Make Sure Your Holiday Decorations are Safe to Use

Posted on December 20, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , |

Each year, holiday season fires in the United States claim the lives of more than 400 people, injure 2,600 more, and cause more than $990 million in damage. According to the United States Fire Administration, there are simple lifesaving steps you can take to ensure a safe and happy holiday. By following some of these precautionary tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a holiday fire casualty.

Christmas trees: When buying a live tree, make sure the needles are green. The needles should not break if the tree is freshly cut. If you bounce the tree on the ground and needles fall off, the tree is too dry and should not be used. When you put the tree up in your home, be sure to keep it away from heat sources. Don’t put it up too early, and don’t leave it up for more than 2 weeks. Always be sure that it has plenty of water. When you take the tree down, do not burn it in the fireplace. Recycle it or have it hauled away by a community pickup service.

Holiday lights: Before using your lights, inspect them for bare spots or frayed wires, and use only lights that a testing lab has approved. Be sure not to overload your circuits; the best way to do this is to avoid stringing together more than three strands of lights. And never leave your holiday lights unattended.

Holiday decorations: All such decorations should be flame resistant. Be sure to place them away from heat sources. You should not burn wrapping paper in your fireplace. Such a fire may throw off sparks or produce a chemical buildup that could cause an explosion.

Candles: Always place candles in steady holders where they can’t be easily knocked over, and do not go out of the house with candles burning. If you do use candles during the holidays, be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Smoke alarms: Each year at Christmas is an excellent time to change the batteries in your smoke alarm. If your smoke alarm is hardwired into the home’s electrical system, be sure that it is working.

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

Copyright 2011

International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Get Deals, Not Steals: Tips for Shopping Safely Online

Posted on December 9, 2011. Filed under: Good for You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Thanksgiving is over, and the holidays are in full swing, which means stores and malls are bustling with holiday shoppers looking for presents to put under the tree. While some people enjoy the adventure of going from store to store in search of that perfect gift, others seek refuge from the holiday crowds by buying their gifts online.

While shopping online can be a less stressful and often money-saving alternative, the convenience of shopping from the comfort of your home comes with some risks. Cyber attackers and scammers are just waiting to prey on those who don’t properly protect their personal information, such as credit and debit card numbers and bank account information.

If you’re planning to be one of the millions of people who shop online this holiday season avoid the holiday blues by following these cyber shopping safety tips.

  • Shop only on secure websites. To determine if a site is safe, look at the address box for an “s” in https:// and check the lower right corner of the page for a lock symbol. Both of these things indicate that a site is safe to use for purchases. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau ( for information about a company’s reputation and customer satisfaction rating.
  • Use credit, not debit. Credit cards provide additional protection from theft that many debit cards don’t offer. If your credit card information is stolen, you’re only responsible for up to $50 in charges as long as you report the theft within 30 days (reporting time varies by company). If your debit card is stolen, a thief can empty your bank account without your knowledge and it can take a substantial amount of time to recover the stolen money.
  • Protect your personal information. Make sure your computer has the most up-to-date spam filters, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware installed to avoid unauthorized access to your computer. You should also read a site’s privacy policy thoroughly before making a purchase to ensure the information you’re providing is secure and won’t be sold to a third-party.
  • Keep track of your receipts and credit card statements. When you make a purchase online, save the receipt and a copy of the confirmation page for your records. Check this documentation against your credit card statements to make sure there aren’t any suspicious or unauthorized transactions. Keeping proof of a purchase also helps resolve any issues that may arise with the order.
  • Do your online shopping at home. Don’t use unsecured Internet connections available in many coffee shops, libraries, and other public places where your information is not secure. Also, avoid using public computers for online shopping since you don’t have control over the computer’s spyware or malware software.

If your credit card or personal information is stolen, your homeowner’s policy may cover your liability. Check with your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent to find out if you’re protected from this type of loss or if you have any other questions regarding your policy.

