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How Does Flood Insurance Work, and Do I Need It?

When it comes to protecting your house, you probably have coverage for the home’s structure and contents. Many homeowners believe that this gives them full financial protection in the event of any disaster. But it’s also important to consider a few questions. Do I need flood insurance? And how does flood insurance work? 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know the damage flooding can cause here in Greater Minnesota. If you feel unsure about your coverage, reach out to one of our agents today. With offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we are here to serve you.

How Does Flood Insurance Work?

As the name suggests, flood insurance is a specialized form of coverage that kicks in if a flood damages your home. This type of policy is for flooding due to natural causes. Some examples of events that might trigger a claim include:

  • Heavy Rain
  • Rapid Snowmelt
  • Levee Failure
  • Storm Surge

Flooding from burst pipes or a malfunctioning washing machine falls under a homeowners policy. That’s a whole different event.

Only a small minority of homeowners have flood insurance, even in high-risk areas. This lack of coverage can result in a significant eye-opener if disaster strikes.

But I Already Have Homeowners Insurance. Isn’t That Enough?

Too often, people believe they have coverage for flood damage under their homeowners insurance. But this is not the case. Flood insurance, like earthquake coverage, is a separate policy that you purchase. Unfortunately, many owners do not realize this until it is too late.

In some situations, buying flood insurance may be a requirement to secure a mortgage. This necessity is especially true if you are in a high-risk area.

For commercial properties, the same concerns apply. Your business insurance policy likely doesn’t protect you against flood damage and loss.

How Do I Decide If I Should Buy Flood Insurance?

You may assume that you do not need flood insurance, especially if you have never experienced a disaster. Many people think if they don’t live in a high-risk area, they don’t need to worry about it.

However, flood maps tend to change over time. These alterations happen according to shifts in local infrastructure, weather patterns, or nearby building work. 

For example, the construction of a new neighborhood on a local floodplain could mean there is no longer an escape for excess water. As a result, your property may have inadvertently slipped into the high-risk category without you realizing it. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains the Flood Map Service Center to help determine risk. They update the data annually, and you can check it to see how your home fares. Mortgage companies use this information to decide whether or not to require flood insurance on a property. 

Even if the data place your home in a low-risk category, that doesn’t mean flooding can’t happen. And home could be at risk. 

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP is a program that FEMA manages, and it is available only in communities that choose to participate. There are two types of coverage: structural property and personal property.

A policy for the building itself is ‘replacement cost value’ coverage. That is, it pays for your home’s repair and replacement costs, up to the limits of the policy. To purchase coverage through NFIP, you must also have full homeowners coverage.

Replacement cost value protection typically covers:

  • The foundation of your home and the physical structure 
  • Built-in kitchen appliances such as stoves and refrigerators
  • Electrical and plumbing
  • Furnaces and air conditioners
  • Heaters
  • Flooring
  • Wallboard and paneling
  • Window blinds
  • Permanent bookcases and cabinets
  • Detached garages
  • Removal of debris

Personal property or contents coverage addresses the items in the home. This option generally covers:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Curtains
  • Portable kitchen appliances
  • Washer and dryer
  • Freezers and any food in them
  • Up to $2500 in valuables, including artwork and jewelry

As with any insurance policy, some exceptions apply under NFIP coverage. These include:

  • Basements or any areas of your home below ground level
  • Any damage caused by mold, mildew, or moisture not caused by floodwater
  • Stock certificates, cash, or bearer bonds
  • Precious metals
  • Loss of income
  • Trees, plants, or shrubs outside the home
  • Swimming pools or hot tubs
  • Walkways
  • Decks and patios
  • Septic systems
  • Temporary housing
  • Cars

NFIP coverage is simple to obtain through an insurance agent. Typically it takes 30 days from the date of purchase before a policy goes into effect. Premiums vary significantly depending on where the property sits. 

Private Flood Insurance

There are a limited number of private insurers who can offer flood insurance, as well. These options are outside the federal government. This coverage can have several benefits for homeowners, including:

  • Higher Levels of Coverage – Private flood insurance tends to offer higher levels of coverage than NFIP does. This option may be important for those with high-end homes and belongings.
  • Lower Premiums – As data has become more sophisticated, private insurers have been able to offer competitive rates. For some homeowners, these premiums may be less than those offered by NFIP.
  • Shorter Wait Times – You typically have to wait 30 days for NFIP policies to go into effect. Private coverage can start in less than a week.
  • Extra Perks – Unlike with NFIP, you may be able to claim short-term housing costs. And your policy may cover items that NFIP excludes.

There are some negatives associated with private insurance. It may not be available in very high-risk areas. Also, banks may not accept a private policy when you take out a mortgage with them. 

