Tag Archives: phone

Communication & Technology Preparedness

According to The American Red Cross, the Internet—including online news sites and social media platforms—is the third-most popular way for Americans to gather emergency information and let their loved ones know they are safe. Through the use of everyday technology, individuals, families, responders and organizations can successfully prepare for, adapt to and recover from disruptions brought on by emergencies and/or disasters. With effective planning, it is possible to take advantage of technology before, during and after a crisis to communicate with loved ones and manage your financial affairs.

Stay Connected

Keep your contacts updated across all of your channels, including phone, email and social media. This will make it easy to reach out to the right people quickly to get information and supply updates. Consider creating a group list of your top contacts.

  • Learn how to send updates via text and Internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Text messages and the Internet often work during a phone service disruption.
  • Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place, or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger so you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
  • In your cellphone, program some of your contacts as emergency contacts so that if you are unable to use your phone, emergency personnel can contact those people for you. Let your emergency contacts know that they are programmed into your phone, and inform them of any medical issues or other special needs you may have.
  • If you have a traditional landline (non-broadband or Voice over Internet Protocol) phone, keep at least one non-cordless receiver in your home because it will work even if you lose power.
  • If you are evacuated and have call forwarding on your home phone, forward your home phone number to your cellphone number.
  • If you do not have a cellphone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  • Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact who may be better able to reach family members in an emergency.
  • Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio or television available (with spare batteries).

The following are additional tips for making phone calls and using your smartphone during or after a disaster:

  • Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to convey only vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
  • If you are unsuccessful in completing a call using your cellphone, wait ten seconds before redialing to help reduce network congestion.
  • Conserve your cellphone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode and closing apps you are not using that draw power, unless you need to use the phone.
  • If you lose power, you can charge your cellphone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place (that is, remove it from the garage) and do not go to your car until any danger has passed. You can also listen to your car radio for important news alerts.
  • If you do not have a hands-free device in your car, stop driving or pull over to the side of the road before making a call. Do not text on a cellphone, talk or “tweet” without a hands-free device while driving.
  • Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to stream videos, download music or videos or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 911.
  • For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, email or social media instead of making voice calls on your cellphone to avoid tying up voice networks. Data-based services like texts and emails are less likely to experience network congestion. You can also use social media to post your status to let family and friends know you are okay. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can use resources such as the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well program.

Get Organized

Store your important documents such as personal and financial records in a password-protected area in the Cloud or on a secure flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available. This flash drive can be kept on a key ring so it can be accessed from any computer, anytime, anywhere. Remember important documents, such as:

  • Personal and property insurance
  • Identification such as driver’s license or passport (for family members, as well)
  • Banking information

Don’t forget your pets!

  • Store your pet’s veterinary medical records documents online.
  • Consider an information digital implant.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet in your online kit to aid in identification if you are separated.

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. Create an Emergency Information document or Family Communications plan to record how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in different situations.

  • Make sure to share this document with family members, friends and co-workers who will also need to access it in an emergency or crisis.
  • When handling personal and sensitive information, always keep your data private and share it only with those who will need access in case of emergency.

Sign up for direct deposit and electronic banking through your financial institution so you can access your payroll funds and make electronic payments regardless of location.

Emergency Resources

Include these sites in your Emergency Information document to ensure that you can quickly access them from any computer or smartphone.

  • Download the FEMA App to access disaster preparedness tips, build your personal emergency kit and look for open Disaster Recovery Centers along with open shelters (if you’re a disaster survivor). Also, stay informed with the FEMA blog.
  • Local emergency management officials often have notification systems. Opt in to a distribution for your community. To find out if your community offers such services, contact your local office of Emergency Management.
  • Signup to receive a monthly preparedness tip from FEMA’s text messages program.
  • Bookmark important mobile sites:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://m.cdc.gov
  • American Red Cross: www.redcross.org/mobile
  • FEMA/Ready: http://m.fema.gov
  • National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov/mobile

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact Texas Associates Insurors at 512-328-7676 or http://www.txassoc.com today.

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Lock It Up!

