With Fall Around the Corner, Now’s The Time to Prep Your Car and Home for Winter

Yes, we just got through a heatwave, but before you know it, autumn will be here and with it, the cold, frosty weather. That means now is the time to start thinking about steps you should take to ensure your home and car are in top shape to handle everything Mother Nature throws at it this winter.

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  • First, have your furnace serviced. Yes, you can do some things like change the filters yourself, but having your unit professionally serviced ensures your furnace will be ready for action. Plus, many maintenance services come with warranties for peace of mind that lasts the whole season. Have the chimney checked too (that’s especially important if you have a fireplace or wood-burning or pellet stove).
  • Grab some caulk and seal those windows. Hot summer sun can cause caulk to warp, shrink and crack. Replacing worn caulk stops air leakage both ways. All it takes is a few tubes to save a bundle on your heating bills. Buy a can or two of spray foam and seal around pipes or cable wires where they enter your house.
  • Insulate pipes in your basement and in any unheated areas to prevent freezing and to maintain hot water temperature to help keep fuel bills low.
  • Make sure your gutters are clean. Do it now before heavy fall rains arrive to ensure proper drainage, then again once the leaves fall to prevent ice from damming up this winter.
  • Clear any brush from around your house to eliminate cover for rodents that may want to hunker down in your basement or crawlspace.
  • Have your car serviced and make sure the battery is in good shape and the anti-freeze levels are appropriate for your vehicle. While you’re at it, have the cabin filter changed if you haven’t done so recently. A new filter means you’ll be breathing cleaner air while driving with the windows up.
  • Make sure your car’s heater and defroster are working, and grab some extra windshield wiper blades and windshield deicer to keep in your trunk. While you’re at it, put together a winter car emergency kit with a shovel, some kitty litter (to provide traction on icy spots), some flares and an emergency blanket.
  • Check your tires for worn treads and invest in a new set now to ensure they have optimal traction for icy roads.

Fall is a great time to review your insurance policy to make sure you have enough coverage just in case fall or winter storms cause damage to your home or car. Call Old Bay today at (410) 777-5390 to review your policy.

4 Mistakes Businesses Make When Filing Insurance Claims

When it comes to business insurance losses, most business owners think in abstract terms and not in terms of how a disaster might affect their own business – or what to do if a disaster occurs. But that kind of detached approach to business insurance can lead to a lot of problems when it does come time to file a claim.

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Understanding the most common mistakes business owners make when filing claims can help ensure you know what to do if the unthinkable happens to your business:

  1. Not contacting your agent right away. You have insurance specifically to protect your business from losses, so when you do have a loss, it’s vitally important to contact your insurance agent immediately to determine what to do next and to get the claims process started. Insurance companies have trained adjusters ready to come out right away and assess damage to prevent interruptions that can affect your bottom line.
  2. Failing to take photographs or video of the damage. When your business premises or equipment is damaged, it makes sense you want to start repairs as soon as possible to avoid interruptions in your business activities – especially if that interruption can have an impact on your customers or your bottom line. But once repairs are made, it can be difficult to prove a claim. That means it’s imperative to take photos and videos and to ensure those images are as clear and comprehensive as possible. Use plenty of light, but not so much that glare obscures some of the damage. Make sure the camera you use produce high-resolution images. It’s also important not to throw away equipment that’s been damaged since it can serve as important evidence to support your claim.
  3. Failing to review and upgrade insurance coverage on a regular basis. Business’ insurance needs change on a regular basis, especially if the business is new or growing. Scheduling an annual review is a good way to make sure your coverage evolves along with your business so you’re not left with big risk exposures. It’s also a good idea to have your policy in an easy-to-access location and to program your insurance company’s phone number into your cellphone.
  4. Not having an emergency response plan. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a plan – ideally in writing – of what to do in case of a disaster or loss ensures you know what steps to take to protect your business, your property and your assets.

If you’d like to learn more about business insurance, Old Bay Insurance Agency can help. As a leading provider of insurance policies for businesses in and around Annapolis, MD, Old Bay understands the risks business owners face, offering personalized assistance to ensure the best coverage for greater peace of mind and smoother operations. Call Old Bay today at 410.713.4689 and learn how we can help your business stay protected and profitable.

Save Money and Stay Protected with a Business Owner’s Policy from Old Bay

More than a half million businesses are started every month in the U.S., and more than half of those are home-based. If nothing else, those figures speak to the ingenuity of many Americans and their willingness to create their own financial futures. Unfortunately, many businesses aren’t positioned for the long haul, failing to anticipate setbacks that can end up wiping out a modest initial bankroll. When it comes to small businesses, failure to plan is the main cause of failure to succeed.

