Protect yourself from Carbon Monoxide at Home and at Work

Insurance in Southwest Florida

Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people in the U.S. die from carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning—and the invisible, odorless gas sickens thousands more.

The numbers seem even more tragic when you consider that most of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. Here are tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help protect yourself and your loved ones at home and at work.

At home

  1. Make sure you have CO alarms—and that they work. You should have a CO alarm on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Test them and replace batteries regularly, too. The alarms themselves should be replaced every five years or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Get your chimney and furnace checked. A chimney or furnace that isn’t functioning properly can lead to CO buildup inside your home. Have a professional examination and/or service before you begin using them.
  3. Be careful with generators and grills. Neither should ever be used inside your home or in an enclosed space, such as a garage – even semi-enclosed spaces like porches can be risky, too. Keep generators at least 20 feet away from the house when in operation.

At work

In general, the same precautions for homes apply here, but there are a few additional considerations for the workplace, particularly one where gas-powered machinery is used:

  1. Be mindful of ventilation. Every year, workers are poisoned by CO while using fuel-burning equipment in areas that don’t have adequate ventilation.
  2. Try using different tools indoors. Consider electric tools or ones powered by compressed air, and if possible, avoid using forklifts, pressure washers and other gas-powered equipment. Ensure machinery and tools are maintained properly, too.
  3. Report unsafe conditions or issues. If you see something that might cause CO buildup, or you suspect CO poisoning in yourself or a co-worker, get people out of the area and report the problem to your employer immediately.

Whether you’re at home or at work, always be on the lookout for symptoms of CO exposure, which include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and nausea. If you suspect an issue, leave the area as soon as possible and call 911—because when it comes to CO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Do I Need to Tell My Insurance Company If My Dog Bites Someone?

Insurance in Southwest Florida

You probably don’t think your dog would ever bite someone, let alone cause a serious injury. But dog bites are more common than you might realize—4.5 million occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most victims are young children.

Those injuries also have a bigger impact on homeowners insurance than you might realize: The Insurance Information Institute says dog-related claims accounted for more than $600 million in insurance payments in 2016.

(Keep in mind that it’s not just bites that cause injuries. Dogs can knock down pedestrians or cyclists, too, which often leads to severe medical issues as well.)

With those numbers in mind, it’s understandable that insurance companies want to know if you’ve got a dog in your household. Some even will refuse to insure you if you have a specific breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior, regardless of whether your dog has ever bitten someone.

Despite that, you should never hide the fact that you have a dog from your insurance company. If you do, and your dog then causes an injury, your coverage could be invalidated—leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more.

When a bite happens

OK, so your insurance company knows about your dog. But do you have to tell them if the dog bites or injures somebody?

That depends. If it’s a minor incident, you might consider paying out of pocket for any medical expenses in an attempt to avoid the claims process and a potential increase in your premiums. (In some instances, insurance companies will not renew your policy or will exclude your dog from coverage after paying for a dog-related claim.)

However, this might violate your policy, which probably requires you to report changes in your circumstances. If you don’t report a bite, and the dog then bites someone else later, the insurance company might deny you liability coverage for the second incident. Ask us to outline your options.

Another risk is the threat of future claims from the victim. Injuries aren’t always immediately apparent, and complications can arise later. The victim might decide down the road to sue you. And if you’ve waited too long to report the incident to your insurance company, it might be too late to make a claim and receive all the protection your policy was meant to provide—which can include help with attorney fees, medical bills and more.

A $33,000 mistake?

Ask yourself this: How would your budget look if you had an unexpected $33,000 expense? The average claim payment for a dog injury in 2016 was about that amount. And that’s with an insurance company working on behalf of the insured. If you’re on your own, you could wind up paying even more—a lot more.

Our advice? Start with your independent agent and discuss your specific situation. Even if you decide not to file a claim—which is always an option—you’ll get guidance from a professional on our team who can help you assess the risk.

