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College Campus Fire Safety

9/13/2018 (Permalink)



  • Fires in dormitories are more common during the evening hours, between 5–11 pm, and on weekends.
  • Roughly six out of seven fires in dormitories are started by cooking.

College students living away from home should take a few minutes to make sure they are living in a fire-safe environment. Educating students on what they can do to stay safe during the school year is important and often overlooked. College students living away from home should take a few minutes to make sure they are living in a fire-safe environment. Educating students on what they can do to stay safe during the school year is important and often overlooked.


  • Look for fully sprinklered housing when choosing a dorm or off-campus housing.
  • Make sure you can hear the building alarm system when you are in your dorm room.
  • If you live in a dormitory, make sure your sleeping room has a smoke alarm, or your dormitory suite has a smoke alarm in each living area as well as the sleeping room. For the best protection, all smoke alarms in the dormitory suite should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.
  • If you live in an apartment or house, make sure smoke alarms are installed in each sleeping room, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the apartment unit or house. For the best protection, all smoke alarms in the apartment unit or house should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least monthly.
  • Never remove batteries or disable the alarm.
  • Learn your building’s evacuation plan and practice all drills as if they were the real thing.
  • If you live off campus, have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room.
  • When the smoke alarm or fire alarm sounds, get out of the building quickly and stay out.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
  • Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy from medicine or alcohol.
  • Check with your local fire department for any restrictions before using a barbeque grill, fire pit, or chimenea.
  • Check your school’s rules before using electrical appliances in your room.

Smoking Sense

If you smoke, smoke outside and only where it is permitted, Use sturdy, deep, nontip ashtrays. Don’t smoke in bed or when you’ve been drinking or are drowsy.

Candle Care

Burn candles only if the school permits their use. A candle is an open flame and should be placed away from anything that can burn. Never leave a candle unattended. Blow it out when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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Get disaster relief from the IRS

9/4/2018 (Permalink)


Author: Kay Bell

After people endure a disaster, taxes are probably the last thing on their minds. But tax laws do offer some help for loss victims. And victims of a presidentially declared disaster could use their tax filing to obtain much-needed cash.

Taxpayers who itemize are allowed by the IRS to deduct casualty losses — “the damage, destruction or loss of property from an identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected or unusual.” Usually, this means waiting to claim the loss on your next income tax filing.

However, when a house, car or business is damaged or destroyed by an event deemed a major disaster by the president, the wait for tax refund money attributable to disaster losses is cut dramatically. In these extreme cases, taxpayers can deduct their losses in the tax year before the event happened by filing an amended return.

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, announces that the president declares major disasters in certain areas, usually in the wake of a major storm, the way is cleared for special federal help, including tax options.

Major disaster tax options

Disaster-related tax relief generally includes extended filing deadlines and easing of related penalties for individuals and businesses located in the designated disaster areas. The relief also usually applies to those whose tax records are located in the damaged regions — at an accountant’s office, for example — and workers from any location who are there providing help to victims.

In addition, taxpayers in federal disaster areas have the option of choosing which tax year to claim the disaster losses. Depending on when the catastrophe occurred, filers can amend a previous year’s tax return and claim the catastrophic losses they suffered on the old return. In many instances, amended filing will make the individual eligible for an immediate tax refund — money that could be used to live on or begin repairs.

This often is the case for filers who didn’t itemize deductions the previous year; if the total of the casualty losses and any other itemized deductions will amount to more than the standard deduction they originally took, refiling is generally to their advantage.

Even taxpayers who did itemize might find an amended return worthwhile if the disaster damage produces more than originally deducted.

Not the best move for everyone

While the option to time-shift federal disaster casualty losses to the previous year is a great advantage for some, it’s not the best move for all taxpayers.

Some storm victims might find that while their losses are substantial, they aren’t sufficient to meet two tax-law limits on casualty claims. First, you must reduce the amount you can claim by $100. Then, you have to reduce the total of all your casualty losses by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. You also have to subtract any insurance money you got for the loss.

Tax experts also note that people who had very high taxable income the year in which they could claim the losses and expect very low income the year of the disaster might be able to deduct more of their losses by waiting until they file their return the following year.


The deadline for choosing this option usually is the due date of a filer’s current year return.

So evaluate your individual circumstances — tax, damage and financial recovery needs — carefully. And be sure that the calamity is a certified federal disaster to get the immediate relief.

Paperwork you’ll have to file

If you meet the loss limits, the process to claim them is the same regardless of which tax year you choose to file the claim.

The first step is gathering the proper forms. To claim disaster losses, you must file the long Form 1040 individual tax return plus Form 4684 to figure and report your casualty loss and Schedule A to itemize your loss deduction. If you need to file an amended return to claim losses, use Form 1040X instead.