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The good news is, while you may not be able to plan for specific financial setbacks, you can take steps to protect yourself from unexpected losses by implementing a business owners insurance policy, or BOP. BOPs are specifically designed to include coverage that’s especially important for today’s entrepreneur and small business owner. And because multiple types of coverage are “bundled” into one policy, a BOP can save you money in more ways than one. Here’s what an average BOP includes:

  • General liability insurance to provide financial protection against injuries or property damage to others that occurs as a result of something you do or fail to do during the course of business. General liability also provides coverage for your employee’s actions that result in injury or property damage to others, as well as coverage for faulty products or improper installation of products.
  • Property insurance which covers the structure itself as well as the contents. Some BOPs offer varying levels of property coverage depending on the equipment your company uses to ensure you have the best level of protection for your needs.
  • Business interruption insurance is often overlooked by small businesses, but it is an essential part of protecting your business. This type of insurance covers any losses your business may incur if you’re temporarily prevented from doing business as the result of a fire or other catastrophic event. It also helps cover the cost of moving your operation to another facility during the interruption.

In addition to the coverage types offered by a BOP, there are other options that can be added to address specific needs, like worker’s compensation coverage, business auto insurance, equipment breakdown and even cyber crimes. The key to ensuring your get the right kind of coverage is to work closely with an insurance agent who can determine your risk profile and recommend the coverage options that can keep you safe and save you money.

At Old Bay, we help small businesses protect their assets and their brands by offering an array of coverage options from insurance providers from across the country. As an independent insurance company, we understand the needs of small businesses and can offer policies developed specifically to provide adequate protection at a competitive cost that suits just about any business budget. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, call Old Bay today and learn how we can help you save money and stay safe.

Planning a Vacation? Keep Your Home Safe With These 5 Important Tips

Vacation season is upon us, and whether you choose to stick close to home or travel afar, you want to enjoy your vacation with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your home and your possessions are safe and sound, even when you’re not there to keep an eye on them. Summer season is an especially busy time for burglars who are looking for signs that indicate homeowners have gone away.

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It just makes sense that before you head out on this year’s summer adventures, you take a few steps to protect your home and your personal property. Here’s your go-to checklist of simple ideas that can have a big impact on your home’s security:

  • Consider upgrading your home security system (or adding one if you don’t already have one). Today’s security systems rely on “smart home” technology to enable you to monitor your home from anywhere in the world where you can gain access to the internet. Systems with cameras let you keep an eye on your home – literally – and many systems will also alert you to other problems like power outages or leaky pipes.
  • Invest in timers. You can use the “old-fashioned” kind that turn on and off at specific times, or for greater security, install a smart home system that lets you vary the times your lights, TV or other appliances turn on and off so the effect is more natural. Some systems let you control on-and-off functions remotely using your smartphone.
  • Keep your plans to yourself. As excited as you may be excited to tell friends and family all about your upcoming plans on social media, burglars are even more excited to hear about them. In fact, plenty of tech-savvy burglars routinely cruise social media sites to find out about vacation plans so they know which homes are going to be empty. A better idea: Wait to talk about your adventures once you return.
  • Enlist trustworthy neighbors. Neighbors can keep an eye on your property and alert you or the police if anything suspicious is going on. Plus, they can move your car around or maybe park one of theirs in your driveway so it looks like someone is coming and going.
  • Finally, make sure your insurance policy is up to date and provides plenty of coverage in case the unthinkable happens. Having adequate insurance coverage is all about managing your risks so you, your family and your assets remain properly protected.

To learn more about homeowners insurance coverage and to ensure you have the coverage levels that are right for you, call Old Bay today and have one of our agents review your policy. Just a few moments’ of your time could provide you with a lot of peace of mind.

9 Simple Tips for Better Boat Safety this Summer

When the weather turns warm, it’s hard to resist the charms of the water – especially if you live in a community like Annapolis, where the summertime seems almost to revolve around the Severn and South rivers and, of course, the Chesapeake Bay. Whether you own a high-powered motorboat, a sail-powered cutter, or some other variation of watercraft, knowing a few boating safety tips can make the time you spend on the water even more enjoyable. Here are a few of the most important tips to keep in mind:shutterstock_106903454.jpg

Boating Safety Tips

  • Keep the alcohol on dry land. The glare from the sun can enhance the effects of alcohol, making it more difficult to navigate, let alone interfering with your judgment. If you must drink while on board, wait until you anchor or return to your slip or mooring for the evening.
  • Make sure you have a life vest for each occupant, and make sure the vest is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. You should also have a throwable flotation device for added safety.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on board and make sure it’s fully charged and easily accessible (and you know how to use it).
  • Check your lights before you leave the dock and carry extra batteries to be safe. Also be sure your radio is working.
  • Pack some safety essentials in a watertight flotation bag, including flares and a first aid kit.
  • Make sure passengers sit inside the boat, and not on the rails where they could easily fall over board.
  • Before leaving, tell someone where you’ll be heading and when to expect your return, and make sure they know how to contact the Coast Guard if needed.
  • Know the navigation rules for inland waterways. The latest edition of U.S. Aids to Navigation System published by the U.S. Coast Guard can be found here. Pay special attention to the markers and the correct way to pass a boat that’s headed your way. Have a boat horn on board to provide sound signals.
  • Make sure your boat is properly insured. Old Bay Insurance Agency is a top provider of boat insurance in the Annapolis area, and we can review your policy to make sure you have the right amount of coverage to keep you protected.

