Kelowna Valley insurance cybersecurity month

Cybersecurity Awareness Month – How to Protect Yourself

October is cybersecurity month. Ensure you are educated about the risks – and possibility! – of cybercrime to your business or organization.

Regardless the size of your business, cyber-attacks and data breaches are the new, frightening reality for businesses big and small. And with so many entrepreneurs and businesses moving their operations online, cybercrime becomes just that much more of a threat.

That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself so you aren’t caught unaware and potentially vulnerable.

If your business even publishes content that contains personal or business details online, it can be vulnerable to a varity of security exposures. Businesses need to ensure that significant care is taken when securing all electronic devices that contain employee, client, volunteer and/or member information and data.

Stolen laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and USB flash drives offer valuable access to your company’s network – hugely problematic, even dangerous, in the wrong hands! Viruses can also be a huge threat to your digital assets, data, network, and systems. Others include: online hackers, e-extortion, defamation and libel to your brand, and website hijacking where your legitimate information and materials are replaced with bogus data.

If yours is a business that engages in e-commerce or if you store electronic data or if you use computers for any reason for your business, you could find yourself at risk for some kind of data breach or cyberattack.

Cyber attacks – how do they happen?

Every day, malicious hackers devise new and ever more advanced techniques to attack businesses and organizations. When you own a business, there is no shortage of day-to-day stresses. Well, you can now add cybercrime to the list – and the numer of potential cyberattacks is a long one!

The most common attacks include:

  • Malware: Software, designed to be harmful, takes control of a machine, system, or network, monitors a user’s actions and relays any confidential data from the infected computer or network to the hacker.
  • Phishing: An attacker, under the guise of a trusted organization, individual, or business, tricks a user into taking a specific action – clicking a bad link or opening a harmful attachment – that they might not ordinarily take.
  • Ransomware: A software that encrypts documents or files to prevents access by the user and subsequently demands payment for their safe recovery. This happens occur after clicking a bad phishing link or visiting a website that’s compromised.
  • Denial of service attack: The hacker inundates a website with so much traffic that it’s impossible for legitimate visitors to access.
  • Spoofing: A cybercriminal impersonates another computer, device, or user or device to strike network hosts, steal data, spread malware, or divert access controls.
  • Brute force: The cybercriminal tries to decode encrypted data by attempting to use as many password combinations as possible, as rapidly as possible.

A month dedicated to awareness of cybersecurity is great, but here are several ways you can be proactive to ensure your business, from an electronic and data perspective, is more secure:

Utilize surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). Every computer and device on your network should be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS will provide you with time and battery life to save your valuable data in the event of an unexpected disruption in power. For those any non-networked equipment or electronics that are less-sensitive, standard surge protectors will be sufficient.

Be sure to limit the access to your user data and information. If you’ve adequately limited access to your valuable user data minimized the opportunity to fall victim to human error – perhaps surprisingly, the primary security threat when it comes to information.

It’s estimated that 80% of cyber incidents are, in fact, inside jobs. Disgruntled employees, with access to sensitive materials and data and, in their minds, motive are a huge problem to the cybersecurity of a business. When an employee leaves the company, or transfers to a different department, be proactive to protect your business or company division. Delete accounts and passwords from all systems. Don’t forget to collect keys and relevant ID badges.

Install and utilize firewalls for software and hardware, alike. Firewalls are vital to help prevent and protect your data. From the inappropriate online browsing of employees to malicious hackers, firewalls provide solid protection for your business systems. Be sure they’re installed and up-to-date on every business networked device, computer, and mobile phone for yourself and every employee. Don’t forget your workers off-site, even if your business and employees utilize a a virtual private network (VPN) or a cloud service provider (CSP). For extra protection and security you can consider installing an intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS).

Use email and web filters. You can use email and web browser filters to discourage hackers and prevent irritating spam from congesting your team’s inboxes. An additional option is to utilize “blacklist” services that will block users from browsing perilous websites that pose risks of malware.

Discourage your employees from visiting websites known for their risks to cybersecurity – pornography, for instance. Keep in mind, while this might be awkward to address with the team, it only takes one misstep online to the wrong website to download damaging malware, even inadvertently.

Regularly patch your software and operating systems. Whenever you install a new app, it can leave you vulnerable to security breaches. To prevent possible cyberattack, patch and update all of software regularly on every computer and device used for your business, including by employees.

Do not delay with updates to your operating system. They will often include enhanced, or even new, security features you’ll want to have. When you purchase a new computer system or install a new software product, be sure to check for most recent updates. Note: software products and companies don’t have to provide security updates for out-of-date products.

Secure all wireless networks and access points. To ensure the most secure wireless networking, follow the router best practices:

  • When you get a new device, change the admin password
  • Fix the wireless access point so that it doesn’t relay the service set identifier (SSID)
  • Set the router to use WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA-2), with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for encryption
  • Steer clear of using WEP (Wired-Equivalent Privacy)

If you offer guest access to WiFi, use a different network from your business activities.

Utilize encryption for all sensitive company and business information. Protect all business computers and electronic devices as well as all sensitive electronic information safe with full-disk encryption. When you save your encryption password, keep it in a secure location apart from backups you’ve got stored.

While email recipients will likely require the same encryption capability to decrypt, never ever send passwords or keys in the same email as an encrypted file or document – provide it by phone or some other way.

Adequately train your employees in cybersecurity measures. One of your best protections against cybersecurity threats is a cyber-vigilant team of employees.

Your employees must understand:

  • The distincion between personal and business emails and what is permitted
  • How sensitive business data and information should be handled both in the office and while working at home
  • Actions to take if a breach occurs

All new employees should be trained immediately regarding the protection of valuable and sensitive information and data. Institute an information policy and have them sign. To foster a culture of cybersecurity in your office, make use of newsletters and regular training to ensure your company stays up-to-date in cybersecurity measures.

