Understanding Flood Zones (and Why They Matter)

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 29, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a man driving through a flood who understands what flood zones are and why they matter

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Anywhere it can rain, it can flood. But not every area floods at the same rate and in the same way. That’s why flood zones are created — to help homeowners, communities, and insurers understand the potential risk of flooding based on where your property is located.

Here’s what you need to know about flood zones and why it matters.

Flood Zones by Risk

Flood zones are categorized into three levels of risk: low, medium, and high. Living in a low risk flood zone doesn’t mean your property can’t flood. Living in a high risk zone doesn’t mean you’ll always flood.

Moderate to Low Risk Flood Zones

Flood zones have been defined by FEMA.

  • B Zones are also used to designate base floodplains of lesser hazards, such as areas protected by levees from 100-year floods, or shallow flooding areas with average depths of less than one foot or drainage areas less than 1 square mile.
  • Zone C may have ponding and local drainage problems that don’t warrant a detailed study or designation as base floodplain.
  • Zone X is the area determined to be outside the 500-year flood and protected by levees from 100-year flood.

High Risk Flood Zones

  • Zone A includes areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding and a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.
  • Zone AH include areas with a 1% annual chance of shallow flooding, usually in the form of a pond, with an average depth ranging from 1 to 3 feet. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.
  • Zone AO include river or stream flood hazard areas, and areas with a 1% or greater chance of shallow flooding each year, usually in the form of sheet flow, with an average depth ranging from 1 to 3 feet. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.
  • Zone AR include Areas with a temporarily increased flood risk due to the building or restoration of a flood control system (such as a levee or a dam). Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements will apply, but rates will not exceed the rates for unnumbered A zones if the structure is built or restored in compliance with Zone AR floodplain management regulations.
  • Zone V is for coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.

Why the Flood Zones Matter

Not only does knowing your flood zone help you recognize your potential risk of facing a flood, it also determines your flood insurance requirements and premiums. Homes located in certain flood zones may be required to purchase flood insurance if you finance the purchase of your home. Homes in low risk flood zones won’t have this same requirement, but flood insurance is always a good idea.

If your home is located in a low risk flood zone, your flood insurance premiums will be much lower than homes located in a high risk zone. Because it can flood anywhere, regardless of potential risk, it’s a wise financial decision to pay for insurance coverage when premiums are low. FEMA doesn’t provide enough assistance to fully rebuild a home, and it’s not what you want to rely on in a natural disaster.

We’ve all seen the devastation a flood can bring to areas with a relatively low risk of flooding. Don’t take a chance like that with your own home. Contact Charlotte Insurance today for a free quote for a flood insurance policy.

16 Labor Day Facts You Should Know

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 27, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a family on the beach discussing labor day facts

Before you heat up the grill, hit the pool, and enjoy your three-day weekend, make sure you remember what the Labor Day weekend is really all about.

Here are 16 facts you should know about Labor Day.

  1. The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.
  2. It was planned by the Central Labor Union in New York City.
  3. That first Labor Day, 10,000 workers marched through New York and ended the march and parade with a picnic and festivities with their families.
  4. The idea for Labor Day may have originated in Canada.
  5. One of two people proposed the idea of Labor Day as a holiday. It was either Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor or it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist.
  6. The first state to celebrate Labor Day as a legal holiday was Oregon in 1887.
  7. President Grover Cleveland designated Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.
  8. Labor Day was moved to the first Monday in September when it was designated an official holiday.
  9. Originally Labor Day was meant to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the American workforce.
  10. Now, it’s a weekend commonly seen as the end of summer and a three-day weekend where people go to the beach or hang out at the pool, have cookouts, and enjoy themselves one last time for summer.
  11. New York City still holds a Labor Day parade every year to commemorate the first one, and it follows the same route as the first Labor Day parade in 1882.
  12. Other countries have their own version of Labor Day, known as May Day, which is celebrated on May 1.
  13. Not wearing white after Labor Day was something the elite classes created as a fashion rule to figure out who was “nouveau riche” and who has “old money.” It’s an arbitrary rule you can safely ignore.
  14. The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the peak season for eating hot dogs.
  15. Three day weekends might be good for your health as they encourage extra rest.
  16. Labor Day is the second deadliest holiday weekend for car accidents, so be careful out there!

