Landslides occur when masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope. Debris flows, also known as mudslides, are a common type of fast-moving landslide that tends to flow in channels.

What causes landslides and debris flows

Landslides are caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope. They can accompany heavy rains or follow droughts, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. Mudslides develop when water rapidly accumulates in the ground and results in a surge of water-saturated rock, earth, and debris. Mudslides usually start on steep slopes and can be activated by natural disasters. Areas where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation on slopes are particularly vulnerable to landslides during and after heavy rains.

Health threats from landslides and debris flows

In the United States, landslides and debris flows result in 25 to 50 deaths each year. The health hazards associated with landslides and mudflows include:

  • Rapidly moving water and debris that can lead to trauma;
  • Broken electrical, water, gas, and sewage lines that can result in injury or illness; and
  • Disrupted roadways and railways that can endanger motorists and disrupt transport and access to health care.

What areas are at risk

Some areas are more likely to experience landslides or mudflows, including:

  • Areas where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation;
  • Areas where landslides have occurred before;
  • Steep slopes and areas at the bottom of slopes or canyons;
  • Slopes that have been altered for construction of buildings and roads;
  • Channels along a stream or river; and
  • Areas where surface runoff is directed.

What you can do to protect yourself

Before intense storms and rainfall

  • Assume that steep slopes and areas burned by wildfires are vulnerable to landslides and debris flows.
  • Learn whether landslides or debris flows have occurred previously in your area by contacting local authorities, a county geologist or the county planning department, state geological surveys or departments of natural resources, or university departments of geology.
  • Contact local authorities about emergency and evacuation plans.
  • Develop emergency and evacuation plans for your family and business.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated.
  • If you live in an area vulnerable to landslides, consider leaving it.

During intense storms and rainfall

  • Listen to the radio or watch TV for warnings about intense rainfall or for information and instructions from local officials.
  • Be aware of any sudden increase or decrease in water level on a stream or creek that might indicate debris flow upstream. A trickle of flowing mud may precede a larger flow.
  • Look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences, or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
  • Listen for rumbling sounds that might indicate an approaching landslide or mudflow.
  • Be alert when driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to collapsed pavement or debris.
  • If landslide or debris flow danger is imminent, quickly move away from the path of the slide. Getting out of the path of a debris flow is your best protection. Move to the nearest high ground in a direction away from the path. If rocks and debris are approaching, run for the nearest shelter and take cover (if possible, under a desk, table, or other piece of sturdy furniture).

After a landslide or debris flow

  • Stay away from the site. Flooding or additional slides may occur after a landslide or mudflow.
  • Check for injured or trapped people near the affected area, if it is possible to do so without entering the path of the landslide or mudflow.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for emergency information.
  • Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities.
  • Consult a geotechnical expert (a registered professional engineer with soils engineering expertise) for advice on reducing additional landslide problems and risks. Local authorities should be able to tell you how to contact a geotechnical expert.

Your home is protected by dwelling coverage (also called “Coverage A”). The amount of dwelling coverage is usually based on the cost to rebuild your home. Most standard policies cover your home at Replacement Cost Value (RCV). That means if your home is insured up to $250,000, then you may get up to that amount to rebuild if your home is destroyed. Just make sure your dwelling coverage amount is enough to cover you in case a complete rebuild is necessary.
Your belongings
Your belongings are covered by “personal property” coverage on your policy. When insuring your belongings (meaning everything you own inside of your home and in storage), you can choose between Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Cost Value (RCV). Most insurance policies default as ACV, but you can usually switch to RCV for an increased price. For example, if you paid $5,000 for a new couch 10 years ago, and it was destroyed in a fire, the ACV options would typically pay the current value of the couch (cost less depreciation) whereas the RCV option would typically pay what it costs to replace your couch, which could be more or less than $5,000, minus your deductible.
Which option is best?
Like most insurance questions, it depends on your situation. Actual cash value insurance is usually the more affordable option. But, ACV may not offer enough coverage if something is damaged. The payout amount you’ll get from your insurer will likely be higher with replacement cost insurance. So, it’s a trade-off.

