For many, the winter months are a welcome time to escape the short days and chilly temperatures by heading on a vacation. And is there a better way to celebrate the end of winter than to take a spring break?
Whether you’re going to bask on a sunny, white-sand beach in the Caribbean or hit the slopes for some skiing or snowboarding, you have to take precautions to ensure your home stays safe while you’re away. After all, what could be worse than returning from a relaxing break or an active adventure to find a disaster has occurred, such as a break-in, or water or fire damage?
To ensure your vacation doesn’t end in tragedy, follow these tips before you go.
Check for any leaks and fix them. For example, ensure your refrigerator ice maker is not leaking!
Set your heater at approximately 50 degrees to ensure pipes and appliances don’t freeze. But if you have pets and they are going to be in the house, set it closer to 72 degrees.
If you have pets, make arrangements for their comfort and safety: either board them or have a friend come over daily to care for them.
Turn furnace and hot water heaters down.
Unplug all appliances, such as coffee makers, toasters and exercise equipment.
Leave a light or two on so the house doesn’t appear deserted at night.
Lower blinds and close curtains so that passers-by can’t view your valuables.
Leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor so they can enter the home in case of emergency.
Have a friend or neighbor bring in newspapers and mail or cancel delivery for both during the time when you’ll be away.
If you have the opportunity to get away for spring break, we wish you happy trails, and hope you come home to a safe and welcoming home!
Many people have a limited definition of “distracted driving”: They think it only means texting behind the wheel.
There’s good reason for that, because texting requires visual, manual and cognitive attention – the same attention required for safe driving. But although texting is perhaps the most dangerous distraction, there are many others that can impact how you drive, whether you realize it or not. And they can be just as deadly.
How deadly? According to the CDC, in 2019 more than 420,000 people were injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers – with more than 3,100 killed.
There are three main categories of distraction when it comes to driving:
Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
Here are just a few of the things that can distract drivers on the road:
Talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device.
Eating or drinking.
Talking to passengers.
Grooming (yes, there really are people who apply makeup or shave on their way to work).
Reading, including maps.
Adjusting the stereo.
Younger drivers are the most distracted of all – according to the government’s distraction.gov website, people in their 20s make up 38% of drivers who were using cell phones before a fatal crash, and 10% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted, too.
With distractions more prevalent than ever – more than 150 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. every month, for example – how can you, and those you love, be safer behind the wheel? Here are a few tips:
Don’t use the phone: This includes texting as well as talking, unless it’s an emergency. Even hands-free conversations can take your attention off the road.
Eat before you leave, or after you get there: Scarfing down that burger with one hand on the wheel means your focus is divided – and you probably don’t have as much control over your car as you should. Bonus benefit: Keeping your meals and your driving separate means you’re much less likely to get ketchup on your pants.
Know where you’re going: Nobody likes to be lost. But messing around with your car’s GPS (or the maps app on your smartphone) while you’re moving can lead to something you’ll hate even more – an accident.
Talk to your family about safe driving: Having a conversation with your spouse as they’re driving home? That’s a perfect opportunity to say, “I’ll let you focus on the road; we can talk when you get here.” And if you have young drivers in the household, be sure to have a conversation about their phones and other potential issues, such as their passengers – a key distraction for teens.
Watch for other distracted drivers: Just because you aren’t distracted doesn’t mean that other drivers are focused on safe driving. Stay in control and be vigilant – you’ll be ready to react when someone else makes the wrong move.
Distracted driving isn’t just “one of those things” that happens, like a tire blowout or mechanical failure that isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s 100% preventable – and by committing to avoiding distractions while you drive, you’ll help make the road safer for everyone.
You keep your car filled up with gas so you don’t get stranded on the side of the road. And, your phone charged so your loved ones can reach you. But, what kind of safety measures do you have in place for more extreme scenarios?
What if you lost everything you owned in a fire at your house or your apartment? What if your car were stolen? These situations are scary, but your insurance can help you through them, and much more, so long as you have the right coverage in place.
So, what’s right for you? Whether you’re starting out on your own or starting a family, these tips can help you begin to understand the level of insurance you may need.
Consider What You Own – And What It’s All Worth Could you imagine having to replace all of your personal belongings at once? What about having to do so from memory and on your own dime? It would be both a difficult and a costly task. So, make an inventory of your belongings and their value to minimize the former – the free Safeco Home Inventory appcan help. And, be sure you have enough insurance coverage, whether you rent or own a home, to minimize the latter. It’s known as “personal property coverage,” and you want enough of it to replace all of your belongings if it were to come to that.
