Summers mean backyard grilling – safely!

Just like steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs, a sizzling grill is a symbol of summer — and grilling isn’t just about great food. Backyard cookouts often create treasured memories with friends and family.

Keep in mind, however, that when you grill, you’re playing with fire. Thousands of residents each year learn this the hard way, suffering damage to their homes or even serious injuries in grilling accidents.

There’s good news, though: You can prevent grilling accidents by taking some simple precautions. The tips below can help ensure you cook only your burgers – and not your house – the next time you fire up the grill.

TIPS FOR ALL GRILLS

Your grill, whether gas or charcoal, should be on a level surface outdoors, away from anything that could be ignited by flames (bushes, fences, or other flammable articles). 

NEVER use a grill indoors. Odorless carbon monoxide fumes are deadly.

Keep your grill clean and well-maintained. Check parts regularly to determine if replacements are needed.

Never leave a hot grill unattended or let children play near it.

CHARCOAL GRILL TIPS 

From Kingsford.com

  • Do not add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. The flame could travel up the stream of liquid and burn you.
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire.
  • Use flame-retardant mitts and long-handled barbecue tongs, as coals can reach up to 1,000 degrees. 
  • To dispose of coals, allow the ashes to cool for at least 48 hours before disposal in a non-combustible container. If you cannot wait 48 hours, carefully place coals individually in a can of sand or bucket of water. 

GAS GRILL TIPS

From the National Fire Protection Association

Check your grill’s hoses for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If you have a leak, and it will not stop after the grill and gas are turned off, call the fire department. If the leak stops when the grill and gas are turned off, have your grill serviced by a professional.

If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department, do not move the grill.

Do not keep a filled propane tank in a hot car or trunk. When getting containers refilled, make that your last stop before going home.

Store propane tanks in an upright position, and never indoors. The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us: hello@wurzelagency.com.

The Facts About Lightning

The next time you see or hear a thunderstorm, you might want to take a moment to review what you know about lightning safety. Strikes are most common during the summer thunderstorm season, but they can happen at any time of the year – especially here in Florida, the lightning capital of the United States. According to the Orlando Sentinel, lightning is the number one cause of weather-related deaths, and lightning storms happen an average of 100 days each year in Central Florida. 

Unfortunately, a lot of less-than-accurate ideas about lightning have found a place in the popular imagination over the years. Here’s a look at what we do know to be right about lightning.

Indoor Safety

• The safest place to be during a storm is typically indoors. It is vital to avoid anything that conducts electricity — metal, landline phones, appliances, wires, TV cables, and plumbing.

• Automobiles can be safe havens thanks to the metal frame that diverts the electrical charge. Don’t lean on the doors during a storm, however.

Outdoor Safety

• Don’t look for shelter under a tree. If lightning hits its branches, a “ground charge” could spread out in all directions.

• Don’t lie flat on the ground as this can make you even more vulnerable to a ground charge.

7 Tips to Help You Handle Rainy Days Behind the Wheel

Every Florida driver inevitably has to deal with rainy weather. 

With slick roads, flooded streets, and reduced visibility, not knowing how to drive in the rain can be a recipe for disaster. Be sure to follow these simple tips for safer rainy-day travels. 

  1. Stay visible. Turn on your headlights so you can see — and be seen — more easily. Headlights on, hazards off — it’s the law in Florida. 
  2. Be patient. Give yourself more time to get where you’re going, and give people more room. Increase your following distance two to three times.
  3. Expect slippery conditions. Rain often combines with oil and grease buildup to create slick roadways. Not to mention you can hydroplane — meaning your tires are riding on water instead of pavement — at speeds of as little as 35 mph. If it happens, slow down, gently apply your brakes, and keep steering straight ahead.
  4. Check your car’s systems. How are your wipers? Do your blades need to be replaced? What about your defroster? Driving in the rain is hard enough; don’t do it with fogged-up windows, too.
  5. Inspect your tires. Are they inflated properly? Do you have enough tread? Put an upside-down penny into the tread. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, you probably need new tires.
  6. Never drive in flooded areas. In a flood, it won’t take much water to sweep you away, believe it or not — just 12 inches for a smaller car or 24 inches for almost any vehicle, according to the National Weather Service, which advises, “Turn around, don’t drown.”
  7. Get – or stay – off the road. When conditions are really bad, pull over and take a break. Or, if you can, just stay home. You’ll probably be happier to stay out of the weather, anyway! And you’re certainly likely to be safer.

With a little extra care, you can help keep your car on the road and your rainy day blues to a minimum even while traveling in wet conditions. And, as always, if something does go wrong, we’re here to help guide you through it. 

Spring cleaning tips from The Wurzel Insurance Agency

Spring is a time for new beginnings, so cleaning and organization around the house are top-rated this time of year. 