If you didn’t know the history of Labor Day, you’re not alone. Now that you’ve learned a little something, make sure to have a fun and relaxing weekend! Enjoy the last bit of summer and your extra time off of work. Remember, this weekend is all about you — the American worker!

Happy Labor Day from everyone at Charlotte Insurance!

Making Room for Mom and Dad

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 22, 2019. It has 0 comments.

elderly parents who are moving in with their children soon

As our parents age, it’s not uncommon to face decisions about where they’ll live and who will take care of them.  If you’re facing these life changes, here’s what you need to know to get your home and your family ready for your parents to move in with you.

Understand Why the Move is Happening

While a family member moving into your home is always a momentous occasion, the why matters a great deal. If they can no longer afford to live on their own and need to cut expenses, that’s one thing. But if your parent is ill, frail, or facing growing health challenges, you’ll face a different set of issues. In some cases, it may be both.

Understanding the why can help you and/or your spouse figure out the best course of action. What adjustments you need to make around your home and in your schedule. How much the change will cost. And, importantly, how this will impact your entire family.

Talk About It

You and your parents should have long, serious discussions well before they move in. You both need to discuss any concerns or questions you have, figure out how finances will work, and what everyone is responsible for. In some cases your parents may be more like roommates, and in other cases, you may need to help take care of them.

Figuring these things out after they’ve moved in only makes a stressful situation worse. While you can’t plan for every possibility, you know how you live your life and (depending on their current health) your parents know how they live their life. Discuss both in great detail to find areas of compromise to keep the stress to a minimum.

Have a Family Meeting

Your kids should not be surprised on move-in day that Grandma and Grandpa are moving in for good. Before the move, have a conversation with your children so they understand what’s happening and why. This is especially important if your parents have any health problems. This is going to change the entire family dynamic, and your kids should be as prepared as possible.

Talk to your siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and anyone who’s closely involved with your family. You may need extra support from them. They should also understand what this change means for the entire family.

Make Your Home Safer

If you have young children, you may have already childproofed your home. That’s a good first step for some safety features, but older people have other concerns. Fears of falling and tripping, not seeing well in dim light, and being unable to open doors and cabinets are real concerns. Depending on the health of your parents, safeguard your home in preparation for their arrival.

  • Add bed rails
  • Install grab bars in the shower and bathroom
  • Put in a raised toilet seat or higher toilet
  • Make slippery surfaces non-skid where possible
  • Install lever handles instead of door knobs
  • Add more and better lighting
  • Discuss home health care needs
  • Make accommodations for wheelchairs, service animals, and other aids and devices

Create Space for Mom and Dad

Depending on your living situation, your parents may take a spare bedroom you have or you may be able to give them a dedicated space like a mother-in-law suite. This will be determined by your existing home, of course. If you’re sharing your home, then that means you’ll be sharing bathroom and kitchen space, too.

If you have a finished basement, space over your garage, or some other dedicated space that can be converted, this could be a great option. Especially if your parents are still able to take care of themselves. With a separate living space, there are things to consider such as higher utility costs and more time spent cleaning and keeping up that part of the property. But it can also offer independence for your parent(s) while giving everyone peace of mind.

Before your parents move in, make sure your homeowners insurance will cover the addition to your family. Especially if you have a separate living space for them to use. Contact Charlotte Insurance today. We’ll explain what your policy covers and what, if any, changes you’ll need to make before Mom and Dad move in.