Take Your Lifestyle Into Account Drive an expensive car? Repairs are likely costly, so be sure to carry comprehensive and collision coverage. Consider any customizations in the car and whether you want original manufactured parts in repairs are needed or if you’re okay with aftermarket. We’re happy to go over your auto coverage options to ensure you have the kind of protection you expect.
Own a home with a lot of custom features? Be sure your homeowners policy takes them into account. The amount of insurance you have on your home should directly reflect the unique features of your home. Your agent should complete a detailed Replacement Cost Estimator to determine the insurance limits needed.
The way you live can help you save, too. For example, if you take public transportation to and from work even though you own a car, you may pay less for your insurance.
Talk to Your Independent Agent for Ease, Choice and Advice As an independent agency, Integrity First Insurance offers a choice of carriers and options, plus personalized advice to help make sense of it all. And, we make it easy by doing the research and the work for you.
The cost to rebuild a home is often very different than the market value of the home. A home’s value is based on what someone is willing to spend to buy that home, and largely depends on the area the home is located. A home in a desirable neighborhood may cost the same amount to build as an identical house in a less desirable neighborhood, even though it would sell for more.
Insurance doesn’t cover the the price you paid for your home, the taxable value, or even the potential sale price. The purpose of homeowners insurance is to indemnify you in the event of a loss. In other words, insurance is designed to make you whole again. When it comes to your home, that means insurance will pay to rebuild your home with like-quality materials.
Over the course of your homeownership, both the replacement cost and the market value of your home can fluctuate. At some point, they might be similar values, and other times the replacement cost could be higher or lower than the market value. It all depends on what is happening with the economy and housing market.
Here’s a breakdown of some important factors that can impact the replacement cost and/or market value of your home:
Age of Home
Size of Home
Home Features and Finishes
Cost of Materials
Houses on the Market
Desirability of Area (Schools, Safety, Etc.)
As you can see, things like cost of labor and materials impacts the replacement cost of your home, but not the market value. That’s because when someone is looking for a house to buy, the amount it would cost to build the home isn’t a huge factor since the house is already constructed. Once you own the house, the cost of building materials and labor matters more because you have to insure the house for what it would cost to rebuild it if you suffered a total loss.
While the quality of the schools, parks, and safety of your neighborhood certainly impact the price you could sell your house for, it doesn’t effect the cost to repair or rebuild your home if you had a loss. The same goes for the number of houses on the market and the land value. Whether there are 100 or 1000 houses for sale in your area, it would cost the same amount to rebuild it. Insurance doesn’t cover the value of the land since the land would still exist even if the house was destroyed, so the land value doesn’t factor into the estimated rebuilding costs.
There are some factors that impact both the reconstruction cost and the market value of a home. Specifically, the age, size and features of the home. A home that is 1000 square feet would cost less to build and sell for less than a comparable home with 2000 square feet. Similarly, if you update your kitchen to have custom finishes, that increases the cost to rebuild as well as the resale value of the home. That’s why it’s important to talk to your agent and make sure your home has adequate insurance anytime you make improvements or additions.
If you have questions about how the replacement cost of your home was determined, give us a call. We’re happy to help you decide if the coverage you have is appropriate for your home.
Think home security is still about bulky camera equipment and wires running all throughout your home? Think again.
Today, things have changed quite a bit, and the playing field has been leveled. Advanced tools and security systems are more accessible and affordable than ever. (And installing them might get you a discount on your homeowners insurance, too.)
Full-service systems are still a popular option with many people. Companies offer central monitoring, video surveillance, smoke/carbon monoxide detection and more. Some even include home automation tools so you can control appliances from anywhere, and many will send text-message alerts in response to specific occurrences, such as when the kids enter the house after school.
Do-it-yourselfers who don’t want an all-in-one system have many choices as well. Here are three of the newest and most popular security tools:
1. Smart (and small) cameras
Cameras today can be tucked anywhere and don’t require wires. With a good battery and wi-fi connection, you can see what’s happening outside — or inside — with a glance at your phone or computer.
2. Key-free doors
Say you have a friend stopping by to check on your dog while you’re gone for the day. You don’t have to risk leaving a key outside. With a code-based entry system, you can simply provide your friend with temporary access that turns on and off when you want. Most key-free doors can also be programmed to automatically lock after a certain period of time, like 30 or 60 seconds. That can eliminate the worry about whether or not you locked the door behind you.
3. Home automation products
It’s easier than you think to give yourself remote access to the lights and appliances in your home. At least one available product can be used with your existing power outlets; simply plug it in and control the power to that outlet from an app on your smartphone. Don’t ever worry about forgetting to leave a light on again.