If you’re ready to tackle that monumental chore, knowing as spring cleaning, read on for some helpful information! (And if you’re so tidy and organized throughout the year that spring cleaning isn’t a big chore for you, well done! We might be a little jealous!) 

Take it one room at a time. Deciding to clean or organize your entire home can quickly become overwhelming. If you focus on just one area or room, then move to another only when you’re finished, you’ll likely work more efficiently.

Follow the six-month rule. Generally, if you haven’t used something in six months (except seasonal items), it’s a good idea to consider throwing it away, recycling it, or donating it. 

Don’t forget the kitchen. Just like other rooms, your kitchen likely stores items that haven’t been used in some time — and this includes food in the refrigerator or freezer. Give those appliances a thorough cleaning, get rid of expired foods, and donate unexpired foods you won’t be eating.

Set yourself up for success. Paper clutter is something we all could probably cut back on pretty quickly. Setting up a few recycling bins throughout the house gives you a convenient alternative to setting that old magazine or paperwork down somewhere and watching the pile grow.

Make some money! The spring-cleaning garage sale is a tradition for many homeowners and can be a great way to bring in some extra income. Talk about a win-win situation — you get rid of stuff you don’t need, and someone pays you for it!

Stay safe. When you’re cleaning or maintaining your home, be mindful of the physical risks involved. Lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions. Use ladders, lawnmowers, and other dangerous tools with caution.

Happy spring, and happy cleaning!

Ready to Remodel? Time to Call Your Insurance Agent!

Ready to make your home improvement dream a reality? It’s essential to have the right type of insurance and the right amount of coverage first! 

Insurance should be in place during and after construction. If you’re considering a remodeling project, it’s essential to contact your agent before the process begins. Waiting until the project starts or is already finished can be an expensive mistake, so be sure to take the following essential steps first: 

1. Discuss home improvement plans with your agent. Ask about updating your homeowner’s policy, and ask whether other types of insurance will be needed for protection during the construction process. Only those who are qualified to perform DIY projects should attempt them. People who are not construction workers should not help unless there is sufficient liability coverage for their protection. Many homeowners must raise their no-fault medical protection limit for such workers. For a larger project, it is best to consider a “course of construction” policy. This covers the home during the building process from weather or theft damages.

2. Make sure the contractor is covered. Before allowing a contractor to start work, ask to see his or her insurance policies. Contractors should carry both workers’ compensation and commercial general liability insurance. If one of the insured contractor’s workers sustains injuries, that individual will not be able to sue the homeowner. Contractors who are unwilling to provide insurance documents should never be hired.

3. Store all receipts and records. Be sure to take photographs before, during, and after the remodeling project. This provides a virtual history of what the property looked like during each phase. Hold on to all contracts from contractors, and be sure to save the receipts for all materials purchased. Keep receipts for any other belongings bought for the home during the project as well.

4. Update insurance policies again after the project. Let your agent know when any home improvements are completed, as insurance amounts may need to be increased following a major renovation. All of the records and receipts may need to be copied and sent to the insurance company. This helps them assess needs and assign accurate values for the improvements. Your agent will be able to recommend any coverage needed for more expensive items. You may need additional liability coverage if a pool or spa was added, or an umbrella policy may be the right solution for this situation.

Be sure to ask your agent about discounts as well! When you install smoke detectors, stronger doors, deadbolt locks, or burglar alarms, they may qualify for discounts. Some insurers also offer more significant discounts to people who install more sophisticated burglar alarm systems, sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, or other devices. 

If you’ve updated your plumbing, electricity, roof, or windows, those may also qualify for discounts. This is especially true if any energy-saving features were installed. In areas prone to intense storms, shutters, reinforced roofs, and shatterproof windows could also earn you a discount, so be sure to ask your agent about what your insurance company offers. 

Don’t forget: If a remodeling project is the result of a growing family, be sure to consider your other insurance needs, such as a life insurance policy, as well. 

Have some new jewelry in the house? Protect it!

Valentine’s Day is near, and love is in the air. Well, love and a few other things – like chocolates, romantic dinners, candy hearts that say “BE MINE,” and, of course, jewelry.

It’s exciting – not to mention romantic – to receive jewelry from a loved one or give it as a gift. If you’re lucky enough to have received some new jewelry this Valentine’s Day, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes and think about something you probably don’t find exciting or romantic: insurance.

Don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry. At The Wurzel Insurance Agency, we think it is exciting to help our customers protect what’s most important to them — so we’re ready to help and can answer all of your questions.

Things to consider when insuring jewelry:

You may need to purchase additional coverage. Your homeowner’s policy covers valuable items such as jewelry only up to set amounts. If the cost of replacing your jewelry exceeds that limit, you will want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage. 

