Homer Smith Watermelon - Copy

Port Townsend Old School 4th of July 2017

Looking for a fun family-friendly outdoor activity with lots of elbow room?  Head over to the Fort Worden Parade Grounds for the 3rd annual Old School 4th of July 2017, hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and Thunderbull.

The event starts at 4PM with the National Guard Dixieland Jazz Band and features a Tug of War Championship, a Pie-in-the-Face event (our crazy-brave friends are going to get messy!), and a watermelon eating contest. After a jam-packed day with music from the Caribe Steel Band and local beats from “The Ultimate Dance Band”  Uncle Funk and the Dope 6, it’s finally time to shoot for the stars with a fireworks diplay sponsored by First Federal.

Homer Smith Insurance is one of the Launch Sponsors of this fun event! We will be there!  Come on out!

2015 Steampunk Festival

The 2017 Port Townsend Steampunk Festival

So what is “steampunk?” And what does it have to do with Port Townsend?

Steampunk started as a science fiction genre back in the 1980s, where authors re-imagined 19th century society having advanced mostly steam-powered technology, based on the fashion, architecture and culture at the time. Think French author Jules Verne and his famous submarine, or H.G. Wells’ time machine.

The event is officially known as “The Brass Screw Confederacy” and it is a celebration of both history and fantasy, and a well-earned excuse to dress up in layers of Victorian-inspired attire, which is where Port Townsend comes in with its rich seafaring history and recognition as a Historic Seaport.

What better setting for this retro-themed festival that looks to the future? Enjoy music, speakers or just do some people watching this June 9-11.

The included photo is one of the favorites we took at the PT Steampunk Festival a couple of years ago.  We at Homer Smith Insurance love Port Townsend and all of its many and varied festivals!

IMG_6551

Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival

We love the Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival!  Last year was especially fun for us,  as our good friend Jim “Kiwi” Ferris was the Grand Marshall of the parade and Homer was his chauffeur!

It is always held the 3rd weekend in May, well into spring, usually accompanied by sun and, of course, lots of flowers.

The Rhododendron or “Rhody” Festival began in 1935 when a local named Clive Buttermere started a sensation in motion by persuading Hearst Metronome News to make a newsreel of  the prized wild blossoms.  He surrounded them with women from the community who were chosen as Royalty to mark the event and add to the aesthetics of the pictures.  Since then, the one-day Rhododendron Festival itself has blossomed into an annual 4 day series of events culminating in a Grand Parade on Saturday and a 12K Rhody Run the next morning.

IMG_6550

2017 Sequim Irrigation Festival – “122 Skies of Blue”

The Sequim Irrigation Festival began with a vision of the impossible:  making the dry Dungeness Valley bloom for its farmers and homesteaders.  Against odds and gravity, a group of 20 or so pioneers led by local known as D.R. “Crazy” Callen—called “crazy” for being the one behind the idea and pushing for it– built a series of irrigation ditches in the hills above Sequim and so ushered in a 122 year legacy of providing water to a region that historically gets about 18 inches of rain a year.  The town of Sequim gratefully celebrates this achievement with a festival of culture and tradition held on the second Saturday in May with a parade through town, local “royalty” overseeing the festivities and family-friendly events. The Grand Finale Weekend begins today, May 12, 2017, and some of the main events are:

  • Carnival, May 11th – May 14th
  • Historic Walking Tour
  • Golf Tournament
  • Sequim High School Operetta
  • Strongman Competition, May 12th 6:00-8:00pm
  • Logging Show, Truck and Tractor Pull, May 12th & 13th
  • Fireworks, May 12th 9:30 – 10:30 pm
  • Irrigation Festival Fun Run
  • Hot Rods & Harleys Show N’ Cruz, May 13th, 10:45 – 4:00 pm
  • 122nd Irrigation Festival Grand Parade, May 13th 12:00 – 2:00 pm

More info can be found at the Sequim Irrigation Festival Website, http://www.irrigationfestival.com/events/ Here are a few photos we took from the 2015 and 2016 Sequim Irrigation Festivals.

shutterstock_72668686

Have You Considered Increasing Your Insurance Liability Limits? Think About An Umbrella.

