PREVENTING FREEZE UP – FROZEN & BURST WATER PIPES

Article from Philadelphia Insurance

Cold weather freeze-ups can cause vital fire protection systems to malfunction. Cold temperatures can cause sprinkler piping to burst resulting in major water damage to buildings, contents, and equipment. Pipes bursting can also impair automatic sprinkler systems and leave a major portion of your facility without fire protection. A fire during this situation may result in a major interruption to your business and a huge loss.

In the interest of preventing water damage claims for your property, designated key personnel should be aware of freeze protection and emergency preparedness procedures. Utilize the Winter Weather Precautions Checklist to assist with your risk control program.

Best Practices include:

Building temperature should be monitored, documented, and maintained at 55° F or higher

Perform freeze protection   inspections and be cognizant of shutdown procedures
Have a contingency plan with   contractors and suppliers
Pre-emergency planning for fire,   water damage, and snow removal should be established
Boilers, furnaces, heaters, and   flues should be serviced regularly
24 hour building surveillance
Enforce a no smoking policy
Safeguard flammable or combustible   liquids


Water Supplies

Tanks should not leak and pressure   should be checked
Water temperature should remain at   42°F or above
Check fire hydrants for proper   drainage by outside contractor or water department
Buried sprinkler control valves   and valve pits should be marked in the event of heavy snowfall
Fire pump room should not drop   below 70°F
Post indicator valve, OS&Y   valve, and test header to pump inspected regularly


Wet Pipe Sprinkler Systems

All areas of buildings with   sprinkler systems should maintain a temperature of 40°F or above
Cold weather valves should be   closed while all others remain open
Windows, skylights, and doors   should be in good condition and sealed tightly
Check temperatures with   thermometer


Dry Pipe Systems

Dry lines should be checked for   proper drainage so trapped water doesn’t cause breakage
Check drains located in cold   places for freezing
Dry-valve clapper should be   properly set with temperature maintained at 40°F or above
Low air pressure alarms should be   provided, calibrated and connected to constantly
attended locations
Low pressure switches should be   set at 5 psi which is above trip point of dry pipe valve
Air pressure checked regularly   with records maintained to indicate normal pressure
Air drying equipment available to   supply air to system as designed

PREVENTING HEAVY ROOF LOADING & COLLAPSE
Snow and ice build up can wreak havoc by placing additional loads on roofs, and supporting bearing members. Snow and winter storm event severity can be hard to predict depending on the location and geography of your facilities. It is best practice to plan ahead to have a written plan in place when the snow or ice arrives.

Roofs collapse mainly due to weather patterns that produce a cycle of 2 events:

a rapid freeze
a rapid thaw

This rapid freeze and thaw cycling produce weighty snow/ice buildup that places excess stress on your roof. Flat roofs are especially prone to excessive accumulation and build up by the lack of natural grading, pitch and lack of runoff.

Best practices include:
Maintain all roofs and keep current with repairs. Winter weather will only further damage any underlayment and the damaging effects of water infiltration will be costly and may cause business interruptions.

Arrange to have all roofs cleared of snow especially where snow drifts are visible. Hire a competent contractor for this dangerous task.

Request contractor to clear any and all roof drains to allow for runoff and limit ponding especially on flat or relatively shallow pitched roofs. Clear pathways to the eaves in situations where there is a pitched roof without drainage pipes.

PREMISES AND FIRE FIGHTING EFFORTS
Removal of accumulation of snowfall from your driveways, sidewalks and entryways is essential to maintain safe access to your facility by emergency responders.

Clear all driveways, sidewalks, parking areas, access ways, bulkheads, portals, entryways and exits to allow for emergency to safely access your premises.

Onsite fire fighting workers enhanced if hydrants are accessible and clearly marked with colored marker flags in high snow drifts.

Unoccupied buildings:
Vacant, idle, or otherwise “unoccupied” buildings or large buildings with unused space (compartments, floors, rooms, or basements, etc.) present another set of hazards that an organization must consider for best practice winter weather controls.

