Traveling Safe This Holiday Season in Tennessee

Traveling Safe This Holiday Season in Tennessee

The holidays are about spending time with family and friends, which means that many of us will be traveling. However, winter weather can bring a variety of challenges, especially when driving to your next destination. Whether it’s in Knoxville or you’re going out of state, we at Bob Johnson Insurance want to help you stay safe. 

So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of travel tips and tricks that will ensure you spend the holidays with family, not in the hospital. 

Inspect Your Vehicle

While you probably get the oil changed and monitor the engine regularly, now is the perfect time to get a full diagnostic of your car’s internal systems. For example, how are your wiper blades? What about the tread on your tires? It’s better to inspect and repair these items now before you’re stuck in bad weather on the road. 

In addition to getting your car tuned up for the holiday season, you should pack it with some emergency gear just in case. Jumper cables, blankets, snacks, flares, and water are all essentials if you get stuck somewhere, so you want to be prepared. Remember, a flat tire or a dead battery can leave you stranded just as much as flooding or heavy snowfall. 

Prepare for Travel

Even if you’ve made the trip dozens of times before, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan in place beforehand. If you’re going through some rural areas, maybe bring along a map in case your GPS can’t get a signal. Look at the weather conditions along the road, so you know what to expect. Also, make sure that people know which route you’re taking, just in case something happens. 

Be Ready for Anything

While Tennessee doesn’t get much snow and ice compared to some locations, if you’re planning on driving out of state this winter, you want to be prepared for any kind of weather coming your way. Rain and thunderstorms can appear out of nowhere, and driving in snowy conditions can be more than a little nerve-wracking. 

Be careful on the road and drive slow if necessary. Having all-wheel or four-wheel drive helps, but it won’t prevent you from slipping or skidding on ice or wet roads. Remember safe driving tactics, like avoiding braking too sharply and maintaining a firm grip on the steering wheel. 

What if the Worst Happens?

If you do wind up stranded on the side of the road, don’t panic. If you have an emergency kit, you should be good shape until help arrives. Hopefully, you’ll have cell service and can call someone, but if not, it’s best to wait by your car and try to flag someone down. Flares and lights can also make you more visible, especially if the weather is treacherous. 

Staying safe this holiday season is all about preparation. Hope for the best, but the more you can plan just in case the worst happens, the better off you’ll be and the more peace of mind you’ll have. Happy holidays!

Seasonal Household Safety Tips

Seasonal Household Safety Tips

When the weather changes, so do our habits. Now, instead of spending time lounging in the sun and trying to stay cool from the Tennessee heat, we have to start bundling up and preparing for colder nights and brisk fall days. 

While the season brings plenty of fun activities (like football games), it can also bring some unexpected hazards. At Bob Johnson Insurance, we want to make sure that you’re prepared for anything this fall, which is why we’re offering some household safety tips this year. 

Check and Inspect Your Heating Sources

Since Knoxville isn’t known for being chilly during the spring and summer, your heater and fireplace are not going to get much use during the warmer months. However, being inactive for so long can cause problems if you’re not careful. 

So, with that in mind, you want to make sure that you inspect all of your heating sources before you use them. Fireplaces can collect flammable debris, and the chimney could become a massive fire hazard. 

Space heaters can pose a threat if they’re old and don’t have modern safety precautions. Your furnace can also be a hazard if it hasn’t been inspected in months. 

Keep Your Home Fire Resistant

Throwing some logs in the fireplace or lighting candles can make the chilly autumn nights more accommodating, but you want to be sure that you’re not putting yourself or your family at risk. 

When lighting any fires in your home, make sure to check the surrounding area for anything flammable. Keep candles away from the walls, and don’t let them burn all night while you sleep. Even a smoldering fire in the fireplace can emit sparks, so extinguish all flames before heading to bed. 

Pay Attention Outside

The fall season is time to bring out the holiday decorations, as well as prepare your plants for winter. Exercise caution when climbing up on the roof, cleaning your gutters, or pruning leaves. Falls and other accidents can happen fast, so you have to stay vigilant at all times. 

