Radon Action Month - test for radon gas in your home

Radon Action Month – Test for Radon Gas to Protect Your Home and Family

November is Radon Action Month in Canada. It’s a great time to start your home radon test!

Radon gas is an odourless, colourless, radioactive gas found in homes across all of Canada. You might be surprised to learn that Radon exposure is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. In fact, November is the month that the Government of Canada observes Lung Cancer Awareness Month and National Radon Action Month to help remind Canadians that both lifestyle choices and environmental factors can impact the health of our lungs.

Exposure to high levels of the radioactive gas in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Of course, the risk of cancer depends on the Radon levels and how long a person is exposed.

What is Radon Gas?

Radon gas is an odourless, colourless radioactive gas that occurs naturally. It’s created by the natural breakdown of uranium. Radon is found in soil, igneous rock, and in some cases, well water. It makes its way up through the ground and into your house through cracks and other holes in the foundation.

A recent survey identified that Radon levels vary significantly across the country, but there are regions more prone to high levels of indoor Radon. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and the Yukon showed the highest percentages of participant homes that tested above the radon guideline. But, just because we don’t live in one of the provinces listed, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test. Radon in dangerous levels exists in nearly all regions of Canada.

Inhaling Radon exposes lung tissue to ionizing radiation which causes damage to the DNA in lung tissue. It can lead to lung cancer. In fact, over 3,200 Canadian lung cancer deaths each year can be attributed to Radon exposure.

Testing is the only way to know if Radon gas is in your home

As Radon gas has no smell or colour, you must conduct a test to detect it. Easy and largely effortless, a Radon test can protect your home and family. And it’s a pretty simple process.
First, purchase a DIY Radon test kit. Because radon levels can vary from day to day and from season to season, testing can be done in the short-term (two to 90 days) or long-term (greater than three months). Keep in mind that long-term tests offer better information about a home’s average year-round radon levels.
Follow the instructions included in your test packet. Radon test devices should be placed in the lowest occupied level of your home.
After letting the test sit in your basement for the required amount of time, send it away for the results. Alternatively, if you’d like, you can invite a professional Radon measurement specialist to conduct a Radon test in your home.

What to do if you test positive for Radon gas?

If the test comes back and your home is found to have a high level of Radon, mitigation is the next step to bring down the level or eliminate any Radon. A certified Radon mitigation specialist can analyze your home install and initiate radon mitigation. The system will draw the gas out of your house and expel it safely into the outdoors.
To ensure the health and safety of your home, testing for Radon is easy and inexpensive. And November is a perfect time! Now that you’ve closed up your home against the impending Canadian winter, you can conduct a more accurate test than in warmer seasons.
Kelowna Valley Insurance - Answers to Your COVID-19 Travel Insurance Questions

Answers to Your COVID-19 Travel Insurance Questions

We want to travel again! First, let’s answer some important questions about COVID-19 Travel Insurance

One of the biggest questions about resuming travel as the pandemic continues is about COVID-19 travel insurance.

After so very long, people are thinking about travelling again – internationally and now, to the United States. And the return to adventures abroad is so exciting! Where will you go – how will you choose? After this much time and, thanks to the pandemic, there are more complications to consider – note the PCR COVID-19 test information in bold below. The bottom line, travel planning in 2021/22 can be overwhelming!

Expect that, when it comes to travel, it’s going to look a lot different than before the pandemic. To ensure that your trip is as safe and stress-free as possible, take the time to research and plan appropriately – know what your destination requires. Before you make definite plans and book your trip, consider the following:

  • Are you able to change your booking once you’ve made your plans?
  • What is the cancellation policy or if you have to change your plans once you’re away?
  • What are the specifics of your travel insurance coverage?

Planning a trip will require a bit more legwork than before COVID-19. Here’s what you should do:

  • Check the Government of Canada website and that of your destination to understand any travel limitations, restrictions, or rules.
  • What you need for proof of vaccination if any.
  • You will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of your return home to Canada. Check what is required by your destination. Don’t be surprised if you are required to test again upon arrival at your destination.
  • Prepare for the unexpected:
    • Before you leave, find out your options for where and how to get tested at your destination. Canada requires a PCR test (rather than the faster antigen test required by the USA). A PCR test costs typically start at about $100USD depending on where you are. Resorts often have facilities to provide both tests right there, but the PCR test requires anywhere from 12 to 36 hours to get the results – plan accordingly. 
    • Create a worst-case scenario plan in case you come down with symptoms, particularly if your destination is not English-speaking and you don’t speak the language.

