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Song of the week: “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman

Insurance tips offered for small businesses

Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is sharing insurance advice with small business owners across Ohio to assist them in understanding their insurance coverage provisions as they recover from the recent severe weather that blanketed the state.

“The first step for business owners who suffered an interruption in service and damaged products and property is to get in touch with their insurance agent,” Taylor said. “They will be able to assist in sorting out the particulars of the policy and help you get back on your feet.”

Taylor added that if business owners incurred damage they should collect copies of receipts for equipment, furniture and other valuable items and photos of the property to share with their agent.

Taylor offered the following insurance information for small business owners impacted by recent severe weather:


Property Insurance

Property insurance typically covers for damage or theft of the physical property and equipment of the small business.

If you own the physical structure of your business address, your property insurance should cover both the structure and its other assets.

If you lease the space you occupy, you are likely responsible for insuring your personal property/contents. As a leaseholder, you should have a contingency plan in case your landlord or your landlord’s insurer is not able to promptly repair the building where your business is located.

Business Interruption

Business interruption insurance covers lost earnings due to circumstances stated in the policy – such as weather or fire – that shut down a business for an extended period.

Certain events will trigger this insurance that generally covers expenses associated with running your business, such as payroll and utility bills, based on your company’s financial records.

Benefits under this kind of coverage may not be payable for a certain number of days after the business interruption has occurred. Make sure you have sufficient funds to tide you over for that time.

The insurance may also help pay for the extra expenses to keep your business in operation until you recover.

Taylor also shared this information to assist business owners in preparing for potential future severe weather or natural disasters:

General Planning

Is your business ready for disaster?

Do you have an emergency response plan for employees and customers?

Do you have copies of important papers and information stored off site?

Does the information include: receipts, photos, insurance policies, contact details for your agent or company, employee roster, etc.?

These documents will assist you when you file a claim later.

Minimize your insurance risks by:

Installing fire and security alarms.

Planning and training employees for emergencies on the premises, such as fires and evacuations.

Having employees keep wallets and other personal items in a secure place. Keeping the business’ cash and other valuables in a safe.

Keeping office space in good physical condition.

Review your insurance needs and your current policies:

Are your policies up-to-date with your insurance coverage needs and are the limits for each coverage at a level that protects your investment?

The Office of the Ohio Treasurer recently announced businesses that suffered damage can apply to obtain up to a three percent interest rate reduction on new or existing loans for construction or to improve cash flow through the Ohio Treasury’s Renew Ohio & Rebuild Ohio emergency financing programs.

Taylor issues statewide directive to assist storm victims

Ohio residents affected by the recent severe weather are getting relief when it comes to deadlines for paying their insurance premiums.

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor issued a bulletin on Monday, July 2, 2012 to Ohio insurance companies asking them to be patient when receiving late insurance premium payments from those who are trying to recover.

“Thanks to cooperation from Ohio’s insurance community, we are giving residents some additional relief so that they can focus on cleaning up and repairing their properties instead of worrying about a pending insurance premium payment,” Taylor said.

This request to insurers derives from the Federal Emergency Declaration for the state due to storms that occurred on June 29, 2012 and is applicable to all Ohioans who have experienced a loss.

The bulletin, 2012-02, states that insurance companies are to give those who have been directly impacted by the storms 60 days from the date the premium was due to pay their premiums, interest free. The bulletin expires on September 30, 2012.

The full bulletin and a Severe Weather Recovery Toolkit, which includes information about how to safeguard your property, vehicle and possessions, tips on the claims filing process, FAQS about windstorm damage and insurance, and tips on protecting yourself from a deceitful contractor, are available on the Department’s website, www.insurance.ohio.gov.

Taylor shares insurance claim tips to help those impacted by severe weather

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is advising Ohioans impacted by recent severe weather on how they should attend to damaged property and offered tips on the insurance claim filing process. Taylor also cautioned residents to beware of fraudulent contractors trying to take advantage of people in need of property repairs.

“We want to provide information to help those impacted understand the insurance claim filing process so they can get their lives back in order,” Taylor said. “Most homeowners and business insurance policies provide coverage for repairing damage caused by a windstorm, hail and tornado after the applicable deductibles are met and up to certain dollar amounts. Your agent or insurance company can help you understand the particulars of your policy while Department staff are available to help consumers experiencing problems with their claims.”

She added that protection for vehicles against damage caused by windstorm, hail and tornado is provided through an auto policy’s “other than collision” or “comprehensive” coverage. The Department has created a Severe Storm Recovery Toolkit under the Featured Links section on its website, http://www.insurance.ohio.gov. It includes claims filing tips, FAQs about windstorms and insurance, and tips on how to avoid a deceitful contractor.

Taylor said that if you have suffered damage from a storm, you should:
• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can.
• Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim.
• Back up claims with written estimates.
Taylor offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud:
• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.

