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Safeguard Against Ice Dams

What in the world is an ice dam? To put it simply, it is an accumulation of frozen water in the gutter system and at the roof edge that prevents subsequent drainage of melting snow from leaving the roof/gutter system. Ice dams are common in areas (e.g., think Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) that receive heavy snow buildups.

In most cases, ice dams begin inside the house when heated air leaks up into the unheated attic. In the winter, the roof above this attic is cold. When warm air leaks into the attic, it creates warm areas on the roof, which cause the snow on the exterior of the roof to melt. The melting snow moves down the roof slope until it reaches the cold overhang, where it refreezes. The process continues, causing ice to build up along the eaves and form a dam. Eventually, this dam forces the water to back up under the shingles and sometimes into the ceiling or wall inside the home. This phenomenon may cause structural framing members to decay, metal fasteners to corrode, and mold to form in the attic and the wall surfaces. Few homeowners policies pay for ice dam removal. Interior or exterior damage, however, caused by an ice dam on the roof is typically covered under a special perils homeowners form.

There are measures that home owners in colder climates can take to reduce the chance of ice dams, including the following.

  • Use heated cables, attached with clips along the roof’s edge in a zigzag pattern. These cables will help combat ice damage, allowing you to equalize the roof’s temperature by heating it from the outside.
  • The services of a professional should be employed to remove heavy snow from your roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. Professionals are also able to address emergency situations in which water is flowing into the house structure. This is accomplished by making channels through the ice dam to allow the water behind the dam to drain off your roof. However, the channel becomes ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage.
  • Your ceiling/roof insulation should be increased to reduce heat loss. Some state codes require an R-value of 38 above the ceiling for new homes. In narrow spaces, insulation products with high R-value (6–7) per inch are recommended. It is imperative that the ceiling is made airtight to prevent warm air within your home from flowing into the attic space.
  • Verify that there are sufficient soffit and gable end vents in your attic. These help to quickly vent any of the warm air that does get into the attic out into the atmosphere.

Copyright 2017
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Don’t Bite the Bait: Protect Organizations From Phishing Attacks

One the One Friday afternoon, the treasurer of Platte County, Mo., received an email from the presiding commissioner, requesting the immediate transfer of funds to an out-of-state consultant. The treasurer tried to verify the request, but the commissioner was away on vacation and not easily reachable. Driven by the urgency of the email, the treasurer arranged the transfer without waiting for an appropriate response, overriding county procedures designed to prevent illegitimate movement of funds. Then he got a call from the commissioner, who was totally unaware of the request. And just like that, the county lost $48,000 to a cyber criminal in a single afternoon. The “Kansas City Star” reported this incident just days after the loss.

Deception fraud or social engineering fraud is the 21st century version of an ancient con game, only now it’s played out much faster using electronic communications,” said Mike Kosednar, assistant vice president and product manager for management and professional liability insurance, The Hartford. “Email inherently carries an element of urgency, and the fraudsters prey on our desire to respond quickly, especially to emails from the boss.” Losses from social engineering, specifically phishing scams, have skyrocketed as cyber thieves grow adept at mimicking internal emails.

According to statistics gathered by the FBI, law enforcement agencies across the globe received reports from 17,642 victims from October 2013 through February 2016, resulting in more than $2.3 billion in losses. Since January 2015, the FBI has seen a 270 percent increase in identified victims and exposed loss, according to the FBI’s Cleveland division. And the phishers aren’t just targeting organizations with deep pockets. Social engineering fraud can hit companies of all sizes. “While a large public company may have a loss exceeding eight figures, for a smaller business, getting tricked into sending $6,000 or $7,000 can be significant,” Kosednar said. It’s relatively easy for cyber thieves to identify the CEO or CFO at their target company and then emulate their email style, mimicking their tone and signature, and making it appear as though the message is coming from the company’s server.

While there are several technology solutions that companies can implement to enhance their system security, such as continually updated firewalls; the use of closed, private Wi-Fi networks; requiring a two-factor authentication for log-in; or third-party testing of firewalls, these safeguards are expected — any business operating in today’s digitized world knows it needs to pay attention to its IT security. Human error is often a bigger risk. “In social engineering fraud, the weakest link in the security chain is the employee who accepts a scenario at face value and doesn’t check its legitimacy,” said Kosednar, “A willingness to please can undermine common sense.” The best defense against these insidious attacks, therefore, is employee education and training. According to Kosednar, training requires — at a minimum — a three pronged approach:

  1. Establish a process. Companies can identify fraudulent requests by developing a formal procedure around the transfer of funds that limits transfer ability to a small number of employees and requires a next-level supervisor to sign off on the request. It should also involve independent verification of the email’s sender. “Verification needs to be made to predetermined email addresses and phone numbers and not by hitting ‘reply’ or calling a phone number provided as part of the request.”
  2. Regular reinforcement. Constant reminders emphasize the importance of following proper procedures in every situation. Some companies choose to do this by randomly testing their employees with bogus emails. The company might send a message that appears to be from a senior manager, imploring staff to click on a suspicious looking link, for example. “Seeing the percentage of employees that failed helps determine additional training needs,” Kosednar said. “This should include a heart-to-heart conversation with the employees who failed, which should be constructive and encourage them to speak up and ask questions when they suspect they’ve received a fraudulent email.”
  3. Change your culture. Since social engineering fraud is often most successful at companies where questioning one’s superiors is frowned upon, companies can create an environment where it is acceptable and even encouraged for employees to double-check a wire transfer request from anyone regardless of their rank.

Information courtesy of The Hartford

Uber Trouble By Giving a Lyft

UberDon’t get yourself in Uber trouble by giving a Lyft for pay.  Ridesharing companies are an emerging opportunity for folks with a drivers license and a car to make a few extra dollars but carefully review the potential risks and rewards before signing yourself up as a driver or even a passenger for a ridesharing firm like Uber, Sidecar or Lyft.  Transportation network companies like these use smartphone communications technology to connect individuals who want a ride with drivers who are willing to give a lift for a fee. In addition to violating livery (taxi) licensing laws in many jurisdictions these drivers generally use their personal vehicles and intend to rely on their personal auto policies which invariably have livery and/or business exclusions written into the policy language.

Essentially this means that most Uber, Sidecar and Lyft drivers are operating without insurance protections and are gambling all their assets and all their future wages on whether or not they are involved in an accident.  Remember that an auto policy is intended to protect you not only from accidents that are your fault, but also from accidents that are the other guy’s fault when she/he is unknown (hit & run) or  unable (due to no or low insurance liability limits and limited assets to sieze) to pay for the injuries and property damage consequences.  The financial losses from auto accidents can easily exceed $100,000 or even $1,000,000 for serious accidents.

Our recommendation is to stay out of Uber trouble by avoiding these Lyft companies as a passenger and a driver unless you/your driver has secured adequate commercial livery insurance to cover such risks.

Consider Earthquake Loss Control Measures

Earthquake Loss Control Measures:  States in which hydraulic fracking is occurring have seen a dramatic rise in earthquake incidents, raising concerns that this drilling method could be to blame. For example, there is a tremendous amount of fracking activity in Oklahoma. The Sooner State has experienced almost 250 small-to-medium earthquakes so far this year, according to the US Geological Survey.

For people in earthquake-prone areas, earthquake insurance is a smart option. But another area of focus should be in loss control. Here are some risk control tips (authored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety) for you to pass on to your clients facing this loss exposure.

  • The foundation, a common area of structural weakness, needs to be thoroughly examined for weaknesses. When concrete foundations are crumbly or porous, they lack the strength to resist earthquakes. Unreinforced brick or stone masonry may need to be strengthened or replaced. An engineer is required by most communities to design these types of repairs. Signs of insect damage and dry rot in the wood need to be checked. Hiring a structural pest control expert and repairing water leaks may be necessary.
  • Older homes in earthquake-prone areas may not be bolted to their foundations. Anchor bolts can be installed by capable home owners relatively inexpensively with the proper knowledge and tools. Otherwise, a foundation contractor should perform this task.
  • Bracing materials within the foundation should also be inspected. Weak bracing materials (e.g., cement plaster or wood siding) may have been used in the construction process. Stronger bracing materials such as plywood are necessary to support the cripple wall. (The cripple wall is the short wall that connects the foundation to the first floor of the house and encloses the crawl space.)
  • For homes built on a slope or even a slight grade, extra strengthening may be necessary.

