Does Maine Homeowners Insurance Cover a Sharknado?

 

Reader George asks via Twitter:

“Please settle a bar bet: If a #sharknado hits my house in Portland, Maine, would my homeowners insurance policy cover the damage?”

Great question, George. First, keep that bar stool handy; you might need it soon. Of course, we have to make some assumptions before answering that question:

  • You have the most common Maine homeowners insurance form, (commonly called an HO-3).
  • Your Maine homeowners policy doesn’t have a special wind deductible or exclusion.

The short answer is “yes”. While a terrifying sci-fi concept and irresistably campy movie idea, a sharknado is nothing more than a glorified windstorm. And, a standard Maine homeowners policy covers wind damage to your home.

What if the damage is caused by the shark, not the wind?

Wind damage includes anything that’s carried by the wind. Whether it’s a tree limb, storm debris, your neighbor’s deck furniture, or a man-eating shark, if the wind flings it into your house and damages it, it’s covered by your homeowners insurance.

What if a a sharknado destroys my car? Does my Maine auto insurance cover  damage from a sharknado?

If flying sharks damage your car, that’s also covered by your Portland Maine auto insurance – provided you bought “other than collision coverage”. But, we’re sorry to tell you George, but you won’t be needing your car to get home, and not only because you’ve been drinking.

Disclaimer:

Only a Maine insurance agent can advise you about your personal coverage and your insurance policy. Policy coverage can differ widely. If you’re looking for a Portland Maine insurance agent who can provide personal advice, including protection from a sharknado, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent at 207-799-5541. Oh, and there’s no such thing as a sharknado. As far as we know.

Spring Could Be Too Late to Buy Maine Flood Insurance

 

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. The first day of Spring is less than 2 weeks away. Mainers are thinking Spring. And, after our first “typical” winter in a several years, many Maine homeowners and businesses worry about flooding.

As Mainers ski, snowmobile or snowshoe all winter, we know that snow has to go somewhere when it melts: Maine rivers and streams. Usually, those bodies of water can hold the runoff. But if snow melts too quickly or is accompanied by heavy rains, flooding happens. And it happens regularly, sometimes with devastating results, such as the Maine Floods of 1987 or the Aroostook County Floods in 2012. Those are the big events, but MEMA Flood Forecasts hundreds of smaller events every year, which can be just as devastating if they strike your property.

photo of flooding in Gardiner Maine
Flooding in Gardiner Maine (MEMA photo)

Every year, our Portland Maine area insurance agency takes calls and emails  from home owners anxious to buy Maine flood insurance in the face of imminent danger. Unfortunately, many don’t know that homeowners and most business policies do not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is a government-regulated program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Four Things You Need to Know About Flood Insurance

  1. There’s a 30-day waiting period.  Unless you are buying property, there is a 30 day waiting period before coverage takes effect.
  2. Every Maine property is in a “flood zone”. Riverfront or oceanfront properties are in “special hazard zones”, but flooding can happen anywhere. In fact, FEMA reports that 1 in 4 NFIP claims come from areas with a low or moderate risk of flooding. Your local insurance agent can tell you the flood zone for your particular property.
  3. The maximum payout under a flood policy is $250,000 (for your building) and $100,000 (for its contents) If you need more coverage, you can purchase excess insurance.
  4. If you don’t have coverage for a flood loss, don’t expect a bailout from Uncle Sam. Although you might be eligible for a federal disaster assistance loan, you’ll have to repay it, with interest.
  5. One of your assets probably IS insured for flood: your vehicle. “Other Than Collision” coverage does include flood damage. Check your policy to see if you purchased that.

If you are in Southern Maine and have questions about Maine business insurance or insuring your Maine property, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

Prepare Your Business for Hurricane Sandy (aka Frankenstorm)

 

The path of Hurricane Sandy is still uncertain. Most recent estimates indicate that the storm will make landfall south of Maine.

A Storm That Misses Still Can Cause Damage

Even if the storm hits well to our south, high winds and rain are predicted over a large area, including ours. Forecasts include a very wide wind-field and varied degrees of rain and potential flooding that will probably affect at least Southern Maine.

nhc.noaa.gov – as of 1100 10/26/12

Prepare Your Business

Better to prepare your business for the worst and never have to use it than to be completely unprepared. Peerless Insurance Company has created an excellent pre-hurricane checklist for businesses, which we have shared below.  We hope you find it helpful to prevent and mitigate costly losses and interruptions to your business.

Pre-Hurricane Checklist (.pdf, 85k)

 

We are happy to answer your questions about Maine business insurance, from workers’ compensation to business property to commercial vehicles and general liability. Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799.5541.

Protect Yourself From Carbon Monoxide This Winter

 

About 20,000 Americans suffer from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning every year, including 400 deaths. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you inhale it.

