Enjoy Greater Peace of Mind With These Simple Summer Safety Tips

 

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Owning your own home comes with lots of important perks, and one of the biggest is having a place to relax and unwind on sunny summer weekends. In recent years, the concept of “staycations” has become more and more appealing, not only to people who want to save on the expenses of a costly away-from-home vacation, but also for families, couples and singles who like having the option of enjoying a little R&R without needing to venture far from home.

Adding a deck, pool, play area or outdoor kitchen are all popular ways to turn your property into a virtual backyard oasis, offering new ways to get the most from your yard at the fraction of a cost of annual vacations (not to mention increasing your home’s overall appeal and value). But as fun as these options may be, they do come with some extra risks, and taking a few summer safety precautions now is the best way to prevent accidents and reduce your liability risks to boot.

  • First, most municipalities require fencing around pools to help prevent accidents. Depending on where you live, gate locks and other features also may be required. Know the requirements and don’t be afraid to add additional features for more security.
  • Invest in a pool alarm. These simple and affordable devices alert you if a child, pet or object falls into the pool so you can take action quickly. Teach kids a few basic pool safety rules, like no running around the edge of the pool or pushing people in and no dunking. Never let kids swim unsupervised, and be very careful about allowing kids to dive.
  • If grilling is your passion, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the risks of burns and fires. First, locate the grill well away from your home and other structures, and be sure to keep it clean – built-up grease can catch fire easily. As with pools, a hot grill should never be left unattended, even if you’re through using it to cook. Keeping pets and kids away is a good idea, and it’s also smart to keep a hose or a bucket of sand on hand to put out fires.
  • Playgrounds and trampolines can provide hours of fun for kids and even for some adventurous adults. Because of the physical nature of these and other play structures, establishing a few summer safety rules – even posting them in writing – can go a long way toward preventing accidents and injuries. Each year, millions of kids wind up in emergency rooms due to injuries incurred during play. Limit kids’ pain and suffering (as well as your own liability) by making sure children understand the proper way to use equipment, and keep an eye on younger kids to ensure they comply.

One more quick summer safety tip: Review your homeowner’s policy and add liability coverage when needed for added peace of mind. Call our office today at 410-777-5390 and ask for a policy review. It takes just minutes, but it can provide you with the protection you need for a safer summer of fun in the sun.

Insurance Claims Costs Are on the Rise: Protect Your Assets With an Umbrella Policy

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Spring rains are nothing new to men and women in the Annapolis area, and for most people, carrying an umbrella becomes part of their daily routine. When it comes to your insurance needs, an umbrella policy can provide the same type of broad protection – but for your financial assets rather than your clothes.

What is an umbrella policy?

Umbrella policies provide comprehensive coverage for homeowners and businesses, with extended liability coverage limits above and beyond those provided by basic homeowner’s or business insurance policies. That’s important, because while you may think your policy offers enough coverage, statistics show insurance claims amounts are rapidly increasing, with many claims far exceeding the limits provided by basic insurance policies. In a nutshell, umbrella policies help ensure you and your assets are protected in the event of a major insurance claim or lawsuit, so you can feel secure your assets are amply protected.

Umbrella insurance is aptly named because it truly provides broad, comprehensive coverage, “kicking in” when the liability limits on a homeowner’s, auto, boat or business policy have been exhausted. Specifically, an umbrella policy covers:

  • bodily injury liability, including injuries due to serious accidents where you’re at fault, injuries on your property, and injuries caused by a pet or equipment
  • property damage, including damage caused by your personal or work vehicle or damage caused by your employees
  • liability issues you may face as a rental property owner, including injuries sustained on your property as a result of inadequate maintenance

So suppose you’re involved in a car accident where you’re at fault. The other party has medical costs of $400,000, but your auto policy has a limit of $300,000. Who pays that additional $100,000? You do – unless you have an umbrella policy.

In addition to providing comprehensive coverage for liability issues, an umbrella insurance policy also covers you against claims of slander, libel, malicious prosecution and false arrest, plus it provides liability coverage for any rental properties you may own.

Is umbrella insurance expensive?

Not really. Umbrella insurance policies offer coverage in addition to your existing homeowner’s, auto, boat or business insurance policy. As a result, the cost of the extra coverage can be surprisingly affordable, especially considering the peace of mind that additional coverage can provide. Want to learn more? Old Bay Insurance Agency is ready to help. Call our office at 410-777-5390 and speak with one of our agents today. We’ll be happy to review your needs and your existing coverage limits to help you make the best decision for your own peace of mind.

6 Tips to Help Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents

Each year in the U.S., nearly a half million people are injured in car crashes caused by distracted driving and several thousand are killed, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Yet, even though the problems of distracted driving have been widely publicized, millions of drivers – many of them young and inexperienced – still persist in habits like texting and posting on social media while they’re behind the wheel. Other activities like applying makeup and eating while driving can also cause distraction-related accidents, resulting in major property damage, serious injuries and even death. In fact, national statistics show that at any time during the day, nearly a million vehicles are being driven by someone who’s using a handheld cellphone.