Inadvertent releases of water, left unchecked or allowed to flow unnoticed, usually results in extensive interior damage. Best practices for these situations involve:

Maintain fire protection services   including water based fire protection services (sprinklers) – consult your   contractor to maintain these systems in service
Maintain interior heat at 40°F or   greater
Maintain remote (electronic)   monitoring of indoor temperatures
Visit and survey daily to verify   conditions of building or space
Install water alarms to detect of   release of water, burst pipe, etc.


Unheated Space:

Close main water valves with   potable/domestic water
Contract a plumbing professional   to drain all piping from water heaters, faucets, and supply piping
Notify proper   authorities when plans call for fire protection system   (sprinkler) impairment
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House Bill 315

 By the Mid-Atlantic
Real Estate Investors Association

02/12/2013

Our Elected Representatives Are At It Again!

Courtesy of the Property Owners Association, this is an alert that there is yet another attempt to start the process of rent control and increasing tenants’ power.

House Bill 315 Contains Provisions Harmful to Landlords

This bill has a number of provisions that would change existing law to make it more difficult to be a profitable landlord in the state of Maryland.

The proposed law does the following:

1.    Prohibits a Landlord from requiring a Tenant to have Renter’s Insurance.

2.    A landlord cannot increase the rent more than 5% per year.  This provision applies only to lanlords with more than 4 units.  The provision does allow a landlord to raise the rent more than 5% to account for property tax increases, utility increases, or based on the actual cost of capital improvements to the property.

3.    The Landlord may not evict a tenant, nor refuse to renew a lease soley because the landlord wants to raise the rent more than 5%.

4.    This applies to houses, apartments, mobile homes and mobile home lots.

5.    Prohibits a landlord from evicting a tenant without “just cause”.
Click Here for a copy of the actual bill, House Bill 315.

We oppose this bill as it further restricts our ability to use good business judment as a landlord and see this bill as a first step towards statewide rent control.

Please make the time to come to Annapolis on Thursday.
Even if you do not say anything, the presence of many landlords at the hearing will send a strong message of opposition and will be very effective.

Here is the hearing information:

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.

House Environmental Matters Committee

House Office Building–Room 250

6 Bladden St, Annapolis MD  21401

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5 Winter Tips

 

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Buying a car? When to tell your insurance company

 This is a great article written by Emily Terriquez from the Legal Examiner.  

As you probably know, it is against the law to drive a vehicle without the required insurance. Issues frequently arise when individuals purchase new vehicles. While state law generally gives you thirty days to transfer the title and register the vehicle with the state, that does not mean you have that much time to let your insurance company know. The specific deadlines for acquiring additional coverage will be in your insurance policy, but most policies only allow 10-14 days to notify the company about these so-called “newly acquired vehicles.” If you do not notify your insurance company within their time frame, then coverage will only start when you contact them. In the meantime, you are driving uninsured. If you are in an accident during this time, that can be a huge problem.

Recently, I spoke to a man with severe injuries from a motorcycle accident. He had owned the motorcycle for about three weeks, but hadn’t gotten around to contacting his insurance yet, thinking he had thirty days. The driver that struck his motorcycle was uninsured. So, the potential client sought coverage from his own underinsured motorist insurance. Unfortunately, his insurance policy required notification of new vehicles within 14 days. Because he failed to contact his insurance company promptly, he was left without coverage for this collision.

Beware—there are other traps besides timing. If you are not listed as one of the insured on the policy, you cannot just add another vehicle with a phone call. In addition, if the vehicle is not of the same type, you cannot just add coverage under the policy. For instance, most automobile insurance policies do not cover motorcycles. Thus, even if you have a valid insurance policy, you must specifically purchase motorcycle insurance before you can legally ride a new motorcycle. It all depends on the definitions in your policy. When in doubt, call your insurance agent to ensure you have coverage before you start driving that new vehicle on the road.

Most car dealerships require some proof of insurance before you leave with a new vehicle, but they don’t necessarily call to make sure you have coverage on the vehicle you are purchasing. If you are thinking about purchasing a vehicle, it is a good idea to let your car insurance company know ahead of time. That way you can ensure you have coverage from the moment you sign the paperwork for your new vehicle. Problems more often arise when you purchase a vehicle from a private party.

