Prevent Christmas Tree Fires

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christmas tree fire

The end of Thanksgiving often means the start of Christmas tree decorations in houses throughout the country. But with the common holiday tradition, tree decorations come with significant risks of property damage.

While more than 33 million U.S. households decorate a tree annually, Christmas trees account for 250 fires annually, resulting in 14 deaths, 26 injuries and more than $13.8 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

USFA footage of a tree fire test shows that a tree can fully ignite within three seconds. Within in just five seconds, flames extend up the tree and streak across the ceiling. Meanwhile, only 40 seconds is needed before the entire test room goes up in flames, showing just a how quickly a tree fire can become highly dangerous.

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New Report Reveals That 1 In 7 Drivers Are Uninsured

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uninsured driversSummer is the time for road trips, long motorcycle rides and making those daily back-and-forth trips to run household errands. Chances are drivers will not be involved in a vehicle accident during these travels, but everyone likely will be involved in at least one motor vehicle accident in his or her lifetime. Across the United States, chances are roughly one in seven that a driver is uninsured, according to estimates released in April from the Insurance Research Council. The economic downturn is thought to be a major factor in the increase of uninsured motorists, with approximately 13.8% of U.S. drivers being uninsured in 2009 despite laws in most states requiring drivers to maintain minimum coverage. In a new study, “Uninsured Motorists, 2011 edition,” the IRC estimates the percentage of uninsured drivers countrywide and in individual states for 2008 and 2009 based on the number of uninsured motorist insurance claims versus the number of bodily injury claims. In 2009, the five states with the highest uninsured driver estimates were Mississippi, 28%; New Mexico, 26%; Tennessee, 24%; Oklahoma, 24%; and Florida, 24%. The five states with the lowest uninsured driver estimates were Massachusetts, 4.5%; Maine, 4.5%; New York, 5%; Pennsylvania, 7%; and Vermont, 7%. The moral? Protect yourself by making sure you’re fully covered, with Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage included in your insurance policy.

Hurricane Irene slams Puerto Rico; could hit U.S. projected path shifts farther east.

Hurricane Irene continued on a path that would take it east of Florida, heading toward the Bahamas where it is forecast to arrive as a major hurricane.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday the storm was about 65 miles north of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour.

The Bahamas issued a hurricane warning for the central Bahamas and a hurricane watch for the northwestern Bahamas.

The projected path remains to the east of Florida, keeping the core over the Bahamas and more than 150 miles off South Florida’s coast and more than 100 miles off the Central Florida coast.

That still could be close enough to bring some wind and rain to Florida during the day on Thursday and into Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.

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Tools You Can Use for Flood Insurance

Visit to find essential information and tools that will help remind yourself to prepare for the dangers of flooding all year long, and please share these interactive resources with your friends, Family,  colleagues and partners as well.
• Cost-of-Flooding Tool: Gives consumers an estimate of how much they will have to pay to repair their properties based on various levels of flooding.
• One-Step Flood Risk Profile Assessment Tool: Enables consumers to enter their address and learn about their property’s flood risk.
• Hurricane Flooding Fact Sheets: Explains hurricane season risks.
• Hurricane Season Widget: A simple interactive application that you can post to your website that includes helpful flood risk/flood insurance information and tips for your customers.
• Levee Simulator: Demonstrates how levees work and the risks home and business owners face when they fail.

High gas prices boost hybrid sales

High gas prices boost hybrid sales

By Susan Salisbury Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Updated: 10:20 p.m. Thursday, April 14, 2011 Posted: 9:19 p.m. Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gasoline prices spiked 8 cents a gallon in the past seven days, reaching an average of $3.88 a gallon Thursday in Palm Beach County. And two reports out this week indicate that motorists are rethinking car purchases because of the rising fuel prices – but we’re not yet driving any less. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that prices at the pump will be 40 percent higher during the warm-weather driving season than last year, but still expects fuel consumption to be up this summer. The National Automotive Dealers Association’s first-quarter report shows hybrid sales up 42 percent over last year. When Valerie Valdes was ready to trade in her two-door 2003 Honda Civic for a four-door vehicle, she knew she didn’t want to sacrifice fuel efficiency.

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Auto Accident and Fraud Prevention Checklist

 Auto Accident and Fraud Prevention Checklist

 Having an accident is often a very stressful, emotional situation. Multiple people can be involved and many things can happen very quickly. To help ensure the circumstances of the accident are accurately recorded, we suggest you use the following checklist.

To aid you to accurately record the facts, we also suggest you keep a fresh, disposable  camera in your vehicle and take pictures of:

 – The scene

-The vehicle damage to all involved vehicles license plates of all involved vehicles drivers, passengers  and witnesses

-Any identification and insurance documents.

Note:   Use your cell phone camera if another camera is not available.

Be sure to contact your insurance agent  or broker as soon as possible to report the claim.

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Flood Facts! Protect Your Home & Loved Ones

by DMG Insurance & Financial Services, Inc. on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 2:51pm
Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states.

  • Everyone lives in a flood zone. (For more information, visit our Flood Zones FAQs.)
  • Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a Federally backed mortgage, your mortgage lender requires you to have flood insurance. (To find your flood risk, fill out the Flood Risk Profile to the left.)
  • Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property.
  • Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
  • A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater.
  • Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
  • New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
  • Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years. Compare that to a $100,000 flood insurance premium, which is about $400 a year ($33 a month).
  • If you live in a moderate-to-low risk area and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $129 a year, including coverage for your property’s contents.
  • You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Check the Community Status Book to see if your community is already an NFIP partner.
  • It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it’s important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.
  • In a high-risk area, your home is more than twice as likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
  • Last year, about 25% of all claims paid by the NFIP were for policies in moderate-to-low risk communities.
  • The average annual U.S. flood losses in the past 10 years (1994-2004) were more than $2.4 billion.
  • When your community participates in the Community Rating System (CRS), you can qualify for an insurance premium discount of up to 45%. Read more about CRS Ratings.
  • Since 1978, the NFIP has paid over $36 billion for flood insurance claims and related costs (as of 3/22/10).
  • Over 5.5 million people currently hold flood insurance policies in more than 20,500 communities across the U.S.

For more policy and claim statistics, visit the <span>National Flood Insurance Program.</span>

Last Updated: Thursday, 23-Dec-2010, 1:24 PM (EST)

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Disaster Assistance: (800) 621-FEMA, TTY (800) 462-7585

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FEMA Home | Contact FEMA | Privacy Policy | Important Notices | FOIA | | DHS

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The 5 craziest insurance policies ever

We’re all gonna die. And for most of us, it’s going to be unremarkable — a sudden heart attack or a ho-hum battle with cancer. But some people aren’t content to bet that their heart will explode, despite the fact that that’s a pretty safe wager. No, some people expect a more fantastical end — hence the top five lunatic insurance policies.

1. Alien Abduction Insurance
The English overestimated themselves when they levied a stamp duty on the entire Americas — a petty cash grab that turned into the Revolutionary War. British Insurers learned from that mistake: Now they only take money from idiots.

They offered “alien abduction insurance,” scoring £2.7 million — mostly from Californians — to victims who thought they might be anally probed by extraterrestrials. Managing director Simon Burgess is on record admitting the whole thing’s a profitable joke, saying, “Of course, the burden of proof lies with the claimant. Let’s face it — insurance is so tedious that if I can enlighten my dreary life with a bit of humour every now and again, I will.”

He’s able to delight in his enlightenment because probably none of those idiots he sold policies to can read. Check below for more insane insurance purchases.

2. Thailand Riot Insurance
The Thai government is trying to reassure dwindling numbers of would-be tourists by offering “Thailand Riot Insurance,” proving that there’s no Thai word for “negative publicity.”

 When unrest in your country is so bad that you have to offer a cash prize of £7,800 to random strangers, you might as well fill your airports with hissing tarantulas — because no one in his right mind is coming.

3. Japanese Giant Crab
Don’t worry — Japanese giant crabs aren’t something you get from sleeping with horrible tentacle monsters without protection.

The Birmingham Sea Life aquarium in the U.K. took possession of a giant crab (also known as the Japanese spider crab in case it wasn’t horrifying enough), an armored, alien-faced arachnid 10 feet across.

Oh, and they call it “Crabzilla.” Sea Life officials tried to assure everyone, saying: “He’s not aggressive, and they should have nothing to worry about,” before taking out a policy against visitor death and permanent disability for over £1.3 million.

Call us crazy, but “nothing to worry about” and a million quid insurance policy are seriously mixed messages — which add up to the alien supercrab ripping your face off.

4. Anonymous Celebrity Chest Hair
When Lloyd’s underwriter Jonathan Thomas was asked to write a policy insuring unknown chest hair, the story was massively reported to be about Tom Jones‘ £5 million chest carpet. Unfortunately, the articles all cited each other as proof. The hidden hirsute person never took out the policy, so we’ll never know who really strokes their pec-rug, with each finger fondling thousands of would-be pounds.

Insert your own “It’s Not Unusual” joke here — as long as you promise to immediately give up comedy forever.

5. Immaculate (Conception) Insurance
We’re back with British Insurance, which underwrote the expensive virginity of three Scottish sisters. The very Christian and even vainer women believed they were at risk of immaculately conceiving, thinking, If God’s going to impregnate anyone, it’s going to be us. The sisters paid £120-a-year to insure against it.

The payoff was £1.25 million, as well as eternal life, grace, Yea, and Unto the Rapture Comes, etc., etc. Simon Burgess happily took the money until someone, anyone, noticed — at which point the outrage was so immense he had to cancel the policy. He also claimed that he’d been sending the money to charity all along.

If you believe that, we’ve got an insurance policy we’d like to sell you …

Tags:   aliensBritish InsuranceBritishInsuranceinsuranceinsurance policies you dont needinsurance policyInsurancePoliciesYouDontNeedInsurancePolicyjapanese spider crabJapaneseSpiderCrabsea life aquariumSeaLifeAquarium

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25 Tips for Smarter Holiday Travel

25 Tips for Smarter Holiday Travel

Published December 20, 2010 |

Holiday travel is a bit like dental surgery. You likely don’t do it unless you have to, you have to sit for a long time, and eventually you may be subject to some invasive probing. And when it’s all over you get presents, be it a toothbrush from your dentist or, assuming you’ve been good this year, something better than a toothbrush from your loved ones. How else are the two experiences similar? Neither is ever quite as bad as you think it’s going to be. But if you suspect I’m being foolishly optimistic about holiday travel not being torture, here are 25 tips that may make your trip a little jollier.

1. Be flexible with your travel dates when booking holiday fares, says Anne Banas, executive editor of, so that you can “avoid holiday surcharges on peak dates. Surcharges this year cost from $10 to $30 extra each way.”

2. Identify smaller airports near the major ones you ordinarily use “for some great deals,” says Casey Wohl, author of the Girls Getaway Guide.”For example, I found some better deals flying in and out of Sanford, Florida vs. Orlando International, and Sanford is just 30 minutes north of OIA.”

3. Know which airlines are most and least likely to bump you, says Hilary Stockton of Travel Sort. “JetBlue has a policy of not overbooking, so it very rarely denies boarding to passengers, followed by Hawaiian Airlines. The airlines most likely to bump passengers? American Eagle, US Airways, and Continental,” she says, based on analysis of early 2010 data. You’re less likely to get bumped, she says, if you snag a seat assignment early, check in online, and enroll in your airline’s frequent flier program.

4. Know which airlines commonly offer refunds when your airfare drops before the holidays, says Will Aldrich, vice president of  The top refunders “are Virgin America, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue and Frontier Airlines, each of which has offered refunds in conjunction with over 20% of their flights. The average traveler is saving between $100-$150 when they contact the airline for a refund.”

5. Don’t get jacked by your credit card company if you’re flying overseas, urges travel guide author James Kaiser. “Make sure your credit cards don’t charge a 3% international transaction fee, he says. “Most do, Capital One doesn’t. That 3% fee will add up quick on large purchases like hotels.”

6. Know which airlines are offering free Wi-Fi during the holidays, says Banas, noting that AirTran, Delta, and Virgin America are providing fliers with the free service through January 2.

7. Get a few workouts in before taking off for the holidays, suggests trip wellness specialist Elaine Masters. “Just as an athlete prepares for a marathon, another stress-buster is to get extra cardio in the week to few days before you leave,” even “walking briskly for 30 minutes a day,” she says. “This will help relieve accumulating stress about traveling, boost your immune system, [and will help your] circulation and digestion adjust to being sedentary on long drives and flights.”

8. Arrive at the airport in time for the flight that leaves before the one you’re booked on, says airefarewatchdog founder George Hobica.”If for some reason your scheduled flight or a connecting flight is delayed or canceled, this gives the airline the opportunity, assuming seats are available, to put you on the earlier flight.” When faced with this situation Hobica says “the airline offered me the next-earliest flight” telling him he’d “better hightail it through security because I’m leaving in 15 minutes.”

9. Know ahead of time how early your airline is checking passengers in, says Brooke Spillberg, eCommerce manager at Lonely Planet. “Some airlines have a very early check-in and if you aren’t there on time, they will immediately put you on stand-by even if you paid full price months in advance.”

10. Know how to safeguard your bags at the airport, says Robert Siciliano, CEO of “Whenever at a counter always place bags on the counter or between your legs,” he says, because if the bags are to your left or right “a distraction thief will approach your opposite side and talk to you while their accomplice takes your stuff.”

11. Follow this sequence when placing valuables on the airport x-ray belt. “Shoes and belt in their bin go in first,” suggests Larry Kramer, president, of the Personal Safety Group. “Next your carryon bag, then the laptop bag followed by your” 3-1-1 toiletry bag. “Only let the laptop onto the belt as you are about to step through the metal detector. You don’t need for your laptop to be floating around unattended on the ‘other side’ for longer than necessary.” Also slap on your laptop’s bottom a label with your first initial, last name, and phone number as the laptop won’t be in its case during its belt ride, says Kramer.

12. Stow snow globes in your checked bag, as evidently enough of us try so hard to bring these holiday gems to and from our destinations that the TSA has a rule about not having them in carry-ons. “They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test,” explains the TSA.

13. Feel free to bring pies and cakes through airport security this holiday season, though the TSA notes that the baked goods are “subject to additional screening if our officers see any anomalies.”

14. If you have kids, prepare them for the possibility that they may be patted down, assuring them that they will not be separated from you. Likewise, assure little ones that you will be okay if you’re pulled aside for additional screening.

15. Help yourself avoid a pat-down, Banas says, by not wearing “jewelry, belts, or anything with metal, adding that “some belts, even non-metallic [ones], can interfere with the body scanner imaging, so it’s best to keep them off so you won’t get slowed down.”

16. Remove any body piercings before heading through security, because if the metal sets off the detector the TSA reserves the right to have you remove the piercings privately as an alternative to a pat-down. Also keep in mind that bras with under wires and hair barrettes with metal pieces may set off the metal detector, so consider amending your travel outfit accordingly.

17. If you’re picked for a pat-down or body scan, don’t leave your valuables on the x-ray belt, says Sally Treadwell, communications director at “The agent should allow you to either retrieve your belongings or retrieve them for you. On a recent trip to the UK I was very unnerved to find someone huddling over my laptop bin. Nothing was taken, but I sure was glad my pat-down hadn’t lasted any longer.”

18. Thwart carry-on thieves on board the plane by shoving your luggage “in the compartment over the person’s head across from you,” Siciliano says. “This way you can watch it. Otherwise if it is over your head someone can act as if they are getting something out of their luggage when it is yours.”

19. Download white noise or sleep-stream apps onto your iPhone, suggests frequent traveler Lori MacGregor. “I like the white noise setting but plenty of iPhone apps have ocean waves, rustling leaves, etc. that basically just calm the mind and drown out screaming children.”

20. Pamper yourself in flight by placing a small pillow or its equivalent behind your lower back for support, suggests holistic family doctor Tom Potisk, as “aiding the natural curvature of the lower spine in this way will prevent the back pain. To avoid swollen ankles, make sure you stand up and walk every few hours, or at least rotate your feet while sitting, as if drawing a circle with your big toe.”

21. Don’t succumb to “wrap rage” when opening gifts, says Chris Noble, general manager of “It’s easy to laugh at this, but there are a significant amount of injuries related to opening gifts, especially with those notoriously difficult ‘oyster shell’ plastic seal enclosures,” he says. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission made an estimate that 6,500 Americans visited emergency rooms in 2004 with “wrap-rage” related incidents — some requiring serious treatment.”

22. If you’re not going home for the holidays, seek out deals, says Lonely Planet U.S. travel editor Robert Reid, because while “hotels and airfares tend to go up from Dec 23 or 24 through” New Year’s, he says he’s “finding some traditional tourist destinations, like Vegas and Orlando, actually have some reduced fares that week, costing a bit less than they do in mid-December.”

23. Save money on a holiday getaway by considering the type of trip you want rather than thinking about a specific destination or property, says Andrea Mooney, site editor for “Be open to a cruise to anywhere in the Caribbean rather than just to Aruba. Or decide on a ski trip and look at Wyoming, Utah, and Oregon rather than a specific resort in Colorado.”

24. Ski the week before Christmas and save, suggests Stephen Daimler of vacation rental marketplace, who says that upon analyzing rentals in more than 10 resorts out west he found that if you ski the week before December 25 versus anytime through January 1, “there is 50% more availability and the average price of a vacation rental is 25% less.” The average rental price the week after Xmas is $647, he notes. The week before? $493.

25. Adjust your attitude for holiday travel and “keep things in perspective,” says psychologist and author Elizabeth R. Lombardo. “If you have to wait an extra couple hours at the airport because of some unforeseen event, such as bad weather, remind yourself that you are safe and on the ground,” and whether you’re stranded at the airport or in holiday traffic it might help to “ask yourself ‘what is good about my life right here and now?’ Consider the fact that you are going to visit people you love [and] you have the means to travel,” she says, adding that you should “force yourself to come up with at least five positives” in your life.