Also, keep in mind that the ground can get slippery as the weather changes. Rains and cold temperatures can create hazards, which is why you want to wear quality shoes with sufficient grip whenever you’re outdoors. 

Be Prepared in Case You Need to Use Your Insurance

Following these safety tips will ensure that your holiday season only creates fond memories for you and your family.   Our hope is that your holiday season is filled with family fun and making new memories. It’s good to be prepared just in case something happens that involves your insurance.  Give us a call at 800-624-3339 or click here to contact us. It only takes a few minutes to check your policies to ensure your coverage is adequate.

Fireplace Safety

How to Keep Your Home Safe From Fire

There’s nothing quite like enjoying a warm, cozy fire in the fireplace.  It’s a place to create memories such as sitting around the big fireplace every Christmas Eve listening to the Christmas story and music.  It’s important, however, to keep your home and family safe by keeping your fireplace clean and properly serviced.

Here are some tips for a wood-burning fireplace.

  • Before making a fire:
    • Open the glass doors (if you have them), open the metal screen, and place your kindling and logs inside.
    • Open the damper and a window (just a few inches). Check to make sure smoke will go up the chimney by lighting a match in front of the fireplace, blowing it out, and watching the direction of the smoke.
  • What to burn:
    • Burn only dry, well-seasoned hardwoods in your fireplace.
    • Buy your wood in the spring and store it off the ground and protected from excessive moisture.
    • It takes 6 months to a year for green firewood to be seasoned enough to burn.
  • What NOT to burn:
    • Never burn any materials that are not approved by the fireplace manufacturer.
    • Never burn plastic or Styrofoam.
    • Do not burn trash because it can create a fire that you cannot control or possibly release dangerous poisons into your home.
  • When burning a fire in the fireplace:
    • Use your fireplace for short-duration fires, 5 hours or less.
    • Safety Screen
      • Opening a window will help air flow up the chimney and will keep your house from getting smoky.
      • If your fireplace has glass doors, make sure to keep it open so air is drawn up the chimney.
      • Keep your metal firescreen closed to keep sparks from popping out on the carpet.
    • Never use flammable liquids (such as gasoline) to start a fire.
    • Never leave a fire unattended, especially when children are in the house.
    • Never use your hands to handle burning logs. Use appropriate fireplace tools.
    • Ensure that you wait at least 30 minutes after turning off your fireplace, insert, or stove, before touching it for any reason. The surfaces retain heat.
  • Keep your family safe.
    • Keep track of children and the infirm around your fireplace.
    • Children should not be allowed to play near the fire or to play with fire tools and equipment.
    • You may want to have additional barriers, like baby gates around the fireplace to ensure that the children cannot get near the fireplace.
    • As soon as they are old enough to understand, teach your children about fireplace safety.
  • Prepare your home.
    • Keep a non-flammable rug or other material in front of the fireplace to protect from flying sparks.
    • Be sure your home is equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check them regularly to make sure they work properly and have working batteries. Each level of your home should have detectors and there should be detectors in or near sleeping areas.
    • Equip your home with a fire extinguisher and know how to use it properly. Teach your family members how to use it properly.
    • Flammable materials should be at least 3 feet (or more) away from your fireplace.
  • Keep your chimney in good condition.
    • Keep your chimney clear. If animals nest or debris accumulates and blocks the chimney, it can cause carbon monoxide to flow into your house.  Be sure to have an appropriate chimney cap to protect against blockage and water damage.
    • Use a spark arrester on your chimney to prevent from sparks flying out which can potentially start a fire on your roof or lawn.
    • At least once per year or after approximately 80 fires, have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. Ask him to show you hazards to watch for.
  • After a fire:
    • Cleaning the Firebox (area where logs burn)
      • During the months that you use your fireplace, clean the firebox when ashes build up and at least once per week.
      • Leave about an inch of ash because it helps the coals to heat faster and retains heat easier.
      • Keep the firebox completely clean during months you do not use the fireplace.
    • Remove the ashes.
      • It can take up to 3 days for fireplace coals to completely cool. Always wait that long before you remove the ashes.
      • Close the damper to reduce excess dust.
      • Wear a dust mask and open a window in the same room as the fireplace (to prevent negative air pressure).
      • Shovel the ashes into a metal container. Store the container far away from any combustible materials, surfaces and floors.
      • Never use a vacuum to remove or clean up ashes because they could contain live coals.
    • You can shine your brass fireplace tools with Worcestershire sauce and a toothbrush.
    • If you have glass doors, you can clean tough stains (from flames and heat).
      • Make sure they are cool and then use a razor blade to scrape off tough gunk deposits.
      • Clean the rest of the stains off with a cleaning solution. Spray or sponge the cleaner on and wipe it away with a newspaper (which is lint-free).  Three possible cleaning solutions include:
        • Add a squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent to a bucket of warm water.
        • Add a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water.
        • Purchase appropriate fireplace glass cleaner at a fireplace store.
      • Cleaning your exterior hearth
        • A slate hearth should be washed, dried and coated with lemon oil every six weeks to make it shine.
        • A brick hearth should be cleaned with a brick cleaner purchased at a fireplace shop.