Then determine how the damage has hurt your property’s fair market value. This is a two-part valuation: what your property was worth immediately before the catastrophe and what it’s worth after.

The pre-disaster value is your “adjusted basis.” For homes, this usually is the cost of the property plus certain adjustments such as improvements that add to the structure’s value; for vehicles or other personal property, it may be depreciation that reduces its value. Get an appraisal for the post-disaster value of the property and compare it with your adjusted basis. The difference between the two amounts is your loss from the casualty.

Once the loss is determined, use Form 4684 to figure the deductible amount of your casualty loss. You must reduce the initial loss claim amount by any insurance or other reimbursement you have received. If you have insurance on your property, you must submit a claim to use the damage to it as a casualty loss. In other words, you can’t decide you don’t want to pay the deductible your insurance would require and then use the total, unreimbursed loss amount as your casualty claim. And all insurance payments must be used to repair or replace your property, or any excess not used for these purposes could be a taxable gain to you.

Then this is where the $100 mentioned earlier comes into play. You further reduce your loss by that amount before finally reducing the total yet again by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income to get to your final casualty loss deduction.

Figuring the tax costs of damages

The following work sheet shows the computations that a hypothetical Tom Taxpayer, who suffered through a federally declared flood disaster, had to make. The water substantially damaged Tom’s home, the property inside and his car. Insurance covered only a part of the losses.

Tom’s adjusted gross income is $60,000, and that’s what he uses to figure his casualty deduction. Tom was off work — and without pay — for the week that his employer was closed during a flood in May 2014. Unfortunately, Tom can’t claim the lost income. The IRS provides no deduction for missed wages, even in the event of federal disasters.

Cleanup and repair costs

Tom was able to get such a good tax result from his difficult situation because he kept track of what he spent to clean up and repair his property, the main concerns after a disaster strikes.

Keep in mind, however, that the tax laws won’t allow you to specifically get back that $5,000 you paid to have the carpets cleaned after the flood. There is no place on Form 4684 for you to enter this expense and have it directly count as part of your casualty loss deduction.

But because your flooring was damaged by the floods, you can use what you spent to repair it as a measure of how much your home’s property value was reduced by the storm. This in turn will give you a more accurate assessment of your property’s damage and the tax deduction value of the loss suffered.

In Tom’s case above, the $75,000 post-disaster value of his home takes the floor damage into account. If the carpets didn’t need the professional cleaning, then his home might be worth $80,000. This would mean that the amount he could claim as a casualty loss would be only $22,900, and his tax relief would be less.

The IRS notes that expenses for repairs should take care of the damage only. You can’t have the repair crew improve on the original state of your property.

Record-keeping requirements

And even though the IRS allows disaster victims some tax leeway, the agency still demands that casualty losses, like every deduction, be substantiated and supported.

The IRS does not require you to keep your records in a particular way, only that you keep them in a manner that allows you and the IRS to determine your correct tax. While you don’t have to submit your documentation with your return, you should keep your records handy and be able to show the following if asked.

You should be able to document:

  • The type of casualty and when it occurred.
  • That the loss amount claimed was a direct result of the casualty.
  • That you were the owner of the property or, if you leased it, that you were contractually liable to the owner for the damage.

The simplest way to track loss substantiation is in your checkbook. There you can enter income and loan or insurance reimbursement deposits along with all checks written for expenses accrued in connection with your disaster loss. Be specific: Note amounts, sources of deposits and types of expenses.

Holding on to other documents, such as receipts and sales slips, also can help prove a deduction. Keep your records in an orderly fashion, such as placing documents related to a particular event in a designated envelope, and, where applicable, store them by year and type of income or expense.

And don’t forget your camera. Photographs showing the original condition of the property and ones taken after the disaster struck can be helpful in establishing the condition and value of your property.

Other filing rules

When you do send in your amended return, explain that the refiling was due to casualty losses incurred in a federal disaster and attach Form 4684 to show how you figured your loss. Be sure to specify the date or dates of the disaster and the city, county and state where the damaged or destroyed property was located when the disaster occurred.

And what if you thought you escaped, only to find out that the disaster was just a bit slow in arriving? This might be the case if you live in a federal disaster area and state or local officials decide that your home, even though it suffered only minor damage, must be moved or torn down for public safety reasons, such as ensuing mudslides.

You still can take advantage of the casualty loss deduction as long as the government-ordered demolition or relocation of a home is issued within 120 days after the original federal disaster declaration. It might be government contractors doing the damage this time, but your resulting loss is treated just as if it were damaged in the natural calamity.