Dispose of outdated media and old computers securely. Before you load up your old computers for donation or recycling, you must clear all hard drive information, important and otherwise – take nothing for granted when handing your business computers off.  Delete all sensitive data on old flash drives, CDs, and other old media and then destroy them.

Commercial insurance that includes cyber coverage

Cyber attacks and security breaches are increasingly common in Canada. Every day businesses are dealing with the dangers of  viruses, loss of data, damage to networks, and the theft of information. Unfortunately, most conventional commercial insurance policies have been devloped to protect the physical assets of a business, not virtual assets such as software, applications, and data.

Cyber liability insurance policies in Canada can cover business interruption – lost income in the event that you’re forced to stop operations due to a cybersecurity related event. However, chances are your standard commercial insurance policy may not cover risk of cyber attack or data breach, or it is likely rather limited.

You should talk to your insurer to explore the options for protecting your business specifically from cyber risk.

Questions about your commercial insurance and the risks online? Talk to us to ensure you’re properly protected.

Kelowna Valley Insurance protect your home and property from wildfire

Wildfire Season! Don’t Leave Your Home and Property Unprotected!

Wildfire season is underway in our region – with a vengeance! Don’t leave your home and property vulnerable.

Despite British Columbia wildfire season getting a bit of a late start this summer, the dry, hot conditions set it up to be as dangerous and challenging as years past. With communities, properties, and untold hectares of wilderness under threat, it may seem that there isn’t much you can do to protect yourself against the power of a wildfire.

We’ve seen the ravages of previous wildfires to communities like Fort McMurray a few years ago, and in BC, smashing records in the summers of 2017 and 2018. This year, we watch as flames engulf mountainsides above the lights of the city, gape as helicopters and planes loaded with water fly overhead hour after hour, and keep an eye on the British Columbia interactive wildfire map, for regular updates.

You may think there is little you can do to protect your home and property against such a force of nature, you’re not entirely powerless. First, let’s make clear, we always urge you to listen to the recommendations of your local authorities and follow their instructions to protect yourself and your family in the event of imminent threat of forest fire.

But, there are several ways you can protect your home and property against wildfires if you’re proactive.

Is yours a region under threat of forest and wildfires?

Identify, first, if you live in a region that is often subject to the threat of frequent wildfires. Sad fact: many British Columbia communities are!

A whopping 30 per cent of the world’s total forests and 10 per cent of what is known as forest cover are here in Canada. With so much of our landmass covered in forests, we are vulnerable to a higher incidence of wildfire, depending on the environmental conditions.

But, wildfires aren’t all bad. Rather, they are essential to forest renewal and the overall health of our valuable forests. Fire helps to release seeds and vital nutrients. It also clears the overhanging forest canopy to allow more sunlight to stimulate fresh growth.

However, issues of climate change – higher temperatures and less precipitation – and increased development, mean that we can experience forest fires with greater frequency and intensity. And the increased risk to communities, homes, and property.

Statistics gathered by Natural Resources Canada (NRC), identify that 2.5 million hectares per year have been destroyed by Canadian wildfires over the past 3 decades – a tremendous cost to land and property. That’s also significant resources devoted to fire suppression efforts. As much as $500 million to $1 billion a year.

When you live in an area at risk, as we do, it’s important to take as many preventative measures as possible when it comes to protecting your property.

Building materials as fire prevention

In a region of high risk, one of the best methods of loss prevention and mitigation in the event of a fire is to choose the building materials of your home or business thoughtfully, with protection in mind.

According to the experts at the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), and their report on wildfire events and the prevention of loss, “Firewise homes have a survivable landscape and use appropriate building materials. Investments of a few hundred dollars can significantly reduce the risk [of] wildfire damage.”

Fortunately, organizations and insurance companies work together to provide resources to builders and homeowners to build more effective fire-resistant homes. The ICLR supports the adoption of Wildland Urban Interface provisions in national building codes, for example, working with FireSmart Canada and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

FireSmart Canada advises that hot, burning debris can be tossed as far as two kilometres ahead of a wildfire, making it a threat to anything in the fire’s even distant path. Its radiant heat alone is able to break windows and melt vinyl siding. Anything in the fire’s path, of course, will ignite and be destroyed in direct flames.

If you’re able, leave what is referred to as a “non-combustible zone” of up to 1.5 metres around your home. Essentially, keep your home clear of any materials that could easily ignite. FireSmart suggests reducing if not removing entirely, shrubbery – like highly flammable junipers – and evergreens to within as much as 10 metres of any structures. Keep any trees within 10 to 30 meters of your home and other structures, pruned and thinned. Also, make a point of keeping nearby powerlines clear of branches and tree limbs.

If you’re building new or starting a renovation, consult with your builder about the most appropriate building materials to help mitigate or prevent damage from fire. When considering your exterior finishes, for instance, opt for fibre-cement siding instead of wood shakes or vinyl siding. When you choose a roofing material, metal sheeting or asphalt shingles will offer much greater protection than a wood shakes.

Fortunately, with innovations in building materials, you don’t have to compromise style and aesthetics in favour of safety. It’s easy to find high-quality building materials in a variety of beautiful finishes. Take a look at materials such as concrete and steel and marvel at the possibilities – a realistic and attractive wood grain appearance, as only one example.

