Keeping Your Home & Family Safe During Severe Weather

Pennsylvania has become wetter than it used to be. Due to changing weather patterns, the average precipitation has increased between 10% to 20% during the last century, and it’s expected to increase by another 8% by 2050.

It has gotten warmer too. The state warmed up more than 1° F over the past 100 years. Even though that sounds minimal, that 1° helped contribute to an increase in severe storms. Pennsylvania’s rainstorms are more extreme than they were decades ago. A report from the nonprofit science communication group Climate Central says climate change is causing the heaviest storms in Pennsylvania and other northeastern states to drop 60% more rain than they did six decades ago.

So, with all that in mind, what can we do to protect our home and keep our family safe during the next downpour? Here are some important steps you can take:

Let’s start with your roof

  • Stop leaks and look for ways to seal your home.
  • Consider having your roof inspected.
  • Caulk windows and doors and ensure that they have weather stripping installed.
  • Ensure chimneys are hooded properly and are inspected for cracks.
  • Clean gutters and rid them of leaves and other types of debris that can cause water to overflow.

Look around your home for potential hazards or problems

  • Cut or trim low-hanging tree limbs that pose the danger of falling during rain and wind storms.
  • Inspect your property to spot areas that can lead to a drainage problem.
  • Secure outside furniture, garbage cans and any other property that can move during strong winds.
  • Should a power line go down because of rain or heavy wind, do not touch it and keep members of your household as far away from it as possible. Remember, a down live wire can electrify the soaking wet ground around it. Once you are in a safe location, dial 911 and then call PP&L at 1-800-342-5775 and say “downed power line.”

Be prepared should there be an emergency like a flood

  • Stock an emergency kit with non-perishable food, water, flashlights, batteries and important medicine.
  • Practice an evacuation plan and immediately evacuate if told to do so.
  • Prepare for power outages by charging cell phones and laptops. Should an outage occur, use flashlights instead of candles.
  • Consider buying sandbags to create a barrier to guard your home to prepare for a flood or storm.

At Enders, we’re part of the community and we are here for you. That’s what we do. Contact us today and let us know what your insurance needs are, and we’ll give you a call!   

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Helpful Information About The Air Quality Index

Hundreds of wildfires are burning right now in Canada, and the wind has blown the smoke over cities like Ottawa to New York City, and even to central Pennsylvania.

Wildfire smoke contains fine particulates, also known as PM2.5, by scientists. These particles, which are lightweight and tiny, travel far and wide and can go deep into your lungs and bloodstream, causing inflammation, heart attacks, strokes, asthma and other breathing issues.

A study done back in 2021 by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that wildfire smoke is up to 10 times more harmful to humans than other types of pollution, like car exhaust, because of the abundance of PM2.5 particles.

If you can see the haze outside your window, the sky looks an unusual color or the air smells like campfire, it’s best to stay indoors if possible.

Here are some more tips on how to protect yourself from wildfire smoke:

How to interpret the air quality index (AQI)

According to AirNow, the higher the AQI value in your area, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concerns.

AQI of 100 or below

An AQI of 50 or below represents good air quality and won’t pose risks. Air quality is still acceptable if the AQI is 51-100, but there may be a risk to people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution, such as those with respiratory illnesses.

AQI between 101 to 150

If the AQI is 100 to 150, people with respiratory or other medical issues should start taking precautions like avoiding the outdoors altogether or wearing a mask when outside.

AQI between 151 to 200

If the AQI is 151 to 200, most people will start noticing some minor effects like a scratchy throat, runny nose and maybe some nausea. If you’re in a sensitive group – for example, if you’ve been diagnosed with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – then you’ll want to look out for signs of more severe health problems, like chest tightness, an inability to catch your breath, and sudden dizziness or confusion.

AQI between 201 to 300

If the AQI is over 200 in your area – this should show as a purple color on a map – then health risks are increased for everyone, whether you have underlying issues or not. You might notice minor symptoms, such as coughing, but everyone should be alert to symptoms that might indicate a more serious problem, such as a tightening or weighted feeling in the chest or labored breathing.

AQI of 301 or above

If the AQI is 301, everyone will likely experience some form of smoke-related health issue. If you can, move all activities indoors or reschedule them for another day.

