Holiday Memories…help make sure they’re good ones.

snowman ornament

They say there’s no place like home for the holidays,  so we say there’s no better place to implement good fire safety practices.

By following these simple steps, you can help ensure that your holiday is memorable for all the right reasons:

  • Make sure your home is protected by an adequate number of smoke alarms.  Alarms should be installed on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are working properly.  Change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Carefully inspect each electrical decoration and extension cord before use.  Discard any damaged items.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets, which can overheat and start a fire.
  • If you purchase a live Christmas tree, check for freshness.  Be sure to keep the stand filled with water.
  • Place your tree and all decorations at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Consider using battery-operated candles instead of traditional candles.  Never use burning candles on or near your tree.
  • Turn off all decorations and extinguish candles before leaving the house or going to sleep.
  • Never leave the kitchen when something is cooking.
  • Have your heating system cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional at least once a year.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as bedding, curtains, clothing, and paper.
  • Turn space heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Source: esfi.org
Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh/6596185805/”>susivinh</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Preparing Your Vehicle for Safe Winter Driving

car at mechanics

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With the snow in the air, it’s not too late to get your car at it’s best for the tougher driving conditions that winter brings. Here is a simple list* that any reputable garage or mechanic can help you with to make sure you are at your safest when on the winter roads:

Brakes – Your brakes should always be equalised so there is no pulling to one side. If the brakes on your car are uneven, you may be more likely to skid on snow-covered or icy roads.

Cooling system – Every few years, you should have your cooling system flushed out with a chemical cleaner and replaced with fresh anti-freeze. Check your containers, belts, hoses, the pressure caps and thermostat.

Battery and electrical system – Cold weather is very hard on batteries, so have yours checked. Be sure that the connections are always clean and tight and that there is no corrosion around the connectors.

Fuel System – Make sure there is plenty of gas in your tank at all times. A full tank minimizes condensation, which may cause gas line freezing. Add gasoline antifreeze occasionally.

Engine – A diagnostic check-up of the engine can be a good pre-winter ritual. At your next scheduled tune-up, have it done. Faulty wiring, worn spark plugs, a sticking choke or emission control devices that need attention, can all cause problems when starting your car.

Exhaust system – Check your muffler and tail pipe system for carbon monoxide leaks. This is especially important in the winter when the windows of your car are almost always closed.

Heaters, defrosters and wipers – Have your car’s windshield, heaters, defrosters and wipers checked to make sure they are fully operational. Install new winter wiper blades and use properly rated, winter washer fluid. Ensure your windshield always gives you a clear vision of the road and traffic around you.

Oil and filter – Dirty oil can mean trouble in the winter, so change the oil and filter before the cold weather starts. Other filters need your attention too – your fuel, air and transmission filters should all be attended to as well.

Tires – Snow tires increase traction in soft snow. Make sure to install them on all four wheels, as it will mean greater control of your vehicle when accelerating and braking, and don’t forget to check your tire pressure regularly. Properly inflated tires are crucial to safe winter driving.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

 

* Some information for this checklist supplied by the Canada Safety Council.

Keep burglars out! (Part 2)

Burglar breaking into house

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Did you know that a burglary takes place every 3 minutes in Canada? *

Is there anything you could be doing to help combat this alarming statistic? Of course, you could (and should) install a security system in your home, which can be very effective, but isn’t always an option financially, and even with a system installed, there is no guarantee that it will stop intruders when they know that no one is home.  For those of you without a security system, here’s some more free or very inexpensive ways to help burglar proof your house without breaking the bank, and if you do have a system, these ideas can also help increase the security of your home.

1. Keep Some Lights On

This is not the most energy efficient way to keep burglars away but it has been proven effective. Leave a light on in one or two rooms throughout your house when you go out at night. Make sure that you do not have the blinds open in these rooms showing that they are empty. This gives the illusion that someone is home, even when you’re away. Burglars don’t like risking being caught due to lights being on.

2. Never leave a note
This may seem like common sense to those who live in cities, however in rural areas it is still common to leave a note on the door telling a neighbor or a delivery person who is stopping by that you ran to the store and will be back soon. This is a great way to let a burglars know that you are out and wont be back for a certain amount of time

3. Voice mail messages: Don’t tell people you’re not home!
Sometimes it seems like the easiest solution to just tell all your friends that you are heading out on vacation or to leave it as your voice mail message. However, as mentioned earlier, criminals may call your home to see if you are home before breaking in. If they are get a message saying you are in the Mexico soaking up the sun until next week, you can be sure they will be targeting your house.

