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Time to Review Your First Aid Kits and Fire Extinguishers

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

How many times do you walk by fire extinguishers without checking those tags or past first aid kits without peeking inside to assure the contents are complete?

Most executives do not spot check these life saving tools.  That task is delegated to maintenance.  But these decisions are life and death, not simply profit or loss.  Show your employees you care; that you lead their safety program rather than follow pro forma insurance checklists.

Start your spring cleaning here: walk through your operation and stop occasionally to check if you can easily spot the nearest fire extinguisher.  Read the label.  Is it appropriate for the work area?

Stand at each fire extinguisher station and visualize successful deployment.  Is it easy and natural?  Can you travel unharmed to the nearest fire exit using the fire extinguisher to clear a path?

Observe any long pathways between fire extinguishers and exits.  Would another canister or different fire suppression device or system help?

Take some notes as you walk through the operation.  Review these observations with the person tasked to keep the equipment updated.

Repeat the above exercise with regard to first aid kits.  Are they easy to spot?  Easy to access one-handed?  Do they have instructions for calling emergency help?

These exercises do not require a great deal of time or scheduling.  Simply make a point of checking these items every quarter, something of an internal surprise inspection.

Add ten minutes every three months to your walk-through routine.  It doesn’t need scheduling or ceremony.  Simply observe, become conscious of the emergency response routine.  Are fire exits clogged with storage or debris?  Are aisles kept unobstructed?

Is a specific person charged with de-icing fire escapes?  As you walk through your operations, take notes of these questions.  Think through an emergency evacuation, then review the written plan for your company.  Does it make common sense?  Does it raise questions for your risk manager or safety specialist?

Does your at-hire training include safety orientation and procedures?  How about on-going communications on safety issues?  Both directions?

Corporate officers lead the safety culture.  Make these inspections in view of employees.  They will engage you if they have proper concerns.  They are a great resource.

Ways To Protect Your Electronic Devices In The Office And On The Road

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

When settling Building Insurance claims, it can be tough to determine the real cost of replacing or restoring damaged property. Unfortunately, the methods that policyholders, insurance companies, and agents usually use to set the right amount of coverage all have their weaknesses; according to insurance experts, this means some buildings might be underinsured by up to 40%!

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Basing the amount of coverage on the purchase price of a building doesn’t factor in possibly significant changes in the value of the location. The same problem applies with using real estate appraisals, which are based on the sale price.

Although setting coverage by estimating square footage and material costs can be fairly accurate, these methods depend on the validity of the data plugged into the formulas. What’s more, changes in zoning or building regulations can have a significant impact of the value of the building.

As a construction professional, you can’t afford to “guestimate” the cost of building repair or restoration after a loss. For example, you probably have a strong grasp of arcane and complex zoning and building ordinances in your everyday work.

We’d be happy to provide a complimentary review of the valuation of your buildings for coverage purposes and recommend any needed changes. We can then explore opportunities to improve the accuracy of building valuations for your clients — and ours, so that we can help close that 40% “underinsurance gap.”

Spring Maintenance Tips For Your Commercial Property

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

Now that the harsh winter weather has ended, it’s time to spruce up your commercial property. Here are several spring maintenance tips that reduce your liability and prep your property for warmer weather.

Inspect for Water Damage

Melting snow and ice can increase water flow around your property, so carefully inspect the entire building for water damage. Check the exterior foundation, interior walls and windows for moisture, leaks or condensation, and clear out and repair any damaged gutters and downspouts.

Check the Roof

Winter storms can damage your roof, but you may not notice the damage until the roof starts to leak. Perform a detailed inspection of the roof and note any repairs you need to make.

Touch Up the Exterior

Cold winter weather can cause paint to chip, and flying debris can dent siding. Walk around the building, note any damaged paint or siding, and fix the areas. Sometimes, a simple touch up is all that’s needed rather than refinishing the entire building.

Repair the Parking Area

If freezing temperatures created cracks or holes in the parking lot or sidewalks, fix the problem areas. You’ll also want to power wash the area to remove dirt, mud or other debris, repaint any faded lines and repair broken signs. With a clean parking area, you reduce liability and improve visual appeal.

