Sunday, December 30, 2012

7 Signs that You Need an Insurance Checkup

The new year is on its way! Have you made your resolutions?

Since 2013 is coming fast, we thought it would be a good time for an insurance checkup!

As time goes on and your life changes, your insurance needs will change too. Periodically updating your insurance can help save you money and ensure that the policy you started so many years ago is still relevant today. 

Time for your annual checkup! You need to make sure that your valuables are protected.
(Image courtesy of vichie81 at 

You might have done some things last year that you didn't realize could change your insurance. Here are some flags that you might need to review your policy.

You've renovated your home.

(Image courtesy of africa/

Have you recently made any improvements to your home? If so, you should check with your insurance agent to make sure you are getting the most out of your coverage. You might be paying more than you have to because many companies offer discounts for home improvements. Or worse, you might not have the coverage that you need.

You should check in with your agent if you have made any of the following changes to your home:

  • Replaced your roof, heating system, electrical system or plumbing.
  • Added a security or sprinkler system.
  • Built an attached or detached structure, such as a new porch, storage building or carport.
  • Installed a pool or hot tub.
  • Done any significant remodeling that might have raised the replacement cost of your home.

You've made any large purchases.

If you’ve recently purchased anything valuable, you might want to check and make sure it is covered. While the bulk of your home’s contents are going to be covered under your personal property coverage, most home insurance policies put a limit on how much they will pay for certain categories of property, like jewelry, firearms, furs and collectibles. Certain things may need to be scheduled, or specifically listed. Your agent will be able to help you determine the best way to cover your valuables.

You've had a child leave for college.

Check with your agent to make sure the things that they take with them are still covered. Sometimes your personal property coverage will extend to cover their things while they are away, but it is best to make sure that they don't need to get their own separate renter's policy to cover their belongings instead. It might also save you money on your auto insurance if they no longer have access to any vehicles on the policy.

You've changed marital status.

This is an important but often forgotten detail that agents need to know. If you have gotten married, your new spouse needs to be added to your policies so that they are covered as well. Also, a lot of times just changing your status from “single” to “married” on your insurance can make your premium go down a significant amount.

If you are recently divorced, you’ll want to make sure to let your insurance company know that as well so that your policy can be updated accordingly. Insurance policies should be split up just as assets are split up. If you have refinanced your home in only your name, for example, you wouldn’t want your ex’s name showing up on a claim check, would you?

You’ve improved your credit.

Having good credit can lower your insurance premium, but not every insurance company that uses credit as a factor gets an updated score at every renewal. If you think your credit has improved since you originally wrote the policy, you might consider asking your insurance company if they have recently checked your credit report.  

You've changed your job.

If you’ve changed jobs and it affects the amount of time you spend driving, you should let your agent know. It might not change anything, but some companies offer lower rates for those who work close to home and have a shorter commute.

Also, if you have started a job that requires you to drive on the clock in your personal vehicle, like pizza delivery, you need to let your agent know right away. Your personal insurance policy might not cover you while you are doing commercial activities, and might need to be rewritten as a commercial policy.

You’ve sold or purchased a vehicle.

This seems like an obvious one, but with all of the hassle of selling a car you might not have remembered to call up your insurance agent to have it removed from your policy…which might mean you are still paying for coverage on a vehicle that you don’t have. If you have a bill of sale showing the date that it was sold, your agent might be able to backdate the removal. If you bought a car, you’ll want to make sure that it was added to your policy so you don’t find out the hard way that you’ve been driving around in an uninsured vehicle. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Keeping Safe During A Tornado

Here in the Midwest, it is easy for us to become complacent about tornadoes because, for most of us, nothing terrible has ever come out of a tornado warning. But no matter how common hearing about them becomes, there will never be anything routine about tornadoes. They are unpredictable and dangerous. Tornadoes can cause a shocking amount of destruction in a matter of seconds, and it is important that we take them seriously.

Last year was one of the most deadly tornado years ever recorded in the United States. According to forecasters at, we should expect this year to be the same, if not worse, than last year...and the storm systems that have been ripping through the Midwest this spring aren't doing anything to disprove them. They have already resulted in widespread damage and multiple fatalities. 

To help you make sure you aren't caught unprepared, we have put together a quick list of some things that you can do to help keep yourself safe in tornadic weather. 

Before a tornado

Learn about your community's weather warning system. 
Many areas have outdoor warning systems, or sirens that go off when there is a severe weather threat, but some do not. If there are no warning sirens near you (and maybe even if there are, because sirens aren't always 100% reliable), you will want to make sure you have another way to find out if there is a dangerous weather threat in your area. Which leads to the next point...

Invest in a weather radio. 
Televisions are not always reliable during a storm. The power might go out, or the broadcast signal could be suddenly lost. Weather radios receive broadcasts from the National Weather Service. Weather radios can be set to come on automatically whenever a watch or warning is broadcast from the National Weather Service. They run on batteries, so it is no problem if the power goes out...just make sure you keep extra batteries on hand as well. The Federal Communication Commission's Emergency Alert System also broadcasts information to weather radios for other types of hazards as well, such as chemical spills and AMBER alerts, so they are handy to have around on pleasant sunny days too. Find out where to buy a weather radio here

Make sure you know the difference between a 'watch' and a 'warning'.
A weather watch means that there is a potential for dangerous weather. The conditions will be just right for creating a scary storm. A watch is the most important during weather events that come and go quickly, like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, since these events often happen so fast that there is no time to issue a warning. For events that last longer, like extreme temperatures, hurricanes and winter storms, a watch will mean that there is no IMMEDIATE threat yet, but that you should still pay attention as it could turn dangerous. In any case, a weather watch should still be taken seriously and you should prepare yourself to take action if things take a turn for the worst. In the case of a tornado, a watch means that tornadoes are likely to develop in the watch area, so stick close to shelter. Keep your eyes open for some of the early indicators of tornadic weather - dark greenish clouds, hail, heavy rain followed by eery calm or sudden intense winds, rotating clouds, flashes of light at ground level (they indicate power lines being snapped by wind), and a loud "freight train" sound that doesn't go away in a few seconds like thunder does. 