Printed with permission by Trusted Choice®.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Questions to Ask: Choosing an Insurance Agent

Posted on December 8, 2011. Filed under: Commercial | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Have you ever used the “eenie, meenie, miney, mo” method to locate an insurance agent? Or, maybe you look for the agent with the biggest ad in the yellow pages? With all the quoting sites available online, it’s easy to find low rates. But, how can you be sure those rates are attached to adequate coverage and superior service?

Insurance protects your most important assets, which makes it worth the effort it takes to find an experienced, independent agent. Here are some things you should know:

  • The insurance companies to which the company has access. Independent agents, who have access to multiple insurance companies, have the ability to look for the best policies to meet your unique needs at the best value.
  • How much time the agent will spend helping you assess your insurance needs. Insurance is a complex matter. It is not a “one size fits all” product. It takes time to fully assess your unique coverage needs.
  • Whether the agent reads AND understands the policies they offer.
  • If the agency specializes in insuring a particular type of business or line of insurance. For example: businesses that require insurance including professional liability insurance such as real estate agents, accountants, doctors, contractors, or computer programmers or technology related operations, etc.
  • If this was a referral, did it come from someone you trust and respect? Find out what their experience with the agent was like. The things other people desire and want may not be the same things that you want in a professional service provider.
  • Whether the agency can address all of your insurance needs, from home and auto, to life, health, disability, and commercial.
  • Ask who will handle your account on a daily basis. Is it someone who is licensed in insurance, and can provide advice as you communicate with that office, or an order taker?
  • What the agency’s hours of operation are, including their availability after hours, as well as the average time it takes to respond to client requests.
  • What involvement the agent has in the claims process. Understand how claims are tracked and the role the agent takes in the resolution of disputes.
  • Whether the agent is proactive in periodically reviewing your policies and shopping coverages for you.
  • If the agent is involved in their community. An agent’s active involvement in their community may translate into a greater commitment to his or her customers.

Choosing the best independent insurance agent for your needs takes an investment of time on your part. But the interests they will be helping you protect are certainly worth it, don’t you think?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Reduce Your Social Host Liquor Liability Exposure

Posted on November 30, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that nearly 13,000 people per year (about 35 per day) are killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes.

Many of these tragic accidents happen after an inebriated person leaves a party—an event in which the host of that party might be held liable for injuries and deaths to innocent parties. Although there might be coverage under your personal auto policy or homeowners policy if you (as the host) are held legally responsible for such a terrible accident, a wiser risk management strategy is to avoid or reduce the chance of loss altogether. With that in mind, here are some tips to consider if you (or a resident family member) occasionally host social events involving alcohol.

  • Surveys of youth indicate that the most common source of alcohol is the young person’s own home. Thus, closely monitor social events your youth hosts to make sure there is no drinking allowed—particularly any type of illegal underage drinking. It is wise to not allow your teenager to host a party when you are out of town.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol at your event.
  • If alcohol is served at your party, make sure that there is plenty of food. The consumption of food slows down the absorption of alcohol.
  • Encourage designated drivers and provide nonalcoholic drinks for these guests.
  • Look for signs of intoxication. An intoxicated person often has trouble walking, has slurred or loud speech, or is atypically uninhibited. There is not, however, a fool-proof method of determining whether someone is intoxicated because exceptionally tolerant individuals often do not show signs of tipsiness even though they are intoxicated.
  • Restrict alcohol to any near-intoxicated or intoxicated persons by offering instead some food or alternative nonalcoholic drinks.
  • Consider hiring trained bartenders. As they are trained to recognize and deal with intoxication, using professional bartenders can significantly reduce the risk and may help in defending a claim should there be one.
  • If you have a cash bar, use tickets and issue a limited number. Don’t price alcohol too low because this encourages excessive drinking.
  • Do not allow the intoxicated guest to drive away from the event even if you have to take away his or her car keys. Instead, offer to drive them home or provide a free cab service. Soliciting the help of the guest’s spouse or a close friend may help.

