Pet Safety Tips for the Holiday Season | Shield Insurance Agency

Pet Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Pet Safety Tips

The holidays are an exciting time of year for all members of the household, but especially for your four-footed pet. It can be a challenge to keep the enthusiasm to a minimum with an energized pup or stubborn kitten, and once those decorations go up and the food comes out, there’s really no telling what they’ll get their little pet paws into.

I grew up with a little Cockapoo dog named Jake and he LOVED to eat. Anything we dropped on the ground during dinner (ahem, broccoli, beans, peas…) was quickly vacuumed up by him. In hindsight, leaving our homemade fudge under the Christmas tree was definitely a mistake. Who knew a canine could sniff that out through the wrapping paper?! With an entire batch of chocolate fudge gone and a mess on the sidewalk from the poor pooch, we learned our lesson, pet safety comes first.

While this season can bring their joy, if you’re not careful about pet-proofing your home, poor Fido (or in my case, Jake) could be set up for despair. Check out how these six unassuming seasonal items could put your pet in danger.

Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are a holiday staple, and while they certainly add to the festivities, they can be pretty distracting for your pets. Keeping pet safety in mind, the following items should be kept out of reach from your curious friends.

  • If you own a cat, forget about the tinsel. This shiny decoration can cause severe damage to their intestinal tract and can prove deadly if ingested.
  • Ornaments can be both a choking hazard and, if broken, the sharp pieces can cut your pet’s paws or mouth. Place fragile ornaments out of reach and let the softer ornaments made out of plastic or fabric rule the bottom branches.
  • The tree itself can be a safety hazard for your pets if they climb up on the branches. Additionally, live pine needles can puncture your pet’s intestines if ingested. Place your tree in a corner and firmly anchor it to the wall or ceiling to prevent it from toppling over.
  • Any ribbons or strings on wrapped presents can lead to choking or strangulation for a curious pet. While the additional decorations are attractive, we suggest nixing them to avoid the risk.

Food

One of the best parts about the holidays is the food! All those tasty desserts and platters can make anyone’s mouth water. But remember pet safety and my story before? Mr. Fluffy might love that rich chocolate for the first few minutes, but consuming even a little bit can turn that festive evening into a nightmare.

  • Chocolate is essential during the holidays but is toxic to cats and dogs. All chocolate, fudge, and candy contain dangerous components called xanthines, which cause nervous system damage and heart muscle stimulation. Pay extra attention when these treats are out during a get-together, and consider storing them in a drawer or cupboard when you’re not enjoying them.
  • Turkey and turkey skin, even in small amounts, can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis which, in the long run, can cause severe organ and brain damage.
  • Bones from any fish, meat, or poultry, big or small, can cause problems if splintered during consumption. Keep to the regular rawhides and hardened, sterilized bones for those yummy treats. For more information, check out what Healthy Pets has to say.
Pet Safety for the Holiday Season | Shield Insurance Agency

Plants

You’ve probably heard by now that poinsettias are hazardous for your pets, but did you know that holly, mistletoe, hibiscus, and potpourri are even more dangerous? Holly can cause an upset stomach and be potentially fatal. Mistletoe also upsets the stomachs of both cats and dogs and can cause heart collapse. Hibiscus can cause diarrhea, and who needs more cleanup during the holidays?! Dry potpourri (while not technically a plant) can cause vomiting while liquid potpourri can cause thermal or chemical burns, oral and stomach ulcers, drooling, and vomiting.

When decorating for the holidays this year, be sure to place these plants out of your pet’s reach or settle for a realistic imitation.

Scented Candles

Candles are particularly attractive to pets because of their smell, taste, and texture. However, as you can imagine, a lit candle can quickly become a major fire hazard if tipped over or scooted against a flammable object. For pet safety, make sure all candles, both wicked and wickless (candle warmer), are placed above the reach of your four-footed family members and are always supervised by a responsible adult.

Snow Globes

According to The Catnip Times, many snowglobes have been found to contain ethylene glycol, also known as antifreeze, which is highly toxic to all pets. If a snowglobe breaks or has a leak, even one teaspoon of this concoction (two teaspoons for dogs) when ingested can be fatal.

