Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season

It’s the beginning of June, and that can only mean one thing: the beginning of Atlantic Hurricane Season! While we don’t tend to get hit as hard as more southern states, Massachusetts still typically gets hit by a few storms every year, so it’s worth making sure that your home and your loved ones are prepared for any storm that may head our way.

2018 Hurricane Season Predictions

As always, this year’s hurricane season will last from June 1 until November 30. In those six months, there are expected to be 12-18 named storms, 6-11 hurricanes, and 2-5 major hurricanes. This would represent an above average year in terms of hurricane activity.

The hurricane names that will be used this year are as follows: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, William.

These are the same names that were used in the 2012 season (the names cycle every six years) with the exception of Sara, which replaced Sandy (retired in 2012). If any of these storms are significant enough, their names will be retired and replaced in Spring 2019. Otherwise, these same names will be used in 2024.

Hurricane Emergency Kit

You should always have an emergency kit in your home. Occasionally, though, you need to check to make sure that it is still stocked. The start of hurricane season is a great time to do this. Gather your emergency kit, and make sure that it follows the Red Cross’s guidelines, including:

  • A two-week supply of food and water for every member of your household.
  • A flashlight and a radio (both with extra batteries).
  • A first aid kit.
  • A multi-purpose tool.
  • Items for sanitation and hygiene.
  • Copies of personal documents, emergency contact information, and extra cash.
  • And more…

When you have an emergency kit with these items, you can rest assured that your household will be ready if you need to hunker down for a few days to wait for a hurricane to pass. Remember to avoid going out until local officials say it is safe to do so.

Evacuation Plan

In rare cases, a hurricane will be threatening enough that officials will suggest or order an evacuation. In case of this situation, it is important to make sure that your car has enough gas well before an evacuation is ordered.

Depending on which direction the hurricane is coming from, you may need to have evacuation plans in several different directions. Talk with the other members of your household about potential destinations, including shelters, hotels, and friends and family members that live in another town.

While evacuating, use routed recommended by local authorities. Remember never to drive through flood waters, and keep an eye out for downed power lines, especially as you return home.

When a Storm Threatens

If and when a hurricane watch or warning is issued, there are a few things you can do right away to make sure that your home suffers as little damage as possible. First, secure anything that could act as a projectile in high winds. This could include lawn furniture, outdoor potted plants, bicycles, etc. Also ensure that damaged trees and limbs are removed so that they won’t snap off during a storm. If you can, secure your windows and other vulnerable areas with plywood so that they are less likely to be hurt during the storm.

Ensure that your cell phone has a full battery well before the power might go out and stay in contact with friends and relatives so that someone knows your plans. It may also be nice to check on elderly neighbors to make sure that they are equipped for the storm.

In Case of an Insurance Claim

If a hurricane hits the Boston area, your home may suffer from damage. If this is the case, you will need to call our agency to begin the claim filing process. Phone lines here can get busy after a big storm, but you can rest assured that we will help you with your claim. In the meantime, please do what you can to prevent further damage to your property.

Speak to one of our Massachusetts home insurance experts to find out what you will need to get the claim process started. Depending on the problem, this could include pictures of the damage or a copy of your home inventory if you have one. Also make sure that you have any accessible policy information ready when you speak to an agent – the more information you have available, the easier the claim process will be.

Home insurance and flood insurance are the only true ways to make sure that you are financially prepared for potential hurricane damage. Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 to speak to an insurance agent. They can tell you if you have enough coverage to get you through the coming hurricane season and beyond. Our agency offers free insurance reviews, so it’s worth your time to talk to your insurance agent and to have them assess your coverage.

Recap: Memorial Day Celebrations

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” – Joseph Campbell

Another long weekend has come and gone! How did you choose to celebrate your Memorial Day? Hopefully you took a moment to remember and honor the military men and women who died in the line of duty. As the summer continues on, our Memorial Day advice remains applicable.

When grilling, keep a fire extinguisher nearby and always grill on a stable, flat surface away from flammable objects. Keep children and animals away from the grill, and never leave a hot grill unattended.