If you own a home, own a car and a boat, you probably have insurance on all three. One thing each of these insurance policies will have in common is a liability component that protects you in the event someone is harmed by or on your property. Liability insurance is the part of your homeowners, auto or marine policy that pays for expenses such as the injured persons medical bills and lost wages and covers your legal representation if you end up in court. There is another thing these policies will have in common that you may not have considered; each policy has a limit on the liability payment. If there is an accident you will be protected only up to the limits of liability on the policy. These days, that liability limit might not be enough. If an accident was caused through your negligence, there is no way to predict how much a sympathetic judge or jury may award. You might take a moment to look over your Washington insurance policies and judge for yourself whether the limits of liability are sufficient to provide you the protection you are comfortable with. Financial advisors are now recommending that individuals who are still working have liability coverage of at least $1 million or equivalent to their net worth. If you are concerned that your limits of liability may not be enough, there is an alternative to simply raising those limits on a policy by policy basis. That alternative is a Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP). A Personal Umbrella Policy offers high limits of liability that can defend an insured against a catastrophic liability loss. PUP coverage, like an umbrella, sits on top of the primary liability coverage provided homeowners, personal auto, watercraft, and any other scheduled underlying liability policies. It covers bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury, which includes, among other things, libel, slander, false arrest and invasion of privacy. A Personal Umbrella Policy can extend your liability coverage from $1 million-$5 million. The really good news is that this form of coverage is quite affordable. Because the coverage picks up after the underlying liability coverage represented by your homeowners or auto insurance is exhausted, the pricing of these policies is commensurate with the risk. You may expect to pay only a few hundred dollars for $1 million or more of personal liability insurance. Take a few minutes to discuss your liability situation with a professional at Homer Smith Insurance. You may be able to significantly increase your liability protection very affordably.

Time to Winterize Your Home

OK, last weekend was the end of daylight savings time and if you are a homeowner you know what that means; it’s time to make sure your house is ready for winter. We are pretty fortunate on our side of the Hood Canal Bridge because we don’t often get the weather that sometimes plagues the passes east of Seattle or the other side of the Cascades. Still, we need to spend a bit of time making sure our homes are maintained for their own safety and the safety of others.

Inside the home you’ll want to check the thermostat to make sure that is working properly. It’s a good time to consider energy savings and whether or not a setback thermostat or a timer might help you save on your heating bill. Programmable thermostats that will allow you to set different temperatures by day and time of day can put a big dent in utility bills. If you have a pellet stove or other stove that works with the thermostat, you can even put programmable thermostats on these.

If you have a fireplace it’s time to clean it, the flu and the spark arrester at the top of the chimney. Make sure all your dampers are working properly and fitting correctly. You also need to check the mortar between the bricks on the chimney and look for any cracks in the fireplace or the chimney. It is particularly important if you have any form of exposed heating indoors that you check out all your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and put in new batteries for the season. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, get one; they are a great safety investment.  You don’t want to be taking a chance on needing your Washington home insurance.

Make sure the house is tight. Check the door and window insulation in the house and garage and check for air leaks under doors, and where pipes or wires come into the house.  Caulk or repair any leaking areas as necessary.

Outside the house, check around the foundation and fill in any cracks. This will help prevent damage from water getting into the cracks and freezing. It’s time to clean the leaves from the gutters and make sure the downspouts are clear and not leaking. This will help prevent the formation of ice dams and possible damage to the roof. Survey your roof for worn spots or missing shingles now and at the first snow, take a look at the roof again to see if there are areas of uneven melting that might indicate insulation problems.

