Consumer Information

Tue, 12/03/2013 - 15:26

Hosting a Holiday Party? Below are Some Consumer Information Tips for Hosting a Holiday Party

Drunk Driving

Alcohol is the single greatest factor in motor vehicle deaths and injuries.

Tips for hosting a holiday party, and keeping you and your guests safe throughout the holiday season.

1)     When your guests arrive, collect their car keys

2)     Always serve food with alcohol.

3)     Have coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks available.

4)     Have several jiggers or self-measuring one-ounce bottle spouts at the bar to mix drinks. Guests are less likely to drink excessively when standard measures are used.

5)     If you serve alcoholic punch, use a non-carbonated base, such as fruit juice.

6)     The body absorbs alcohol faster when mixed with carbonation.

7)     Stop serving alcohol about two hours before the party is over.

8)     If you observe a guest drinking too much:

·         engage him/her in conversation to slow down the drinking

·         offer to make the next drink, using less alcohol and a non-carbonated base

·         offer high protein foods like pizza or cheese

School Bus Safety

The Pacific Northwest Chapter of the CPCU Society offers the following tips for School Bus Safety:

The start of the school year is upon us. Roadways will soon be flooded with buses transporting our children to and from school. Keep these tips in mind to help make riding the bus both safe and fun for your child: Make sure that your child knows exactly where the bus stop is located and at what time the bus is expected to come.

Make sure that your child knows exactly where the bus stop is located and at what time the bus is expected to come.

Make sure your child stands on the sidewalk or curb, and stays as far away from the street as possible.

If your child is very young, try to get an older child to look out for them. Using the "buddy system" is always a good idea.

After school, make sure your child walk directly home.

If your child will not be taking the bus one day, be sure that he/she knows your alternate plans, including who they are riding with and when and where they will be picked up.

Tell your child to never accept a ride from a stranger.

Make sure your child leaves home early enough so he/she doesn't have to run.

Tell your child to not dart from between parked cars or shrubbery.

Bicycle Safety

Bicycle riding is more dangerous than riding on buses, boats or trains and flying in airplanes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Each year there are about 900 bicycle-related deaths in the United States, and another half million bicycle related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.

Don't become a statistic. The CPCU Society urges bicyclists to always ride alert and with caution, and to follow these important safety tips:

Always wear a helmet.

Equip your bicycle with head and tail lights and wear reflective clothing.

Ride with traffic.

Be aware of traffic around you

Learn the rules of the road and obey all traffic laws.

Check brakes before riding

Never ride with more than one person on the bicycle.

Pedestrian Safety Tips for Drivers:

You can encounter pedestrians anytime and anywhere - even in places where they are not supposed to be found.

Pedestrians can be very hard to see - especially in bad weather or at night. You must keep a lookout and slow down if you can't see clearly.

When entering a crosswalk area, drive slowly and be prepared to stop.

Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it is not marked. When you stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.

Do not overtake and pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians.

When you are turning, you often will have to wait for a "gap" in traffic. Beware that while you are watching for that "gap," pedestrians may have moved into your intended path.

Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active.

Tips for Pedestrians:

Be predictable. Stay off freeways and restricted zones. Use sidewalks where provided. Cross or enter streets where it is legal to do so.

Where no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing road traffic.

Make it easy for drivers to see you - dress in light colors and wear retro-reflective material. It might be wise to carry a flashlight in very dark areas.

Be wary. Don't count on drivers paying attention. Watch out - make eye contact to be sure they see you!

Alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to walk safely, just like they do a person's ability to drive.

Use extra caution when crossing multiple-lane, higher speed streets.

A Home Inventory Is a Must

Everyone needs a home inventory. What would you do if all of your belongings were destroyed by a fire, or stolen during a burglary? If you've kept an up-to-date home inventory list, your insurance company will be able to start working on a settlement right away so that you can begin putting the pieces of your life back together. It's simple to do. Just go through every room of your home or apartment and make a list of all your personal property, including furniture, clothing, bedding, and jewelry. Be sure to write the date you bought each item, if you know it, and how much you paid. It's also a good idea to supplement your inventory with photos or a videotape. When you've completed your inventory, make copies and put the original in a safe place away from your home, such as a safety deposit box.

Of course, taking a household inventory without maintaining your homeowners insurance policy won't do you much good if you experience a loss. So, contact your insurance company if you have any questions about your policy or need to update it. Also, ask your agent about obtaining replacement cost coverage on contents, since this provision allows you to receive the entire cost for replacing lost items, regardless of depreciation. We tend to underestimate the total costs if we had to replace all of our contents at the same time after a large loss so the inventory taking process may be an eye-opener. Buy enough insurance to meet your needs.

Kitchen Safety

Of all the rooms in the home, the kitchen can be the most dangerous to you and your family. Just a few moments of carelessness or inattention can lead to a burn, poisoning, electrical shock, fire or injury. The CPCU Society (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters), urges you to follow these kitchen safety procedures:

Remove everything flammable from the stove and the surrounding area.