Know the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, confusion, chest pain and nausea. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms. If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside immediately and call 911.

Tips to Avoid Deadly CO Poisoning

Properly use and maintain fuel burning appliances such as your boiler, furnace, space heaters and similar heaters. Have them professionally checked. Ideally, you should do this before the start of the heating season, but it’s not too late now.

Install a quality CO alarm. Check the batteries twice  a year, along with smoke detector batteries.

NEVER use these appliances indoors or in a closed garage:  a generator, charcoal or gas grill, pressure washer or other gas or propane fueled device.

Keep vents and flues clear of debris. 

NEVER leave your car idling in a garage.

Check your vehicle’s exhaust system for leaks to help prevent CO from collecting inside your vehicle.

In Case of Power Outage

NEVER use a gas range or oven to heat a home.

Run generators outdoors only– never in an enclosed space.

Photo of generator
emergency.cdc.gov

Use flashlights for indoor light – not liquid fuel lanterns.

Use gas or charcoal grills or camping stoves outside – never indoors.

If your home gets too cold, go to a friend’s house or a community shelter.

 

Our local Maine insurance agency wants you to stay warm and safe this winter. If you have questions about whether your Maine homeowners, condo or renters insurance covers winter storm damage, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

 

 

6 Best Practices to Deal With Maine’s Rising Property Insurance Rates

Most insurance companies doing business in Maine would like to forget 2011. Maine narrowly escaped many of the disasters that plagued other Northeastern states (one Maine insurance executive tells of nervously, repeatedly “refreshing” the online map of Hurricane Irene’s storm track). Still, virtually every insurer was affected because they do business in those neighboring states.

Remember the terrible flooding in Vermont? Hurricane Irene in southern New England? The tornadoes in Central Massachusetts? Widespread power outages from falling snow-covered tree limbs? Insurance companies do. They paid all those claims.

Many people don’t know that insurance companies also buy insurance – called reinsurance – to protect themselves from financial disaster. Reinsurance spreads the cost of risk throughout the world, leveling loss experience. Reinsurance works: despite the recession and the heavy losses, insurance companies remain financially solvent and able to pay claims.

Unfortunately, 2011 set a world record for disasters . Losses were $105 billion, the highest number ever. About 1/3 of those losses, and 4 of the top 10 events, were in the US. That means that reinsurance companies are now increasing the rates that insurance companies pay for property reinsurance. Of course, that translates to higher homeowners and business property rates for you and me.  So, what can you do?

Map of major disasters in the US in 2011
click to enlarge

6 Ways to Help Offset Rising Property Insurance Costs

  1. Don’t overinsure. Your Maine business property insurance agent  or homeowners insurance agent can help you determine the insurable replacement cost of your property, so you can adjust your protection accordingly.
  2. Compare rates. There are 2 ways to do this: call around yourself; or consult a Trusted Choice independent insurance agent.  This kind of  insurance agent represents several insurance companies, and can compare prices and coverage for you.
  3. Get the discounts you deserve. Don’t pay too much by failing to get the business or  homeowners insurance discounts you’ve earned. Have you recently replaced your roof, electrical, heat or other system? Installed an alarm or a generator? All of these improvements may qualify for discounts. Talk to your agent, and ask if there are other discounts available.
  4. Combine and save. Most insurers give a discount when they insure both your property and vehicles. That goes for business or personal insurance. If you own coastal, seasonal or secondary property, some preferred insurance companies will accept you if they insure your primary home, too. This can rescue you from paying higher non-standard rates with another insurance company.
  5. Choose deductibles wisely. If you’ve owned your property for a long time, you may have more financial ability to repair small losses (it’s not a good idea to file multiple, small claims anyway). If so, ask your agent how much you could save by increasing your property deductible.
  6. Maintain your property. It should go without saying, but deferred maintenance leads to claims, and claims lead to higher premiums. Replace your roof or heating system before it causes a loss. Clear leaves from your gutters every fall to prevent ice dams. Regular paint and upkeep can prevent trouble later.
Maine property insurance rates are expected to rise for some time. In times like this, it makes even more sense to develop a relationship with a local agent. In the area of Portland Maine, insurance agents are plentiful. Find one whose professional advice you trust, and who represents many preferred insurance companies. If you have questions about your personal or business property insurance, contact our experienced agents at 207.799.5541.

You Can’t Guarantee The Weather – But You CAN Insure It!

Many southern Maine jewelry store customers were hoping for snow on Christmas Day. Why? A local jeweler ran a well-advertised promotion promising free jewelry if it snowed on December 25. How can they afford to take that chance? We don’t know for sure, but we hope they consulted their local Maine insurance agent. While our agency had nothing to do with this promotion, we have helped clients reduce their risk by selling them weather insurance for special sales or events.

Can a Business Insure Against Bad Weather?