School Zone Safety Tips

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 20, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a school bus in a school zone

School is back in session and that means school zone signs are flashing across Charlotte. Whether you’re trying to commute to work or you’re dropping of your own children, staying safe is paramount. Too many kids get hurt just going to and from school each year.

Keep these school zone safety tips in mind.

School Zones and Crosswalks

  • Familiarize yourself with the school zones along your route. During the summer the lights may be off, but once school starts again, you need to slow down.
  • Even if you can’t see any children or crossing guards, obey the traffic lights and speed zones.
  • Never block a crosswalk. When you do, you force pedestrians and bicyclists to move into the street to go around here. This can be extremely dangerous for them.
  • Respect a crossing guard’s authority. If they tell you to stop and wait, obey them. Their only job is to protect everyone crossing the street.
  • Reduce driving distractions. Put down your phone. Turn down your music. Pay attention to the road.

School Buses

  • Never pass a stopped school bus, especially when it’s loading or unloading students. Remember, kids aren’t cautious, and they may run out in front unexpectedly. You need to watch for them.
  • If the lights on a bus are flashing and the stop arm is out, always stop. In a divided highway, you can continue forward as long as the bus is going the other direction. If the road is not divided, all lanes of traffic must stop.
  • Stop far enough behind a bus that children have room to safely enter and exit. There’s no need to be as close as possible to a bus.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  • Expect high traffic in a school zone. Keep your eyes open for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Watch for them at intersections. They may not be looking for you, so you need to look out for them.
  • At a turn or intersection, allow a pedestrian or bicyclist to turn or cross ahead of you. Wait until they’re through the crosswalk before driving through.
  • When you pass bicyclists riding in the same direction, slow down and give them three feet of space on one side.

Dropping Off and Picking Up Kids at School

  • Do not block bus or vehicle exits during drop off. This backs up traffic and can be unsafe for everyone.
  • Do not drop your children off in the street or across the street. Always pull into the designated area at the school.
  • Consider carpooling to reduce the number of cars on the road.
  • Do not double park or park in non-designated spaces to drop your kids off.
  • During pick up, pull into designated areas.
  • If the pick up line extends into the street, stay in the appropriate lane so traffic can move safely around the line.

Before you find yourself in a busy school zone, make sure your auto insurance is up-to-date. We hope you never have an accident but if you do, make sure you have enough insurance to protect yourself.

Going Away to College Checklist (for Parents!)

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 16, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a group of students who need to review their college checklists

The end of summer is almost here, and that means your baby is about to head off to college. While they’re trying to figure out what to pack and what to leave at home, you’re probably thinking of the logistics of having them away from home for most of the year.

To help you stay organized and help them navigate college with a little less stress, here’s a checklist for you as your kids get ready to go to college.

Money Checklist

Even if your child has a job and a scholarship, there are plenty of concerns about money in college. Here are a few things to do before they leave.

  • Open a parent account at the college so you can easily pay tuition and fees. Find out how you can add money to their student account, too.
  • Establish a budget for your child with the money you’ll be giving them. Go over what you’ll pay for and what they’re responsible for on their own.
  • Make sure your child has a bank account and a debit or credit card to use. If they already have this before college, make sure they know how to access their money or open a local account to make this as easy as possible.
  • Talk about using a credit card responsibly, their credit score, and why a free t-shirt in exchange for a completed credit card application isn’t the deal it seems to be.

Books and Supplies Checklist

Books and dorm supplies can be the biggest expense for both of you at the beginning of the school year. A bit of preparation in advance will save you time and money.

  • Research book options for the college. Can books be rented instead of purchased? Are online or ebooks available at a discount? Students may want to wait until after the first day of class to buy their books as not every book on the list will be used by a professor.
  • Figure out what kind of laptop your student needs and where they can take it to be fixed or maintained while they’re at school.
  • Find out if the school offers computer software or hardware for sale and if a student discount applies.
  • Will you chat by Skype or cell phone? If Skype, make sure their laptop has a camera and mic.
  • Bring extra extension cords and power strips because most dorm rooms don’t have enough outlets.
  • Pack a small tool kit, scissors, and duct tape for putting the room together — hanging pictures, plugging in small appliances, putting together furniture, etc.
  • Check the bed size before you move in to get the right size bedding. It’s usually a Twin XL but it’s best to check first.

