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How to Stay Safe on Flooded Roads - advice from Community Insurance Services of Maryland, Laurel, MDWe have certainly had our share of rain-soaked days in the mid-Atlantic region lately, and flooded waterways, roads and homes are the result.  Local flooding happens when rainwater accumulates faster than it can either be carried away or absorbed by the soil.   Once the ground becomes saturated, then prolonged rain falling over several consecutive days or intense rain falling over even a short period of time, will typically overflow rivers and streams onto the surrounding area. 

Flash Flood Driving Risk

When a very large amount of rainfall occurs quickly as in a downpour or a string of thunderstorms brings repeated heavy rainfall to an area, flash flooding can occur with rapid overflow making roads impassable and dangerous.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn us to “Turn Around – Don’t Drown” since over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water.

Driver Safety Tips If Flooding Occurs

  • If you find your vehicle suddenly surrounded by rushing water, exit immediately, being careful where you step as you head for higher ground. 
  • Never drive over downed power lines or drive through puddles that are in contact with such a line. Electrical current could be transmitted through the water and be potentially fatal even if you don’t touch the line itself.
  • Always obey barricades and signs that warn of road flooding. Even if the water looks shallow enough to cross, don't attempt it. Even a puddle that appears only a couple inches deep can be much deeper and can hide major road hazards like washed-out sections and holes in the road.
  • If you see flooding on the road ahead, don’t proceed. Turn around immediately and take a different road to reach your destination. Rushing water could cause your vehicle to float and perhaps even be carried away. As little as just 12 inches of rushing water can carry away most cars.
  • If you cannot avoid driving through deep puddles, then be sure to test your brake function immediately afterwards to be sure that you can stop your vehicle.

 Flood Waters Will Damage Your Car

So it stands to reason that one significant threat resulting from flooding is damage to your vehicle – whether from driving through high water or parked in standing water.

Depending on the circumstances and amount of exposure to the flood waters, your vehicle could incur even major damage such as failure of the electronics and computer system, drive train, transmission, brakes and even the air bags.  If you escape major damage, exposure to this type of water will likely lead to rusting, corrosion, mold or complete loss of part of your car’s interior.  One other concern, of course, is the car’s overall condition which could affect ongoing performance and even resale value.   

Auto Insurance Tip

Long before you find yourself in a potential flooding situation with your vehicle, you will want to know that you have insurance to cover the damages.  Ask your insurance agent about comprehensive coverage and what options you might have to protect yourself well in advance.  You don’t want to be worrying about these things when the water starts to rise.

Here at Community Insurance Services of Maryland in Laurel, MD, our very knowledgeable agents have the experience to assist you with any insurance needs. Before you find yourself driving in high waterbe sure to contact us to check on your auto insurance coverage. We can answer your questions, refer you to other resources, offer a no-obligation policy review and discuss your options.

Monday, 30 July 2018 15:10

swimming pool safety

Regardless of our swimming abilities, many of us beat the heat in our backyard swimming pool as summer temperatures soar.  It seems that taking advantage of a residential swimming pool is more popular than ever before. In fact,  over seven million swimming pools and five million hot tubs are estimated to be in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But all swimming pools – from the simplest inflatable wading pool to the most elaborate luxury in-ground variety – can present a danger, especially to children. Between 2005 and 2014, fatal, unintentional drownings in the U.S. averaged over 3500 annually. More than one out of five drowning victims was reported to be 14 years old or under.

The following safety rules will prevent accidents and decrease your potential liability exposure:

  • Empty wading pools completely after each use, and always store them upside-down to avoid collection of rain water. 
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the entire pool area with a gate that latches and locks.  Never leave furniture or other items close enough to the fence to allow children to climb over.  Pool alarms and safety covers add extra protection. 
  • The powerful suction of a swimming pool drain can trap a child under water.  Cover your pool drain with a safety guard, tie up long hair before swimming, and teach children to stay away from drains and filters.  In particular, teach them never to sit on a pool drain. 
  • Post emergency numbers and CPR instructions in the pool area. Store a first aid kit, a cordless water-resistant phone, reaching poles and ring buoys near the pool area to be used in case of emergency; and do not allow children to play with these items. 
  • Consider having older teens and adults take a course in basic first aid and CPR, and enroll your family’s non-swimmers in swimming lessons with a certified instructor.  Anyone who is not a good swimmer should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest while in your pool. 
  • Adults should not swim alone, and children should never swim without an adult present and watching them constantly. 
  • Keep the pool area clear of glass items, electrical devices (radios, CD players, etc.), and obstacles that could cause a fall or other injury.

Homeowners Insurance and Pool Liability Issues

If you are planning to install a pool at your residence, it is important to consider the insurance implications as well as the safety issues.  The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following:

  • Installing a pool will also increase your insurance liability risk.  So contact your insurance agent to be sure your homeowners policy provides enough additional liability coverage.  If your pool will be costly, this may mean you will have to increase your homeowners insurance coverage and perhaps add umbrella insurance to provide extra liability above what your homeowners policy provides for your home. Of course, your home insurance must also cover the cost of replacing your pool and any pool-related items like deck furniture, should a storm or other disaster destroy or damage it. 
  • Contact your town or municipality since the definition of a pool which drives local building codes and safety standards will vary from town to town. You will want to have this information before you purchase the pool. 