Install a smoke detector in the kitchen and keep a fire extinguisher easily accessible.

Move electrical appliances away from the sink.

Examine appliance cords to make sure they're in good condition.

Refrain from plugging too many appliances into the same circuit and overloading the electrical system.

Snap a metal cap on the garbage disposal to prevent objects from being shot back out.

Warn children not to play or hide in old appliances such as the stove or refrigerator, since they can become trapped inside and suffocate.

Clearly label all hazardous chemicals and place them in a locked cabinet out of children's reach.

Put safety latches on all drawers and cabinets where harmful objects and hazardous chemicals are kept.

Avoiding Car Accidents

  Ways to Avoid a Car Accident and Prevent Injuries

·        Intersection Errors - Over 65% of urban accidents occur at intersections. Look around very carefully. Proceed with caution and don’t assume anything.

·        Inattention - not maintaining close concentration on your own driving, other drivers, pedestrians, and driving conditions.

·        Following too close - A generally safe and easy rule is to look at your speed in miles and stay at least one car length behind the vehicle in front for every 10 mph driven.  Therefore, if you are driving 30 mph, stay 3 car lengths behind the car in front of you.

·        Vehicle Malfunction - Have regular checkups, particularly of wiper fluid, brakes, and tires, and replace wiper blades whenever they are worn.

·        Maintain your vehicle and you may avoid and accident.

·        Dangerous Roads - Ice, snow, fog, and rain conditions require slower speeds and much greater caution.

·        Unsafe Speeds - Exceeding speed limits, or driving too fast for traffic conditions. Excessive speed reduces reaction time and greatly increases impact and injuries.

·        Improper Lane Changes - Before you change, check all mirrors, and signal long before you change. Also, watch for the other vehicles.

·        Stay alert while driving especially on rural roads as these crashes cause more fatalities than urban accidents due to many factors. These roadways have speeds over 55 mph, and often the roadways are curved.  This coupled with distraction, drowsiness and being impaired by alcohol and drugs provides greater challenges to a driver.

Use your seatbelt - Seatbelt use can significantly prevent or reduce injuries sustained in car accidents.

Have children properly restrained in a child safety seat. Also, if you do have an accident, replace your child’s safety seat with a new one.

These items may seem so simple and standard to drivers, but, in today's hectic driving world they are often over looked, forgotten or simply ignored.

Avoid Staged Accidents

It’s traumatic enough to be involved in a collision, but imagine finding out that it was no "accident." Each year, thousands of Americans become victims of staged auto collisions, and don’t even realize it. Criminals plan the accident so that it looks like the innocent driver is at fault, and then submit vehicle damage and personal injury claims to the driver’s insurance company. To stop insurance fraud criminals from scamming you, the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the CPCU Society offer the following safety tips:

When driving, look beyond the car in front of you. If you see traffic slowing, apply the brake—don’t wait for the car directly ahead of you to brake first.

Allow plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you so you have time to react to a sudden stop—the general rule is one car length for every ten miles per hour traveled.

Be especially careful when turning into a lane that allows for two vehicles to turn left simultaneously. People committing staged collisions often prey on cars that cross the center line, purposely sideswiping the victim’s car.

If you are in a collision, take down the names, telephone numbers, and driver’s license numbers of all passengers in the other car. Often, more people will file claims than were actually in the car.

Call police to the scene and get a police report, even if damage is negligible. If the police report describes damage as a nick, it is harder for criminals to damage their car later and collect a larger claim.

Carry a disposable camera in your glove compartment and take as many pictures of the other car and its passengers as possible.

If you suspect a scam, report the rip-off! Call the (National Insurance Crime Bureau) NICB hotline at (800) TEL-NICB.

Managing Mold

You may not think that mold is growing in your home or business, but that doesn't mean it's not there causing property damage and potential health hazards. To protect your home or business from the growing problem of mold, the CPCU Society reminds you to:

Conduct a routine inspection for water leaks on your property-paying special attention to dishwashers, refrigerators, water heaters, and areas around windows.

Repair water leaks in your home or business as soon as they develop.

Replace aging washing machine and icemaker hoses.

Keep humidity levels low in your home or business by using air conditioning and a dehumidifier.

Check the condensation pans in air conditioning and heating units to make sure that they are clean and draining properly.

Remembering these tips can help to prevent the formation or spreading of mold growth in your home or business.

Teen Driving Tips

Set limits on when and where your teen can drive.  Nighttime driving poses a higher risk for teen drivers – especially Friday and Saturday nights. Washington law will help you with that.  Teens who hold an intermediate license cannot, for the first six months of their license, operate a motor vehicle that carries any passengers under age 20 who are not members of the holder’s immediate family.

·         Limit the number of passengers in the car.  The likelihood of an accident increases with the number of distractions.  Other passengers are the biggest distraction your teen can face.