You bet! Let’s say your business plans an open house or a big one-day sale. You advertise heavily for 2 weeks before. You buy extra inventory, and add extra staff to take care of demand. But, a heavy snow storm keeps your potential customers at home, and you lose a lot of money. Or, you could buy a weather insurance policy to help recoup part of those costs, and cut your loss.

Can a Business Insure Against a Rainy Summer – or a Warm Winter?

What if your minor league baseball team suffers through a rainy summer? Or your tubing hill business encounters a warm, dry winter? Your organization might lose all sorts of same-day revenues: walk-up tickets; concessions; parking income, and more. A customized weather policy might pay a set amount if more than a certain number of game days have a specified amount of rain. A snow-area business could insure a mild winter in the same way, thereby stabilizing their income.

How Does Weather Insurance Work?

Like a good news article, weather insurance addresses the 4 W’s: What, When, Where and Who. As long as the event is measurable and the terms are specific, it can be insured. The price depends upon the terms. For example, if 6 inches of snow fall at a specific address in Portland, ME between 12:01 am and 11:50 pm on December 25 as measured by the National Weather Service, the insurer pays an agreed amount or percent of  a pre-determined period sales. Decrease the number of inches and you’ll pay more premium; shorten the sale period, you’ll pay less.

Fifteen Businesses That Might Buy Weather Insurance:

  • Florists and Nurseries – for big pre-season open house or important Spring and Fall weekends.
  • Candy Stores – The last few days before Valentines Day are key!
  • Golf courses – Insure against late snowstorms that can put a season on hold.
  • Baseball teams – Rainouts mean lost revenue.
  • Farmers’ Markets – Ever notice that it seems to rain EVERY Thursday?
  • Snowmobile dealers – Reduce the risk of overbuying inventory in a dry winter.
  • Ski resorts – It’s tough to make snow when in 40 degree weather. Even out budgeted revenue projections by insuring against warm weather.
  • Tour companies – It’s a short season already. One rainy month can cause disaster.
  • Car washes – Although I always seem to wash my car right BEFORE it rains, very few of us actually wash them WHILE it’s raining. A summer of rainy weekends means business lost forever.
  • Jewelers or Car Dealers – High-ticket items are perfect for attention-getting giveaway promotions.
  • Hotels & Motels – To level out income fluctuations when reservations are canceled due to weather.
  • Festivals and Events – They’re expensive to put on, and it’s often tough to have a successful “rain date”.
  • Beach parking lots
  • Film Production Companies

The possibilities are almost endless.

Where Can You Buy Business Weather Insurance?

Several online options offer “self-service” weather insurance. Being a Maine independent insurance agency, we recommend using the services of an agent or broker. It costs exactly the same.  A Maine  business insurance expert can help you determine your needs and work within your budget. They can also help you evaluate the market, to assure that the insurance company is reputable and financially secure. And, they can help you if you need to file a claim.

For more information about business weather insurance, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

Space Heaters: How to Stay Warm AND Safe

It’s getting colder in Maine. With today’s high fuel prices, many of us try to delay turning on the heat as long as possible. For some people, that means using a space heater to “take the chill off”. As with any appliance, it’s important to know the associated hazards and best practices for avoiding them.

Fires and Burns

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters are involved more than 25,000 home fires every year, causing more than 300 deaths.The SPSC estimates that another 6000 people, many of them children, visit emergency rooms for burns from touching hot surfaces.

  • Check the wires, fuel lines and tanks often to make sure they’re in good condition.
  • Keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from space heaters.
  • Leave your space heater on the floor, unless it’s designed otherwise.
  • If you smell gas, turn off all controls, open a window, and leave the area.
  • Propane is heavier than air. Avoid electrical switches or appliances if you smell gas. And, of course, no smoking!
  • Do not use electric space heaters in wet areas, such as the bathroom.
  • Keep children and animals away from space heaters.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

CO is an odorless, colorless gas produced by incomplete combustion of gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, coal or wood. Symptoms of CO poisoning include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Prolonged exposure can cause lack of coordination, confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.

Modern space heaters (made after 1983) have sensors that automatically shut off the appliance if a reduced level of oxygen is detected. In addition, your best protection is a good, working CO detector.

If you have property in Maine, and have questions about home, renters or condominium insurance, our Portland area insurance agency can help. We’re locally owned, and represent many of  Maine’s best insurance companies. That means we can provide you with customized choices.  Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent for answers!

Here’s to a mild – and safe – heating season!

Do I Have to Wait for the Insurance Company Before Repairing Maine Storm Damage?

Hurricane Irene visited Maine yesterday. Fortunately, the southern Maine wind damage was mostly limited to fallen trees and limbs – at least judging by our clients who contacted us to report an insurance claim.