Summer is upon us, which means vehicle theft season is in full swing. According to the FBI, July and August are the top two months for vehicle thefts in the country. There are many common-sense ways to help prevent a thief from stealing your vehicle:

  • Always close and lock all windows and doors when you park.
  • About 40-50 percent of vehicle thefts are due to driver error, which includes leaving doors unlocked, keys in the ignition and windows/sunroofs open.
    • Park in well-lit areas. Thieves don’t like witnesses.
    • Always keep your vehicle in your garage, if possible. It’s still important to lock your vehicle in the garage!
    • Never, ever leave valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen. That includes mundane items such as clothing and food, too.
    • Do not leave the area while your vehicle is running, even if you’re just running into the dry cleaner’s for a minute.

Using common sense is the best way to make sure your vehicle isn’t stolen. Be aware that your vehicle can be a target at any time and your vigilance will pay off.

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International Travel Tips

We’ve received quite a few requests lately about International Travel, with questions ranging from safety issues to health insurance accessibility.  Traveling abroad is the experience of a lifetime. Ensure it’s a positive one by following these recommendations.

Obtaining a Passport

If you need a passport, you should apply for one well in advance of your trip—passport processing takes 6 weeks or longer. For information on the requirements for and steps to obtaining a U.S. passport, visit http://travel.state.gov/passport/.

Before You Leave

  • Ÿ Sign your passport and fill in your emergency information.
  • Ÿ Give copies of your itinerary and passport data page to family and friends for emergency use.
  • Ÿ Let your bank and credit card company know your travel plans to avoid having your accounts frozen for unusual activity.
  • Ÿ Contact your health insurance provider to find out if your policy applies overseas and, if so, what it covers. If travel is not covered, you may want to consider short-term supplemental insurance.
  • Ÿ Carry a letter from your physician describing your prescriptions and medical conditions.
  • Ÿ Learn about necessary vaccinations and health precautions.
  • Ÿ Research your destination to stay safe. For information on travel safety and warnings, go to www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html and click on the country you are visiting.
  • Ÿ Find out customs restrictions for the country you are going to, as well as for returning to the United States.
  • Ÿ Put together a first-aid kit with diarrhea medication, antihistamines, antibiotics, etc.
  • Ÿ Pack wisely. Many airlines charge to check bags, and heavier luggage costs more.

While on Your Trip

  • The best currency exchange rates will be at local banks and ATMs, not at airports or hotels.
  • Ÿ Avoid flashy clothing and jewelry to discourage theft.
  • Ÿ Appear confident, even if you’re unsure about where you are going. Always carry a map.
  • Ÿ Select food with care; all raw food is subject to contamination.
  • Protect your passport!  Your passport is the most valuable document that you will carry abroad. It confirms your U.S. citizenship. When entering some countries or registering at hotels, you may be asked to fill out a police card listing your name, passport number, destination, local address and reason for travel. You may be required to leave your passport at the hotel reception desk overnight so that it may be checked by local police officials. These are normal procedures required by local laws. If your passport is not returned the following morning, immediately report the impoundment to local police authorities and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, you should report the loss immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

 

Assistance Abroad

The State Department strongly encourages American citizens to register their travel in case of an emergency. Register online at: www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html. Consular officers abroad can aid with passport replacement, contacting family or friends in the United States, financial emergencies and obtaining appropriate medical care.

Contact information for U.S. embassies, consulates and consular agencies overseas may be found at www.state.gov/countries.

If your family needs to reach you in an emergency, they can call 888-407-4747, and the State Department will relay the message to consular officers in the country you are visiting.

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Top 10 Mistakes Teen Drivers Make

Cars.com, in conjunction with DriversEd.com, America’s leading drivers education resource and solution, have identified the 10 most common mistakes teen drivers make. “There are a number of factors that lead to an increase in accidents for teen drivers, including inexperience, dealing with emergency situations, distracted driving and the inclination to show off for friends,” said DriversEd.com founder Gary Tsifrin. “By recognizing these common mistakes, we hope that teenagers will be able to avoid the risks associated with being a teenager behind the wheel.”

