Safe RV Driving – How to Stay Alert and Focused kelowna valley insurance

Safe RV Driving – How to Stay Alert and Focused

Heading out on your winter road trip? Be safe – RV driving is all about staying alert and focused.

Frightening fact: simply reading or sending a text message takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. Seem like nothing? At a speed of 90 km/h, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field – with your eyes closed!

We want you to get excited about your upcoming winter RV trip and we want you to get to your destination safe and sound! We assume you’re not driving your rig like a maniac, so staying alert and focused is really what it’s all about when it comes to safe RV driving.

There is a multitude of distractions when you spend hours every day on the road. And they can be dangerous. The most recent estimates indicate that driver distraction may be responsible for 20-30% of all automobile collisions – over 1000 injuries and fatal motor vehicle accidents every year. Distracted drivers are eight times more likely to be in a crash or near accident compared with undistracted drivers.

Talking on a mobile phone or texting is still a problem, despite evidence showing how dangerous it is. But there is any number of activities we do while behind the wheel that can present a dangerous risk. As you make your plans for your winter road trip escape, consider the following ways you can eliminate distractions and make safe RV driving a priority:

Organization is key – before you drive!

Safe RV driving requires that you decide on your route before you get started on the road each day. Program the GPS. Adjust your seats, mirrors, and radio before you roll out of the driveway. Be sure that any loose items – water bottles, for instance – are stowed securely to prevent them from rolling around. And you reaching for them.

Reserve your first several nights ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it once you’re on the road.

Be sure that your passengers, including children, are also stowed and ready to go. That includes any furry friends! If they do need attention, pull over and stop to address their needs. Reaching behind you can easily cause you to lose control of the automobile.

Silence electronics

By now, we’re all well aware of the dangers of using a mobile device while driving. But, so many of us continue to sneak a peek at an incoming text or program the phone’s GPS while on the road. When your phone chimes, it’s just too tempting to take a look to see who or what it is.

Do not use your mobile device when you’re driving. Put it in ‘do not disturb’ mode to help you avoid the temptation of checking it. Even at stoplights. If for no other reason than because, in some places, law enforcement may ticket you if they witness you using your phone at a traffic light. Bluetooth and voice commands should help you if you need to make a hands-free call or text while on the road BUT that is still a distraction. Your hands might be on the wheel, but your attention is no longer on the road. Use them only when absolutely necessary.

Avoid multitasking while driving

We know that you do the best you can at safe RV driving. But when you spend that much time on the road, it can be tempting to try to get little things done while you drive – book appointments, reserve that night’s camp spot or table at a restaurant, catch up with friends and family. Avoid it as best you can. If you must take care of those things, pull over at a safe location and stop. Or, let a passenger take care of it as you drive. You need to focus on the road and the other vehicles around you.

Don’t eat and drive

Let’s face it, we all do it. We don’t really think about it interfering with our focus on driving. But it can – easily. Spilt food or drink is a major cause of distraction. Unwrapping, unsealing, and arranging in your lap or in a cup holder; these activities take your attention off the road. Sometimes for an extended time.

Safe RV driving – passengers matter

Enjoy the company of your passengers, but also, don’t be afraid to task them. Let them answer a text or call. They can reprogram the GPS.

Keep the chit-chat light and easy. Difficult or emotional conversations can become a serious distraction, even a dangerous one.

Don’t drive while drowsy

It may seem obvious, but the fact is, we’ve all pushed through fatigue while driving. We shouldn’t. According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, drowsiness is responsible for 21% of motor vehicle accidents in Canada. It’s as big a problem as driving impaired or with a mobile phone in your hand.

When you drive drowsy, your reaction time is slower and your decision-making is compromised – more impulsive and less rational. When you are fatigued while driving, your vision can become blurred and you can be more sensitive to light. Additionally, your focus diminishes and it’s easier to get confused.

What can you do?

  • Stop the RV and park in a safe location. Put the seat back and take a quick nap – 15 minutes is often adequate to refresh you for driving further. This is probably the tactic with the most impact.
  • To amplify the effects of your break, drink a caffeinated beverage right before your snooze. After your rest, the caffeine should have begun to take effect.
  • Get out of your RV for a few minutes. Stretch your legs and take in some vital fresh air.

Enjoy your upcoming RV vacation. And be safe!

Do you have questions about travel insurance or insuring your recreational vehicle? TALK TO US!

Recent Home Renovations - Update Your Broker

Recent Home Renovations? Be Sure to Update Your Broker!

Have you performed recent home renovations? You should update your insurance broker to ensure that you have adequate home coverage.

Contrary to what many of us thought would have happened during the course of a global pandemic, chances are, a run on home renovations would NOT have been on the list!

But, lo and behold, as we all hunkered down at home, the state of our homes came under far more scrutiny. Not to mention, our need to create spaces in our houses that could better accommodate the increased demand for work, school, and everything else under a single roof.

As of spring, 2021, 1 in 2 Canadians either made major home renovations or were making plans to do so. 1 in 4 had already completed at least some upgrades. And, of those who renovated, over 14% of them claimed it was on impulse. That’s a lot of sudden upgrades to many homes. The question is, did these impulse home renovators update their home policies with their material changes?  