4. Leave a radio or TV on
By leaving the Radio or TV on you are creating sound within the house. This can make it difficult for the robber to determine whether or not you are inside. Leaving the TV on can lead to high electric costs, so having a battery operated radio can help conserve energy and will get you the same results.

5. Hire or arrange for a house sitter
Getting a friend to look after your house for you while you are away on a trip or vacation is a great way to keep your house safe from burglars. Keep your fridge stocked with food and they might do it for free. If you will be gone for an extended time and can’t get a house sitter, consider having someone stop by to check on your house and take your mail in. Also, in the winter, or heating months, if you are going away for more than 72 hours you may find that your house insurance dictates that someone check on your house daily to make sure that the furnace is still working properly so pipes don’t freeze and/or burst. It’s a good idea to have your house sitter keep a log of each time they check on your home in case something does happen.

6. Neighborhood watch programs
If your neighborhood has had some break-ins, it might be time to start a neighborhood watch program. Everyone can take turns driving around at night and keeping watch to make sure no one is out prowling the neighborhood.

7. Stop mail and newspaper deliveries
If you are going away for more than a couple of days, it’s a good idea to pause your mail and newspaper delivery. Huge piles of newspapers on your doorstep are an easy way for criminals to determine you are away. If you are unable to stop your paper, ask a neighbor to pick them up for you.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

 

* Source: cmhc-schl.gc.ca  Some list info supplied by www.mrfreestuff.com

Keep burglars out! (Part 1)

Door Lock

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Did you know that a burglary takes place every 3 minutes in Canada? *

Is there anything you could be doing to help combat this alarming statistic? Of course, you could (and should) install a security system in your home, which can be very effective, but isn’t always an option financially, and even with a system installed, there is no guarantee that it will stop intruders when they know that no one is home. For those of you without a security system, here’s some more free or very inexpensive ways to help burglar proof your house without breaking the bank, and if you do have a system, these ideas can also help increase the security of your home.

1. Take your name off the mailbox
By removing your name off the mailbox, would be thieves can’t call information to get your phone number. Many burglars will call a house they are planning on robbing before hand to make sure that no one is home. Also, bring in your mail as quickly as possible so they can’t get your name off of this as well.

2. Be careful what you put in your trash or recycling
If you just purchased high-end items such as a big screen TV, you shouldn’t just put the box out at the curb. Instead break down the box and when possible, try to fit it inside your recycle box. Other high risk items you might have in your trash/recycling are billing or bank statements. Criminals can steal these and use them to open new accounts in your name. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in these situations so take the time to cut up or shred important documents.

3. Your ringing telephones
Before you go on a trip, it’s best to turn down the volume of your phone, or if you can turn it to silent while you’re away, even better! Criminals have been known to roam the streets listening for loud rings that are not answered, since this is a sure sign that no one is home.

4. Take in your outdoor tools
Don’t leave the ladder outside after cleaning out the gutters. It is really important you bring these items inside, at a minimum to a closed garage when you are done. If you leave a ladder outside, you are giving would be robbers an easy way to climb in through an open upstairs window.

5. Trim your trees and bushes
Hedges and trees commonly line around the house and go right by the front door. Although these look lovely to the homeowner, they are also appealing to criminals. These landscaping beauties work perfectly as hiding places for someone to wait for you to come outside for a second to get your mail or walk the dog. If you keep these items trimmed well enough, no one will be able to successfully hideout in your yard.

6. Lock-up when you go out
Make sure to shut and lock any windows you regularly keep open. Criminals will watch for open windows when cars are leaving the driveway. These are the ideal entry point since they will not have to risk causing a noisy break in. Your safest bet is to keep windows closed as much as possible on the ground levels of your house even when you are at home. This will give the impression to criminals that they will never have a chance to get in.

7. Don’t hide a spare key
Many of us have done this in fear of getting locked out. Whether it’s under a rock a few feet away from the door or somewhere behind a bush in your backyard, desperate criminals are going to be looking. The best idea if you are afraid of being locked out is to leave a key with a trusted neighbor, co-worker, or friend that you would be able to contact quickly if you got locked out.

I’ll have more great ideas to burglar proof your house for you next time, so stay tuned…

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

 

* Source: cmhc-schl.gc.ca   Some info supplied by www.mrfreestuff.com

Help Prevent Car Theft

dog in car

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Make it tougher to steal your car.

