Ice dams, panty hose and ice melt – a winter trifecta

Ice DamsIf you’ve been listening to the predictions for this Winter here in the Northeast – we’re expecting a rough one! And along with a lot of snow comes those horrid ice dams – a serious problem that will not only do damage to your home, but also is a cause for many winter insurance claims.

If you happen to be new to the North – let me fill you in on what an ice dam is: When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow would melt off the roof, enter the gutters, and flow harmlessly to the ground (before it gets too cold – make sure you clean those gutters and follow these other Fall cleaning tips). Or the snow would evaporate from the action of the sun, and never really melt off unless the outside temperature rose above the freezing point. However, two key factors interact to cause problems… the outside temperature and the temperature of the inside of your attic.

The warmer your attic is, the more melt off that occurs at the roof surface. This melted snow would normally flow off the edge of the roof. Under certain conditions, though, when air temperature is very low, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof, where the interior roof surface is not being warmed by the attic. This refreezing gradually forms what is fondly known as an “ice dam”, a growing heap of ice that blocks path of the melted snow.

Once this dam forms to a certain height, the melted snow that pools up behind it can suddenly leak back under the roof shingles and into your home! On a roof with a low slope, it only takes a small ice dam to cause water backup and leakage.I can tell you from personal experience – it’s not a fun situation, especially when water is leaking from the ceiling into your living room!

Now what do you do?

Fix the issue before it’s an issue: Increase the insulation, sealing and ventilation in your attic as soon as possible.

What if you already have an ice dam? Get rid of the ice damn as quickly as possible. A great quick fix is actually an “old farmer’s cures” from This Old House’s website.

  • Using a roof rake, remove snow 3-4 feet from the edge of your roof, being careful not to damage the roof covering or to allow snow to build up around walking paths or to block emergency exits.
  • Use a calcium chloride ice melt product, which you can generally purchase from your local hardware store. Be sure not to use rock salt or sodium chloride, which can damage your roof.
  • Fill a nylon stocking with the calcium chloride ice melt.
  • Safely place and position the calcium chloride-filled nylon stocking vertically across the ice dam so that it can melt a channel through the ice.

It’s a great way to reuse and recycle some old hose that may have runs or holes and it’s a heck of a lot easier than getting up on your roof trying to break apart the ice! Have a secret quick fix to dealing with ice damns – we’d love to hear it.

Stephen Davis
sdavis@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Ice Dams Steve Davis

Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter

Prepping Your Vehicle for WinterAs the temperature drops and the skies turn gray, natures’ animals prepare for the great hibernation that is winter. Squirrels stockpile nuts, bears fatten themselves up, birds fly south, and us humans head to the store and buy a new winter coat. For those of us with opposable thumbs, we also have to prepare other things for winter that are distinctly human…like our automobiles.

Owning a car, which most of us do, comes with the responsibility of regular maintenance and upkeep and for those of us living in colder climates, we have the added task of prepping our automobiles for winter. So as the cold front approaches, what do you need to do to get your car ready for the change of season?

Getting your car mechanically ready for the cold:

  • Fluids: Fluids are the life blood of your vehicle and as the temperature drops, the fluids in our vehicle respond. Frozen or broken down fluids are generally not good for a car. It’s critical to ensure that the fluids we’re using in our car can stand up to the freezing temperatures of winter. Specifically:
  • Engine Coolant/Anti-Freeze:  A coolant system flush and new radiator fluid is a good idea going into winter, and make sure you have anti-freeze in your radiator that’s rated for sub zero temperatures.
  • Engine Oil: Most engine oil these days are rated for two temperature ranges (10W 30 for example). The numbers signify the weight or viscosity of the oil. The more viscous the oil, the more easily it flows through the engine. With engine oil, lower numbers means the oil flows more easily. In winter you want a lower weight oil so the cold doesn’t thicken the oil and impede the flow through the engine. Be sure you have some 10W in your oil weight. Did you know that the “w” in 10w30 stands for winter? It does.
  • Transmission Fluid: Typically, the transmission fluid in your vehicle is rated for the cold but heading into winter is a good time to have a mechanic check the fluid, flush it out and replace it if needed.
  • Windshield Wiper Fluid: While it’s not critical to the operation of your vehicle, wiper fluid if not rated for the cold can freeze up and cause damage to the wiper fluid reservoir.
  • Tires: The obvious item to prep for winter is your tires. Have your tires inspected by a professional mechanic to ensure that there is sufficient tread to get you through the snowy days. If your area sees a lot of snow, you may want to consider putting on tires with snow specific tread. These tires have a more aggressive tread pattern and will reduce your gas mileage so consider the trade off. Here are some tips from the pros on winter tires.
  • Heater: None of us want to be stuck in the dead of winter with no heater in the car. Have your mechanic check your heater operation and make sure you’re ready for the chill.

 Preparing to drive and store your car in the cold:

Once your vehicle is mechanically ready for the cold weather, it’s time to prep yourself as a driver for the cold days ahead. Here are some things you can do to make your winter driving life easier.

