2018 Halloween Safety Tips for Kids and Parents

The temperatures are steadily dropping, and that can only mean one thing here in Massachusetts – Halloween is just around the corner! It’s the time of year when you can let your spooky side shine… not to mention plan a costume that will knock everyone’s socks off. As October progresses, though, make sure that you follow these safety tips to make sure that you and your kids have a successful fright night!

Decorating Your Home

Some people like to go over the top when decorating the outside of their home for Halloween. We encourage you to get in the spirit, but follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Remove or clearly mark tripping hazards – Trick-or-Treaters will be coming up your walkway, so either remove obstacles or make sure that they are easily seen and avoided.
  • Light up paths – Some visitors will be wearing awkward costumes, so make sure that they can see where they’re stepping.
  • Don’t use real flames – There is something extra spooky about a flickering flame, but instead of using a real candle and risking a fire, opt for a battery-operated flickering light.
  • Be careful with extension cords – You may have lots of decorations that require power. Lights and inflatables are very popular nowadays but resist the urge to overload your extension cords and power strips.

Carving a Pumpkin

Will you be making a Jack-o-Lantern with your kids this year? For kids old enough to carve a pumpkin, make sure to use carving tools meant for pumpkins instead of sharper kitchen knives. Encourage kids to go slowly as they carve in the interest of safety and tell them to cut away from their bodies. In case there is a minor injury, have a first aid kit close by.

Kids that are too young to carve don’t have to miss out on the fun. Instead of making a carved pumpkin, break out the paints and stickers and let them decorate in an age-appropriate way.

Throwing a Party

Getting together with friends for a costume party is a fun thing to do this time of year. If you are hosting, there are a few things you should do to make sure that your guests can enjoy themselves without compromising their safety.

As you plan your party, make sure that your decorations are safe for guests. As we mentioned earlier as we talked about outdoor decorations, indoor décor should also not be a tripping hazard. Also, don’t overload poser strips or use real flames, and opt for flickering battery-operated lights over open flames. In addition, when you choose your costume make sure it is something that you can wear and still play host.

Passing out Candy

If you’re going to be staying at home on Halloween night and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, make sure to do so in a safe way. You may have a killer recipe for a treat, but this isn’t the time to use it – only pass out candies that are sealed by the manufacturer. Some children who come to your door may have severe allergies, so you may want to have a few small toys ready in case they are necessary. Display a teal pumpkin at your home to advertise that you have these non-food treats available.

For your own safety as you pass out treats, you may opt to sit with other neighbors. At the very least, make sure that you are looking through your peep hole whenever the doorbell rings (as you always should) – you can never be sure that there isn’t a ‘trick’ on the other side of the door.

Trick-or-Treating

Going out trick-or-treating is a rite of passage for kids. As a parent, we know that you want your kid to have a great time while still being safe. Here are just a few tips that you should use to accomplish this goal:

  • Decide whether your child or children are mature enough to go out with friends without supervision. When in doubt, an adult should accompany them.
  • Some parents choose to drive their kids to a different neighborhood to trick-or-treat. If you will be driving on Halloween night, make sure to be exceptionally careful in residential areas after 5pm.
  • Edit kids costumes so that they can easily run around in them for an hour or more. Encourage kids to wear comfortable shoes and to leave their masks at home. For added safety, give kids a small flashlight to carry.
  • Teens that go out on Halloween night without supervision should have a fully charged cell phone with them in case of emergencies.
  • Before you or your kids eat a treat, it should be checked for tampering.

Here’s one thing that doesn’t have to be scary this time of year: your insurance premiums! Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for a free insurance quote or checkup. Our agents would be happy to see if we can lower your home insurance, auto insurance, or other insurance premiums – and you don’t even need to leave your house! Call 617-298-0655 whenever you have questions about your Massachusetts insurance policies.

Spring Has Sprung! Boston Events Calendar

It may not feel like it based on the weather we’ve been having recently, but tomorrow, March 20, is the first official day of Spring. That means the cold weather will soon be a thing of the past (the employees here at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance offices are thrilled about that, to be sure) and you can look forward to taking place in many springtime activities here in the Greater Boston Area.

Take the time to add a few events and holidays to your calendar now! Here are just a few of the ones happening around town. Click on the name of the event for more helpful information.