Your handy guide for a more fire-resistant home or business

There is a variety of measure you can take to make your home more resistant to wildfires:

  • Siding: As mentioned, wood and vinyl aren’t great choices when it comes to protecting your property from fire. Instead, look to fire-resistant materials such as stucco, brick, metal, concrete, or fibre-cement siding. Logs and timbers are also effective.
  • Roof: Again, look to metal and asphalt. Composite rubber and clay tiles offer better fire-resistance, too. Wood shakes, no matter how attractive, are highly combustible and also leave dangerous cracks – a potential point of entry for burning embers and debris.
  • Chimney: Your fireplace or woodstove can be a source of fire – actually tossing sparks and embers out on to your roof or into the surrounding brush and other material. Add a spark arrestor to your chimney.
  • Windows: Install tempered, dual- or multi-paned windows to replace any single-pane you might have in your home. The heat alone from a wildfire can break single-panes. Install metal screens to help reduce any radiant exposure as you help to protect against the entry of any burning debris or embers.
  • Doors: Be sure that all of your doors, for your home, garage, and any outbuildings have proper seals and are fire-rated.
  • Balconies and decks: Replace wood decking with attractive, non-combustible decking boards or consider a concrete patio.
  • Gutters and eaves: Keep your gutters clear buildup and potentially dangerous clutter from branches, leaves, moss, and other debris. This kind of buildup is easily ignited by embers or sparks.
  • Vents: Don’t underestimate the possible dangers of even small openings. Vents can offer a way in for burning embers and sparks. Be sure to install fire-rated vents. Screen them over for added protection.
  • Fences, walkways & boardwalks: While lovely, a wooden fence can actually lead flames directly to your home and front door. An easy fix? Add a metal gate to provide adequate separation between your wood fence and your house.
  • Sheds and outbuildings: If you have any structures (garages, workshops, guesthouse, even an outhouse) within 10 metres of your home, follow the above list.
  • Lawn: Keep your surrounding lawn and landscaping trimmed, mowed, and watered.

Given where we live, it’s very likely that your existing home insurance policy (condo, tenant, farm, commercial, and auto) provides coverage for damage and destruction caused by wildfire.

However, if you have any questions about the types of fire damage covered by your insurance –  some specific kinds of damage can be excluded or have limits – TALK TO US!

 

Kelowna Valley Insurance Commercial coverage for sports and fitness businesses

Commercial Insurance for Sports and Fitness Businesses in British Columbia

When your business involves the health and wellness of other people, it’s critical that you have the right commercial insurance to protect yourself and your company.

If you are a personal trainer, gym owner, yoga or dance instructor, coach or any other role involving dance, sport, or fitness, commercial sport and fitness insurance is an absolute must.

If you are a sport or fitness professional, there are any number of reasons someone could file a lawsuit or claim against you or your business. It’s important that you know the risks and that you’re prepared for just about anything to protect yourself and your investment.

Imagine if, after a personal training session, the client files a claim against your employee accusing him of sexual misconduct or abuse. During a session of strength training, the client, who had insisted he could perform another set of bench presses despite the warning of his trainer, injures himself and files a lawsuit alleging negligence or malpractice. The handle of a kettlebell all of a sudden snaps and injures the client using it quite severely and she sues the gym for unsafe equipment.

When it comes to an industry that revolves around the human body and equipment designed to push it beyond limit in many cases, anything can happen. Make sure you’re prepared!

What is commercial insurance for a sports and fitness business?

As you know sports, recreation and fitness clubs, gyms, dance and yoga studios, and other sports facilities and organizations face risks that are quite unique from those of other industries. However, thanks to your extensive training and expertise, you not only help your clients be at their best every day, but you also know how to mitigate many of the risks associated with operating a health and fitness operation.

But, again, anything can happen. Given the nature of the industry, you are exposed to liability in case of real or alleged errors, malpractice or injury.

Commercial sports and fitness insurance coverage provides essential protection should someone claim that an injury or damage to their property was caused by your (or someone in your employ) negligence, oversight, or mistake. Commercial sports and fitness insurance coverage helps you with the cost of defending and settling any such claims.

What common claims do fitness professionals experience? Not surprisingly, many fitness claims pertain to tripping over equipment. Another common claim occurs when clients push beyond their limits, believing they are capable of more than they actually are.

Are there restrictions on fitness or sport commercial insurance? The sport and fitness industry has many categories and the requirements, as well as the restrictions, are going to vary. You have to know who your client is and what clients you can, and more importantly, cannot train. Some common exclusions include professional athletes, minors, and certain types of exercises that typically include aquatic or aerial elements.

Questions about commercial sport and fitness coverage and what it does and does not include? Talk to us!

What does sports and fitness industry insurance cover?

Sports and fitness commercial insurance covers most categories of fitness professionals and gym owners. As you explore what you need, ensure that your coverage includes:

  • Professional Liability (Negligence or errors)
  • Unintentional Breach of Confidentiality
  • Claims of Sexual Harassment or Abuse
  • Sports Accidents
  • Products Liability including Gym Supplements, Sports Equipment

Who needs sports and fitness commercial insurance?

If you make your living as a sport or fitness services practitioner or provider, if you own or manage a gym, training facility, yoga or dance studio, or if you teach on your own, you should consider sport and fitness commercial insurance.

Specific practitioners and businesses that purchase coverage include, but are not limited to:

  • Gyms
  • Training Studios
  • Fitness Instructors
  • Personal Trainers
  • Dance studios
  • Zumba Teachers
  • Pilates Studios
  • Martial Arts Academies
  • Sports Leagues
  • Sporting Events

What impacts the cost of sports and fitness commercial insurance?

The cost of your policy will vary according a range of factors, including:

  • Location
  • Operation size
  • Your education and training
  • Years of experience in your field
  • Past insurance claims

Questions about commercial insurance coverage for your sports and fitness business? Talk to us!

kelowna valley insurance - 12 factors that impact your home insurance rates

12 of the Most Important Factors that Impact Your Home Insurance

Do you know what goes into calculating your home insurance rates? There are a variety of factors that impact the premiums you’ll pay.

It may seem that insurance agencies use complicated calculations to come up with the rates you pay for home insurance. But there is a method to the madness! Here are 12 factors that typically affect your premiums.

Construction and style of your home

We consider the style of your home when it comes to estimating your home insurance rates. The fact is, certain home styles are more likely to incur a claim or suffer certain types of damage. Bungalows, for instance, tend to have finished basements that can be vulnerable to water damage.

