Home and Business Winter Weather Preparedness Checklist

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Prepare for a Power Outage Heavy snow and high winds are a recipe for widespread power outages. It’s important to prepare a plan now before a possible outage. Learn how you can use alternative heat sources and generators safely during a power outage at disastersafety.org/disastersafety/build-a-plan-for-a-power-outage. Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit with three days of food, water, prescription medications, and other supplies ready (ready.gov/build-a-kit). Consider obtaining an NOAA Weather Radio to stay abreast of current weather conditions.   Prevent Roof Collapse  If heavy snow begins to accumulate on your roof, remove the snow with a snow rake and a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing safely on the ground. Find additional guidance at disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/prevent-roof-collapse.   Stay Safe and Warm  Inspect your source of heat for any damage which can cause a fire and result in costly property damage. Also, remove combustible items placed near a heat source. For more information, check IBHS’ guide on alternative heating at disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/alternative-heating.pdf.   Prevent Frozen Pipes Prevent costly water damage caused by frozen pipes by: Providing a reliable backup power source to ensure continuous power to the building; insulating all attic penetrations; ensuring proper seals on all doors and windows, and sealing all cracks and openings in exterior walls. Additional guidance is available at disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/Freezing-Bursting-Pipes_IBHS.pdf.   Know Your Winter Weather Alerts  When severe winter weather is on its way, it’s important to know and understand what each alert means so you can respond accordingly. Learn more about alerts at disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/finding-meaning-in-winter-weather-forecasts. Information courtesy of Insurance Institute for Business and Home...

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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

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When the chill starts creeping in through the windows and doors, it’s time to get ready for the big freeze. We’ve put together a quick and easy checklist, so you can prepare your home for the cold with confidence.    Inside the Home Indoor preparations focus on two major components: efficiency and warmth. You want to keep as much heat inside the home as you can to use energy more efficiently, which means taking care of leaks and insulation problems. You also want to have the fireplace, heater, wood stove and ventilation system ready to go. Here’s a list to help you get it all done. Fill in cracks around window frames and door frames with caulk. Bob Vila, well-known home improvement guru and host of This Old House, says that this is one of the cheapest and most significant ways you can cut heating costs in winter. Check insulation in attics, garages and basements. If you have a bug or animal problem, you may need to tear out and replace old or chewed up insulation. Make sure any exposed pipes in the attic, basement and garage are properly insulated. Get a check-up for your heating and ventilation system to make sure it’s running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This can save you a lot of money on utilities. Have a chimney sweep inspect the flue and clean the chimney before starting a fire. There may be bird nests or animals blocking the opening, or a highly flammable buildup of creosote. Either of these can start a chimney fire. Check for cracks and openings in your wood stove. Get a professional to replace compromised glass or crooked vent covers. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Install a carbon monoxide detector, if you have not done so already. Change the batteries on your existing detectors. The winter months are prime time for carbon monoxide accidents. Have a licensed technician inspect your fire sprinkler system, and ensure it is ready for cold weather. Outside the Home To prepare the exterior of the home, you need to focus on protecting it from the elements, especially if you live in a snowy climate. It’s also a good time to start prepping your yard for next spring. Clean out the gutters, spouts and drains around your home. Usually there is a thick accumulation of leaves after fall, and this can cause trouble when you need your roof to shed snow and water quickly. Fill in any cracks in your foundation or driveway with caulk or a patch, to keep moisture out. Inspect the roof for cracks, loose tiles, or other signs of weakness. Get all repairs finished now, before the snow or...

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Boating Safety Tips

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Wear a Life Jacket Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have kids make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits a child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose. Infant Appropriate Life Jackets According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat — including rowboats, kayaks, motorboats, and sailboats — until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD). Here’s some more information on how to choose the right life jacket. Hold on to your baby while also wearing your own life jacket. Car seats are not a good option. If the boat were to capsize, the seat would sink instantly. Keep Little Kids Warm Infants and young kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia, so if you are taking a baby on a boat, just take a few extra precautions to keep your baby warm. If your children seem cold or are shivering, wrap them tightly in a dry blanket or towel. Don’t Rely on Swimming Aids Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD). Childproof Your Boat and Develop Some Basic Rules Explain some basic boat rules and have everyone follow them. Children need to understand and follow rules such as keeping their hands and feet inside the boat at all times and not running on a boat. Learn From the Professionals Enroll older kids in a boating safety course. Better yet, enroll with them. Get a vessel safety check every year for free from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons. For more information go to www.uscgboating.org and click “get a free safety check.” Use Your Best Judgment A large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers. To protect your safety and loved ones around you, it is strongly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating. We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training. Make sure there’s a working carbon monoxide alarm on any motorboat to alert your family...

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The Ultimate Guide to Buying your First Home with Confidence

