What You Need to Know About Phase Two of Massachusetts Reopening

The state of Massachusetts is reopening in phases. On Monday, June 8, Phase Two of the plan was initiated. With the peak of COVID-19 on the decline in the state, Phase Two for many parts of the economy and communities has had many businesses reopening their doors for the first time in months. Below are what residents can expect in the next couple of weeks. 

woman opening her store during Phase 2 of Massachusetts reopening

Retail Stores and Restaurants

At the beginning of Phase Two, restaurants with outdoor dining options were able to reopen to patrons. All dining tables are mandated to be six feet apart, allowing for the required social distancing requirements. 

Retail stores also can begin to open their doors, but capacity limits will be in place. In addition to staff members, only eight customers will be permitted in the building per 1,000 square feet. This allowance keeps the store at 40 percent or lower occupancy at all times. 

Healthcare Facilities

With non-essential services postponed during the pandemic, many healthcare facilities were closed indefinitely. During Phase Two, many of these facilities can start to reopen and resume standard services. Patients in the hospital will be permitted one visitor, which is up from the no visitor policy in Phase One. Non-essential and cosmetic surgeries will continue to be delayed during Phase Two with plans to resume in Phase Three. 

Child Care Services

If certain distancing requirements are met for child care and summer camps, they may be allowed to reopen during Phase Two. 

Lodging and Personal Services

All services that do not require close contact between employees and customers are able to reopen under the same social distancing requirements of six feet between individuals. In terms of lodging, hotels can reopen to guests. However, community areas such as meeting rooms and pools will not be allowed to open. 

Outdoor Recreation

As long as sporting events can be practiced and played with social distancing regulations in place, they will be permitted. All adult sports games will be moved to outdoor facilities during this phase in order for them to continue. Local and state parks will continue reopening for public use over the next couple of weeks. 

These changes are expected to continue throughout Phase Two, leading into the next phases as cases of the virus continue to decline. The importance of Phase Two is to allow Massachusetts residents the ability to acclimate back into society safely and cautiously. 

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we’re here to help you feel safe at home and as you work. Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today to maintain your insurance needs. 

Turn Back The Clocks; Turn Back Time

It’s Autumn; you know what that means! “Spring” towards those clocks and “fall back” an hour! 

This year, Daylight Savings Time ends at 2 a.m. on November 3rd.

Turning back the clocks is a great reminder for some basic security measures to protect your home.

Smoke Detectors: Do a survey of your smoke detectors to ensure you have sufficient safety coverage around your house.  Change the batteries.  Generally speaking, smoke detectors should be placed inside bedrooms and in hallways near to sleeping areas.  You should also have smoke detectors strategically placed in your basement within a reasonable distance to your furnace.

The more smoke detectors you have, and the better-placed they are, the chances of early warning and survival in the event of a fire increase dramatically.

You might also consider at this time installing carbon monoxide detectors, definitely in your basement near to the furnace area, but also near windows and doors that either lead to indoor garages or face onto close proximity driveways.  Car idling can quickly lead to carbon monoxide buildup that seeps through windows and past doorways to cause lethal harm.

Password Review: In our modern technological age, we recommend adding a password review protocol to your “Turn Back Time” routine.  In general, you should change passwords more frequently than once a year, but we’re often too busy to accomplish this.  So, at least spend some time to update your password security this November 3rd.  Check your security challenge questions on websites and definitely consider implementing a Two-Factor authentication.

Annual Insurance Review: We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that this is another great opportunity to consider calling your agent and scheduling an appointment for your annual insurance review. Things change each year with life and with the insurance carriers. It is your responsibility to know how your insurance portfolio is structured.

Once you’ve run around on November 3rd getting all that done, you’ll be exhausted for sure! Not to worry, you’ll get an extra hour of sleep this weekend!

Home Security Overview

Alarms, cameras, door and window locks, passwords. 

That should cover everything you need to remember this Autumn as you perform your twice annual security review!