If you’re hosting a cookout or party, you are responsible for making sure that your guests don’t drive home under the influence of any alcohol that you serve them. Ensure that all guests have a safe way to get home or invite them to stay the night so that they can safely drive the next day.

Summer is a great time for road trips with your loved ones. Before you embark, have your car checked by a professional and ensure that your emergency kit is stocked. Pack plenty of snacks, drinks, and entertainment for all of your passengers.

And any time that you have a question about your insurance coverage or if you want a free insurance quote or review, just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. Our agents will be happy to help you with any and all of your Massachusetts insurance needs.

Fun in the Sun: Health Safety Tips

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we want to make sure that our clients and friends make the most of the city that we live in while also being as safe as possible. After all, our number one goal is to make sure that you are protected, both through insurance and otherwise. Nowadays, many of you will be spending time outdoors with your families and friends, so we have gathered some tips to help you practice sun safety. Fun in the sun is great, but we want to make sure that it doesn’t haunt you later in life.

The Importance of Sunscreen

Sunscreen is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Using sunscreen when you’re at the beach or the pool (or any day that you’re going to be spending more than a few minutes outdoors) can help prevent certain types of skin cancer.

When choosing a sunscreen, make sure that you take note of their SPF – Sun Protection Factor. The SPF measures the fraction of UV rays that reach the skin, so in SPF 25 sunblock, 1/25 (4%) of UV rays reach the skin. When wearing sunscreen, it is important to reapply the lotion or spray as directed, typically every two hours.

When You’re in the Sun

In addition to applying sunscreen, there are other things that you should do when spending time outdoors to ensure that you stay healthy and protect your skin:

  • Sunblock is effective against the sun’s harmful rays but cannot protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses that block UV light whenever you are outside, including in the car.
  • Your face is hard to fully protect with sunscreen, so consider adding an extra layer of protection with a hat. Make sure to choose something with a brim that blocks the sun from your face.
  • The best way to protect skin from the sun is to cover it. It may seem illogical in the heat but covering up with a shirt and pants can prevent sunburn.
  • When you are spending the day outside (whether at the beach, pool, park, or otherwise) take regular breaks in the shade to cool down. Also try to avoid the time of day when the sun is strongest, typically between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • When you and your family are out playing in the outdoors, make sure that you stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink, but it’s imperative – especially in warmer temperatures.

Follow these tips and you will be much less likely to suffer from a sunburn. Unfortunately burns will still occasionally happen. If they do, continue reading to find out what you can do to treat a sunburn.

Treating Sunburns

If you or a loved one is afflicted with a sunburn, there are a few things that you can do to help. Apply a cool wet compress to the affected area or take a cool bath. Aloe vera gel is helpful and is available in most drugstores. Taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help.

To relieve itching, use moisturizing cream or hydrocortisone cream. If a sunburn blisters do not scratch or pick at them – it could cause the blister to get infected. For serious burns, or if you suspect infection see a doctor right away.

Early Signs of Skin Cancer

Checking yourself for potential signs of skin cancer only takes a few minutes, and it is very easy. Every month, look at your entire body (you will need a mirror) and notice your moles – you are looking for the “ABCDE”s, as follows:

  • A – Asymmetry: Moles should be symmetrical. If you were to draw a line down the middle and the sides wouldn’t match, that could be a red flag.
  • B – Border: “Good” moles usually have smooth and even borders. If you spot a mole with an uneven border, have it checked.
  • C – Color: Moles with a variety of colors can be a warning sign: healthy moles are often one even color, specifically a shade of tan, brown, or black. Moles that are white, red, or blue should also be checked.
  • D – Diameter: Nearly everyone has small moles, but larger moles might cause an issue. Moles larger than ¼ inch in diameter (about the size of a standard pencil’s eraser) might be malignant.
  • E – Evolution: If a mole changes in any way, have it looked at by a doctor. This could be a change in size or color, or a mole that starts to bleed or itch.

Also look for “Ugly Ducklings,” the name given to moles that don’t fit in with their surrounding skin and markings.

