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Summer swimming pool safety and homeowners insurance in Lutherville Timonium MDRegardless of our swimming abilities, many of us beat the heat in our backyard swimming pool as summer temperatures soar.  It seems that taking advantage of a residential swimming pool is more popular than ever before. In fact,  over seven million swimming pools and five million hot tubs are estimated to be in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But all swimming pools – from the simplest inflatable wading pool to the most elaborate luxury in-ground variety – can present a danger, especially to children. Between 2005 and 2014, fatal, unintentional drownings in the U.S. averaged over 3500 annually. More than one out of five drowning victims was reported to be 14 years old or under.

The following safety rules will prevent accidents and decrease your potential liability exposure:

  • Empty wading pools completely after each use, and always store them upside-down to avoid collection of rain water. 
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the entire pool area with a gate that latches and locks.  Never leave furniture or other items close enough to the fence to allow children to climb over.  Pool alarms and safety covers add extra protection. 
  • The powerful suction of a swimming pool drain can trap a child under water.  Cover your pool drain with a safety guard, tie up long hair before swimming, and teach children to stay away from drains and filters.  In particular, teach them never to sit on a pool drain. 
  • Post emergency numbers and CPR instructions in the pool area. Store a first aid kit, a cordless water-resistant phone, reaching poles and ring buoys near the pool area to be used in case of emergency; and do not allow children to play with these items. 
  • Consider having older teens and adults take a course in basic first aid and CPR, and enroll your family’s non-swimmers in swimming lessons with a certified instructor.  Anyone who is not a good swimmer should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest while in your pool. 
  • Adults should not swim alone, and children should never swim without an adult present and watching them constantly. 
  • Keep the pool area clear of glass items, electrical devices (radios, CD players, etc.), and obstacles that could cause a fall or other injury.

Homeowners Insurance and Pool Liability Issues

If you are planning to install a pool at your residence, it is important to consider the insurance implications as well as the safety issues.  The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following:

  • Installing a pool will also increase your insurance liability risk.  So contact your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners policy provides enough additional liability coverage.  If your pool will be costly, this may mean you will have to increase your homeowners insurance coverage and perhaps add umbrella insurance to provide extra liability above what your homeowners policy provides for your home. Of course, your home insurance must also cover the cost of replacing your pool and any pool-related items like deck furniture, should a storm or other disaster destroy or damage it. 
  • Contact your town or municipality since the definition of a pool which drives local building codes and safety standards will vary from town to town. You will want to have this information before you purchase the pool. 

Here at our Lutherville / Timonium, MD agency, our highly experienced William M. Sparks Insurance agents are always glad to speak with you about any insurance needs. Before you decide on a pool for your backyard, you owe it to yourself to contact us to be sure you have optimum insurance coverage. We can answer your questions, refer you to other resources, offer a no-obligation policy review and discuss your options.

Sunday, 23 June 2019 17:41

Be social media safe while on vacation.Your vacation plans are made and you’re all packed and ready to go. But wait, shouldn’t you let all your online friends know that you’ll be away? The answer is a big NO. Your pre-vacation posts could make you a prime target according to the Electronics Security Association (esaweb.org) who says an estimated 75% of burglars are using social media to find targets. These criminals spend their online time trolling social media to find out whose house will be empty and when. With that knowledge, it is an easy task for them to gain access to your empty home and take their time removing all that they wish to take. In fact, burglars are known to steal higher end items if they know they have as much time as they need.

So how do you avoid being a victim of these online burglars? Following these social media safety tips will help you to protection of your property and belongings when it counts the most.