Lake Region Is Here to Help

Insurance decisions can feel confusing and overwhelming. The lingo and terminology aren’t very user-friendly at times. 

That’s why the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to serve you. We definitely can answer the question, “How does flood insurance work?” 

We have years of experience working with a range of insurance policies. Our independent agents have access to coverage from many different companies, so we are sure to find just what you need.

Don’t spend another minute worrying about protecting your home, car, business, or health. Reach out to Lake Region today for a free insurance review.

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7 Lawn Mower Safety Tips for Your Summer Yard Care

Getting your garden into tip-top shape is one of the perks of warmer weather. Lawn maintenance is a significant part of keeping your yard in good order, but this can be a risky business. To stay safe, you need to know some lawn mower safety tips.

Owning a home brings both challenges and rewards. But at all times, you need protection as a homeowner. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our job is to offer that protection. Our independent agents are available in Greater Minnesota to help you find the perfect policies for your needs. Give us a call today to get started.

The Best Lawn Mower Safety Tips

This time of year, there are plenty of yard chores to keep you busy. From planting colorful flowers to creating a relaxing area for entertaining, outdoor projects beckon. And mowing your lawn is probably the job you need to do most often.

With that in mind, here are seven tips to consider before firing up the lawn mower.

1. Protect Your Feet

Your footwear may not seem like a priority, but it can have a significant impact on your safety. When the temperature rises, it can be tempting to kick off your shoes or switch to sandals. This habit may be comfortable, but it also can be dangerous during yard work.

Wearing inadequate footwear increases your risk of slips, trips, and falls, which can up the chances of injuries. You may also hurt your foot by stepping on something sharp. Additional hazards include stubbed toes, stings or bites, and burns from bumping against a hot lawn mower. 

 

And let’s not forget the moving blades under the carriage and all the damage they can do. Their sole purpose is to cut, and your toe or foot will not get special consideration. To stay safe, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes while you are operating the lawn mower.

2. Only Move Forward

If you realize you have missed a spot, it can be tempting to pull the mower backward for easy access. This move is hazardous, however. It is far too simple to slip or lose your footing. In that case, the mower could end up on top of your body. 

Fortunately, this is an accident that you can avoid. If you missed a spot while mowing, maneuver the machine to where you want it only by pushing it forward. It may take longer than backing up, but it helps to keep you safe.

3. Never Touch A Moving Part

Never touch any moving blades or parts of the mower. Yes, this may seem obvious. But there are more than 6000 injuries each year due to lawn mowers. So this tip must not be as obvious as it seems. More than 20% of those injuries result in amputations.

When you are in a hurry, it is tempting to reach down and remove an obstruction. The danger here is that one small slip could have catastrophic consequences.

Be overly cautious at all times when operating the lawn mower. If you notice that something is clogged in the blades, don’t touch anything until you shut off the machine. All moving elements must come to a complete stop before you put your fingers anywhere near them.

4. Don’t Forget Your Ears

Another unexpected body part that needs protection during lawn mowing is your ears. Experts recommend ear protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels, and mowers fall into this category.

Most lawn mowers emit a volume of around 100 decibels. Over time, this can cause discomfort and hearing damage. The risk may seem small, compared to broken bones or amputations. But it is better to be safe in this case. Invest in some quality protection to ensure your long-term hearing health.

5. Prepare Your Lawn

Lawn mower safety does not come solely from the operation of the machine. You also need to check that the grass is free of debris. These items could fly up and hit you or someone else.

Before you get started, take a few minutes to clear away any rocks, pebbles, or clumps of dirt. These could catch in the mower and turn into projectiles. 

6. Read The Manual

It may not be the most exciting read of your life, but your lawn mower manual is essential. It will help you operate safely, and there may be features and buttons which take you by surprise. Understanding your equipment means you can make the most sensible choices.

Chances are, you have used a lawn mower before, so you may try to skip this step. Remember, however, that each machine is different. Take the time to do your research. If the manual is long gone, a quick online search for the model number should give you the info you need.

7. Keep Children Away From Mowers

To young children, anything can seem like a toy, and a lawn mower is no exception. Make sure to store the machine away when not in use. A child could easily pull the lawn mower over onto themselves, tip it over to cause an injury, or cause other damage. 

When operating the lawn mower, make sure that children are well out of the way. Children tend to move impulsively and are at high risk of significant injuries from lawn mowers. Burns, cuts, and amputations are surprisingly common each year.

Riding lawn mowers create a different level of concern. Around 800 children are run over by these machines every year, and the vast majority of these accidents result in amputation.

Safety First With Lake Region

Keeping your yard in beautiful shape is a joy for many American homeowners. These lawn mower safety tips help ensure that your yard looks fantastic while everyone stays safe.

One of the best ways to protect your family and loved ones is to be sure that you have excellent insurance coverage. At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we offer a great variety of policies. 

