limitation is where you can set up a camera! If you want to install cameras that will cover the entire perimeter of your home, you can do so, and you’ll be safer for it. Some video monitoring systems even allow users to set up virtual boundaries and the system will alert you if the boundary is breached.

Full-Service Security Companies

There are many companies, large and small, that offer full-service security systems. These companies will often install the system for you and take care of most of the monitoring themselves. If you don’t feel comfortable with the DIY approach to home security or are not able to access something like a smart doorbell camera from your cell phone, a full-service company may be a good option for you.

A Final Note

Oftentimes, insurance carriers will offer discounts on your monthly premium for a home that has security systems. You will need to make sure that the system you have or intend to purchase is eligible for a discount from your carrier. Give Carnal Roberts Agency a call to speak to your agent about this, and get on your way to saving money and staying safer.

Just like your home, your business can flood and potentially experience extensive damage. However, your business has a completely different set of risks than your home does. After a flood in your place of business, you could experience loss resulting from damage to records, inventory, equipment, and technology as well as other valuable property and assets. You also face a potential loss of business income in the time it takes to restore your facility – not to mention the cost of debris removal, cleanup, and restoration. Business owners can mitigate risk by developing a flood disaster plan and, of course, by having the proper insurance coverage in place.

Flood Damage Is Serious Business for Your Business

Flooding can be caused by many events, including heavy rainfall, overflow from rivers or ponds, or a breach in a levee or dam. Often, flash floods can occur with almost no warning. In regards to damage, floods do more than simply make everything wet. Flooding can cause structural and electrical damage. The flood water itself often contains sharp debris like metal or glass fragments or hazardous, unsanitary matter, and this water can contaminate anything it touches. Of course, if employees are present at the time of the flooding, their lives can also be in great danger.

Ask Your Agent About Available Insurance Coverage

Most standard commercial policies do not cover flood damage. However, some carriers offer coverage that is specifically tailored for business floods. The majority of these policies are provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP only covers commercial property, so you will need to ask your agent about adding flood-specific business interruption coverage to protect your operation against loss of income.

Create a Comprehensive Workplace Flood Disaster Plan

One of the most important ways you can prepare your business for the event of a flood is to keep copies of your insurance documentation and other vital documents in a location that will be safe from any potential flood damage; you can even keep these documents off site if you are able. In addition to important documents, you will want to keep a backup list of all employees’ contact information. The next step is to assess the risks your building faces – check all walls and seams for cracks, move valuable items from bottoms floors if possible, and consider installing a sump pump to help prevent water from getting inside your building. Finally, in the event of an emergency during work hours, you will need an evacuation plan that all employees are trained in.

In the Event of a Flood…

You will be grateful that you have insurance to lessen the impact of the damage. Reach out to your agent at Carnal Roberts Agency today to find out more about your options to get covered.

Whether it’s a flat tire or a run-in with a winter storm, a vehicle emergency can really catch you off guard. The first step you should take in creating a road emergency plan is to give your insurance agent a call. Many insurance carriers offer roadside assistance services as a policy add-on, if it is not already part of your auto coverage. Often, available roadside assistance services will include towing, battery jump-start, flat tire change, fuel delivery, lockout service, and winching service. Your agent will be able to tell you if you can benefit from your auto insurance carrier’s roadside assistance coverage or assist you with adding it to your policy.

There is no such thing as being too safe, and you should still consider creating a car emergency kit in case your roadside assistance is delayed or unavailable for some reason. Here are some items you may want to include in your own kit.

Tools to Fix Your Vehicle

Say you get a flat tire. Perhaps your cell phone has died and you don’t have a car charger or you’re in an area with no cell service. In this case, you will not be able to contact roadside assistance, and it’ll be up to you to get out of the emergency situation. You can be prepared for this possibility by having a car emergency kit that includes items such as a properly inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench. It’s always a good idea to include jumper cables in your kit as well, and don’t forget a reflective vest and reflective triangles that will make you visible to passing cars as you walk around your vehicle making repairs.

Supplies to Prepare For Anything

Speaking of dying cell phones, your emergency kit should definitely include a car cell phone charger or even a portable charger. The latter, also called a power bank, is a device you “power up” at home and can use anywhere to charge your cell phone. These power banks can hold charge for several months if fully charged once and kept at room temperature. This may be an issue if you park your vehicle outdoors, but you can rectify the problem by regularly recharging your power bank and placing it back in your vehicle for storage. Consider also including a basic first aid kit, flashlight with replacement batteries, water bottles, and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as protein bars and nuts.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Even if your cell phone dies, a passerby may pull over and have a phone you can use. If this happens, you’ll want to be able to access phone numbers for your roadside assistance service, insurance agent, or an emergency contact. Have these numbers typed or written on paper that you can keep in your glove box instead of keeping them only on your cell phone.

Cold Weather Specific Items

If you live in an area with lots of cold weather, it’s a good idea to take this into account when putting together your emergency kit. A shovel and ice scraper are useful tools to have, cat litter helps provide tire traction, and you’ll likely need warm clothing and blankets if you are stuck for a period of time.

What Else Can You Do?

Practicing responsible car care is the best way to ensure your vehicle won’t get into any emergency situations. Unexpected situations do arise, but some emergencies can be prevented. Keep up with your vehicle’s maintenance and always keep a full gas tank. And remember – be sure to check with your Carnal Roberts agent first and foremost to find out about securing roadside assistance through your auto insurance carrier.