  1. Alarms.  Is your alarm system up to date with the latest equipment?  Check with your alarm provider to be sure your technology is up to date.  Then conduct a survey to be sure that all contact points for your alarm system are secure with no loose contact plates or wiring.   What about power sources for your alarm system?   Be sure that outlets that provide power to your alarm appliances aren’t overloaded with other appliances.
  2. Cameras.  When did you last update the firmware for your cameras?  Even if you’ve set up devices for automatic updates, you should check to be sure that updates have occurred.  Keep hackers out of your systems with the latest software/firmware updates.   How are the sight lines for your cameras?  Have storms or critters moved cameras out of alignment?  Are those lenses clean and intact?  Do a visual inspection up close of each camera to make sure there is no damage to the lenses our housing.  Are the mounting screws secure?
  3. Door and Window Locks.  Check for loose strike plates, loose screws.  Are the locks easy to close and open?  A tiny dash of a lubricant might be necessary to ensure smooth lock operation.  Do your window sashes line up to make the locking secure and firm?  If you’re using electronic locks have you updated the passwords?  Is the power to such locks secure?
  4. Passwords.  We cannot say enough about using very secure passwords and about changing passwords frequently.  Thankfully many smartphone manufacturers and other third party providers are creating secure password storage apps for your phones.  Be sure to back up your passwords in writing somewhere in your home, in a book where you won’t forget it and where it’s unlikely that an intruder would look there to find your passwords.  Yes, written backup.  You read that correctly.

When you conduct a home security review you should also have a conversation with your Independent Insurance Agent to ensure your insurance policy reflects new security measures you’ve installed in your home. This could help to save you money on your insurance premiums.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Fire Hazards in Your House

Fire hazards are everywhere. Yet, we often ignore the danger, or, worse, we’re completely unaware of the lurking, imminent threat of fire breaking out.  Fire is a devastating event, inflicting tremendous damage, sever injury and death!  Fire can wreak havoc in a fierce, fast, moment.

Smoke detectors are your primary line of defense to protect your life when a fire breaks out.

But you should take the time to carefully inspect your home for hazards that could easily become a threatening event.

Extension Cords 
Overloaded electrical extension cords cause fire by overheating and exploding in flame. Additionally, they are often near to furniture or draperies that burn rapidly. 

Take time to unburden your electrical outlets from overloaded extension cords.  If you absolutely must increase utilization of a particular outlet in your house, consider hiring an electrician to upgrade the wiring and quality of that outlet. Install of an outlet with a “Ground Fault Interrupt” (GFI) breaker that shuts the outlet off in the event of overloading.  

Consider purchasing a high-quality surge protection power strip with built-in circuit breaker.

Coffee Machines
Does your coffee maker have an “Auto-Off” feature?  We forget to turn off coffee machines; they continue warming the near-empty carafe, ultimately burning off any remaining liquid, thus creating a fire hazard while you’re away from home.

Circuit Breaker Panel Upgrade 
When is the last time you asked a Licensed Electrician to inspect the circuit breaker panel in your house to determine its viability for your current needs?  A simple inspection and potential upgrade of worn or insufficient breakers can go a long way to presenting a first line of defense against fire hazards.

Lightning
Do you have a lightning rod installed on your home?   The lightning rod is a simple metal bar that captures a lightning strike and sends the resulting electrical burst harmlessly away from your roof.

Inspect all electrical outlets
Be sure there’s no furniture, clothing, newspapers or other flammable objects too close to, or obstructing the electrical outlets around your home.  A flimsy fabric accidentally falling on the electrical cord to a lamp can potentially overheat and create an immediate fire situation.

You can find more excellent advice on inspecting and protecting your home at the National Safety Council website.

Call us so we can help you with other claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Recap: Phishing Scams

“At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security.”

– Jodi Rell

Do you ever worry about your electronic security? It seems like nowadays there are hackers around every digital corner, looking to take advantage of users everywhere. The key to avoiding being taken advantage of is to stay vigilant. Here are some tips from our recent blog about how you can avoid being the target of a phishing scam when you are online:

  • Have unique, secure passwords for each of your online accounts. A secure password should include a random assortment of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Use two-factor authentication in addition to a password whenever possible, especially on accounts for banking and other sensitive information.
  • Never click on a link or open an attachment when you don’t know who sent you an email. Check URLs to make sure that they are legitimate and not misspelled or using special characters.
  • When browsing the web, be aware if a website is secure and encrypted by checking to see if the URL starts with “https.”