If you believe your pet has ingested any of this substance, immediately seek help and call your family veterinarian.

Electrical Cords

For pet safety or child safety, make sure all electrical cords are carefully hidden so your dog doesn’t make a chew toy out of them! Any kind of penetration past the protective coating of the cord can cause electrical shock to your unsuspecting pooch. Pro Tip: run the cords through PVC pipe or an extra cardboard roll of wrapping paper to avoid accidental traumas! Pet safety is paramount.

Keeping these tips in mind can help you make sure the holiday season is safe and festive for you and your pets!

Read More

Who can I add to my auto insurance policy?

Can I add my parents to my auto insurance policy even if they are aged?

Can I keep the kids on my auto insurance even tho they have moved out?

The short answer is NO. 

Who pays the MEDICAL BILLS? Covered by PIP BeforeCovered by PIP Now
Named InsuredYESYES
Spouse of named insuredYESYES
Household relatives of named insuredYESYES
Household drivers who are not related to Named InsuredYESNO
Non-Household relatives of named insured listed as driversYESNO
Other passengers or pedestriansNONO

Read More

Is Your Motorcycle Coverage a Perfect Fit?

Not all bikes are the same. Insurance isn’t all the same, either.
Picking good motorcycle insurance is more than just choosing between comp and collision or liability-only. Here are four questions to ask yourself about coverages and options before you switch to a new policy or renew your current one.

1) What is your health insurance like?
An odd question? Not really, given the big changes we’ve all experienced in the last few years with health care. If you have a high-deductible policy, and need an x-ray or go to urgent care, you’ll likely pay out-of-pocket.

Medical payments coverage (often called “Med Pay”) might be worth considering. The typical $500 limit should be enough to cover smaller medical bills and it does not cost much to bump up to a higher limit.

While you’re at it, you might want to consider uninsured and under-insured motorist (UM/UIM) protection, too. That covers larger medical costs as well as repairs or bike replacement — if you’re left with the bill from an at-fault driver without sufficient insurance.

2) Are you into longer road trips?
Whether it’s that bucket-list ride to Sturgis, or just a long-weekend cruise, you’ll want to consider:

  • Rental coverage – If you can’t ride your bike due to physical damage, your trip isn’t over. This endorsement covers the cost of a rental to finish the trip or get you home.
  • Travel loss reimbursement – This could cover your room, dinner, and a ride-share after an accident.
  • Towing and emergency assistance – Coverage for the reimbursement of some of these costs, too.
  • Trailer coverage – Separate coverage can be added for damage to your bike trailer.


3) Does your wingman have a fuzzy face?
No, we don’t mean your uncle Earl. Coverage for injury to your dog or cat is a newer option you can add.

4) Do you ride year-round?
In much of the country, riding is a seasonal sport. It’s tempting to save a few bucks by canceling your policy when you put your bike under wraps for the winter. But it can still be stolen, vandalized, or damaged. Consider year-round coverage for your bike.

Read More

Top Eight Mistakes People Make While Towing

The idea of hauling something huge behind your truck or SUV may sound like a fun adventure, but for those who aren’t familiar with the complexities of towing, it can actually be pretty intimidating! According to Complete Trailers LLC, there are eight common mistakes people make while towing. To avoid costly damages, read this list before you hitch and go:

  1. Overworking Your Engine
    The number one mistake people make is overworking their tow vehicle. Overextending your vehicle can start a landslide of engine problems. This mistake could lead to a meltdown on the side of the road and potentially require a brand new transmission.To avoid this, keep an eye on your pressure, temperature gauges, and exhaust gas temperature gauges.
  2. Wrong Weight Distribution Bars
    If you don’t have your weight distribution bars set up right, you’re bound to have your vehicle and trailer bouncing from each other. Your ride will be bumpier than usual and the hitch and frame can be damaged from this too.And when it comes to weight distribution bars, bigger is not better. The bars with chains are tunable and come in various strengths and weights. If you properly load the correct bar size, they’ll be parallel to the trailer’s frame.
  3. Not Checking or Maintaining Brakes
    Brakes are the most essential and most overlooked safety system.Trailer brakes don’t self-adjust like the brakes on your tow vehicle. In fact, they must be manually adjusted by you. Additionally, trailer brakes wear out just like any other brake does, so be sure to check for wear and tear regularly.
  4. Poorly Loaded Vehicles
    It’s crucial for safety and damage prevention to always put a balanced load on your trailer. Read up on weight restrictions and follow them closely because if you don’t, your tow vehicle won’t last very long.
  5. Wrong Ball/Ball Mount
    Make sure that you have the right ball and mount for your trailer. There are three different sizes of balls: 1 7/8 inches, 2 inches, and 2 5/16 inches — each with a different weight rating. Using the wrong mount or ball will pitch your trailer up or down on your axles and it also puts extra stress on your brakes and tires, which eventually reduces your breaking ability. If you use multiple trailers, carry multiple mounts.
  6. “Racing” While Towing
    We know how exciting it is to get to a destination, but remember, slow and steady wins the race! Speeding up or down a grade is the last thing you want to do because it’ll ruin the longevity of your tow vehicle.
  7. Low-Pressure Tires
    If you maintain the right tire pressure on both your tow vehicle and trailer, you’ll have even tire wear, which means you’re less likely to have blow-outs from overheating. This scenario is especially dangerous when it happens on your rear trailer tires, so make sure to pay special attention to them. Tires degrade more quickly when not in use. Before you hitch and go, remember to always inspect your tires and pressure.
  8. Not Lubing Your Components
    Like any well-oiled machine, taking preventative measures with your trailer and tow vehicle goes a long way. Axles and all pivot points where steel meets steel (or rubber bushings meet steel) should be greased.

Shield Agency wants you to travel and tow safely.

Read More

Vacant Home Insurance: What to Ask About

Homes become vacant for many reasons. Maybe your home is for sale but you haven’t found a buyer yet. Or you’ve purchased a new home but won’t move in for a while. It could be a rental property that’s between tenants. Whatever the cause, there are some insurance risks that you should keep in mind.

You may be thinking, why get vacant home insurance when you already have regular homeowners insurance? Well, most homeowners policies exclude or limit coverage if the home is vacant, so you’ll need more specific coverage.

Insurance coverage is extremely important for a vacant home, because there are lots of dangers that threaten vacant homes in particular. If you’re debating whether or not you need a vacant policy, talk to your insurance agent! Here are some things to ask about:

Cost

Vacant home insurance typically costs more than regular homeowners insurance due to potential risks like weather threats, fires and vandalism. However, you may be able to get a discount by installing security systems around the house. Even if your insurance company doesn’t provide a discount for extra security, it’s a good idea that will make your home safer!

Coverage

Each vacant home insurance policy is different. Many cover damage caused by fires, lightning, wind storms, hail, vandalism and theft. Check with your insurance company to see what options you have. (Remember to ask if flood damage coverage is an option!) There are also different time lengths for policies. Many are 12 months long, but they could go up to four years, so find out what will work best for you. You’ll also want to consider Liability coverage, which applies if anyone is hurt on your property and you’re found legally responsible.

Restrictions

Many insurance companies have different definitions of what is vacant and what is unoccupied. Additionally, there may be a specific time length distinction for the type of coverage. Restrictions can also be based on the age or value of the home. Discuss these variables with your insurance agent to find the coverage that works best for you!

Still not sure if vacant home insurance is for you? Contact your local agent to learn more and get a quote! Overall, don’t be afraid to ask questions about insurance. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments.

Read More

What to Know About Buying a Vacant Home

Why buy a vacant home? One of the biggest perks is being able to make the home whatever you want it to be. You can make it your new home, create a vacation home, rent it out, or fix it up and sell it to someone else. In some cases the seller may be willing to sell a vacant home cheaper than an occupied home. This is good news for you because you can save some money, but it could also mean something might be wrong with the house. It may need a little love, attention and renovating. Before you purchase a vacant home, here are a few things to do and watch out for:

Professional Inspection

Ask for an inspection from a professional and take notes on what they discover. You’ll want to know what’s broken, what needs to be fixed and what could possibly go wrong. (Note: Be prepared to pay for the home’s electricity to be on for the duration of the inspection).

