Celebrate Responsibly on New Years Eve

drink keys
During the holiday season and throughout the year, drinking responsibly is simple: if you drive, don’t drink; if you drink, don’t drive. Your safety, and the safety of others on the road, depends on your good judgment.

Designate a Driver
Someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident in the United States every 30 minutes, and more than a million drivers are arrested annually for driving under the influence. While accidents aren’t limited to the holiday season, extra parties and more people traveling on the roadways mean these incidences spike at this time of the year.

Of course, the safest choice when drinking is not to drive. If you plan to drink, always have a designated driver. This is someone who agrees not to drink and is responsible for driving you and other partygoers home.

How Much is Too Much?
If you choose to drink responsibly, how do you know if you’re overdoing it? Use the simple one-one rule: have one standard drink per hour. The American Dietetic
Association defines a standard drink as:
• One 12-ounce beer
• One 5-ounce glass of wine
• One mixed drink with 1.5 ounces of liquor
Remember, personal tolerances vary, so it’s up to you to know your safe limit and stick to it!

The Perfect Host
If hosting a party, you don’t need to serve alcohol to make your party merry. From sparkling punches to mulled cider, there are many festive, non-alcoholic beverages to offer your guests.

If serving alcohol, always measure the amount of alcohol mixed into drinks so guests can gauge how much they are consuming. Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party ends.

If someone overindulges, don’t let your guests drink and drive. Arrange for a ride with a safe driver, or make them stay until they sober up.

Alcohol and Drugs Don’t Mix
Prescription drugs or over-the-counter remedies, such as cold medications, combined with drinking may affect your driving. Follow the directions and warning labels of all medications carefully.

Contrary to popular belief, black coffee, a cold shower, or fresh air may make a person feel more awake, but will not overcome the effects of alcohol.

Cold Weather Preparedness

extreme cold
We are expecting to get an arctic blast of cold weather in the upcoming days. Are you prepared for temperatures below freezing? Here are some tips that everyone should read courtesy of Ready.gov!

For Your Vehicle-

  • Check Antifreeze levels
  • Battery should be in top condition with clean terminals
  • Check for any leaks in exhaust system
  • Keep a full tank of gas- this will keep fuel from freezing
  • Make sure heater and defroster are working properly
  • Check Lights and Hazard Lights, Oil, and Windshield Wipers
  • Install Good Winter Tires- it is important that your tires have adequate tread

Update the emergency kits in your vehicles with:
a shovel
windshield scraper and small broom
flashlight
battery powered radio
extra batteries
water
snack food
matches
extra hats, socks and mittens
first aid kit with pocket knife
necessary medications
blanket(s)
tow chain or rope
road salt and sand
booster cables
emergency flares
fluorescent distress flag

For Your Home-

  • Maintain heating equipment and have chimneys cleaned yearly
  • Insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip during cold weather to avoid freezing
  • All fuel burning equipment should be kept outdoors and well ventilated
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure all members of the household know how to use them
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows

It is also a very good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.

Stay Safe and Warm!

Healthcare Open Enrollment Begins November 15!

Stethoscope
This past year brought many changes in the healthcare arena. Some individuals waited past the open enrollment deadline and were unable to obtain coverage. Still others purchased coverage and didn’t review the network of providers and ended up not having their preferred doctors and hospitals in the plan they chose. Some individuals chose not to obtain coverage because they couldn’t afford the coverage yet many of these individuals were eligible for a discounted premium or subsidy because of their income. Failure to obtain coverage, unless the individual can prove hardship, will result in a tax penalty as described below.

The fee for not having coverage in 2014:
If you didn’t have coverage in 2014, you’ll pay one of these two amounts in a penalty when you file your 2014 federal tax return:
• 1% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, about $10,000 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a bronze plan.
• $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.

The fee for not having coverage in 2015:
If you don’t have coverage in 2015, you’ll pay the higher of these two amounts:
• 2% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, about $10,000 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a bronze plan.
• $325 per person for the year ($162.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $975.

Beginning November 15th open enrollment for Healthcare products will start and last until 2-15-2015. What this could mean to you, if you have not purchased coverage, you can purchase coverage during open enrollment. You may have gotten a notice that your present policy for 2015 will be changing, if you did, I would like to review those changes with you, before you sign up for another year. If you purchased insurance this past year and would like to look at a new policy, please let me know when you can be contacted. I can contact you, beginning Monday November 17th and explain the options you have. If you are wanting a policy in place for a 1-1-2015 start date, the application must be completed by 12-15-2014.

Please call Robert today! 877-591-8815
robert
Robert Barnette is Vice President of the Life Insurance Division at AssureSouth. He has over 37 years of experience in the insurance industry. His specialties include Life, Long Term Care, Disability, IRA and Annuities.

Are You Ready for Trick or Treaters at Your Home?

Trick or Treat 8 x 10 copy
One of my favorite things about Halloween is seeing the little ghosts and goblins who come to my door for trick or treat. It’s always a good idea to make sure your home is prepared for the little ones who come creep in the night.