  • NCAA March Madness East Regional Games – TD Garden – March 23 and 25
    Love College Basketball? Don’t miss the opportunity to see your favorite teams play right here in Boston! The East region this year includes teams like (1) Villanova, (2) Purdue, (3) Texas Tech, and (4) Wichita State.
  • 8th Annual Easter EggStravaganza! – Riverside Press Park, Cambridge – March 31, 10 am
    In addition to an Easter Egg Hunt, activities include face painting, raffles, carnival games, and more! This event is sure to be fun for all ages.
  • Trailblazers: Women Who Challenged the Status Quo – Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain – April 8, 2 pm
    Join local history enthusiasts to learn about the trailblazing women of the area. Guest lecturer is author and historian Dee Morris.
  • Taste of Dorchester – 25 Local Restaurants, Dorchester – April 26, 6 pm
    It’s the Taste of Dorchester 10th anniversary, and we’re in for a treat! Sponsored in part by Vargas and Vargas Insurance, this event will highlight dozens of our favorite local restaurants.
  • Neponset River Cleanup – Quincy, Milton & Dorchester – April 28, 9 am
    Keep our community beautiful with the Neponset River Watershed Association and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. There are many locations that need volunteers, so register today!
  • The Sound of Music – Wang Theater, Boston – May 1-13
    A classic musical that is suitable for all ages. Follow the von Trapp family as they thrill Boston audiences in the first two weeks of May.
  • Dorchester Day – Dorchester – June 3, 12 pm
    It’s almost here! Dorchester Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in June each year, and wouldn’t be complete without lots of festivities, including the famous Parade!
  • Take a Tour of the City – Several Locations – Offered Daily
    Often, it’s the residents of a city that have seen the fewest tourist attractions and hotspots. We live in a city with lots of history and culture, so be a tourist for a day! Explore on your own or book a guided tour. There are many tours available depending on your interests, including historical walking tours, movie tours, and even chocolate tours! If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the Freedom Trail – it’s a favorite among the Vargas Insurance staff.

So, which of these festivities will you and your family be taking part in? Wherever you go, keep an eye out for members of the Vargas and Vargas staff. We’re always out and about, and we would love to say hello!

Remember to be safe when you go out, even if it’s just for an afternoon. Make sure that someone knows where you are going, and has a way to contact you. You should make sure to have a fully charged cell phone, and a back-up ride home (even if it’s a ride from Lyft or Uber). If you plan to drink, make sure that you do so responsibly, and that you have a designated driver.

If you’re taking children out for a day trip, there are several safety tips you should know, including:

  • Make sure that your child knows their Name, Address, and an adult’s Phone Number. It is also important to make sure that they know who to share this information with (security guards, police officers, teachers, etc).
  • Children should know how important it is to stay within eyesight when out and about. They should never walk off on their own.
  • If a child does get lost, they should find an appropriate person nearby to help. They should never leave the area or the building.
  • Before eating anything, your child should get your permission. As soon as they are old enough, teach them not to accept food from strangers. Food is an especially significant problem for children with severe allergies, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Our friendly and knowledgeable insurance agents are also available to help with all of your insurance needs this Spring. If you need to clean up your insurance portfolio, make a call to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We are happy to help you check this ‘to-do’ off your list, and maybe even save you some money on your insurance policies in the process! Also stay tuned to our insurance blog this Spring for more helpful tips about insurance, safety tips, and much more.

Storm Damage Tips From Vargas & Vargas Insurance

This weekend’s Nor’easter, which is not a storm named by the National Weather Service, produced widespread damage including downed trees, sump pump failures, and power outages. The Vargas & Vargas Insurance team handled dozens of calls throughout the entire weekend and remains available at this time to assist you.

We understand there is great difficulty locating tree removal services and roofers to patch or tarp roof openings. We also note that finding generators and or sump pumps to remove water from basements is a challenge at this time.

Below are some tips should you have suffered any damage:

Tree damage: If there is tree damage to a building or home the first order of business is to ensure everyone’s physical safety. Once that has been completed, contact a licensed tree removal company. Currently, tree removal companies are focusing on calls involving severe damage. We suggest a number of companies be contacted to secure competitive quotes and, if necessary, to get on waiting lists for assistance.

Sump pump failure: Be extremely mindful of entering a flooded basement as water that has risen to certain levels may have caused an electrical short creating a dangerous situation. Elevating personal belongings and removing the water as soon as possible is important. Pumps and generators are in high demand currently and most local hardware and big box home improvement stores are out of stock. Contacting stores within a reasonable driving distance may be good option.

Roof damage: Much like tree removal services, licensed roofers are in high demand after a storm of this size. While likely well-meaning, this will cause individuals without the necessary level of expertise to offer assistance. As we have suggested in the past, please do not let anyone on your roof that you did not contact directly, and please be sure those that do provide help are appropriately licensed and insured.While these are the most common types of losses after a storm of this nature, we recognize these are not the only issues currently being experienced. Please contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance with any questions or concerns you may have.

To report a loss, you can contact us by telephone (617-298-0655), email(customerservice@vargasinsurance.com)
or text (617-409-0329).

If you suffer an emergency that cannot wait until we are open for business, please contact our after-hours claim telephone number  617-322-5289. 

Also, you may find our blog titled, “Home insurance, should you file a claim”, interesting to read, can read it by clicking here.