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Hurricane insurance deductibles can make your policy stingier when a big storm hits

8/26/2018 (Permalink)


Author: Jay MacDonald

Homeowners going through their first hurricane can be shocked by the unharnessed power of Mother Nature. Unfortunately, once the storm passes, they’re often stunned a second time by a special — and costly — hurricane insurance deductible they didn’t know was buried in their home insurance policy.

Hurricane deductibles were a result of Hurricane Andrew, which slammed into South Florida in 1992 and left insurers holding the bag for $15.5 billion in losses. At the time, it was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, although Hurricane Katrina now tops that list, according to the New York-based trade group Insurance Information Institute.

In Andrew’s aftermath, insurers in coastal areas along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf of Mexico now issue home insurance policies with a separate, percentage-based deductible for hurricane-related damage, in addition to the standard homeowners deductible. Hurricane deductibles are applied in 19 states and the District of Columbia, the institute says.

How hurricane deductibles work

When your policy has a hurricane deductible and one of those big storms hits, you typically will be on the hook for 2%-5% of your home’s insured value before your coverage for the damage kicks in. The out-of-pocket cost can be much higher than what you’d face with the dollar-amount deductibles commonly used for fire damage and theft.

If the home you insured for $300,000 has a 5% hurricane deductible, you would be responsible for the first $15,000 in hurricane damage as defined by the policy. With a standard, non-hurricane deductible, you might pay just the first $500 of a home insurance claim out of your own pocket.

In some states, homeowners may be able to get a dollar-amount hurricane deductible by agreeing to pay a higher premium, though in high-risk shore areas the percentage deductibles may be unavoidable.

Hurricane deductible ‘triggers’

A hurricane insurance deductible won’t apply unless a certain threshold of storminess has been crossed.

The “trigger” can vary depending on the state and the insurance company, but it might be activated when the National Weather Service issues a hurricane watch or warning or declares that a hurricane has reached a particular level of intensity, the Insurance Information Institute says.

That might mean, for example, that you won’t have to worry about your policy’s hurricane deductible unless the weather service has determined that a Category 1 hurricane has made landfall. You should ask your insurance agent about the trigger for your deductible, says Jeanne Salvatore, an institute spokeswoman.

“Everyone, no matter where they live, should make sure they understand what is and is not covered under their home insurance policy, as well as how their deductibles work,” she says.

It’s got to be a hurricane

One important catch with a policy’s hurricane deductible clause is that the property damage must involve a named hurricane. As Superstorm Sandy demonstrated in 2012, millions of dollars can hang in the balance if a storm is not given official hurricane status prior to landfall.

The National Weather Service determined that Sandy lacked the sustained winds of 75 mph necessary to qualify as a hurricane when it hit the East Coast.

Even when a hurricane deductible does not apply, homeowners can still find themselves on the hook for hefty out-of-pocket costs. David Bresnahan, client manager for The Horton Group, an Illinois-based insurance brokerage, says some homeowners hit by Sandy were surprised to find themselves subject to a similar percentage-based “windstorm deductible,” which applies regardless of any hurricane declaration.

“At the end of the day, the carriers are going to make a decision that might be based on underwriting standards, and it might be based on the public relations impact,” he says.

An underappreciated upside

Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a San Francisco-based insurance consumer group, says insurers faced with Sandy-style line calls would be wise to waive their hurricane insurance deductibles, as most did following the superstorm.

That’s a small price to pay, Bach says, in a storm where many of the claims may be excluded from homeowners policies anyway, either because they involve flooding, for which flood insurance is needed, or because they arose from a combination of insured and uninsured perils.

Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute, says despite the potential hit to policyholders’ pockets, hurricane deductibles can benefit homeowners.

“There is an advantage to a hurricane deductible that people overlook when the storm’s not there, and that is, it gives you less-costly insurance today,” she says. “It’s something that saves people money when the wind doesn’t blow.”

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Fire Safety - The Escape Plan

8/17/2018 (Permalink)



Whether it was at school, or at work in an office building, we have all been through fire drills numerous times during our lifetimes.  But let me ask you this.  Have you ever had a fire drill at your home?

I bet if I put this poll out there to the public, the “NO” answer would win by a staggering majority.  And at this point, I admit that I would be in the majority with my answer.  But after reading up on this subject, that will change in the not so distant future. 

The first few steps of the plan involves preparation.

  • Make sure that you have smoke alarms in the right areas of your home and that testing them to make sure they are functional.  The old adage of having one alarm on each floor does not apply anymore.  You should have one alarm in each bedroom, one outside of each bedroom, and at least one on the other floors in the home.  And it is best to have interconnected alarms throughout the home, so when one alarm is triggered, all of the alarms sound at once.  
  • Make sure your house number is CLEARLY visible from the road.  You do not want to delay the fire department from getting to your home.
  • Make sure everyone knows the emergency numbers to call, even small children.  
  • Then you need to pull your household members together and make a plan.  Start by walking through the home and locating ALL possible escape routes.  IF you have younger children, you may want to consider drawing up a floor map with the exits clearly mapped (we have all seen these types of maps in hotels before).  
  • Make sure each room above ground level has an escape ladder and that everyone is trained and knows how to use the ladders.  During a fire, a window might just be the only way out, and you do not want to learn on the fly during a fire.
  • Designate an outside meeting place for to gather after evacuating the house.  And make sure you mark the meeting place on your escape plan.  This is the best way to account for all household members during the hectic emergency event.
  • If there are infants, small children, or adults with mobility problems, make sure the plan designate who is responsible for getting them to safety, with backups designated.  The last thing you want to happen is to assume someone else is getting them and then get outside to realize that no one did.
  • Go over your plan on a regular basis to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities and know the best way out should a fire occur.

Putting your Plan to the test:

  • Practice your plan at least twice per year.  And make the drill as realistic as possible, including having a drill in the middle of the night occasionally.  This is important so you can see if there are household members who will not be awakened by the smoke alarms.  This needs to be noted so responsibility can be assigned to get them up and out should there be a fire in the middle of the night.
  • In a fire, you will not always be able to just walk out of the front or back doors.  So practice exiting the house from the windows.  And if you have more than on floor, practice using the escape ladders from the second floor windows.
  • Fires happen and the can be devastating, so having a plan and knowing what to do beforehand and make a difference between making it out safely and not making it out.  Sadly, no plan can ever guarantee that you will make it out safely, but having plan and practicing the plan, will increase your odds of doing so.

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Many people don’t think about disaster preparedness. Are you ready for the worst?

8/8/2018 (Permalink)


Author: Jay MacDonald

An active Atlantic hurricane season serves as an urgent reminder that every U.S. household needs a home inventory, an emergency preparedness kit and an evacuation plan.

If your family’s disaster planning falls short, you’d better get busy. A calamity won’t wait for you to get ready.

Do you have an emergency kit? Many don’t

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau American Housing Survey, just 51.5% of U.S. households have prepared an emergency kit. Participation was highest at 70% in hurricane-prone Miami and Tampa, Florida, while Austin, Texas Chicago, Minneapolis and Boston have low rates of kit-equipped homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, recommends that households have enough water and nonperishable food to last at least 3 days, plus other supplies, such as first aid and a flashlight with extra batteries. But FEMA’s own surveys indicate that the percentage of Americans with disaster kits has gone down since peaking at 57% in 2009.

In a 2014 FEMA survey, about a quarter of respondents said preparing for emergencies is too expensive, and about a quarter said they didn’t know how to get ready.

Room for improvement in readiness

There’s good news and bad in our current record on emergency preparedness, according to Himanshu Grover, co-director of the Institute for Hazards Mitigation Research and Planning at the University of Washington.

“A 50% average is actually good because if you look at where these people are who are planning, they are usually in areas that are historically already at risk,” he says. “But at the same time, it’s also disturbing because it means that the areas that have not seen disasters but may be at risk are likely to face more losses than we would anticipate.”

While disaster preparedness varies by region, all homeowners should review their insurance coverage annually, says Lynne McChristian, the Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute trade association.

“Knowing that your home insurance renews every year should serve as a reminder to look at your policy every year,” she advises.

Think flood insurance, special deductibles

While standard home insurance policies provide coverage for hurricanes, wind, theft, fire, lightning and other mayhem, they also typically exclude damage from floods and earthquakes.

McChristian says just because your home mortgage company may not require you to carry flood insurance doesn’t mean you don’t need it.

“That’s the biggest mistake — people don’t get flood insurance unless someone makes them get it,” she says. “What they’re overlooking is that about 20% of all National Flood Insurance Program claims are submitted by homeowners who live in low- to moderate-risk zones. That’s a high percentage.”

Homeowners in 19 states and the District of Columbia also should take an annual glance at their home insurance hurricane deductibles.

After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, home insurers introduced a separate hurricane deductible in order to keep home premiums in check. But unlike the set dollar amount of your home deductible, hurricane deductibles — and similar windstorm deductibles — are based on a portion of your home’s assessed value, usually between 1%-5%.

Take advantage of available resources

McChristian urges restraint when it comes to choosing your hurricane/wind deductible.

“My rule is, never take a deductible that is higher than what you can afford,” she says. “If you do and you get hit by a storm, you may not have that money set aside to repair your home.”

She urges homeowners to download and complete the Insurance Information Institute’s free home inventory app at

“It costs you nothing but a little time and helps tremendously after a natural disaster,” she notes.

Unfortunately, all of the emergency checklists and home preparedness videos on the Internet will do little good if homeowners ignore them.

That’s where the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, comes in. Led by president and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson, this Tallahassee, Florida-based nonprofit operates as a public awareness firm, of sorts, to make disaster preparedness a normal part of our everyday lives.

Emphasis on resilience

“We are trying to popularize the idea that you can survive, you can afford what’s necessary to survive and you can recover quickly,” she explains. “It’s not luck when you and your home survive; it’s because you did things purposefully ahead of time.”

The FLASH website features videos that break down preparedness projects by time commitment: one hour, one day or one weekend.

It’s all part of the evolution of home preparedness away from the negative, lawyerly sounding “storm mitigation” toward a more upbeat, holistic emphasis on “resilience.”

“The appeal of resilience is, we like the idea of being resourceful and able to overcome and bounce back. Everybody can find something to relate to in it,” says Grover, of the University of Washington. “The resilience of a community will return benefits in terms of sustainability and quality of life beyond just hazard mitigation. It’s not just a set of actions; it’s a forward-looking strategy for life.”

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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Is your workplace prepared in the event of a fire?

7/30/2018 (Permalink)


Author: Jerry Nicklow

What would you say is the biggest cause of workplace fires? It's not equipment failure. It's not electrical faults. It's not storms or natural disasters. It's people and carelessness.

Every year, in more than 70,000 workplace fires across North America, an average 200 people die, thousands are injured and many firms are either put out of business or severely disrupted.

Now is a good time to review and remind employees of safety rules. A few simple steps will help identify and reduce risks. Things like:

  1. Assessing your buildings for risks -- I'd make that a visual inspection tour
  2. Reducing clutter and keeping escape routes clear
  3. Storing flammable chemicals under lock and key
  4. Locating heat-producing equipment, even coffee-makers, away from flammable material
  5. Checking building security to prevent possible arson fires
  6. Enforcing no-smoking or designated area rules
  7. Checking fire extinguisher service and replacement dates
  8. Ensuring employees know how to operate extinguishers
  9. Enforcing rules for the use of spark - and fire-producing equipment
  10. Conducting permitted, controlled burning/fires a safe distance from buildings
  11. Checking operation of fire and smoke alarms

It's even more important that employees know what to do if fire does break out.  Even if it's not mandatory, you should have a written emergency action plan that includes details of evacuation routes, location of assembly points, procedures for raising the alarm and, if appropriate, a written list of individuals and their responsibilities.

As much as everyone loathes them, evacuations should be practiced at least once a year. It's a good idea to alert employees of an intention to have a practice drill but not to tell them exactly when it will happen.

Here are a couple of documents you may find useful in drawing up or reviewing your plans: and

And if you'd like to know more about Fire Safety Week or get other information about fire safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association, a US-based global organization, at

Finally, please make sure you have adequate insurance in place, not just against property damage and liability arising from fires but also coverage to protect you against income losses arising from business disruption.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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What You Need To Know About Flood Insurance

7/21/2018 (Permalink)



Flood water can and will find its way into furniture, flooring, walls, lighting, electronics, appliances and irreplaceable keepsakes and photos.

All it takes is just an inch of flood water throughout a 2,000-square-foot home, and you’ll be looking at almost $21,000 in damage, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.

When that destruction is multiplied across an entire community, it’s easy to see why floods are so devastating — and why flood insurance is so important.

Home insurance offers little help

Victims of Superstorm Sandy and other disasters of recent years learned too late that their homeowners or renters insurance policies offered no protection against flooding. That’s the most misunderstood aspect of flood coverage, says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.

The National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, is the primary source of flood insurance for homeowners and renters. The program is administered by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The insurance is so vital, FEMA notes, because flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S.

With flooding, unlike other natural hazards, the very first way to protect yourself is to buy insurance, says Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH.

The insurance is so affordable compared with the cost of flood damage that it makes no sense not to have it, she says.

The big questions

Here are answers to 4 key questions about flood insurance. For specifics about your community and home, talk to the agent who handles your homeowners or renters policy.

1. Is flood insurance required?

Unless you own your home free and clear of loans or live in an apartment or condo on an upstairs floor, expect that you’ll have to buy flood coverage.

Lenders will require it if you live in an area considered at high risk for flooding and your mortgage is federally backed, such as by the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA.

In fact, just expect any lender to want it, says Worters.

FEMA says flooding affects all states, and everyone is at risk because even very small streams and creeks can flood. Your insurance agent and lender will know whether your home is in a high-risk zone.

2. Where do you get it?

FEMA allows private insurers to write and administer policies for the National Flood Insurance Program. Your homeowners or renters insurance agent should be able to write flood coverage for you.

Coverage is available in about 20,000 participating communities. Discounts of up to 45% are available in communities where local officials enforce certain requirements that can reduce flood damage.

If your community doesn’t take part in the national program, you’ll likely be able to get flood insurance from private carriers, says Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

3. How does flood insurance work?

  • Time lag: You can’t procrastinate because coverage isn’t effective until 30 days after a flood insurance policy is issued. So don’t wait until the storm warnings are posted.
  • Coverage limits: Flood coverage for your home itself is capped at $250,000, while the contents can be insured only up to $100,000. You may be able to get flood insurance beyond those limits through specialty carriers, says Worters. The building coverage and contents coverage are purchased separately; your lender may require a certain amount of coverage.
  • What you get: The policy pays either the value of your lost property or the cost of replacing it, up to the coverage limit.
  • Deductibles: The higher the deductible, the lower the premium — similar to home and car insurance. You’ll pick different deductibles for contents and building coverage. Your lender may require a certain deductible amount.
  • What’s covered: Flood policies insure against physical damage to your home or belongings directly caused by flooding. Sometimes, that’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds. For example, if a flood causes a sewer backup that causes damage, it would be covered. If something else causes the backup, it’s not covered.
  • What’s never covered: Flood insurance won’t reimburse you for: temporary living expenses while your home is being repaired; lost cash or stock certificates; a ruined car (which is a matter for your car insurance); damage from moisture or mold that you could have prevented; financial loss from business interruption; and anything on your property beyond the walls of your home — such as plants, decks and hot tubs.

4. How much will coverage cost?

Your flood policy premium will be determined by your home’s design, age, location, contents and the amount of coverage you decide to buy.

The average annual flood insurance premium cost about $700 in 2014, according to the most current data on the website of the National Flood Insurance Program.

However, reforms enacted by Congress in recent years allow for annual premium increases of up to 18%, to help pull the program out of a deep debt caused by payouts resulting from Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Your agent will be able to give you an exact cost. For a general idea, you can plug your street address into the flood risk profile on the National Flood Insurance Program’s website.

So the site tells you, for example, that the average flood insurance premium for addresses in moderate- to low-risk areas in Florida is $372, while a high-risk property in Louisiana would cost $688 to insure.

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Documents You Need When Disaster Strikes

7/12/2018 (Permalink)



Adelaide says when floods swept through her neighborhood in the wee hours one morning, the first thing she thought of was to go and rouse an elderly neighbor. The last thing on her mind was the financial records she left back in her own house.

“I was thinking family and I was thinking friends and I was thinking safety,” Adelaide says.

Uprooted from their home for days, she and her husband needed a couple of months “before we got to a place where we were thinking about paperwork again,” she says.

By that point, they were late on their mortgage payment. The financial institution was unforgiving, and the couple’s credit score took a hit.

They went through money woes that are common when lives are abruptly turned upside down because of a disaster. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Financial advisers say people who identify and prepare key documents long before calamity strikes can avoid unnecessary damage to their personal finances in the aftermath of a fire, flood, hurricane or other disaster.

Gather up these papers

All homeowners and renters should have a list of “must haves” and “like to haves” — items they will need, or want, after a disaster, says Mitchell Freedman, founder of MFAC Financial Advisors in Westlake Village, California, and an editor of “Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues.”

Key documents to take with you include:

  • Mortgage documents or rental agreements.
  • Homeowners, renters and automobile insurance policies.
  • Financial statements and account numbers.
  • Copies of prescriptions for medications.
  • Tax records.

Freedman also suggests having a small stash of cash at hand. If the electricity is out, credit cards won’t work for purchases.

Donna Childs, a former insurance executive, was living within sight of the World Trade Center in New York when the twin towers collapsed in 2001. Hers was the only residential neighborhood evacuated, and she was kept out of her home for a couple of months.

Because of her business background, Childs already had all her personal and business documents scanned and stored online when she had to flee with just an overnight bag.

At a time like that, “you shouldn’t be thinking about documents, you should be thinking about safety,” says Childs, who later wrote the book “Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses.”

Neither Freedman nor Childs recommends using bank safety-deposit boxes to store key documents. They suggest that a bank could be destroyed or inaccessible after a disaster.

Instead, Freedman uses a portable hard drive with his computer so he can grab it and go.