Of course, it’s important for you to know these safety tips, but it’s just as important for anyone else who comes aboard. Make sure guests and kids understand the do’s and don’ts of boating for an experience that’s big on enjoyment and low on risk and worry.

Spring Tune-up? Ask Your Mechanic to Change Your Cabin Filter for Optimal A/C Performance

When it’s time to see your mechanic for a routine spring tune-up, most of us understand the need to replace our air filter and oil filter to help keep the car running smoothly after a winter of cold, icy weather. But there’s another filter that’s just as important, and which hardly gets any love at all. It’s the cabin filter, and it plays a really important role in the air quality inside your car, especially when you’re running the A/C system. The cabin filter helps prevent dust and debris from entering the car via the ventilation system, and it also traps pollen, germs and even exhaust that can work their way into the A/C components.shutterstock_282033554

Most car manufacturers recommend changing the cabin filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, and scheduling a filter change along with your routine spring tune-up is a good way to make sure it gets changed every year. Dirty filters can also increase the risk for problems like corrosion that can cause your A/C system to wear out prematurely, and they can also cause musty or stale odors inside the car’s interior. Here in the Annapolis region, our hot, humid summers make running the A/C a necessity, even for short trips, and changing this important filter can make sure the air you’re breathing is clean and fresh.

While you’re at the mechanic, also be sure to have your hoses and gaskets checked. These rubber- or synthetic-based components are essential to the “health” and function of your car engine, and winter can take a real toll on them, causing them to become brittle, weak and cracked. Replacing worn hoses and gaskets now, before they break down completely, is a good way to make sure your car is ready to roll once the warm weather arrives, and it’s also essential if you plant to take your car on any long drives or family vacations this summer.

Finally, ask your mechanic to make sure your tires are in good shape, including your spare. Few things can spoil a road trip more quickly than a flat tire, and that hassle is compounded when you find your spare is in just as bad shape as your flat. And while you’re checking your spare, take some time to clean out your trunk and add a trunk organizer stocked with extra oil, jumper cables, flashers or flares, and any other supplies that can help you handle a roadside emergency.

A spring tune-up is one of the wisest things you can do to protect the value of your car and to help ensure it’s in peak running shape. Schedule your tune-up now, and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the roads once those warm summer days finally arrive.

5 Common Questions about Car Insurance – and Their Answers!

If you drive a car or other vehicle, you need insurance. And when it comes to choosing a policy, most people have at least a few questions. Luckily, at Old Bay Insurance Agency, we can help. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about car insurance in Maryland:shutterstock_149158688.jpg

How much car insurance do I need?

In Maryland, you’re required to have vehicle insurance that meets at least the following minimum requirements:

  • $30,000 bodily injury coverage ($60,000 for 2 or more people)
  • $15,000 property damage

Of course, that’s just the coverage you need in order to legally operate your vehicle in Maryland. To provide adequate protection for yourself, your loved ones and your financial assets, you’ll probably want to carry significantly more coverage, especially considering a car accident injury claim can run into tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Plus, if your vehicle is financed, you’ll need additional coverage to satisfy your lender’s requirements. Our agents can help you determine your needs by evaluating your risks and other factors to ensure you have the coverage you need for your own financial security and peace of mind.

How can I decide which deductible is right for me?

When choosing a car insurance deductible, many people are tempted to choose a very high deductible to save money. But ideally, you should choose your deductible based on the amount of money you can afford to pay out of pocket, then set aside that amount in savings so you know you can handle the costs of a claim should one arise.

How can I save money on my insurance?

The best way to save money is to drive safely to avoid accidents that result in claims. In addition to maintaining a clean driving record, you may also receive discounts for security features like car alarm systems, for getting good grades if you’re a student or if you have a child who drives, or for certain types of employment. Insurance costs can also be less costly for certain types of vehicles, so if you’re in the market for a new car, you might want to take that into consideration. “Bundling” your car insurance with your homeowners insurance can also help reduce your costs. Your agent can review your policy, driving record and other factors to determine what discounts you might qualify for.

What if my needs change while my policy is in effect?

If you need to add or subtract coverage or add or remove a driver from your policy, just call our office and we can help you make those changes quickly and easily.

How can I make sure I’m getting the best rate for my car insurance?

Old Bay is an independent insurance agency. We work with many providers, not just one, so we can compare coverage options, deductibles and premiums from multiple carriers to find you the best coverage at the best price.

Need more information? Give us a call today at (410) 777-5390 and we’ll be happy to help.