Of course, even “old-school” tools, such as motion-activated outdoor lights, can still have a big impact on security. So whether you choose high-tech tools or stick to the basics, you’ll be making your home a less attractive target for burglars. Many insurance companies also offer a discount for having a security system in your home. If you have a burglar or fire alarm system, be sure to talk to your agent about available discounts.
Most people would say their car is one of the most valuable assets they own — if not the most valuable. Despite that, however, some people make it downright easy for thieves to drive off in their pride and joy.
At Integrity First Insurance, we don’t want you walking out your door to an empty driveway or leaving a store only to find some broken glass left behind in your parking space. So take care to avoid these five mistakes.
Leave 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. Period. Even if you’re just running over to the ATM to get some cash or dropping off some mail.
Keep 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, or a laptop, etc. What do you think they’re going to do when they find a set of keys? They’re not going to drop them off on your porch with a nice note, that’s for sure.
Put 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.
Leave your car unsecured. The best thieves can work wonders with a window that’s left open even just a crack. And even the worst thieves can steal a car that’s been left unlocked, with no alarm set.
Assume 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!
When teens begin to drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council, the sobering statistics start to pile up:
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens ages 14 through 18.
A teen’s crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers.
Being in a car with three or more teen passengers quadruples a teen driver’s crash risk.
More than half of teens killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt.
You can help your young driver make better decisions behind the wheel, however. Start by setting a good example yourself. And set time aside to have a serious discussion about the following issues, all of which have a large impact on the safety of teen drivers:
Speed: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, speeding continues to grow as a factor in fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Thirty-three percent of such accidents in 2011 involved excessive speed. While a lot of emphasis is rightfully placed on the risks of driving under the influence or while distracted, the danger of speeding is just as important.
Alcohol: If drivers are under 21, driving with any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal. It’s as simple as that. And not only does the risk of a serious crash increase once alcohol is involved, jail time is a possibility as well.
Seat belts: Teens don’t use their seat belts as frequently as adults, so it’s important to set a good example and always have yours on. Seat belts are the simplest way to protect themselves in a crash, so let teens know that buckling up is mandatory.
Phones: Distracted driving is dangerous driving, especially for an inexperienced teen. That means no calls or texting when behind the wheel — no exceptions. Again, it pays to set a good example when you’re driving with your teen in the car.
Passengers: The risk of a fatal crash goes up as the number of passengers in a teen driver’s car increases, according to the NHTSA. Depending on your state’s licensing laws for young drivers, limiting your teen to one passenger is a good guideline. (And some states don’t allow teens to have any passengers for a time.)
Of course, any driver needs to have a good grasp on the laws and rules of the road, and, because teens don’t have much experience, it’s important to have regular conversations about safe driving. How teens drive doesn’t just depend on them. It depends on you, too!
It’s hard to think of a worse start to a winter day than turning on the faucet and … nothing. Maybe there’s a trickle of water, but it’s clear you have a frozen pipe. So, what now? Here are some smart tips to help you prevent or address what could easily become a very messy and expensive situation:
See to your outdoor water lines: Before cold weather arrives, drain water sprinkler and swimming pool supply lines, and remove, drain and store outdoor hoses. If possible, close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs for draining. Keep them open so any remaining water can expand without breaking the pipe. If you can’t shut off the water from the inside, pick up some foam faucet covers.
Keep your home warm: Maintain an interior temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit, even when you’re sleeping or not at home. Seal any drafts and leave interior doors open to help keep an even temperature from room to room. Your policy may not cover freezing of plumbing or heating systems or any appliances if the heat hasn’t been maintained in the home.
Tend to those pipes: Leave the cabinet doors open in the kitchen and bathroom so your pipes aren’t shut off from the warm air. You can also insulate your pipes with sleeves, heat tape or heat cable. Insulation is especially important in unheated areas, such as your attic, basement, garage or crawl space, and for pipes running along exterior walls. During severe cold spells, you may want to leave all faucets, both hot and cold, running at a slight trickle.
Call in a professional: Frozen water in your pipes can cause them to burst, meaning you’ll have a mess on your hands once that water unthaws. So, act quickly to shut off your main water supply, and call in a licensed plumber to see to the situation. When selecting a plumber or contractor, it’s important to find a company or individual that is local, licensed and insured. If possible, try to avoid signing a contract prior to filing a claim and speaking with your adjuster.
If you do have to call in a professional or spend any money on mitigating water damage, be sure to keep all receipts and notify your agent as soon as possible. Don’t agree to have any repairs started, other than cleaning up the sitting water, without talking to your agent.
Claims adjusters often need to inspect the damage before moving forward with a claim, so they need to be informed before the repairs begin. If there is an urgent need to begin repairs, try to take adequate photos or videos of the damage before any cleanup so you can provide evidence of the damage.