You might want to reconsider your deductible amounts. As always, this impacts your policy premium. It’s a good idea to take a look at your deductibles whenever you make a change to your policy.

Do you need an appraisal? You may need to have an independent evaluation if the insurance company requires it or if you don’t know the value of your jewelry. Each item should be listed with a description and value on paper.

What kind of coverage is offered? You’ll want to determine if items are covered no matter where they are, whether they’re safely stored at home or being worn on an international trip, and if the policy offers full replacement cost. You also should ask if you will be required to replace your jewelry if lost or stolen, or if you can keep the cash settlement.

Photographs can be helpful. Lost or stolen pieces of jewelry can sometimes be recreated if the jeweler has a good photograph to work from.

Should I go with a company that specializes in jewelry insurance? Some insurance companies specialize in jewelry insurance, and we only represent companies that are reputable and stable. We’re happy to advise you on all the options available. 

Is the value of your jewelry mainly sentimental? Is an item irreplaceable? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” you might consider foregoing insurance. But please talk to us before making that decision. We’re here to help you assess what’s needed when it comes to insuring your valuables. 

Of course, it’s essential to store your jewelry securely when it’s not in use. A safe in your home or a safe-deposit box is best. We want your jewelry to be replaced if it’s lost or stolen — but we’d rather your sentimental and valuable pieces stay with you and your family for years to come.

Here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day is full of fun and romance. And if there’s no jewelry involved, well, there’s always next year!

This New Year, Resolve to Review Your Insurance

The New Year is the perfect time to set goals and dream big. It’s also the ideal time to revisit your insurance policies and make sure you’re not leaving anything to chance. 

Did you acquire a new property, upgrade your home, or buy new stuff last year? You may have more at risk than you realize. 

But by taking a little time, you can make sure you’re adequately protected and that you won’t have any unpleasant surprises should you have to file an insurance claim this year. Here’s what we recommend: 

Talk to us!

Give our office a call or schedule an appointment to discuss your current coverage. We know the right questions to ask to evaluate whether anything has changed that may affect your liability risk, or whether you are under- or over-insured. 

We want to help you identify new risks and find out if any impending changes will affect your insurance needs during the rest of the year.

Revisit your policies.

Yes, reading insurance policies doesn’t sound like much fun, but waiting to go through them until you actually need to file a claim will only add to your stress. Re-familiarizing yourself with the details of your policies can save you from headaches later.

Here are some items you may want to check:

  • The size of your deductibles. Perhaps you’d like to save money on your monthly premiums, which can be done by increasing the size of your deductible. Or, you may want to have a lower deductible in exchange for a higher premium.
  • Does your auto policy include towing or the cost of a loaned car if your vehicle needs repairs after an accident? If your policy is lacking these and you feel you need this coverage, you can talk to us about adding it.
  • Does your policy pay the actual cash value (what property is worth after depreciation) or actual replacement cost for property damaged by a fire or other covered event?

Do you need additional or other types of insurance?

There has been an increase in the number of natural disasters occurring worldwide. The costs of damage caused by floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires are also on the rise.

If you’re concerned about possible flooding, you may need to purchase additional coverage — and we can help you assess that need. 

Check your homeowner or renter’s policy

You may not have contacted us after buying expensive jewelry, antique furniture, or a new TV, but it’s certainly worth the call to confirm that these items are insured.

This could also be an excellent time to consider updating your home inventory, so you have accurate coverage for your belongings and a specific list of items like works of art, collectibles (stamps, automobiles, firearms, paintings, and related), jewelry, and antiques. Please take photos of your valuables in each room and save them to your cloud for easy access in case of a loss.

Although your homeowner or renter policy protects valuables against a covered loss or theft, coverage is only provided up to a specific limit. When you make a substantial purchase, it’s essential to review your policy and possibly increase your limits and coverage.

Also, if you got a new pet for Christmas, that could affect your coverage, so it’s essential to contact us and make any adjustments necessary to keep your policy up to date.

Have you done any home remodeling or added a deck or a pool? The value of your home may have increased, and you’ll need to make sure your policy covers the added value.

You may also qualify for homeowner’s insurance discounts. Even small things such as adding a burglar alarm or a sprinkler system can earn you a discount.

Dog Lover? Think About Umbrella Coverage

In today’s economy, everyone is pinching pennies. So why worry about umbrella coverage? Shouldn’t a home and auto policy leave you adequately covered? 

Unfortunately, we live in a world of lawsuits. Substantial damages can be awarded, be extremely expensive, and have a long-term financial impact. Those lawsuits can come from unlikely sources, such as our furry friends.

Take Charlie, for instance. Charlie is a much-loved, rather timid labradoodle who enjoys taking naps on the driveway while his owner mows the lawn. 