Contact us for a free review of your liability coverage or for a quote. Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2009
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Avoid Packing on the Holiday Pounds

Posted on November 11, 2011. Filed under: Good for You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

“The average adult consumes 3,000 calories and 229 g of fat in one Thanksgiving meal, reports the American Council on Exercise. A 160-pound person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal. Furthermore, that figure swells to 4,500 calories when the entire day’s feasting is considered.” (, “How Many Calories Does the Average American Consume on Thanksgiving?”)

A time for celebrating family and fellowship, Thanksgiving is the official beginning of the holiday season each year. It can also easily become an excuse for many of us to overindulge in both food and drink. From the appetizers, game day snacks, Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, and extra helpings of dessert, it is no wonder many of us pack on a few extra pounds each year at this time. But, there are healthy ways to enjoy the holidays, without impacting your waist line.

First, don’t criminalize the food being served. But, do plan what you are going to eat. It is fine to try a little of everything . . . key word being “little.” Rather than a full serving of every dish, treat yourself to a taste or two of each. Use a smaller plate, to help you dish up smaller servings.

Second, don’t rush back for seconds. Allow your food to settle for at least 15 to 20 minutes. This will give your stomach time to register what you’ve already eaten, and to communicate to your brain whether or not you are actually still hungry.

Third, don’t sample every dessert. Choose your favorite and have one small serving. Or, better yet, prepare a lighter version of a yummy treat so that you can easily avoid the heavier, calorie packed offerings.

Fourth, don’t take that nap when you finish eating. The tryptophan in the turkey may be singing you to sleep, but your best option is a brisk walk after your food has had time to settle. Fresh air and some activity will help your body burn up those calories faster.

Fifth, skip the late night snacks. Save the turkey sandwiches for lunchtime. And, if you just have to have another piece of pie, eat it for breakfast instead of at midnight.

Follow these helpful tips and you really can have your cake and eat it too!

For more healthy living tips that are good for you, visit our website’s educational resources: Keystone Insurance Services Resources.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

“Satellite, Headlines Read . . .”

Posted on September 28, 2011. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Science and technology are wonderful things! Just think of cell phones, light bulbs, and planes. Speaking of planes, did you hear about the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite that fell in the pacific ocean this past Saturday? Luckily, no one got hurt. But if parts of it fell on a home or an auto, is there coverage? You might want to check your insurance policies. It may not be a satellite that falls on your home or auto. It may be a tree! If your home policy covers “Falling Objects” you are likely covered. If you rejected comprehensive coverage, then your car won’t be. If you’re not our client, and don’t have an expert to ask, you are welcome to give us a call (512.257.8000). We will be happy to help you ask your company the right questions.

Enjoy Dave Matthew’s “Satellite” video!

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Closing Your Business?

Posted on September 23, 2011. Filed under: Commercial | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

We hope you are not one of the many businesses seriously impacted by the current economy. But, if you are, take a moment to learn more about the possible risk of cancelling your insurance.

Shutting Down Your Insurance – Commercial Liability Insurance

“I’m closing down my business. Will I need to continue any kind of insurance coverage to protect myself and my employees from future lawsuits?”

That’s an excellent question and we applaud your concern for yourself, your family and your employees.

Businesses that make or build or fix things have a continuing need for special liability insurance coverage even after the business shuts down. This coverage is called “discontinued products and completed operations liability” and it protects you and your employees against lawsuits arising out of injury or damage caused by the products you made or the work you completed while you were in business.

But wait! You purchased commercial general liability insurance for years – including products and completed operations liability –while you were making or building or fixing things. If something happens after you shut down, why won’t the policy that was in effect when the product was made or the work was done cover the resulting injury or damage?

The CGL policy does not cover bodily injury and property damage unless the injury or damage occurs while the policy is in effect. It doesn’t matter when you manufactured the product or completed the work. The only thing that matters is when someone is injured or some property is damaged because of your product or your work. A liability insurance policy must be in force when that happens.