“It’s one of the best insurance policies you’ll ever have,” he says.

Childs prefers using online cloud storage and sharing the password with a trusted family member or friend who can access the account in case of an emergency.

Some banks now offer virtual safe deposit boxes online, to protect documents, photos and videos.

Have proof of valuables, too

In addition to having access to key documents, it’s important to have proof of your valuables when filing insurance claims.

Michael McRaith, the former Illinois insurance director and now head of the Federal Insurance Office, says go room by room through your home, writing down the contents and making special note of things like antiques, jewelry and collectibles.

He recommends keeping one copy of the inventory at home and a second at another location, such as with a relative, at the office or in a safety-deposit box. The list should be updated periodically, with receipts kept for big-ticket items.

Having photographs or videos of your possessions is crucial, Freedman says. Without that evidence, “it’s difficult to know how many shirts you had, how many pair of pantyhose a woman had.”

If you need to file a claim after a disaster, the inventory, receipts, photos or videos can help verify the existence and value of your belongings, McRaith says.

If you have no home or renters insurance or are underinsured, you might claim your losses on your state and federal tax returns. Having documentation of your possessions helps provide necessary proof, Freedman says.

But the key is advance preparation. If you’ve made an inventory, “there’s lots of peace of mind,” Childs says. “That’s really priceless.”

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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SERVPRO Emergency Ready Profile - It Works!

7/3/2018 (Permalink)

The SERVPRO Emergency Ready Profile has been adopted by many of our clients, and in some cases, has shortened the response time of our services, saving our clients downtime and secondary damage costs.

It's simple and easy to implement, securely placing critical business information in a cloud location available to our client and SERVPRO.  Information that is available when access to your business is not.

When you consider you business continuity plan, consider implementing the SERVPRO ERP.

The SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile 

The SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile is a startup approach that provides the critical information needed to begin mitigation and recovery services. It is designed to serve as a quick reference of important building and contact information.  By working with SERVPRO’s Emergency READY Profile, your business can receive the benefit of over 40 years of experience in reducing the impact of any natural or man-made disaster. SERVPRO is a leader in water and fire damage response and can help you quickly get your property back in working order.

The SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile Advantage:

  • A no cost assessment of your facility. – This means there is no need to allocate funds, giving you a great value at no cost.  
  • A concise Profile Document that contains only the critical information needed in the event of   an emergency. – It will only take a little time to complete and will not take you away from current projects.   But it will save a lot of time if ever needed.  
  • A guide to help you get back into your building following a disaster. – This can help minimize the amount of time your business is inactive by having an immediate plan of action.  
  • Establishes SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County as your disaster mitigation and restoration provider. – You have a provider that is recognized as an industry leader and is close by. 
  • Identification of the line of command for authorizing work to begin. – This saves time so we can begin the work of mitigating the damage which can save you time and money.  
  • Provides facility details such as shut-off valve locations, priority areas and priority contact information. – Having a quick reference of what to do, how to do it and who to call provides solutions in advance of an emergency so that during the emergency you are “Ready for whatever happens.” 

The Best Way to Reduce Business Interruption Following a Disaster is to Plan For it NOW.

As many as 50% of businesses close down following a disaster, according to the latest research. Of the businesses that survive, the overwhelming majority of them had a preparedness plan in place.  Pre-planning can serve as an insurance policy aimed at peace of mind. And knowing you are “Ready for whatever happens” speaks trust to your clients and employees that in the event your business is affected by a disaster, they don’t necessarily have to be.

By developing a SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile for your business, you help to minimize business interruption by having an immediate plan of action. Knowing what to do, who to call and what to expect in advance is helpful in receiving timely mitigation and can help minimize the effects water and fire damage can have on your business.

Are You Ready?

Preparation is a key component for making it through any size disaster, whether it’s a small water leak, a large fire or an area flood. The best time for planning for such events is not when the event happens, but well before it happens. No one ever plans on a disaster, but you can plan for it. Now is the time to ask yourself, are you ready for whatever happens?

Call Today to Get Started!

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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Hurricane Season: Check Your Home’s Defenses

6/24/2018 (Permalink)



Government forecasters have predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season in 2018. If you live on or near the East Coast, don’t put off making sure your home is ready. When a powerful storm is bearing down, it may be too late to protect your property.

Don’t let your guard down this hurricane season. Consider opening a home equity line of credit (HELOC)or taking out a personal loan to make improvements, because there’s much you can do now so you won’t get caught making last-minute — and probably inadequate — moves to strengthen your home’s defenses against hurricanes.