-A few days before take a walk around your property and make sure all paths are clear. Remove any debris or things that costumes could potentially get caught on that could cause a fall.

-Do not place luminaries or jack-o-lanterns on the path of the trick or treaters. It is also a good idea to use a battery operated candle for your pumpkins instead of a lit candle.

teal pumpkin
-Consider healthy treats or non-food treats. The teal pumpkin campaign has been popular this year to promote non-food treats to children with food allergies. If you place a teal pumpkin outside your door, it lets people know that you have treats that are safe for everyone. Some ideas for non-food treats are pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos, bouncy balls, rulers, vampire teeth, spider rings, bubbles, and small toys that you can get in large packs where you would find birthday favors.

-Remind drivers to keep a lookout for trick or treaters.

-If you have pets, it’s a good idea to keep them in another room and away from the chaos. Having so many people come to their door can make for a very nervous Fido.

Homeowners claims are up to 3 times their normal rate on Halloween so it’s always a good idea to review your policy and make sure that you’re covered. Have questions? We can help! Call us today 864-582-5481

Conduct a Home Inventory Every Year to Protect Yourself from Loss

home inventory sofa
Though your homeowners insurance policy provides the protection that you need in the event of a loss, your policy can only pay for items that you can document. To protect your belongings, conduct a home inventory to record everything you own. Should a loss occur, this inventory will assist you in quickly determining which items were destroyed or stolen.

Always make sure your homeowners policy is correct and up to date. If you upgrade your home with a new fence, granite counter tops, new flooring or other items this should be reflected in your policy. It is also important to make sure that details such as the square footage, year built, and lot size are correct. Use your smartphone or tablet to document all of the items in your home- room by room. Take pictures of everything and store it on a service such as Dropbox or Google images. This will insure that even if your device gets destroyed you can still access your inventory.

If you need an inventory checklist, AssureSouth can provide one to you! Simply email ashley.pearson@assuresouth.com and we will provide you with a comprehensive checklist to help you conduct your yearly home inventory!

Avoiding Contractor Fraud

image courtesy of FOX Carolina

image courtesy of FOX Carolina

The average homeowner is likely to know little when it comes to the costs of materials and labor put into home repairs. Unfortunately, this makes them ripe targets for disreputable contractors who will lie about the extent of a problem in order to make money off overpriced repairs. Often, the need for such repair is heavily exaggerated, if not completely fabricated. It is important that you act shrewdly when dealing with contractors so you don’t end up paying for repairs you don’t need.

It is often said that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Nowhere is this advice more valuable than in dealing with contractor fraud. Look out for:
• Contractors that contact you looking for work
• Unsolicited, free home inspections that turn up problems you were previously unaware of or discount rates that are only being offered that day
• Pushiness on behalf of the contractor that you commit to repairs immediately
• Request for money in advance for supplies or equipment

According to the National Storm Damage Center here are the most common indicators that an individual or company may be running a scam-
-Not properly licensed
-No insurance or under-insured
-No local office (beware of P.O. boxes and hotel addresses)
-Won’t provide local references
-Demands up-front cash or deposit
-Shows up on convicted criminals and/or sex offenders list

Insurance Fraud
One especially dangerous type of contractor fraud involves using a homeowner’s insurance to pay for unnecessary repairs. A contractor will begin the process by finding damages and then offer the homeowner a way to get them fixed for little or no cost. The contractor will then cause additional damage before informing the homeowners to file a claim with their insurance carrier. Often, the contractor will assert that the damage was caused by an accidental or weather-related incident.
Homeowners are often convinced by contractors that this is an acceptable use of their insurance policy, when in fact it is a form of insurance fraud. Insurance companies are on the lookout for such behavior and will prosecute when fraudulent claims are discovered. Unfortunately, the homeowner is often the party that is found responsible, not the contractor who caused the damage. Contractors involved in such scams are careful not to do anything illegal on paper, which helps them deny involvement and divert blame toward the homeowner.
Don’t hesitate to contact AssureSouth prior to beginning work on a repair project if a contractor suggests using your insurance policy as payment. We can review your situation and advise you accordingly.

You may want to check out this website for information on finding a contractor, what to do before and after a storm as well as how to avoid contractor scams- http://stormdamagecenter.org

How to Have a Safe and Healthy Halloween

It’s time for pumpkin carving, dressing in spooky costumes, and going door to door for trick or treat! Halloween can present various types of real life dangers but parents don’t have anything to FEAR, there are precautions you can take to ensure that everyone has a happy and safe Halloween.

halloween1

Check out these tips courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics

ALL DRESSED UP:

-Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
-Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
-Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
-When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
-If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
-Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
-Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
-Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

CARVING A NICHE:

-Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
-Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
-Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

HOME SAFE HOME:

-To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
-Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
–Wet leaves or snow should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

ON THE TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAIL:

-A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
-If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
-Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
-Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters.
-Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
-Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
-Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
-Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
-If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
-Never cut across yards or use alleys.
-Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
-Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
-Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

HEALTHY HALLOWEEN:

-A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
-Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
-Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
-Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

– See more at: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Halloween-Safety-Tips.aspx#sthash.Kf5H6okN.dpuf