A weather warning means that you need to take safety actions immediately. The threat has changed from conditions just having the potential for creating dangerous weather to the weather being a confirmed hazard for the warning area. For short-term events, the event is occurring somewhere in the warning area. For longer-term events, it means that it is no longer safe in the area and you need to either stay in or move to a safe shelter. 

"Is this safe enough?"
Designate a safe place where you and your family can go during a tornado. 
Ideally this should be a basement, crawlspace or storm cellar. If you don't have any of those, pick an interior room on the lowest floor of the home with the fewest number of windows (no windows would be best!). For mobile home or apartment dwellers, check and see if there is already a tornado plan in place and if there is a community area designated as a storm shelter that you can get to quickly. Have frequent tornado drills to make sure everyone knows where to go and the fastest way to get there. 

Make the exterior of your home as safe as possible. 
Remove broken or excess limbs from trees and secure any lawn furniture, trash cans, potted plants, outdoor toys and anything else that could be thrown and cause damage during high winds. Flying debris causes the majority of tornado-related injuries. 

Stock an emergency kit full of supplies and keep it handy. 
Some items to put in there include a first aid kit, any necessary medications - especially for conditions like asthma and diabetes that are commonly affected by stress (The movie Panic Room with Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart, where the diabetic daughter is stuck without her medication, comes to mind here.), non-perishable food (enough to feed each person for at least three days if you get trapped), three gallons of water per person, extra clothing and blankets, your weather radio, a regular radio, a map of the surrounding counties so that you can quickly identify where the storm is, flashlights and plenty of spare batteries. If you have pets, you might want to make sure you have supplies for them as well and a safe place to wait out the storm with you. If you have designated a safe area in your home it would be a good idea to make sure that you have a way of communicating with the outside world while you are there. Remember that cell phone service is not always reliable during a storm so you might want to make sure you have landline access. Keep a whistle or some other way you could signal to show where you are if you get trapped and make sure you have protective coverings nearby to protect yourself from flying debris.

Make sure you are covered. 
Sorry to go all insurance agent on you, but it really is important to make sure your belongings are properly covered before disaster strikes. If you own a home, you'll want to make sure you have enough coverage for your dwelling, your personal property and any other structures on your property. Pay attention to whether your property is covered at actual cash value or replacement cost. In the event of a claim, actual cash value coverage will only pay out the depreciated value, while replacement cost coverage will pay to replace the item. If you don't own your home, you can still get coverage for your personal property on a renter's policy. And remember that if your car/truck/motorcycle is destroyed in the storm and you just have liability only auto insurance, there is no coverage for that vehicle. 

During a tornado

Don't panic! 
Think calmly about what the safest course of action would be based on your situation.

Pay attention to updates.
Listen to your local news station or a weather radio to make sure you stay informed about changing watches and warnings.

Keep the windows closed. 
The idea that opening windows will equalize pressure is a myth.

Get to the closest safe area and stay there. 
If possible, cover yourself with some kind of protection from debris, like a sleeping bag or a mattress. Make sure there is nothing heavy nearby that could fall or be pushed into you - this includes being aware of what is above you on upper floors because they could fall through due to storm damage (in other words, try to make sure you aren't directly underneath the grand piano in the living room). Stay as far away from glass/windows as possible.

If you are outside or in a vehicle and absolutely can't get to a shelter, you can lie face-down on the ground in the lowest altitude area you can find. Stay away from things like cars and trees that could be thrown on you. No matter how much your instincts scream at you to find something to cover you, experts say you shouldn't hide under bridges or overpasses; you'll be safer in an open area. No matter where you are, stay as close to the ground as possible.

After a tornado

If the tornado hit the area you were in, check yourself and the people around you for any injuries. Take care of what minor injuries you can with first aid and try to contact emergency services for any major injuries. Keep everyone together and wait for a sign that it is safe to move. If the building you were in was damaged and you are able to get out safely, do so in case it collapses. There might be hazards that you cannot see, like natural gas or broken power lines, so don't wander around too much or use matches or lighters. Emergency crews should be on their way shortly to help out, so the best thing is to wait from instructions from them. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome to Kansas Insurance!

Welcome to our blog!

We are a locally owned and operated insurance agency group based out of Lawrence, Kansas, here to help you with all insurance-related aspects of your life.

Here's some quick background info so you can get a better idea of who we are.

Kansas Insurance is the new name of a long-established group of independent insurance agencies. 

It began in 1998, when Travis Oliver, president of Thomas County Insurance Agency in Colby, Kansas, created Douglas County Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. in Lawrence, Kansas.

Jefferson County Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. in Oskaloosa, Kansas was added to the agency group in 2005.

In 2006, the Mader Gilmore Agency in Ottawa, KS was purchased and renamed Franklin County Insurance.

The entire agency group was renamed Kansas Insurance in 2011 to unite the different offices together under a common name. There are currently Kansas Insurance offices in Lawrence, Oskaloosa, and Colby, Kansas.

We look forward to getting to know you as time goes on! If you want more information about our agents or the services that we offer, please visit our website (And don't forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook!).