I hope that you find these articles of interest. If you have a topic for future discussion, please let me know. Please call anytime, we can answer questions or be of help with your business or personal insurance needs.
Above-Normal Activity For 2017 Hurricane Season
The current hurricane season lasts from the beginning of June through the end of November. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that there will be a 45 percent chance of above-normal activity. There is only a 20 percent chance that activity will be below normal levels.
Forecasters said that there is a 70 percent chance of the country seeing between 11 and 17 named storms, and they expect as many as nine of these to become full-fledged hurricanes. Of the expected hurricanes, they predict that two or three will be major events. During an average season, there are 12 named storms. Of that number, six become hurricanes, and three are considered major events. To be a named storm, there must be winds of 39 mph or greater, and there must be winds of 74 mph or greater for a storm to be called a hurricane. The predictions set forth for the rest of 2017 include an early April event called Tropical Storm Arlene, which is rare for the eastern portion of the Atlantic in April.
NOAA is prepared to stay ahead of storms and alert residents of coastal and at-risk inland areas as storms develop and approach land. To help boost their efforts and improve forecasting accuracy, NOAA added several new tools and technologies this year. NOAA's GOES-16 satellite is new and features a high-resolution camera that will give them a better look at storms as they develop. It has a much faster refresh rate, which allows for more accurate real-time tracking. Additionally, the camera gives experts the ability to look at lightning strikes within tropical cyclones. Since these strikes signify an intensifying storm, the improved imaging gives them the ability to better gauge the severity of an event.
Two new high-resolution hurricane models were added to provide more accuracy in forecasting. Forecasters will have access to a better resolution of storms at a vertical angle. This improves intensity forecasts by as much as 10 percent. Several smaller communication and forecasting tools were also added to NOAA's National Hurricane Center. They will be issuing advisories, warnings and watches for events that could become tropical storms but have not yet formed completely. Also, NOAA has a tool that residents of affected areas can use to see wind speeds. It includes an interactive map that they can click on to see exactly where damaging winds are located and expected. Be prepared and make sure you are covered for the hurricane season.
Speak to your agent about your insurance coverage at HALO Insurance and Benefits Group 314-351-HALO(4256).
Creative Programs Help Reduce Workers' Compensation Costs
When employees are injured on the job, some are tempted to take advantage of workers' compensation benefits. By implementing a program that offers good incentive to return, employers can reduce the risk of paying more benefits than necessary. Recent research shows that employers lose about 80 million work days because of injuries or illnesses that happen on the job.
The number of employees who take off more than seven work days because of injuries or illnesses stretches into the millions. This means that employers are left to deal with the high cost of workers' compensation premiums, lost productivity and disability benefits. However, by creating a special incentive program, employers can greatly reduce these costs.
When an employee must take time off of work due to an injury or illness, a physician will regularly examine that individual. These exams determine whether the worker is ready to return to his or her previous tasks. In some cases, it may be possible to get the individual back to work sooner. For example, consider a worker who is injured while lifting boxes in a warehouse. The attending physician will be examining the employee to determine whether he or she is ready to lift boxes again. If the employee has a back injury, it could be several weeks before returning to work is possible. However, if the employer offered the worker an easy temporary job in the office, the worker may be able to return much sooner. To make something like this happen, a special return program must be set in place. A solid program should have the following features:
- Addresses environmental, physical, knowledge and emotional factors that may prevent employees from returning to work.
- Makes the transition from temporary to full-time work easier for employees.
- Focuses on employees' abilities instead of their disabilities.
- Improves employee morale by increasing incentives for returning to work and staying safe.
- Maintains productivity by lowering the number of lost work days.
These programs help speed up employees' recovery processes. Recent research shows that 50 percent of employees who stay out of work for more than six months will never return to their jobs. If they stay out more than one year, the likelihood of returning to work is about 10 percent. Getting employees back to work as quickly as possible is the best way to bring about feelings of accomplishment for the injured individual. It also lessens the financial impact on the employee and his or her family. To make sure a program is as comprehensive as possible, include the following elements:
- Provisions that require meaningful tasks instead of simple busy work.
- Employee eligibility criteria.
- Provisions for alternative work assignments that benefit the employer and employee.
- Descriptions of duties the injured employee must perform.
- Provisions for situations where employees may have to take additional medical leave time after returning to work.
- Stated conditions and time parameters for temporary assignments.
In addition to saving money for employers, these special programs have many other benefits, which include the following:
- Makes it easier to keep valuable employees and obtain production from recovering workers.
- Makes communication happen between employees, employers and doctors instead of between employees and their doctors.
- Makes it difficult for employees to stay out of work longer and unnecessarily take advantage of benefits.
- Reduces the need to recruit, hire and train new workers.
- Reduces the length of time for disability payments to injured workers.
- Shows the employer's concern for the injured employee's health.
- Reduces the employer's cost of compensation claims, which makes the employer look better to insurance companies offering competitive pricing.
For employers everywhere, workers' compensation consumes a sizable portion of overall personnel costs. By having a solid return program, employers can reduce those costs and many others. In addition to this, it is easier to keep employees happy. To learn more about this beneficial type of program, discuss the options with an agent.
To learn more about risk management options, speak to an agent at 314-351-HALO(4256)
5 Things you should know about Medicare Fall Open Enrollment
Open enrollment takes place each fall. This is the time when Medicare participants can change plans, and people who are newly eligible for Medicare can enroll. Many people join a prescription drug plan or start using a Medicare Advantage plan. In some cases, people who have Advantage plans return to Original Medicare. There are several important considerations for anyone planning to make a change this fall.
1. Open enrollment lasts from October 15 through December 7. These dates are the same every year. When a person enrolls in a plan or makes a change, the new plan is effective January 1. For most situations, the open enrollment period is the only time when a person can choose an Advantage plan or a Part D plan. People who have an Advantage plan and want to switch back to Original Medicare should also enroll in a Part D prescription drug coverage plan. Medigap is also helpful to have with Original Medicare to cover costs. However, they are limited in availability during open enrollment depending on geographic location.
2. Everyone should review their Medicare coverage annually. A review is not just important for people who are unsatisfied with their current coverage. Every person should review their current coverage, find out what the upcoming year's changes are and make an educated decision. If health issues change during the year or are expected to change, one plan may be better than the existing coverage.
Members of Part D and Advantage plans receive annual notices outlining the various changes to coverage within the plan. For example, a Part D plan covering one type of prescription drug may stop covering it during the next year. For people who rely on that drug, a prescription plan switch may be necessary. Research suggests that people who compare Part D plans can save themselves hundreds of dollars by doing so every year. Always check with various plans in the area to see which ones have less restrictions and cover more drugs.
3. Know how to make changes or switch plans. For anyone considering a change, there is plenty of help available. To find the best prescription drug plan for individual needs, visit Medicare.gov. Use the plan finder tool to see the best options. To join an Advantage plan, simply call 800-Medicare for local resources. Be sure to research prospective plans online. After doing the necessary research, call the plans directly to confirm important points. Make sure drugs, doctors and chosen pharmacies are covered. For information about plans or how to pick one, discuss options with an agent.
4. Remember the disenrollment period. Although many changes are limited to the open enrollment period, there is a disenrollment period where participants can revoke their enrollment in a chosen plan. This period is from January 1 through February 14. However, this period is only for people who enroll in an Advantage plan and want to switch back to Original Medicare.
5. Understand the two different fall open enrollment periods. The open enrollment period for Medicare is not the same as the open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace. The marketplaces or exchanges are not intended for individuals who are enrolled in Medicare or plan to enroll in Medicare during the upcoming year. These exchanges are for uninsured or underinsured individuals.
For those who are newly eligible to enroll in Medicare, it is important to take the time to research all options. Enrolling may seem confusing with all of the information available. For more information about changing a plan or enrolling for the first time, discuss concerns with a licensed agent at 314-351-HALO(4256).