The materials your home is constructed can have a serious impact on your insurance rates. Homes built out of fire-resistant materials (stucco, for example) often cost less to insure. Building materials can affect the cost of a rebuild and the extent of damage that results, impacting the amount of the claim.

Square footage of your home

If you have a large home you’ll find it more expensive to insure – simply more area to replace in the event of a claim.

Your roof: how old is it and what material is it made of?

Your roof, the primary protection for your home, shelters you and your belongings from the elements outdoors. It’s also the most common insurance claim to be made as damage is frequent. Certainly, the newer your roof, the better when it comes to the rates you’ll pay for home coverage.  A new roof is more effective at providing protection for your home and you may enjoy a discount if you choose weather-resistant materials, such as metal.

Be aware that some insurance providers may offer only reduced or limited coverage and others may choose not to offer coverage at all if your roof is over a certain age.

How old is your home?

The age of your home assists your insurance provider to predict the likelihood of a claim as well as how much it will cost to rebuild your home.

As construction methods, building codes, and plumbing, electrical, and heating systems evolve and change over the years, an older house can be particularly vulnerable to increased risk for damage. Older materials and features, those that we enjoy most about our older or historic homes, can run up the costs if repair or replacement is necessary.

Be sure to notify your insurance agent if you’ve made updates or upgrades to mitigate potential damages, as this should work in your favour when it comes to your home insurance premiums.

Your heating, plumbing, and electrical systems: the age and materials

The types of systems in your home – heating, plumbing, and electrical – directly affect the probability of an insurance claim. Old and outdated infrastructure is far more likely to be the source of damage to your home. For example:

  • Pipes made of lead are more likely to crack and allow leaks.
  • Electrical of knob-and-tube systems have a greater likelihood of overloading and sparking a fire.
  • If you rely on wood or oil burning heat sources, your chances are increased of a house fire.

You will pay more for home insurance if your home has an older infrastructure – heating, plumbing, and electrical. Update these systems and you can enjoy not only a safer home but savings on your home insurance.

Other structures on your property nearby

It’s not unusual for many of us to have other structures on our property. Buildings such as:

  • Deck
  • Garage
  • Shed
  • Carport
  • Fencing
  • Outbuildings

Like your home, the size, type, and materials out of which is made, will affect what you pay for home insurance.

How close are the nearest fire hydrant and fire hall?

Your proximity to the nearest fire hydrant and fire hall affects your premiums. The closer you live to these vital resources, the better your chances of damages being limited or minimized and, consequently, your insurance rates will be less.

The presence of risks

There are certain types of risks that will increase your home insurance premiums due to the increased likelihood of claims for damages or liability. These include:

  • Hot tubs
  • Indoor or outdoor pools
  • Trampolines
  • Wood-burning fireplaces or stoves
  • Certain breeds of dogs

Your proximity to potential risks

How close does your home sit to potential risks such as bodies of water – lake, river, creek? This lovely feature could actually increase how much you’ll pay for home insurance depending on their distance from your house. Why? Rivers can be known to flood, for instance. If your home sits along a river or on land that is low-lying near a body of water, you may pay more for home insurance than if you lived further away or safely up on a hill.

How do you use your home?

There are a couple of common ways we use our homes that affect what we pay for home insurance:

  1. Investment property – rental suites or room
  2. Home-based business

If your home is used or partially used as an investment property with rental rooms or suites, you can probably expect an increase in your rates for home insurance coverage. This is due largely to the fact that there are increased risks inherent in renting. There is some benefit, however, in that you enjoy a fair rental value for your rental unit if you have a covered claim.

Typically, a business is not covered under your home insurance policy. Business property that is damaged is not covered. Nor is there coverage available if a client files a liability claim against you, say if they slip and fall on your front steps. However, many home insurance providers offer add-on coverage that includes additional protection for home-based businesses. Be prepared to pay a surcharge for the addition.

How much will it cost to rebuild your home?

The rebuilding cost estimate for your home is a big factor in determining your home insurance rates. Most insurance providers call this replacement cost – the estimated cost of rebuilding your home as is in the event it’s destroyed. It’s important to understand that this value is typically different than your home’s market value, as that includes the land as well.

Any estimate of replacement or rebuild of your home includes the price of materials and labour. Also, getting your home appraised is one way to identify if your home is properly insured for the correct replacement cost value.

How much might it cost to replace your belongings?

Your home insurance policy is designed to cover all of your belongings. You’ve got a couple of options for protecting them: cash value or replacement cost. If you choose the cash value option, you’ll receive payment for the market price of your items as though you’d sold them the day they were damaged or destroyed in a covered claim (up to the single item or policy limit). If you opt for replacement cost, you’ll receive the amount it costs to replace those items with either another that is the same or something similar in make and quality (for an insured claim, up to the single item and policy limit).

If you have significant valuables – jewelry, art or wine collection, or other valued collectibles, it may be in your best interest to purchase an add-on in your coverage that ensures your collection is adequately protected. You can do the same with valuable sporting equipment or electronics. Such items can often exceed the single item limit in their worth, so it’s wise to make sure you’ve covered them properly.

If you want to have an estimate of what replacement costs would be or the cash value of what you own, you ought to create a home inventory and keep it updated with your belongings and valuables. It’s handy to have if ever have to file a claim.

Kelowna Valley insurance burglary protection indoors

Protect Your Home From Burglary Part 2: Prepare Your Indoors

When it comes to the safety of your family and the security of your home, you can’t be too careful. Protect your house from burglary from the indoors.

Nighttime may cause you the most concern when it comes to the security of your home, given the cover of darkness for a potential break-in. But really, it’s daytime hours – as you’re away for hours at a time running errands, at work, and at school – when your home is most vulnerable to burglary. In fact, according to the FBI, in the United States, 65% of burglaries occur between 6 am and 6 pm with the most common hours for a burglary being between 10 am-3 pm.

No matter the time of day, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure your home is safe and sound.