Here at our Laurel, MD agency, our highly experienced Community Insurance Services of Maryland agents are always glad to speak with you about any insurance needs. Before you decide on a pool for your backyard, you owe it to yourself to contact us to be sure you have optimum insurance coverage. We can answer your questions, refer you to other resources, offer a no-obligation policy review and discuss your options.

Friday, 08 June 2018 19:11

motorcycle safetyMay is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a month intended to encourage all drivers and motorcyclists to share the road responsibly.

According to the US Department of Transportation and the NHTSA, there were 4,594 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, down from 4,692 in 2013. However, in 2015, the number of fatalities increased to 5029, and fatalities in 2016 increased again to 5286.  The trend has taken a disappointing upturn in recent years.

Safe riding practices and cooperation from all road users is more important than ever to again begin to reduce the number of motorcyclists’ fatalities on U.S. highways. Motorcyclists face unique safety challenges including relative size and visibility, and motorists need to be aware of motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving in order to anticipate and respond to them.

The following safety tips, among others, will hopefully bring about a safer year on the road for all.

Don’t forget the helmet

While motorcycle helmets are not required by law in all stated, they are certainly the most important piece of safety equipment that a rider can use to protect against a critical head injury. Helmets should always be approved by the Department of Transportation and should include a face shield.  Without a face shield, a rider should wear protective eyewear instead.  These items help reduce wind noise and protect from flying debris.

Wear protective gear

Reflective clothing makes a rider more visible, especially after dark.  Leather clothing, including pants and jackets in addition to gloves and boots, Leather goes a long way to help protect motorcycle riders in case of an accident. Leather jackets, gloves, pants and boots will help to minimize injuries – from road scrapes to serious injuries. 

Maintain your bike

Just as important as safe riding skills is the proper maintenance of your motorcycle. Make it a practice to check your bike’s tires for air and assure that the lights are in good working condition and mirrors are set before riding. It’s just as important to periodically check the brake fluid, test out the clutch and throttle and controls.

Complete a Safety Course

Taking a formal motorcycle safety course is important to learn the basics of operating a motorcycle as well as to sharpen even a seasoned rider’s riding skills. Not only will such reputable safety courses help a rider to make  the best judgments when riding, such certification could offer a discount on motorcycle insurance, depending on the circumstances.  

Motorcycle Insurance Tip

Before you take to the road, you will also want to be sure that you and your bike are properly and completely insured just in case an accident or other damage occurs.  It’s best to sit down with your insurance agent to explore the motorcycle insurance options you have and determine exactly what coverage is best for your own needs. 

Here at our Laurel, MD agency, our highly experienced Community Insurance Services of Maryland agents are always glad to speak with you about any insurance needs. Before you set out on your next ride, why not contact us to be sure you have optimum motorcycle insurance coverage, get a no-obligation policy review or discuss your options?

Monday, 07 May 2018 14:26

boat safety blog imageSpring has arrived, and it is once again time to pull the boat out from winter storage and get it ready to launch.  We can never cover all the details of preparing all boats for summer fun. There are just too many types and sizes of boats, and each is at least a little different.  If you’ll be leaving this preparation to the professionals at your marine shop, then it’s time to make those arrangements.  However, if you will be springerizing your own boat, then you will want your own spring checklist based on the specs of your particular vessel.  A good place to start is your boat’s Owner’s Manual where you should be able to find all the details you’ll need.  In general terms, the following are some basic tips to be sure the big items don’t get overlooked.

Check your boat's engine

Depending upon how your boat was stored, it could need a change of oil and oil filter. In fact, even though your vessel might have been winterized, the oil should be checked to assure there is no water.  If you stored your boat without the battery, it is time to reinstall it – being sure the battery is secured in the marine battery box. Remember to also check that the electrical connections are tightened. Lastly, test the battery to be sure it is holding a proper charge.  Many boat owners will typically purchase a new battery every two years. This is a good time to also check all hoses, belts and cables to be sure they are not damaged before going forward.

Inspect your marine equipment

Examine your fire extinguishers to be sure they are not only fully-charged but are the right class for your vessel and are properly stowed on board.  See that your handheld VHF radio is fully charged. Be sure that you have fresh, tested batteries in your sound signaling devices. Also check your pyrotechnic distress signals and be sure that they have not expired.  Examine the contents of your first aid kit and replenish the contents as needed so that it is fully stocked.  Then take a close look at your life jackets (PFDs) and be sure that you have one for each person who will be on board.  Examine the flotation devices to be sure they are not damaged, and if you will have some worn by growing children, you’ll need to be sure that they still fit.

Registration, Permits, etc.

Review all necessary requirements, and be sure that your registration and permits are valid and up to date and any stickers are replaced if necessary before launching.