If you do happen to be in an accident before you have a chance to call your insurance company, you are likely covered if you are replacing a previously insured vehicle. But, there are exceptions. Review your policy, and plan ahead when you’re purchasing a vehicle to make sure you’re protected.

We encourage all of our policy holders to purchase auto insurance which carries a minimum 30 reporting requirement when purchasing new cars. Please feel free to contact our office at 410-526-6690 for a no obligation review of your coverage.

 
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Cyber-Bullying:

 

 Enclosed is a great article written by  Lanier Upshaw Risk Managers.

A study by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2010 revealed in a U.S. workforce of 200 million people, 37% allege they were the victims of cyber bullies. This means for every ten people, at least three have been the victim of cyber-bullying.

What is cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying happens when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.

An example of this would be when an individual asks someone to stop sending them inappropriate or threatening emails. The perpetuator refuses to stop and continues to threaten his co-worker via email.

Another platform used by cyber-bullies is social media. The bully could post a derogatory remark on Facebook where ten people add to the problem by leaving their own comment. This creates a situation where the victim feels ganged up on

What does this mean for business owners?

It means businesses must proactively address this problem. Failure to do so can be costly. In minor instances cyber-bullying leads to loss of productivity and morale but in extreme cases cyber-bullying could be fatal.

Kevin Morrissey, a 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, committed suicide on July 30, 2010. According to an ABC News report, Morrissey was the target of cyber-bullying and was seeking protection from his employer.

The report alleges the university may not have responded in a timely manner to the employee’s plea for help. In the two weeks prior to his suicide, Morrissey’s phone records, obtained by ABC News, showed calls to the human resources department, the ombudsman, the faculty and employee assistance center, and the university president.

Stories like this are a good wake up call for business owners who want to minimize risk in their workplace. Here are four ways you can do just that.

4 ways to minimize risk of cyber-bullying

1. Recognize the signs

Signs of cyber-bullying can include: a high turnover rate, threatening emails and text messages, someone being ganged up on, or an employee becoming abnormally withdrawn from the group.

If you notice these warning signs it’s better to investigate the cause instead of letting things get out of hand. The better communication with your team the less likely these things will go unnoticed.

2. Create awareness

Just like other forms of harassment, cyber-bullying needs to be talked about. It must be clearly communicated to employees what it is, how to recognize it and what to do when confronted with it. Consider incorporating cyber-bullying into your existing anti-harassment policies.

You may also want to share stories, like the one earlier, to help shed light on this problem. People may not remember your anti-harassment policy verbatim but they will remember an emotional story.

3. Work with your IT department

Since cyber-bullying happens over email, text or social media it can be easier to monitor than other forms of harassment. You may consider pairing up your IT and HR departments and ask them to brainstorm ways to monitor cyber-bullying in emails, discussion groups and social media.

4. Establish an anti-bullying policy in writing

Most employers have created an acceptable use policy (AUP) regarding electronic communication but many of these policies fail to address cyber-bullying. Make sure your AUP clearly states what manner of communication is not acceptable and also the consequences of partaking in such behavior.

Social media is a relatively new place that people hang out. So your AUP needs to outline acceptable parameters on places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.

Creating a harmonious environment

Bullying in the workplace is not a new, but recent technology has created new ways for this to happen. As an employer you cannot afford to ignore the potential risks associated with using digital communications.

We all know there will be interpersonal conflicts in the office but it’s the job of the managers and leaders to address certain problems before they escalate and infect the whole team dynamic.

Remember, this problem affects 37% of employees in the US – so don’t assume it’s not happening in your business. Instead create an effective plan so your workplace is safe for everyone.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your business from cyber bullying please contact our risk mangement department at 410-526-6690.

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59% of Homes Are Underinsured

Did you know that 59% of homes are under insured? Unfortunately one of the most valuable tools to protect your home is often times the most neglected. Your home insurance policy. Enclosed is a great article written by Valeria Weber.

According to Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, a leading provider of building replacement cost data, nearly two out of every three American homes, or 59 percent, are underinsured. The definition of underinsured is that homeowners, on average, have only enough insurance to pay for 78 percent of costs to replace or rebuild their homes.