Sincerely,Carlos

New Cars Causing an Increase in Distracted Driving

Cars used to be a tool that would get you from one place to another. Now a car is so much more than a mode of transportation. In fact, a majority of new cars come with an ‘infotainment’ system standard – a far cry from the AM/FM radio and CD player that most drivers were excited about just a decade ago. While they may seem like an upgrade, the features available in new cars are causing an alarming increase in the number of distracted drivers on the road.

In a 2017 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers evaluated the infotainment systems in 30 model-year 2017 vehicles. Of these 30 vehicles, all generated at least moderate demand for drivers’ attention. In fact, 12 of the 30 systems generated a very high level of distraction.

It was found that the most distracting activity performed on the car’s infotainment systems was programming navigation, which takes an average of forty seconds to complete. In the time necessary to complete this task, a car moving at 25 mph would travel the length of four football fields!

Thankfully, there are steps that you can make to ensure that you (and the other drivers in your life) are safe despite all the bells and whistles in your new cars. Simply ensure that you program navigation when the car is not in motion, and that texting and social media are also disabled while the car is moving, in accordance with the voluntary guidelines proposed in 2012 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Don’t forget that Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here to help with your car insurance needs. Whether you have a cassette player or a new-fangled ‘infotainment’ system, we can get your vehicle protected with the best Massachusetts auto insurance. Just call us at 617-298-0655.

Stay Merry and Bright: Winter Safety Tips

Can you believe that it’s December already? It feels like 2017 just started, but we’re getting ready to close the books on this wonderful year. This winter, we want to make sure that you and your loved ones stay safe so that you can enjoy the festivities of the holiday season. Here are just a few tips to help you avoid needing to file an insurance claim this winter:

  • Driving in the Massachusetts winter weather can be a hazard. Always be vigilant when on the road, and make sure to never get behind the wheel if you’ve had too much to drink. Check out our blog all about driving in the winter for more tips!
  • When there’s a fresh coating of snow on the ground, it’s a blast to play outside with the little ones. Make snow angels and build a snowman, but make sure that you take plenty of breaks from the cold, and know the signs of frostbite. Remember – children get cold faster than adults!
  • If you use a fireplace or candles, make sure that you never leave them lit unsupervised. Always make sure that fires are completely extinguished before you leave the room, and keep a vigilant eye on children and pets around flames.

Don’t forget to share these tips with your friends and family! Simply send them a link to this blog post – remember, sharing is caring… especially when it comes to safety. And stay on the lookout for many more holiday themed blogs this month from your friends here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency.

The Truth About Seat Belts

For most of us, there is a routine when getting in the car to go somewhere. Typically, it involves arranging your stuff, possibly getting kids settled in, putting on a seat belt, and then hitting the road. You might be surprised to find out, however, how many people skip the crucial step of putting on a seat belt. Check out these seat belt statistics:

  • According to a study from 2012, only 73% of drivers and front seat passengers wear a seat belt in Massachusetts. The reported national average is 86%.
  • Car accidents are a leading cause of death of people aged 1-54 in the US.
  • Over 21,000 people died in crashes in 2014 – over half of those aged 13-44 in those accidents were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
  • The use of seat belts reduces serious injuries and deaths by about half.

In the state of Massachusetts, drivers and all passengers aged 13 and over must be wearing a seat belt when a vehicle is in operation. There are also additional child restraint laws for children 12 and under.

If you want to prevent serious injury to yourself and your passengers when you are driving, make sure that every person is properly restrained before the vehicle begins to move. This should be done for all car trips, no matter how short. While it is unrelated to seat belt laws, it is also important to remember that texting while driving is illegal in Massachusetts.

Having a top-notch auto insurance policy is another important part of owning a car. If you want a free car insurance quote or review, just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Were You Affected by the Equifax Breach?

By now, I’m sure that you have heard about the data breach that happened at Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the US. It turns out that my wife Kathy and I were affected, and I have since signed up for the free credit monitoring offered by Equifax. This got me thinking about what other precautions I should be taking to protect my identity. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Shred everything that has personal information on it. Get a cross-cutting shredder and put it in a central location in your home – it will easily pay for itself in peace of mind.
  • When paying for something, try to always use either cash or a credit card. Debit cards don’t offer liability protection, and checks are easy to duplicate.
  • Consider hiring a service to monitor your credit. There are plenty out there, both paid and free – just make sure that you are familiar with the level of service offered before you pick one.

If you were affected, it’s important to remember that the hackers are likely to keep your information for several years before they attempt to use it, so it’s crucial that you stay diligent and always be on the lookout for suspicious activity in your financial accounts as well as on your credit reports.

Now there are rumors that Equifax may have been hacked a second time. This just goes to show how important it is to protect your personal information in this digital age. Make sure that you stay safe, and that you take your safety seriously. Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance if you have any questions that we can answer for you. Our office number is 617-298-0655.