The most common mistakes are:

  • Being distracted behind the wheel
    Cell phones, CDs, food and even text messages can pose serious distractions to drivers. In some cases, drivers will even text message their backseat passengers. Distracted driving contributes to 80 percent of collisions.
  • Taking too many risks
    Actions like ignoring traffic signals or school zone signs and changing lanes without checking blind spots are all considered “risky behavior.” The difference between risky behavior and distracted driving is that risky behavior is deliberate, while distracted driving is often the result of ignorance.
  • Speeding
    Most drivers occasionally speed, but teens do so because they don’t have a good sense of how a car’s speed can affect their response time. On average, teens drive faster than all other drivers as a whole. They will exceed speeds on residential roads that they interpret as empty because they haven’t had any close calls there. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that speeding factored into roughly one-third of all fatal crashes in 2005 when teenagers were behind the wheel – some 50 percent more than it did in fatal crashes for 20- to 49-year-olds.
  • Overcrowding the car
    Teens frequently overcrowd their cars, cramming five or six into a cabin meant to seat four or five. Worse yet, the extra passengers often result in teens driving more aggressively. The distractions of carrying too many passengers can have serious consequences as well.
  • Driving under the influence
    When teens drink and drive, they’re even less likely to practice safe habits like seat belt usage: Of the 15- to 20-year-olds killed after drinking and driving in 2003, 74 percent were unrestrained, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because teenagers are too young to drink legally, they’re also less likely to call their parents to come get them when they shouldn’t drive.
  • Following too closely
    Maintaining a proper following distance is a critical step in preventing accidents. At 60 mph, a typical car needs between 120 and 140 feet to reach a full stop. Most SUVs require an extra 5 to 10 feet on top of that. Consider that 60 mph translates to 88 feet per second and it’s easy to see why maintaining a proper following distance is a critical step in preventing accidents.
  • Driving unbuckled
    A 2003 survey by NHTSA reported that 79 percent of drivers ages 16 to 24 said they wore their seat belts regularly, while 84 percent of the overall population did so. Approximately 21 percent of young drivers do not wear their seat belts regularly. Many young drivers have a sense of invincibility that also factors into teen speeding. Fortunately, many cars today have seat belt reminders that flash warning lights or chime until belts are secured. Call them annoying, but they help keep occupants buckled.
  • Not being able to handle emergencies
    Knowing how to avoid an accident comes with driving experience. Young drivers can only learn so much in the classroom, which leaves learning maneuvers like straightening out a skid or how to apply the brakes correctly to real-world experience. Speeding and distracted driving only make things worse, as they compound the lack of experience by putting drivers at higher risk of encountering an emergency situation in the first place.
  • Driving drowsy
    Drowsy driving affects an unlikely group: the so-called “good kids.” That means straight-A students or those with a full plate of extracurricular activities. Overachievers have a lot of pressure. If they’re playing varsity sports and are also preparing for an AP English exam, and if they’ve been going since 7 a.m. and now it’s midnight and they have to get home, they don’t think, “I’m too tired to drive.”
  • Choosing the wrong car and not maintaining it
    Too often, a combination of tight budgets and high style leads teens to pass up important safety features for larger engines and flashy accessories. A teen or novice driver will opt for a cool-looking sports car rather than a car that’s really a safer choice. Then, if they sink all their money into it, they might be remiss in maintaining it.
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5 Most Common Insurance Claims

Insurance claims are made every day. Looking at the most common claims made just goes to show exactly how much of what’s important to us in our everyday lives can be protected by purchasing insurance.

Wedding Insurance

A majority of wedding insurance claims are made for lost deposits. This can be a hotel closing down, a caterer failing to show or an absentee photographer. All nightmare situations, but thankfully all covered under the policy. After that it’s illness or injury, usually when it results in the wedding having to be rearranged.

Pet Insurance

A recent study has found that in a two-year period, four in ten pet insurance policy holders made a claim against their policy. The majority of these claims, 70%, are for pet illness or accident and injury.