Have you done recent home renovations? Have you updated your homeowner’s policy to reflect the changes?

The cost of your home renovations matter

To maintain coverage provisions, policies identify that you to tell your broker if you spend $5000 or more. For those home improvements that were done rather quickly, it wasn’t unusual for homeowners to not check their policies before launching the work. 

Changes such as finishing a basement or building an addition can change the rebuild value of your home and, as a result, impact your insurance coverage. Across Canada, 13% of home renovations ranged from $5,000-$10,000, 6% cost between $10,000–$20,000, and 7% exceeded $20,000. Approximately 26% of home improvements in Canada cost $5,000 or more, meeting the bar for updating a homeowner’s policy. And, an interesting fact, remote workers working from home spent an average of $1,000 more on their home renovations. 

The question is how many of these Canadian homeowners claimed them with their insurance brokers. 

Keep your insurance broker in the home improvement loop!

The exact data on whether homeowners updated their home insurance policies isn’t yet confirmed, but if the numbers from a decade ago are any indication, chances are, no. In 2013 only 6% of British Columbians said they’d reviewed their homeowner’s policies before they began their renovations. The same number of Ontario homeowners and only 5% of Albertans preemptively checked into their insurance.

Respectively, only 17%, 14% and 13% of homeowners in those provinces followed up with their insurance providers after they completed the work on their homes. 

Among the homeowners who made improvements to their homes in 2021, over half added to or enhanced their backyards, 29% added to their home offices, 23% improved their basements with an entertainment area, 12% added new playrooms, and 3% built additions. 

Do you have other questions about recent or upcoming home improvements and what they mean to your home insurance? Talk to us – we’ll tell you everything you need to know!

 

Cybersecurity Best Practices –  Protect Your Data Working From Home

Cybersecurity Best Practices –  Protect Your Data Working From Home

You need to understand and implement cybersecurity best practices to protect your data if you work from home.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic remote working is no longer just for the fringe internet workers – web and software developers, stock traders, and hackers. It’s now virtually mainstream. Everyone from oil and gas industry engineers to health professionals to writers and creatives and most other sectors.

Consequently, there are a unique set of challenges to working from home, including work-life balance, autonomous time management, and information security.

While we can’t address the first two in this article, we know that cybersecurity and the need to keep your work and data safe working remotely online can be very hard to address. When you work in an office environment, your employer likely manages all issues regarding cybersecurity to prevent data breaches. Rather, when you work from home, you expose yourself to a number of information security risks. Some companies work to get ahead of this by deploying remote networks to protect work-at-home employees. Others do not. You may be working at home and need to safeguard your data on your own. You have to understand how to manage the security of your company’s sensitive information. And, it helps to effectively secure your personal information as well.

Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to ensure that you protect your data and help mitigate cybersecurity risks:

Always use strong passwords

No matter where you work, you should always create strong, long passwords for all of your devices and online accounts. Strong passwords are key to protecting your data and sit at the top of any list of cybersecurity best practices.

Strong password protection should include your Wi-Fi network and router. Avoid using passwords that someone might easily guess – your address, name, or birthday, for instance. The more challenging the password, the less likelihood for a hacker to crack it and gain access to your devices or accounts.

If you want to evaluate the strength of your password choice, tools such as How Secure is my Password will check if it’s strong enough. It will also calculate how many days, weeks, months, or years it would take for a computer to crack it – kinda cool!

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is fundamental to cybersecurity best practices. Yes, it secures your privacy online and can allow you to access to blocked content due to geography. Additionally, though, a VPN also protects your online traffic from interception for nefarious purposes.

A VPN is a virtual internet tunnel that encrypts all of your internet traffic. It ensures that data sharing amongst your network has protection from hackers. If you use a free VPN, you risk compromised internet speeds due to the higher volume. For business purposes, it’s best to spend the money on a VPN to maintain optimum productivity.

Implement two-factor authentication

A strong password is great. But, for those highly sensitive accounts, it isn’t always enough to mitigate the online security risks. For instance, if your credentials don’t have adequate encryption within the systems of your company or, using advanced password hacking tools, an attacker can “guess” the password.

Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection for your accounts. It effectively validates employees’ identities more accurately and efficiently. It’s an extra step via text message, email, or a randomly generated PIN. Only the employee is able to provide the required authorization.

While not 100% hacker-proof, two-step authentication adds yet another measure of protection. It is another barrier to help prevent an unauthorized intrusion into company systems and accounts.

Keep systems updated

Updating systems such as your computer operating system as well as software and web platforms can be time-consuming and somewhat annoying. But, they are an essential component to the security of your data. System updates often address security vulnerabilities identified in previous iterations.

As remote workers access company digital infrastructure through their personal computers, it’s more important than ever that they keep their computers and software up to date.

Use solid anti-virus software

Even if a Windows machine has good built-in virus protection in the form of Widows Defender, it’s not enough. If you work remotely, you need to install strong anti-virus software and conduct frequent scans to identify possible infection.