Insurance Checklist

Eventually you have to come home and leave them at school. But you can still protect them from afar with the right insurance coverage. Here’s what you need to take care of before they get to school.

  • Make sure they’re still covered under your health insurance policy and that they know where to go if they’re hurt or sick. Find out if urgent care is covered by your health insurance.
  • Update your auto insurance policy. If their car will be with them at college or parked at home, that needs to be noted. Also, ask about coverage if someone else drives their car.
  • Get insurance and/or extended warranties on their cell phone, laptop, and other electronics. Mysterious oops and spills will occur, and it’ll be cheaper to use the insurance than to buy all new equipment.
  • Find out how your homeowners insurance policy covers your student while they’re living in a college dorm. You may need to add an extra rider for their electronics.
  • If your child isn’t living in a dorm, but in their own apartment, they’ll need a renters insurance policy when they move in. This is extremely affordable and covers their belongings in case of an accident.

To take care of your college student’s insurance needs when they’re home and while they’re away at school, contact Charlotte Insurance today.

Keeping Your Kids Busy (or Not!) Over the Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 14, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a child playing on a slip and slide

We never appreciate our kids’ teachers more than after we’ve heard, “I’m bored!” for the millionth time during summer break. And that’s usually in the first week!

You don’t need a lot of money or time to keep your kids busy this summer. And sometimes you don’t need to keep them busy at all. Here are a few tips to try.

Let Boredom Reign

As an adult, we wish we could be bored. And a quick look around your kids’ room tells you they have no reason to be bored. They’ve got plenty of stuff to do. So when they tell you they’re bored, let them stay that way. Not only is boredom a good way to wind down from the frantic pace of scheduled activities and screen time, it forces them to be creative. It costs you nothing and eventually, they’ll find something to do. They may even (gasp!) go outside!

Take a Trip to the Library

What’s better than a free activity? How about one in an air-conditioned building that’s designed to be quiet and low-key? Take the kids to the library for an afternoon. Most local libraries offer activities (usually free) for kids throughout the week. Even if you miss that, extra reading is never a bad thing. Your non-reader might find something they can’t put down if you give them time to explore their options.

Enjoy Your Local Park

Depending on the activity, this summer fun can cost nothing or a modest registration fee. Going to a playground is free and fun, as long as you can stand the heat. Head to an aquatic center in Mecklenburg Country for swim lessons or fun in the water for a minimal cost. If you’ve got a bigger budget, sign your child up for an available summer camp program.

Play Board Games

Dig out any old board games you’ve stashed in the back of a closet, and it’s free. Pick up a board game at a garage sale for less than a dollar. Head to a discount store, and get a new game for $10. It doesn’t take a lot of money, but board games can keep the kids busy for hours. If you’re looking for a way to spend time together as a family, consider a family game night. Kids against parents, boys against girls, whatever makes it fun for everyone!

Head to the U-Pick Farm

Want to get your kids out of the house and into the great outdoors? Wish they ate less junk and more healthy foods? Take them to a blueberry, strawberry, or other farm where you pick the fruit! They’ll definitely be tired when you’re done, and they may be willing to try some of what they picked. There is a cost to this, but you can decide how much or how little you want to buy. Find a local farm near you at Local Harvest.

Play in the Sprinklers

Talk about an old-school summer past time. If your neighborhood isn’t using reclaimed water, show the kids how you used to have fun in the summer. Buy a cheap sprinkler from a home improvement store, set up a few chairs so you can watch the kids, and let them run around and get wet. Have some juice and popsicles for outside snacks and keep a stack of towels nearby. They’ll wear themselves out, get away from their screens, and the only cost is a bit of water and time. Always make sure your children have adult supervision during this activity to keep them safe.