If you can, stay inside

If the AQI in your area is above 150, avoid going outside if you can. Avoid things like exercising outside or running errands that can wait until the air quality has improved. If you need to be outside, use a well-fitting N-95 mask if you have one. Because of those small pm2.5 particles, something like a bandana won’t protect your lungs from the smoke.

Minimize your exposure indoors

Close all doors and windows to the outside. If your windows have cracks, use a damp towel to cover them to limit the air from outside.

If you have central air conditioning, run it because it should have an air filter that can help.

If you have an air purifier or air filter, those are best for improving your indoor air quality. You can also make a DIY box fan air filter for wildfire smoke.

If you’re in the car on a smoky day, press that recirculate button. That way, your car won’t be pulling air from outside but just recirculating the air that’s already in the car.

Self-care for smoke-filled days

Try and use a hydrating moisturizer to keep those smoke particles out of your pores. This will also help if your skin feels dry from the smoky air.

If the smell of the fires is getting to you, try dabbing a bit of essential oil under your nose or use a strong-scented chapstick to mask the smell.

Stay hydrated! Fires usually happen where the air is dry and windy. And the weather patterns that carry the smoke can bring those conditions as well.

And try to stay calm. Smoke days are stressful and are an upsetting reminder of our overheating planet. Anxiety will worsen the health effects of smoke exposure, so it might be helpful to remember that other communities have come through similar or worse smoke situations, and the air will eventually clear.

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Covered for Outdoor Dining?

When is outdoor dining not really outdoors?

Restaurants seeking new ways to stay operational during the pandemic are constructing temporary structures to extend the outdoor dining season. Yurts, plastic pods, greenhouses, shanties and tents are popping up as restaurants work to serve customers while limiting exposure to COVID-19.

Use of these structures without proper safety precautions and adequate protections for customers and employees could lead to unforeseen legal and safety consequences.

Before setting up temporary accommodations at your establishment, consult with local authorities, your attorney and your insurance agent. Here are some common considerations:

GENERAL LIABILITY
  • Ensure the structure complies with all local building codes and zoning ordinances.
  • If hiring a contractor to build the structure, treat it as if building a brick-and-mortar addition to the property.
  • Insist on a contract that calls for the contractor to have insurance and language requiring the contractor to defend, indemnify and hold the business harmless should anything go wrong during the construction and erection of the structure.
  • Obtain proof of professional errors and omissions liability insurance from any firm involved in the design of the structure.
  • Ensure that the contractor who builds the structure can provide proof of completed operations insurance coverage to protect your business should the structure fail sometime after it is completed. Push for this completed ops coverage to last at least two years.
  • Pay attention to the walking surface near structures placed in parking lots, on sidewalks or even in streets (with approval of local authorities.) Are there potholes, cracks or areas of heaved pavement that could cause employees and customers to trip?
  • Notice the proximity of these outdoor structures to active traffic. What is the speed limit on the adjacent roadway? Is there adequate separation between traffic and the temporary structure to keep everyone in them safe? Will local authorities reduce the speed temporarily? Can the street be closed, or can you at least place cones or other warning devices to alert drivers to the presence of people so close to the street?
  • Securely tape any electrical cords running through the structures or cover them with heavy-weight floor mats to prevent anyone from tripping and potentially tipping over heaters or light poles.
PROPERTY

One of the greatest property related concerns with temporary structures is the flammability of the tent fabric. Temporary structures should be constructed using only approved fabrics that comply with National Fire Protection Association standards. This will ensure proper flame resistance ratings. Local authorities likely will require a certificate showing that the tent materials meet NFPA-701 code.

Prior to setting up the temporary structure, consult local authorities for specific guidance on proper setup and placement of the structure. Items to consider:

  • Whether buying and erecting a prefabricated structure or having the structure built to design specifications, ensure the structure is designed to withstand anticipated weather conditions. Know the maximum wind speed and snow load the structure can withstand.
  • Placement of the structure should not obstruct egress from any buildings, fire department vehicle access or access to firefighting equipment such as hydrants, fire department connections and building sprinkler valves.
  • Tent structures should allow at least 10 feet between stake lines for emergency egress.
  • The immediate 10 feet around the structure perimeter should be free of combustibles and combustible storage.
  • Limit fire hazards such as combustible storage or debris, smoking and heating equipment. Post NO SMOKING signs. Portable fire extinguishers required in the tent structure should be clear and accessible.
  • Use only listed appliances, such as cooking and heating equipment.
    • Locate containers for LP gas heaters at least 60 inches from the tent structure and comply with NFPA-58 Liquified Petroleum Gas Code.
    • Connect electrical heaters to an electrical source suitable for outdoor use and adequately sized to handle the electrical load.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

