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Businesses Can Use Technology to Prevent Losses and Save on Insurance
Smart phones and tablet computers are not just for texting, talking and watching videos. An increasing number of software applications (apps) for these devices, and other technologies not involving mobile devices, help businesses prevent losses and cut their insurance costs.
Mobile devices can now connect to business security systems. Many security equipment vendors offer apps that give business owners instant information when they're away from the premises. For example, the system may send a text alert to a smartphone if a security camera picks up sudden movements. Others may stream videos from security cameras to the smartphone, enabling the owner or personnel to keep an eye on the premises during off hours.
This early information can help business owners limit the size of losses. For example, a system might send a text alert when it detects a leak in the building's plumbing system. Once alerted, the building owner can shut off the water remotely or in person, thus limiting the extent of the damage. Video recordings that can be downloaded to mobile devices can also help businesses recover stolen property.
A coffee manufacturer in Portland, Oregon implemented a system like this. Weeks after installation, it recorded video of a burglar stealing thousands of dollars in equipment. The owners downloaded the video, sent it to the local police, and posted it on social media channels. The video produced a full criminal investigation.
Insurers will compete for the businesses that use remote security systems. This is particularly true for businesses that own or sell items attractive to thieves, such as jewelry, electronics, medicine, or certain building materials such as copper.
Businesses can also reduce losses and insurance premiums by using telematics technology with their vehicles. These devices transmit real-time information about how a vehicle is being used. They capture information such as driving and stopping speed, time, and location. Businesses can use this data to monitor how their drivers are performing and identify training and incentive issues.
For example, drivers consistently exceeding posted speed limits may feel pressured to reach their destinations as fast as possible, either for pay or evaluation reasons. The result may be more frequent and severe auto accidents. With this information, management might decide to reward drivers for a certain number of accident-free miles. This should reduce accident frequency and lower the business's auto insurance premiums.
GPS technology can also help businesses track stolen vehicles and trailers, so an insurance claim will be either unnecessary or recoverable. Also, if a driver has an accident or medical event, GPS enables the business to locate the vehicle and driver immediately and dispatch emergency responders to the scene more quickly. This improves driver safety, takes better care of employees, and may reduce Workers' Compensation costs.
Some insurers offer discounts to businesses that implement GPS tracking. Telogis reports that premium discounts range from 18 to 33 percent.
Technology is becoming an ever more important part of our daily lives. These apps and devices show that it can have large benefits for businesses.
Do You Need Winter Tires?
You know it’s coming. Snow and slush. Freezing rain. Maybe even black ice.
But do you know if your tires are ready for all of that?
When driving in the wintertime, your tires just might be the most important safety feature on your car. The right ones can get you to your destination safely. The wrong ones? Well, just look over in the ditch during the next storm.
So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are five things to know about winter tires:
Winter tires really are different than regular tires.
Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use. That helps increase traction as well.
If your area regularly drops below 45 degrees, you probably need winter tires.
Winter tires don’t just perform better in snow and ice. They are better for cold weather in general. So if you get some chilly days where you live, consider a set – a full set. Installing just two winter tires can cause handling problems.
There are two main categories.
Studless snow and ice tires are designed for extreme conditions. They are better in deep snow than performance winter tires, which are for light snow and ice. What about studded tires? Well, they give you great traction on ice but also damage roads. And some experts say chains do just as well.
You still need to check the pressure — once a week.
If your tires are underinflated, they are at risk of failing. In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.
You still need to check the tread, too.
An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny. Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down. Is some of his hair hidden? Good. Can you see all of Abe’s hair? It’s time for new tires. Right now.
We here at HALO Insurance & Benefits Group know that nobody wants to spend too much time thinking about tires. The good news is you don’t have to. Just a little bit of preparation, along with some routine maintenance, will keep you driving in all winter long.
Holiday Safety Tips for Pets
The holidays have arrived! For those with one or more four-legged friends in the house, it’s time to go over some safety tips. After all, you want all of your family members to enjoy the festivities – even the furry ones.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which operates the 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, takes calls year round about pets being exposed to potentially hazardous yet common household items. With the house filled with guests, presents and decorations during the holidays, the risks multiply.
Here are some things to remember and consider from Thanksgiving through New Year’s to help keep Fluffy or Fido healthy, happy and safe:
Make sure everyone keeps medicine bottles or pill cases safely tucked away – actually that applies to everyone in your household, both permanent residents and visitors. And, just in case a probing pet gets into some medications, always make sure the containers are labeled with the contents and potency so you know what was ingested.