It’s important to have all the information you need to make informed choices and enjoy peace of mind BEFORE you leave. We want to help you travel safely, whether it’s across the border, across the sea, or across the equator.

To help you make your travel plans, let us answer some important COVID-19 travel insurance questions:

Does my travel insurance cover the cost of a Covid-19 Test for travelling?

Anything that isn’t considered a medical emergency is not covered. That includes taking a COVID-19 test to comply with government requirements for travel.

What do I use to prove my vaccination status if the country to which I’m travelling requires a vaccine passport?

Canada is developing a document that will be recognized internationally. Call your insurance or travel agent or inquire with the local public health authorities in the region in question to confirm their specific entry requirements.

My vaccinations include mixed doses. Will this impact my travel plans?

The terms of vaccine acceptance are ever-changing and can change unexpectedly. But, more countries are accepting mixed dose vaccinations. Be sure to research your destination specifically to ensure they’ll accept your vaccination status. Check with your travel insurance provider, your travel agent, or research your desired destination for confirmation.

Will vaccination status impact my emergency medical coverage for travel?

When it comes to questions of COVID-19 travel insurance, this is one of the most common. Currently, your vaccination status does not affect your eligibility for emergency medical benefits when you travel. But, be sure to review your coverage and what might be subject to standard policy limitations and exclusions (pre-existing condition exclusions, for example.)

What about hospitalization or treatment for COVID-19 while I’m abroad, will I have coverage?

There are no specific exclusions for emergencies related to government travel advisories or COVID-19 outlined in the Travel Emergency Assistance Program. But, be sure to understand that your travel insurance coverage is subject to standard limitations and exclusions (again, preexisting conditions.)

Quarantine and testing:

If I test positive for COVID-19 and have to quarantine while abroad, are my expenses covered?

Travel insurance protects you in the event of a medical emergency – that DOES NOT include quarantine. Any expenses – accommodations, meals, etc. – associated with quarantine will not be covered. Before you leave, be sure you make a plan for where and how to get tested at your destination. NOTE: Canada requires a PCR test (rather than the faster antigen test required by the USA). A PCR test costs typically start at about $100USD depending on where you are. Resorts often have facilities to provide both tests right there, but the PCR test requires anywhere from 12 to 36 hours to get the results – plan accordingly. 

When I return to Canada if there is a delay getting my COVID-19 test results, will my expenses be covered while I wait for negative results?

When you have to wait for results, delayed or not, it is NOT a medical emergency. Any associated expenses you incur while you wait for results is NOT covered.

I suffered a heart attack several months back. If I am cleared for travel by my doctor, do I have coverage for emergency medical? 

A heart attack is a pre-existing medical condition. However, if the condition has been stable for three months or more prior to your departure date, your emergency medical will cover you.

Learn about travel insurance options

It’s essential to understand your travel insurance options as well as the additional services a policy or provider can offer to help keep you safe as you travel. WE CAN HELP!

Travel Emergency Medical Insurance. The last thing you need is to worry about your insurance – reviewing coverage and concerns about how to make a claim – if you get sick during your travels, particularly if you’re abroad. The time is now, before you leave, to review your insurance policy and understand your coverage. Some policies may include COVID-19 travel insurance coverage, depending on your eligibility and vaccine status. ASK YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER FOR DETAILS.

Trip Protection Coverage. During times such as these, you want to know that you can cancel or change your travel plans. Trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage can help if you need to change your plans or get home unexpectedly once you’re away. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your coverage details, as many policies still exclude reasons related to COVID-19. You also want to know if there are any additional services your policy or provider offers to help keep you safe.

If you have questions about upcoming travel plans and any concerns regarding COVID-19 travel insurance, CONTACT US!

kelowna valley insurance FireSmart your home

Wildfire Season – How to FireSmart Your Home

Those homes that have prepared will be the homes left standing. FireSmart your home to significantly reduce the risk to your property.

The FireSmart™ program helps Canadians live with and better manage during inevitable wildfire season during the hot months of summer and early fall.

To Firesmart your home is to become more wildfire resilient as a property owner and as a member of your community. FireSmart, consisting of seven disciplines is a comprehensive program, that extends from us, as homeowners, up to the landscape land management level.

FireSmart principles have proven to be very effective at reducing both the risk to life and homes and property even during the most extreme wildfire conditions.

Backed by an expansive amount of field, laboratory, and wildfire modelling research, the FireSmart program helps reduce the risk of losses under even the worst fire conditions.