Finally, be sure to touch base with us at Integrity First Insurance to check whether you’re covered for the damage a frozen pipe may cause. We’re happy to answer all of your policy questions this winter, and beyond.
The days are short. The air is cold. And, roads are often slick with rain, snow or ice.
It’s winter driving season in Colorado. And, while most people know what to do to try to avoid an accident, many don’t know what to do after one. It’s vital knowledge to have, because the aftermath of a crash can be just as dangerous as the crash itself — especially when it’s cold and snowy.
Here are five things to do (or not do) if you’re in an accident this winter to help keep yourself and others safe:
Make sure everyone’s OK — then get off the road if you can. The safety of everyone involved in a crash is the first concern, of course. So, check on the occupants of each vehicle and call for emergency assistance if it’s needed. Then, if the vehicles are drivable, get them off the road as soon – and as carefully – as possible.
Stay in your car if you can’t safely move away. If you can’t get your car off the road, but you can get off the road, wait until there’s no traffic around and then move well out of the way. Otherwise, stay in the car so you’re protected from other vehicles.
Stay visible — and warm. Turn on your hazard lights and put up road flares so other vehicles know something is wrong. And, grab your vehicle emergency kit (you have one, right?) for blankets and extra clothing. If you’ve run off the road and you’re still in your car, make sure nothing is blocking your exhaust pipe. Otherwise carbon monoxide may build up.
If you’re stranded, stay put. Running off the road in a remote area is scary, but resist the urge to try to walk for help. You risk getting lost, especially during a storm, if you set off on foot.
See a crash? Don’t always stop to help. Being a Good Samaritan could cause more problems than it solves. So, if those involved aren’t in immediate danger, call 911 and let the professionals help with medical aid and traffic control.
It’s not always easy, but keeping a cool head after an accident will do more than help everyone get through a stressful situation — it will help keep everyone safer, too.
And, remember, if something does happen on the road this winter, Integrity First is here to help with your auto accident claim. If you’re unsure whether you’re carrying the right coverage, call now before it’s too late!
Your home’s gutters protect your house from water damage by directing water away from your roof and foundation. Clogged gutters overflow during rainstorms and allow water to pool around the eaves and foundation, which can cause problems like soil heaving, foundation cracking, ice dams, and roof leaks.
Clean your gutters at least once annually to prevent your gutters from clogging. You may need to clean your gutters multiple times per year if your property has a lot of trees.
If your gutters need more than twice the annual cleaning, gutter guards can protect your gutters and prevent them from clogging. Trim nearby trees to remove overhanging branches that will drop leaves, sticks, and needles into the gutters.
In 2021, many residents of Texas experienced a winter storm that froze pipes and caused ice dams. This storm was a perfect example of what happens when power outages and extremely cold temperatures co-occur. A survey of affected Texans showed that approximately 15% of impacted homeowners had frozen pipes, and countless others saw ice dams form on their roofs.
What’s an ice dam? An ice dam happens when “hot spots” on the roof cause snow to melt. The melting snow rolls down the roof to the colder eaves, where it refreezes. Eventually, the ice backs up under the shingles and into the attic itself.
How can you protect yourself? Insulation can protect your home’s pipes from cold temperatures in winter. Attic insulation also promotes even heating of the roof, which can prevent an ice dam (and thus a roof leak) from forming.
Insulate the pipes in your home with pipe insulation. Pipe insulation wraps around the pipes and protects them from below-freezing temperatures. You can find pipe insulation at hardware stores and home improvement centers. Simply cut down the insulation to the length of the pipe, remove the adhesive backing, then attach the insulation.
Insulate your attic if it’s needed. You’ll know your attic needs more insulation if you can see the floor joists. As a general rule, insulation should cover the joists so they can no longer be seen. For best results, hire a professional to install attic insulation.
Regulate Your Home’s Temperature
Never turn off your thermostat in winter, even if you’re leaving town. If you’re planning to be out of the house for a few days, turn down your home’s furnace to 55 degrees. This allows you to save money on heating costs while preventing your pipes from freezing.
Some additional tips:
Program your home’s thermostat to maintain a temperature at or above 55 degrees
Service your home’s heating system in the fall or early winter to avoid a furnace breakdown
Leave a trickle of water running when temperatures outside are expected to drop below freezing
Tiny cracks in your home’s siding or foundation can become a hiding place for water, which can freeze during times of severe weather, causing cracks to widen and make way for water leaks. Seal all cracks in your home’s exterior before winter comes.
Update Your Homeowner’s Policy
Water and ice damage can lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs. Is your house protected? Contact your insurance agent to evaluate your coverage.