  • Keep an emergency kit in the car: You never know when your car may break down or get stuck in the snow leaving you stranded in the cold. Act like a boy scout and be prepared with a winter emergency car kit with items like flares, a camping shovel for digging out of snow, and some cold weather gear.
  • Get an Ice scraper/Snow brush: Duh. I know, it’s obvious to have one but it’s also good to invest in a good quality scraper.
  • Get a car cover: If you’re not into scraping and brushing snow off the car in the morning, a car cover could make your life more enjoyable. A couple of minutes to put a cover on your car in the evening can save you several minutes of scraping ice and brushing snow in the morning. And who wants to do that on a cold winter morning when you’re late for work? You can purchase a car cover online that is made specifically for your car.

Here’s a tip: Always make sure that all of the snow is completely removed from your vehicle before driving. I know, you just want to get to work, but when you leave snow on your car, it blows off while you drive blinding drivers in cars behind you in a snow drift, which is unsafe, and not too friendly.

As winter approaches, do these few things to get you and your car ready for the cold and it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier. At Sinclair, we’re always preparing for the future and the unforeseen. We are Risk Management Specialists ready to handle whatever life brings your way.

Stephen Davis
sdavis@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk& Financial Management

Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter

Managing Home Renovation Risks

Managing Home Renovation RisksHome renovations are on the rise; In fact, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), annual home improvement spending growth is expected to increase from 2.4% in the last quarter of 2015 to 6.8% in the second quarter of 2016.  Bolstered by 2015’s favorable housing market condition, which included new construction, price gains and sales, homeowners are investing in improvements to their homes.

If you’re finally tackling that kitchen remodel or adding an in-law suite, don’t wait to think about the risks that come with home renovations.  Here are four tips to make sure you’re protected before your project even gets underway:

  • Vet Your Contractor & Subcontractors – Take your time choosing a general contractor, who orchestrates your entire project.  Beyond just word-of-mouth and online reviews, ask to speak with former clients who had similar renovation projects and check the contractor’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau.  As you’re choosing your general contractor, also be sure to get their license number and verify it.  Additionally, ask to see a copy of their insurance policy (and don’t be afraid to call their carrier) and make sure they have adequate coverage, including worker’s compensation to cover any workers who could be hurt on the job.  Beyond coverage, also make sure you’re aware of everyone who will be working in your home every day and, if needed, run background checks. 
  • Get It In Ink – Didn’t think through the removal and disposal of your old appliances?  Don’t rely on verbal agreements or side conversations for any aspect of your renovation.  Make sure you get an estimate and proposed contract from your general contractor before the project begins and that everything is covered, including the timeline, payment details and how you’ll address approvals and any unexpected projects and costs. 
  • Check Your Coverage - Contact your insurance agent to talk through your renovation and make sure you understand your coverage.  If there are any gaps in coverage for your contractor or subcontractors, make sure speak with your insurance agent about that as well, as you may need to extend the limits of liability in your homeowners policy. 
  • Protect Your (New) Investment –If you’re adding onto your home, don’t wait until it’s complete to increase the insurance coverage on the structure of your home, as you may not be covered if the addition is destroyed or damaged before your coverage has increased.  Similarly, if you purchase new items like that baby grand piano you’ve been wanting or new TVs or furniture to fill your new space, also make sure you let your insurance agent know in case you need to increase your coverage for personal possessions.

A home renovation can be financially and emotionally stressful.  However, at Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we’re here to help ensure you’re protected and covered and starting your renovation on a solid foundation.

Stephen Davis

sdavis@srfm.com

Sinclair Risk& Financial Management

Managing Home Renovation Risks

Higher minimum wage means higher direct & indirect costs for business owners

Higher minimum wage means higher direct & indirect costs for business ownersThe political pressure to enact a $15 federal minimum wage is growing stronger. It’s the stuff of nightmares for business owners, but it may yet become a reality. New York has already passed legislation, with the enthusiastic support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to raise the wage bar for fast food workers to $15. It seems inevitable that figure will soon carry the day for all New York workers.

The progressive bastions of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle are also getting ready to enact a $15 minimum wage.

As goes New York, so goes the country?

President Obama is already committed to a $12 federal minimum wage. His time remaining in office is short, but if Hillary Clinton gets elected next year you can be sure that will add a tremendous amount of oxygen to this dubious movement. (And forget it if Bernie Sanders gets in, but don’t worry, that’s very unlikely to happen.)

Organized labor is already using these early successes to push for an even higher minimum wage: $16.87. Even if highly unlikely to succeed, this “living wage” movement will make it that much easier to get a $15 minimum in place.

Nightmares aside, smart business owners with employees earning below $15 an hour Higher minimum wage means higher direct & indirect costs for business ownersneed to plan now. This is especially true for fast food franchisers and other food service businesses where the $15 movement has the most wind at its back.

