Archive for the ‘fire insurance’ Category

New Fire Safety Rule in Effect in Massachusetts

September 14th, 2012 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance, homeowners insurance

In an effort to reduce the number of house fires that began as burning mulch, and to avoid a greater number of hazard insurance claims, the state of Massachusetts has enacted a new fire safety rule that went into effect on September 1st.

Specifically, Massachusetts homeowners and landscapers are now banned from using wood landscaping mulch within eighteen inches of the base of any vinyl- or wood-sided buildings. Though small residential buildings with fewer than six units are technically exempt from the ban, it is safer not to have wood mulch close to the base of any building.

This information comes from Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, who says that the safest sort of groundcover to put near outside walls is crushed rock, and who reminds the owners of office buildings that providing a safe place for smokers to toss their cigarettes, such as sand-based disposal stations outside the doors of a building, will discourage them from dropping their cigarettes into the mulch at all.

The fire that led to this ban was a cigarette-sparked mulch fire at a Peabody apartment complex in 2008, which caused nearly $7 million in damage. A similar fire that occurred last April forced the evacuation of an assisted living center in Braintree, and resulted in some of the residents suffering from smoke inhalation.

While Coan didn’t explicitly advise it, we’d like to take a moment and remind everyone to review the fire portion of their homeowners policies at least once a year.

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Half of Arkansas Under Exceptional Drought

August 10th, 2012 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance, flood insurance, homeowners insurance, hurricane insurance, insurance facts, insurance news

The various weather services which serve the United States all say that El Niño is coming within the next two months. For some people along the West Coast, that’s bad news, but for much of the South and Midwest, the increased chances of rain, and the cold, wet winter can’t get here soon enough.

Arkansas is a prime example of a state in bad need of some precipitation. How bad? Well, according to a new map released yesterday, over 53% of the state is in an “exceptional” drought – the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most severe classification. That’s scary, but what’s even scarier is that a week ago, only 44% of the state was in that most severe classification, though there’s still a significant amount of the state (currently 27%) is only one level “better” – at “extreme drought” status, while the rest of the state is in “severe” drought, except for a small part – 4% – that’s merely in “moderate” drought.

Arkansas isn’t alone, of course. Wildfires in Oklahoma have been out of control this summer, due to the significant lack of rain, and much of Texas is in the “extreme” and “exceptional” categories as well.

What does this have to do with insurance? A lot, actually. Look for an increased number of crop insurance claims, fire insurance claims, and even health insurance claims (since many people believe limiting their personal water intake is necessary, even though most cities only require a strict cut-back on irrigation). Last year, drought conditions began to affect the cattle industry as well, causing many Texas ranchers to sell off, or kill, significant portions of their stock in order to feed and water the remaining animals.

No one wishes hurricanes on anyone – we’ve seen the devastation they can do – but for the parched plains, Atlantic Hurricanes during the summer and El Niño during the fall are necessary balms, sending outer rain bands and wet weather to ground – and people – who badly need it.

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Columbus, MS, improves Fire Department Rating

June 22nd, 2012 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance, homeowners insurance, insurance news

Reduced insurance rates for home and business owners could be the result of a new rating for the Columbus, MS Fire Department, which was recently moved to a rating of “four,” an improvement over the rating of “five” it has held for the last thirty years.

Columbus joins several other Mississippi cities which are also ranked at 4 on the 10-point scale, where 10 represents the lowest rating. Those other cities include Biloxi, Greenwood, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Meridian and Tupelo.

Columbus mayor Robert Smith told the local press, “This is the first time Columbus has ranked above a five. This is outstanding for our city. Only two cities have been ranked threes — Jackson and Southaven. There are no ones or twos.”

Smith also said that savings on homeowners insurance could be around 10%, while business owners could save as much as 20% on their insurance coverage.

Fire Chief Ken Moore also spoke to the press, explaining that factors considered when rating a city’s fire department include water systems, water pressure, safety control, and service to the community. He also spoke about the recently-approved purchase of a new fire truck, saying, “This new truck will help us maintain our rating.”

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Technology Causes Homeowners Insurance Rate Hikes in NC

March 23rd, 2012 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance, homeowners insurance

Some homeowners in North Carolina will see their homeowner’s insurance get more expensive this year because of a change in fire ratings, but according to insurance company officials, the rate hikes aren’t because of public policy, but because of GPS technology.