As independent agents, we can access a wide selection of options. This range allows us to tailor the coverage you purchase to your exact requirements. Get in touch today with one of our agents. We offer a free consultation in our offices in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN. 

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Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance: What’s the Difference?

Protecting your loved ones in the event of your death or catastrophic illness is essential. People want to ensure financial security for their families but wonder about term life vs. whole life insurance. What are the benefits of each policy, and which one is the best fit for your family?

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we help Minnesotans in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN. We decode the particulars of whole life and term life insurance, so you avoid confusion. And we shop from an extensive list of insurance providers so that you can select the policy that meets your needs. Give us a call today to receive a free insurance review and quote.

Why Do I Need Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy can help those you love to pay for expenses like rent, mortgage, food, and childcare. And life insurance payouts can help cover funeral and burial costs, as well. 

Even if you’re not the primary breadwinner in your household, you should consider carrying life insurance. You likely provide necessary care for your family that they will still need if you’re gone. 

The services that a stay-at-home parent provides carry a value of more than $178,000, making them costly to replace. A life insurance policy can help cover the cost of those tasks so that the household can keep running.

When purchasing a life insurance policy, you need to look at who in the household provides both the finances and general upkeep. You can then choose adequate coverage to continue your life with as little interruption as possible if the worst happens. 

What Is Term Life vs. Whole Life Insurance?

People often shy away from choosing a life insurance policy because they feel overwhelmed by the options. They may not know the difference between policies, so they just ignore this critical piece of their financial security. 

Owning a life insurance policy is too vital to ignore. So here is a breakdown of the primary two choices.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance means you purchase a policy that’s active for a specified period. You can choose how much coverage you have and the length of time you have it. You’ll pay a set monthly premium for your coverage that remains consistent throughout the length of the term.

Most term life policies come in chunks of 10, 20, or 30 years. These policies carry different premiums depending on your health and overall risk factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • History of Smoking
  • Occupation
  • Chronic Illness: such as diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol

A term life insurance policy pays out only if the insured person dies. Generally, people choose this type of coverage until certain milestones occur. For example, you may want to select a policy term length that would cover you until:

  • You pay off your mortgage.
  • Your children graduate from high school or college.
  • You pay off all consumer debt.
  • You save enough money to retire comfortably and pay your living expenses.

This type of insurance policy carries no cash value for the person who owns it.

Whole Life Insurance

As the name suggests, this type of permanent life insurance covers you for your whole life. These policies provide a cash payout to your loved ones in the event of your death, just like term life policies. 

However, whole life insurance builds cash value over time, like an investment. The premiums for this kind of policy are considerably higher than term life policies, but they stay consistent as long as you hold the policy. You also lock in a guaranteed cash value rate.

Some whole life policies may also pay out regular dividends. You can take this in cash or use it to offset premium costs or obtain more coverage.

Choosing the Right Life Insurance Policy

So, how do you choose the best policy for your family? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. 

  • Are you caring for a loved one with a chronic illness or disability? If so, a whole life policy may be a good choice for you. You’ll pay more in a monthly premium, but you’ll also build cash value. This amount can help your beneficiaries cover any estate taxes as well as your final costs like funeral and burial.
  • How much can you afford in premiums? Permanent life insurance policies have higher premiums than term life plans. Depending on your current income, you may opt for a term life policy.
  • What are your health status and family situation? Your age, overall health, and the ages of your children can help you choose the right policy for your needs. You may opt for term life for lower premiums and invest the money you save in other retirement accounts. 
  • Are you looking for an investment option? Term life does not carry any value unless the policyholder dies. Then it pays out to the beneficiary. Whole life, however, does have a value that can be part of an investment strategy. It can also offer a cash payout if you surrender the policy.

 

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

A good way to calculate how much coverage to purchase is to multiply your annual salary by 10. The cash benefit of either a term or permanent life insurance policy should be enough to replace your income for several years.

If you are purchasing life insurance for someone who does not have income, choosing an amount can be trickier. Consider what it would cost to replace what they do for the household. Would you suddenly need to pay for childcare or housekeeping? Would you need to hire someone to do grocery shopping? All of these needs deserve attention.

Lake Region Insurance Agency Takes Care of Its Neighbors

We’ve seen our community in Greater Minnesota through some of the toughest challenges life dishes out. We can help your family feel secure in times of uncertainty.

And if you’re still not sure about term life vs. whole life insurance, we have you covered. Get answers to all your questions about life insurance and more with a free consultation. Call one of our independent agents today, and let’s get started.

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A Guide to Preparing Your House for Severe Weather Storms

Severe weather storms in the Northland are no joke. In Minnesota, every season brings both extreme beauty and the potential for life-changing catastrophe from Mother Nature. With storms comes the likelihood of property loss or damage from weather events.