Inexperienced Teen Drivers Are Three Times More Likely To Cause Fatal Accidents
A recent study conducted showed that teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 were three times more likely than adults to be in fatal car accidents. Researchers chose to release the study recently since the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day marks the deadliest period for teen traffic accidents each year. More than 1,500 people were killed during the past five years in crashes where inexperienced teens were behind the wheel.
Since teens are out of school and on the road more often during the summer months, crash rates are significantly higher. Researchers said that the combination of inexperience and more time spent driving creates a deadly equation. This latest study analyzed all drivers and their crash rates per mile. The study showed that for each mile on the road, teens between the ages of 16 and 17 were:
Two times more likely than drivers between the ages of 30 and 59 to be involved in a fatal crash.
Five times more likely than drivers between the ages of 30 and 59 to be in a car accident.
Six times more likely than drivers over the age of 18 to be involved in a deadly accident.
Nine times more likely than drivers over the age of 18 to be involved in an auto accident.
In comparison with the previous year's data, researchers found that the number of teens involved in deadly car accidents increased by more than 10 percent. Insurance carriers are urging parents across the country to help reduce these numbers by talking to their teens about risky driving behavior and taking action to limit their time on the road during summer. They are hoping to encourage parents to be good role models of proper driving behavior as well. Researchers said that parents should observe speed limits, avoid using their phones while driving and always wear safety belts to set a good example.
There are several factors that contribute to a higher number of fatal accidents among teens. Distraction is the leading problem and causes about 60 percent of all teen crashes. Talking to other passengers, using a smart phone and trying to eat or drink while driving are common distractions for teens. In 60 percent of fatal accidents involving teens, the young drivers were not wearing safety belts. About 30 percent of fatal teen crashes happened when inexperienced drivers were speeding. Researchers at found that speeding was one of the top mistakes made by teens and reported by their driving instructors while the teens were learning to drive. If parents everywhere take steps to make driving safer for teens, the roads will be safer for everyone.
I hope that you find these articles of interest. If you have a topic for future discussion, please let me know. Please call anytime, we can answer questions or be of help with your business or personal insurance needs.
Top Apps to Help You Avoid Drunk Driving
Drunk driving incidents claim the lives of up to 25,000 Americans per year, according to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Administration. That should be reason enough to do all you can to prevent yourself and your friends and loved ones from getting behind the wheel, while intoxicated.
Even if no one is hurt, getting convicted of even one DUI offense can cost you your license, your insurance, and as much as $10,000 in legal fees, fines and other expenses. In some industries, a single DUI offense can cost you your career, as well.
Fortunately, thanks to mobile phone and computer technology, we now have a number of useful and innovative tools to help you have a good time, while responsibly managing your alcohol intake. Here are some effective apps and other tools you can install on your smartphone or tablet, to help you avoid hurting yourself or anyone else by driving while under the influence.
Alcohol Intake Mobile Apps IntelliDrink - Available for iOS devices, Intellidrink lets you track your alcohol intake and helps you estimate your blood alcohol content based on your height, weight and sex. The app can tell you, based on your alcohol intake and when you stop drinking, roughly when your BAC can be expected to drop below 0.08, the legal limit in most jurisdictions.
Intellidrink has a dual input function, so you can track alcohol consumption for yourself and your drinking buddy.
Alcudroid Alcohol Tracker - This program has a similar function to Intellidrink, but is designed to work on the Android platform. Named a Top Alcoholism App of 2015 by HealthLine.com, the Alcudroid lets you chart your drinking habits by the day, week or month. It also supports U.S., imperial and metric units and of course calculates an estimate of your blood alcohol content.
Additionally, the Alcudroid helps you track what you spend on alcohol over time as well.
BACtrack makes a combination breathalyzer and smartphone app system that will give you a reasonably accurate BAC level you can read right off your cell phone. The BACtrack breathalyzer device connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and uses an Xtend® fuel cell sensor that has a proven track record of accuracy and consistency.
