Black Friday Planning

Hitting the shops on Black Friday has become a ritual that is as all-American as watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. And why wouldn’t it be, considering all the great deals that are out there?

Over the years, however, Black Friday has evolved. Stores that used to open at 5 a.m. now open on Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday has entered the picture, offering bargain prices online the Monday following Black Friday. All of this means that getting the best deals now requires a bit of strategy.

At Shults Insurance Agency, we want you to get the best deals for your holiday shopping, so here are a few pointers for maximizing your experience:

  • Be willing to forego the shut-eye.  Since many retailers are now opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving, and often staying open all night, overnight shopping is increasingly practical. Accept that you will not get eight hours of sleep Thursday night (and remind yourself that your wallet will thank you).
  • Do your research.  Go online before the holiday and note who has deals on what and when.  Remember to factor in your opportunities for Cyber Monday.
  • Pick your favorites. You probably won’t have time or energy to go everywhere, so narrow your shopping store list down to focus only on your favorite stores or those that are offering sales on exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Create an itinerary. Before you go, make a list of stores in order of priority based on times they open and items you want to snap up. Then, map it so you know your route.
  • Make a budget (and stick to it).  Whether you are shopping for Christmas gifts or just trying to save on some household items, be careful to avoid the unnecessary expense of impulse buys.

We wish you a very productive and enjoyable Black Friday!

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Halloween Safety

Despite the fact that Halloween involves walking around at night amongst ghouls and witches, it really only takes a little common sense to make the night safe for everyone.

Here are five questions to ask so your entire family, even pets, can enjoy a safe and fun evening of trick-or-treating or handing out candy to others:

  1. Are we visible?

Add reflective tape to costumes, clothing and candy bags to make it easier for drivers to see you and your group.  That also goes for pets who are tagging along.  Put reflective tape or flashing lights on their leashes or collars.  Carrying flashlights and glow sticks is a good idea as well — they make you more visible and help you see better, too.

  1. How safe are our costumes?

Costumes, including masks and shoes, should fit well to prevent blocked vision, trips, and falls.  Baggy clothing can also increase the risk of contact with candles.  If you purchase costumes, make sure they are marked as flame-resistant.  Accessories such as swords and knives should be soft and flexible.

  1. Where are we going?

It’s best to have a plan before taking your kids trick-or-treating.  You should only go to known neighborhoods and houses that have outside lights on, and children should never enter someone’s home unless an adult is with them.  If you have older children going out on their own, have them tell you their plan.

  1. What are the kids eating?

It’s always a good idea to examine the items your kids have collected before they dig in.  And it’s not just about tampering, either.  Be aware of choking hazards, too, particularly for young children.  And remember, when it comes to eating treats, moderation is key.

  1. How are Fido and Fluffy doing?

Even if your dogs and cats are just hanging out at home while you hand out candy, don’t forget about them. They shouldn’t eat candy at all, especially chocolate, which can be toxic.  Make sure candles are placed in areas where they won’t be knocked down.  Remember that, depending on your pet’s personality, having people constantly coming to your door can be stressful.  You might want to create a comfortable spot for them away from your home’s entrance.

With the right plan, you can make Halloween fun — and safe — for your little ghosts and goblins. And you can probably snag a little leftover candy for yourself, too.

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3 Ways to Stay Safe On the Water

Are you thinking about taking the boat out?

There is nothing better than going out on the river or lake, but when you do, you need to make sure you and your passengers are safe. Let’s take a quick look at three ways Shults Insurance Agency in Fort Plain, NY suggests to stay safe on the water. 

Always wear a personal flotation device

First and foremost, you need to make sure you and everyone else who is going out on the lake with you are wearing some type of personal flotation device. In fact, depending on where you are going out on the water, it may be required by law for you to wear a life jacket of some type. Most water laws will at least mandate that you have enough life jackets on your boat at all times for everyone who is aboard. 

Be aware of your surroundings

Another way to stay safe on the water is to make sure you are aware of your surroundings. If you don’t know the lake or river very well that you are boating on, it is imperative that you go very slowly. You never know when a boat may come around a curve that you are unfamiliar with, and you will want to have enough time to move out of the way. 

Don’t drink alcohol or be intoxicated while driving

Lastly, to stay safe out on the water, you must make sure the driver is not intoxicated. It is equally as important that none of your passengers are too intoxicated as well. Many laws make it illegal for you to drink alcohol or become intoxicated out on the water because it greatly increases the risk of injury. 

If you would like to learn more about staying safe out on the water, contact Shults Insurance Agency today serving the Fort Plain, NY area. 

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Your Identity Belongs to You. Protect It!

As you have probably already heard, the credit reporting bureau Equifax was recently hacked.  During the breach lasting more than a month, hackers gained access to people’s names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s likely that anyone with a credit report is among the 143 million Americans whose data may have been exposed.

Since you can’t just get a new date of birth or Social Security number, the Equifax data breach could potentially have lifelong impact for consumers.

There are a few things you can do now to help protect yourself:

Enroll in a few free credit score services, and sign up for emails to alert you of changes on your credit report.  You can find a list of free credit score services here.

Also, check your credit report now so that you can spot changes quickly moving forward.  You can get your free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com.  If you see anything on your credit report that you don’t recognize take action immediately:

  • Contact creditors. Contact your creditors about any accounts that have been changed or opened fraudulently. Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department.
  • File a report. File a report with your local police. Get a copy of the police report, so you have proof of the crime.
  • Consider requesting a credit freeze. You might want to place a credit freeze on your credit file, which means that potential creditors cannot get your credit report. This makes it less likely that a potential identity thief can open accounts in your name. First, contact your state’s Attorney General’s office, then contact each credit reporting company.
  • Keep Records. Keep records of your conversations and all correspondence.
  • Get more information. For more information regarding identity theft, visit the following websites:

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (You can also call: 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338))
FTC Identity Theft Online Complaint Form
www.fraud.org (You can also call: 1-800-876-7060)

In addition to closely monitoring your credit, you may want to consider Identity Theft Insurance.  This insurance does not fix your credit standing resulting from ID theft, but it may help you recover from this crime. It can be obtained as an endorsement added to your homeowners, renters, or in some cases, your auto insurance.  If you are interested in ID Theft insurance our agents can provide you with more information.

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An Easy Explanation of Umbrella Insurance

Many people do not understand the details of an umbrella insurance policy, including what it is and why they need it. In fact, many of them seem to view umbrella insurance as a policy that is meant only for the wealthy to afford. Fortunately, a simple explanation of this type of insurance can give you a clearer understanding of how the insurance works and the many advantages that it can bring to you.

The easiest way to explain umbrella insurance is by describing it as a form of extra liability insurance. Designed with the sole purpose of protecting you against major claims, umbrella insurance should not be viewed as a primary insurance policy. Instead, it provides coverage above what your auto, home, or boat insurance provides. For example, if you are in an auto accident and your auto policy benefits are exhausted, this is when your umbrella insurance policy will step in and provide coverage. If however, you don’t have auto insurance, an umbrella policy will not be of use for expenses incurred from an accident.

Many people find themselves in a haze even after they have received an explanation of umbrella insurance. If this applies to you, start off by understanding the types of coverage you will receive.

What does umbrella insurance from Shults Insurance Agency in Fort Plain, NY cover?

  • Certain lawsuits
  • Injuries
  • Personal liability situations
  • Damage to property

As explained above, umbrella insurance is only of value if you have other policies in place. To learn more about the many benefits of having umbrella insurance, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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How to Talk with Your Teen About Safe Driving

There are plenty of difficult topics to talk about with your children, but perhaps the one that strikes terror in many parents is the talk that precedes handing over the keys to the family car. Yes, that talk. We may joke about it, but talking to teens about safe driving is one of the critical chats that parents need to get right, for the safety of their child and anyone else that’s on the road while they’re behind the wheel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.1 Often, it is their immaturity and lack of driving experience that are the two main factors leading to a high crash rate among teens. Lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations, and may result in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating, according to the  Insurance Information Institute.2

How can you help your young adult become a safer driver? Here are five tips to help you talk to your child about safe driving:

  1. Be confident. Know that you can positively influence your young driver’s behavior behind the wheel.
  2. Set a good example. Be a safe driver yourself (if you are not already). Studies show that young drivers are influenced by the positive role modeling of their parents’ responsible driving behaviors.3
  3. Know the facts about teen driving. Some teens increase their already high collision risk by speeding, drinking, driving at night, having peers as passengers and driving distracted.  New York State has Graduated Driver Licensing laws to help address the prevalence of risky behaviors among new drivers. Learn about these laws and resolve to enforce them.
  4. Be a great coach. Stay calm and set clear expectations and consequences regarding dangerous driving behaviors mentioned above. Put expectations in writing in a simple parent-teen driving contract. Be encouraging. Kids, including adolescents, respond best to positive reinforcement.4
  5. Stay involved. Monitor your teen’s behavior behind the wheel – even after your teen obtains his or her license. Continue to coach them about how to drive safely. It takes time, experience, judgment and skill to learn how to drive safely. You may want to consider installing a monitoring device that provides data on driving behaviors that need improvement. And, be realistic: you will likely need to have multiple talks with your child about safe driving.5

Once you’ve had the talk, it’ll be important to regularly reinforce the messaging you’ve offered your teen. The “5 to Drive” campaign6 recommends highlighting the following:

  • Buckle up.
  • Don’t use a cell phone while driving.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Observe passenger limits for your vehicle.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol.

Driver’s education classes can’t teach your kids everything. While it can help to instill the rules of the road, and provide some basic driving experience, driver’s education training is but one component in helping your young adult prepare to get behind the wheel. As a parent, it’s essential that you take a proactive role in keeping your teen driver safe and injury free. Have the talk.

Sources:
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2014). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). [Cited 2016 Sept 20].
2 Insurance Information Institute.
http://www.iii.org/issue-update/teen-drivers [accessed 2016 Dec 29]
3 National Safety Council.
http://www.nsc.org/learn/NSC-Initiatives/Pages/teen-driving.aspx
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/us-dot-and-safety-partners-highlight-teen-driver-safety-week-events

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Protecting Your Home From Flood Damage

While fire may be a more common concern among homeowners, your home could in fact be as much as ten times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire.*  Significant sources of water damage to one’s property can come from weather-related moisture or flooding, including flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, tidal storm surges and mudflows. In addition, new construction of buildings, roads or bridges can alter the flow of water, increasing the potential for flooding.

Living in a high-risk flood zone can increase the likelihood of experiencing a flood, but being outside a high-risk zone does not mean homeowners are safe; flooding is always a possibility due to causes such as heavy rains, snowmelt and spring thaws.

Protecting Your Property Before, During and After a Flood

There are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property. Follow these tips to help prepare and recover from potentially costly flood damage.

Before the Flood:

  • Know your properties flood zone risk and evaluate your flood risk with this reference guide from IBHS.
  • Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.
  • Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.
  • If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.
  • To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow prevention valve.
  • Keep sandbags on hand to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.
  • In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.
  • Learn the flood alert signals of your community.
  • Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These may include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and sandbags.
  • Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.
  • Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.
  • Plan a survival kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.

During the Flood:

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.
  • Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.

After the Flood:

  • Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
  • Once allowed back into your home, inspect it for damage. If your property has been damaged, promptly report the loss.
  • Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.
  • Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
  • Remove standing water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out about 1/3 of the water per day to avoid structural damage.
  • Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.
  • Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems. Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.

 

FloodSmart.gov,

https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/residential_coverage/rc_overview.jsp

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Avoid Distractions Behind the Wheel

Many people have a limited definition of “distracted driving”: They think it only means texting behind the wheel.

There’s good reason for that, because texting requires visual, manual and cognitive attention – the same attention required for safe driving. But although texting is perhaps the most dangerous distraction, there are many others that can impact how you drive, whether you realize it or not. And they can be just as deadly.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2014 more than 400,000 people were injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers – with more than 3,000 killed.

Here are just a few of the things that can distract drivers on the road:

  • Talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device.
  • Eating or drinking.
  • Talking to passengers.
  • Grooming (yes, there really are people who apply makeup or shave on their way to work).
  • Reading, including maps.
  • Adjusting the stereo.

Younger drivers are the most distracted of all – according to the government’s distraction.gov website, people in their 20s make up 38% of drivers who were using cell phones before a fatal crash, and 10% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted, too.