How does GPS affect insurance rates? Well, when insurers calculate premiums, one of the factors they consider is the distance to the nearest fire station. Traditionally, that determination has been made using maps, but recently, maps have been eschewed, in favor of more accurate measuring systems.

Because of this, some policies that were originally based on property being within a specific rating area (typically five miles away from a fire department for the best pricing) are now being rewritten because those properties are found to be outside the premium pricing area. Since more distance means that it takes longer for the fire department to arrive, insurance companies perceive a greater risk and charge more.

What can North Carolina homeowners do? They can petition the state insurance department, or they can speak to their insurance agent, but unless the state disallows the use of GPS, rates are likely to continue to change based on new numbers.

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Warm Weather Means MORE Chimney Fires in Vermont.

February 9th, 2012 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance, insurance news

Vermont is having an unseasonably warm winter, and Fire Chief Doug Winot, of Townshend, says that means an increase in chimney fires.

How does one follow the other? Well, according to an interview Winot did with the Brattleboro Reformer when people burn green wood, as opposed to dried firewood, or have a fire that doesn’t burn hot enough, it creates highly flammable “black glaze,” which builds up inside chimneys. Then, when people shut down their wood stoves because the weather is warm, the sludge catches on fire, closes off the chimney, and spreads into the partition walls.

Already, Winot says, there have been two chimney fires caused by this in the past week.

The solution? Have your chimney cleaned every two or three months, and keep your fire insurance up to date.

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Turkey Fryer Safety Tips

November 23rd, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in advice and how-tos, fire insurance

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. It’s a day filled with food and festive spirits, but it’s also the top day of the year for cooking-related accidents and injuries, and one of the most common causes of them is the turkey fryer. Let’s face it: anything that involves a vat of boiling oil is inherently dangerous.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t use a fryer – after all, crispy turkey skin is one of our favorite once-a-year guilty pleasures, as well, but we think you should boost your fire insurance policy before you start to cook, have a first aid kit handy, and follow these safety tips, from Dr. Thomas Esposito, chief of the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns in the Department of Surgery, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine:

  • Look for the newer fryers with sealed lids to prevent oil spills.
  • Keep the fryer in full view while the burner is on.
  • Keep children and pets away from the cooking area.
  • Place the fryer in an open area away from all walls, fences or other structures.
  • Never use the fryer in, on, or under a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, deck or any other structure that can catch fire.
  • Slowly raise and lower the turkey to reduce hot-oil splatter and to avoid burns.
  • Never cook in short sleeves, shorts or bare feet. Cover all bare skin when dunking or removing bird.
  • Protect your eyes with goggles or glasses.
  • Immediately turn off the fryer if the oil begins to smoke.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don’t mix and water can cause oil to spill over, creating a fire or even an explosion.
  • Don’t overfill fryer with oil. Turkey fryers can ignite in seconds after oil hits the burner.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher appropriate for oil fires close at hand and be familiar with how to operate it.
  • Do not use a hose in an attempt to douse a turkey fryer fire.
  • If you do burn yourself, or someone else is burned, seek immediate medical attention.

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Texas Nixes State Farm’s Catastrophe Request

September 27th, 2011 by | Comments Off | Filed in fire insurance

State Farm Insurance’s catastrophe determination petition, made in response to wildfires that have been charring much of the state all month, has been denied by the Texas Department of Insurance.

According to the insurance department, the denial was based on information provided in the September 12 request made by State Farm, in which the insurance company asked for a catastrophe determination because of a large number of destructive wildfires which had occurred in several counties, including Anderson, Bastrop, Bexar, Caldwell, Camp, Cass, Colorado, Fayette, Gregg, Grimes, Harrison, Henderson, Hill, Houston, Hunt, Leon, Limestone, Marion, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Palo Pinto, Red River, Rusk, Smith, Tarrant, Travis, Upshur, Van Zandt, Walker, Waller, and Williamson between September 4th and September 12th of this year.

According to the department, the declaration of a major natural disaster or weather-related catastrophe for extended claims processing time is not warranted at this time, and that all claims stemming from the fires must be processed in accordance with the deadlines defined by the Texas Insurance Code.

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