If you’re looking for more than just digital protection, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for all your Massachusetts insurance needs. We offer many types of insurance policies that will provide you and your loved ones with financial protection for your home, car, business, and much more. One quick and easy call to 617-298-0655 will get you on the road to great insurance protection.

Avoid Being the Target of a Phishing Scam

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we always want to make sure that our clients are safe. Insurance, for example, is a great way to ensure financial security in case of an unexpected loss. If you have the right insurance policies, you can rest easy knowing that you are financially protected.

Another way that we provide safety tips to our clients is through these informative blog posts. We recently read about an upsurge in phishing scams, so we want to make sure that you are well versed on what these cyber attacks are and how you can avoid falling prey to them.

What is Phishing?

No, don’t look for your bait and tackle just yet – we’re talking about phishing, with a ‘ph,’ which is a term for the scam where hackers attempt to attain your personal electronic information via electronic means, often email, phone call, or text message. The information they target can vary but is typically either usernames and passwords or credit card information.

Why is it called ‘phishing,’ you ask? Well, it’s done by lulling the target into a false sense of security and attempting to lure them into giving out sensitive information!

This type of scam has been around for more than a decade. The first lawsuit related to phishing was in 2004 against a California teenager who used an imitation of the AOL website to trick people into entering their credit card numbers.

Unfortunately, hackers are evolving the avenues used for phishing more quickly than cybersecurity experts can defend against them. This means that you must be constantly vigilant about making sure that your information is secure.

What can you do to avoid being targeted?

In today’s world, one of your top priorities is to keep your personal information safe from prying eyes. Thankfully, there are a few basic steps that you can take in order to help ensure that you are protected from those that would take what isn’t theirs.

The first thing you should brush up on is password security. You probably have a lot of online accounts, ranging from the unimportant to the critical. Consider this: how many of these accounts have the same (or very similar) passwords? If a hacker were to somehow obtain the credentials to one of your accounts, would they then have access to many more?

In order to keep your online accounts secure, each one should have a unique password. Preferably something that doesn’t involve names of loved ones or the numbers of your birthday (and please, never use “password123” – it’s the first thing that hackers will try). The best thing that you can do is use a completely random string of letters, numbers, and special characters. To simplify this process, consider using a well-vetted password manager (there are several available) for your password creation and management. Also consider using two-factor authentication on websites that allow it, namely for your banking accounts.

Once you have secure passwords, you need to do your part in making sure that you don’t accidentally give them to hackers. This is easier said than done, as phishing scams are getting more difficult to detect. When you’re in your email, make sure that you only click on links or open attachments from trusted senders. If you ever receive an email that makes you uneasy, remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when it comes to your personal data. Verify that a website’s URL is correct when clicking a link. Some scammers get crafty and make URLs look authentic by making things seem legitimate, but you may discover that they’re using a special character or adding or omitting letters from your intended destination. Also, before entering your login information on a website, check to make sure that the URL starts with ‘https’ – the ‘s’ means that the website is secure and encrypted, and can be one step in verifying that entering your information is safe.

In addition to being careful in giving out your information, make sure that you and your loved ones are using spam filters and ad blockers when on the web. These can help block out known scams from even being seen on your browser or in your email client.

Remember, the best thing that you can do to keep your information safe is to be very careful about giving it out. If you’re ever in doubt about an email or communication that you get from our agency, just call our office at 617-298-0655 and ask if it is valid. We can help you determine whether we need information from you and get it safely and in a way that doesn’t compromise your online security.

We’re also always available if you need a quote for Boston insurance policies! Call 617-298-0655 for a free consultation on Massachusetts home insurance, auto insurance, business insurance, or any of your current or needed policies.

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.