The most common claim question today is “A tree fell on my house. Can I remove it, or do I have to wait for the insurance company to inspect it”? As this prior post explained, fallen trees aren’t always covered by insurance. But, if a tree lands on your home or other structure, your homeowners or business policy probably covers both the damage it causes and the cost to remove it.

Generally, it’s fine to remove the tree from your home or driveway to assess the damage and to  make temporary repairs to preserve your property. You don’t need to wait for the insurance adjuster to see it; they can usually tell what happened by the scars that the tree or limb left behind.

5 Things to Do if a Tree Falls on Your Property

  • Document the damage with digital photos or video.
  • Take action to preserve your property from further damage. Remove the tree from the structure, make temporary repairs, or move property indoors.
  • Save damaged property for the insurance company to inspect.
  • Schedule – but don’t begin – permanent repairs. Repair contractors are very busy after a natural disaster. The earlier you schedule your job with a reputable, experienced and insured contractor, the better the chance of your property being repaired faster. Do not start repairs until the insurance company has a chance to see your damage.
  • Report your claim. Noyes Hall & Allen clients can contact an agent to start the process.

If you have questions about Maine homeowners insurance, condo insurance, renters insurance or insuring your Maine business property, call Noyes Hall & Allen at 207-799-5541.

Does a Maine Homeowners Insurance Policy Cover Hurricane Damage?

That may be the most popular insurance question of this week as Hurricane Irene curves its way toward the East Coast.

The Good News…

Most Maine homeowners insurance policies cover wind damage, wind-driven rain, damage to a home from falling trees, and other common types of hurricane damage.

BUT…

In the past 5 years, many insurers have introduced special deductibles for property located within a quarter-mile of the coast. Sometimes, the deductible applies only in the case of a hurricane, or other “named storm”. Other insurers’ policies have higher deductibles for all wind damage, even from a February nor’easter.

These deductibles are usually expressed as a “percentage deductible”. Common deductible percentages are anywhere from 1 to 3% of your property insurance amount. In other words, on a $250,000 home, a 2% wind deductible would be $5,000, and would apply to any wind damage.

You should check your own policy to find out what kind of deductible is on your homeowners, Maine renters insurance or Maine condo insurance policy, and how large that deductible is.

What About Other Hurricane Claims?

Standard homeowners policies do not cover damage from loss of power, such as food spoilage or basement water backup caused by a sump pump not working. Often, you can buy some power failure coverage.

Likewise, homeowners policies have little or no insurance coverage for fallen trees, unless they strike a structure or block a driveway. Some insurers sell endorsements that offer limited coverage for this.

Finally, flood damage is NOT covered by homeowners policies. You must buy NFIP Maine flood insurance to have flood coverage.

FMI

For more information about Maine hurricane insurance for homes, autos, condos, boats or other property, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. If you are already a client, and need to report a Maine insurance claim, visit our web site, or call the number above for instructions.

Avoiding Commercial Building Roof Collapse: Removing Snow from a Roof

This week’s snow has accumulated on the roofs of Maine homes and commercial buildings, increasing the risk of collapse and ice dams. The snow has finally stopped in Portland, Maine – at least temporarily. It’s a good time to evaluate whether you need to remove snow from a roof.

High-Risk Areas – Heavy Snow Load Can Cause Roof Collapse

  • Large, flat roofs, or those with less than a 30º slope.
  • Heavily insulated roofs
  • Roofs with previous structural damage or stress.
  • Shaded areas, where snow can freeze into ice.

Evaluate Your Commercial Roof Before Snow Load is Critical

  • Create a plot plan to identify skylights, drains and scuppers, wiring and equipment.
  • Monitor rooftop conditions throughout the winter to identify ice buildup, blocked drains and snow drifts.
  • Use experienced, knowledgeable employees or (preferably) hire an outside contractor.
  • Hire only experienced contractors who can provide proof of business general liability insurance.

Warning Signs of Roof Collapse

  • Improper operation of doors or windows.
  • Deflection of ceiling finishes or exposed beams.
  • Roof leaks
  • Sprinklers moved from their normal positions
  • If you notice these, contact a structural engineer or your local building inspector.

How to Safely Remove Snow from a Roof

  • Do not remove snow all the way down to the roof membrane.
  • Use plastic shovels – never metal – on your roof.
  • Fill a plastic tarp with snow and release over the side of the building, carefully watching where snow is landing to avoid people and property.
  • If using a snow blower, adjust to prevent rotating components from contacting the roof surface.

Most Maine business property insurance policies cover roof collapse. Policies do not typically cover maintenance such as snow removal or other prudent loss prevention measures. If you have questions about commercial building insurance, contact the experienced Maine insurance agents at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

We’re proud to be agents of Acadia Insurance, MMG Insurance and Hanover Insurance,  whose loss control tips which were used in this blog post.