Protecting Your Home: Understanding Your Home Insurance Policy

Insurance in Southwest Florida

As a homeowner, one of the most important aspects of your home isn’t something you use daily. And it isn’t something flashy you show off to friends. It’s your homeowners insurance policy, and it protects you in more ways than you may think, helping you rebuild your home or repair damage that results from a covered loss.

But, that’s not all. It can also help cover the costs of a lawsuit, help you pay for somewhere else to live when your home is uninhabitable and much more.

Home insurance is typically very comprehensive, but all policies have exclusions and coverage limits. It’s vital to know what those are so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Fire damage? Typically covered. Flood damage? Typically not.

With this guide, you can begin to understand what a typical home insurance policy covers. Just keep in mind that coverage varies from carrier to carrier, region to region and even policy to policy. Only your individual home policy can tell you the coverage you have and that which you don’t. For an even better understanding of your home policy coverage, review it with one of our agents.

What Home Insurance Covers The typical homeowners insurance policy has six types of coverage. They are commonly known as:

  • Coverage A: Dwelling, for damage to your house that occurs due to covered losses, such as a fire. Following a covered loss, dwelling coverage helps you repair or rebuild your home, including the structures, such as a garage or a deck, attached to it.
  • Coverage B: Other Structures, for damage to other buildings or structures on your property that result from a covered loss, such as a tornado. This may include a detached garage, a barn or a fence.
  • Coverage C: Personal Property, for damage to or loss, including theft, of your personal belongings and possessions, such as jewelry, furniture and other valuables. If you experience a covered loss, this coverage will help you replace items up to the defined dollar limit in your policy. In certain instances, your belongings may be worth more than the typical home insurance policy covers. In this case, you may be able to purchase additional coverage through a process known as “scheduling valuables.” To help expedite a personal property claim, it helps to keep an updated home inventory of your belongings.
  • Coverage D: Additional Living Expenses, for costs incurred, up to your set policy limit, due to “loss of use” of your home, meaning your home has been damaged to the extent that you cannot live in it and you need to live elsewhere. This coverage helps you handle the costs of your temporary housing and related expenses.
  • Coverage E: Personal Liability, for damage to other people’s property for which you are responsible. This coverage may also help you handle legal costs and liability judgments resulting from a lawsuit, up to the defined dollar amounts outlined in your policy.
  • Coverage F: Medical Payments to Others, for bodily injuries to other people, such as a houseguest, that occur in your home or on your property. Like personal liability coverage, this coverage helps with the costs of a lawsuit or legal decision, up to your defined policy limits.

Remember that, despite having all of these different types of coverage, you’re only covered up to the dollar amounts that you select and only for covered losses, as outlined in your policy. Typically, you can change these policy limits at any time if you’d like to purchase more coverage. This is a good idea if, for example, you’ve recently added on to your home, acquired some pricey personal belongings or made other updates to your property. If needed, you can also reduce your coverage, though always ensure you are adequately protected.

What Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover

It’s just as important to know what your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover as it is to know what your home policy does cover. For starters, your policy does not cover any damage or repairs costing less than your deductible. It also does not cover any costs that exceed the coverage limits outlined in your policy. You are solely responsible for excess costs, unless you have an umbrella policy to provide additional liability coverage for a covered loss.

More than likely, your policy also does not cover routine maintenance and repairs, as well as damage due to animals, termites, floods, earthquakes, sinkholes, sewer backups, and other incidents. These are often considered non-covered losses. If you experience a non-covered loss, as outlined by your policy, you will be responsible for the costs.

What Home Insurance May Cover

Outside of the typical home insurance coverage, optional or separate coverage may be available from your carrier or from a different carrier. For example, you may be able to purchase earthquake or flood coverage separate from your homeowners policy.

Other coverage options are add-ons to your existing homeowners insurance. These can include identity protection and equipment breakdown coverage, which covers the cost to repair or replace a range of appliances and other equipment, such as pool equipment, in your home. If this sounds similar to an extended appliance warranty, it is. The difference is that you can insure an array of appliances at once through this optional coverage rather than purchasing a separate warranty for each one.