  • Vacation plans — Avoid announcing in advance your vacation plans – when you’ll leave and return, where you will go. If you must share, do so by text to just those who are closest to you. There will be plenty of time to share your vacation events when you return. Don’t give the burglars an invitation to break and enter your home.
  • Location — If you believe that there is any chance that you have been targeted by burglars who have tracked your online activities, you won’t want to help them further by also showing your GPS location. Whether during your trip or just at home, keep your location private by disabling GPS location-identifying settings,
  • Pricy purchases — If you purchase high-end or expensive items on your trip, it’s best not to post a photo of them? Online thieves also track posts of expensive items and could be motivated to target your home to steal such items. So yes, you would still be a target upon your return.
  • Hidden data — When you take a picture with your digital camera or your phone and save it, part of what is saved in a collection of hidden data (called EXIF) which includes when and where the photo was and much more. Although some social media outlets do automatically exclude EXIF data but others do not. If you’ll be uploading photos that can be captured by others, consider removing this data before you share. In fact, you can find the simple steps to removing the EXIF data here
  • Photos — Delay the posting of your vacation photos to social media until you are safely back home; and when you do eventually post your photos, remember to include the hashtag #latergram to let your social media friends know that the photo was taken earlier. If you really must share your photos in real time, then upload them to an account on Google Photos where you can share them only with those you designate. Otherwise, online thieves trolling for victims will know you’re away from home.
  • Privacy — Be proactive. Long before criminals have the chance to find you online, be sure your social media settings are set to “private” or “friends only” to be sure no unwanted strangers see your posts.

Homeowners Insurance Tip

Before you leave for your vacation, take all precautions to thoroughly secure your home and property. Let a trusted neighbor know that you will be away and share your itinerary. But also have a conversation with your insurance agent to be sure that your home is sufficiently covered for any damage or theft that might occur in your absence. If you are concerned about theft of your personal data through social media, it is advisable to also explore your options for identity recovery, should you need to pursue it.


 

Monday, 18 July 2016 20:10

Food cooked outdoors, especially on a propane or charcoal grill in the backyard has a special appeal.  But grilling outdoors can be dangerous, even deadly, unless you take precautions.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8800 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues.  Of these fires,  about started on a courtyard, terrace or patio while 29 percent started on an exterior balcony or open porch.

Nevertheless, if you are like most Americans, you too enjoy summer grilling.  So, the following are some of the most important safety tips to assure that your barbecue is risk-free, whether you do a gas or charcoal grilling.

Safety Tips for Successful Backyard Grilling

  • Place your grill on a level surface at least ten feet away from all other objects including structures like your house, garage, etc.; and stay clear of landscaping and traffic areas. 
  • When grilling is complete, be sure to keep children and pets well away from the grill until it has completely cooled. 
  • Never grill in an enclosed space including homes, vehicles, tents, campers, garages, etc.  This can be a deadly risk both for fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Use only long-handled grilling tools and wear dry oven mitts that cover your forearm to avoid burns when cooking. 
  • After grilling with charcoal, soak the coals with water and store in a metal container for disposal. 
  • After cooking on a gas grill, turn off BOTH the grill and the propane bottle. 

Need some help making the best meal ever on the grill?
Check out this one-stop site for your next outdoor get together.

MORE ON GRILLING SAFETY

Friday, 16 June 2017 11:30

 

Regardless of our swimming abilities, many of us beat the heat in our backyard swimming pool as summer temperatures soar.  It seems that taking advantage of a residential swimming pool is more popular than ever before. In fact,  well over 8 million  U. S. households owni a pool, according to the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. 

But all swimming pools – from the simplest inflatable wading pool to the most elaborate luxury in-ground variety – can present a danger, especially to children.

Swimming Pool Safety Tips

The following safety rules will prevent accidents and decrease your potential liability exposure:

  • Empty wading pools completely after each use, and always store them upside-down to avoid collection of rain water. 
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the entire pool area with a gate that latches and locks.  Never leave furniture or other items close enough to the fence to allow children to climb over.  Pool alarms and safety covers add extra protection. 
  • The powerful suction of a pool drain can trap a child under water.  Cover your drain with a safety guard, tie up long hair before swimming, and teach children to stay away from drains and filters.  In particular, teach them never to sit on a pool drain. 
  • Post emergency numbers and CPR instructions in the pool area. Store a first aid kit, a cordless water-resistant phone, reaching poles and ring buoys near the pool area to be used in case of emergency; and do not allow children to play with these items. 
  • Consider having older teens and adults take a course in basic first aid and CPR, and enroll your family’s non-swimmers in swimming lessons with a certified instructor.  Anyone who is not a good swimmer should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest while in your pool. 
  • Adults should not swim alone, and children should never swim without an adult present and watching them constantly. 
  • Keep the pool area clear of glass items, electrical devices (radios, CD players, etc.), and obstacles that could cause a fall or other injury.