 ·         Insist on seat belt use.

·         Insist your teen follow all traffic laws.

·         Supervise your teen’s driving.  Ride with your teen as often as possible.

·         Set an example.  Teens are much more likely to follow the rules of the road if they see their parents doing so.

·         No drinking/drug use—Parents should always be vigilant in watching for signs of alcohol or drug use by their teens and talk to their teens and seek professional help if they find indications.   Driving while impaired is one of the leading causes of fatality in vehicle crashes—and the numbers are unfortunately on the rise in the last few years.

·         Parents can help by drawing up a driving contract, before turning over the keys, that clearly states the family rules as well as the consequences for breaking them.  A contract should address safety and good driving skills.

Water Damage Prevention

Know where the main water shutoffs to your home are located. Also, install water shutoff valves on water lines under sinks and toilets, and leading to outside faucets.

React quickly to small leaks around water heaters, refrigerators, dishwashers, and other appliances before they become more troublesome ones.

Know—and follow—the recommended maintenance procedures for your appliances, such as periodically draining the water heater to clean out the sediment at the bottom of the tank.

Check clothes washer hoses for signs of deterioration, and replace hoses that show any evidence of cracking. Also, before you leave home for an extended period, shut off the water valve leading to the clothes washer.

Use plenty of water when operating garbage disposals so that waste is flushed out of the system.

Be aware of what goes down drains (grease, lint, and dirt in particular).

Don’t leave the room after you have turned on the water, especially full force, in the bathtub or a sink.

Cell Phone Safety in Vehicles

• Use your cell phone only when parked, or have a passenger use it.

• Never dial the phone or take notes while driving.

• If your phone rings while driving, let the cellular voice mail service take the call and listen to the message later when you are parked.

• Be careful when pulling over to place calls. To avoid being a crime victim, do not stop in dangerous areas and keep your car doors locked.

• Make sure 911 is programmed into your phone's memory should you need to report an accident or other emergency.

• Do not make emotional / stressful phone calls while driving as you will be focused primarily on the call rather than your driving.

• Make sure the phone is easy to see and reach.

• Get to know your phone and its features (such as speed dial and redial).

• Use your cell phone to help others in emergencies.

• Suspend conversations during hazardous driving conditions or situations.

These tips are meant to protect you, your family, and everyone else on the road. Cell phones are wonderful tools, when used safely.

Identity Theft

How can I protect myself and reduce the risk of Identity theft?

Place complex (alpha-numeric-character) passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts.

Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with.

Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office instead of an unsecured mailbox. Remove mail from your mailbox promptly. If you're planning to be away from home, ask for a vacation hold.

Shred all mail solicitations, receipts, and statements (anything with personal info on it).

Keep your Social Security card in a secure place and give your SSN only when absolutely necessary.

Limit the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you carry to what you'll actually need.

Make a photocopy of front and back of all cards and personal information in your wallet or purse in the event they are stolen.

If you use a computer, make sure you update your virus protection software regularly.

Don't down load files from strangers or click on emails from people you don't know. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus.

Delete any personal information stored on your computer before you dispose of it.

Be alert for suspicious looking forms or things that don't seem quite right. For example, there is a new scam regarding fake IRS forms.  If in doubt, contact the IRS to verify proper forms and necessary information.

Get off mailing lists for preapproved credit offers.  Call 1-888-5 OPT OUT (1-888-567-8688).  Note:  The recorded message asks callers to provide their Social Security numbers.

Order copies of your credit report once a year from the three major credit bureaus- Equifax 888-766-0008 / Experian 888-397-3742 / TransUnion 800-680-7289.

Lock up personal information so roommates, housekeepers, and other people authorized to be in your home and car cannot easily access it.

Review statements promptly.  If you do not remember a purchase, follow up right away.

Fraud costs us all

Ever hear about the "Slip and Fall" insurance fraud scam? You know the story—someone goes into a place of business and "pretends" to slip or fall, then sues the business owner for injuries sustained because of allegedly dangerous conditions.

Scams like this contribute to more than $30 billion in fraudulent insurance claims each year. And who pays for these claims? You do! You pay for insurance fraud through increased insurance premiums and higher prices for goods and services. But you don’t have to be a victim!

If you see someone staging a slip and fall scam, contact the establishment’s manager immediately and tell them everything you witnessed. You can also report fraud scams to the National Insurance Crime Bureau hotline at 800-TEL-NICB. Remember…insurance cheats are deadbeats, and they cost you money!

This message has been brought to you by the Pacific Northwest chapter of the CPCU Society. The CPCU Society, with more than 30,000 members and 153 chapters nationwide, promotes and supports continuing education, professionalism, research, high ethical standards, and community service among property/casualty insurance professionals. Members carry the prestigious CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) designation conferred by the American Institute for CPCU, have industry experience, and agree to be bound by an enforceable code of professional ethics.

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