The BACtrack app can also help you project when your BAC can be expected to reach zero (if you stop drinking now).
SaferRide - Too drunk to drive also means too drunk to operate complicated apps. That's why National Transportation Safety Administration developed the SaferRide. This easy, to use, intuitive app features a simple, three button interface that's so simple, you can operate it even after a very big night. Click on the "Get Taxi" button and the app will provide a list of local cab companies that you can call with one click. Click on "Call friend" and it will automatically call the friend you designated when you set up the app. You don't even have to stab at the numbers to dial someone.
It even has a "where am I?" button.
The SaferRide app is available for Windows, Android and iOS devices, and is free.
Ride Programs and Transportation Services
Contact the Sober Ride Program. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a nationwide database of such programs. In some markets, towing services companies will also tow your car home for you for free, on specific holidays.
Hail a cab. Or you can use a mobile-phone app such as Cabzilla, TaxiHail or Curb.
Consider a ride-sharing service. Availability varies, depending on the market, but popular options include:
We want you to have a good time. But more than that, we want you to get home safe to your family, along with everyone else on the road with you. We encourage you to download one or more of these apps to your phones, and to share this information with your friends and family.
12 Fire Prevention & Safety Tips for the Holiday Season
The two most common days for home fires in the United States are Christmas and Christmas Eve. Fire officials encourage all Americans to make safety a top priority during the holidays. One of the most important steps is to ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in the home. The main cause of home fires during the winter holiday season is cooking, and heating comes in at second place. During this time of year, many people use candles more often. Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Eve are the most common holidays for fires due to candles. Keep these 12 helpful tips in mind to stay safer this holiday season.
Turn all lights off. When using any decorative lights in or around the house or tree, be sure they are turned off when unsupervised. People who are using older strings of lights should consider switching to newer LED lights, which are more energy efficient and stay cooler.
Have several working smoke alarms. Every level of the home should have a working smoke detector. While it is ideal to have one in every common room and bedroom, it is important to at least have them placed strategically so home occupants can hear them regardless of where they are in the house. If alarms are older than 10 years, they should be replaced.
Water fresh trees every day. Any fresh trees should be watered daily to ensure they do not dry out and become bigger fire hazards. All synthetic and fresh trees should be kept away from candles, heaters and fireplaces.
Use carbon monoxide detectors. This substance is invisible and does not have an odor, so it is considered a silent killer. If any existing alarms are over seven years of age, they should be replaced.
Make a fire escape plan. The fire escape plan should have two separate exit options, and there should be a designated area outside of the home where occupants can meet. If a fire happens, remember to stay out of the home and call 911 immediately from a neighbor's phone or a cell phone. Do not go back into the house for anything.
Do not leave candles unattended. Before leaving a room or going to sleep, make sure all candles have been blown out. There should always be a one-foot safety area encircling when they are burning, and make sure they stay on flat and steady surfaces.
Use extension cords with care. Do not overload extension cords or power strips. Also, avoid putting cords under rugs to lower the risk of fires.
Use space heaters cautiously. Never leave a space heater running when the room is not occupied. Heaters should be at least three feet from any item or wall. Do not use old space heaters that are not UL approved.
Do not leave burners unattended. Watch all cooking food closely. When baking, set a timer and keep it within reach. If pan does catch on fire, put a lid on it to smother the fire. Turn the heat off immediately.
Be responsible when drinking. Alcohol plays a part in many fatal fires, so watch guests or hosts carefully.
Smoke outdoors. Make sure all guests know to smoke outdoors, and provide ash trays so they do not toss cigarette butts in areas where they could cause fires.
Keep lighters and matches safe. If there will be children present, make sure lighters and matches are kept out of their reach.
Fuel Economy in Cold Weather
Cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly.
Fuel economy tests show that, in short-trip city driving, a conventional gasoline car's gas mileage is about 12% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. It can drop as much as 22% for very short trips (3 to 4 miles).