Every member of your family should do this. Make sure that you help younger children and teach them about the importance of proper skin care. If you notice any abnormalities, talk to a doctor right away.

For more tips to ensure that your fun time is both enjoyable and safe, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance blog. We love to share useful tips and insurance content that will keep you coming back for more. We also want you to know that our agents are always available to help you with your Massachusetts insurance needs. Just call 617-298-0655 the next time you have a question or need an insurance quote for your home, car, business, and more.

Recap: Better Work Habits

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”~ Bruce Lee

Many employees feel like they’re just ‘phoning it in’ when they’re working. Want to be more productive at work? Who doesn’t! Here are four things that you can try in order to form better habits in the workplace, from our blog post last week:

  • Channel a positive attitude as you walk in to the office. You will help improve the culture and improve your mood.
  • Do your best to avoid doing work just to appear busy. Busy work helps no one, and you should be focusing on more important tasks.
  • If a project looks intimidating, practice breaking it into several more manageable chunks. Tackle these one at a time and your task won’t seem so impossible.
  • Take a break during the day to let your brain recharge. Have lunch with coworkers, or just browse the internet and take your mind off work for a few minutes. Then you can go back to work refreshed and lessen the chance of burning out.

If you’re the owner of a Massachusetts small business, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for a free review of your business insurance policy. We can make sure that your business is covered and that your employees are motivated by great health coverage and workers compensation insurance.

Getting Married? Update Your Insurance Policies!

Summertime is a very popular time for weddings across the country, but especially here in the Boston area where chilly temperatures affect a good portion of the year. If you’re planning a wedding, or if someone that you know is getting married, remember that after a wedding is the perfect time to review your insurance policies with your Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency agent!

Home Insurance or Renter’s Insurance

If now is the first time that you and your new spouse are officially living together you will need to update your home or renter’s insurance policy to add the new occupant. This is also a great time to review your home inventory, whether you’re creating something new from scratch, or just adding the details and value of your wedding gifts to your spreadsheet. Remember to keep a copy of your home inventory in a safe place outside of your home, either with a loved one or in a safe deposit box, or even in the cloud so that it is accessible anywhere.

There’s one more thing you should add to your renter’s or home insurance policy after your new relationship milestone – your rings! Depending on the value of your jewelry, it may need a special rider in order to be fully covered. Make sure that this is done early so that the rings are covered on your honeymoon!

Car Insurance

Nowadays, most young people have their own car. If you’re going to be a two-car household, talk to your insurance agent about the best way to combine your auto policies. Insuring two cars on the same policies will almost always save you money on your premiums, and you could save even more if you bundle your auto insurance with your home or renter’s insurance.

Life Insurance

There are several major points in a person’s life where they should consider their life insurance policy and getting married is a major one (along with having children). When you say “I Do” you are vowing to take care of your spouse no matter what – and this should include if you pass away unexpectedly. Life insurance is the perfect way to guarantee that your new wife or husband will have the financial means to take care of your final business.

Life insurance may be more affordable than you realize. Talk to a Boston insurance agent about how much of a premium you can expect for the coverage that they would recommend. And if you already have a life insurance policy, ask about updating the beneficiary to be your spouse.

Umbrella Insurance

Getting married is an exciting time in your life, but having a spouse is also a big responsibility. You want to do everything you can to protect them, and one of the best things that you can do is get an umbrella insurance policy. For pennies on the dollar, an umbrella insurance policy can offer you and your husband or wife protection that goes above and beyond your existing insurance policies. For more information about umbrella insurance and what it can offer you and your new family, check out this Vargas and Vargas blog post.

