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Many winter-related disasters can be prevented if you take a few simple steps to protect your home from freezing temperatures, snow and wind. If you have not winter-proofed your home yet, the time is now.

The Insurance Information Institute warns that more than 10 percent of all catastrophic losses are the result of winter storms. They offer the following tips:

Winter Proofing the Outside your Home

  • Clean out gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming – a condition where water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
  • Install gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, “gutter guards” prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind could cause weak trees or branches to break – damaging your home or car, as well as injuring someone walking on your property.
  • Repair steps and handrails. This may prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
  • Seal cracks in holes in outside walls and foundations. Use caulking to protect water pipes and make sure that skylights and other roof openings have proper weather stripping to prevent snowmelt from seeping in.

Winter Proofing the Inside your Home

  • Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees, since the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are located, is substantially colder - a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.
  • Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water can then re-freeze, causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing. You may also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Have the heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
  • Check pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately. Wrap exposed pipes with heating tape.
  • Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect them against increased pressures caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly. Residential fires increase in the winter, so it is important to protect your family with working alarm systems. Also, consider installing a carbon dioxide detector, since a well sealed home can trap this toxic gas.
  • Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired now rather than waiting for a problem to occur. Also, ask about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other methods can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings.

Planning a Winter Vacation? 

  • If you are going to be away for an extended period, take special care.
  • Turn the water off and/or have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.
  • Arrange for someone to check your home on a regular basis so that, if there’s a problem, it can be fixed quickly to minimize any damage.

Don't Forget to Check Your Home Insurance

If you have not recently done so, be sure to check with your insurance agent to be sure that your Homeowners Insurance coverage is as complete as possible and that you're still receiving the best rate available.  It's too late to do so after winter weather damage occurs. 

 

Monday, 30 January 2023 09:09

new years resolutions scrabbleWhether you have made New Years Resolutions to improve your personal or business life, a few tips and tools from the experts might help to make this the year that you reach the goals you aspire to.

Are you one of the 45% or so of American adults that make New Year’s resolutions each year? How does that work out for you? Do you stick to them, or do you tend to lose your resolve as over half do after the first month? Regardless of whether you have met your goals in the past, it’s a good idea to keep trying. The folks at ProactiveChange.com tell us that those who make explicit resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals in life than those who don’t make such resolutions.

Keep Resolutions Clearly in Mind

An unforgettable way to visualize your goals is with a Vision Board. Learn more about creating and using your own vision board here. 

Make Those Resolutions Meaningful

Bankrate.com advises not to make “cheap resolutions” but to focus on only one or two goals that you really want to reach and forget about what other people want you to accomplish. They also suggest automating your efforts to let your technology help to keep you accountable.

Take it Easy on Yourself

How about trying “mini-resolutions” – taking small bites of a big goal to assure success. 

Insurance Tip:  Don't Guess at Your Coverage

No matter what you resolve to change this year, plan to sit down with your insurance agent to review your policies and discuss any new insurance needs. Whether it is auto, home, life or business insurance, knowing that you have the best coverage in place to meet your needs gives you the peace of mind you need to pursue all other resolutions.

Here at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency, our experienced agents are ready to help you consider your insurance options so you can make the right decisions. Why not arrange a policy review or contact our office at your convenience?

Friday, 20 January 2023 16:43

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in America. It can include credit card fraud, Internet fraud, mail theft, among other crimes; and in 2012 at least 9.9 million Americans were victims with a loss of about $5 million. Identity thieves steal your personal information which could include your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, or your bank account data including ATM PIN code. You have likely been warned about this crime, and you may think you are careful with your information; but identity thieves are becoming more and more clever at getting what they want.
One method these criminals might use is called "shoulder surfing" where the thief simply stands near you as you use your bank’s ATM, watching as you enter your PIN. Listening in on your phone conversation as you make a purchase and give your credit card number is another thieves’ trick. In fact, with cell phones, a thief can appear to be innocently texting or talking on the phone while actually snapping pictures of your credit cards or record your entire conversation.

Cyber criminals often now use online "phishing" (pronounced “fishing”) to capture your personal information. The cyber thief sends e-mails appearing to be from legitimate banks or credit card companies, often indicating that there is a problem with your account. They usually provide a link to a fake website – made to appear official – where they ask you to "verify" your account by providing your Social Security Number and/or other confidential information. If you comply, then your identity is stolen before you even know it.

A low-tech, less sophisticated way used by some ID thieves is "dumpster diving" -- going through dumpsters to find bank statements, checks, credit card statements or other items that contain your address and account number.

As identity criminals find more ways to ply their crime, it is important to remain aware and do what you can do to protect yourself: The following are a few common sense suggestions from the International Risk Management Institute Inc.

  • If you must provide confidential information over the phone, be sure you know who you are speaking with; and check to be sure no one is close enough to hear your conversation – even if they do not seem to be paying attention.
  • When using an ATM, ensure that no one is near enough to see the keypad and screen.
  • Shred all documents and bills containing personal information before you throw them away.
  • When you receive e-mail requests for your confidential information, be sure to call the sender or otherwise contact the institution directly first. Never respond to an e-mail to provide any information unless you are completely sure who is receiving your e-mail.