There’s time now before our first cold snap to check outdoor faucets, fix any leaks and insulate outside faucets and drains.  Our western Washington climate is relatively mild so inexpensive faucet covers will take care of most potential freezing problems.  On the deck and in the garden, put away any hoses, take in or cover patio furniture and prepare a sprinkler or watering system for winter. Make sure pools or hot tubs are prepped for winter. 

Many folks ion the Olympic Peninsula like to get away during the winter to warmer climates. If you’re going to leave your house vacant for some time there are a couple of additional things you should do. If you are going to turn off the water, try to drain the pipes if possible to prevent possible damage from freezing. If not, consider leaving some water running in a slow trickle to reduce the chances of freezing. If the heat will be turned off, consider insulating the water heater. Putting a small amount of antifreeze in the tank and bowl of each toilet can help prevent freezing and cracking these fixtures.

If possible, try to have a friend or neighbor check your house on a regular schedule. Unexpected things can happen in an empty house and  it is best to identify problems as early as possible before they cause major damage. If you are going to be gone for a long time it is worth talking to your insurance agent and checking your insurance policy. Insurance companies may take issue with covering damage to a house when the owner has been absent for a long period of time. Fortunately, there is additional coverage available that can protect you during periods of absence.

Winterize Yourself!

We have been talking about winterizing your house and car in recent postings; we shouldn’t forget to winterize ourselves.  Immunizations are about the best approach we have for primary prevention of disease.  Here in Jefferson County, we learned a bit this year about what can happen if we are not vigilant in keeping our immunizations up to date.  We had an outbreak of Whooping Cough that made state headlines. 

Now we are about to enter the flu season; it is time to roll up our sleeves and get our shots.  Influenza is a disease we combat every year and it is a sort of roulette wheel for the public health folks.  There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C, but that is only the beginning of the story.  These three types are responsible for 306 human influenza viruses and influenza A viruses are further classified by subtype and both A subtypes and B viruses are also classified by strains. The H1N1 virus we saw worried about in the papers in 2009 is a strain of Influenza A.  We also call it swine flu; we can worry about it again this year if we don’t get vaccinated.

Flu strains mutate all the time and every time a strain mutates and acts in a different way, it is given another name.  What is really important though is to identify the strains that look like they will be active in the next flu season or are a real threat to humans.  The folks who study flu predict which strains will be important and mix up a batch of flu vaccine that provides immunization against the strains they expect to see.  Mostly they get it right, but sometimes a variant creeps in that isn’t covered.  

The 2012 flu vaccine offers immunization for:  

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus (same strain as 2011-2012 flu season)
  • A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus
  • B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.

The H1N1 strain is the only one in common with last year’s vaccine; the other two are new for this year. 

Flu season usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur later and there are already cases reported this year in Washington State, so it’s time to get your shot as soon as possible for the greatest protection.  If you worry about flu much and want to track it, there are great resources at the Centers for Disease Control and through the Washington State Department of Health.  

Some people don’t like shots and would just as soon avoid getting one; don’t do that.   Not only does flu vaccination help you as an individual, but as a community effort everyone who gets a flu shot helps their neighbor.  These days, if you are in the right age range you can also get your vaccine as a nasal spray.  When enough people are immunized, our community acquires what is known as “herd immunity” – the flu can’t jump from person to person because there are enough immune people to block the jump.  There are people who should not get flu shots unless they consult their physicians – like people who are sick, have an allergy to chicken eggs, have had a reaction to an influenza vaccination or have a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome.  Also, kids under 6 months old should not get influenza vaccine.  All these people depend on the rest of us to help protect them. 

If you need to know where to get a flu shot or the newer flu nasal spray, go to the Washington Department of Health website at http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Flu.aspx and enter your zip code.

Taking Care of Your Home

When you buy a
home, your mortgage holder will require that you carry homeowners insurance;
this is to provide financial protection for you and your banker.  Insurance, though, is only part of the
picture.  You need insurance to protect
your home and its contents against accidental damage and to protect your
possessions against theft.  Insurance
addresses the rapid and unpredictable events that can eat into the value of
your home. 