You can never guarantee your vehicle will not be stolen, but you can take a few easy steps to prevent the likelihood of it happening. Try to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to steal your vehicle and its contents.

  • Always lock your vehicle, no matter how long you’re away from it.
  • Never leave your keys in the vehicle
  • Avoid parking on the street when there are safer locations.
  • Turn off your ignition whenever you leave your car
  • Conceal items left in your car; keep things in the trunk. Never leave money, cd’s, mp3 players, etc., in the open
  • Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a well-lit, well-guarded, highly visible area.
  • Ask your neighbours to watch out for your vehicle and do the same for them
  • Install an anti-theft deterrent such as car alarms or an ignition disabler.

By simply following these tips, you’ll make your vehicle far less of a target to thieves.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

* Information for this checklist supplied by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario

 

Driving tips for safe summer trips.

Road Safety for your family vehicle

Summer is almost here and that means the roads will start to get busier with excited drivers on their way to the lake, the cottage, or maybe their annual summer getaway. Although driving conditions are far safer in the summer months, more fatalities occur on Canadian roads during the summer than at any other time of year, including the winter holiday season. Alcohol, fatigue and aggressive driving are often the culprits in these tragedies. The following is a common-sense list of suggestions to help keep your summer on the roads a safe one.

Prepare your vehicle

Before leaving on vacation, have your vehicle checked to make sure everything is working properly. Repair or replace worn parts to avoid the worry and time-consuming costly repairs that could ruin your trip. Check fluid levels and tire pressure. Make sure all lights work, including signal lights. 

Keep your passengers safe

Make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up properly at all times. Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to keep yourself and your passengers safe while on the road.

If you are traveling with young children, make sure to make regular stops. Bring plenty of items to keep them occupied. Special travel games and songs also help. This will also help minimize the distraction of unhappy children in the back seat. 

Drive defensively

Drive at a safe speed. Speeding increases the likelihood and severity of a crash. The faster a vehicle is moving, the less time the driver has to react to a hazard, and for other road users to react to that vehicle. A speeding vehicle requires more time and distance to stop. Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead. Apply the three-second rule so you can see around the car ahead and plan a maneuver to avoid potential dangers, add more time if you have a heavier vehicle, and in poor weather conditions.

The Canada Safety Council estimates that 85 per cent of collisions are preventable. But simply being in the right will not save you from injury or death. You must be prepared for the unsafe actions of other motorists or for poor driving conditions. 

Obey all signs and signals, including speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs and railway crossings.

Those signs are not posted to be nice decorations for you to look at to help pass the time, and they’re not just for the other drivers on the road. 

Absolutely NEVER drink and drive.  Enough said.

Stay alert

Canadians often travel long distances when they go on vacation. This creates a temptation to keep driving for extended periods even when tired. On top of this, routes can be quite monotonous, another factor that can make a driver sleepy. Get a good sleep before leaving on a long trip. Fatigue is a form of impairment; so don’t give in to that temptation to push on. If you started early, stop early. Rest stops are important. A break keeps the driver alert by promoting blood circulation, makes the trip more pleasant for passengers and lets the vehicle cool down.

Carrying a heavy load or towing a trailer

Before you tow a trailer or haul a load, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for the job. Check your owner’s manual or if in doubt contact your vehicle dealer. Check that your rear view mirrors give a clear view of the road behind. Driving a heavily loaded car or towing a trailer means you need more space to stop or pass.

Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead.

Keep your distance – at least three seconds for each six metres (20 ft.) of vehicle length. For conditions that are less than ideal, increase the following distance. If cars cut in front of you, drop back to keep your separation. When traveling slower than the flow of traffic, be courteous. Pull over where possible to let faster vehicles pass.

Share the road

With the warmer weather, comes the prevalence of vulnerable roads users. Motorists must be cautious of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Always be on the lookout for and yield to vulnerable road users, even if they don’t have the right-of-way. Summer also brings increased construction on our roads and highways. Be prepared to stop or slow down in construction zones. 

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

Some information for this blog entry supplied by Canada Safety Council

What to do immediately after an automobile accident

Temp Car Accident

Would you know what to do if you were in a car accident?

What to do after a car accident

STEP 1 – Stop immediately. If your vehicle is involved in an accident and you don’t stop, you may be subject to criminal prosecution.