FireSmart™ can help you be far better prepared for wildfire season

With summer – and wildfire season! – right around the corner, you may be noticing communities getting mobilized – culling brush, dead trees, and highly flammable junipers, and organizing community chipping events. This is all part of the FireSmart BC program to encourage communities to protect homes and property this wildfire season.

The long days and weeks of hot, dry weather will be upon us soon enough… along with the increased risk of wildfire. It’s been five years since we watched in horror as the Fort McMurray wildfires ravaged homes and businesses. on record as the costliest insured natural disaster in Canadian history, the claims filed amounted to almost $3.8 billion.

FireSmart your home – a FREE Online Course

To help with thorough wildfire preparedness, for homeowners, communities, and the various other individuals and organizations who manage private and public lands, the FireSmart program recommends a variety of effective actionable steps as we brace for another fire season.

Over the past three decades, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) estimates that approximately 2.5 million hectares (that’s 6 million football fields!) have been destroyed by forest and wildfires in Canada each year. The costs, fire suppression resources only, is approximately $500 million to $1 billion a year.

With the number and incidences of devastating wildfires only predicted to increase across Canada, the need for education is clear. Individuals, communities, businesses, and organizations need to have the appropriate information to take the necessary precautions for effective prevention and protection.  To help, FireSmart Canada has launched a FREE online course.

A 1-hour online course, FireSmart 101 provides a good introduction to the program and how we as homeowners and community members can protect our homes and properties.

Throughout the short course, you’ll learn the primary FireSmart disciplines and understand the FireSmart home ignition zone, along with other very helpful information. You’ll be quizzed briefly at the end to ensure that you understand the material. It’s a short program – not a lecture! – and is a highly accessible tool, designed to help you feel better prepared and much more empowered when it comes to the unpredictability of wildfires.

Take the FREE FireSmart 101 course.

kelowna valley insurance how to FireSmart your home

Be informed to protect your home and property from forest and wildfires

Be sure to take the FireSmart 101 course, and also read our comprehensive advice about how to protect your home and property from forest and wildfire damage.  Armed with all possible information will help you feel assured that you’ve done as much as you can to prepare for wildfire season.

Also, to keep abreast of wildfire activity in our region and throughout the province, bookmark the link to the British Columbia interactive wildfire map.

More FireSmart BC Resources!

FireSmart BC Magazine

For all British Columbians, from individual homeowners to local and regional governments to First Nations, the FireSmart BC Magazine has been created to keep you up-to-date on everything pertaining to the FireSmart program. Stay informed with all the latest news, FireSmart tips, success stories, and more. Read it now!

Listen to the FireSmart BC Podcast

A primary goal of FireSmart BC is to find engaging and creative ways to get the message of wildfire prevention and mitigation to all British Columbians.

The program has developed compelling and valuable messaging and is delivering it to all of us when and where we’re able to consume it – at our desk, in the car, or working in the garden. To that end, FireSmart has jumped into the podcast pond with both feet! Be sure to subscribe on your favourite podcast platform: Get FireSmart™ Podcast! Listen now!

Is your neighbourhood FireSmart?

FireSmart Canada officially recognizes over 100 neighbourhoods across BC as being prepared for the threat of wildfire. Check if your community is on the list of “FireSmart Recognized Neighbourhoods“.

Do you have questions about your home and property and the possible impact of forest or wildfires? Chances are, your homeowner’s policy (condo, tenant, farm, commercial, and auto) provides the proper coverage.

BUT, as some damage can be limited or excused, you might have questions about your fire converage. TALK TO US!

Your Handy BC Driver’s License Guide

New Driver? Your Handy BC Driver’s License Guide

If you know a new driver, here’s a little help to navigate the BC driver’s license process for first-time drivers

Spring has sprung and that means… a wave of fresh, eager young people preparing to get behind the wheel, as Learners and New drivers throughout the province.

While COVID-19 has impacted driver’s license scheduling, thanks to an efficient online booking system, kids and other new drivers are able to easily book their testing sessions, yet well in advance. Expect and plan for restrictions, including physical distancing and mask-wearing as the new driver in your life achieves this exciting milestone.

As first-time drivers prepare to receive their BC driver’s license, here are a few things to keep in mind – thorough preparation, lots of driving practice, and advance planning, just to name a few.