More Post-Wedding “To Do’s”

After your wedding and honeymoon, updating your insurance policies probably isn’t the only thing on your ‘to-do’ list. In addition to sending out Thank You notes, possibly going through the process of changing your name, and finding a fun way to display your new wedding photos, you will want to:

  • Sit down with your partner for a full financial “state of the union.” Discuss debts, incomes, and assets, as well as make plans for savings and retirement. If you are merging your finances, you will need to decide which accounts are being emptied, and which are being kept.
  • Create a budget. You will need to be on the same page regarding your household spending. Having a discussion about it early is much easier than trying to read each other’s minds about how the household should be run. And it doesn’t have to be rigid – you just need a set of guidelines that you will update as you figure out how your relationship as a couple operates.
  • Consider drafting a will. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but you never know what life will bring.
  • Now that you’re married, you will have the option of filing jointly when tax season rolls around. You don’t need to make a decision right away, but now is the time to start figuring out if joint filing will be a benefit to you.

Want to see if you and your new spouse could combine your insurance policies and save money on your premiums? Your Massachusetts insurance agent will do this and will also make sure that there isn’t overlapping coverage for which you’re paying double. Just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 to speak with an agent about how to start the process.

When Should I Buy Life Insurance

Most people don’t purchase life insurance right after they are born because many people believe life insurance is about death, but it’s not. The earlier you decide to purchase life insurance the cheaper it typically is. So, buying it as a newborn should be incredibly inexpensive. The independent agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA can help you secure a life insurance policy for your loved one no matter the age.

Buying Life Insurance for Children

One good reason to purchase life insurance for your child is that it is very affordable. Another reason is that once the policy has matured, the policy can be cashed in. If you were to purchase a whole life insurance policy and pay the entire amount, the amount could be repaid when the child reaches his or her majority.

The Value of Life Insurance

There are two types of life insurance. The first is called term life insurance. It covers a specific period. Generally, it comes in increments of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. If you die during the term, your insurance will pay your beneficiaries the entire amount of the insurance. This type is usually less expensive than whole life insurance.

Typically, life insurance policies grow in value over time. For a whole life policy, the rate is fixed for the entire length of the policy. The cash value of the policy will mature after 12 to 15 years, as long as the premiums are paid on time. You can cash it in after it has matured and use it to pay off debts, college tuition, or buy a home.

Life Insurance to Protect

For those adults entering the workforce, getting married, and having children, buying life insurance is an excellent way to help remove some of the burdens of the primary household earner. If the head of your household dies suddenly, there will be unexpected expenses that a life insurance policy could cover. Such costs include items for the funeral, utilities, mortgage, and auto loans. In Dorchester, MA, Vargas & Vargas Insurance can get you started on a life insurance policy today.

Recap: Boat Safety and More

“Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Solitude is a solitary boat floating in a sea of possible companions.” – Robert Fulghum

The first day of Summer isn’t until June 21, and that means one thing for those of you that own a boat – it’s time to start enjoying the water! The window of time during the year is shorter here in the Northeast, so start checking off your to-do list and invite your friends to spend the day on your watercraft. Here are just a few tips to keep you safe when you take a trip out:

  • Ensure that your boat is equipped with an emergency kit. It should have first aid supplies, as well as water and nonperishable foods. Check the kit once a year to refill anything that has been used, and to replace anything that has expired.
  • Before you go out, make sure that you verify that the weather will be good. Temperatures and rain forecasts can change on a dime, so it never hurts to be ready. For sunny days, make sure you pack plenty of water and some sunscreen for you and your passengers.
  • Never drink and boat. As with piloting a vehicle, boat operators must be under a certain blood alcohol level in order to legally drive.

For more tips, check out our full boat insurance post from last week. And remember, Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency offers five-star boat insurance in Massachusetts. Call 617-298-0655 to speak to one of our agents about how you can review your current watercraft insurance policy or get a quote on a new policy.

Three Crucial Memorial Day Weekend Safety Tips

Can you believe that May is almost over? It seems like just yesterday that we were ringing in the New Year! (Speaking of, how are your Resolutions doing?) Because Memorial Day is quickly approaching, we want to honor the holiday and to make sure to remind you of a few simple safety tips that you can follow to keep yourself and your loved ones safe while you enjoy the long weekend.