OII offers answers to wind and rain coverage questions

Heavy rain and gusty winds from June 29th storms serve as reminder that many of these losses are covered by insurance. Common losses that are typically covered by insurance include damage caused by downed-trees and damage to roofs, walls and ceilings caused by wind and downpours. Some losses are covered under a homeowners policy and others may be covered by policy endorsements.

The Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) advises checking with your insurance agent or company regarding coverage questions and limitations, especially those related to water. Some weather-related damages are covered under a standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policy; some are covered to a specific limit; while other coverages may be excluded but can be added through a policy endorsement or a separate flood insurance policy.

OII provides the following insurance coverage information.

WATER COVERAGE – HOME
Water backup

Coverage for sewer drain backup is available through many insurance companies as a homeowners or renters policy endorsement. Coverage limits and costs vary by carrier so it’s important to understand what is – and isn’t – covered under this endorsement.

Based on a recent OII survey, most insurers offer a water backup endorsement. Coverage limits range from $1,000–$100,000 with costs varying from $30–$485 annually depending on the type of coverage and limits selected. Some insurers offer options for this coverage with a basic endorsement covering major appliances (furnace, water heater/softener, washer/dryer, sump pump) while a broader endorsement extends coverage to finished basements including carpeting, furniture and electronics.

Wall and ceiling water leaks

If roofs and gutters have been damaged by a covered loss (i.e. wind, tornado, hail) interior wall and ceiling leaks from seeping rain are covered by homeowners insurance. Deductibles apply.

Flood insurance

Damage caused by flooding is excluded from homeowners and renters insurance policies. This protection is available through the purchase of a flood insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent or company for specifics or visit http://www.floodsmart.gov to assess your flood risk, estimate the cost for a flood insurance policy and locate a flood insurance agent in your area. There’s a 30-day waiting period before new or modified flood insurance policies go into effect. Click here for additional info on flood insurance.


WIND (TORNADO) COVERAGE – HOME

Damage caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies. Homes or belongings damaged as a result of a fallen tree due to wind or lightning strikes – whether it’s your tree or a neighbor’s tree – are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Tree removal costs are also covered when being removed from the damaged structure. Deductibles apply.

Debris removal

Typically the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500/tree) under the following circumstances:
• The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the peril of weight of ice, snow or sleet, or a neighbor’s tree was downed under the same circumstances and
• The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed, or
• The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured’s driveway or handicap access ways.

Reasonable repairs

Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Save these receipts.

Damage to trees

Residential trees, shrubs, plants or lawns are not covered when damaged by wind or hail. Limited coverage is provided if damages are caused by fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft. The limit is typically 5% of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.

VEHICLE COVERAGE

If severe weather threatens, move your car under cover to prevent damage from high winds, flying debris and hail. Vehicles pot-marked by hail or damaged by flooding are covered under the “other-than-collision” (comprehensive) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn. Deductibles apply.

TIPS

Consumer insurance tips

• Closely inspect property and cars for damage.
• Photograph any damage and inventory losses, especially if heavy, widespread damage has occurred.
• Secure property from further damage or theft (save receipts and provide to your insurer).
• Contact your insurance agent regarding coverage clarification and damage assessment regarding a potential claim.
• Consider obtaining a written repair estimate prior to filing a claim as repair costs may not exceed your deductible. If the loss amount is close to your deductible, you might consider absorbing the loss on your own.
• If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss, check your policy for “additional living expense” or “loss of use” coverage. Many policies cover additional expenses (like motel & dining) up to a stated amount.
• Create a home inventory and keep it up-to-date. A free downloadable program is at http://www.knowyourstuff.org.
• Schedule an ‘annual insurance checkup’ with your insurance professional. Review all your insurance needs (such as a new teen driver in the household or new home improvements/remodeling, etc.). Be sure to ask what’s not covered by the policy to avoid confusion should a loss arise in the future.

Preventing Water Damage

• Never store perishables or valuables in basements that you can’t afford to lose or replace (i.e. photos, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc.).
• Do not store items near basement drains.
• Check storm drain lines to make sure they’re clear of debris, like roots and dirt.
• Make sure your sump pump and/or dehumidifier are in working order.
• Use shelving to store items several inches above the potential water level.
• Make sure your home’s downspouts are extended far enough away from the foundation to prevent water from entering your basement through the walls.
• Grade the property around your home to drain water away from the house.
• If you have water seepage following storms, take corrective measures to alleviate future problems. For instance, install a sump pump or have a waterproofing expert take a look at your situation to see what can be done to eliminate the potential of major water damage losses.

Hiring a Home Contractor

• Beware of rip offs. Carefully check the background of contractors and others who promise “cheap” repairs. OII suggests checking with family and friends for referrals and contact your local home builders association or the Better Business Bureau.
• Obtain several estimates and request customer references. Be sure estimates include all contractor info, including the contractor’s name, address and phone number. Click here to view OII’s home repair tip sheet.