You can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting your family and your belongings. Last month we covered how you can prevent a possible break-in by securing the outside of your home. And there’s plenty you can do indoors, as well.

Don’t let your home be vulnerable to a thief. Review these seven steps to keeping your house secure from inside your home, whether you’re comfy-cozy in bed, everyone is out at work or school, or you’re away on vacation.

New place? Change the locks when you move in. If you’re renting a home, don’t be afraid to ask the landlord to replace the locks with new, if it hasn’t been done already.

There’s no way of knowing how many copies of keys are in circulation, who has them, or where they are. It’s better to be safe than sorry and it’s an easy request when it comes to the safety and security of your family and belongings.

Keep doors and windows closed and securely locked at all times. It should come as no surprise that an open door or window would offer an easy invitation to a potential thief.

So, even if you’re at home, get in the habit of keeping doors and windows closed securely as well as locked.

Check your window locks for strength and integrity and be sure to update them, if they become inadequate. Burglars will find weak spots to gain entry and weak or broken locks are easy to identify.

Always lock the front door when you leave your home, no matter how quick the outing. Exterior doors should all be equipped with deadbolt locking systems. Sliders should have vertical bolts and keep a wooden or metal rod in the track to prevent the doors from being lifted out of the track or being forced open.

Don’t forget the door to your garage! It’s often one of the easiest points of entry and just because your garage doors are automatic doesn’t mean your garage is fully secure.

Reinforce windows with safety glass. Breaking a window is often a means to entry for many thieves. Make it harder, if not impossible, for them to break through your window by installing safety glass.  Depending on the level of security you feel in your neighbourhood you can even consider decorative metal grills or bars over your windows to add extra security.

Secure valuables in a sturdy lockbox or safe. If your lockbox or safe is portable consider mounting it to the wall or bolting it to the floor. Be sure to give your combination to someone close to you whom you trust in case of an emergency. Please don’t leave it written down or posted somewhere – sticky notes don’t support your security efforts!

Resist hiding spare keys. Like you, burglars know all the common hiding places we use to hide spare keys – under mats and in a nearby flowerpot, for example. Rather, consider leaving spares with a neighbour you trust. If you live in a rural area and your closest neighbor is miles down the road, opt for a combination lockbox in a discreet area of your property.

Don’t label your keys If you lose keys, or if they get knicked, that could result in a serious vulnerability, particularly if you have ID or an address along with them.

Consider buying a home security system. Homes that aren’t equipped with a security system risk a whopping 300% increase in the chance of a break-in.

There are seemingly endless choices on the market when it comes to choosing the right home security system for you and your family. That’s why it might be better to leave it to a professional, consulting a local home security system installer to advise you and ensure your system is installed correctly.

Today’s systems include countless features to enhance your home security, but some of the most valuable include outdoor motion detectors, sensors at your doors, windows, and the garage, and security cameras strategically positioned around your property.

Select those features you think will be the best fit for your property and needs.

Once installed, however, you have to use it! Make it a regular habit for all family members. Ensure everyone is well-informed about how the system works to help minimize false alarms, which can actually incur expensive fines not to mention, annoying your neighbours, or worse: they ignore the calls much like in the fable about the boy who called wolf.

While it can seem inconvenient to set the system every time you leave the house it’s important to understand that many burglars know that it’s a responsibility that often gets neglected. Consequently, they may not be deterred by the yard signs or stickers on the windows warning of your home protection.

kelowna valley insurance - protect your home against burglary outdoor protection

Protect Your Home From Burglary Part 1: Prepare Your Outdoors

The first priority, when it comes to home crime prevention and burglary, is to eliminate any vulnerabilities thereby removing the potential for harm.

Not surprisingly, most people are most concerned about their home security at night. But, the evidence reveals that, in fact, most burglaries occur during daytime hours when we’re all at school, work, or simply out running errands.

You can’t be too careful, and regardless of the time of day, there are a variety of ways to ensure your home remains secure, beginning with the outside of your home. Make it as difficult and inhospitable as possible around the perimeter of your home for any potential thieves to gain access.

First things first: explore the exterior of your home and evaluate for potential weaknesses. As you survey the property around your home, try to review it as best you can through the eyes of a possible intruder. If windows appear vulnerable (easily pried open), for instance, that’s an opportunity for access.

As you review for weak spots, do make sure to note any valuables visible through windows – computers, artwork, antiques – that could be of interest to a burglar. Don’t undo your entire decor, but make changes and adjustments where you’re able.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to assess, you can contact your local police department for a courtesy home analysis to help you recognize weaknesses.

Keep expensive items (cars, bikes) out of plain sight. Most crimes are those of opportunity, so the fewer you offer, the better. If it has wheels, it can be easy to take. Keep your bicycle indoors or chained in a secure, out-of-the-way location. If you only have street or outdoor parking at your home, keep your car doors locked and try to park in an area that is well-lit.

Keep your car secure. If you are limited to street or other outdoor parking, try to keep your car in a well-lit area and be sure to keep any valuables with you when you leave it, including satellite radio and GPS devices. Don’t leave anything in plain sight, keep the windows up and the doors locked when parked. Beware where you keep a spare key – nowhere obvious such as in the visor or glove compartment. An unlocked car is one of the easiest targets and break-ins occur in even the safest of neighbourhoods. Never leave a spare key in the visor or anywhere else inside, even if the car is locked.

Keep shrubs trimmed and trees pruned. Try not to offer hiding spots to anyone attempting to break in. Keep your shrubbery trimmed particularly along walkways and at entrances. Shrouded areas can allow for just enough protective cover for the few minutes it takes to get into your home. Thorny bushes or shrubs are the exceptions as they might help add challenges to the job! If your house has a second floor, keep branches trimmed to prevent a more determined crook from scaling the tree to gain access.

