We Didn`t Start the Fire, but We Can Help Keep the Fire Safe: Fire Pit Safety

pexels-photo-25344Be Careful When You Play With Fire, Even in the Backyard

It’s a great feeling to hang out with friends and family around a blazing fire in your backyard in Western Pennsylvania — unless, of course, that fire blazes a little too much.

While a fire pit can be a wonderful addition to your home, all fires are potentially dangerous. So before you sit down with some marshmallows to roast, we here at Duncan Financial Group have gathered up some tips to help you keep that fire in the pit (and away from everything else).

Are you legal?
• Before building or buying a fire pit, check the regulations in your area to learn about restrictions.
• Your fire pit may be legal, but a fire might not always be. Monitor and follow community burn bans.
• Be respectful. Nothing can extinguish the good vibes of a nice fire more quickly than police complaints from smoked-out neighbors.

What kind of pit do you want?
• You can buy a fire pit or build one. If you choose the latter, there are plenty of resources online to help you design it. Don’t dig a hole just anywhere and throw some rocks down. Put some thought into it and you’ll have a better — and safer — spot to enjoy.
• If you want convenience, a propane model might be right for you. They produce less smoke and have an adjustable flame.

Ready to build your fire?
Actually, you probably aren’t ready yet.
• First, ensure the area under and around the fire pit is clear of flammable materials. Keep the pit itself at least 10 feet from any structures.
• Before you start the fire, have a fire extinguisher or a garden hose handy.

Okay, now are you ready to build your fire?
• Choose hard, seasoned woods. Sparks from softer woods like cedar can increase the danger of igniting something nearby.
• Don’t use liquid fuels, even lighter fluid, to get your fire going. And don’t burn paper, cardboard, leaves, garbage, etc.
• If you have a metal fire pit, don’t overload it and always use the included safety screen.

Is the fire out?
• When you’re done, spread out the ashes and let them cool off for a bit. Then gently pour water or sand over them. Stick around for a little while to watch for flare-ups.

We want you to have plenty of nice, warm nights — without getting burned. Here’s to making memories around the fire!

This article provided courtesy of Safeco Insurance.

Star, Stripes, and Safety Forever: 10 Ways to Keep You and Your Family Safe This Independence Day

Fourth of July Fireworks

In Western Pennsylvania, summer truly begins when the Fourth of July arrives. It’s a holiday full of fireworks and food, barbecues and boating, family and friends. It can also be full of danger and we’re not only talking about the fireworks.

Whether you’re lighting your own fireworks at home, going to a community show or heading somewhere else, here are 10 ways to help ensure a happy and healthy holiday:

  1. Stay protected and hydrated. If you’re going to be outdoors during the day, use plenty of sunblock (and bring extra). You’ll also want to drink water throughout the day, particularly if you’re drinking alcohol (in which case don’t drive). It’s easy to get dehydrated in the heat.
  2. Watch what you eat. We’re not talking about counting calories. We’re talking about making sure your food is fully cooked. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meats (steaks, roasts or chops) need to be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground meats to 160 and poultry to 165.
  3. Watch what you serve. If you’re heading to a party and bringing food, put it in an insulated cooler with ice or ice packs so it doesn’t grow harmful bacteria between the time you leave your house and the time people dig in. Pull it from the fridge right before you leave for the party.
  4. Don’t drink and drive. We shouldn’t need to tell you this, of course, but the period around the Fourth of July holiday is a deadly one for drunk-driving fatalities.
  5. Don’t drink and boat. Alcohol is a factor in about one-third of recreational boating deaths, says the Coast Guard, so boating under the influence is never a good idea.
  6. Make sure everyone’s got a life jacket. If you’re going to be near or on the water, life jackets are a must. On a boat, there should be enough life preservers for everyone, and remember that kids need an appropriately sized jacket.
  7. Lighting fireworks? Be prepared. Keep a hose or bucket of water close by, and make sure you’re not aiming at people, animals, homes, plants or cars.
  8. Supervise the kids. Youngsters shouldn’t be lighting fireworks at all, and older kids need to be watched closely. Even sparklers get much hotter than you think.
  9. Keep your distance, too. Thousands of people show up in the emergency room this time of the year with firework injuries. Don’t be one of them!
  10. No matter what you’re doing, keep safety in mind at all times.


Those of us at Duncan Financial Group wish you and yours a happy and safe Fourth!

 

Security Tips for Small Businesses: 5 Tips for a More Secure Workplace

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5 Tips for a More Secure Workplace

Protecting your business in Western Pennsylvania used to mean locking the doors at the end of the day. That’s still important, of course, but now a security breach can extend beyond your physical assets to include software, systems and sensitive data. And, if customer information is compromised, you may lose the most important asset you have — their trust.

How can you protect your business? Here are five tips from the U.S. Small Business Administration and others to help you stay secure, both physically and digitally.

1. Manage and assess your risk. What valuables do you need to protect? What about data? What losses would impact you most? The answers to these questions can help you form a plan.

2. Control physical access to your workplace. Establish procedures for distributing keys and how you keep track of them. Secure valuable information or equipment in a locked area with access only to those who use it. Customers should be able to access your office only in one monitored entrance.