STEP 2 – If anyone is injured, if the total damage to all the vehicles involved appears to be MORE than $1,000, or if you suspect that any of the other drivers involved are guilty of a Criminal Code offence (such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), call 911 and follow the instructions given to you by the emergency operator. Police will arrive as soon as possible.

Do not try to move anyone injured in the accident — you may aggravate their injuries!

If no one is injured and total damage to all the vehicles involved appears to be LESS than $1,000, call your local police for instructions. Police units may or may not be dispatched to the scene. If local police do not attend the scene of the accident, they will instruct you to report to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours.

Collision Reporting Centres are police facilities created to assist motorists in reporting motor vehicle accidents. At the reporting centre you will be assisted in completing a police report, and damage to the vehicle will be photographed. If there isn’t a Collision Reporting Centre in the area of the accident, the police will ask you to go to the nearest police station to file a report.

STEP 3 – If it is safe to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road, out of traffic. If your vehicle cannot be driven, turn on your hazard lights or use cones, warning triangles or flares, as appropriate.

If you have access to a digital camera or a cell phone, you should use it to take pictures of the scene; preferably before the vehicles are moved.  You should also use your cell phone to audio record as much information as possible.

STEP 4 – Write down the names, addresses, and telephone and driver’s licence numbers of all of the other drivers, the licence plate numbers of the other vehicles, as well as the names and addresses of the registered owners of the vehicles, and the insurance information for each of the other vehicles.

STEP 5 – Also obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of passengers and witnesses.

STEP 6 – Jot down specific details about the scene of the accident, using the accident worksheet provided.

STEP 7 – Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. You can find the phone number of your insurance company located on the front, or back of your pink liability slips.

Remember, when you are in a car accident…

  • As difficult as it may seem, it is important that you remain calm.

  • Do not argue with other drivers and passengers. Save your story for the police.

  • Do not voluntarily assume liability or take responsibility, sign statements regarding fault, or promise to pay for damage at the scene of the accident.

  • Be careful of unauthorized tow truck operators pressuring you to have your vehicle towed, demanding immediate payment for the tow, or attempting to take your vehicle to a garage or body shop of their choice. They may try to use the confusion of the moment to intimidate you into allowing your vehicle to be towed. If you feel you are being pressured, ask the police for the name of an authorized tow truck operator and have your vehicle towed to a Collision Reporting Centre or a police compound until you can talk to your insurance company.

Be prepared for any emergency on the road

Always keep a basic vehicle first aid or emergency kit in the trunk of your vehicle. You can easily create an emergency kit for your vehicle by filling a plastic storage container with the following:

  • a basic first aid kit,

  • a disposable camera,
  • emergency road flares, warning triangles or cones,

  • a fire extinguisher (A-B-C Type),

  • a flashlight and extra batteries,

  • bottled water,

  • booster cables,

  • a tire repair kit and pump,

  • a small tool kit,

  • a towel,

  • a pair of work gloves,

  • some type of nonperishable food,

  • hand wipes,

  • a thermal blanket.

If you suspect that you may be a victim or target of a scam or fraud, you can help put an end to the scam or fraud by reporting it. As a first step, report the matter to police. You can also make a report to FSCO’s Fraud Hotline. Go to www.fsco.gov.on.ca/TipNow or call 1-855-5TIP-NOW. Tips to FSCO’s Fraud Hotline can be anonymous.

Source: http://www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/auto/brochures/pages/brochure_accidents.aspx

 

Driving in cold weather

woman using ice scraper on car windshield

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So here’s the scenario: You’re laying in your nice, warm bed when your radio alarm clock wakes you up with another weather forecast filled with freezing temperatures and more snow expected. In a perfect world, you turn the alarm off, close your eyes and forget everything you just heard because you aren’t going anywhere today.   But most of us live in the world where you have to get up, scrape your windows, jump in your vehicle and face the elements, so here’s a small checklist for your vehicle to help keep you safe when the weather turns bad.

A winter checklist for your vehicle

The following items should cover most situations:

  • windshield scraper and snow brush;
  • lightweight shovel;
  • bag of sand, wire traction mat or other abrasive substance;
  • large box of facial tissues;
  • properly inflated spare tire;
  • wheel wrench and jack;
  • first aid kit;
  • flashlight;
  • flares;
  • battery jumper cables.

For long distance travel take extra precautions: bring a blanket, candles, lighter or matches, emergency rations, lined winter boots, hat and other warm clothes, and small heating cans.