Despite your best efforts, you could become a victim of identity crime, so it’s important to consider protecting yourself with Identity Recovery Insurance before you need it. Many major insurance companies offer the coverage. So check with your insurance agent to find out how you can be best protected.

Here in Lutherville – Timonium (MD) at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency, our agents are familiar with Identity Recovery insurance and can help you explore your options at your convenience. Contact us for information or to discuss how we can help.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022 23:39

referral drawing 2022 400x300When we get a referral from a client or a friend in the community like yourself, it means a lot to us.  The experienced agents here at William M. Sparks Insurance in Timonium, MD, work hard to earn each referral by providing “top notch” service with every call and visit.  Now, we’ve found a way to say thank you for this business through our Sparks Insurance Referral Program.   It’s our way of showing appreciation for all the referrals our loyal friends have sent our way.

Patti B. is our winner for Spring/Summer 2022.

We appreciate Patti's confidence in our agency, and we're pleased to award her prize -- a $100 Amazon Gift Card.  

Could you be our next Referral Winner?

We'll be drawing another lucky winner sooner than you think.  If you've been satisfied with our agency and share it with others, it could be your name that we draw next time.  Check out our website for the Referral Program details, and then decide who you know that could use the service and expertise of Timonium/Lutherville's best insurance agency.

By referring your friends, neighbors and family to William Sparks Insurance Agency, you can enjoy a win-win.  Not only will you be automatically entered into our drawing to be the next Referral Program Winner, but you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped those that you care about to have access to the best insurance service and expertise in Lutherville/Timonium and beyond. 

See our website for all the Referral Program details.

Feel free to contact any of our very capable and experienced agents at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency here in Lutherville/Timonium, MD to discuss your insurance questions.  We can help you review your current insurance policy and explore your options to be sure you have the best coverage and protection according to your circumstances.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022 19:42

Protect Your pets From Home Accidents and FiresIf you have pets, you have probably worried about leaving them in your house unsupervised. In particular, home fires are likely a big concern. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates that 500,000 pets a year are affected by house fires. Moreover, pets are reported to be responsible for starting 1,000 house fires.

So how can you prevent your pets from starting a fire in your home and also protect them from fire-related injury? The American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services offer the following tips that could save your pet’s life.

  • Extinguish open flames — Pets tend to be attracted to stoves and open fires like the fireplace or BBQ. Restrict your pets from the kitchen or the grilling area when cooking with flames is being done, and also use a sturdy screen in front of your fireplace that will keep sparks from flying into the room and one which will not tip over easily. To prevent problems when you are not at home, completely extinguished all sources of fire so they do not pose a threat to pets left at home.
  • Remove or protect stove knobs — The NFPA cites pets turning on stove knobs as a leading reason for pet-started house fires. Your curious pet could jump onto the kitchen stove, turning on the stove knobs in the process. Not only could the pet be injured by the stove flame but the flame could spread to involve the entire kitchen and beyond. To prevent such dangers, remove or cover stove knobs so that they cannot be activated while you are away.
  • Flameless candles — Pets are also drawn to burning candles and lanterns which they can easily turn over causing a fire to spread quickly to surrounding furniture and walls and then engulf the entire house. The answer: use battery-powered flameless candles which will offer the same visual effect without the flame.
  • Water bowls on wooden decks — You might believe that leaving your pet in your back yard while you are not at home would be a safe decision. You might be correct unless you have left your pet’s water in a glass water bowl on your wooden deck. The water in the bowl acts like a magnifying glass to concentrate the sunlight, thus heating the wooden deck enough to ignite the wood. The solution: Use a ceramic or stainless steel water bowl which does not focus light in the same way.
  • Inspect and pet proof — Loose electrical cords can cause several different hazards. If the cord is attached to a lamp with the bulb turned on and the pet pulls the lamp over, the lightbulb could ignite a carpet if it lands against it. Pets can also become entangled in loose electrical wires and be strangled or cause an appliance to fall to the floor and hit your pet. Then there is always the chewing pet who can suffer severe burns if they chew through the electrical cord.

Homeowners Insurance Tip

Even when you "pet proof" your home and remain aware to prevent pet-related accidents, sometimes those accidents can still occur.  Be sure that you are fully protected.  Have a conversation with your insurance agent well in advance of a time when you'll need it to be sure that you have the homeowners insurance coverage you need on your policy.  He or she will help you to anticipate any circumstances that might given your lifestyle because it's too late after the accident happens.

Feel free to contact any of our very capable and experienced agents at the William M. Sparks Insurance Agency here in Lutherville/Timonium MD to discuss your home insurance.  We can help you review your current insurance policy and explore your options to be sure you have the best coverage and protection according to your circumstances.


 

 

Thursday, 23 September 2021 21:02
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