Critters

Since vacant homes can sit for quite some time, critters may come in and make themselves at home. Although they are usually small animals such as mice or bats, they can cause damage to a vacant house. Those unwanted critters can eat at the floors, carpets, walls and wiring. Be aware that you may need to hire a pest control service, and this could be costly based on the number of animals and the amount of damage.

Plumbing

There may be plumbing issues that have caused dried and cracked seals, slow faucets, leaks and other issues. If the heat hasn’t been on and the temperatures dropped, the pipes could be at risk to freeze or burst (if they haven’t already).

Appliances

The previous owner may not have unplugged their indoor appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, or let them dry out. There may be mold inside from the moisture being trapped. Having appliances plugged in with no one there could result in a fire (if the electric was on). Appliances in the house may become unusable due to long periods of sitting with no use, which means you will need new ones.

Molds

Remember, molds can grow on more than just appliances! Check for mold in the walls, floors, pipes…everywhere! Some molds may cause health issues, so if mold is found during your inspection, you may want to rethink purchasing the home. Talk with your inspector about the extremity and presence of mold, and evaluate the safety risks.

Unanticipated Repairs

There are other potential sources of damage. For example, break-ins are more likely when a home appears empty, and windows, doors and other items could be damaged by the intruder. Storms are another danger. Debris could hit the home and cause damage that may have gone undetected. Always thoroughly inspect the home before buying!

There are a lot of things to do and watch out for before purchasing a vacant home, but the possibilities of what the home could be are endless. If you are looking to buy a vacant home but haven’t found one yet, there are a few ways to move forward. Look online, talk to neighbors, get a realtor or simply drive around. There are more vacant homes than you think…happy hunting!

Read More

18 years past 9/11

I was watching the TV as my young children were in the driveway waiting for the school bus; I peeled myself away when I heard the bus driver honk the horn to give me a wave goodbye.

The TV images were numbing. We remember them, they are unforgettable.

Days later as the rubble from the buildings settled, and the immediate chaos cleared, people started to do more, be more, give more, go to church more. For a while, it changed many areas of our everyday life.

Weeks later our neighborhood held a block party. I set a jar out to collect funds to do something in a neighborhood affected by 9/11, from a neighborhood to a neighbor. I was thinking maybe a bench or a bird bath. The money and support poured in, not only from our neighbors, but local companies, communities, the city of Flower Mound and beyond.

We ended up with almost $10,000 in cash, 12 square feet of granite and the etching donated. Even Federal Express stepped up to ship a stunning 12 foot square laser etched memorial. Designed by two teenage boys from our neighborhood, it was placed in a New Providence New Jersey Neighborhood that lost 6 people that fateful day.

It was a project of goodness love and support, from our neighborhood, our community, the city, area businesses, and it had the same effect on the people of New Providence whom I am still very close friends with today.

I wish there was a way to commemorate this event for the vast goodness it brought out in the people. I wish the anniversary wasn’t so difficult on all the families that lost loved ones, and the thousands of people that were in the path of responding…. It was a very painful time for too many people. Some years I don’t want to mention the Memorial our town made happen.

But I always go back and remember all the good that people gave and the goodness that we as a nation need to keep showing over and above all the other bad in the world. It always boils down to the simplicity of Good vs Bad. I choose to rejoice in the Good.

Connie

Read More

Grilling Safety Tips for Your Cookout

If you are planning a cookout at your house, it’s important to be extremely cautious and alert at all times! According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), July is the peak month for grill fires. To avoid fires or unwanted burns, review the tips below to have a happy and safe holiday.

  • If you are using a propane grill, make sure the lid is open before lighting it. If you’re using a charcoal grill, remember to use the correct starter fluid.
  • Place the grill at least 10 feet away from your home, deck railings and overhanging branches.
  • If you are using a charcoal grill and the fire is low, revive it with some kindling and more charcoal. Avoid using liquid fuel as this can cause a flash fire.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area. If that is unavoidable, make sure they are at least 3 feet from the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Keep your grill away from windy areas.
  • If you smell gas while grilling, step away from grill immediately and call your fire department.
  • When you’re done grilling, scrape off any grease or fat buildup that’s left over and in the trays below the grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, make sure the coals are completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Once you clean off your grill, it will be good as new and ready for your next cookout. From all of us at Foremost: Have fun and be safe!