How to Keep Your Home Safe From Fire Series

Be Prepared for Common Winter Vehicle Insurance Claims

Preparing for Winter

As you can imagine, icy roads lead to a spike in auto insurance claims. Here are the ones to watch out for the most.

Collisions

Even if you’re driving carefully and diligently, someone else could veer off due to ice and slam into you. Depending on the road conditions, you could wind up with a minor fender bender or a severely damaged vehicle.

Tree Damage

Branches don’t just fall onto roofs. If your car is parked under a tree and it collapses, then you’re looking at some significant damage and repair.

Pothole Damage

Winter weather can lead to a lot of problems with the roads, which usually take the form of potholes. In some cases, these can be quite large and deep, which means that they could damage your suspension or axles if you’re not careful.

Are You Covered?

Hopefully, you will not experience any of these circumstances. However, all kinds of damages can occur during extreme weather.  Is your coverage sufficient?  For example, if you had to abandon your car due to severe ice and snow and it was towed, will your insurance cover it? Usually, you’re on your own in that case, but some cities will waive fees due to extenuating circumstances.

Don’t be caught unprepared.  Let us help you with an insurance review.  It’s easy and provides great peace of mind.  Give us a call at 865-922-3111 or click here to contact BJI.

 


Preparing For Winter Series

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter

Preparing for Winter

Depending on the kind of car you drive, winter weather can be a hassle for several reasons. First, the roads are going to be tough to traverse, with black ice and snow causing you to skid and slide all over the place.

Second, if your car is exposed to the elements, it may get damaged in the process. In many cases, your battery will die from the cold temperatures. In extreme cases, some of the fluids in your engine could freeze, or the whole engine block could crack.

So, with that in mind, here are some ways to keep your car in good shape this winter.

Prepare a Winter Supply Case

If you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow, you never know if you will get stranded somewhere. In these situations, it can be crucial to have supplies on hand to get out safely. Some items to include are road flares, emergency blanket, radio, an ice scraper, some water and snacks, and jumper cables. If you really want to be prepared, then keep a spare charger for the battery.

Check Your Fluids

Antifreeze and coolant are going to be the most vital liquids for your engine during the winter, so make sure that they are topped off before the first snowfall.  Be sure to test them to make sure they are appropriate for the surrounding temperature.

Inspect Your Tires

Although you may have to rely on chains to get around, you also want to be sure that your tires have sufficient traction for the roads. If they are getting bald, you need to replace them ASAP. This is also good advice in general, not just for winter.

Another thing to make sure of is that your tire pressure is sufficient. With cold weather, it’s best if they are a little underinflated (maybe five psi lower than normal) so that you can get better traction.

Switch to Winter Wiper Fluid

Usually, the fluid that stays in your car to keep your windshield clean is going to freeze during the winter. A specialized mix will remain viscous during the season and allow you to clean your windows without worry.

Use Winter Oil

Like wiper fluid, your oil may not be optimized for colder weather. As such, be sure to get an oil change before the temperatures drop dramatically so that you can keep your car in pristine shape during the frozen months.

 


Preparing For Winter Series

Be Prepared for Common Winter Homeowners Insurance Claims

Preparing for Winter

As we mentioned, the winter is a busy season for insurance agents due to the spike in claims. But what kind of issues are homeowners experiencing the most this time of year? Here are some examples.

Roof Damage

Most of us don’t pay too much attention to our roofs until they are caving in on us. The added weight of ice and snow can lead to a collapse if you’re not careful. Even if the worst doesn’t happen, it is possible to have to replace some  roofing.  Make sure your roof is in good condition before winter storms occur.

Fallen Trees

Branches and tree trunks can drop onto your house with little warning or notice, and the results can be devastating. Although you can’t always prepare yourself for this kind of occurrence, you can remove any old or decaying branches before the first snow falls. Look for any trees that may be leaning toward or over your house.  Talk with a professional about possible solutions.

Burst Pipes

The pipes inside our homes are not always built to withstand such temperature variations, which means that they could crack or burst if you’re not careful. Improper insulation and installation is usually the culprit, and the results could be a flooded home. Be sure that all pipes all insulated properly, and you might consider using spigot covers during cold months.

Fire Damage

As we mentioned in Preparing Your Home for Winter, your chimney could be a hazard if you don’t get it cleaned. When burning wood in your fireplace, use a fender (a short and long piece of metal that sits on the hearth to protect the rug or floor from flying sparks) and a firescreen.  If you are using  a space heater, leave plenty of area around the heater and be sure there are no flammable objects near it.

Are You Covered?

Before winter hits, do an insurance review with your agent to ensure that you’re covered from things like falling branches, “acts of God,” as well as other potential damages. You don’t want to wait until a pipe bursts to find out that you’re not covered for such things. Even if you’ve gone years without such a claim, you never know what the future holds. An insurance review could save you thousands of dollars.

Call 265-922-3111 or use our contact form to schedule your insurance review.

 


Preparing For Winter Series

Preparing Your Home for Winter

Preparing for Winter

Since your house may get covered in snow and ice, you want to be sure that the severe weather isn’t going to breach the inside, nor leave behind lasting damage that will have to be repaired. Although you can’t prevent any and all kinds of problems from occurring, you can avoid many common issues that plague homeowners this time of year.

When it comes to protecting your home from the harsh winter weather, your primary goal is to make sure that the cold stays outside where it belongs. Also, you want to keep an eye on parts of your home that are exposed to the elements, including the roof, windows, and gutters.

Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive, but it should give you an idea of what to think about to get your home ready this winter.

Clean Your Gutters

If leaves and water are sitting in your gutters during the cold season, they could freeze over and cause damage to the gutter itself. In addition, if they get too heavy from an abundance of ice and snow, they could buckle and damage your roof in the process.

Overall, you want to keep them as clear as possible so that when the snows arrive, they aren’t adding to a bunch of gunk that is already there. One thing to remember is that it’s best to wait until there are no more leaves dropping so that you only have to do this once.

Repair Cracks

As water freezes inside these cracks, the ice will expand, widening and deepening the damage. Over time, a little break can turn into a fault line, which can put your home at risk. Ideally, you will work on cracks on both the pavement surrounding your home as well as any masonry that is on the outside (i.e., the chimney).

If your foundation is starting to crack, it’s imperative that you patch it up ASAP. If you let it go too long, then it could spell disaster for your house and lead to significant damage.

Inspect Your Heating System

Depending on where you live, you likely don’t have to use your heater until the weather gets colder. This means that it sits unused for months on end, which can lead to inefficient operation when the time comes.

As such, you want to get all of your machinery inspected before the temperatures drop so that you can improve your energy and heating bills and ensure that it won’t break down when it counts the most.

Reverse Ceiling Fans

This is a minor step, but it can have significant effects. By reversing the flow of the fan blades, you’re moving hot air up and around the home more efficiently, which can help you save some money on heating bills. Also, it enables you to use them all year long since you don’t have to worry about the fan cooling you down when it’s already freezing outside.

Clean Your Chimney

Unless you have a gas fireplace, chances are that your chimney needs some cleaning before you start putting wood inside. Many house fires are started from flammable material that wasn’t removed, so don’t put yourself at risk. If necessary, hire a professional to inspect and clean the inside thoroughly.


Preparing For Winter Series