Know your neighbors. “It takes a village” can apply to more than raising children. It applies to neighbourhood security, as well. In fact, incidences of crime tend to be less in tight-knit communities. Neighbours are far more likely to look out for one another and keep an eye on each others’ property in their absence. They’re also more sensitive to strangers. Get to know your neighbours and take advantage of the extra eyes they provide – probably one of your best assets in home security and crime prevention!

Initiate a neighborhood watch program. Starting a neighbourhood watch program in your community offers more opportunities to get to know your neighbours, providing each of you with the peace of mind of enhanced home and neighbourhood security.

Fence your yard. If your yard isn’t already fenced, installing one can be an effective way to keep unwanted visitors off your property.  Ornamental metal or chain-link as they tend to be anchored by concrete and difficult to remove or lift. Wood fences can be easy to climb, but offer some degree of protective barrier.

Incorporate motion sensor lighting around your home and garage. Let the light catch your intruder before you have to!  Add extra security through motion detection lighting at entrances and particularly in those dark areas around your home. If you’re a renter or live in an apartment, don’t be afraid to ask your landlord to install better lighting, including motion sensing, at entrances, in the hallways, or any other dark areas or corners.

Clean up around your home. It’s important to keep your yard tidy and free of tools, ladders, toys or anything else that may pique a thief’s interest. A yard cluttered with assorted items could signal that there are equally interesting things indoors such as entertainment – laptops, tablets, and game consoles. A toolbox or ladder left outdoors can offer an intruder an easy means to gain access to your home.

Keep doors, garage doors, and gates locked. Consider the various points of entry on to your property and into your home. It may be worth investing in a high-quality padlock for outside entrances, even if you only use them at night or while your away. Your garage door should never be left open if you aren’t inside it or if you don’t have it in sight.

Install highly visible – large, well-lit, and reflective – numbers on your house, gate, or mailbox. In the event of an emergency, you want to make it as easy as possible for emergency personnel to find your home. Thieves prefer a dark home with an address that is difficult to identify – provides them with a buffer of time if they’re caught in the act.

 

kelowna valley insurance - mitigate residential disaster

Home Disaster – Tips to Help Mitigate Damage

None of us are immune to accidents – even catastrophic ones. There are ways, however, to help you minimize the damage when it comes to home disaster.

You only have to watch the evening news or peruse your social media feed, to see what seems a never-ending stream of disasters, tragedies, and environmental apocalyptic predictions involving environmental collapse and climate change.

Disasters such as earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or other natural catastrophe is what most often comes to mind. But, chances are, when it comes to your life and your home, you’re far more likely to be the victim of a more localized occurrence such as water, fire, or damages due to burglary or vandalism.

One familiar line should prevail (thank you, Boy Scouts Handbook):  Be Prepared. A simple concept, yes, but for many of us, not the easiest advice to heed.

We’re here to tell you — listen to the Boyscouts! And take our advice as well: begin planning for an emergency well before it happens. It’s those common residential disasters  – even when small – that can cause such significant damage, often requiring expensive restoration. For most of us, the most likely disasters resulting in damage are:

  • Water damage:  broken pipes, sewage backups, flooding – overland, rain, and snow – can cause considerable stress, expense, and destruction.
  • Damage due to Fire & Smoke: fires, even smaller ones, can cause all manner of damage. Don’t forget damage from smoke – it can often leave homes or buildings completely uninhabitable.
  • Burglary and/or Vandalism:  let’s face it, most thieves aren’t going to care if they damage your property as they steal your belongings. along with stolen property, you’ll likely have to deal with the havoc they’ve wreaked on your home.
  • Mould, Lead, Asbestos: these environmental hazards are often largely undetectable to an untrained eye and make for a very unhealthy living environment. They’re also quite dangerous to remove. Enlist the pros to rid your home of asbestos and other toxic and hazardous materials.
  • Grow-op Abatement: a bain of landlords, dealing with the considerable impact of tenants who have contaminated rental properties with chemicals and mould, related to their troublesome and illegal drug operations.
  • Wind & Storm: fallen trees and other flying debris are a common byproduct of high winds and storms. They can cause structural damage to a home requiring significant and costly repairs.
  • Trauma Incidents:  gross but sometimes necessary – the safe cleanup and removal of blood and other bodily fluids.

Recommendation: call a restoration company right after you’ve been in contact with your insurance provider. Your broker will work to get the restoration underway with the best claims coverage based on the insurance policy. A quick response is very important to prevent any further damage.

To learn more about damage prevention, CONTACT US; we have the knowledge and expertise to advise you on all aspects of protecting your home BEFORE a disaster occurs.

As they say, “An ounce of prevention…”

Preventative maintenance can provide a much more rapid restoration result. Mitigate the extent of the damage and the time it takes to get your restoration completed… before a disaster even happens!

Tips for preventing damage from water

Prevent water damage:

  • By being aware of where all your shut-off valves are throughout your home.
  • Do not run your dishwasher or washing machine when you’re away from home.
  • Regularly check all of your toilets for leaks. You want to check supply lines for wear, age, wear, and possible leaks. If there is any sign of water leakage around the base, turn off the valve.
  • Be sure to do a regular inspection of any other water-related appliances – includes refrigerators (particularly if there’s an ice-maker) and dishwashers. Inspect the hoses occasionally.
  • Check your drains indoors and out to make sure they’re operating properly.
  • Inspect your gutters. Clear them of debris if it’s collected. Check your downpipes to make sure they’re properly connected and directed.
  • During colder months, check eavestroughs and downspouts for ice and other debris to avoid any chance of ice damming and damage.
  • Winter maintenance should include shutting off all water to outdoor hose bibs.

Don’t forget to inspect your hot water tank

  • If your water tank is 7 years or older it should be regularly inspected for leaks and stains.
  • If your tank doesn’t have a drip tray, be sure to have one installed with a proper run-off to the floor drain.
  • check the pressure relief valve (PR Valve) for proper operation and function. It will automatically open if the pressure in the tank exceeds the allowable limit.