Interior and Exterior Maintenance

It’s likely that you did a complete cleaning and waxing of your boat before winter set in; but if not, you should do it now.  You will also want to inspect the hull before launch.  You might find that the interior and the windows need a fresh cleaning at this time. 

Check out your trailer

Don’t overlook your trailer! Test the lights and examine the electrical connections.  Examine the tires for damage and check the pressure.  Measure the brake fluid level.  Be sure the wheel bearings and trainer jack are lubricated, and check out the tongue lock and safety chains as well. 

Use Your Resources

To be sure, this is not an exhaustive checklist. You’ll create your own list using your Owner’s Manual and advice from experts as needed so that you have a place to start.  You may also want to take advantage of any safety inspections offered by the US Coast Guard, Auxiliary, US Power Squadrons and other reputable source of information and training for boat owners.

Boat Insurance Tip

Before to set out on the water, you’ll want to be sure that you and your boat are insured properly and full.  So take some time to sit down with your insurance agent to explore your coverage options. 

Here at our Laurel, MD agency, our highly experienced Community Insurance Services of Maryland agents are always glad to speak with you about any insurance needs. Before you launch your vessel this summer, why not contact us to be sure you have optimum boat insurance coverage, get a no-obligation policy review or discuss your options?

Wednesday, 04 April 2018 14:12

burglar proof your house

A residential burglary happened every 15 seconds during 2016 in the United States (according to the FBI’s most recent Crime Statistics report).  This is a fact that could keep you awake at night, especially if you are a new homeowner. 

If you’ve just purchased a home – whether it is your first or your fifteenth, you will undoubtedly want that home to be safe when you move in.  To feel safer, here are a few things you can do to allow you a good night’s sleep from your first night, forward.

Install a Reliable Security System

Home security systems vary in features and price from those that you install yourself to fully-monitored smart systems. So you will want to do your homework and find the one that best meets your unique needs.  To best protect your home, you’ll want to consider an alarm, motion sensors for the doors and windows, and carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Harden the Doors

Experts warn that burglars often will enter your home right through the front door.  So you’ll need to inspect that door and, in fact, all the doors in your home to see that they are not hollow and have strong frames and hinges that are protected.  Opt for a solid front door with a peephole and a properly installed deadbolt.   One more thing:  Even the best door can’t keep you secure unless it is locked.

Secure the Windows

Test the strength of the locks on your windows; and, if they are not strong, then replace them with stronger locks or key-operated levers to assure they’ll protect you.  If burglars cannot force the window open, then they’ll break the glass.  To be sure your windows resist breaking, consider tempered or laminated glass, especially on the first-floor windows.  Many home burglaries occur through first-story windows, but don’t forget to protect windows on the basement and second-story levels as well.

Nighttime Protection Means Strategic Lighting

Burglars know that many of the homes they target are empty during the day when everyone is at work. So that is when most home break-ins occur.  However, plenty of crime occurs after dark, so you’ll need to them on timers since they will not be needed during daylight hours.  Use bright lights with motion sensors for added protection. They will place a spotlight on an intruder the moment they move into the range of the light. 

Get Connected in the Neighborhood

Get to know your neighbors since they can play a valuable part in protecting not only your home but the neighborhood in general from a home invasion. Make it a priority to meet your neighbors and begin to forge good relationships as soon as possible.  They will become more comfortable with you and will be quick to call you, should they detect anything suspicious in your area.   Good neighbors might even be able to recommend the best security systems and let you know which home services are most reliable.

Learn About Local Resources

Your neighbors can be quite helpful with how you would contact the local police, and they’ll fill you in on the neighborhood watch program as well as any other resources your area has available for home safety. If your neighbors can’t help, then check with your local police department for information securing your home for your family.

Create Your In-House Security Team

Securing your home as above will give you peace of mind.  But break-ins can still happen; so you can’t ignore the human factor in your home protection plan.  Talk with your family and be sure everyone is clear on family rules for when and how to lock-up and/or use the alarm system, what to do if a stranger calls or appears at the door.  Moreover, be certain that your family knows exactly what to do if a break-in occurs.  Finally but very importantly, have a family exit strategy in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Homeowners Insurance Tip

In the process of purchasing your new home, you have likely worked with your insurance agent for a new policy.  However, if you add security systems and take other protection measures noted above, your homeowners insurance policy could change and might become even more affordable.  It’s worth checking with your agent to be sure that you have just the right coverage for your needs as you settle into your new home.

Here at our Laurel, MD agency, our highly experienced Community Insurance Services of Maryland agents are always glad to speak with you about any insurance needs. As you take steps to secure your home, why not contact us to be sure you have optimum home insurance coverage, get a no-obligation policy review or discuss your options?

Tuesday, 06 March 2018 13:48
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Community Insurance Services consistently provides quality, high value service in meeting our insurance needs. The team, especially Heather and Ginger, is consistently thoughtful, professional, knowledgeable, and kind. They are quick in response to questions with meaningful answers and transparent when they need to research before answering because they want to provide the best right answer. One of the great strengths of Community Insurance Services is that they care about their clients as friends and family.--- Kevin B.