Food Spoilage

Homeowners insurance policies differ, but food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.). Some insurers offer a “refrigerated property coverage” endorsement that provides coverage – typically up to $500 – for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power. Contact your insurance professional to see if coverage applies. The Ohio State University offers suggestions for proper food handling in the event of power outages.

The OII is a trade association representing insurance companies and agent groups for the property/casualty insurance industry. Its primary objective is to help Ohioans achieve a better understanding of insurance and safety issues.

Ohio & US fireworks facts and safety guides promote emphasis on safety due to extremely dry conditions

With 4th of July holiday festivities in full swing, the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) and Ohio Fire Marshal’s office provide a list of resources on Ohio fireworks laws, safety guides and US fireworks-related statistics.

Additionally, the combination of near-drought conditions, high temps and the possibility of wind gusts create a greater risk of fires sparked by the use of fireworks, legal or illegal. Both groups emphasize safe use of legal fireworks this holiday week.

Here’s what’s legal and not legal to purchase and/or use in the Buckeye state, where to legally purchase them and penalties for breaking Ohio fireworks use laws.

OHIO INFO (Source: State Fire Marshal, Ohio Department of Commerce)

1) What’s legal to use?

The only fireworks that are legal for consumer use in Ohio are “trick and novelty” items such as sparklers, snaps, glow snakes and smoke bombs.

These include: Auto foolers with and without report, bat snaps, bobby traps, Chinese fun snaps, cigarette loads, fun snaps, ghost and bat snaps, ghost bomb snaps, gravity pak-snaps, magnum poppers, flame-proof party poppers, sky lanterns and trick bank matches.

2) What’s legal to purchase? What are the restrictions on their use?

Anyone 18 or older can buy firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and fountains within the state from a licensed retailer. You can purchase them but can’t “technically” use them in Ohio. At the point of purchase, the buyer must sign a form that says the fireworks will be transported out of Ohio within 48 hours. If you are an out-of-state resident, you transport them within 72 hours.

3) Where to purchase fireworks legally in Ohio

The Ohio Fire Marshal’s office regulates the licensing of fireworks wholesalers and manufacturers.

There are 42 licensed wholesalers in Ohio who can sell trick and novelty fireworks like sparklers and snaps.

There are six licensed manufacturers in Ohio who also can sell fireworks.

4) Penalties for fireworks violations

In Ohio, a first-time offender of any fireworks-related laws risks confiscation of the fireworks and a first-degree misdemeanor, including a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail or both.

Ohio fireworks resources (State Fire Marshal, Ohio Department of Commerce)

• Division of State Fire Marshal, 2012 Fireworks Redbook
Ohio Fireworks Q & A
Fireworks Safety Tips
Ohio fireworks factsheet

US INFO

• National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fireworks Report

Summary: In 2010 (latest year of the report), 8,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in US hospital emergency rooms. Report finds that there are more fires on a typical Fourth of July than any other day of the year. Fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reportable fires, including 1,100 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires.

NFPA fireworks safety poster

State officials urge residents to use caution during extreme heat

With heat and humidity on the rise, the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Emergency Management Agency urge residents to use extra care to avoid heat-related illness over the next several days.

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. During hot weather health emergencies, keep informed by listening to local weather and news channels or contact local health departments for health and safety updates. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses

“When temperatures are extremely hot and there is high humidity, the body has to work extra hard to try to maintain a normal temperature,” said ODH Director Ted Wymyslo, M.D. “We start to see heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion when the body is overwhelmed. It’s important to pay attention to warning, in 2010 there were nine related deaths in Ohio.

According to FEMA, most heat disorders occur because a person has been over-exposed to heat or has over-exercised for his/her age and physical condition. People most at risk for heat injuries are infants and young children; people age 65 and older; overweight people; people who over-exert during work or exercise; and people who are ill or on certain medications.

“Summer is the ideal season for increased outdoor activity and fun in the sun,” said Nancy Dragani, Ohio EMA executive director. “But summer is also the time where people have increased injuries and accidents. If you have neighbors who are elderly or have special medical needs, check on them to ensure they’re cool enough and have enough water to drink.”

To help avoid heat injuries and illness, people should plan outdoor activities for either early morning or late evening, when the sun is less direct. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect against sunburn. Move to the shade or into an air conditioned building at the first signs of becoming overheated. Heat-related symptoms can come on quickly.

Use the following tips from ODH and Ohio EMA to help beat the heat:

– Drink Cool (not icy cold) Fluids Active people should drink 2-4 glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool, non-alcoholic fluids every hour.

– Drinking water is best. Do not take salt tablets without a physician’s advice. Avoid beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine, because they can add to dehydration and increase the effects of heat illnesses.