Start with shutters and your roof

“If you buy shutters or other coverings with product approvals and use licensed contractors who pull building permits, you’re on your way to protecting your home,” says engineer Jose Mitrani, associate professor emeritus in the school of construction at Florida International University in Miami.

“And be sure that inspections are done of the work,” says Mitrani, who served on building code task forces after Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that tore through South Florida in 1992.

Roof cover damage is the biggest reason for hurricane insurance claims that are not related to storm surges, says the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, or IBHS, in Tampa, Florida.

A cascade of trouble can happen when a roof is roughed up by a hurricane: Water gets in through gaps in the roof decking, which soaks the attic insulation, which collapses the ceiling, which damages your furniture and other belongings when wet wallboard and insulation fall on them.

And that’s if your roof mostly stays intact. If your roof lacks truss tie-downs known as hurricane straps or its gable ends are unbraced or improperly braced, you stand a greater chance of losing part of or the entire roof over your head.

That’s why the IBHS and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, suggest you take these roof precautions now before hurricane season revs up.

  • Nail or caulk loose roof tiles or shingles.
  • On a metal roof, check for rust and loose anchoring.
  • Install hurricane straps. (Consider hiring a licensed contractor to do this.)
  • Brace gable ends. (Ditto on hiring a professional.)
  • Install a backup water barrier under the roof cover if necessary.

The IBHS also suggests you check your attic’s ventilation. Loose eave and gable end vents, soffits and turbines all provide opportunities for water to enter your attic.


Window and door coverings

To a great extent, getting your home hurricane-ready means making sure it’s equipped with the right hurricane-resistant window and door coverings. They run a gamut that includes various types of shutters, panels, screens and sheeting, as well as impact-glass windows and doors.

Plywood is cheap but considered an emergency measure — and it’s little help unless you size and anchor it correctly.

Mitrani says even the smallest windows must be covered because in a major storm, smaller openings are actually subjected to higher wind pressures than larger areas such as the side of your house.

The average window area to be covered (including doors with windows) is about 15 percent of a home’s total square footage, according to the IBHS. A 2,000-square-foot home would need about 300 square feet of shutters. If your shutters cost $20 per square foot, you’ll spend $6,000.

The IBHS notes that some coverings can be installed only by professionals and cost up to $30 per square foot of opening. Do-it-yourself products cost about half as much.

Beware of contractors who try to sell DIY products, warns Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of FLASH. “Those are products that are cheap and can’t get product approval,” she says.

Protecting doors and windows

Some coverings are permanent attachments to your home, such as accordion shutters and “clamshell” awnings. Accordion shutters rest folded and highly visible on both sides of your windows, while single-piece clamshell awnings fold down over your windows from above.

Removable hurricane panels sit in tracks at the top and bottom of window and door openings; only the tracks are permanently attached to the building.

If you live in a condo or a development with an active homeowners association, be aware that there may be rules about the type and color of storm shutters allowed. Check before outfitting your doors and windows.

Also, ask your local building department what’s required of coverings in your state or region. Mirtrani says building codes in Florida, for example, require that hurricane products be able to withstand certain levels of impact by wind-borne debris. That means those products have to undergo impact tests to earn approval.

Once your new coverings are installed, take them for a trial run, suggests Tim Reinhold, IBHS chief engineer and senior vice president of research.

“Make sure you have all the parts and everything is sized and fits properly,” he says.

Other property precautions

Before hurricanes start forming, do a spot-check from the attic down. FLASH recommends caulking holes in building exteriors and tightening or replacing loose and missing screws and brackets in windows and doors — including garage doors. Also, be sure to clean out the gutters.

A few final preparation tips:

  • Don’t tape windows. Placing those masking-tape X’s across your panes may feel comforting, but the National Hurricane Center says it’s a waste of valuable time and won’t keep your windows or glass doors from shattering.
  • Plan to evacuate a mobile home. Even if you have a newer manufactured home built to withstand higher wind speeds, Reinhold says there’s too great a chance of damage from flying debris from older neighboring homes to risk staying.
  • Prepare for high-rise pressure changes. If you live in a high-rise building, be aware that potentially damaging wind pressures increase with height.
  • Batten down the patio/yard. Don’t leave anything outside, including furniture, playthings and tools. Trim trees so branches won’t bang against the house, and do it early enough so the trimmings can be hauled off before a hurricane. Otherwise, they could become projectiles in a major storm.
  • Gas up before the storm. Fill up your vehicles and emergency power generator well ahead of time to avoid last-minute lines at the pump.

When fire or water damage strikes, you need professional help to get your property back to preloss condition.  SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County provides 24-hour emergency service and is dedicated to being faster to any size disaster.  Our highly trained technicians can respond immediately to your residential or commercial emergency.??

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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