Besides the direct costs of a government mandated wage increase to employees, business owners may shoulder the burden of higher indirect costs, such as higher premiums for worker’s compensation insurance. It stands to reason that higher wages mean higher payouts for on-the-job injuries, which will put pressure on premiums.

Underwriters will be watching this movement very closely, as indemnity benefits represent about 40% of worker’s compensation claim costs and are generally based on two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage.

My team at Sinclair Risk is keeping a close watch on the minimum wage movement and has the necessary expertise to help business owners control risk management expenses. Talk to us today and learn how we can help protect your interests, regardless of where the minimum wage political football lands.

Dave Sinclair

dsinclair@theworkplacesolution.com

 

Don’t get caught without kidnap and ransom insurance

_JBK5366Once you’re above the preteen years, kidnap and ransom sounds like a rather exotic peril…something that only happens to drug kingpins on shadowy, private islands. But the threat for adults is real, especially for high net worth individuals who travel internationally.

How real? Well, author Ann Auerbach spent two years chronicling kidnap and ransom cases and estimated more than 30,000 take place every year. The FBI says there are more 60,000 missing American adults whose disappearance is unexplained and for whom there’s a reasonable concern about their safety.

For United States citizens, high net worth — or just the perception of it — equals high profile and the assumption by nefarious elements of ready access to liquid capital. It’s a tempting combination for brazen criminals thinking they can score a big payoff by taking a hostage and demanding cash for his or her release.6 1 Davis Kidnap and Ransom V2

The costs of a kidnapping incident go beyond any ransom demanded. Paying a ransom — if it’s even advisable! — is certainly not a simple task.  It could require a small army of consultants and advisors such as negotiators, investigators, attorneys, public relations professionals, forensic analysts, and a security force, to name a few. Reward money and extensive medical costs not covered by traditional insurance plans add to the grim picture. No matter how successful you may be, it adds up to a potentially significant financial drain.

You may even be blackmailed for payments without even being taken hostage! In some cases, perpetrators make increasingly detailed and scary threats to the safety of you, your family, and your employees, demanding payment to make it stop.

Thankfully, there are insurance products that can help mitigate this potential financial jeopardy and provide expert support from firms who specialize in handling this type of crisis. They can help negotiate a ransom, safely make the transfer, and evacuate the kidnapped out of a foreign country. These are priceless  skills that you can acquire just by carrying the right insurance.

At Sinclair Risk, we have the expertise needed to tailor a kidnap and ransom policy that makes sense for you and your business. Our clients are our partners, and we pride ourselves on getting to know all aspects of your business AND your risk management needs. Concerned about this growing threat? Talk to us today about kidnap and ransom insurance.

Stephen Davis

VP Personal & Commercial Lines, Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

sdavis@srfm.com

Stay afloat with these boating safety tips

_JBK5366Shorts, flip-flops, BBQs and cold brews. Tis the season of sunshine and Topsiders. (They’re back. Just ask Hip Daddy.)6-1 Davis Boating safety tips

As the mercury creeps up, so does the popularity of those who own boats. Popular you may be, but what you don’t want are claims against your watercraft insurance policies. (Boat and yacht owners -…you do have watercraft insurance right?)

Yes, owning a boat carries extra risk, but with the right precautions, you can cruise carefree all season. Follow these tips to keep things safe on the high seas or the local lake:

Expert Safety Check — Don’t float your boat without first having the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary perform a FREE inspection. Yes, that’s right…FREE. Just fill out the form on this website to get the process started.

Know Your Driver Knows His Stuff — Whether you’re the captain of the ship or just along for the ride, make sure your driver has the knowledge and skills to keep things safe. There are several online options, such as this one, that offer state-specific safety courses and tests for earning a Safe Boating Certificate. Note: Completing a course like this is mandatory for watercraft operators in Connecticut.

Carbon Monoxide…Not Just An Indoor Threat — It’s not pleasant to think about, but carbon monoxide from malfunctioning generators and motors is a silent killer that can creep up on boating passengers. Install and test a CO detector in enclosed spaces, and be aware that even without a roof overhead, CO can build up and cause problems for those nearby. CO symptoms are similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication. CO can affect you whether you’re underway, moored, or anchored. It’s odorless and tasteless and can cause serious illness very quickly.

Don’t Drink and Drive…Your Boat Either!  — This should go without saying, but you shouldn’t even be driving a bike while intoxicated, let alone a boat. The solution on the sea is the same on the land: If you or your captain just can’t resist the gin and tonics, turn the wheel over to your designated driver.

Life Jackets…For Swimmers and Non-Swimmers Alike — There should be a life jacket (that fits) for everyone on board your boat…and all should be wearing them! Gone are the days of puffy orange for all. Modern life jackets come in all sorts of styles and colors. Some are super thin and inflate when they hit water. There’s no excuse to not wear one. If you have any doubt, just focus on the first word in the item’s name.

Have a safe summer!

Stephen Davis

sdavis@srfm.com

VP of Commercial & Personal Lines
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management