One of the reasons this startling statistic has arisen is that many homeowners do not update or periodically increase the coverage on their homes. When homeowners remodel and improve their homes, they often fail to follow through with a call to their insurance agent to update their coverage.

Another contributor is the surging price of building materials, energy and labor, all which have increased replacement costs up by over 7 percent a year since 2001. If you’ve been in that home for five years, your homeowners’ insurance has been reduced to two-thirds coverage of the home by those increases alone.

Consumer advocates say that part of the problem lies in the way that homeowners insurance is sold. In the competitive marketplace, the last thing an agent wants is for the customer to run down the street to a competitor because they got a quote for $50 a year less.

They say many agents provide quick quotes to close a sale, lack the training to properly asses the value of the homes they insure and often rely on over-the-phone interviews to estimate the amount of coverage for a customer’s home. The result is that homeowners buy cheaply priced coverage that they mistakenly believe will replace their home in the event of a full loss.

That is not entirely fair to the insurance industry. Many homeowners have made home improvements and neglected to inform their insurance broker. The increase in labor and material costs has come into harsh focus during the rebuilding efforts following Katrina and Rita. Homeowners who are rebuilding after storm damage of that magnitude also find themselves facing new building code clauses that didn’t exist when the home first went up.

We invite you to contact our office for a no obligation review of your current home coverage. RMS has the tools to properly assess the replacement value of your home. That way in the event of loss you’re policy will work for you.

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Top 10 Threats to Small Businesses

Great article written by Alyssa Dellacamera from E&B Insurance. Really hits the point of how small business owners should have a sound insurance protection plan.

Optimism is the fuel that drives the entrepreneurial spirit, so it isn’t surprising that most small business owners consider themselves optimists. Too much optimism, however, can get a small business owner into trouble. A business plan built solely on the “best case scenario” is like a house of cards—one gust of wind (or fire or wrongful termination lawsuit) and the entire business can come crashing down. That’s why smart business owners temper their innate optimism with a healthy dose of reality. In other words, they learn to manage risk.

The first step in implementing a comprehensive risk management plan is identifying potential risks. To help you get started, we have provided a list of the top 10 threats to small businesses, along with simple strategies business owners can take to manage these risks. As you read through the list, consider the unique risks your business faces and ask yourself whether those risks are being managed effectively.

1. Protecting your Property

Property holdings are often a small business owner’s largest asset. Therefore, for the long-term security of your small business, it is vital that you evaluate potential threats to your property and develop a plan to manage those threats. Begin by taking a complete inventory of all your assets to determine how a loss might affect your business and how much coverage you need. Property coverage can come in many forms to suit your specific needs, but a typical policy will provide the replacement cost value for your building and the actual cash value for your business property.

You have a lot weighing on your budget already, but don’t make the mistake of planning for the “best case scenario” when it comes to your property coverage. Leaving your small business underinsured is a risk too great to take.

2. Business Interruption

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen following a disaster such as a fire or flood. Is your business prepared to weather the storm if disaster strikes? If a fire causes your facility to be temporarily unusable, what would you do? Ideally, you would move to a temporary location while your permanent place of business is being repaired, but traditional Property Insurance does not cover this move or the loss of income while the permanent business location is being repaired. Ill-prepared businesses are often forced to completely shut down operations during repair, which can do irreparable damage to their brand and leave employees without work for extended periods of time. To mitigate this risk, consider adding Business Interruption coverage to your Property Insurance policy. This invaluable, though often overlooked coverage safeguards your business by covering operating expenses and lost income while the permanent business location is being repaired. This will allow you to maintain payroll and, if needed, reallocate current employees to help with the cleanup effort.

3. Liability Losses

No matter how well you plan, running a small business can be fraught with unexpected surprises—the only way to completely avoid liability is to shutter your business. Smart business owners do the next best thing: protect their assets by carrying adequate Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance coverage. CGL policies provide coverage for claims of bodily injury or other physical injury, personal injury (libel or slander), advertising injury and property damage as a result of your products, premises or operations. A CGL policy with adequate coverage limits enables you to continue normal operations while dealing with real or fraudulent claims of negligence or wrongdoing, and also provides coverage for the cost of defending and settling claims.