Taking a few proactive steps during calmer times is the key to maintaining your home and family’s safety. It’s smart to “batten down the hatches” on your home and property before the next thunderhead rolls in. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we help you protect your belongings before you ever need to file a claim. And, if the worst happens, we’re with you every step of the way through the claims process. Give us a call or stop by for a free insurance review. You will see how we stand up for our neighbors in Cokato, New London, and Wilmar, MN. 

Prepping for Severe Weather Storms

Depending on the season, Greater Minnesota can experience significant storms that include:

  • Blizzards
  • Gale-Force Winds
  • Ice
  • Hail
  • Lightning
  • Tornadoes
  • Flooding

Now with hot weather approaching, be sure to get ready with these summer weather safety tips.

Inspect Your Roof

Your roof is the primary structural concern during any storm. Heavy rain, hail, and wind can break off shingles and cause leaks and damage to the roof. Lightning strikes and falling trees create even more risk.

Get ahead of the game by regularly checking your roof from the curbside. Check for loose or peeling shingles, debris piling up, and overhanging tree branches that could fall and cause trouble.

Invest in a professional roof inspection each year to locate any areas of significant wear-and-tear, leaks, or water damage. The expert will likely check for signs of leakage in your attic, on walls, and ceilings. They also may check the stability of your beams and joists.

 

Your inspector can help you determine whether to repair or replace your roof based on its age and integrity. Making small repairs now can help you avoid more costly damage when the next storm hits.

If you own a business that needs a new roof, consider shingles rather than metal. With shingles, wind damage may only affect a portion of your roof instead of lifting off entire sections.

Trim Your Trees and Shrubs

Severe weather affects not only your buildings and vehicles, but it also can damage trees and shrubs. And those same trees that provide shade to your home on hot days can cause destruction during a storm.

Be sure to do regular maintenance on the trees and shrubs around your home. Keep them trimmed and pruned as needed. Remove dead limbs or trees since they can be safety hazards. Stay safe by hiring a professional tree trimmer to do big jobs or any that require climbing.

Choose Your Landscaping Carefully

Rocks and gravel can become projectiles that inflict even more damage to your home or vehicles during a storm. Softer landscaping materials in your yard make a safer choice during a storm. 

Shelter In the Safest Place

For optimal storm preparedness, take the time to identify the safest place in your home to ride out severe weather storms. This spot may be your basement, an under-the-stairs closet, a bathroom, or a central room away from windows. 

Check to be sure that everyone in the house knows where the “safe place” is. You should also stock your safe meeting room with emergency essentials like:

  • A first aid kit
  • A radio with extra batteries to keep up with weather reports and storm warnings
  • Non-perishable snacks and foods
  • Diapers and formula, if applicable
  • Diversions such as playing cards or board games
  • A few day’s supply of bottled drinking water
  • Any medications you may need
  • Pet food, medication, and a litter box

Remember to stay away from windows and doors when the storm arrives. Watching the power of an oncoming storm from your porch can be tempting. But it’s best to find shelter as soon as the weather warnings occur.

Take time to map out a couple of possible “escape” routes for when the storm is over. Thinking this through ahead of time gives you choices. In a severe storm, your normal road could wash out or have fallen trees blocking it.

Secure Heavy Furniture

It’s essential to secure top-heavy items to a wall. Pay attention to:

  • Dressers 
  • Wardrobes 
  • Curio Cabinets 
  • China Cabinets 
  • Free-Standing Pantry Units 
  • Storage Cupboards 

You can find the appropriate metal brackets and screws at any local hardware store. Be sure to secure the furniture to a wall stud, not just the sheetrock. A stud is the sturdiest attachment point. As always, call a professional if you are unsure how to do this safely.

Communication Is Key

Having a family emergency action plan can help ensure all your loved ones stay safe during a storm. It’s much harder to be strategic when the winds, rain, and flooding begin. Make it a priority to put a clear plan in place and make sure the whole family knows the protocol.

Practicing emergency drills with small children in your home is a great idea during times of calm. And this habit can save lives later. As early as possible, walk your children through how to unlock your phone and dial 911. You can role-play with them how to speak to first-responders.

You can even download an app on your phone to help your children practice dialing 911!

Lake Region Has Your Back. And Your Siding. And Your Roof.

In Greater Minnesota, damaging storms can hit any time of the year with little warning. Taking proactive steps to protect your home and property can save you money, energy, and stress when extreme weather comes.

Protect your home and vehicles with coverage through Lake Region Insurance Agency. You will gain peace of mind with our expert team on your side. 

As independent agents, we shop the market for the best coverage to fit your budget and your needs. Call our offices in Wilmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, for a free quote. Get a jump on safety and protection in any Minnesota season.