Time to Winterize Your Home

 
As the first leaves hit the ground and those fall breezes turn from cool to cold, it’s time to prepare for winter. Whether that means snowstorms and ice or just the heavy chills many experienced in last year’s milder season, experts advise preparing your home for whatever Old Man Winter has in store.

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Here are some popular winterizing tips:
  1. Check doors, windows and any exterior opportunities for winter to enter your home. Caulk cracks and replace cracked or broken glass and dried-out or missing weatherstripping and seals.
  2. Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts.
  3. Inspect, repair or replace flashing, roof shingles or tiles. If needed, add attic insulation to prevent ice dams along the edge of the roof, which can cause water damage to roofs and ceilings.
  4. Get the fireplace and furnace ready. Buy or chop firewood and inspect damper and chimney. Have the furnace inspected, clean the ducts, stock up on filters, and inspect or replace the thermostat.
  5. Inspect, update, or install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers.
  6. Protect pipes. Insulate exposed pipes, and drain and close off A/C pipes or exterior hose bibs. If you plan a vacation, be sure to leave heat set at least to 55 degrees.
  7. Reverse ceiling fans. In the summer, ceiling fans force breezes downward. In winter, reversing the direction of air flow forces the warm air at ceiling height back down along the walls, from where it will rise again, keeping the overall room temperature at a more comfortable level with less need for heating.
  8. Prepare landscaping and gardens. Trim dead tree limbs or any branches that are hanging so close to the house or electrical wires that they could cause damage when weighted by ice. Bring sensitive plants indoors or move to greenhouse. Seal or repair sidewalks, driveways, patios, and decks.
  9. Assemble an emergency kit. Include first aid supplies, flashlights, candles, lanterns, extra batteries, nonperishable food, and bottled water.
And don’t forget this is a great time of year for a homeowners coverage review with Sherrill & Company, your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agency. Should winter storms cause damage to your home, be certain your current protection is adequate.

Cyber Attacks: Protecting Your Small Business from Data Theft

Recently cyber-attacks were back in the news, and the latest attempted victim was the White House. According to an October 1 report from the Washington Post the White House acknowledged that hackers attempted to remove data from a White House computer. While the attempt wasn’t successful thanks to mitigation efforts, the attack should serve as a reminder to all small businesses that they face risks of similar attacks from data thieves, and they may not have the same level of mitigation systems in place.

In addition to a hacker getting into your system, data theft can occur if an employee’s computer is stolen, or if an unauthorized person is able to access a computer in your office. It could even be a disgruntled employee who carries out data theft. Any business that collects and stores sensitive information from customers, including credit card information, contact information, credit information, social security numbers, medical information, etc. is at risk for data theft.
data theft.jpgHere are a few tips to reduce your risks for cyber-attacks and data theft of sensitive customer information:
  • Change the passwords you and your employees use to log into your technology systems on a regular basis
  • Avoid emailing sensitive information, but if you do, use a secured email service
  • Have employees lock their computer screens when they step away from their desks
  • Avoid having unescorted/unsupervised visitors walking through your office
  • Don’t open strange email attachments or click unusual links in emails, especially from an unknown sender as they may be scams
  • Have a written technology policy in place so that all of your employees understand the expectations and rules guiding how your business handles sensitive data
Loss of electronic data is not covered under most commercial theft policies because it is not a tangible asset, and most general liability policies also exclude coverage for your costs to notify customers of potential data theft, pay for the costs of investigating the loss or the costs of potential fines, penalties or lawsuits that result from a failure to protect the data. A cyber liability policy can provide your business with coverage that will help you cover several costs, including the expenses to inform your customers and regulatory authorities about the possible exposure of data.
To protect your small business from these exposures, consider a cyber-liability policy.  Sherrill & Company, a Trusted Choice® Independent Insurance Agency, can help you identify the risks your business faces from data theft, and can help you identify a policy to cover those exposures.