Summers in Charlotte are a great time to relax, unwind, and let kids be kids — without breaking the bank.

The Gig Economy and Your Auto Insurance

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 12, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a gig worker in need of the right auto insurance policy

By 2020, it’s estimated that 40 percent of Americans will have a side hustle. Whether you’re delivering food for Postmates, driving for Uber, or delivering groceries on the side, the gig economy is shaking things up for businesses and for the people who work those jobs. 

One question that comes up over and over again is what you’re supposed to do for auto insurance when your gig involves driving around in your personal vehicle.

Your Personal Auto Insurance Won’t Cover Your Gig 

The most important thing to realize is that you and your vehicle aren’t covered by your personal auto insurance when you’re on the job. Many insurers consider delivery work an ineligible risk. There’s no wiggle room on this one — your personal policy doesn’t cover an accident.

In a perfect world, you’d be covered under the commercial auto insurance policy of the company you work for. And for W2 employees, this is usually true. But if you’re an independent contractor, you’re likely out of luck. You’re going to need a policy of your own.

Not Admitting to the Delivery Job is Insurance Fraud

If you’re in an accident while making deliveries, you might be tempted to pretend you weren’t working. It might seem easy, especially if you hadn’t picked up a delivery yet and there’s nothing on your vehicle indicating who you work for. Don’t go this route because it won’t end well for you.

Insurance adjusters will investigate the accident. They can find out if you work with a delivery service. Once they figure out you were using the app during that accident, not only will your auto policy not cover you, you could be accused of insurance fraud. That’s an expensive legal problem to have over a few undelivered tacos. 

Find Out Your Auto Insurance Options

Most of the biggest companies only offer one-size-fits-most policies. They’re often no help at all in a situation like this. But an independent insurance agency has access to dozens of insurers, some of whom offer creative solutions for people just like you. Yes, you may still need a commercial auto policy, but you don’t have to be stuck with the same policy sold to a large company with lots of money, either. 

You should also investigate the insurance policy of the company you’re driving for. Their insurance is typically for the other vehicle and driver in an accident and primarily offers only liability coverage. But when paired with the right commercial auto policy for your unique needs, it could provide the coverage you’re looking for.

If you’re a delivery driver who’s confused about auto insurance or worried that you can’t afford a commercial policy, contact Charlotte Insurance today for a free quote. We’ll help you find the insurance coverage that keeps you protected on the road.

Getting the Most Out of Charlotte Summers

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 8, 2019. It has 0 comments.

person playing golf during a summer in Charlotte, NC

It’s impossible to let the summer heat get you down when you live in or around Charlotte. There’s simply too much to do right now. Whether you prefer to stay inside and beat the heat or get outdoors and enjoy the fun, there’s plenty to do! 

Improve Your Golf Game

Hit the links early in the morning to beat the sweltering heat — which will automatically improve your game. But if you need lessons, check out the Ballantyne Golf Academy with Dana Rader or Leatherman Golf Learning Center. Once you’re ready to hit the links, there are 40 golf courses in and around Charlotte to choose from.

Head to the Speedway

Love fast cars, all the noise, and the thrill of the race? Head to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Summer Shootout Series which features races with cars, bandoleros, and school busses. If you can’t make that, there’s always something to see at the Speedway. 

Hop On Your Bike and Ride

Hit the Rail Trail and get a few miles of biking in this summer. Don’t have a bike to ride? You can rent one from Charlotte B-cycle. Check a bike out, get a ride in, and return it to the closest B-cycle station when you’re done. When you buy an access pass, two hour rides or less are included! 

Stop and Smell the Roses

The Charlotte area is filled with secret and not-so-secret gardens for horticulturists and plant-lovers alike to enjoy. You can spend most of your summer enjoying the beautiful plants and flowers at McGill Rose Garden, The Duke Mansion, and Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary. 