3. Don’t forget about controlling digital access. You wouldn’t give every employee a key to your safe, so take similar precautions when it comes to access to computers, networks and sensitive data.

4. Be proactive. Set up automatic software updates for your most important systems. Require your employees to change passwords at regular intervals for additional security. If you provide a wireless network, make sure it is secured, and preferably encrypted.

5. Consider other measures. It’s easier than ever to install cameras and monitoring systems that allow you to check on your facility at any time. Of course, there also are companies that will monitor your office and alert you to any issues. Cybersecurity insurance is relatively new and can provide some protection if your systems are compromised, but find out exactly what is included in the policy. Remember, even if you purchase coverage, you’ll still need to keep your data as secure as possible.

We here at Duncan Financial Group hope you find these tips helpful, but keep in mind that we’ve only scratched the surface! We encourage you to dig deeper and thoroughly investigate potential solutions to help ensure your office and data have the right level of security for your particular needs.

Why a Home Inventory Is Important?

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Let’s try a little exercise: Can you list everything you own from memory?
Didn’t think so.

The fact is most people own more things than they realize. It’s easy to remember the cars, the computer, the TV. But what about that holiday china in the garage?  Or every pair of shoes?

All of it is regarded as personal property for insurance purposes. And if your home is destroyed by fire or some other disaster, having a list of your possessions makes filing a claim easier — and helps you put your life back together.

Why should I complete a home inventory? What’s the best way?
Comparing the value of your belongings to the “contents” limit listed in your policy helps you make sure you have enough insurance to replace them if they are lost, stolen or destroyed as a result of a covered loss. The easiest way to take an inventory is to use a video camera, recording and describing items as you walk through your house. Or, you can use a regular camera and create a home inventory checklist.

Here are a few tips for completing and storing your inventory:
Add brand names and descriptions where you can, especially on large-ticket items. Serial numbers are helpful to note.
Keep any receipts you have with the list to make the claims process easier.
Store your video or photo inventory offsite so you won’t lose it if your house is damaged.
Update your personal property records when you purchase new furnishings and valuables.
Though the task may seem daunting, it’s important to try. An incomplete inventory is better than nothing at all.

How much insurance do I need?
We can assist you in analyzing your insurance needs and help you decide how to most effectively protect your personal property. You should consider full-value coverage, which will pay for the replacement value of your personal belongings. A standard policy typically covers personal property only up to its actual cash value, determined by taking the replacement cost and deducting depreciation, which can be substantial. (For example, a 5-year-old TV is usually worth much less than what it would cost to purchase a new one.)

Finally, remember your homeowners policy covers valuable items such as jewelry, furs, art and antiques, only up to set dollar amounts. If the cost of replacing them exceeds these limits, you may want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute has a FREE online tool that can help you create your inventory. Just visit www.knowyourstuff.org  for more details.

We hope you’ll never need the home inventory, but preparing for the worst can prevent a lot of hassle later!

What you should know about flood insurance

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 You’ve probably heard this horror story before — someone loses a home due to a flood and learns after the fact that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage.

At Duncan Financial Group, we want you to be educated about all of the risks you may face – before a loss occurs – so you can determine what insurance coverage is appropriate. Spring is a prime season for flooding, so now is a good time to review your options.

Because very few companies offer flood insurance, the U.S. government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968. Available to homeowners, renters and business owners, this insurance often is required to obtain a mortgage in areas at high risk of flooding.

But you might want to look into a policy just for peace of mind, even if you don’t live in a flood-prone zone. According to the NFIP, nearly 25% of the program’s claims occur in moderate- to low-risk areas. Check out the questions and answers below to help determine if flood insurance is right for you.

Is flood insurance available in my area?

To participate in the NFIP, a community must adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance with rules regarding construction in certain flood-prone areas. In exchange, the government makes flood insurance available within that community. We’re happy to help you find out if you’re eligible for flood insurance. Just give us a call at 724-863-3420. You can also visit  http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

What does it cover?

The NFIP provides coverage for both the structure and its contents. Coverage for contents is optional in some cases, so you may want to give us a call to discuss other coverage for your personal property.

Keep in mind that you typically can’t purchase flood insurance and have it take effect the next day. There is usually a 30-day waiting period. (Exceptions to this rule apply, however, particularly when the insurance is required by a lender and is purchased during the process of securing a mortgage.) If you think you need flood insurance, don’t wait to buy a policy!

What doesn’t it cover?

Generally, government-issued flood insurance will not cover the following: Buildings entirely over water or principally below ground, gas and liquid storage tanks, animals, aircraft, wharves, piers, bulkheads, growing crops, shrubbery, land, roads, machinery or equipment in the open and most motor vehicles.

How much does it cost?

As with all insurance policies, the cost of flood insurance varies depending on your situation. If your home or business is in a high-risk area, such as a “special flood hazard area,” your premium naturally will be higher than those in low- or moderate-risk zones. Premiums are based on how old the building is, how many floors it has, the location of its contents, your deductible and more. Renters insurance is typically less expensive, as renters generally insure their belongings and not the building.