Tips and “Tricks” for Handing Out Halloween Candy

There’s no doubt about it – Halloween is right around the corner. No doubt you’ve noticed the huge displays of decorations, costumes, and candy in your favorite stores. If you’re planning to get in the spooky spirit and pass out candy to trick-or-treaters this year, here are some tips to make sure that you are one of the ‘cool houses’ on the block:

  • Let trick-or-treaters know that they should come to your home for candy on Halloween night. This should be done by decorating your home (it doesn’t have to be extravagant) and by leaving the porch light on.
  • Kids love when they are recognized, so do yourself a favor and brush up on this year’s most popular costumes, including Marvel and DC superheroes, Disney princesses, and more.
  • Only give out candy that is sealed in its original packaging. While it is a nice thought to give kids homemade treats, most parents won’t allow their kids to eat these kinds of treats from strangers.
  • Your trick-or-treaters will be looking for sugar, so don’t disappoint by handing out pencils (or worse – toothbrushes). If you want to give something like a pencil or small toy, do so alongside a piece of candy.
  • If you don’t want to be bothered by your doorbell all night long (and you don’t mind missing all the cute costumes), you may choose to put out a small bowl of candy. It’s best to put out less and refill often so that latecomers aren’t disappointed by an empty bowl.

Before the big day, make sure that your home is ready for any ‘trick’ with the right Massachusetts home insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. One quick call to 617-298-0655 will help you ensure that no ghouls, goblins, or poltergeists get the best of you this Halloween.

Everyone lives in a Flood Zone!

Hurricane season is upon us, and based on the devastation that Houston is going through (and with another hurricane on the way) this season may not turn out to be a walk in the park for homeowners and renters.

I am not sure if you are aware, but flood damage (and earthquake damage) are excluded under all homeowners, condominium, and renter’s insurance policies. If you are in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area, you are required to purchase flood insurance to satisfy your Mortgage Company or bank.  But there is a misconception that if you are not in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area, you are not able to purchase flood insurance – that is incorrect.

Everyone who owns a home or condominium or rents an apartment is able to purchase flood insurance, and if you are NOT in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area, you could receive a “preferred rate.”

As an example, the flood insurance policy that Kathy and I carry on our home costs us $1389 per year for $50K on contents and $50K on the building because we are in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area. If we were NOT in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area our rate would be around $499.00 per year for up to $250K on the building and $100K on contents, a big difference.

Here is the second misconception to flood insurance: many people think that they will purchase a flood policy when they need it or a hurricane is heading in their direction. It does not work this way, as there is a 30-day waiting period on all new flood insurance policies (unless you are purchasing the coverage for a closing or refinance).

Here are some statistics for homeowners:

1. In the past several years, 60% of all declared disasters involved flooding
2. 25% of all insurance claims paid by FEMA involved losses outside Federally Mandated Flood Hazard areas.
3. 51% of all homeowner insurance claims are related to weather or flooding

And it gets worse for business owners. Here are 3 statistics that every business owner should know:

1. Almost 40% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a flood disaster.
2. Floods happen everywhere. 25% of all flood damage occurs in low to moderate flood risk areas. Business owners should not rely on a line of credit at their bank for protection.
3. Business insurance policies exclude flood damage. Only flood insurance pays qualified claims quickly so a business owner can get back to business

I strongly urge you to call Vargas & Vargas Insurance (your Lolocal independent insurance agent) and request a FREE flood insurance quote. Or click here.

If you are inclined to make a donation to help the wonderful people of Houston Texas, my mortgage friend, Richard Smith, recommends making a donation on this site, click here.

Thank you!

Carlos

Create a Family Emergency Plan

Hurricane season is in full swing here in New England – are you prepared? One of the best ways to make sure that you and your family are ready in case of an emergency is with a family emergency plan. If you don’t have one, here are some things that you should think about and decide:

  • Designate one out-of-town family member or friend that each person in your family can contact if there is an emergency. This person will be in charge of making sure that everyone is safe and act as a liaison between family members if needed.
  • Every person in the family should know the out-of-town contact’s phone number, as well as one phone number for each member of the family. “It’s in my phone” doesn’t count – these numbers should be memorized so that they can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Designate two meeting places in case of an emergency. One should be local – somewhere within a few miles of your home. The other should be further away in case of a more widespread disaster. Also make sure family members know the location of the closest shelter in the area.
  • All family members should know the locations of family emergency kits – including those in the home and in vehicles. Make sure everyone knows what is in the kits and how each item should be used.

Make sure that you are doubly prepared by keeping the Vargas and Vargas Insurance numbers among your emergency contacts. By having our office number (617-298-0655) and our after-hours line (617-322-5289) with your other numbers, you will be sure that you are able to get a claim going right away on your home, auto, or flood insurance policy if you need to do so.