There is another
set of events that is neither sudden nor unpredictable, but over time can wreak
the same havoc as a hurricane or a fire. 
Those events are the slow deterioration of a house that is not
maintained.  While it may take years, the
ravages of time will destroy an unmaintained house as certainly as any
catastrophe. 

A typical
Washington homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for the structure of
your home, personal belongings, liability protection and ancillary expenses
such as support while you cannot live in your home as a result of damage
through a covered peril.  What homeowners
insurance does not cover are those events that are rare but devastating -
flood, earthquake or landslide, for example – and those items that are part of
normal wear and tear. Managing your risk of loss requires addressing each of
these areas – general homeowners insurance, coverage for special risks and a
sound maintenance plan to make certain your home is in the best condition it
can be.

Your first step
should be to read and understand your homeowners insurance policy.  What perils are covered?  Typically, covered perils include, fire,
windstorm, riot or civil commotion, theft and vandalism and water damage if it
is due to sudden and accidental leaks from plumbing, heating or
air-conditioning systems or domestic appliances.  You need to make sure that the perils covered
are those common to your area and understand how they will be dealt with.  For example, what is an accidental leak and
how does it differ from a leak that may be a maintenance issue?

Once you
understand what is covered in your standard policy, you need to consider those
risks not covered – high value items, floods and earthquakes are examples of
areas where you might consider additional coverage.  Often a decision on this additional coverage
will depend on your risk tolerance.  For
example, if you have an extensive coin collection you might want to make
certain you have additional coverage for it; if your collection is not large,
you may decide you could absorb its entire loss. Special coverage can virtually
always be purchased to insure against perils that are not covered and for items
that require special treatment.

What will not be
covered by either a standard homeowners policy or by extended special coverage
are losses related to inadequate or improper home maintenance.  These are the homeowner’s responsibility. You
should consider developing a home maintenance plan to further reduce your
risk.  For example, a regular schedule of
cleaning gutters can help preserve the integrity of your roof; regular trimming
of bushes around dryer vents or other heat sources helps reduce the risk of
fire.  You should pay special attention
to moisture related issues.  Most homeowner policies don’t cover damage caused by mold, fungi, rust, or rot because these
are not sudden and accidental occurrences. 
Insurers typically view them as maintenance issues, though some may
provide a limited amount of mold coverage or allow you to buy additional
coverage for mold by adding an endorsement.

There are several
good homeowners maintenance plans available or you can create your own.  In Washington, for example, the Building Industry of Washington (BIAW) has developed an extensive plan that addresses
many areas that help reduce your risk of an insurable event.  A sound maintenance plan that is followed can
help you preserve and protect you major home investment.

 

Time to Winterize the Car

Changing technology has brought big changes to the century-old problem of how to get your car ready for winter. The oil and gas industry has improved oils to the point we know longer need to worry about changing to “winter oil” versus summer oil, we just keep on driving around with the same high quality multi-viscosity oil all year. They have also put 10% ethanol in our gas. The byproduct of this is some protection against frozen gas lines if you get water in your gas. The battery folks have improved their products as well. Where we used to be advised to test our batteries and refill them before winter, most batteries now are factory sealed and you could neither test them with a hygrometer or fill them if you would thought they were low on fluid. The only thing you need to do with your battery these days is make sure the connections are tight. If you suspect your battery is losing its capability to hold a charge, your mechanic will be happy to do a load test for you to help determine whether you need a new one.

Advances in tire technology have given us the “all weather” tire which can safely be used all year round for many of us. If you live in an area on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula where there is a lot of snow – like Brinnon for example – you might want to consider snow tires. Please remember though that all-season tires only work when they have plenty of tread and when they are properly inflated. Your tire pressure will drop with the falling temperatures – about 1 pound per square inch for every 10°. Here, if you inflated to 30 pounds per square inch in July, by November you could be closer to 25 pounds per square inch. If you move around a lot two areas of the state where there is a lot of snow, you might want to consider studded tires. If you have four-wheel drive, follow your manufacturers’ recommendation for servicing and be sure to test an “on-demand” system before winter weather sets in.  