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Maryland has enacted some laws and penalties from distracted drivers, ranging from a $40 fine for use of a cellphone while driving to up to a $500 fine for drivers who text while driving – penalties which some have criticized as being too lenient. In fact, while the texting offense is considered a misdemeanor crime, cellphone usage is a secondary offense, which means a driver can only be penalized if they’re pulled over for another issue, like failing to stop at a stop sign or driving over the center line – and by that time, an accident may have already occurred.

It’s up to the legislators to hash out the laws and penalties surrounding distracted driving in Maryland, but for drivers, the best way to stay protected is to avoid driving while texting or performing other activities. The Maryland Department of Transportation offers these additional tips to help drivers stay focused behind the wheel so distracted driving accidents may be prevented:

  • If you must make a call or check your texts, pull off the road into a safe area to do so.
  • Avoid emotional or stressful conversations when driving.
  • Eat before your drive to ensure both hands remain on the wheel and prevent spills, which can cause distractions on their own. Likewise, perform personal grooming including hair care and makeup application before you hit the road.
  • If children become unruly, pull off the road into a safe area to care for them – don’t turn around or reach behind you, both of which can result in distraction and accidents.
  • Don’t let pets (or kids) sit in your lap while you’re driving.
  • Review directions and maps before heading out.

Another important way to minimize damage if an accident does occur: Make sure you have ample insurance coverage. At Old Bay Insurance Agency, we make it simple for drivers to ensure they have the right amount of coverage. All it takes is a simple phone call to review your policy so you can feel confident you have the coverage you need for yourself and your loved ones. Call us today at 410-777-5390 and let us review your needs.

6 Simple Steps to Reduce Business Liability Risks from Slip-and-Fall Accidents

About a million people are injured every year in the U.S. as a result of slip-and-fall accidents according to the CDC, with injuries ranging from relatively mild bruising to more serious injuries like broken bones, joint dislocations and neck, spine and head injuries. Even a minor slip-and-fall accident can result in significant medical bills, and more extensive injuries can involve years of costly medical treatments and therapy. Of course, it’s important to take steps to prevent slip-and-fall accidents all year long, but because winter’s ice and snow can make injuries far more likely, taking steps now to improve safety and decrease liability can significantly reduce your risk exposure.

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Here’s what you can – and should – do now to reduce liability and improve safety at your business:

  • Make sure sidewalks and parking lots are well maintained. Repair cracks and uneven surfaces right away. Fill in any potholes as soon as they appear.
  • Clear ice and snow cleared, and when snow is falling, shovel snow and remove ice on a regular basis throughout business hours.
  • Make sure interior (and exterior) walkways are clear of obstacles like boxes, electrical cords and furniture. Keep throw rugs out of the work area and opt instead for carpet with a very low pile or non-slip flooring products. Repair any thin spots or holes in carpeting.
  • Perform a daily “walk-through” evaluation of your premises to determine any hazards that exist and eliminate them prior to opening for business when possible. When repairs need to be delayed, use signage or block off areas until the repairs or maintenance can be performed.
  • Use incident reports to keep a written log of any accident that occurs at your business. Written reports are important for insurance claims or subsequent lawsuits because they can show you performed your duty of care as a business owner, and they can also help you identify safety issues that need to be addressed.
  • Keep updated maintenance records showing all upgrades and repairs, the dates they were made and who performed the repairs or maintenance. Be sure to remain compliant with any local, state or national codes.

Finally, make sure your business insurance policy is up to date and offers ample coverage for your business. Insurance is an affordable way to limit your losses. Never skimp on insurance; instead, schedule a regular review – at least annually, and any time an incident occurs or new equipment is added – to make sure your coverage evolves with your needs. Call Old Bay Insurance today at (410) 777-5390 to schedule a policy review so you can feel confident your business, your employees and your customers are adequately protected.

9 Winter Driving Safety Tips You Should Know

Winter driving has its own set of hazards, and knowing how to drive safely is the best way to avoid accidents and injuries.

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Here’s a quick list of tips to help you stay safe and sound when you’re on the roads this winter:

  • If you’re traveling a long distance, be sure to know what the weather’s like along your route. That way, you can plan for delays and avoid rushing and be prepared for whatever road conditions you might encounter.
  • Have your car serviced for cold weather. That includes making sure the tires have good treads, checking the battery and fluids, and making sure you have plenty of anti-freeze. Don’t forget to keep the windshield washer reservoir full to keep ice off the windshields.
  • Keep a winter survival kit in your trunk. Include a collapsible shovel, some kitty litter from traction, an emergency blanket, flares and reflectors, flashlight and fresh batteries, extra cell phone charger, booster cables and, of course, a couple of ice scrapers. Having some extra hats, gloves and scarves in your kit doesn’t hurt either.
  • Clear snow and ice from your car’s trunk, hood and roof before heading out. Make sure to clear off lights and mirrors too.
  • Keep your headlights on when driving through a snowstorm and be sure to keep all lights clear of snow so you can see others and they can see you.
  • Never use cruise control when the road is snowy or icy, and know how to brake when traveling on slick roadways. Your vehicle’s manual should have specific instructions depending on the type of braking system you have.
  • Remember – speed limits are meant for ideal road conditions. For winter driving, adjust your speed down to stay safe, especially on bridges and overpasses that can turn icy even when the rest of the road remains clear.
  • Keep the gas tank full during cold weather just in case the car breaks down so you can run the heater to stay warm. If that happens, run the heater every 10 minutes or so every hour. One more safety tip: Be sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow and ice and keep the windows cracked a bit to prevent carbon monoxide from building up.
  • Of course, when weather conditions are harsh, the best tip is to avoid winter driving whenever possible. But if you must go out, make sure a friend knows where you’re going and when you’re supposed to arrive at your destination so they can alert emergency personnel if you’re delayed. Keep your phone turned off when driving to avoid becoming distracted.