If you have BC DRIVER’S LICENSE INQUIRIES PLEASE CALL: 1-800-950-1498

There is so much to be excited (and scared – hello, mom and dad!) about when anticipating a first BC driver’s license – a wonderful sense of independence and freedom. This new freedom also comes with more responsibility.

Scary and exciting for everyone, there’s a lot involved in successfully achieving a BC driver’s licence. Exams and road tests can be overwhelming, and so is the prospect of purchasing a first car insurance policy.

To help simplify things, here is a brief guide to the steps involved and where to go for all the information you and your first-time driver need:

BC Learner’s Permit – testing your driving knowledge

In British Columbia, to become a legal driver, a knowledge test is the first step in the BC driver’s licensing process to achieve a Learner’s permit.

The Learner’s permit allows the new BC driver to get out on the road with a licensed adult driver. This means real-world practice, practice, practice!

To achieve the Learners, or “L”, as the first phase, a first-time driver must score a minimum of 40 out of 50 questions correct on a multiple-choice knowledge test. When the aspiring driver passes this test, it helps to ensure they understand the rules of the road. It also helps the driver to begin to develop an awareness about what is required to drive safely. Here’s what to expect:

  • The knowledge test requires you to pay a fee.
  • The test is usually delivered from a computer terminal at an insurance agency office.
  • The questions will likely include driving laws and road sign knowledge as well as safe driving practices.
  • Once successfully complete, the new driver will receive a BC Learner’s driving permit and an “L” magnet to clearly display on the vehicle indicating your driver status to others on the road, including authorities.
  • This Learner’s licence is NOT a full BC driver’s license. But, it is required to move forward to further exams and more advanced licensing.
  • With the Learner’s permit, the driver can now practice driving on the road legally –  with a fully licensed family member or friend or recognized driving school.

Knowledge (Learner’s) tests are available by appointment only​. Book an appointment using ICBC’s new online service.

BC’s Graduated Driver’s Licence Program

Regardless of age, a first-time BC driver must receive their full BC driver’s license through the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP).

Through the GLP process, new drivers learn all the vital information, skills, and perspectives to help them develop into more competent, confident, and safe drivers. The process allows inexperienced BC drivers to ease into becoming independent drivers – first with supervision and then, gradually, on their own.

To proceed through GLP successfully and with confidence, there will be three tests – one multiple-choice, followed by two road tests. When a new driver proves they can drive safely and demonstrates mastery over the required knowledge, the process can be completed in about three years. These years allow for plenty of study and preparation time, lots of practice to develop and reinforce knowledge, skills, comfort, and confidence behind the wheel.

Below are the requisite phases to achieve a full BC driver’s licence – the GLP ‘Learner’ and ‘Novice’ permits:

Phase 1: Learner’s (L) Permit

At any time on or after their 16th birthday, a new driver can get the L.

Steps to an L driving permit:

Knowledge tests are available by appointment only​. Book an appointment using ICBC’s new online service.

Learn more about getting a Learner’s licence

Phase 2: Novice (N) Driver Permit

The driver must practice with their N permit for a minimum of a year under the supervision of an experienced, licensed driver. Upon completion of a year of practice, the Learner can take their first road test.

How to get the N permit:

  • Well in advance, BOOK the CLASS 7 road test
  • Expect that the road test appointment — including time to review driving performance — should take about 45 minutes. Beside the driver will sit the assigned examiner who will determine the route that will best test your driving skills.

Learn more about the Novice licence

Phase 3: Full Driver’s License

The last step! Successful completion of phase 3 allows for complete independence on the road – no more mandatory supervision. Additionally, with no further GLP restrictions, the driver can remove the magnet on display on their vehicle.

The driver can apply to complete this phase can be completed after driving as an N for at least two years. To successfully fulfil the requirements for a full driver’s license, the driver must:

  • Drive suspension free for the previous year as an L driver.
  • Well in advance, book the Class 5 road test.
  • Pass the advanced road test. As a more experienced driver, the test will include more difficult and challenging driving environments than that of the N. Plan for the test and examination feedback to take about 45 minutes.

Learn more about getting your full licence

FOR DRIVERS LICENCING INQUIRIES CALL: 1-800-950-1498

Car insurance coverage for young drivers

As it pertains to young drivers, expect that different factors will determine the cost of auto insurance. Your insurance provider will determine the rate using the following elements:

  • According to auto insurance, a young driver is defined by anyone under the age of 25.
  • Rates of auto insurance are determined by multiple risk factors, including the increased likelihood of an accident with young drivers.
  • Young drivers comprise about 10 per cent of Canadian drivers. The unfortunate and scary reality is that young drivers account for about 25 per cent of all accidents resulting in serious injury or death.
  • Essentially, drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are simply assumed to be at higher risk.