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is much more than just a long weekend full of warm weather and family reunions. In fact, Memorial Day is meant to be a solemn occasion to honor all of the men and women who died while serving in the US military. While people have been holding tributes to fallen soldiers since the 1860’s, Memorial Day only became an official holiday in 1971, and is observed on the last Monday in May each year.

Break Out the Grill

Many families choose to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with their first cookout of the year. Breaking out the grill is great fun, but should be done with caution, since grills are the cause of many fires and injuries each year. We know that you don’t want to have to call us with a home insurance claim, so make sure to heed these tips:

  • Before you fire up the grill, ensure that it is a safe distance away from your home, and that there isn’t any foliage or overhang that might catch fire. Your grill should be on a stable and flat surface when in use.
  • When the grill is hot, never leave it unattended. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. Remember that baking soda should be used for grease fires – never water!
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • If you’re using a gas grill, check for leaks before starting it, and stop cooking immediately if you smell gas.
  • After use, clean the grill to remove fat buildup and grease.

And if you want to shake up your grilling lineup by making something besides hot dogs and hamburgers for your cookout, try some of the Vargas and Vargas Insurance favorites like grilled potato salad, grilled jalapenos, and grilled brown sugar pineapple.

Know Your Host Responsibility

If you’re throwing a party or cookout for more than just your own family, you need to know your responsibilities as a host. If one of your guests that has been served alcohol gets behind the wheel and causes an accident, you could be held liable for the damages. To prevent this, keep a sharp eye on your guests and make sure that anyone who consumes alcohol has a safe ride home, or invite them to stay the night so that they are not tempted to drive while intoxicated.

As a host, you should also ask your guests if they have any food allergies. Either exclude any present allergens from your gathering or let guests know which foods they should avoid.

Hit the Road

Since Memorial Day marks a three-day weekend, many families celebrate it by taking a road trip. If you’re planning on hitting the road, make sure that you prepare accordingly. Before you set off, have your car checked by a professional. Tell them that you are going on a trip and want to make sure that everything is looking good before you leave. It’s also important to make sure that your car has an emergency kit. Make sure that it is fully stocked and nothing inside has expired.

Pack as light as you can, and leave plenty of room for souvenirs that you will buy along the way. And make sure that you bring plenty of cash (both bills and quarters) for any tolls that you may encounter along the way! If you have one, check your EZ Pass balance, and ensure that it is set to automatically refresh when you run low on funds. Also make sure that the credit card you have on file hasn’t expired.

The day that you leave, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep so that you are alert while you drive. Have plenty of snacks and stay hydrated (even though it may mean a few extra rest stops). Also have plenty of entertainment for all of your passengers. Depending on the age range of your squad, try audiobooks, podcasts, and car trip games, in addition to lots of music!

No matter how you are planning to celebrate Memorial Day, make sure that you do so safely. And if you plan to take a road trip or host a cookout, you may want to take a minute and call your local Massachusetts insurance agency at 617-298-0655 to check your insurance coverage. Your agent can quickly review your home insurance and auto insurance policies to ensure that you have complete coverage for any activity in which you choose to participate.

Recap: “Must-Have” Apps

“Technology and social media have brought power back to the people.” – Mark McKinnon

Nowadays, we carry technology around with us everywhere we go. Are you making the most of your cell phone? It can be a huge boost to your productivity if it is used correctly! In last week’s blog post, we suggested several apps that you can download. Visit that post for examples of these apps (and links to their Apple Store and Google Play pages).

  • Utility apps will make your phone more than just a tool for calling people. They can show you the weather, and help you take and edit photos on the go.
  • Keep productive and organized with apps like password managers and notes and reminder apps.
  • There are tons of apps to keep you entertained while you’re out, whether you just want to pass the time with a game or some music or broaden your mind with an informative podcast.
  • Stay connected when you’re on the go with apps like an email manager, social media, and instant messengers.

What are your favorite cell phone apps? Are there any that you couldn’t live without? If so, comment on this post and let us know what they are, because here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance we are always looking to leverage technology. To access Vargas and Vargas Insurance while you’re on the go, just use your favorite browser to access our mobile website. You can also always reach out via email or call 617-298-0655.