Where can I find more information?

As always, we are happy to help you determine your insurance needs. Stop by our office at 311 Main Street, Irwin, PA,  or give us a call at724-863-3420. The NFIP website, at http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program, has plenty of answers as well.

Before the wind blows, secure your trees and shrubs

The seasons are changing, and the colors of autumn abound.

Regrettably, fall’s stunning display is often accompanied by some unwelcome weather hazards in Pennsylvania – namely, wind – that can cause considerable damage to the very trees that produce those beautiful treefall leaves.

At Duncan Financial Group, we want your yard and home to stay great throughout the season.  Take a look at the following tips to ensure you keep your trees and shrubs healthy and avoid destruction that can result when the wind blows.

To protect existing trees

  • Bundle ‘em up. Go to a home and garden store and buy enough landscape fabric and plant ties to cover trees and shrubs vulnerable to the changing weather. Wrap them up for the winter and then unwrap them after spring has sprung.
  • Exercise pruning prowess. Proper pruning is essential to ensure trees can withstand winds, so make sure you use correct pruning techniques or hire a professional.
  • Trees and more trees. If you have trees that are especially susceptible to wind, consider planting more trees. Experts say to choose trees, like conifers and evergreens, to create a windbreak. As an added bonus, a windbreak placed in correct proximity to a home can reduce energy costs by up to 30 percent. Keep in mind: conifers should be planted at least 20 feet away from a structure, evergreens at least 30 feet away.

When planting new trees

  • Know which way the wind blows. Pay attention to the wind patterns in your part of {State} through the fall and winter seasons and how they affect your particular lot.  Plant trees in areas where structures, such as your home, garage or shed, can serve to shelter them from the wind.
  • Give them some space. Plant trees far enough away from structures and foundations. A smaller tree should have at least a 10-square-foot space to itself, and a larger tree needs at least 30 square feet.

At Duncan Financial Group, we hope these tips will ensure that you and your yard hang tough all season long… even when the wind starts howling.

Happy 4th of July!

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Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day is a wonderful time to reflect on the brave men and women who have served our country, and those who continue to serve and protect us and our freedom.
While you are enjoying the many fun activities this holiday brings, please keep safety in mind while you are grilling, swimming and setting off fireworks. The American Red Cross provides a helpful list of safety tips for you and your family to enjoy a safe and happy holiday.
Duncan Financial Group would like to wish all of our clients, friends and their families a safe and happy Fourth of July! In observance of the holiday, our office will be closed on Friday, July 3. We will reopen at 8:30 am on Monday, July 6.

 

Flood Insurance: Are you Prepared?

house_flood2The weekend storms in Western PA have caused headaches for many homeowners.  People are trying to dry out their basements from the flooding that has occurred in many areas. This can be a huge undertaking for most people, especially those who have not purchased a separate flood policy. Remember, flooding is NOT covered under a homeowner policy.

For additional information, you can read about “what nobody ever told you about flood insurance” at https://www.trustedchoice.com/catastrophe-insurance/flood-coverage. Also, feel free to call one of our insurance professionals with questions about your existing policy or to purchase a new policy.

We’ll help keep you grounded when “the waters rise.”

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month

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May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month — the perfect time to encourage motorcyclists to practice safe riding and to remind motorists to share the road with motorcycle riders.

Resources to keep you safe!

  • Spring is here and that means it’s time to prepare your motorcycle. However, getting your bike ready for the road in spring is much more than a quick kick of the tires. Here’s a good to-do list: http://j.mp/1hUHse0
  • Stay safe while riding your motorcycle. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a good source for finding courses near you: http://j.mp/1mHqOio
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that proper use of motorcycle helmets reduces brain injury risk by 67%. Here’s what to look for in a helmet: http://j.mp/1bbCMQJ

Need Motorcycle Insurance? We Got You Covered!

Whether you ride a cruiser, trike, touring bike, custom, chopper or sports bike, we can customize an insurance program to meet your specific needs. We want to make sure that you have the very best coverage available. Duncan Financial Group represents 6 insurance companies that write motorcycle coverage, offering highly competitive rates and discount incentives to help you save even more!
We will help you choose the coverage that is right for you and your bike… at a reasonable price.

Call us today to learn more! 724-863-3420

Downtown Irwin Car Cruise – Saturday, April 25

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The 24th Annual Irwin Car Cruise, one of the best car cruises in the county, takes place on Saturday, April 25th from Noon – 5 PM. Last year, nearly 400 classic and antique cars, trucks, and street rods lined the streets of Downtown as event-goers marveled at the dynamic display! The young and young-at-heart will enjoy a day filled with live music, food vendors, prizes and Syria Shrine clowns and more!

For event photos and additional details, visit http://www.irwinevents.com/Annual-Irwin-Car-Cruise.html

And, if you are looking for classic car coverage, the Insurance Professionals at Duncan Financial Group are here to help! We represent a variety of Collector Car Companies with a broad range of coverage options designed specifically to protect you and what you have invested in your car. We will work with you to tailor an insurance package to meet your specific needs.

Call us today at 724-863-3420 or visit http://duncangrp.com/classic-auto-insurance/.