Experts indicate that retrofitting most single-family homes costs between $3,500 and $7,000. Home owners who perform some of this work themselves pay less.

Studies show that properly strengthened homes are safer to live in and easier to sell. A study of the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake of 1994, which caused between $13 billion and $20 billion in property damage, indicated that strengthened homes stayed on their foundations in the same neighborhoods where unstrengthened homes failed to do so.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2014 International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Computer Travel Tips

Whether we’re traveling for business or pleasure, most of us can’t dream of taking a trip without our computer or tablet. How else would we check our email, prepare for our business meeting or see what our friends are up to on Facebook? Follow these tips to make sure your device is safe while flying:

  • Place your laptop in a separate bin when going through airport security. This is required by the TSA, but will also save your laptop or device from being damaged by other items.
  • Charge, charge, charge. Make sure you have a full battery before taking off. You never know when you’ll find an electrical outlet next. If your computer can accommodate a spare battery, be sure to have one with you.
  • Keep an eye on them. Electronics are often stolen. If you leave your seat to walk around or use the lavatory, be sure put your laptop or tablet in a protective case and place it inside your briefcase. It is much less likely to be stolen if it is packed away.
  • Ask about on-board use. Each airline has different rules about using your device in-flight. Make sure to ask a flight attendant before taking out your laptop and hitting that power button.
  • Your laptop does not count as your carry-on item. According to the TSA, a laptop, even if it is in a laptop bag, does not count as a flyer’s carry-on item.

Additionally, don’t forget to check out Yennie & Jones’ travel insurance protection options before you leave home.  We offer a number of options including:

We can even offer Kidnap & Ransom Insurance in certain circumstances.

Call us at 816-540-2114 or look at our Travel Insurance Protection Webpage for more information.

Farm Vehicle Safety

by State Auto Farm and Ranch Underwriter Jeanna Lemaster

Due to the change in farming over the years, farm vehicles have changed too. A farm fleet of vehicles can encompass a large variety of vehicles, trucks, and trailers. More and more farmers are increasing the auto fleet to maximize harvest transportation and keep labor costs down. There are many hazards associated with using these types of vehicles, especially by an inexperienced or perhaps inattentive driver. Drivers and vehicle owners should be trained in the specifics of maintenance and inspections of the vehicles so they can quickly identify and correct any problems. Drivers should be trained to recognize hazardous conditions.

Farm TruckMaintenance of the farm vehicles should include:

  • Checking tire condition and tire pressure before every single use.
  • Inspection and repair of the suspension systems.
  • Make sure the fire extinguisher is charged and operable, and that there are adequate flares or reflective devices on hand.
  • Checking headlights, body lights, signals and outside reflectors.
  • Service rakes, including the trailer brake connections, and parking brake.
  • Inspect nd repair hydraulic lift cylinders regularly, as well as suspension systems.

Safety in regard to the farm vehicle should include:

  • Training ad practice. New drivers of these types of vehicles need practice and raining PRIOR to harvest so they are able to drive safely.
  • Use afe distances. Trucks take more time to stop, steer, and switch lanes.
  • Load properly. Overloaded trucks are much more dangerous. Both the driving of he vehicle and the dumping of the load is more dangerous if the load is      too large for the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Most vehicles have the GVW inside the driver side door.
  • Ensure stability when dumping. Raised truck or trailer beds are unstable and can ause tipping incidents. Ensure ground is level and firm, avoid dumping on indy days, do not jack knife the trailer, and ensure the load is not off enter.
  • Ensure the trailer is properly hitched to the pulling vehicle.
  • Make sure to avoid any overhead power lines while operating a dump trailer/truck. Contact with the truck and power line can result in electrocution of the driver.

It is very important for every owner and driver to have a maintenance and safety program in place. Insurance losses for poor safety or maintenance of a farm fleet of vehicles could not only be very costly in time, commodity, or liability losses, but also very dangerous causing serious injury or worse. The USDA has good resources that can be used to make or modify both maintenance and safety programs.