Read More

Do You Know Your Flood Risk?

According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), everyone lives in a flood zone. Even those who don’t live near water are at risk, because anywhere it rains, it can flood. Heavy rains, clogged or insufficient drainage systems, nearby construction projects, broken water mains and inadequate levees and dams can cause flooding that put your home and belongings at risk.

Your home is one of your greatest investments. It’s important to prepare ahead should disaster occur. Here are three simple steps to help make sure you’re ready in the event of a flood.

  • Create a “flood file” and keep it in an accessible waterproof and fireproof container. It should contain a personal property inventory of your home, a copy of your insurance information, copies of any critical personal documents (e.g. social security cards, titles and deeds), and a CD backup of computer documents and digital photos.
  • Prepare your home by making sure your sump pump works and has a battery backup, your gutters and downspouts are clear, your electronics and appliances are elevated, and any valuables and keepsakes are moved to a higher level.
  • Develop an emergency plan that includes evacuation routes from home, work and school. Make sure that plan includes an out-of-town contact list that all family members can call in case you get separated. Also, create an emergency kit with extra drinking water, non-perishable food, first-aid materials, blankets, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight, and extra batteries that can be grabbed easily if you need to evacuate.

It’s important to know that most home policies don’t cover flooding and just a few inches of water damage can cost thousands. To find out if you live in an area that is at risk for flooding, type in your address in the FEMA Flood Map Service Center and use this interactive tool to learn more.

Read More

What to do After a Flood

Anyone who’s been through a flood knows that recovering after this kind of disaster isn’t easy. You’re forced to accept that irreplaceable family treasures and memories may be gone forever, your furniture is destroyed, potentially along with your home. It’s a devastating and emotional moment and a lot to take in all at once. But you know the only thing you can do is move forward, and begin the steps needed to restore your home.

As soon as the floodwaters recede, you can return to your home as long as officials give the OK to do so. Before entering your home, however, make sure it is safe!

Tips for staying safe upon return:

  • Check for structural damage and use extreme caution. One way to do this is to check if the walls are vertical and straight.
  • Turn off the electricity in your home at the main breaker or fuse box. Make sure you stand in a dry spot to do this! If you can’t stand in a dry spot, call an electrician who will take care of the risk.
  • Turn off the gas. If you smell something unusual, leave immediately and call your gas company from another location.
  • Check your sewage system. Repair damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. These serious health hazards.
  • Take precaution when inspecting your home. Your home may have sagging ceilings and areas that are still flooded. Also beware of critters like snakes, spiders and rodents that may have taken refuge in your home!

Bring waterproof boots, a first aid kit, cleaning supplies and a battery-powered flashlight with you before entering the house! You never know what you’ll run into.

Tips for claim reporting:
Another important step to take when recovering from a flood is reporting your loss immediately to your insurance agent or carrier. While flood coverage is typically not provided under most homeowners and renters policies, flood insurance may be available to you through the federally regulated program known as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you need assistance to locate your flood insurance carrier, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). A claims adjuster should contact you within a day or two after report of the claim, depending on the severity of the flood event.

When reporting a claim, you should have the following information available:
– Your name and address
– Policy number
– Date the loss happened
– Description of events that led to loss
– Active phone number
– Confirm what’s covered under your NFIP policy (some policyholders may only have building or personal property items coverage, not both)

Tips for inspections:
The next step, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is to prepare for your inspection. After deeming the structure safe for entry, take as many photos or videos of the flood-damaged property on the outside and inside. Take pictures of high-cost items as well like washers and dryers, hot water heaters, televisions and kitchen appliances. It’s also a good idea to separate the damaged from undamaged items prior to the inspection.

When the adjuster arrives, they will inspect your property including taking measurements and photos and give you an overview of the NFIP flood claims process. Remember that some flood insurance claims are more complex than others. Some may be opened and closed quickly, while others may take weeks or even months to resolve.

If your vehicle was also damaged in a flood event, it’s best to call your auto insurance provider to see if you’re covered for the loss.

If you are a Foremost customer and need to file a claim on your home, click here for online help or call 1-800-527-3907. To file an auto claim, call 1-800-274-7865.

Read More