– Monitor or Limit Outdoor Activities Young children may become preoccupied with outdoor play and not realize they are overheated.

– Adults should mandate frequent breaks and bring children indoors to cool down and have cool drinks. Children or adolescents involved in team sports should be closely monitored for signs of heat stress. Consideration should be given to modifying practice or games during the hottest parts of the day.

– Know How to Treat Heat Exhaustion Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or fainting. People experiencing these symptoms should be moved to a shady or air-conditioned area. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet clothes or towels. Have person sip on a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. If the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness, call 911 or the local emergency number.

– Know How to Treat Heat Stroke Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Call 911 immediately. Symptoms include: a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, red, hot and dry skin with no sweating, rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, unconsciousness, and gray skin color. Before medical help arrives, begin cooling the person by any means possible, such as spraying person with water from a garden hose or by placing the person in a cool tub of water.

– NEVER Leave Children or Pets in Vehicles Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures quickly. Even if the windows are cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes. Children or animals left inside a vehicle is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death. When traveling with children (even routine drives), remember to do the following:
o To remind yourself that a child is in the car, place bags, phones or other items you will take with you in the back seat. This will force you to turn around before exiting the car.
o When leaving your vehicle, check the front and back seats to make sure no sleeping children (or pets) are left in the car.

For additional information on how to beat the heat, go to the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness website: www.weathersafety.ohio.gov or the Federal Emergency Management Agency website: www.fema.gov/areyouready/heat.shtm, or the Ohio Department of Health website: www.odh.ohio.gov.

Song of the week: “Two Hands” by Jars of Clay

Op-ed: The corruption is now complete


By David Zanotti, CEO, The American Policy Roundtable

Back in 1988, we really were not all that interested in entering a fight on casino gambling. The Roundtable had been in operation for eight years. We had many issues far more pressing than gambling expansion. Then we began doing serious research on the history of legalized gambling in America, with a particular focus on the corruption gambling interests bring to civil government. That study led to more research on rising gambling addictions and the destruction of families. Along the way we met Sandy Walgate, a schoolteacher from East Liverpool who shared her story of nearly losing her star athlete son to a gambling addiction. Through Sandy’s tears this all became very real.

For almost 25 years now we have been presenting the evidence that gambling ruins lives and corrupts government. All the honest research is conclusive. The gambling industry thrives on addicts. When government gets into business with the gambling industry, the government partners in the addiction business. What politicians intentionally ignore is the inevitable reality that once state and local budgets are addicted to gambling revenues, the casino bosses call the shots. Thus, gambling and good government don’t ever mix.

Before the first casino even opened its doors in Ohio, this inevitable reality proved true once again. Not content with a private monopoly amendment they wrote into the Ohio Constitution, Penn National and Dan Gilbert (Ohio’s current casino overlords) wanted more. They found a greedy legislature and a willing partner in Governor Kasich. Together they cooked up a scheme to take a “limited” gambling proposal passed by the voters in 2009 and blow it into a full-scale plan for virtually unlimited gambling across the state.

Had they chosen to take this new plan to the voters and further amend the Ohio Constitution, as the law requires, it would have been a fair fight. Instead they decided to deny the precedents of legal construction and constitutional law dating back to before the Civil War. They just passed a law giving the government, the casino overlords and the greedy lawmakers whatever they wanted.

They tried something similar about 10 years ago in Ohio. They decided to expand the Lottery, but rob the schools of the new funding. The Roundtable sued because the new law directly violated the state constitution. We gained standing in the case, won the funding argument, returned the money to the schools and the case was upheld on appeal.

This time around, with a law passed that violated the state and federal constitutions in at least 17 places, the Roundtable sued again in the same Franklin County Court. To the amazement of many, Judge Timothy Horton, after eight months of deliberations refused to hear the case stating that none of the plaintiffs, including the Roundtable had the right to bring such a case to court. Ten years ago we did have standing and the courts upheld a significant portion of our challenge, this year we don’t have the right to a day in court on very similar claims. How exactly does that work?

So the Ohio Constitution, Article XV has been amended to expand gambling dramatically, but you won’t find the words there. The constitution was overridden by a simple statute passed by the Legislature at the request of the Governor. The people of Ohio had no say on the destruction of three constitutional provisions on gambling they passed in 1973, 1987 and 2009.

The politicians got the money they wanted. Their lobbying friends and lawyers got paid. The gambling industry got everything they wanted and the citizens of Ohio had no legal say in the matter. Which all proves the point we first discovered from studying the history of gambling back in 1988. Gambling and good government don’t ever mix.

David Zanotti is CEO of the American Policy Roundtable, the parent company of the Ohio Roundtable, established in 1980. The Roundtable is a non-profit, independent education and research organization specializing in public policy.