This guide is a starting point for understanding your home insurance policy. Your own policy may vary greatly from the descriptions above depending on the state where you live, your carrier, and the coverage you have selected. So take a close look at your policy by reviewing your documents or viewing your coverage online. Or, even better, sit down with one of our insurance agents who can explain your coverage in detail, as well as discuss whether your policy provides adequate protection for your home, property, and belongings.

Summer Driving Tips

Insurance in Southwest Florida

Summer’s almost here. The sun will come out of hiding, and people will, too.

As crowds swell at the beach, in parks, and even on roadways, it all makes for some challenging driving conditions. More people are out and about, whether on foot, bike, or skateboard, or by car, motorcycle, or RV, increasing the risk of an accident. And, the summer heat isn’t exactly kind to your vehicle.

Still, there’s no stopping the allure of a summer drive. To help keep yours safe, keep your attention on the road and on your surroundings, as well as on these safety tips.

Summertime Safety Behind the Wheel

Just like winter, summer has its own set of seasonal hazards that require your complete attention as a driver. Here are some to be particularly mindful of:

  • People: In your neighborhood, on city streets, in parking lots, and especially around parks, beaches, or any popular summer attraction, people are outdoors and often more focused on their enjoyment than on personal safety. Children are out of school and they might be playing in the street in a quiet neighborhood or chasing a basketball bouncing away from a driveway hoop. In summer, there is simply more human activity everywhere, and it’s up to you to slow down and stay alert.
  • Bikes and motorcycles: Bicyclists and motorcyclists are also more active in good weather. Pay attention and take extra care in areas that attract cyclists.
  • Glare: The sun’s glare is bright in summer, and even harsher when the sun is low and in your face. Have your sunglasses handy if you’re not already wearing them, and be ready to flip down the visor so you don’t spend even a second driving while blinded by the glare.
  • Roadway obstacles: A busy roadway is no place for a sofa. But, with scores of people completing summer moves, you might just encounter one. Keep an eye out for roadway obstacles and plan as far ahead as possible on how to safely maneuver around them. Thunderstorms and tropical storms can further clutter the roads with debris, tree limbs, or even downed power lines.
  • Heatstroke: Finally, don’t forget the dangers of summer parking. Children and pets left in parked cars are vulnerable to injury or even death from heatstroke. At an outside air temperature of 60 degrees, a car’s interior temperature can reach 110 degrees, which is a lethal level for children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Rolling down car windows does not provide sufficient cooling, so don’t be tempted to leave children or pets for even a minute. It can be lethal—and in many states illegal—to leave children and pets alone. To help keep your car cool for when you return, park in the shade or place a removable sunshade in the windshield.

Road Trip Safety

A road trip with family and friends can make a memorable summer for both the right and the wrong reasons. Make it the right reasons with some careful planning and driving. There will be plenty of time for fun once you reach the campground, resort, or cabin.

  • Inspect your ride: Have a mechanic give your car, bike, or RV a full inspection before you go. Be especially mindful of coolant and oil levels to help protect your engine, and remember that tires often deflate with significant temperature changes, such as during the transition from spring to summer. If you have a bike carrier, car carrier, or trailer attached to your vehicle, be sure everything’s secure before taking off.
  • Pack your emergency supplies: We know space is at a premium when packing for a summer road trip, but don’t neglect to include some important necessities in case of emergency. This includes water, food, maps, first aid supplies, a tire pressure gauge and tire change kit, a flashlight, towels, and jumper cables. Be sure to keep your phone charged and gas tank full in case of trouble. And, don’t forget plenty of games, books, snacks, and activities to keep the passengers distracted—and to keep them from distracting you.
  • Plan your route: Map out how to reach your destination and how much time it will take to get there, and be sure to leave plenty of room for unexpected delays. Minimize those unexpected delays by checking the Department of Transportation websites of the states where you’ll be traveling for planned road work before you go.
  • Check your insurance coverage: Is your insurance ready to help out if you injure a pedestrian on your summer drive? What if you crash into a tree or run out of gas? If you’re not sure for what types of scenarios you’re covered, check in with us before heading out on your trip.
  • Take your time: Don’t get frustrated when unexpected delays—or fascinating roadside attractions—put you behind schedule. Keep to the speed limit, and don’t risk shortcuts that aren’t clearly marked. Take plenty of breaks to stretch your legs and rest your eyes while kids run off excess energy, and switch drivers when you’re drowsy.