If you are closing your business, ask your insurance agent about the availability and cost of “discontinued products and completed operations liability insurance.” There are laws – called “statutes of repose” – that dictate how long you may be legally liable for injury or damage caused by your work or products, and thus how long you may need to carry such insurance.

If you operated your business as a corporation or some other form of limited-liability entity, you may want to ask your attorney about whether you or your employees can be sued personally for accidents caused by your work or products after the business shuts down and the entity is dissolved.

****This article was prepared and made available to your agent by the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, which is solely responsible for its content. Please read your insurance policy. If there is any conflict between the information in this article and the actual terms and conditions of your policy, the terms and conditions of your policy will apply. The Independent Insurance Agents of Texas is a non-profit association of more than 1,800 insurance agencies in Texas, dedicated to helping its members succeed, in part by providing technical resources that explain insurance policies sold to their customers.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Technology Companies Beware!

Posted on August 31, 2011. Filed under: Commercial | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Insuring technology companies is a complex endeavor. Besides the more basic coverages like general liability, products and completed operations, and errors & omissions, many companies must also consider cyber liability, intellectual property, and invasion of privacy cliams. And, that is just to name a few.

It’s also important to remember that claims do not only arise because of disgruntled employees. Some of the most costly mistakes are just that, simple mistakes. For example:

1. The inadvertant erasure of critical data.
2. An employee accidentally sends an inappropriate email to the wrong recipients.
3. Failure to meet deadlines, agreed upon specifications, or compatibility requirements.
4. Software failures, which cause other damages such as bodily harm or even death (ex. transportation system programs, hospital or other medical treatment systems, etc.).

All of the above can lead to costly judgments, often in excess of the actual losses or damages that may have been caused.

To ensure you have adequate coverage, we recommend you choose an insurance agent that not only understands the exposures you face, but the business you do.

We are your technology insurance expert. Located in Austin and serving the great state of Texas. Call us!

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Living in a Customized World

Posted on December 17, 2010. Filed under: Personal (Home & Auto) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |


We live in a world of customization and upgrades. You can order thousands of drink combinations at Starbucks, Burger King wants you to “have it your way,” and if you are treating someone to an iPad this Christmas you have the option of adding a personalized inscription.

Then there are the BIG ticket items, like automobiles and homes. If you’ve recently built a home, renovated or updated a home, bought a car with add-on packages, or customized a car, it is a good time to visit with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage.

Your Home Insurance. Most estimates demonstrate that more than half of the single-family dwellings in America are underinsured by approximately 22%. If your home is insured for what you paid for it, or the appraised value, it’s possible you are underinsured. The key to properly insuring your home is calculating the cost to rebuild it at current construction costs, less the value of the land. This is called “Insurance to Value.” Things to consider, in addition to materials and labor, include: debris removal prior to rebuilding, architectural/design fees, inflation due to the effect of a major catastrophe, and the impact of local building codes. All of these can be addressed by your homeowners policy, but they may require additional endorsements or increases in the amount of insurance purchased. It is also a good idea to consult with your insurance agent if you have recently renovated or upgraded your home, to ensure your coverage is adequate.

Your Automobile Insurance. Make sure your agent is aware of any add-on packages you purchased when buying your car, or if you customized your car in anyway after purchase. Your auto insurance may fully exclude, or limit, the coverage for items that are considered “upgrades” or “customizations.” Examples: adding custom grilles, custom wheels, bedliners, etc. In some cases, endorsements may be added to provide additional coverage in the event of damage.

The most important thing to remember: ultimately you are responsible for making sure you are appropriately covered. Your insurance agent is available to help guide you through the process. Therefore, it is important for you to consult regularly with your agent and whenever your situation changes.

If you don’t have an agent, your agent does not encourage this type of conversation, or you would like insurance quotes, contact us. We are here to help!

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: