Summer is near and with that comes the increased use of swimming pools. Before you jump in, make sure the pool you’re using is safe and that there are rules in place. The National Safety Council reports that 600 children and adults drown annually in swimming pools; of those, half in home pools. In addition, more than 2,000 children in that age group are treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion injuries.

Make a slash in swimming pool safety by following these 11 tips to protect your loved ones:

  1. An adult who is a strong swimmer should watch children at all times
    • Infant and toddler — adult in the water holding the child
    • Older child — adult in the water paying constant attention and avoiding distractions like talking on the phone, texting, socializing or drinking
    • Never allow a child to swim alone, regardless of their swimming ability
  2. Install a fence that completely surrounds the pool area to prevent children from entering on their own; fences should be climb-resistant, at least four feet high and be self-closing/self-latching
  3. Install an alarm on the door of your house leading to the pool and the pool gate itself to alert adults if someone is entering the pool
  4. Become CPR certified (check your local hospital for courses) and post instructions near the pool
  5. Always keep a stocked first-aid kit nearby
  6. Expose your children to water safety and swim lessons at a very young age (check your local recreation department, YMCA or Red Cross for class information)
  7. Never keep strollers or bikes near a pool
  8. Enforce pool rules for children and adults to follow
    • “No running on the pool deck”
    • “Stay away from drain covers”
    • “No diving in the shallow end”
    • “Always enter the pool feet first”
  9. Inexperienced swimmers should always wear a life jacket in the water
  10. For additional protection, install a power safety cover over the pool when not in use.
  11. Never use a pool that has missing or broken pool drain covers; if someone does become stuck to a drain, pry a hand between the person’s body and the drain to break the seal instead of trying to pull their body away from the powerful suction




Tips to Save on Home Heating Costs This Winter

It’s no secret winters in the northern Wisconsin are frigid. Keep the chill outside by following these helpful tips to reduce your energy bills without sacrificing comfort. 

Make your home more energy efficient

According to the Department of Energy, making your home more energy efficient can save 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill. Just think of what you could do with that savings!

  • Conduct a home energy audit — hire a professional or use the Department of Energy’s do-it-yourself energy assessment to help identify problem areas http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits
  • Make sure your attic and ceilings are sufficiently insulated as heat rises and if it’s not stopped by insulation, it will escape through your roof
  • Furniture should not block floor vents or radiators
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat (ideal for those away from the home for set periods throughout the week); according to energystar.gov/, proper usage can save around $180 every year in energy costs (again, more money in your pocket!)
  • If you have a wood fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when it’s not in use
  • When purchasing new appliances, consider ones with energy star label; not only do they operate more efficiently but some may be eligible for federal tax credits (visit energystar.gov http://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits for more information)


Windows and Doors

Proper maintenance of windows and doors is key to improving energy efficiency in your home. According to popularmechanics.com, seven to 12 percent of a home’s heat loss occurs around windows and doors.

  • Add or replace weather-stripping around doors — the cost is inexpensive and typically easy to install or replace
  • Repair or replace broken or cracked window and door glass
  • Open curtains and blinds during the day so sunlight can warm the room and close them at night as they act as a second barrier against cold winter air
  • If replacing your windows or new construction, consider thermopane windows as they can increase the energy efficiency of your home up to 70 percent


Hot Water Savings

  • Insulate your hot water heater as this may help hot water stay hot longer without using extra energy
  • Install a low-flow showerhead; many homes built after 1992 have this so if you have an older home consider the update
  • Run the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full; turning on either machine when only half full wastes hot water.
  • Wash clothes in cold water
  • Clean the lint filter in your dryer so it functions efficiently


To learn more about home heating, check out this infographic [hyperlink: http://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating] courtesy of the Department of Energy.

Cyber-attacks on Small Business: The Risk is Real

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, shedding a light on an important matter many small business owners may not be aware of. Cybercriminals are targeting smaller businesses with 250 or less employees because many do not have the appropriate security measures in place to protect themselves against fraudulent activity.


A security breach can be detrimental to a small business; the average loss is $38,000.1 Because this loss is so significant, 60 percent of all small businesses will close within six months of a data breach.2


With these cyber-attacks happening at random and within minutes, can your business afford not to be prepared?


How are cyber-attacks happening?

Cybercriminals are sophisticated in their approach to steal a company’s information, identity or customer data. Their tactics span from filing a fraudulent business registration to deploying phishing and malware schemes to gain access to confidential information.


What can I do to help minimize my risk for an attack?

Here are some actions small business owners can take to help minimize their risk for an attack.


  • Install firewalls, anti-virus, anti-malware/spyware on all computers – refrain from using mobile devices when not connected to a secure network
  • Monitor financial accounts daily – all banks have online account access with the option to receive call/text alerts on account activity. If possible, go paperless with statements
  • Use strong/unique passwords – passwords should be at least eight characters long, include capital letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t repeat passwords or reuse them for personal accounts
  • Review banking agreements – understand how much time your bank allows you to report fraudulent activity
  • Watch for phishing schemes – the IRS, government agencies, credit card companies and financial institutions will never ask you to verify information through an email. If you receive an email asking for this information, do not respond, click on any links or open any attachments 


    Importance of cyber coverage

    No matter the size of a cyber-attack, consequences can be expensive. Plus, a business must respond quickly to help protect impacted individuals and the business’s reputation. This is where the importance of having Cyber Liability coverage comes into play. Cyber insurance is not spyware — it does, however, help clean up the large mess after a data breach. If attacked without the proper insurance coverage, business owners are responsible for loss of income, restoration of computer hardware and data, computer and funds transfer fraud, notification expenses, credit monitoring services, damages to individual persons or companies, PR consultation and regulatory fines, penalties and expenses, etc.