The effect on hybrids is worse. Their fuel economy can drop about 31% to 34% under these conditions.
Why is winter fuel economy lower?
Cold weather affects your vehicle in more ways than you might expect:
Engine and transmission friction increases in cold temperatures due to cold engine oil and other drive-line fluids.
It takes longer for your engine to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature. This affects shorter trips more, since your car spends more of your trip at less-than-optimal temperatures.
Heated seats, window defrosters, and heater fans use additional power.
Warming up your vehicle before you start your trip lowers your fuel economy—idling gets 0 miles per gallon.
Colder air is denser, increasing aerodynamic drag on your vehicle, especially at highway speeds.
Tire pressure decreases in colder temperatures, increasing rolling resistance.
Winter grades of gasoline can have slightly less energy per gallon than summer blends.
Battery performance decreases in cold weather, making it harder for your alternator to keep your battery charged. This also affects the performance of the regenerative braking system on hybrids.
In severe winter weather, your mpg can drop even further.
Icy or snow-covered roads decrease your tires' grip on the road, wasting energy.
Safe driving speeds on slick roads can be much lower than normal, further reducing fuel economy, especially at speeds below 30 to 40 mph.
Using four-wheel drive uses more fuel.
What can I do to improve my fuel economy in cold weather?
You may not be able to completely mitigate cold weather's effect on your fuel economy, but you can do some simple things to help your gas mileage:
Park your car in a warmer place, such as your garage, to increase the initial temperature of your engine and cabin.
Combine trips when possible so that you drive less often with a cold engine.
Minimize idling your car to warm it up. Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds. The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions.
Don't use seat warmers or defrosters more than necessary.
Check your tire pressure regularly.
Use the type of oil recommended by your manufacturer for cold weather driving.
Remove accessories that increase wind resistance, like roof racks, when not in use.
If you drive a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, preheating the cabin while plugged into the charger can extend your vehicle's range.
If you drive a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, using the seat warmers instead of the cabin heater can save energy and extend range.
Tips for Driving Defensively During Deer Season
Drivers across the country must take extra precautions on the road during deer mating season. Deer are more common in some parts of the country than others. They are often sighted near creeks, rivers, lakes and areas with trees. The likelihood of a collision with a deer during mating season is higher because all deer are more active then and wander onto roadways more often.
In 2016, the average national cost per claim following a collision with a deer was $3,995. This was a slight decrease from $4,135 the previous year. American drivers should contact their insurers to learn about comprehensive accident coverage, which typically includes collisions with deer and other wildlife. When an accident occurs, it is important to follow these tips:
Contact the insurance agent immediately to start the claims process.
When unsure if the deer is dead, keep a safe distance at all times to avoid injuries from its sharp hooves.
If an injured or dead deer is blocking the road, call 911 or a local law enforcement office immediately.
Keep in mind that comprehensive insurance is purchased separately from liability coverage. Regular collision coverage that is part of liability insurance will not cover damages from colliding with a deer. When driving during deer mating season, always wear a safety belt. Remain alert, and watch for deer especially in wooded areas and near bodies of water. Use high beams whenever possible on remote highways at night. Since deer have reflective parts in their eyes, the high beams illuminate them clearly.
Deer accidents are common at dusk when visibility is poor and deer are typically more active. Although deer whistles and deer fences help minimize risks, they will not prevent accidents completely. The best defense is careful driving practices. Always brake firmly when there is a deer in the road ahead.
Do not swerve into another lane. Many accidents are caused when people swerve into oncoming or same-direction traffic. Keep in mind that seeing one deer usually indicates that there are more nearby. When braking and stopping, wait for the deer to cross the road. Do not try to go around the deer or honk. These fast animals run erratically and can still pose a major collision hazard until they are out of sight.
Always keep an agent's number as a saved cell phone contact. It is best to report an accident immediately after it happens.
To learn more about adding coverage for deer collisions or to review existing coverage, discuss your concerns with a HALO insurance agent. 314-351-HALO (4256).