With distractions more prevalent than ever – more than 150 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. every month, for example – how can you, and those you love, be safer behind the wheel? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t use the phone: This includes texting as well as talking, unless it’s an emergency. Even hands-free conversations can take your attention off the road.
  • Eat before you leave, or after you get there: Scarfing down that burger with one hand on the wheel means your focus is divided – and you probably don’t have as much control over your car as you should. Bonus benefit: Keeping your meals and your driving separate means you’re much less likely to get ketchup on your pants.
  • Know where you’re going: Nobody likes to be lost. But messing around with your car’s GPS (or the maps app on your smartphone) while you’re moving can lead to something you’ll hate even more – an accident.
  • Talk to your family about safe driving: Having a conversation with your spouse as they’re driving home? That’s a perfect opportunity to say, “I’ll let you focus on the road; we can talk when you get here.” And if you have young drivers in the household, be sure to have a conversation about their phones and other potential issues, such as their passengers – a key distraction for teens.
  • Watch for other distracted drivers: Just because you aren’t distracted doesn’t mean that other drivers are focused on safe driving. Stay in control and be vigilant – you’ll be ready to react when someone else makes the wrong move.

Distracted driving isn’t just “one of those things” that happens, like a tire blowout or mechanical failure that isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s 100% preventable – and by committing to avoiding distractions while you drive, you’ll help make the road safer for everyone.

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.

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3 Tips for Protecting Your Home While on Summer Vacation

Summer is a common time for many Fort Plain, NY families to go on vacation—which unfortunately means it is a prime opportunity for thieves to break-in to homes in their absence.

While locking doors and windows, setting the alarm, and otherwise making it difficult for someone to get in are all common considerations, there are a few other ideas to keep in mind.  Here are three tips for protecting your home while on summer vacation from our Shults Insurance Agency staff.

Tip #1: Keep Lights on Timers

If you are going to be away more than a night or two, it is wise to keep lights in the interior of your home on timers.  Most thieves enjoy crimes of opportunity, and search for residences that clearly have no one inside.   If a light comes on, most will assume that someone is there and look elsewhere for a place to commit burglary.

Tip #2: Instruct the Post Office to Hold Your Mail

Mail theft may happen in our area, and it becomes even easier to commit when a homeowner is out of town.  One way to make it appear as though someone is home, and to reduce the chance of your private letters being stolen, is by asking the post office to hold your mail until you return.

Tip #3: Have Someone Stop By

Another great way to protect your home while you are on vacation?  Have a friend or relative stop by periodically to check on things.  Have them take note of anything unusual, or things that may seem out of place between visits.

Of course, having adequate homeowner’s insurance is also quite important.  Before you pack that suitcase, make an appointment for your no-obligation policy review.  Our Shults Insurance Agency team would be happy to help ensure your home is properly covered.  Contact us today for details.

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Fireworks Safety

For most of us, the Fourth of July is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, having fun and creating memories – whether at home or away.  But for some families, the holiday can turn into nightmare.  Homes each year in New York are damaged by wayward fireworks, and thousands of people are injured in accidents.

At Shults Insurance Agency, we want your holiday to be happy, but also safe.  Here are some tips to help you protect yourself and your property on the Fourth.

Protecting yourself (and others)

  • To minimize the risk of injury, don’t use consumer fireworks. Attend a public display conducted by professionals.
  • If using consumer fireworks, always follow instructions. Do not attempt to re-light “duds” or create homemade fireworks.
  • Never let children handle or light fireworks. Even sparklers, which burn at more than 1,000 degrees, can cause third-degree burns. Kids under the age of 15 account for approximately 40% of fireworks injuries, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
  • A responsible adult should always be present when children – even teenagers – are around fireworks. More than half of fireworks injuries happen to those younger than 20 years old.

Protecting your home

  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, the best way to protect your home is to not use fireworks at home.
  • Remember, fireworks can cause grass fires and other types of blazes as well. Make sure you light fireworks in a safe area, away from homes and buildings, as well as other combustible material. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  • Look out for tree limbs or bushes that could catch fire. Trimming vegetation to keep it away from your home is a good idea anyway, but it could save you from a catastrophic fire on the Fourth of July.
  • If your gutters have accumulated leaves, pine needles or other flammable material, clean them before using fireworks near your home.
  • Finally, if you won’t be home on the holiday, ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house if others in your neighborhood will be using fireworks.

With some common sense and planning, the Fourth of July can be both safe and enjoyable for everyone. We hope you have a wonderful time celebrating our independence!

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