One of the greatest workers’ compensation risks is the safe transportation of food to the outside eating area. When possible, consider the following guidelines for employee safety:

  • Use carts to transfer items from restaurant to the outside area.
  • Limit the need for employees to cross vehicular traffic patterns.
  • Position the exterior eating area adjacent to the restaurant.
  • Ensure employees receive rest when needed and understand to drink water on a regular basis.
  • Provide some services in the tent such as warmers to store food items and drink preparation stations. If warmers or temporary food stations are used, are items filled in the kitchen and transferred in the warming unit? If so, is the path for travel of service equipment in good condition?
  • Adjust to bad weather conditions. If possible, create shelter for servers leaving the restaurant and delivering food to the outside eating area.
  • If heat inside the structure is being used, ensure proper ventilation for products of combustion.
  • If the structure is covered, be sure openings are clear of debris and large enough for servers to enter easily. Additionally, ensure there are open traffic patterns between individual tent systems.
MORE INFORMATION

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Considerations for Restaurant and Bar Operators

California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Restaurants

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Alert for Restaurants

National Fire Protection Association Building and Life Safety Issues for Tents

This loss control information is advisory only. The authors assume no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service. Neither The Cincinnati Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer legal advice. Consult with your attorney about your specific situation.


Post drafted by the Cincinnati Insurance Companies Loss Control department. This team provides risk management and loss control services to our independent agency partners and their commercial clients. Knowledgeable, experienced representatives are dedicated to mitigating exposures through assessment, consultation and implementation of effective control measures for all lines of business.

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Is your liability coverage short circuiting?

Is your liability coverage short circuiting?

Contractors Need Errors & Omissions Insurance

You’ve built your business through professional service and thorough work. Electrical contractors offer a wide range of services: low voltage or high voltage, inside wiring or traffic signalization, industrial or institutional. But occasionally things go wrong. Working with Enders to review your business insurance program can help you to move forward during the most challenging claims. 

If you are relying solely on the General Liability of your Commercial Package or Businessowners Policy to respond in the event of a loss, you’re rolling the dice. This might not be enough given the complexity of your work. While General Liability will typically respond for damage that you cause to person, or property, it is not broad enough to protect against Errors & Omissions. 

Fortunately, Contractors Errors & Omissions Coverage can be incorporated into your insurance program to protect you after you complete a job and you are held responsible for faulty: installation, workmanship, materials and design. Beyond payment of claims, Contractors Errors & Omissions Coverage could include legal fees to defend you in addition to your policy limit.  

Even with a  spotless claims history, mistakes can happen. One uncovered loss could change the entire trajectory of your business. 

Imagine that you design and install an electrical system with wiring under the concrete ground floor for a new store. After the store opens, the owner asks you to correct wiring that can’t handle the power load. General Liability will not respond. Consider the installation of a circuit breaker that was recalled, but used in a job because it was already on your truck. If the load is too great and the breaker fails and causes a catastrophic fire, your General Liability will not respond.  

Simply put, your Contractors Errors & Omissions carrier will pay sums that you become legally obligated to pay as damages because of a covered claim. The damages must have resulted from: 

  • A negligent act, error or omission while acting in the business capacity described in the declarations of the policy  
  • A defect in material or in a product sold or installed by the insured while acting in that capacity 
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Impact of Early Move Re-opening on Insurance

Enders Joins Peers

Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Insurance Department recently made several public statements regarding provisions in many types of insurance policies that could exclude coverage for businesses or individuals “engaging in illegal acts or conduct”.  We believe that most policyholders recognize that insurance, in general, does not provide coverage for illegal or criminal acts, regardless of the current COVID-19 pandemic or measures that have been put in place in response.

While our elected officials debate the politics and impact on their constituents, our team remains steadfastly committed to educating our clients. We concur with our peers at Gunn Mowery, Horst Insurance, McConkey, Murray and Susquehanna Insurance that an early move from the Red Phase to Yellow Phase is a legal matter, with unintended consequences to individual insurance policies.

With patience and thoughtful discourse we can all survive and find new ways to thrive.

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