There is a variety of good antivirus software available. A few to consider:

  • McAfee
  • Bitdefender
  • Norton 360 Deluxe

Don’t get sucked into phishing scams

An important element of cybersecurity best practices, being aware of phishing scams is integral to your online security. Unfortunately, with more professional online usage throughout the pandemic, it offered more opportunities for hackers to take advantage and send far more phishing emails.

Phishing emails can result in corrupted systems or unauthorized access. This can result in vulnerability or compromise of your personal computer as well as company systems. With email often the primary means of communication, remote workers are far more susceptible to email phishing attacks.

First rule-of-thumb – click on NOTHING if you don’t trust or can’t identify the sender. To identify a phishing email, first check the sender’s email address for gobbledy goop URLs or spelling errors. Look for grammar errors in the subject line, preheader text, or email body.

If you’re still curious beyond that, hover over any links contained to see the URL – DO NOT click. And, certainly, do NOT click any attachments.

Secure your personal home network

Chances are that the router in your home included a default password at installation. It’s important to know that modern cybercriminals can find their way into default credentials for just about every kind of device. It will be among their first attempts into hacking your network.

Upon installation the first thing you should do is set a new, strong, long password to protect your personal network.  Additionally, similar to the updates to your system and software, be sure that your router’s firmware is up to date. Hackers know which vulnerabilities to look for when it comes to outdated versions of technologies, including your home network. Home working has increased the likelihood of vulnerabilities to be exploited more easily and more frequently.

An easy step to prevent attack is to set your network’s encryption to WPA 2 or 3, which is far more challenging to crack than traditional WEP encryption.

Questions about your insurance and cybersecurity risks? Talk to us to ensure you’re protected.

Renew Your ICBC Auto Insurance Online

Renew Your ICBC Auto Insurance Online!

ICBC is making buying insurance even easier. Quickly and easily renew your auto insurance online!

Exciting news from ICBC! For policies expiring May 2022, British Columbia drivers can now renew their auto insurance online.

In line with many of the new online options for consumers as a result of the pandemic, ICBC will transition their auto policy renewals online. A long time coming, this is a change that is sure to simplify the lives of many of our customers.

But, while the change is welcome, there are restrictions. Here are a few vital details regarding the new online service:

What insurance coverage can – and cannot – be purchased online?

Generally, according to ICBC, an insurance policy may be eligible for renewal online if it’s a personal policy due to be renewed in less than 44 days (for those policies expiring on or after May 1, 2022). Additionally, there can only be one name listed as owner and they intend to keep the terms of their policy the same.

There are circumstances where an otherwise eligible policy still isn’t approved for online renewal – if the customer has outstanding debt owed to ICBC, for instance.

If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re eligible to renew your auto insurance online, GET IN TOUCH! 

Types of insurance policies cannot be renewed online

There are criteria that will not allow you to renew your auto insurance online:

  • The vehicle is jointly owned
  • Your vehicle is leased
  • Your vehicle is company-owned
  • It’s a motorcycle
  • Yours is a collector vehicle
  • It’s a commercial policy
  • Your policy has expired
  • You need to add, change, or remove your ICBC optional coverages
  • You have outstanding debt owed to ICBC

These are but the most common situations that make a policy ineligible for renewal online. Be aware that there may be other factors that might make you ineligible to renew your auto insurance online.

If you want to renew a policy that is ineligible or if you have further questions, CONTACT US!

FIND OUT MORE!

Before you renew insurance online – what you need to know

When can I renew my insurance online?

You can renew online as early as 44 days before your policy expires (if it is expiring on or after May 1, 2022). When you opt to renew your insurance online, we recommend getting the ball rolling well in advance of the policy expiry date.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just as with the policies you’ve always renewed in person at our office, if you do not complete the renewal of your auto policy BEFORE the expiry date, you will NOT have coverage. There is NO grace period for late insurance renewals.

Take a look at this helpful video about how to renew your auto insurance online.

Can I renew my insurance online any time, any day?

No, you can’t. The system is offline 12 a.m.–5 a.m. for processing and daily system maintenance. You will not be able to log in or complete an insurance renewal during this time.

Can I renew my insurance online if I have optional coverage from another insurance provider?

Yes. BUT only your ICBC coverage will be renewed. You will still need to renew your non-ICBC optional coverage with your other provider. Rather than online, it might be more convenient to renew all at once, in person.

Can I make ANY changes or do anything else once logged in?

In addition to renewing an eligible insurance policy, you can:

  • During your renewal, you can add drivers with a valid B.C. driver’s licence to your policy
  • Select a broker’s office to review your renewal after you’ve purchased your insurance policy

Other than your renewal, you can:

  • Prepare an estimate of changes to your coverage or your listed drivers (or both)
  • View and print your insurance documents
  • Keep up with when your policy expires

Can I purchase a new policy for auto insurance online?

No, you can’t. Nor can you purchase a Temporary Operation Permit online. You also cannot change or cancel an active policy online. Contact your favourite insurance office for more information.​

FIND OUT MORE!

Do you have other questions about purchasing your auto insurance online? Talk to us – we’ll tell you everything you need to know!

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!