According to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University, offering a “bring your pet to work” policy might be more than just a nice-sounding benefit: It could actually lower your employees’ stress and make other workers feel more satisfied with their jobs.
 
Is an open doggy-door policy right for your company? Here are some factors to consider:
Do your research. If you’re leasing your workspace, be sure your landlord allows pets. You should also talk to your business insurance agent or risk-management specialist about whether you’re insured if someone is injured by your pet, or if your pet damages property. In other cases, you may need to have employees sign waivers accepting legal responsibility for their own pets’ behavior while in your office. Of course, if, as part of your business, you and your employees handle food or beverages, or offer personal care services (particularly day care or elder care), you need to carefully check any licensing bureau regulations about the presence of pets.
Start slowly. Instead of announcing to your employees that pets are welcome anytime, start by allowing the pets in your office or retail shop one day a week. Be sure to give employees plenty of warning before you begin allowing pets, and have open discussions about any concerns (allergies, accidents, disruptions, etc.) and how you can accommodate them.
Create a pet policy. Even though you hope employees will use common sense when bringing pets to work, it’s wise to put guidelines in writing. You might also require employees to prove that their pets (dogs especially) will respond to basic commands like “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Down.” Consider limiting the number of animals allowed in your office at one time, and asking employees to sign up in advance to bring in their furry pals. Also, require employees to prove that pets’ vaccinations are up to date. Keep copies of that information in the office, in case you’re questioned.
Consider your image. Pets can be great icebreakers with new customers, and can give your business a reputation for being laid-back and friendly. That can work well if it fits in with your company’s goals and values.. However, if you run a very “buttoned-up” type of business, pay attention to whether your clients are annoyed by the presence of pets. If animals make your business appear less professional to your key customers, they might not be a good fit.
Set clear boundaries. Remember that every employee will not be an animal lover. Be sure to respect workers’ wishes to keep pets away from their office spaces. You should also enforce “pet-free” zones and keep animals out of the office kitchen/cafeteria, restrooms and some meeting rooms.
Make pet-exercise part of company culture. Encourage dog owners, in particular, to take their pets out for regular walks throughout the day. Even though they’re away from their work, your employees are getting exercise that can lead to better health and higher productivity. If necessary, go along with your workers and their dogs – making these outings your “walk and talk” meetings. You never know what fresh business ideas might come from your canine commutes!

What is Loss of Use insurance coverage? 
Loss of use pays to maintain your standard of living while your residence is being repaired or rebuilt in the event of a covered claim. In most cases, loss of use covers the excess of what you normally spend for certain things. For instance, let’s say your home is being repaired for water damage. You’re unable to cook, so you’ve been dining at the hotel restaurant. You normally spend $300 a week in groceries, but your tab at the restaurant was $600. Your loss of use coverage would take care of the difference—$300. Typically, there is no deductible on loss of use coverage.
Examples of loss of use/additional living expenses:

  • Temporary housing (hotel or rental home)
  • Additional fuel costs
  • Utilities
  • Food (groceries, restaurants, cooking supplies)
  • Storage
  • Moving costs

Coverage limits for loss of use: 
On a homeowners policy
Loss of use is often restricted to 10%—20% of your dwelling coverage, which is the amount on your policy to repair/rebuild your home. For example, if you have $200,000 for dwelling coverage, then you would be covered up to $20,000—$40,000 on a loss of use claim.
On a condominium policy
Limits for loss of use on condo insurance work similarly to a homeowners policy. Some condo insurers will combine your dwelling coverage and personal property coverages. For example, if you have a $60,000 limit for your dwelling and a $30,000 limit for personal property, then you’ll get 20% ($18,000) of the combined $90,000.
On a renters policy
Depending on your insurance company, it can be a flat amount (between $3,000 and $5,000) or a percentage of your personal property coverage.
Loss of use coverage on a rental property
Landlords are eligible for reimbursement of lost rental income through their loss of use coverage on a rental property. As always, this applies to covered loss only, up to the policy’s limits. A covered loss just means something your insurance company pays for or “covers.”