The New Year is a great time for reviewing your auto insurance policy to ensure you have all the coverage you need – and to make sure you’re getting all the discounts you qualify for. A policy review is quick and it can save you a bundle in the event of an accident. Call Old Bay Insurance Agency today at 410-714-4689 and find out how we can help you make both safety and savings your priorities in the New Year.

Make Holidays More Fun With These Kitchen Safety Tips

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for gathering family and friends together to enjoy great food – turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. All that food needs lots of preparation and cooking, and sometimes, that means accidents.

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Fortunately, there are a few simple safety steps you can take to make sure your holiday is delicious, fun and safe:

  • First, use a timer any time food is in the oven to avoid overcooking and oven fires. If you’re cooking more than one item with different cooking times, keep a note next to the timer so you can reset it when the first item is done.
  • Make sure your fire extinguisher is charged, and make sure you know how to use it. Remember: Grease fires should never be put out with water, which can cause the fire to spread.
  • Keep your hair pulled back and don’t wear clothes or jewelry that hangs loose or dangles over or near the stove.
  • If you’re using a turkey fryer, keep it on a stable surface well away from your home or other structures, and keep kids and pets far away from the area.
  • If you’re using candles to provide a little holiday ambiance, keep them on stable surfaces out of the reach of kids and pets. Keep them in visible areas so you don’t forget to blow them out once the festivities have ended.

Don’t forget about food safety:

  • Make sure your turkey is cooked through. The USDA says whole turkeys must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° to avoid bacterial poisoning. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or breast and make sure it’s not touching the bone. If your turkey is stuffed, the stuffing must also reach a temperature of 165° in the center.
  • Don’t buy a turkey that’s already stuffed; the risk of food poisoning is much higher. Don’t thaw a frozen turkey too early. The USDA offers a handy table here for when and how to thaw a turkey so it’s ready for cooking.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly, at least within two hours of serving. Ideally, leftovers should be eaten within three days or frozen on Thanksgiving for eating later.
  • If you’re serving a buffet, use chafing dishes or hot plates to keep hot food at the proper temperature.

Being mindful of safety concerns may not seem terribly festive. But by following these simple tips, you and your loved ones can spend more time creating happy holiday memories.

Make Halloween Trick-or-Treating More Fun With These Six Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time for kids looking to dress outlandishly and score some free goodies, but for parents, as enjoyable as the holiday can be, it can also be a little worrisome. And based on news reports of past years, there are some legitimate dangers associated with the holiday that go beyond the razor-blades-in-candy stories.

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Here are a few basic, common-sense safety tips that can help you can focus more on the fun and not so much on the worry:

  • Stick to neighborhoods you know. Whether you go out with your child or not, it’s important not to stray into unfamiliar neighborhoods.
  • Carry goodies so your kids won’t be tempted to snack on treats before they get home. Inspecting treats before your kids eat them is almost as much of a Halloween tradition as carving pumpkins. Having a few special goodies on hand can prevent kids from munching on treats before you have a chance to look them over.
  • Use reflective tape or bright white elements and avoid the all-dark costumes that can reduce visibility. There are plenty of cars on the road on Halloween, and since most trick-or-treating takes place after dark, it’s important to do all you can to make sure your kids can be seen by drivers. Adding reflective tape to the front and back shoulders and elsewhere on the costume will help drivers see your kids even if your kids are too distracted to see the cars.
  • Make sure masks don’t obstruct vision. Your child needs to be able to see traffic, curbs, steps and other obstacles to avoid accidents. Be sure their mask allows for clear vision straight ahead and, if possible, to the sides as well. Also avoid putting makeup right around the eyes – perspiration can cause greasepaint to run, resulting in irritation and tearing.
  • Keep bottom hems well above the ground. What small child doesn’t love a flowy princess or Dracula costume? Just be sure to keep the bottoms of the garments above your child’s feet to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Make sure your child goes trick-or-treating in a group. Unless you’re taking your child trick-or-treating yourself, make sure your child goes with a group of friends you know and trust, and be sure to know which route they’re taking. Also be sure your child’s cellphone is charged and turned on at all times.

It’s easy for kids to get caught up in the fun of Halloween – after all, getting dressed up in crazy costumes, hanging out with your friends and getting free candy is what it’s all about. Following a few simple safety tips can help you feel more at ease about your child’s activity without interfering too much in their own sense of adventure.