Hit the Water 

Nothing says “summer” like heading out to open water. You can rent paddle boards for a few hours of fun. Check out Dave’s Paddle Boats. Or you can head to Rockin’ River Adventures and go kayaking, canoeing, or tubing for a day. Either way, you’re having fun in the sun and cool waters.

 Enjoy Your Favorite Team

The summer is a great time to celebrate your favorite team. Head to Panthers Fan Fest in August to help the Panthers get hyped up about the upcoming football season. Catch a Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark. And if you’re a soccer fan, check out a few games at Panthers Stadium before summer ends.

Go to a Wine Tasting

Vineyards abound in and around Charlotte. Small, local vineyards always have something new and interesting to see, try, or learn about. Enjoy the Vineyards of Swan Creek and check out the actual treehouse at Treehouse Vineyards. Even if you don’t pick up a bottle of wine, you’ll have a good time. 

Explore a Museum 

If you love history, learning, and staying out of the heat, the Charlotte museum scene is a great way to pass the day or weekend. The Carolinas Aviation Museum showcases historic aircrafts. If you love modern art, head to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. And if you’re a music lover, don’t miss the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

Make this your best summer ever and enjoy all that Charlotte and the surrounding area have to offer. Indoors or outdoors, you’re sure to find all the fun and entertainment you could ever want. No matter how long you’ve lived here, there’s always something new to discover. Summer is a great time to explore Charlotte!

Safely Beat the Heat This Summer

Written By Charlotte Insurance on August 6, 2019. It has 0 comments.

an ice cream cone melting - a great way to keep cool during the heat of the summer.

From the general summer heat to the extreme temperatures we’ve all experienced the past few summers, staying safe in the heat is more important than ever. Whether you’re spending time outdoors having fun or you’re working outside, here’s what you need to know to keep yourself and your family safe.

Keep Cool

Easier said than done, but when you can, stay inside in the air conditioning. If you must be outside, stay in the shade as much as you can. If you can’t, take breaks and find shade often. Becoming overheated can lead to severe illness and even death.

Wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing to keep your body as cool as possible. Dark clothes only absorb the heat, and thick clothes will keep you even hotter.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty, to stay hydrated. If you’re working out in the heat, drink Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as both can dehydrate you quickly.

If you begin to feel cramps or spasms, your electrolytes may be low or you may be dehydrated — or both. Take a break in a cool place and get something to drink.

Take Care of Pets and Kids

We want our kids to play outside during the summer, but during extreme heat that can be unsafe. Keep them inside or keep them involved in activities that will keep them cool. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink.

Your pets need extra water and shade when temperatures rise. If you can, bring them into your home or a covered location out of the heat. Never leave pets or kids unattended in a vehicle. Kids and pets can become seriously ill and die even when left only a short time on a warm day.

Avoid Strenuous Activity

The high-heat of the summer might be the right time to take your workouts indoors. Strenuous exercise and activity shouldn’t be done when it’s hot outside. If you’re working outside, move slowly, take breaks, and stay hydrated.

Watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Move to a cooler place. Drink fluids. Get cooled off as best as you can. If the person vomits or passes out, call 911 immediately.

Check on Neighbors

If you have neighbors with no air conditioner or who are elderly or disabled, check on them when the temperature rises. They may have everything they need and be fine, but they might not. If you suspect one of your neighbors is in a dangerous situation with the heat, get help.

When to Call 911 for Problems Related to High Heat

Even with all your precautions, it’s possible that the heat could impact you, your child, a neighbor, or a co-worker. If you see any or all of these symptoms, call 911 immediately:

  • Hot dry skin — but no sweat
  • The person is confused and disoriented
  • Chest pains and/or shortness of breath
  • Passed out or unconscious for any reason

Your call could save a life.

The summer is a time for fun in the sun, but when temperatures get too high, people and pets can become seriously ill. Take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors this summer and stay safe.