4. Key Person Losses

Many small businesses are built around the talents and expertise of a few individuals. If an employee crucial to the functioning of your business departs unexpectedly due to death or injury, would day-to-day operations continue as usual or would disorder and uncertainty ensue? Would you be able to maintain your current level of performance and current revenue stream? How would you cover for the financial loss of the employee or pay for a temporary replacement during his or her recovery? Key Person Insurance can help you answer these questions with confidence. This coverage is designed to provide financial stability in a time of stress and uncertainty, allowing you to keep your business moving forward without missing a beat.

5. Injuries to Employees

Small business owners, especially those with less than 10 employees, may have difficulty understanding their employee health and safety obligations. Just like their larger counterparts, small businesses have the same responsibility to indemnify workers who are injured or become ill during the course of their employment. Many businesses do not realize the full effect workplace accidents have on their organization. Beyond initial treatment costs and lost production time, on-the-job injuries have an impact on insurance premiums, which can increase your costs for years to come. Thankfully, by managing exposures and promoting safety, it is possible to control workers’ compensation premiums. Having the proper pre- and post-accident procedures in place can drastically reduce the severity of a workers’ compensation claim, and implementing a comprehensive safety program can reduce the accident rate. Together, these two steps can produce tremendous long-term savings.

6. Managing Electronic Data and Computer Resources

Small businesses often lack a formal IT department or even rudimentary internet security measures, which leaves them vulnerable to unscrupulous cybercriminals searching for an easy target. With an estimated liability of more than $200 per compromised record (multiplied by hundreds or thousands of customer records), the cost of a single data breach incident can be devastating for a small business. If your business stores customer records electronically, it is crucial that you have robust security measures in place. In addition to taking preventative measures to reduce Internet-based exposures, specialized technology coverage like Cyber Liability Insurance can help protect your business against damage from cyber attacks, data breaches and other Internet-based exposures.

7. Environmental Exposures

Think of a business with significant environmental exposures. What comes to mind? Most people think of a large manufacturing, mining or petroleum operation, but these are not the only industries at risk for environmental liability losses. It is important to perform a comprehensive risk analysis to determine your own level of exposure. Keep in mind that because most commercial insurance policies contain pollution exclusions, unless you carry Environmental Insurance, you may be uninsured against significant environmental loss exposures.

8. Employment Practices

From the moment you begin the pre-hiring process until the final goodbyes at the exit interview, you are at risk for a lawsuit. In fact, three out of five employers will be sued by a prospective, current or former employee while they are in business. Although many lawsuits are groundless, defending against them is costly and time-consuming. Your business should take a hard look at whether it can afford to defend itself against accusations of wrongful employment practices. If not, there is an insurance solution called Employment Practices Liability that will protect your company against wrongful termination, discrimination (age, sex, race, disability, etc.) or sexual harassment lawsuits.

9. Contracts

When first starting out, many new business owners simply don’t have the time or expertise to adequately evaluate each clause in everything they’re signing. This oversight, however, can create major problems down the road. In many cases, small businesses become saddled with large additional risks, accepted via risk transfer from savvy suppliers or customers. While it’s tempting to shave costs by skimping on legal fees, making sure your business isn’t accepting additional and unnecessary risk can save you a lot of money over the long haul, both in legal costs and in insurance coverages.

10. Manage Your Supply Chain

Do you rely on one or more third-party suppliers to produce certain components used in your products? If you do, a disaster that interrupts your supplier’s regular business operations could have a crippling effect on your production abilities. Although you should always try to minimize potential liability through contingency planning and other risk management techniques, as supply chains grow across the globe, sometimes there is little you can do about the exposures your suppliers face. In a perfect world, you could simply avoid doing business with companies that present numerous risks or that are unwilling to conform to your standards, but pricing constraints and niche markets limit the number of potential suppliers to choose from. Supply chain insurance is meant to cover losses you incur as a result of an interruption to your supply chain. Such coverage allows you to work confidently with suppliers who face exposures beyond your control.

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