It only takes a few dollars and very little time to make sure your car is fully prepared and equipped for harsh, winter conditions. It’s worth the effort.

 

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

 

* Some information for this checklist supplied by the Canada Safety Council.

 

Winter is Coming – Don’t forget: Your car is not a Sherman Tank!

Be prepared - winter driving

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Clean off Your Car in Winter

How often have you been driving down the highway in the winter when you approach a car in front of you that is hurtling down the road resembling a giant white tank? Let me paint this picture a little clearer for you. The ‘car’ in front of you has so much snow left on it that the wind is firing frozen missiles from it’s roof at you that come crashing down on your windshield, making for some pretty anxious moments.

After a few kilometers following this nitwit, you cautiously take your opportunity to pass them to get out of the barrage of ice and snow only to discover that all of their windows are covered in snow except for a tiny credit card sized hole that they’ve scraped off of their windshield with what looks like their finger nails.

This driver is a huge liability on the road as they can’t see you, and because of all the flying snow, you have a hard time seeing them.  They could also be subject to a sizeable fine* for their carelessness in making sure that they are operating a safe vehicle, especially in adverse conditions.

Winter driving is stressful enough at the best of times, so how can you make sure that you are not the one driving the Sherman Tank?

Clear ALL snow and ice off your vehicle before getting behind the wheel. This includes your windows, trunk, hood, roof and sides of the vehicle if necessary. This will make it much easier for others to see your vehicle and avoid you being at fault for flying snow and ice into other vehicles that could cause a serious accident, especially when traveling at highway speeds.

Slow down. Your vehicle is NOT indestructible, and can’t stop on a dime, especially when traveling on snow covered, wet or icy roads, so give yourself extra room between vehicles and drive according to not just the speed limits, but the conditions around you.

– When it’s snowing, use your full nighttime lights even when driving during the daytime. Again, giving people the best chance to see you will help minimize your chances of getting hit by someone else.

Just some simple, common sense tips to help get you safely to where you want to go.

Take time to take care.

Ron Lapointe
Registered Broker

* Ontario Highway Traffic Act: 74.(1) Windows to afford clear view. All your windows must be clean and clear enough so you can see clearly out

Why Are My Insurance Premiums Still Going Up?

Insurance Premiums Rising

The Insurance industry is experiencing another year of increased insurance premiums. Why? Below is some information to help you understand what is going on within the insurance industry.

The cost of insurance is influenced by many varied factors. Details like the increased costs to repair damaged vehicles, increased instances of insurance fraud, and rising medical and rehabilitation costs for accident victims all play a role in the determination of your insurance premiums. In the past few years:

  • The number of Collision claims, and cost to repair or replace vehicles has been increasing over 10% annually.
  • Costs associated with Accident Benefits claims have been increasing 14% annually.
  • Overall claims costs were up to 50% higher in 2000 than they were in 1999.
  • The Investment Income on premiums collected by Insurance Companies has decreased drastically. (You will have experienced this in your own personal finances).

While the insurance industry has implemented cost-savings measures to try to control some of these issues, many of these factors are beyond industry control.  Like all businesses, Insurance Companies need to try to maintain profitability.  An unprofitable company cannot compete in any market place. If Insurance Companies cannot stay in business, then the number of competing Insurance markets is reduced and the effect on the insurance consumer is the elimination of choice and competitive pricing.  In light of these factors, Insurance companies have increased the premiums they charge to the consumer in order to try to remain profitable. As a result, even if you have not had a loss or claim against your policy, your insurance premium will likely go up.

There are some things you can do to help offset these increases:

  • If you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company, but on a separate policy, you could qualify for a Multi-vehicle Discount.
  • If you insure both your Home and Automobile insurance policies with the same company, you could qualify for a Multi-Policy Discount.
  • Additional savings can be obtained through Higher Deductible limits.
  • If you have a child away at College or University, and that child does not have the use of your vehicles, you may be entitled to a Discount of 15%-50% on the premium you pay for the Occasional Driver coverage for that child.
  • If you have a monitored home alarm system you may qualify for an Alarm Discount on your home insurance premium.

As your Independent Insurance Broker, we are here to represent you.  Should you have any questions or should you want to make any changes to your policy coverage, please don’t hesitate to contact our office. Increased Insurance premiums are beyond your control.  Let us help in any way we can to ensure you receive the best insurance coverage at the best value.

 

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