As your Washington auto insurance agency, Homer Smith Insurance wants to remind you to be prepared for winter driving.  You can anticipate at least a few days of pretty rotten weather between November 1 and April 1 if you live here on the Peninsula. Don’t neglect your car’s windshield wipers. Check your wiper fluid and wiper blades; refill fluid and change blades as necessary.  Wiper blades are generally good for about a year. Replace them if they are worn, frayed or leave streaks.  Dirty water and salt on your windshield reduces visibility and you need a clear view for a safe trip. You don’t want to be navigating our twisting roads peering out the side window and looking for the white lines on the road.  Fill your wiper fluid reservoir with a brand that has an appropriate freezing temperature.

The end of daylight saving time is a good marker to check your belts and hoses.  Cold weather can weaken belts and hoses so any problems are only likely to get worse.  Looks for leaks where hoses connect and check for frayed belts.  If a belt or hose looks questionable, get it replaced.  

Prepare for emergencies.  Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated and you have a wheel wrench and a good jack.  Carry a shovel, jumper cables, tire chains and at least a minimal tool kit that includes a flashlight.  A bag of sand, salt or cat litter carried in the trunk will help provide a little weight over the wheels for a rear wheel drive car and may give you some extra traction if you need to get a wheel our of a rut. 

Winter or summer, your car should have a “survival kit” analogous to the one in your house.  Pack some extra batteries for that flashlight in your toolkit, a knife or scissors and cord and matches in a waterproof container.  A small first aid kit is important and should include sterile gloves and a CPR shield.  , Pack reflective triangles or brightly-colored cloth and flares for roadside safety and a compass in the event you need to leave the car.  Winter specific items you should include are:  extra windshield cleaner, an ice scraper/snow brush and high energy foods with a long useful life – nuts, dried fruit and energy bars, for example.

The folks at weather.com have some advice if you get stranded:

  • Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation. 
  • To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.
  • If you are sure the car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.
  • To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm.
  • Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.
  • Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.


Dove House Benefit Golf Tournament (Boeing Bluebills) 033 Tide 7 Homer's Team-2

Homeowners Insurance – It May Cover More Than You Realize

Your home – it keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and dry all year around; it can also help protect you even when you are not at home.   Your homeowner’s insurance policy is an asset that not only protects your home and its contents but helps defend you even away from home. Your Washington homeowners policy has two major parts.  Property insurance covers the structure of your home and its contents for fire, theft and other perils; personal liability covers damage to others caused by you, your family or your property – including medical expenses for those injured.  Pretty simple really, if there is a theft in your home and your brand new laptop is stolen, the theft is covered under your property insurance; if your neighbor trips on the loose board on your porch you are defended by your liability insurance.  What many people do not realize is that your homeowners insurance attaches to you as well as your home and when you are away from home, your insurance comes with you. The liability part of your homeowners insurance may provide coverage in the event you or a member of your family injures someone while you are on vacation.  Perhaps you hit a horrible drive that hooks off the golf course and straight through the windshield of a car parked near the course; you may be covered  under your homeowners policy for the repairs.  The medical and liability portion of your homeowners policy may cover you if your errant golf drive hits a person not a parked car or if your normally cheerful canine companion decides to nip on someone’s ankle at the amusement park. Property coverage can be quite extensive and cover many property loss situations away from home.   If your laptop is stolen from your rental car while you are on vacation, you can look to your home insurance for recovery – but remember if it is your business laptop, it may not a covered item.  Virtually anything that you own or purchase can be covered for loss or theft up to the policy limits subject to the same deductibles and policy limits just as they would at home.  If your luggage is lost by the airlines or valuable jewelry disappears from your hotel room, you may be able to recover under your homeowners policy.  It is a versatile tool that helps protect not just your home, but you as the homeowner.