Remain Vigilant with Credit Cards

Credit CardsMega retailer Target revealed last month the unauthorized access of its customers’ credit card data to hackers. It admitted that approximately 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been adversely impacted by this breach. This is not the first time hackers have illegally accessed credit card information, and it won’t be the last. So what type of advice can you give your clients to reduce the chances that they become victims of identity theft, particularly when it comes to the wrongful access of their credit card information? Here are some tips to pass on them.

  • Periodically check your credit card statement online to verify that the charges are correct. If you believe a hacker has gained unauthorized access to your credit card, or if you are unsure about a charge, contact your credit card company immediately.
  • Federal law stipulates that a consumer can order a free copy of his or her credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). If you discover information on your credit report arising from a fraudulent transaction, you should request that the credit-reporting agency immediately delete that information from your credit report file.
  • You can add a fraud alert to your credit report from any of the three credit reporting agencies to help protect your credit information. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for a criminal to get credit in your name since it instructs creditors to follow certain protocols to protect you. Note that you need to contact only one of the three agencies. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two agencies, which will then place the same alert into your file.
  • To take it a step further, you can also contact one of the credit reporting agencies about placing a security freeze on your credit report to prevent a credit-reporting agency from releasing credit information without your explicit authorization.
  • Creditors should be contacted if various bills do not arrive in time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over the credit card account and changed the billing address to cover his or her tracks.
  • All old financial documents, including bank statements and credit card bills, should be shredded to reduce the exposure to what is called “dumpster diving.”

Copyright 2014 International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Craig Says:  We have a number of Identity Theft endorsements available to add on to personal auto, home and even some commercial policies but these protections are passive and assist you after a loss.  A much better alternative is an active identity theft deterrent like Lifelock.


Risk Management Strategies

Volumes have been written about risk management, but it all comes down to four simple options and the thought you put into implements them.  When faced with risk you can AVOID it, MITIGATE it, RETAIN it, or TRANSFER it.

Avoidance involves electing not to accept the risk.

  • For example, if you are no longer comfortable with the additional risk you created by buying a trampoline, avoid this risk by giving it away to your sister-in-law.

Mitigation involves taking steps to reduce the likelihood or severity of a loss.

  • Expanding on the trampoline example above, you have now decided to keep the trampoline. However, you have decided to take a few actions to reduce the chances someone will use it without your permission and do a few things to make it a safer toy.
  • First, you put a lock on your back gate limiting access to the trampoline (reducing the likelihood of a loss). Then, you spend a few thousand dollars buying padded mats and spreading them around the trampoline (reducing the severity of a loss).

Retention of risk is accepting the chance of a loss.

  • If you do not insure your car, then you have decided to retain the risk and accept all the consequences of the loss. A more prudent use of retention is the deductible on most property policies.

Transfer of risk takes place through the use of contracts.

  • A hold harmless agreement is a contract stating that one party will not sue another.
  • However, the most common form of risk transfer is an insurance policy. Insurance policies are contracts where one party (the insurer) assumes the risks of another (the insured) in return fora ‘premium’ payment.

A few words of caution on risk transfer through and insurance policy.

  • Virtually all insurance policies have coverage limits (the insurance company’s version of Retention and Mitigation) so make sure that you purchase limits that are appropriate to your situation.
  • An insurance agent who represents more than one insurance company or a professional Risk Manager are in the best position to advise you on what limits are appropriate for your situation.

By using a little common sense and putting thought into which risks and how much risk you are willing to accept you can better protect yourself, your family, or your business from many of the perils that life throws at you.  Properly applied, these techniques can even help you save money on your insurance.

Remodeling Contractors & New EPA Regulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a new regulation regarding the disturbance of painted surfaces that will require remodeling contractors performing certain work to comply with lead based paint.  The regulation requires training on work practices and certification.  The Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Program applies to residential houses, apartments, and child-occupied facilities built before 1978.  Contractors must obtain certification and employees must be trained on safe practices.  The new regulation is effective 4/22/10 and can be found at the EPA website.

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