There’s no better time to be on the road than when the sky’s clear and the sun’s shining. We wish you safe travels and a wonderful summer!

Essential Safety Tips for Nighttime Boating

Insurance in Southwest Florida

If you own a boat (or better yet, as the joke goes, you know someone with a boat), you’ve probably thought about spending some evenings on the water — especially in the summertime.

It’s a great thought, of course. But, when you’re boating after dark, you need to think about staying safe, even as you enjoy the stillness of the water and the starry sky.

Here are seven things to keep in mind, both before you hit the water and once you’re out cruising around:

  1. Have a plan — and tools to help if it goes wrong.
    Don’t go boating at night in an unfamiliar place. You can’t see as well, obviously, so stick to where you know the ropes, so to speak. And because things look different in the dark, make sure you have the correct navigational tools in case you get lost.
  2. Share your plan.
    Always give a friend or family member your “float plan.” Include where you’re going, your boat’s description and registration information, who’s with you and when you’ll be back.
  3. Check – and dress for – the weather.
    On top of the other difficulties of boating at night, you don’t want to get caught in a storm if you can help it. And you want to be comfortable, so be sure to bring clothing appropriate for the forecast. A sweatshirt, blanket and extra towels may come in handy, even in the summertime.
  4. Do a pre-trip inspection.
    This is good advice for daytime boating as well, but at night it’s crucial that your navigation lights work, for starters. You also need a horn, plenty of fuel, a radio, a flashlight, flares, fire extinguishers and life jackets for all passengers.
  5. Slow down.
    Speed is a factor in many boating accidents, and the limited visibility at night makes the water even more dangerous. Remember, you aren’t going to be the only one on the water at night, so know the right-of-way rules.
  6. Pay attention.
    Know how to monitor the navigation lights of other vessels to recognize which direction they are going. Be particularly cautious about small vessels, such as canoes and kayaks, as well as anchored or drifting boats. Their lights can be easily confused with onshore lights.
  7. Don’t get distracted — or drunk.
    It’s never okay to drink and operate a boat, so be sure you have a designated driver. And, though you’re out there to have fun, make sure you can still hear the sounds from approaching vessels. Keep the stereo low and your ears open.

While these tips are important, there’s nothing like experience to help ensure a safe voyage. If you’re a new boater or just in an unfamiliar vessel, you may want to put in more hours during the day before tackling an area at night. Even then, start with short evening outings and work your way up to a moonlight ride. And don’t forget to turn on the lights at the dock before you go!

6 Tips for Getting to Work on Two Wheels

Insurance in Southwest Florida

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States commute to work by bicycle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau? That’s a lot of cars off the road each day, a lot of gasoline saved and a ton of calories burned.

Maybe you’re a bicycle commuter already — or maybe you want to give it a try. These tips from the League of American Bicyclists and other organizations will help you prepare for the challenges you’ll face on your way to work. (We’ve included a few tips for drivers, too.)

  1. Be prepared. Always check your bike and other equipment before you leave on each trip. Also carry the proper tools and gear (including wet-weather clothing, if needed).
  2. Obey the law, traffic signals and signs. You have a right to be on the road with cars, but you also have the same duties.
  3. Stay right. Ride with the flow of traffic in the right lane. Leave room to make emergency maneuvers.
  4. Be visible. Drivers are often distracted, and many aren’t expecting to see cyclists on the road. So make them see you! Stay out of blind spots. Wear bright-colored clothing during the day, with reflective clothing and lights at night or in inclement weather. Also use hand signals so motorists know your intentions.
  5. Consider the conditions. Riding can be miserable when it’s wet, unless you have waterproof rain gear. Watch out for slick roads, too.
  6. Be hyper-aware. Scan your surroundings constantly so you can react quickly. Pay attention to cars parked alongside the curb; a door can fly open at any moment.