Charlie watched from eight feet away as his neighbor, a 39-year-old man, rollerbladed with his kids. The man wiped out on the sidewalk in front of Charlie’s house and broke his leg. He required surgery, costing around $35,000 in medical costs and $18,000 in lost wages.

Fair or not, the man brought a lawsuit against Charlie’s owner, suing for $220,000 in damages. He alleged that Charlie had caused the accident by getting in his way, despite multiple witnesses to the contrary. 

Charlie’s owner was lucky — a jury vindicated Charlie. However, lawsuits like this can easily exceed the limits on a homeowner’s policy, leaving the insured responsible for the remainder. An umbrella policy would prevent that, giving you an extra $1 million to $5 million in coverage.

Our furry friends can put our assets at risk in other ways as well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with half of those occurring on the owner’s property. Dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute, account for about a third of all homeowner’s insurance claims, which only cover limited damages.

Protect what you love. Call us to talk about your umbrella options. The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us: hello@wurzelagency.com.

The Christmas Tree Conundrum: Real or Fake?

The kind of tree that adorns a person’s home during the holidays can provoke debate as much as Coke versus Pepsi or Chevy versus Ford.

When it comes to Christmas trees, do you choose live or artificial? Do you cut your own at one of our local tree farms, or pop by the tent in the Home Depot parking lot? Alternatively, do you prefer the convenience of an artificial tree that won’t shed its needles, doesn’t need water, and already has lights?

Both live and artificial trees have their advantages and disadvantages, and we here at The Wurzel Insurance Agency certainly aren’t going to try to convince you that one is better than the other. However, in the spirit of giving, we thought we’d provide some information to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

Artificial trees

According to the North Carolina Consumers Council, artificial trees pose fewer safety concerns than live trees, but that’s not to say they don’t have risks of their own. Even fake trees can catch fire when socket are overloaded with Christmas lights, and it only takes seconds for any tree to become completely engulfed in flames. Also, yes, even flame-resistant artificial trees will eventually succumb to a fire. 

When using a pre-lit tree, always follow instructions, and place the tree in an open area where a fire won’t quickly spread to furniture or other things nearby.

The benefits of artificial trees, of course, are well-known. They’re convenient and often less messy than real trees. You can reuse them year after year, saving money and saving the environment. So, there’s no need to spend time searching for the perfect tree since it’s usually easy to adjust the branches to your liking.

Live trees

OK, so you want the real deal. That’s great! However, you’re going to have to take a little more care than you would with an artificial tree. First of all, pick a tree that’s in good shape. If needles come off quickly when you give it a shake or a quick pull on a branch, find another one. 

When you get it home, cut off the bottom two inches of its trunk, and fill the tree stand with water regularly to prevent a fire. Remember not to overload it with lights and decorations. Also, the longer you keep your tree up, the drier — and the more dangerous — it will become. 

Dispose of your tree properly as well. Don’t burn it or put it in your fireplace, as a burning Christmas tree can be harder to control than other types of fires.

If you’re a fan of real trees, you probably don’t need us to tell you the benefits. Just take in that smell and enjoy the season!

No matter what tree you choose, the important thing is to keep safety in mind as well. If you do that, your holiday enjoyment will be real, even if your tree isn’t! 

The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us: hello@wurzelagency.com.

Save a Life: Don’t Be a Distracted Driver

You’ve seen them on the roads; you might even know a few of them. 

You could be one yourself.

Distracted drivers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels. Even if you’re not one today, you could become one at any moment — in the time it takes you to answer your phone or check the kids in the back seat. 

If you or someone else you know thinks you can drive just fine while talking on your phone, think about this: More than 390,000 people were injured in crashes that reportedly involved distracted driving in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2016, 3,450 people were killed as a result of distracted driving. 

Distractions on the road come in many forms, according to www.distraction.gov, a U.S. Department of Transportation website. There are three main kinds of distractions:

Visual –taking your eyes off the road

Manual –taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive –taking your mind off what you’re doing

To help you avoid all three kinds of distractions the next time you’re behind the wheel of your car:

• Put your phone in silent mode and store it away from the front seat or in a purse or bag. Doing so will help reduce temptation.

• Have a passenger answer your phone or return text messages for you.

• If a call or a text can’t wait, pull over in a safe spot before using your phone.

• This one seems obvious, but finish shaving or applying makeup before you get in the car!

• If you’re emotional, wait until you’ve calmed down before hitting the road. 

Your car is no place for multi-tasking. Focus on driving safely – for yourself, your passengers, and everyone else on the road.

Make sure you and your family are fully protected on the road. The Wurzel Insurance Agency is here for you! Give us a call at (407) 977-5700 to speak with one of our experienced agents, or email us: hello@wurzelagency.com.