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Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. Most of us fake our way through the process, following the lead of a realtor. But before you dial up your real estate agent and start packing your boxes, here are some things you can know in order to feel more informed and in control as a buyer. Consider this your master guide to buying your first home with confidence. In this guide, we’ll cover the home-buying process from start to finish. If you’ve already begun, feel free to skip ahead to the section that best applies to you. Knowing what you can afford Hidden costs to watch out for Understanding the financials Knowing when to buy Staying organized and focused while house-hunting   First, let’s take a look at how to know what you can afford.   Here are some tips for finding a house that you’re comfortable paying for: Consider debt-to-income ratio Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of debt you have (credit card payments, student loans, auto loans, etc.) compared to your overall income. The ratio helps mortgage lenders evaluate how much additional debt you can handle, helping them to decide whether or not to give you a home loan. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to have a debt-to-income ratio less than 36 percent. Bankrate.com offers a helpful calculator so you can quickly find your ratio. Save for your down payment Once you’ve got a realistic goal based on your debt-to-income ratio, start saving. Set up a savings plan and evaluate your current spending habits to fit your budget. You could even consider earning extra money from a side job, project, or hobby. Build your credit Having a checking or savings account and paying your bills on time are the two most important indicators of good credit. To continue building your credit, try to diminish your outstanding debt and keep existing debt in check. Calculate your mortgage payment Figure out the purchase price you can afford using a mortgage calculator. This calculator factors in the current interest rate for your area and different loan types to help you determine what your payment will be. Investopedia’s Mortgage Calculator is a good one to check out. Factor in PMI If you can’t afford to make a down payment of at least 20% on your home, you’ll need private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects your mortgage lender if you default on your home loan. PMI fees depend on the size of your down payment as well as your credit score, requiring a monthly payment though, in some cases, you can pay in a large amount upfront.   But, what about those hidden costs?   You may...

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Motorcycle Insurance Minimum Requirements in Maine

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If you are a Maine resident who rides a motorcycle registered in the state, you must prove you can cover the cost of damages (either property or injury) in the case of an accident. To show proof that you ensure financial responsibility, you must carry liability motorcycle insurance, uninsured motorists coverage, and medical payments coverage.   Ways to Establish Financial Responsibility Although other states offer a few options to establish financial responsibility, Maine only allows its resident riders to purchase motorcycle insurance. If your specific situation does not afford you the ability to purchase a policy, look into the state’s assigned risk initiative. Read below for the state’s minimum motorcycle insurance requirements; they are no different than what is required for automobiles.   Assigned Risk The Maine Automobile Insurance Plan can assist you if you cannot obtain coverage through regular means. That is because the state requires all insurance companies who sell insurance policies in Maine to contribute to this shared market.   Two-Wheeled Vehicles Defined Not all vehicles must be registered or insured in the state, so if you are not sure whether your vehicle requires registration or insurance coverage, contact the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) at (207) 624-9000, ext. 52149. Here’s how the state defines motorcycles, mopeds, and motorized scooters: Motorcycle―A motor vehicle with a seat or a saddle to accommodate a rider. It has either an electric motor (not less than 1,500 watts) or an engine with more than 50 cc, and is meant to travel on the ground with only 2 or 3 wheels (10 inches or larger in diameter). Moped―A motorized device with fully operative pedals for human-powered propulsion. It is designed for ground travel using only 2 or 3 wheels (10 inches or larger in diameter), and has either an electric motor (less than 1,500 watts) or a liquid-fuel motor not exceeding 50 cc. For more specifics on mopeds, the Maine Exam Manual. Motorized Scooter―Note that these do not include electric personal assistive mobility devices. Instead they are motor-powered scooters having a maximum piston displacement of less than 25 cc or an electric motor with a capacity not exceeding 750 watts. They travel on the ground using 2 or 3 wheels fewer than 10 inches in diameter.   Maine Insurance Requirements for Motorcycles As stated above you must purchase liability motorcycle insurance, uninsured motorists coverage, and medical payments coverage from an auto insurance provider. Here are the motorcycle minimums to satisfy the financial responsibility law: $50,000 for the injury/death to any one person $100,000 for one accident resulting in injury/death of more than one person $25,000 for property damage As you are getting motorcycle insurance quotes, do some research on the types of coverage that...

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Why Does Your Credit Score Affect What You Pay for Auto Insurance?

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There used to be a time when auto insurance carriers did not consider your credit score when quoting auto insurance rates.  Though for the past 20 years or so, it has become common practice for insurance carriers to pull your credit score as part of the evaluation for providing an auto insurance quote. If you have ever wondered why you are not alone.  Many have asked the question, why does credit score affect the cost of auto insurance?  Here is a brief look into credit scoring and why it affects what you pay.   Credit Score in a Nutshell A credit score is an indicator of your financial wellbeing that falls somewhere between 500 and 900. Financial institutions and companies use this number to determine how likely you are to repay your debts based on past credit history, among other factors. When creditors look at your credit score, they’re assessing whether you are a low-risk or high-risk borrower.  A low-risk borrower is someone who most likely would repay their loans, while a high-risk borrower is someone who most likely will be unable to repay their loans on time.  Traditionally, high-risk borrowers are charged higher interest rates because creditors are taking on a greater risk of losing their money.    Credit Scoring and Auto Insurance  A car insurance carrier considers many factors when evaluating the risk of insuring a new customer that can include: age, gender, location, vehicle type, marital status, accident history, driving record, annual mileage and credit score. Insurance companies have found a statistical correlation between credit score and how likely a driver is to file a claim.  They have found that those with poor credit scores are more likely to file a claim than one with the good or better rating.  Insurance companies also perceive that having a low credit score could be an indication that the person has missed payments or has the habit of making late payments on credit accounts and thus believe that they are more likely to follow this pattern.  In essence, insurance carriers think that a good score reflects a customer’s ability to make on-time payments as well as maintain safe driving habits which can lead to fewer claims in the future.  Because there is a lower risk of claims, the customer is more likely to receive a discounted rate.    Need Insurance Options? Equinox Can Help  Equinox represents a wide variety of insurance carriers which helps us to offer many options for our customers.  As an insurance agency, we don’t set the pricing, claims procedures, underwriting guidelines or discounts.  Each insurance company we work with establishes their own rates and rules for doing business with them.  Equinox works as a trusted advisor...

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