Lawnmower Safety

Each year, approximately 75,000 people are injured seriously enough by lawnmowers to require emergency room medical treatment. Only a small percentage of the injuries are caused by mechanical failure; most are the result of human error.
Here are some tips to follow before and while mowing your lawn:
Become familiar with your mower. 
Read the owner’s manual before using the mower for the first time. Note all safety and operating instructions. Learn the controls well enough to act instantly in an emergency and to stop the machine quickly.
Proper clothing is essential to protect your body from harm.
Always wear non-slip shoes instead of tennis shoes or sandals. Steel-toe safety footwear offers the most protection against the blade. Long pants help protect your legs from objects that may be thrown from under the mower. Use ear plugs to prevent hearing loss caused by exposure to the high noise levels.
Never leave a mower running unattended.
A mower left running unattended can be fascinating to a child. If the mower has an electric start, the key should never be left in the ignition.
Always start the mower outdoors. 
Never operate a mower where carbon monoxide can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.
Police the area.
Before you startt mowing, be sure the lawn is free of tree limbs, rocks, wires and other debris, which can get caught up in the blades.
The main source of danger is the blade. 
To perform its task efficiently, the mower blade must be sharp and travel at a high speed. If a hand or foot gets under the mower while the engine is running, it can cause serious injury. Never attempt to unclog or work on a lawnmower while the engine is on.
Disconnect the sparkplug wire.
Any time it is necessary to reach under the mower, disconnect the spark plug wire to insure that the engine cannot start. It takes a little extra time, but not as long as it does to recover from a serious injury.
Check for frayed or cut wiring.
When using an electric lawnmower, wires can easily get cut by the blade. Keep an eye on the wiring as you move the mower and check for frayed or cut wiring every time you mow.

Stay Cool

Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

  • Keep in mind: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.
Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

  • Tip: Look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels- these products work best.

Do Not Leave Children in Cars: Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, children are especially at risk of getting a heat stroke or dying. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Avoid Hot and Heavy Meals: They add heat to your body!

Stay Hydrated

  • Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.

  • If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

Stay Informed

Know the Signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.
Use a Buddy System: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.
Monitor Those at High Risk: Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:

  • Infants and young children
  • People 65 years of age or older
  • People who are overweight
  • People who overexert during work or exercise
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching

Whether you have a luxury in-ground pool, or plan to blow up an inflatable kiddie pool, it is important to consider the safety implications.
There are an estimated 7.4 million swimming pools and five million hot tubs in residential or public use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, there are over 3,400 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States each year, with more than one out of five drowning victims being a child 14 years old or younger, according to the CDC.
The Insurance Information Institute suggests taking the following steps if you own or are considering purchasing a pool or spa:
  • Contact your town or municipality
    Each town will have its own definition of what constitutes a “pool”, often based on its size and the depth of the water. If the pool you are planning to buy meets the definition, then you must comply with local safety standards and building codes. This may include installing a fence of a certain size, locks, decks and pool safety equipment.
  • Protect Yourself
    Let your insurance company know that you have a pool, since it will increase your liability risk. Pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and it may be advisable to purchase additional liability insurance. Pool owners may want to consider increasing their liability limit amount to at least $300,000 or $500,000. You may also want to talk to your agent or company representative about purchasing an umbrella liability policy. For an additional premium of about $200 to $300 a year, you can get $1 million of liability protection over and above what you have on your home. If the pool itself is expensive, you should also have enough insurance protection to replace it in the event it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster. And, don’t forget to include the chairs, tables or other furniture around the pool deck.
If you have a pool, you should take the following safety precautions:
  1. Install a four-sided barrier such as a fence with self closing gates to completely surround the pool. If the house forms the fourth side of the barrier, install alarms on doors leading to the pool area to prevent children from wandering into the pool or spa unsupervised. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating several “layers of protection” around the pool, in other words setting up as many barriers (door alarms, locks and safety covers) as possible to the pool area when not in use.
  2. Never leave small children unsupervised—even for a few seconds. And never leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers trying to reach them who might then fall into the pool.
  3. Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information so others can do so too.
  4. Ask if pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. If you have children, have them take swimming lessons as early as possible. And, do not allow anyone to swim alone.
  5. Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Also, keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
  6. Limit alcohol use around the pool, as drinking alcoholic beverages negatively impacts balance, coordination and judgment—and its effects are further heightened by sun exposure and heat. The CDC reports that alcohol use is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation.
  7. Clearly post emergency numbers on the phone, in the event of an accident. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. You may also want to consider learning basic water rescue skills, including first aid and CPR training. For additional information, contact the American Red Cross.
Riding a jet ski is probably one of the most exciting things you can do on the water. But the truth of the matter is, many people don’t think before they hop on.  Courtesy of safetyresource.org, here are some tips to help you safely enjoy one of summer’s most fun water activities:
  • You need a life jacket.
  • Use the vehicle’s safety precautions. For some jet skis, that means a lanyard that is placed around the wrist, attaching you to the handlebars of the watercraft. Often referred to as a kill cord, the string operates a kill switch when the operator goes overboard, deactivating your ride. Without a kill cord, your jet ski could continue to operate with out you in control, and hurt someone else in the process.
  • Stay alert. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment once you get a hand of handling the jet ski. But other boats, skiers, divers, or swimmers could be in your general area.
  • Don’t drink and jet. This should be obvious, but it’s not always the case. The possibility of injury just isn’t worth the risk. Of course, the same rules apply while being a passenger, too. Intoxication for anyone involved is just a distraction.
  • Don’t get cocky. So you’ve noticed a passing motor boat and the waves that it has left behind. Using these waves as a ramp or launching point could send you and your jet ski flying in a bad direction, or even worse, upside down.
  • Different models make a difference. Get familiar with the specific jet ski you’re riding, and take it for a test spin with someone who knows what’s up. Never just assume that you’ll “get the swing of it.” Because the scary truth of it all is that one assumption could cost you your life.

You already know kitchen safety is important — but you might not know how frequently kitchen mishaps happen. Did you know that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.?
Prevent kitchen fires.

  • Play close attention to what you’re doing and to your surroundings.
  • Keep flammable items, such as oven mitts and towels, away from the stove.
  • Store a small fire extinguisher nearby.
  • If a stove top fire starts, turn off the burner. Cover a grease stove top fire with a lid (water can spread the fire).
  • Install smoke detectors, but keep them at least 10 feet from your stove to reduce the chances of false alarms. Test detectors monthly.

Beware of burns.

  • Turn pot handles in so they won’t get knocked.
  • Let microwaved food cool for a minute or two before handling.
  • Remove any lids carefully to avoid steam burns.

Banish bacteria that can make your family sick.

  • Clean your hands before and after handling food.
  • Wash counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water when switching from one food to another.
  • Disinfect counter tops and cutting boards regularly. Use 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. Let sit for several minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Store cleaners, soaps and sprays where children and pets can’t get to them.
If you keep them down low, lock them up or use a safety latch. Detergent pods are especially dangerous for kids, who can mistake them for food. If you have kids under age 6, use traditional detergent.

There are a number of benefits to adding a rider to your homeowners insurance policy.
Increased coverage: Most home insurance policies contain “sublimits.” A sublimit is essentially a limit within a limit. For example, you may have a $100,000 limit in personal property coverage for your belongings. But your limit on jewelry may be $2,500. That means if your piece is worth $7,000 and you don’t add a rider for it, your insurance company won’t pay out more than $2,500 on a claim involving that item.
Low or no deductibles: Your personal property coverage may have a high deductible. Riders, though, often have low deductibles or none at all. Let’s say you have a musical instrument worth $3,000, and it’s stolen. If your property deductible is $2,000, then you’ll only receive $1,000 on an insurance claim. But, if you added a rider for that instrument and the rider deductible is $50, then your insurance payout would be $2,950.
Accidental loss coverage: Many basic insurance policies won’t protect you against loss by “mysterious disappearance.” That means if you accidentally lost your wedding ring at the gym, you may not be covered. However, had you scheduled the ring, you would be covered even in the “mysterious disappearance” scenario.