Fire damage 

Fire is devastating and can destroy an entire home in mere moments. The best prevention is to check your home to ensure it’s clear of major fire hazards:

  • Have all electrical inspected before you purchase a new home.
  • Check and test your smoke detectors regularly – be sure they work!
  • Unplug your small appliances when they’re not in use.
  • One that often gets overlooked: clean the lint filter of your dryer on a regular basis. Consider having the dryer vent system inspected and cleaned by a professional anually.

Vandalism

Often when a break-and-enter occurs, it is less about what’s been stolen than the damage done while thieves are on the hunt for valuables. They want to get in and out in a hurry, and, in the process, often create costly damage – often worth more than the value of the stolen goods.

  • Make sure slideing doors are equipped with a lock that can’t be pried open.
  • Check that you have proper locks and that they work on all potentially accessible windows – check regularly that they’re still effective.
  • Install a monitored or non-monitored security system.
  • Do not leave your valuables in plain sight. Have a safe place to keep your laptop and other high-end electronics when you leave the house.
  • When you’re getting ready for a trip, follow best practices as you should prepare to leave your home if it will be unoccupied for more than a day.
  • Check out this list of tips to protect your home from a break-in.

Environmental hazards and materials

It may come as a surprise, but biohazards can occur at any time. They can exist in your older home or be the unfortunate result of a catastrophic event.

Proper detection of biohazards is vital as it can help you get out ahead to prevent potentially serious health risks. When purchasing a new property be sure to have the home inspected before you purchase; ask questions about the history of the home – the year it was built and what materials were used; if this information is known; have an air quality test performed, particularly if you have severe allergies or are vulnerable to illness.

If you are a landlord inspect your properties on a regular basis, according to the law.

Concerns to look for:

  • Construction that may include lead and asbestos.
  • Signs of mildew and mould.
  • Signs of a grow op or other illegal drug operation.
  • Vermin infestation (mice, rats, bats, raccoons, squirrels).

Protect your valuables before the disaster

It’s not unusual that over time we become rather complacent about our valuables – items such as jewelry, art, fine wine, and important documents, for example. But, there are also those things that have significant sentimental value as well – photos and meaningful family mementos.  Check out the tips below to help keep your most precious belongings safe from fire, flood, and vandalism:

1. Inventory your belongings and keep it updated.

2. Keep photocopies or digital records of your important papers such as passports, birth certificates, taxes, and credit cards. Store them in a safe deposit box at a bank.

3.  In a flood, hurricane, tornado, or high fire risk area? Take photos and make photo books of your children’s’ art, treasured photographs, and any family heirlooms.  Make copies and be sure to store one with a family member or friend and keep another in a safety deposit box.

4. For items you need on a regular basis – passport, if you travel frequently – get a small, durable, fireproof safe and lock up valuables at home.

5. Store any paper valuables off the floor in a waterproof bin. Water damage is one of the major causes of insurance claims and this small step can help preserve important documents, books, or other paper valuables.

To learn more about damage prevention, CONTACT US; we have the knowledge and expertise to advise you on all aspects of protecting your home BEFORE a disaster occurs.

kelowna valley insurance winterize your home

Get Ahead of Winter. Winterize Your Home NOW!

Prevent potential winter-related disasters. Winterize your home NOW to ensure your comfort and peace of mind throughout the season.

There’s no better time to winterize your home than before the mercury drops. Even though the air is getting a little brisk and the nights are definitely getting colder, it’s still a very easy and pleasant time of year to prepare in anticipation of the inevitable: snow and ice!

While autumn allows us to rest in denial of the impending cold, particularly during these relatively mild days preceding winter’s harsh arrival, it’s still important to get prepared. And, the earlier the better!

For anyone who’s had to address a maintenance issue – heat or water, for instance – in the middle of January, you know that, of all the seasons, winter is the absolute worst to be struck with some type of (likely preventable!) home disaster.

So, that said, there’s no better time than NOW – during this brief reprieve of pleasant weather to ensure that your home is ready for Old Man Winter’s return.

To help guide your preparations, here are some easy essentials for winterizing your home to offer you valuable peace of mind as well as a more comfortable, energy-efficient season, no matter what the weather outside.

  1. Keep your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors maintained and test frequently.
  2. Be sure that your heating source – furnace, wood stove, etc. – are in good working condition. It’s a good idea to have them inspected, maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. Through the colder months, clean or, if necessary, replace furnace air filters more frequently.
  3. Turn on taps and run some water through plumbing fixtures regularly.
  4. Fill in any gaps those small cracks around the perimeter of your windows can let in a lot of cold air. Caulking around the exterior of your windows is a fast and easy way to keep warm air in.
  5. Test the shut-off valves for your plumbing.
  6. Inspect your attic for any frost accumulation and give your eavestroughs and roof a once-over for possible ice dams or icicles. Ensure that your attic is appropriately insulated. The easiest way to boost your insulation power is to lay batts of mineral wool or fibreglass insulation on top of what’s already there; fit them tightly against one another to help prevent gaps for air.
  7. Regularly clear your sidewalk and front steps of snow and ice.
  8. Keep snow from collecting against gas appliance vents, gas meters, exhaust vents, and your basement windows.
  9. Keep branches close to your home or electrical wires safely trimmed.
  10. Fit any exposed pipes with insulation wrapping or sleeves to prevent them from freezing.

Leaving for vacation (even only a few days)? Be sure to leave the heat on and have a trusted someone check on your home while you are away to prevent any potential disasters from happening in your absence.

Questions about your home insurance coverage or would like a quote? Talk to us!

 

Kelowna Valley Insurance Vineyard Insurance

Winemaking and Alcohol Manufacturers Insurance

Wineries, breweries, and distillers need to be covered for the various industry-specific risks unique to alcohol manufacturers.