If you have questions about a BC driver’s license for new drivers, auto insurance for young or new drivers, or any other auto insurance information, CONTACT US!

kelowna valley insurance keep family safe covid-19

Second Wave – Keeping Your Home and Family Safe Through COVID-19

The uncertainty of the COVID-19 era has been the only certainty. How to keep our homes and families as safe as possible as it evolves.

We find ourselves halfway through winter, officially one year into the global pandemic with vaccines only now making their way (albeit sporadically) to essential health care workers and the elderly. What, with travel restrictions enhanced (a $2000 mandatory quarantine upon return from the USA and Mexico, for instance), fines issued to gatherings extending beyond just residents of our households, and masks mandatory in all businesses (just to name a few) we’ve still a very long row to hoe.

Despite the vaccine, the end is seeming nowhere in sight.

As fatigued as we are with COVID-19 and how much it has fundamentally changed daily life, this is not the time to throw in the towel and start giving up. Rather, this is the time to commit more fully to doing all our parts to ensure we behave responsibly to ensure the health and safety of others so as to, in turn, ensure the health and safety of our families and homes.

We want to provide a gentle reminder of how to best manage what has become a surreal ‘new normal’ and reinforce the important recommendations of our expert public health officials. Read on for what you can do to help reduce exposure and do as much as you can do slow the spread of COVID-19 in your community (short of locking yourself indoors until it’s over!) while you keep your housemates and loved ones as healthy as possible as the COVID-19 virus and, now, it’s variants, persist.

Your prevention checklist:

  • Staying at least two metres, or six feet, from others – what we’ve come to know as physical or social distancing – is still vital when in public spaces.
  • Important tips for preventing spread:
    • Face coverings have become a requirement in many public spaces, such as grocery stores, community centres, and gyms. Always keep a face mask handy – one in your purse, in your car’s glove compartment, in your pocket. And require your school-age kids to do likewise.
    • Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Soap and water and hand sanitiser should be part of your routine before, during, and, most certainly, after spending time in public places.
    • Reiterating the point above, frequent hand-washing with soap and water is essential. Wash for at least 20 seconds – sing Happy Birthday all the way through. Hand sanitiser that contains 60% alcohol works on the fly if you don’t have access to soap and water.
    • For surfaces that your housemates touch frequently, be sure they’re cleaned and sanitized frequently. Soap and other household detergents combined with water should do the trick. Of course, EPA-registered household disinfectants, are great, too. Ensure that they’re appropriate for the surfaces before you use them.
    • When you cough or sneeze, be mindful. Cover your nose and mouth – into the inside of your elbow if a tissue isn’t available. Do NOT keep the tissue for the next use — toss it immediately!
    • Mobile phones, TV remotes, laptops, tablets, and other devices can be breeding grounds for virus – sanitize with manufacturer-recommended cleaners frequently.
  • The strains on our mental health are truly unprecedented on this scale. It’s important that you stay connected to the emotional wellness of both your housemates as well as other friends and loved ones. Given the ongoing nature of this, we have to be extra vigilant about staying in touch, communicating honestly (though in an age-appropriate way) and calmly about what’s happening.
  • Some of the hardest-hit emotionally and physically during this pandemic are those who are alone or completely isolated. Our aged friends and relations, for instance. It’s vital that you make an additional effort to check in often and keep in touch, particularly if they’re alone – video chat, text, phone calls, and even email can help bridge the gap and foster a sense of connection.
  • Our teens have been troopers during this time! Do what you can to keep them engaged and connected. As we have to discourage they’re gathering – many understand and are doing it on their own – in large groups. If they aren’t already, limit outings to just school and important appointments and limited time in public.
  • Of course, if you feel sick – stay home! Anywhere you need to go will wait until you’re feeling better.
  • As much as you can, limit your own exposure to anyone you know who may be feeling unwell.
  • If someone in your household is sick: make them comfortable in a room and bathroom, separate from the rest of the family, if you can.
    • Don’t share personal items such as food, drinks, etc.
    • Be sure that they always have a clean, disposable face mask to wear when they are around the house.
    • Keep the room and bathroom they’re using very clean, disinfected, and well-sanitized – as frequently as possible.
  • If you suspect that you or someone else in your home is sick, notify the school, work, daycare, or any other obligations immediately. Request to have work sent home.
  • Stay up-to-date about COVID-19, in your community, region, the province, and beyond. Subscribe or stay in the information loop about changes in your community, including local outbreaks, school closures, and other changes.