    Would your business survive if you had to cover these expenses? Costs for coverage can be less than you think and customized to fit your needs.


    Start by implementing these safety precautions today and contact our agency to review your cyber liability coverage options.



Why should you have Renter’s Insurance??

The Novak Agency gives you 3 Important Reasons to have Renters Insurance

Every dollar you take home is important and you do your best to spend them wisely. When purchasing a house, most people borrow from a bank and are required by the lender to buy insurance. However, when you rent, that check and balance isn’t in place to remind you of the risks of being uninsured. In fact, an Insurance Information Institute (III) poll completed in 2014 showed that only 37 percent who rent a house or apartment are insured.

Did you know that if you rent, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the costs for damage to the building and not your personal items? Renters insurance is well worth the investment.  Check out the three ways that renters insurance protects you – the renter.

Coverage for your personal possessions-It doesn’t seem likely that you could ever lose your “stuff”, but it can happen to even the most careful person because well, unexpected things happen. Then what? Well, renters insurance may reimburse you for loss of, or damage to your personal possessions from causes such as fire or lightning, windstorm or hail, explosion, vandalism or malicious mischief, theft, falling objects, weight of ice, snow or sleet, water damage resulting from utilities and electrical surge damage. Some policies even include a limited amount of off premises coverage for when you travel.

Liability protection -If you’re sued because you, your family member or your pet cause someone to suffer bodily injury or incur property damages, a renters insurance policy gives you protection. How? The policy pays for your defense attorney and any damages awarded – up to the limit of your policy. A standard policy typically provides at least $100,000 of liability coverage, with more available for additional premium. Your renters policy also provides compensation to someone who is actually injured while in your rental unit. Most policies allow between $1,000 and $5,000 in coverage.

Additional living expenses- Where would you stay if your property was damaged by fire or storm and you had to move out temporarily? A renters policy may provide you with additional living expenses (ALE) so you can live elsewhere if your rental is damaged or destroyed by a disaster. The ALE pays for meals, hotel bills and normal expenses (laundry, utilities, etc.) you incur while the property is repaired or rebuilt. Make sure you know how much coverage you have and what the limitations are. Some insurance companies provide coverage for a specific amount of time and others have a financial cap.

Protect your personal property and your savings by contacting us to discuss your options for renters insurance today. Ask about discounts you may be eligible for. The benefits far outweigh the cost and you’ll sleep better knowing you’re covered.

Daniel Racine

Novak Agency, Inc.


Novak Agency’s helpful hints

Aftermath of an Auto Accident:

Repair vs. Total Loss

Have you ever been faced with the question of whether your vehicle will be repairable after an auto accident? Understanding how this process works, both from the consumer side as well as the insurance carrier’s side will help you resolve the situation, hopefully creating less stress for you in the process.

In the immediate aftermath of an auto accident, what are the necessary steps to get you back on the road? The first step is obvious. Report the accident to your insurance carrier. After the initial fact-gathering stage is complete, your insurance company will usually send a company adjuster (appraiser) or an independent adjuster out to inspect the vehicle. Depending on the severity of the damage, you may be asked to simply submit an estimate or two for the necessary vehicle repairs. This decision will be made based on a number of factors:

  • How old is your vehicle?
  • How many miles are on your vehicle?
  • What is the pre-accident condition of your vehicle?
  • How severe is the damage?

These questions will help the adjuster determine whether your vehicle may be deemed a total loss. What is a total loss? It’s simply when the repairs to your vehicle will exceed the current value of the vehicle (actual cash value or ACV).

The decision not to repair your vehicle can be more complex and the consumer has a voice in this process as well. Each state has different laws governing how this process is handled. For the purposes of simplicity, I will use general guidelines used by insurance carriers. Keep in mind, your state laws may differ.

So, the claims adjuster will use the answers to the questions noted above to determine whether an inspection is needed. It is important the adjuster is made aware of any improvements to the vehicle which could increase the value – like a new transmission, leather seating, sunroof, etc. Many consumers see these as typical upgrades, but they can greatly affect the value of the vehicle. Be sure to note any trim package on your vehicle along with the correct engine size. Again, these are important factors in pinning down the actual cash value.

After the inspection is complete, the adjuster will review the estimate and photos of your vehicle, along with a report estimating the actual cash value of your vehicle, i.e.NADA, Kelley Blue Book. This information will determine whether your vehicle can be repaired. If unrepairable, the adjuster will call you to discuss the value of your vehicle along with the next steps in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask to review the estimate and appraisal completed on your vehicle.

Keep in mind, a vehicle repair or total loss is always subject to one’s collision/comprehensive deductible and any lienholder has first right of payment in the event of a total loss.

Resolving a physical damage claim on your vehicle can be stressful. Remember to be thorough and ask questions.

-Casey Flood with Society Insurance