Whether you own and operate a winery is overlooking Lake Okanagan, you have a U-Brew in town, or you’re opening the next best brewpub in the valley, the insurance coverage you have for your alcohol manufacturing business could mean the difference between flopping or flourishing.

Small batch, craft alcohol production is all the rage and great new businesses are cropping up all the time. But, regardless of the type of alcohol you manufacture, everything you’ve created could be sidelined, if not destroyed if you haven’t protected yourself and your business with the proper insurance coverage.

Winery Insurance

You work hard to combine the latest technology with old-fashioned craftsmanship to produce quality wines. Whether yours is a family-owned business or already gone global, your wines represent your commitment of time, labour – blood, sweat, and often tears! – not to mention, skill and talent. You’ve invested too much to lose it all.

There are any number of ways a loss to your winery could be sustained. For example:

  • A load of grapes overturns whilst in transit.
  • Two distinct varietals are blended accidentally during winemaking.
  • Insecticides applied to crops on a windy day drift onto the neighbouring property.
  • A wedding guest slips and falls while dancing on the winery cellar floor.
  • Thousands of gallons of product spill to the ground as s wine-in-process is transferred from a large tank.

Winemaking insurance is specifically designed to protect British Columbia vintners throughout the entire winemaking process from the growing of grapes through to market-ready, bottled products.

Typically, all risk replacement cost coverage includes buildings, stock, equipment, and farming equipment. Irrigation systems, boilers, and machinery are also items addressed in a package we would provide.

Additionally, commercial liability, business interruption coverage, as well as products and completed operations liability (including shipping damages and bottling procedures) are included in a basic policy.

Kelowna Valley Insurance offers scalable solutions to help protect your business – from your oldest vines to your most recent packaging. With risk management expertise and products such as alteration of wine, trellis and grapevine coverage, business income insurance and a global protection extension, we are prepared to meet the specialized insurance needs of your winery.

Insurance Considerations specific to Wineries:

In Process Wine Products
Wine Specific Valuations
Vine and Trellis
Leakage
Collapse of Tanks
Productions and Agricultural Coverage
Crop Insurance
Chemical Drift Liability

Craft Brewery Insurance

In the rapidly growing craft beer industry, independent brewers have to work harder than ever to stand out from the competition. While creating a variety of perfect brews is hard work, choosing the right insurance to protect your brewery shouldn’t be.

Brewery Insurance is essential for any start-up brewing business, small or large, and should be included in your business plan. You need coverage that not only fits your immediate needs but has the flexibility to expand seamlessly alongside your company’s growth.

We can explore tailored insurance coverage for:

Craft Breweries
Tasting Rooms
Restaurants
Special Events
Beer Storage
Retail Sales
Catering
Lodging

Brewery Specific Coverage Considerations:

Tanks & Barrels
Specialized Beer Loss Evaluations
Liquor Liability
Product Withdrawal Expenses
Equipment Breakdown

Distillery Insurance

Distillers in British Columbia face unique challenges compared to other Alcohol Manufacturers as they have to work within the tight government control that can take its toll on profit margins.

Given the restrictive nature of controls on this industry, your distillery needs every advantage it can get, including the right insurance coverage.

More information about Alcohol Manufacturing Operations including Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries can be found on the Government of BC’s Website.

Questions about Winemaking and Alcohol Manufacturers insurance? Talk to us!

Kelowna Valley Insurance - Why You SHOULD Have Tenant's Insurance

Renters: Why You SHOULD Have Tenant’s Insurance

If you’re a renter, you should have Tenant’s Insurance to ensure your belongings, as well as your potential liability, is covered!

When you aren’t burdened with all the responsibilities of homeownership, it can be easy to overlook certain details when you’re a renter. Even if you’re renting, however, it’s still important to be prepared – expect the unexpected, as they say.

And don’t simply depend on your landlord’s policy!

Rather than take your landlord’s coverage for granted, you’re better off to just assume that your his or her insurance coverage will not be adequate when it comes to your belongings and personal liability.

Tenant’s Insurance is intended to address any discrepancies or shortcomings in your landlord’s coverage.

For you parents of college-aged young adults – given the increased possibility of mishaps – you should seriously consider insurance to protect your youngster (and, likely, yourself) while enjoying some additional peace of mind!

There are a variety of reasons to consider Tenant’s Insurance. Chief among them is to ensure that you and your belongings are adequately protected in the event of the unexpected.

Even if you only rent on a temporary basis, Tenant’s Insurance will replace the contents of your rental unit in the event of an insurable loss. This includes everything from furniture to expensive electronics such as laptops and televisions.

Understand that you probably own more than you think! It often comes as a surprise to realize how much stuff you actually have and how expensive it would be to replace all of it at once.  Be sure to keep an updated record of everything you own, including taking pictures or video of your belongings.

Tenant’s Insurance may cover any additional expenses after a loss.  If a fire occurs in your apartment, you will need a place to stay temporarily. Insurance will cover these necessary expenses while your apartment is being repaired.

You’re protected if you happen to damage the landlord’s, or another tenant’s, property in your building. As a tenant, you could be vulnerable, liable for damage caused to not only the space you’re renting but possibly the building as well – tenants are responsible for the harm they cause to any part of their building. Tenant’s insurance is there to help cover the damage.

If you’re unfortunate enough to accidentally cause someone harm in your building, Tenant’s Insurance will provide the protection you need. Tenants are potentially responsible for the harm they cause others who live or visit their unit. Tenant’s insurance would help cover the costs associated with this type of claim.

Tenant’s Insurance provides protection in the event of a lawsuit related to your rental unit. A standard insurance policy provides coverage, including defense fees and potential settlements, in the case of a lawsuit commenced by a third party.

As an added bonus for maintaining coverage, Tenant’s Insurance contributes to a claims-free history. Most insurance companies will offer a discount if you have several years of insurance history without a claim.  A tenant’s policy can help you establish that positive insurance history.

Questions about proper insurance as a renter? Talk to us!