Wash the Windows

Remove winter grime and buildup on the exterior and interior windows. Clean windows boost productivity and improve the appearance of your commercial building.

Boost Ventilation

Open windows and air out the stuffy building if possible. You may also inspect and clean the HVAC system and install fans or dehumidifiers in damp areas as needed.

Improve Curb Appeal

Fallen branches, debris and litter affect your property’s curb appeal and can create hazards for employees and visitors. Remove any debris, and trim trees, shrubs and bushes to reduce hiding places for burglars and future damage risks. Consider planting flowers and grass, too, as you improve your property’s curb appeal and safety.

Perform Pest Control

Warmer temperatures may attract bugs, insects and rodents to your property, so apply a pest spray around the building’s perimeter, and close any holes that may allow animals to enter the building. You may also want to treat any ponds, bird baths or other standing water with Mosquito Dunk or a similar product.

Assess Insurance

Your commercial property insurance protects your company, so schedule an assessment. Ensure you have adequate coverage for your needs as you look forward to the rest of the year.

This spring, you can perform maintenance on your commercial building to improve its appearance and functionality. These tips also reduce your liability and protect your employees and clients.

Small Heart-Healthy Changes To Make With The Whole Family

By Life and Health | No Comments

March gives your family the perfect opportunity to talk about love and improve your heart health. Involve your entire family in making positive changes when you take several small heart-healthy steps.

Find Free Time for Active Movement

Whether you have 15 minutes after dinner or several hours on the weekends, exercise and activity improve your heart health. Review your family’s schedule to find free time for activities everyone in the family enjoys, such as hiking, biking, swimming, sports and active video games.

Cook Together

Kids may balk at any dietary changes or new foods unless they help with the meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. Encourage your kids to help you research heart-healthy meals and snacks, too, as you introduce unprocessed options into your family’s everyday diet.

Drink More Water

Water hydrates and fuels your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, adult men should drink 15.5 cups of water and women need 11.5 cups of water daily. Children should consume between five and 11 cups of water depending on their height, weight and age. To boost your water intake, replace other beverages with water, eat foods high in water content and drink a glass of water before and with each meal.

Reduce Stress

While you probably can’t avoid stress altogether, you can work as a family to reduce your stress levels, which makes your heart happy. Consider cutting unnecessary activities, doing yoga, spending time outdoors, enjoying fun hobbies and embracing other effective strategies that reduce stress every day.

Choose Less Screen Time

Technology can improve your health, especially when you use a fitness tracker to monitor your activity and diet. Too much screen time, particularly if it involves sitting around, can negatively affect your health, though. As a family, choose to replace some of your screen time with family board games, hobbies or volunteer activities.

Visit the Doctor

Involve your doctor on your journey to better heart health, especially if you’re new to exercise or have a history of heart issues. Your health insurance should cover a physical and regular checkups, and it may even offer reimbursement for exercise or nutrition classes you may take as your family pursues better health.

Give Yourself Permission to Take Baby Steps

Implementing and maintaining heart-healthy improvements takes time. Encourage your family members to view your new adventure as a marathon rather than a sprint because with baby steps you’re more likely to stick with your new lifestyle changes over time.

This February, prioritize heart health with your entire family. Every step you take toward a healthier lifestyle improves your quality of life and can help you live longer.

How Much Cyber Liability Insurance Should A Business Purchase

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Cyber breaches that affect big businesses make the news, but over 60 percent of all cyber breaches target small and medium-sized businesses. Because you must protect your business, no matter what its size, purchase adequate cyber liability insurance.

What is Cyber Liability Insurance?

When your business suffers a data breach, you can file a cyber liability insurance claim. The policy won’t prevent a hack, but it will cover your financial losses and assist your company during recovery.

Common Cyber Breach Risks

Any company, from international mega corporations to small family-owned businesses, that operates online or handles customer data faces cyber breach risks such as:

  • Human error – using the same password for all websites, losing unlocked devices or downloading malware.
  • Mobile devices – gateway for thieves when used over unsecured Wi-Fi connections or left unlocked.
  • Disgruntled former employees – use old login information to hack into your system.
  • Ransomware – hackers introduce malware onto your computer, encrypt data and require a ransom before they release and decrypt your system.
  • Coordinated attacks – international hacker groups target the sensitive information your company stores.

How Much Does a Cyber Breach Cost?

After a cyber breach, your company will owe first-party expenses, such as damages to your systems and data, and third-party expenses related to your liability to customers. Examples of these two expenses include:

  • Customer losses – direct financial loss, credit monitoring and other related expenses.
  • Business disruption expenses – account for up to 39 percent of a breach’s total cost.
  • Direct financial loss – resources the hackers steal from your company bank accounts.
  • Legal costs – handling lawsuits customers may file against your business.
  • Regulatory fines – imposed by the FCC, FTC, HHS and your state.
  • Public relations expenses – required to rebuild your company’s reputation.

These and other expenses contribute to the $3.62 million global average cost of a cyber breach. Each breach affects an average of 24,000 records, reports the Ponemon Institute, and costs $141 per individual lost or stolen record. Multiply this figure by the number of confidential or sensitive records your company stores, and you get an idea of how expensive a breach would be for your business.

Purchase Adequate Cyber Liability Insurance

Many experts suggest that businesses purchase at least $1 million in cyber liability insurance. Without this valuable coverage, your company could face insurmountable financial challenges and possible bankruptcy after a cyber breach.

On average, small businesses pay from $750-8,000 per year for this valuable coverage. Because your needs vary, schedule a consultation with your insurance agent and get a detailed quote.

Protect your customers and your business with cyber liability insurance. It’s essential coverage for every company.

Security Tips That Protect Your Website From Hackers

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Your company’s website shares information about your business and promotes sales. Hackers can access your website and wreak havoc on your business, though, as they steal customer data, post negative messages to customers or destroy records. As you lock your company’s doors every day, implement several tips as you protect your website, your reputation and business.

Stay Informed About Security Threats

Hackers change tactics often in an effort to access data, so stay informed. Follow tech sites, including The Hacker News, as you secure your website.

Boost Admin Portal Security

Because the admin portal serves as the brain of your website, you need to secure it.

  • Utilize a username and password that are hard to guess.
  • Never share login information with unauthorized users or via email.
  • Limit login attempts.
  • Require a multi-factor authentication for logins.
  • Reduce access to the portal.
  • Scan devices that connect to the network, and ensure they’re not affected by viruses or malware.

Install Security Software

A web application firewall (WAF) scans all the information that passes between your data connection and web server. It catches hacking attempts, malicious bots and spam, so choose one to install.

Update Software

Software updates or patches may close security vulnerabilities and fix bugs. Because hackers can scan thousands of websites each hour, set your devices, web servers and all aspects of your website to update software automatically as you protect your business.

Add an Encrypted SSL

You may use your company’s website to gather customer email addresses or credit card information. In this case, use an encrypted SSL to hide personal information that’s transmitted from your website to your database.

Minimize File Upload Access

You may carefully scan uploaded files for security threats, but smart hackers can easily hide bugs in those files and gain access to your website. Counteract hackers when you store uploaded files outside of the root directory, then use a specific script when you’re ready to access the stored information.

Backup Your Website Frequently

Several times a day, schedule website backups. Choose a local and off-site backup location so you can get to your data if a hacker does manage to access your website, the hardware fails or you suffer a power outage.

Prioritize Security

Everyone in your company should prioritize security and take steps to deter hackers. Train employees to secure their devices that connect to your server, follow password security protocols and set logins to expire quickly after inactivity.

With these tips, you can protect your website from hackers. Additionally, talk to your cyber liability insurance agent and ask about other strategies and steps you can take to protect your website, customers and business.

The Dangers Of Fake Business Reviews

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

Before visiting a business, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews. Your company needs online reviews, but your business could suffer if you encourage or allow fake reviews to populate the internet. Understand the dangers of fake reviews as you build and protect your company.

What are Fake Reviews?

As a business owner, you may solicit or allow fake reviews as a way to bolster your online reputation and attract more customers.

Four common types of fake reviews include:

  • Ask family members and friends to share reviews of your company. While your family and friends may be loyal customers, their reviews could be skewed and not provide an accurate picture of your company.
  • Pay employees to write reviews. These reviews could appear to be objective but are dishonest.
  • Offer your product or service for free in exchange for a written review. While you may boost production volume and customers with this technique, it invites positive rather than honest reviews.
  • Encourage reviews on open rather than verified review sites. Numerous review sites allow anyone to leave a review even if they haven’t tried your services or products, a practice that encourages fake reviews.

Dangers of Fake Reviews

Your company faces several dangers because of fake reviews.

Fines – Expect repercussions from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state if you violate consumer protection laws that include false advertising.

Damaged Reputation – Online review sites can report fake reviews to consumer alert groups and post this information on your profile. As a result, your company will gain a negative reputation that is nearly impossible to overturn.

Broken Trust – If consumers discover that you’ve encouraged or allowed fake reviews, they will stop trusting your company. You lose credibility and valuable business that affects your company now and into the future.

Lack of Growth – An influx of reviews can improve business temporarily, but your business will suffer if your products or services don’t match the fake reviews.

Public Danger – Fake reviews of physicians, attorneys, accountants or auto repair shops could potentially harm consumers. Other dangers caused by undisclosed allergic reactions or unsafe products can also harm consumers, highlighting the need for only honest reviews.

How to Prevent Fake Reviews

In your quest to attract business and build your brand, you may ask all your customers to leave honest reviews on verified sites. Continue to offer excellent service, too, that prompts customers to praise your company online.

Overall, your company will benefit more from no reviews than from fake ones. Understand the dangers of fake reviews and how to combat them as you retain your credibility, build your reputation and protect your company.

Ways To Prevent Home Water Damage During The Spring Thaw

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

Spring officially starts on March 20. In addition to rising temperatures and longer daylight hours, melting ice, snow and the ground produce a winter thaw. Take several steps as you prevent water damage to your home.

Inspect Your Roof

Storm debris or heavy snow and ice can damage your roof. Additionally, poor circulation or heat leaks can inhibit proper ice and snow melting.

Visually inspect your roof and remove any ice dams. Then note any damaged areas, including sagging, or areas of unmelted snow. You can hire a roofing professional to take a closer look and perform any necessary repairs.

Repair the Gutters and Downspouts

Ideally, downspouts should direct water at least six feet away from your home. However, the downspouts or gutters may be clogged or damaged.

As you inspect the gutters and downspouts, clear away any debris. Then replace broken pieces or install downspout extenders as you divert water away from your home.

Shovel Snow

Accumulated snow near your home can melt and leak into your home through the foundation or window wells.

When daytime temperatures rise or on sunny afternoons, use a shovel or ice pick to break up large piles of snow and ice. Remove obstructions like wood piles or overgrown shrubs, too, that might prevent proper melting.

Fix the Foundation

Even a tiny crack in your home’s foundation can allow water to seep into the basement or foundation walls. Plus, damaged window well caulk or debris build-up may promote water damage.

As you walk around the exterior of your home, look for evidence of foundation cracks or window well damage. Check the interior basement walls, too, for cracks or discolorations. Seal any cracks as you protect your home.

Prepare the Basement

While you do your best to prevent excess water in the basement, you should be prepared in case the water rises quickly.

First, test the sump pump. Make repairs or purchase spare parts so it’s ready to remove water from your basement if necessary. Then install backflow valves to prevent expensive sewer backups. Finally, move items to higher ground for protection in case water does seep into your basement.

Verify Your Homeowners’ Insurance

Spring flooding around your home can cause damage that affects your home and safety.

Revisit your homeowners’ insurance policy, and verify that it covers damage and repairs caused by excessive water. If your agent recommends flood insurance, purchase a policy as soon as possible so you’re covered before the big thaw.

This spring, melting snow, ice and ground will increase water around your home. Take these steps as you prevent damage and protect your house.

How To Protect Your Home’s Water Pipes All Winter

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

Your home’s pipes deliver water to the kitchen and bathrooms. These pipes could freeze during harsh cold winter weather, though, and leave you without water for meals, showers and other activities, which affects your health and wellbeing. Take several steps to prevent frozen pipes, and know how to thaw frozen pipes properly as you protect your home and family this winter.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Most homes are built to withstand cold temperatures. However, design flaws, foundation weaknesses or unexpectedly low temperatures increase the likelihood that your home’s pipes will freeze. When the weather forecast calls for freezing temperatures, prep your home in several ways as you prevent frozen water pipes.

  • Close crawl space vents and insulate areas around exposed pipes to protect the pipes from cold air.
  • Turn on faucets and let them drip overnight. This tip is particularly important for the faucets attached to exposed pipes or located near exterior walls that get cold quickly.
  • Open cabinet doors to keep the pipes warm. As a side note, remove cleaning solutions and other harmful items from the cabinets to protect your kids and pets.
  • Maintain the same indoor temperature day and night. Turning the thermostat down during the day or at night can save you money, but a consistent indoor temperature of at least 55 degrees can protect your water pipes.

Thaw Frozen Pipes

Despite your best efforts, your water pipes could freeze as temperatures plummet. Thaw pipes properly with several steps.

  • Shut off the main water supply to the frozen pipes. If the pipes have burst, this step will prevent major damage to your home.
  • Turn on the faucets. As the ice melts, water will begin to flow slowly again and speed the thawing process.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipes until they fully thaw. For safety, wrap a heating pad or hot towels around the pipe or use a hair dryer.
  • Exercise caution when thawing pipes. Never use an open flame or a propane or kerosene heater because these devices could cause a fire. Also, don’t overload circuits, use space heaters or leave your oven door open as you attempt to get your water flowing.
  • Call a plumber if your DIY attempts don’t work. He or she will find the troublesome pipe, fix the problem and restore your running water.

This winter, take several steps to protect your water pipes from freezing or to thaw frozen pipes safely. You should also update your homeowners insurance policy. It provides valuable protection if a frozen or burst pipe damages your home. Your insurance agent can also share tips that protect your water pipes and home this winter.

Tips That Protect Customer Information In Your Open Office

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Your customers entrust their personal data to you and your company. Your employees may easily share information, though, particularly if you operate an open office with little privacy. Protect your customers’ information and identities when you follow several tips.

Collect Only the Data you Need

Unless you need a customer’s driver’s license number or Social Security number for a specific purpose related to the transaction, don’t collect this data. Ask only for the data you need, and reduce access to information that could be compromised.

Use Data Only for Legitimate Purposes

The data you collect may be used to complete a sale or open a line of credit, but don’t use a customer’s data for any other purpose. Improper use of data can compromise a customer and place your company at risk.

Store Data Properly

Protect sensitive customer data when you store it electronically and never on paper. Then encrypt all data and lock it in a centralized location, not on a USB drive or other removable media. When you’re ready to erase the data, wipe it from your system and shred any paper files.

Use a Dedicated Server

While you could use a shared server to save money, a dedicated server reduces a hacker’s ability to access your data. It reduces vulnerability and improves security.

Protect Your Network

Secure the information on your network when you update your system’s anti-virus and firewall protection and scan often for malware. Perform regular updates on all computers and other connected devices, too.

Secure Your Devices

Use only updated computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, fax machines and all devices as you improve security. Then ensure all devices that connect to the internet are kept locked when not in use. When employees must connect remotely to your network, ensure they use a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network).

Backup Data Regularly

Schedule data backups at least daily. This step secures data as you collect it and reduces the risks of theft.

Restrict Access

Maintain a “need to know” attitude as you protect data. If employees don’t need access to the information stored on paper or electronically, they shouldn’t have access to it.

Train Employees

Educate your entire staff about how to protect customer information. They should know how to maintain confidentiality during every step of their customer interaction, including before the sale,  when they collect payment and during any follow-up.

Employees should also know how to:

  • Update software.
  • Lock computers when they’re not in use.
  • Avoid downloading malware.
  • Change passwords often.

Protect customer data in your open office when you take these steps. When you and your team secure data during every step of your customer interaction, you reduce the risk of an expensive cyber breach.