Of course, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without sharing in feasts and treats with family and friends. Just make sure that doesn’t extend to your pets. After all, some things on the holiday dinner table, such as alcohol and chocolate, are toxic for pets.
And, because all of the seasonal commotion may become too much for your pets, be sure they have a quiet place to which they can retreat. Let others know your pets shouldn’t be disturbed when they are in their quiet spot, whether it’s a bed, a cozy blanket or a kennel.
Those beautifully wrapped presents under the tree or covering the fireplace mantel can also be harmful to your oh-so-curious felines and canines – especially if a present contains treats for them or food for humans. Animals have a keen sense of smell and, once they sense that food is nearby, they’ll be more than happy to unwrap and eat both the outer and inner contents of the gift. Those ribbons and bows that you worked so hard on perfecting may end up wreaking havoc on your pet’s digestive tract.
Besides the obvious precautions of making sure wires, batteries and poisonous/toxic plants (such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias) are all out of paw’s reach, make sure that plastic and glass ornaments are far away as well. If chewed or eaten, these items can cause electrical shock, acid burns, dermatitis and mouth abrasions.
You should also remember that, as beautiful and fun as they are, snow globes contain ethylene glycol, a highly toxic substance to all pets. Another substance that you may not think of as harmful to pets is salt, and homemade play dough is loaded with it. Watch pets while your children are playing with it or around ornaments made with it. The dough can cause life-threatening electrolyte imbalances.
Scented candles may also be a holiday staple, but they may be enticing to our pets, which are at risk for serious burns and other injuries. Best to keep those candles completely out of reach.
Finally, make sure you have the phone number for your local emergency veterinarian or the ASPCA hotline on hand for emergencies.
With these tips in mind, you can help keep your four-legged family member safe during the holidays – and all year round. We here at HALO Insurance & Benefits Group wish you a very happy holiday season!
How to Track Down a Lost Life Insurance Policy
Most people buy life insurance after getting married, when a new baby is born or after they purchase a new house. When people lose the important documents showing life coverage, finding the policy can be hard. This is especially true when assisting someone else such as an elderly relative. In some instances, companies change ownership. When this happens, the difficulties of finding a policy only increase.
Gather Necessary Information
If there is an old copy of a policy, that will be the most helpful bit of information. However, many companies today can look up a lost policy with a few personal details such as a full name, a Social Security number and the year when the policy was created. When the policy request is for a person who is deceased, be sure to have the death certificate on hand.
Understanding Life Insurance
This type of coverage is usually issued as permanent or term. A permanent policy does not expire, and the benefit is payable when the policyholder dies. However, a term policy will expire after the specified number of years. If the policyholder does not renew or convert it at that time, the benefits are lost. Universal life insurance stays active as long as the premium is paid. With a permanent life policy, there may still be a residual benefit even if the policyholder stopped making payments.
Where To Start
If there are documents showing the life policy's servicing company, start by contacting that entity. The NAIC also offers a special policy locator tool. When using this tool or starting a search without any information from the holding company, the first step is to find the company that is responsible for servicing the policy.
If possible, find the name of the agent who sold the policy. Also, it helps to find out if the policy was purchased privately or was offered by an employer. When an agent's information is found in a file on a piece of paper or a card, use a search engine to find current details. The agent may no longer work at a company but may have left records behind. If the insurer merged with another company or was sold, find the acquiring company.
How To Search More Aggressively
For basic searches that do not turn up any information, start by looking through other files. Look beyond the desk or file cabinet in boxes and even in storage units. A deceased relative may have also had a lock box at a bank or security facility. Many people have found policies or information about them in safety deposit boxes. Also, look for an insurance agent's name in an address book. Contact the deceased loved one's attorney, banker or financial adviser.
Look for life insurance applications or copies. In most cases, the application lists all other life insurance policies and financial accounts. Another good place to look is in a check register. Search for names that may be indicative of a life insurance company. If the individual did not write down all transactions, look for empty checkbooks with carbon copies. Income tax returns may also hold some clues about life insurance. Carefully comb through them, and ask an accountant to help if he or she prepared it. Lastly, try contacting the individual's home or auto insurance company. Many people purchase life insurance through their main insurer.
When creating a new life insurance policy, always notify beneficiaries. Keep policy copies and information in an easy-to-find location, and be sure to keep it updated.