What's taking so long?

We’re an insurance company. You need insurance. We want to help you! You call us. We take your information and say we’ll get back to you as soon as we get a quote. Twenty minutes pass and you’ve heard nothing. What on earth are we doing?!

With the whole “fifteen minutes could save you…” and now the “fifteen minutes is an eternity; how about seven-and-a-half minutes?” we understand. You want options, and you want them now.

If you are looking for an automobile policy, and in your household you have a 2005 Chevy Malibu and a 2008 Toyota Corolla, we can probably get back to you within the hour with several options. However, it gets trickier if you have a one-ton truck. Or a vehicle with expensive modifications.

The same applies to homeowner’s insurance. You live in town in a 1986 Ranch home that is a lot like the neighbors’ houses? We should have numbers for you today. But if your house is underground? Or a Quonset hut? Or a boathouse? It might take us a while.

Here’s why: Insurance rates are based on risk. An insurance company assesses risk based largely on comparison with similar items or properties. A late model fifth wheel RV has a lot to be compared to, but an old school bus retrofitted as a recreational vehicle is going to be more difficult to price.

At Hejny Insurance Agency, we don’t write insurance. We connect clients with the best insurance providers to meet their individual needs. So while it might seem like sometimes it’s taking an unreasonably long time to put together a quote, the odds are that we’re putting out feelers and waiting for answers. Even if you have a very specialized business for which none of our providers have a market, they might have another lead… And while we’re investigating those leads, you can be working your day job, or Skyping your mom, or reading a book on the back porch.

It doesn’t stop there. Once you have insurance through us, you can always call us or stop by with concerns or questions, and if we can’t help you, we’ll be the ones to wait on hold for forty-five minutes while you head home to start dinner.

That’s the whole reason we’re here: We do the leg work so you can get on with your life. And we appreciate that you’ve let us do so for the past 28 years.

Fire Prevention and Safety in Your Home

House fires cause approximately $7 billion in damage per year. Of course, you want to protect your valuables, but more important is your safety and that of your family (and pets). How many of the following tips have you implemented?

  1. SMOKE ALARMS – Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your house, preferably one for each bedroom, as well as one in each bathroom and the kitchen. If the smoke alarms are to be hardwired, have a professional install them. If they run on batteries, check the batteries regularly (for instance: every time you change clocks for Daylight Savings Time, or on the first day of each season).
  2. FIRE EXTINGUISHER- Have at least one fire extinguisher on every level of your home. Ideally, the kitchen and the garage each need a fire extinguisher as those are the most likely areas of the house to experience a fire. Make sure everyone in your house knows how properly to use a fire extinguisher, beginning with how to know whether a fire is one you can handle or whether exiting the house is the most reasonable course of action.
  3. ESCAPE LADDERS – If you have a two story house, every occupied room above the first level, including family or loft rooms, should have an escape ladder.
  4. ESCAPE PLAN – This might seem an unnecessary step, as you are familiar with your home, but in the event of an emergency, it helps if you’ve thought through and even practiced enough to be able to act without thinking. Come up with two ways to exit every single room (if a room doesn’t have two ways to get out, don’t allow regular dwelling of that area). Physically walk through your house, reviewing these plans with kids. Let them practice exiting the house on their own. Designate a meeting place for everyone once you get outside.
  5. DOCUMENTATION OF VALUABLES – Take detailed photos or a video of every room in your house. Update this information every couple of years so it’s always up-to-date. If you have any potentially high-value items such as jewelry or furniture, have it appraised or save your purchase receipt.
  6. FIREPROOF SAFE – Keep sensitive documents, including vital records, identification cards, insurance policies, and other information including the above records, in a fireproof safe.
  7. COOK CAREFULLY – Never leave your kitchen unattended when cooking. Keep flammable items like towels and loose clothing away from cooking surfaces. Turn off the oven when you’re finished with it.
  8. MAINTAIN HEATING EQUIPMENT – Have fireplaces inspected and cleaned yearly. Change your furnace filters. Don’t put shoes and clothes on heat source to dry. Don’t use space heaters when you’re not home, and only use space heaters that shut off automatically when knocked over.
  9. DON’T SMOKE INSIDE THE HOUSE.
  10. PAY ATTENTION TO ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT – Check all electronics for damaged cords. Use tamper-resistant outlets or outlet covers. Don’t overload outlets. If you have regular problems with electricity (brown-outs, blown fuses, etc.), contact an electrician. Only use extension cords temporarily. Don’t run cords under rugs or furniture.
  11. ISOLATE CANDLES – Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that might be flammable. Blow out candles when leaving a room.
  12. KEEP FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS OUTSIDE OF THE HOME IN A COOL, WELL-VENTILATED PLACE.
  13. GRILL SMART – Always grill outside. Clean the removable parts of the grill and check for propane leaks regularly. Don’t leave a grill unattended.
  14. EDUCATE KIDS – Talk with them about safety measures and escape routes. Teach them how to use a fire extinguisher, how to respond to a smoke alarm, and what to do in the event of an emergency.
  15. ‘TIS THE SEASON – Check your light strings for frayed wires. Water live Christmas trees. Don’t leave lights on if you’re going to be gone from home more than a couple of hours. Don’t overload outlets.

Four Home Fire Sprinkler Myths

When it comes to fire safety in the home, you could be forgiven for thinking that installing sprinklers seems a bit over the top. But that’s partly because of misunderstandings about how they work, how much they cost to install, and how vital a role they can play in increasing safety and reducing fire deaths.

According to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, a trade body, residential fire sprinklers can contain a fire and may even extinguish it before firefighters arrive. This provides precious time to get everyone safely out of the house.

In fact, research by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests sprinklers could cut the incidence of residential fire deaths by as much as 83 percent, reduce direct property damage by more than two thirds, and cut firefighter injuries by 65 percent.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety highlights what it labels as myths about home fire sprinklers. These are:

  1. When one sprinkler activates, the whole lot go off. Not true. The sprinkler heads react to the heat in each room. 90 percent of fires can be contained by just one sprinkler.
  2. Sprinklers go off accidentally, causing water damage. This is highly unlikely. Sprinklers are designed to avoid accidental activation.
  3. Water does more damage that the fire it’s trying to quench. Though water may cause damage, by limiting the spread of the blaze it will actually do less damage. Plus, water from firefighter’s hoses, if the blaze hasn’t been contained, will do much more damage than sprinklers.
  4. Home sprinklers are expensive. This is one of the biggest myths. The Fire Protection Research Foundation estimates the cost to be around $1.60 per square foot of home. Against the value of what’s at risk in a fire, this is a relatively small sum.

There’s also no evidence that construction rates are inhibited when planning bodies require homes to be built with fire sprinklers.

A residential fire happens every 87 seconds in the US. Just think of the difference that home sprinklers could make.

Insurance Is Key to Disaster Preparation

AUSTIN – With the official start of hurricane season on June 1 and an already active spring storm season, the Texas Department of Insurance encourages you to review your homeowner’s insurance to make sure you and your loved ones are financially protected from a disaster.  Follow these steps to make sure you’re ready.

Create a Home Inventory. Creating an inventory and storing it in a safe location away from home is a basic – and effective – disaster preparedness step.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their personal property. An inventory can help you determine the value of your property and whether or not you might be underinsured.

Visit www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb086.pdf to download a home inventory checklist.

In addition, NAIC has created a smart phone app that makes it easy to create a home inventory.  The myHOME Scr.APP.book app lets users capture and electronically store images, descriptions, bar codes, and serial numbers of your personal property. The app organizes information by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. To download the free app, go to the iTunes or Android app stores and search “NAIC.”

Review your inventory each year. Note the make, model, serial number, purchase price, and purchase date of any new items and keep receipts for major purchases with your inventory.

Review Your Homeowner’s Policy. Know whether your policy includes coverage for actual cash value or replacement cost in case of a loss. Actual cash value (ACV) is the cost to repair damage to your home or to replace its contents after accounting for depreciation. Replacement cost is the cost to rebuild or replace your home and its contents with similar quality materials or goods, without depreciation.

Make sure your policy meets your needs and that you understand the policy limits, deductibles, exclusions, and claim notification requirements. Keep copies of insurance policies and the home inventory in a location away from your home so they can be easily retrieved. Store electronic copies of your policies on a computer or server away from your home.

Keep contact details for your insurance agent and company with your policies and in your phone or other electronic device. Include phone numbers, mailing addresses, website addresses, and policy numbers for quick reference.

Make Sure You Have Windstorm Insurance.  If your property is in one of the state’s 14 coastal counties or parts of southeastern Harris County, your homeowners policy may not provide windstorm coverage.  You may be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). It’s important to know that TWIA coverage cannot be purchased or changed once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about windstorm coverage and inspection requirements, call your insurance agent or TWIA at 512-899-4900 or visit www.twia.org.

Consider Flood Insurance.  Most homeowners and commercial property policies exclude coverage for flood damage.  To protect yourself from losses caused by rising water, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy, typically from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance policies usually require a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect on currently owned property, so don’t wait until a flooding threat is imminent. To get flood insurance, call your insurance agent or NFIP at 1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329) or visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Make a Safety Plan.  If a disaster threatens your area, you might have to decide whether to stay in your home or evacuate. When local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for destruction.
• Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. Be aware of low-water crossings and plan routes to avoid these areas.
• Locate nearby community shelters in case you must seek immediate shelter.
• Have an alternate plan to contact family members in case you must leave your home or if there is a disruption in local phone service.
For more information about safety planning and emergency preparedness, go to www.texasprepares.org

For More Information
If you have questions about insurance, call TDI’s toll-free Consumer Help Line 1-800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.

Texas Space Heater Safety Tips

  • Do not use an extension cord or strip plug. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy duty cord marked with a power rating at least as high as that on the label of the heater itself.
  • Run the power cord so that no one steps on or trips over it.
  • Inspect the heater’s cord periodically to look for frayed wire or damaged insulation. Do not use a space heater with a damaged cord.
  • Turn off the heater when you leave the room ‐ unplug the heater when you leave for the day. Never leave a space heater unattended or running while you sleep.
  • When buying a heater, look for one that has been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company.
  • Place the heater on a level surface away from areas where someone might bump it and knock it over.
  • Keep electric heaters away from water. Never use them near a sink or in the bathroom.
  • Use space heaters only as a supplementary source of heat. These devices are not intended to replace the home’s heating system.
  • Check periodically for a secure plug/outlet fit. If the plug becomes very hot, the outlet may need to be replaced by a qualified technician. This could be the sign of a potential home wiring issue.
  • Heaters should be placed on a flat, level surface. Do not place heaters on furniture since they may fall and become damaged or break parts in the heater.
  • Unless the heater is designed for use outdoors or in bathrooms, do not use in damp, wet areas.
  • Keep the heater at least three feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture, and any other flammable or combustible materials.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

Why I Believe in Insurance Agents – Michael's Story

“People may think we were really unlucky when our house burned down.  But I’m grateful.  Grateful I was home.  Grateful I was awake.  Grateful we all made it out alive.  And I’m grateful I had my insurance agent to watch my back.  Sure, we’ll never get back the family bible.  Or the old pictures.  But we’ll get our home back…and we’ll be safely together again.”

Michael Graff
husband, father, small business owner

The Reality of Vacant Properties

The news is filled with stories about the unfortunate reality of vacant properties.

Homes and businesses alike are standing empty. Many owners may have purchased homeowners/dwelling or business insurance policies while the homes or businesses were occupied and now that there is a vacancy may have incorrectly assumed they are secure with that coverage in place.

Vacant or unoccupied property presents special challenges. The premium charged for occupied property does not take into consideration the increased exposure of vacant and/or unoccupied property. The insurance provided by most policies is limited, and may not respond at all if the property has been vacant for more than 60 consecutive days (prior to a loss)!

Many if not most insurance companies will cancel coverage immediately if they become aware of the vacancy. Even if the policy is not canceled there may be major problems in the event of a loss. The occupancy status is considered essential (material) to the insurance company. When the use and/or occupancy of a property changes many insurance companies no longer want to insure the property.

Depending on the policy and insurance company involved the entire policy may be void in the event of a vacancy or unoccupancy. There are, however, solutions. We pride ourselves on finding solutions for our clients. We must, however, be first made aware of the vacancy or occupancy. Please contact us if your property undergoes an occupancy change and we will help guide you through the necessary steps to obtain proper coverage.

Create a Home Inventory BEFORE You Have a Claim

Close your eyes and picture your living room.  You probably have a couch, a chair, a table, and a television.  Now open your eyes and look at all the stuff that you didn’t think about.  Curtains, lamps,  your CD collection – those are all claimable as personal property in the event of a loss.  If you can’t remember all the stuff you have right now, do you really think you’ll be able to remember it all when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a tornado or break-in?

Fortunately, we have a solution for you.  Print out this home inventory form and fill it out.  For electronics and appliances, write down the model & serial number if you have quick access to that information.  If you can’t remember how much an item cost, make your best guess.  Failing that, search for the item on the internet and find out what it would cost to replace it.  If you have any special collections, open up Word and start a list of each item.

Don’t have time to fill out a form?  Take out your handy-dandy smartphone and fire up the camera app.  Take a couple of photos of each room in your house.  Take extra photos of any collections.

Once you’ve completed your lists, or taken your photos, store them in a safe place off-site.  Contact your insurance agent and see if they can keep a copy in your file.

Taking a few moments now to catalog your belongings can save you a lot of time and hassle in the event that you have a claim.  Questions?  Call Moses Hejny at 903-892-8068.

 

RVOS Lodge 103 Sponsors Scholarship

RVOS Lodge 103 is proud to offer 2 $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Eligible applicants are those who are:

  • High school seniors who will graduate in the spring of 2012
  • Plan to attend college or a vocational school in the fall of 2012
  • The child or grandchild of a current RVOS Lodge 103 member

This year’s essay subject is Texas history. Essays should be one page, double-spaced, using 10pt Arial font. The applicant’s name and phone number should appear on the page.

Scholarship deadline is April 30, 2012.  Instructions and application form may be downloaded here.
2012 RVOS Lodge 103 scholarship application