Bonus tips for drivers: Stay on the lookout for cyclists. When you see them, be patient — they have a right to the road, too. If you park on the street, check behind you before opening doors. And, always remember that your significant size and speed advantage can be deadly in an accident.

Cars and bicycles can, in fact, peacefully coexist on the roads. All it takes is a little preparation and a lot of awareness, along with some understanding thrown in for good measure.

If you’re biking to work, we may be able to help you get a special discount on your car insurance for driving your vehicle less. Call today for details!

Let’s Keep Our Lawns and Ourselves Safe

Insurance in Southwest Florida

For many of our neighbors, summer means more than sunshine and vacations. It also means working in the yard – often with tools that can be dangerous if not used properly.

Each year about 400,000 people are treated for injuries from lawn and garden tools, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Don’t let your landscaping efforts land you in the hospital! Follow these handy safety tips.

Tool safety tips from the U.S. CPSC

  • Dress appropriately. To protect yourself from debris when using lawn tools, wear eye protection, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, close-fitting clothes and no jewelry. Sturdy shoes are recommended, and ear plugs may be appropriate depending on how loud the device is.
  • Before starting, remove objects from your work area that could cause injury or damage, such as sticks, glass or stones.
  • Keep children indoors and supervised at all times when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Never let a child ride or operate a garden tractor or riding mower, even if the child is supervised. And never assume children will remain where you last saw them. Use extreme caution when backing up or approaching corners, shrubs and trees.
  • Teenagers using power equipment should always be supervised by an adult.
  • Handle gasoline carefully. Never fill tanks while machinery is on or when equipment is still hot. Of course, you should never smoke or use any type of flame around gasoline or any gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Do not work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. For protection against electrocution, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Be sure that extension cords are in good condition, are rated for outdoor use, and are the proper gauge for the electrical current capacity of the tool.

Lawn Chemical Safety Tips from Texas A&M University

  • If you use chemicals to control weeds or pests in your lawn, read the product label carefully so you understand the potential effects on humans, animals and the environment. Follow all instructions.
  • Keep children and animals away from the application area, and protect your skin, eyes and nose during and after application.
  • Remember, use only the recommended amount. Using more of the chemical will not do a better job.
    Ask yourself if you truly need to use a general pesticide. Is there a product that will specifically treat only the problem you need to solve?

From all of us, here’s to keeping both you and your lawn healthy this summer!

Five Ways to Protect Your Personal Electronic Data

Insurance in Southwest Florida

Online data breaches are just an unfortunate fact of life now—as the New York Times put it, you might as well assume that your personal information has been taken, because cyberattacks happen all the time.

That’s why we recommend identity-recovery coverage, which may be available for as little as $1 a month for our homeowner insurance customers.

It’s best if you don’t have to use that coverage—but many people don’t take even simple steps that would make it harder for thieves to gain access to banking details, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. And even those who have been victimized previously can find themselves falling into old habits.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do, quickly and easily, to keep your data more secure. And while a really determined and skilled hacker could still find a way in, putting up a few roadblocks might encourage them to move on to a different target, similar to a burglar choosing an obviously unoccupied home instead of one with the lights on.

Here are five things experts recommend to better protect your personal information:

  1. Use a stronger password. People have some truly awful passwords: The worst of 2017, as compiled by password-management company SplashData (using data leaked in various breaches), included “123456,” “qwerty,” “letmein” and the ever-popular “password.” You should try to create complex passwords using a combination of special characters, numbers and odd phrases that aren’t easily guessed. Instead of “mike2013,” for example, remember something like “In 2013, Mike broke his leg in Omaha” and translate it into “i13MbhliO!” Password-management software can help, too; these programs generate strong passwords for you and require you to remember just one master password.
  2. Better yet, use multi-factor authentication. Many companies and online service providers offer this feature, which forces you to provide verification beyond a password to sign in. You might be required to enter a code that is sent to your mobile device, or answer security questions. Beware the security questions, however—thanks to publicly available information, including posts on social media, these can be easy to guess. (“What is your favorite food?” is not a great question to use, particularly if your answer is “pizza.”) So make sure your answers are things only you would know. If multi-factor authentication is available, you should use it, especially for sites with your most sensitive information.
  3. Watch out for phishing attempts. We’ve all gotten calls or messages that were clearly scams, such as when the “IRS” calls to say you’re going to be arrested if you don’t immediately make a payment via credit card. But they’re not “clearly” scams to everyone, and if someone happens to send you an email that is plausible because of your present situation, you could be fooled, too. Unless you’re absolutely sure about the person or company you’re dealing with, don’t give out personal or financial details on the phone or via email. If you have a question about someone’s authenticity, type the organization’s web address into your browser (don’t click links in an email or use an address provided by a caller). Then call or email back using the information on the actual website, or get the correct contact information from your account statement.
  4. Back up (or wipe out) your data. Not only is this important in case your device is stolen, it also can save you in the event of a “ransomware” attack, where someone blocks access to your data unless you pay a fee. Some devices and platforms have a feature that allows you to erase everything remotely if needed, so consider enabling that feature if it’s available. And remember to always fully wipe old devices before selling or recycling them. Simply deleting files isn’t enough—check with the manufacturer and learn how to completely erase all of your information.
  5. Watch where you go online (and where you’re connected). If you’re making a purchase online, don’t enter your credit-card information (or other sensitive details) unless the site’s address begins with “https.” And it’s best to avoid entering this type of data when you’re on a public network, especially if it’s unsecured.

Of course, nothing can completely protect you from all risk online. Even the founder of LifeLock, a data-security company, famously had his identity stolen multiple times. (To be fair, he did use his actual Social Security number in an advertising campaign, which in hindsight wasn’t the best move.) But if you use the steps above, you’ll be ahead of most people.

Five Common (and Potentially Costly) Homeowner Mistakes

Insurance in Southwest Florida

Owning a home is usually a great experience. But it can also be a hassle, especially when unexpected issues pop up—whether you have a minor breakdown or a major catastrophe, it’s almost certainly going to require time and money to fix.

In many instances, however, those “unexpected” issues shouldn’t really be a surprise at all, because they’re often caused by a lack of maintenance or other oversights by homeowners. And not just new homeowners, either; it’s common for people who have been in a home for years to neglect even some of the most basic tasks that can prevent problems down the road.

Here are five mistakes we often see homeowners make—and tips from experts to help you avoid them.

  1. Forgetting about (or ignoring) the small stuff. The toilet that runs constantly? That faucet with a slow drip? The little crack in that one board on the deck? They might not seem like big problems, but they can turn into bigger issues over time. For example, a leaky faucet or running toilet might mean your water bill is higher than it should be. And that small crack can lead to rot, which could lead to having to replace the board—or the entire deck. When you see “small” things around the house, take steps to address them as soon as you can, because it likely will be a lot easier (and cheaper) today or tomorrow than a year from now.
  2. Not doing regular checks around the house. Speaking of seeing things around the house, how often do you look around the house? You’d be surprised how many homeowners haven’t been in their attic or crawlspace for years. It’s a good idea to do a walk-through periodically to look for issues such as leaks, areas of wear or other problems. And don’t forget to go outside! How is your roof looking? Do you see any cracks in your siding? Are the seals around your doors and windows solid? It’s important to catch those things before the rainy season begins in fall and winter.
  3. Skipping maintenance on your appliances. Not only will keeping your appliances in good shape ensure they work effectively and prolong their lifespan, maintenance also can prevent serious risks. For example, when was the last time you cleaned out your dryer exhaust vent? No, not the screen you pull out when you’re doing laundry, but the one on the back or side. Too much lint buildup there can cause a fire—so clean it out at least once a year. You also should check the hoses connected to your washing machine and dishwasher. Are they worn? Do they need to be replaced? Do it now, before one fails when you’re not at home and causes significant water damage. Other tips:
    • Clean your refrigerator coils at least once a year.
    • Clear out your dishwasher’s food filter regularly.
    • Vacuum up dust and other debris in window air conditioners before you start using them each year.
    • Remember to test your smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors twice a year, installing fresh batteries each time.
  4. Neglecting other systems. Your HVAC system needs attention so it won’t fail when you need it most. Having your furnace, heat pump and/or central AC unit serviced each year before you start using them heavily will alert you to any potential problems. You don’t want to find out that your furnace is out of whack when it’s 30 degrees outside, or that your AC is on the fritz when it’s 95. Change filters at the appropriate intervals, and if it’s been a while since you’ve had your ducts cleaned, consider that as well.
  5. Not having a home warranty. Despite your best maintenance efforts, that air conditioner might break down, leaving you sweltering in the summer. The water heater could stop working, meaning cold showers every morning. Or the refrigerator suddenly won’t get very cold anymore. These things sometimes just happen, and if your appliance is out of warranty, you’re on the hook.

Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so it pays to be diligent about caring for it. Keep your eyes open around the house. Don’t hesitate to get out the tools, or call a professional if needed. Remember, prevention is the best medicine—and that old saying holds true just as much for your home’s health as it does for yours.

Keep Pets Happy and Safe on Vacation

Insurance in Southwest Florida

You’re not just imagining it—a lot of people are traveling with their pets these days.

According to a TripAdvisor survey of more than 1,000 travelers, 53% of those responding said they take their pets on vacation, and 52% stay only at places that welcome pets. (For some people, the “welcome” part doesn’t matter: 20% admitted they have snuck their pet into a hotel room.)

Of course, you’re going on vacation because you want to get away, so it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be happy. But if you take your pet, how can you make sure their experience is a good one, too? These tips from the Humane Society and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) can help.

Find the right place to stay Lodging options for pet owners continue to expand; many hotels now allow dogs and other pets, and individuals renting out their homes and apartments through services like VRBO and Airbnb often do as well.

Some properties charge an additional fee or have restrictions based on size, so you’ll want to check all of the rules before you book—and you’ll want to alert the hotel or owner that you are bringing your pet along. A pet-friendly place might not be so friendly if you surprise them.

Consider your activities If you’re planning to do a bunch of things on vacation that are not pet-friendly, that means your pet would be cooped up in the room while you’re gone. Some pets are OK with that, while others definitely aren’t. If you aren’t going to be able to spend a lot of time with your pet, it might be best to just leave them at home.

While you’re planning your trip, research activities for both you and your pet. Where are the local dog parks? Are there restaurants that allow pets? What kinds of pet-sitting services are available for the times when you can’t be together?

Travel safely No matter how you’re traveling with your pet, you need to take certain steps to ensure their comfort and safety—along with your own.

  • In the car: Pets shouldn’t roam around in your vehicle, so keep them in a carrier or a confined space where they won’t distract you. Don’t ever let them sit in the front seat. You also should plan for plenty of rest stops to allow for exercise and bathroom breaks. And your pet shouldn’t be left alone in a car, especially when it’s warm out. Vehicle interiors get very hot very quickly, even with the windows open.
  • On the plane: The Humane Society says driving is usually the best option, but if you have to fly, try to have your animal in the cabin. However, if they must fly with cargo, choose a direct flight to avoid connection issues. It’s a good idea to carry a photo of your pet in case they are lost in transit. Finally, work with the airline well in advance to ensure your pet meets all the requirements necessary for flying.

Have the right ID and documents The ASPCA notes that you should have your pet microchipped no matter where you’re headed or how you’re going to travel—that way, they can be easily identified if you’re separated. If your pet’s tag doesn’t have your cell phone number, get one that does. It also can be handy to have vaccination records and other details in case your pet needs emergency care while you’re on vacation.

You’ve arrived. Now what? Once you’ve gotten your pet to your destination, a few comforts from home can make all the difference. Pack some of their favorite toys and the pad they sleep on every night. And don’t forget what might be the most important thing of all—lots and lots of treats!