Auto Insurance

There are a number of situations that can result in a claim against your auto insurance, but by far the most common are fender benders. Minor accidents like those that occur in parking lots or at stop signs. Usually damage is minimal and more of an inconvenience, but making a claim rather than paying for the repair yourself is a good way to test the full extent of your policy and become familiar with the claims policy.

Home Insurance

Claims against home insurance can be weather damage, theft or fire however the most popular claim is water damage. Claims for water damage make for almost 69% of claims, mainly as a result of faulty plumbing rather than flooding.

Cell Phones

Many people don’t know that they can protect their phone with a specialized policy, but as technology becomes more advanced phones are becoming more important and so many are opting to purchase insurance. A recent study has revealed an alarmingly high claim rate against these insurance policies – mainly for damage. It’s estimated that 51% of mobile devices given as Christmas presents have been damaged in some way already. In fact the overall majority of claims are made within the first four months of ownership.

So looking at the most common insurance claims, do you have the right protection for these circumstances? You never know, you may have to make one of these claims yourself.

If you have insurance questions, click here to ask an expert

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Responding to a Data Breach

No company, big or small, is immune to a data breach. Many small employers falsely believe they can elude the attention of a hacker, yet studies have shown the opposite is true. According to Verizon Communication’s 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, 72 percent of the 855 data breaches analyzed were at companies with 100 or fewer employees.

Data breach response policies are essential for organizations of any size.  A response policy should outline how your company will respond in the event of a data breach, and lay out an action plan that will be used to investigate potential breaches to mitigate damage should a breach occur.

Defining a Data Breach

A data breach is an incident where Personal Identifying Information (PII) is accessed and/or stolen by an unauthorized individual. Examples of PII include:

  • Social Security numbers
  • Credit card information (credit card numbers – whole or part; credit card expiration dates; cardholder names; cardholder addresses)
  • Tax identification information numbers (Social Security numbers; business identification numbers; employer identification numbers)
    • Biometric records (fingerprints; DNA; or retinal patterns and other measurements of physical characteristics for use in verifying the identity of individuals)
  • Payroll information (paychecks; paystubs)
  • Medical information for any employee or customer (doctor names and claims; insurance claims; prescriptions; any related personal medical information)
  • Other personal information of a customer, employee or contractor (dates of birth; addresses; phone numbers; maiden names; names; customer numbers)

Data breaches can be costly. According to the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach Survey, the average per record cost of a data breach was $194 in 2011; the average organizational cost of a data breach was $5.5 million.

Internal Responsibilities upon Learning of a Breach

A breach or a suspected breach of PII must be immediately investigated. Since all PII is of a highly confidential nature, only personnel necessary for the data breach investigation should be informed of the breach. The following information must be reported to appropriate management personnel:

  • When (date and time) did the breach happen?
  • How did the breach happen?
  • What types of PII were possibly compromised? (Detailed as possible: name; name and social security; name, account and password; etc.)
  • How many customers may be affected?

Once basic information about the breach has been established, management should make a record of events and people involved, as well as any discoveries made over the course of the investigation to determine whether or not a breach has occurred.

Once a breach has been verified and contained, perform a risk assessment that rates the:

  • Sensitivity of the PII lost (customer contact information alone may present much less of a threat than financial information)
  • Amount of PII lost and number of individuals affected
  • Likelihood PII is usable or may cause harm
  • Likelihood the PII was intentionally targeted (increases chance for fraudulent use)
  • Strength and effectiveness of security technologies protecting PII (e.g. encrypted PII on a stolen laptop, which is technically stolen PII, will be much more difficult for a criminal to access.)
  • Ability of your company to mitigate the risk of harm

Government Regulation

There aren’t many federal regulations regarding cybersecurity, and the few that exist largely cover specific industries. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB) Act and the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which includes the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) mandate that health care organizations, financial institutions and federal agencies, respectively, protect their computer systems and information. The language is generally vague,  so individual states have attempted to create more targeted laws regarding cybersecurity.