This list is a guideline. A big factor in keeping your loved ones and home safe and healthy is is to stay informed – rely on trusted media sources as well as the guidance and recommendations that your local and provincial public health authorities provide.

BONUS: 8 More Important Factors that Affect Your Home Insurance

BONUS: 8 More Important Factors that Affect Your Home Insurance

Better understand your home insurance and the elements that influence your coverage and how much you pay.

Earlier this year, we shared 12 factors that impact your home insurance and coverage. The calculations may seem complicated, but they’re really not. It comes down to 20 factors that determine what your home insurance premium will be.

As a requirement to homeownership in most areas, we typically just sign on the dotted line without any proper understanding of  In the last post, we covered the most obvious components that influence the calculations. Below are the other factors essential to calculating your home insurance rates. Things you may not have otherwise considered.

  1. Damage Prevention and Mitigation Devices. When you maintain the appropriate damage prevention and mitigation devices, it can help to lower your home insurance costs. The list of devices includes:
    • Smoke and fire alarms
    • Carbon monoxide alarm
    • Water alarm
    • Security alarm
    • Security lighting
    • Security cameras
    • Sewer backup valve
    • Sump pump

    NOTE: don’t take it for granted that these items should reduce your home insurance rates. There may be specific requirements they have to meet and they may actually have to be approved by your insurance provider.

  2. The claim rate where you live. Your insurance provider will study the overall claim rate of where you live to predict the likelihood of your making a claim. If you live in a neighbourhood with a high claim rate, you can expect your home insurance costs to reflect that.
  3. Do you live in a neighbourhood that tends to experience higher crime rates? Similar to the general claim rate of your neighbourhood, your insurance provider will examine the crime rate in the neighbourhood of your property. If there’s a higher rate of theft or vandalism, you can expect to pay more for your home insurance.
  4. What is your credit rating? The reason your insurer examines your credit rating is that it will indicate how the likelihood that you’ll pay your insurance bills. A good credit rating can get you a discount and not count against your score. You do, however, have the option to opt-out of a credit rating check by your insurance company.
  5. To what demographic do you belong? Standard practice amongst the insurance industry is to look to statistics to identify the likelihood of a claim being filed to calculate your premium. The statistics provide information about what segment of a population is more or less likely to submit a claim for liability or damage.
    For example, how old are you? Typically, the older you are, the lower your home insurance premiums will be.
  6. What is your insurance and claims history? As with your auto insurance, the more consistent claim-free years you have, the less you’ll pay for home insurance. Statistically speaking, if you have a record of more claims, it’s a predictor that there will be more to come and that will be reflected in your coverage rate. Conversely, no claims on your insurance record can offer you eligibility for claims-free discounts.
  7. Do you qualify for any discounts? Regardless which insurance company you choose, every one of us offers some kind of discount. The most common:
    • Claims-free
    • Bundling (if you have several policies with the same provider)
    • Damage prevention and mitigation devices
    • Loyalty
    • Mortgage-free
  8. The coverage options that are available to you. There is seemingly endless information to sift through and you’ll have many decisions to consider when you purchase home insurance. Talking to a broker is always a good idea! In short, though, your home insurance options will include:
    • Coverage – You will have to decide on the extent of coverage you’d like. You’ll find many forms of home insurance and that it can be customized to meet your specific needs. For instance, if you are a home-based business, there should be a home-based business endorsement included in your coverage. An addition to your coverage such as this extends your home insurance policy to cover any liability or damage claims related to your business, perhaps not covered by a basic homeowner’s policy.
    • Policy limits – If you’re unfamiliar, a policy limit is the maximum amount of money that will be paid out in a claim. You’ll notice other limits within your home insurance policy – the single item limit (the most that will be paid out for a single item in a claim) and a section limit ( the maximum amount that will be paid out under a certain section of your coverage, liability, for instance).
    • The deductible – You will be required to choose your deductible. This is the amount of money you will pay before your home insurance covers a claim. If you choose a higher deductible, you will pay a lower insurance premium.

Questions about your home insurance and how it’s calculated? Wondering if you might qualify for a lower rate?  Talk to us!

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 of 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 variety 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 number 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 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 the 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 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 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 a possible cyberattack, patch and update all the 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 distinction 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 developed 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 the risk of a 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.