Insurance and Liability Issues

If you are planning to install a pool at your residence, it is important to consider the insurance implications as well as the safety issues.  The Insurance Institute recommends the following:

  • Installing a pool will also increase your insurance liability risk.  So contact your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners policy provides enough additional liability coverage.  If your pool will be costly, this may mean you will have to increase your coverage to protect your pool, should a storm or other disaster destroy or damage it. 
  • Contact your town or municipality since the definition of a pool which drives local building codes and safety standards will vary from town to town. You will want to have this information before you purchase the pool. 
Saturday, 16 October 2010 16:53

Drivers are distracted in many ways, including everything from dealing with children, pets and other passengers, to operating the car’s climate controls, audio or navigation device, and from eating to old-fashioned map reading.  However, by far the deadliest distractions come from talking on the cell phone and texting while driving.  Moreover, using your cell phone while driving has been found to impair your ability to drive your car just as much as driving while drunk.

Types of Distractions

No matter what your distractions might be, they all fall into one of the following three categories according to which of your senses are distracted by the activity, and texting and other cell phone use combine all three. 

  • Manual distractions – causing you to take your hands off the steering wheel
  • Visual distractions – causing you to take your eyes off the road
  • Cognitive distractions – causing you to take your mind off the road

According to research done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over half a million people were injured and over 6000 people died because of distracted or inattentive drivers in 2008.

When so many injuries and deaths occur from such a cause – and the number is increasing, then it raises our collective awareness and repercussions occur.

The Impact on Insurance and Industry

Obviously, the situation threatens a rise in auto insurance costs because insurance companies must pay increasing numbers of payouts; and this could result in increased premiums for all of us.  Therefore, insurers are taking part in the movement to control distracted drivers.

This growing problem has also captured the attention of industry because of the potential for lawsuits against employers for injuries and damage caused by employees who carry out their business by cell phone while they drive. 

Campaign Against Distracted Driving

As a result, a cross-section of safety and industry organizations, including the NHTSA, have joined in a campaign against distracted driving.  They are encouraging states to enact laws to prohibit texting while driving and have drafted a sample state law which was unveiled by U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, in February, 2010.

In fact, 19 states and the District of Columbia have texting laws in place covering all drivers, and others are pending.  State laws vary, and below are some examples as reported by the Governors Highway Safety Association: 

  • Maryland bans hand-held cell phone use and texting for all drivers.  The law allows citation for hand-held cell phone use only if other violations are being cited; but Maryland drivers may be cited for texting even if no other violation has occurred. (Reflects law chnge in Maryland effective on October 1, 2010)
  • District of Columbia bans use of cell phones and all handheld devices for all drivers (novice drivers with learners permit included), and citation is allowed even without other violations.
  • Virginia bans cell phone use for all novice drivers under age 18 but allows citation only if other violations are being cited.  Cell phone use by Virginia school bus drivers is banned and allows citing even if no other violation exists.  Texting is banned for all bus drivers but allows citing only if another violation exists.
  • West Virginia bans all use of cell phones including text messaging vices for novice drivers with learners and intermediate permits, and citation is allowed even without other violations.

Media Taking Action Against Distracted Driving

The public campaign to stop distracted driving – especially driving while texting and using a cell phone – is spreading, and the media is doing its part, as well.  Here are just a couple of recent examples: 

  • You can find all the information and great resources on a new website opened by the NHTSA at www.distraction.gov .
  • Among other high-profile public figures, Oprah Winfrey has made this cause a priority on her television show as well as on her website at www.oprah.com .  There, you can catch videos, stories and other features that will inform and challenge you to do your part.  You can take a quiz to test your knowledge about this serious topic, and you can even sign a pledge to make your vehicle a “no-phone-zone”.

What You Can Do

Whether you are a business owner, employer or just an individual concerned about your loved ones, you will want to minimize your risk by limiting your cell phone use and texting to non-driving time and by encouraging others who drive your vehicles to do the same.

Saturday, 16 October 2010 16:58
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