California led the way in 2003 by mandating that any company that suffers a data breach must notify its customers of the details of the breach. Today, 46 states and the District of Columbia have data breach notification laws in place. Only Alabama, Kentucky, New Mexico and South Dakota have yet to enact such a law.

While notification laws vary from state to state, all include four basic provisions:

  1. All notification laws put a number on how long companies have to notify customers of a data breach and by what medium the notice will be given (written, email, press release, etc.).
  2. Laws set forth a penalty system (that differs from state-to-state) for failure to notify customers in a timely manner.
  3. Depending on the specifics of the breach, customers can sue the company for its part in the data breach.
  4. All notification laws have exceptions in a range of situations.

Your Notification Responsibilities

Responsibility to notify is based both on the number of individuals affected and the nature of the PII that was accessed. Any information found in the initial risk assessment should be turned over to the legal counsel of your company who will review the situation to determine if, and to what extent, notification is required.  Notification should occur in a manner that ensures the affected individuals will receive actual notice of the incident. Notification should be made in a timely manner, but make sure the facts of the breach are well established before proceeding

In the case that notification must be made:

  • Only those that are legally required to be notified should be informed of the breach. Notifying a broad base when it is not required could cause raise unnecessary concern in those who have not been affected.
  • A physical copy should always be mailed to the affected parties no matter what other notification methods are used (e.g. phone or email).
  • A help line should be established as a resource for those who have additional questions about how the breach will affect them.

The notification letter should include:

  • A brief description of the incident, the nature of the breach and the approximate date it occurred.
  • A description of the type(s) of PII that were involved in the breach (the general types of PII, not an individual’s specific information).
  • Explanation of what your company is doing to investigate the breach, mitigate its negative effects and prevent future incidences.
  • Steps the individual can take to mitigate any potential side effects from the breach.
  • Contact information for a representative from your company who can answer additional questions.

We Can Help You Recover from a Data Breach

At Texas Associates Insurors, we understand the negative effects a data breach can have at your company. Contact us today so we can show you how to recover from a breach and get your company back on its feet.

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Smartphones and Distracted Driving

Integrated smartphone technology will soon become “all but standard” on new car and truck models, with nearly 100 million vehicles featuring the smartphone technology by 2016, according to a report by Juniper Research. The technology will integrate a driver’s smartphone with a vehicle’s computer and navigational systems, enabling the vehicle to send and receive data via the Internet.

That data could prove invaluable to employers, who could use the information to increase fleet efficiency, comply with regulations and monitor driver behavior.

The technology does not come without risks, however. Some analysts worry that the integrated smartphone technology could increase distracted driving, which is already a major safety concern for employers.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of worker fatalities, and distracted driving dramatically increases the risk of such crashes. It is important to address the issue of distracted driving with employees who drive as a part of their job.

April is National Distracted Month. Check with your insurance advisor for more information you can use to help your drivers be safe on the roads, focusing more on the task at hand rather than the technology IN their hands.

Newfirst Insurors can help with drafting a safe driving policy and developing training for your company that includes guidelines on distractions and cell phone use.

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It Only Takes 3 Seconds….

Interruptions or distractions—even those lasting less than three seconds—are costing businesses a lot in lost productivity and in some cases, fatal errors. A recent study from Michigan State University found that interruptions of only 2.8 seconds doubled the likelihood that an employee would make an error.

Distractions take on many forms, from technology distractions (text messages, email alerts and phone calls) to interruptions from other co-workers and background noise. Some psychologists say it takes approximately 10 to 20 times the length of the distraction for an employee to recover and resume what he or she was doing.

While lost productivity affects the company’s bottom line, in some industries—especially those with safety-critical risks—distractions can cause work errors that put the health and safety of the worker and others at risk.

Eliminating workplace distractions or interruptions is no easy task. Consider limiting distractions by:

  • Enforcing a mobile device policy limiting when employees can use devices, and scheduling adequate breaks where employees can use their phones and devices
  • Training employees on the best times to ask their co-workers non-urgent, job-related questions
  • Optimizing work areas to minimize the possibility of interruptions and distractions

For a mobile device policy and related materials, contact Texas Associates Insurors today.

 

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