Beating the Summer Heat in Boston

The summer weather is finally here to stay in Massachusetts! But high temperatures combined with the level of humidity can make the heat index (aka how how it really feels outside) rise to over 100 degrees. These conditions are not safe for people or pets, so here are some tips to help you stay as cool as possible:

  • Consider your landscaping
    Did you know that landscaping with too much rock, cement or asphalt on the south or west sides of your property can increase the temperature inside your home? They trap and radiate heat if not located in a shaded area.
  • Make sure your ceiling fan blades are rotating in the right direction
    Many people are unsure which way their ceiling fan should operate in summer versus winter. During warmer months, you want to make sure your fan is operating in a counter-clockwise direction. This motion helps produce a breeze. During the winter, change your fan so the blades are moving clockwise. This pushes the warm air downwards for more effective heat distribution.
  • Check your air conditioner's filters
    Having a clogged filter makes your AC unit work that much harder to produce cold air.
  • Consider where your AC unit is located
     An air conditioning unit located in a shaded area is utilizing air that is naturally cooler, therefore it has an easier time cooling the air and distributing it.
  • Don't cool the whole neighborhood
    Check to make sure there are no air leaks around your air conditioning unit. Seal them with weather-stripping.

Memorial Day Hours

Brownstone Insurance will be closing at 1:00pm this afternoon to give our employees an early start to celebrate the long holiday weekend with their families.

We will reopen on Tuesday, May 27th at 8:30am. Hoping all of our clients and friends enjoy their weekend!

Pay Your Bill Online

Brownstone Insurance is always developing new tools to make our clients' lives easier and more efficient. 

While you will still receive an invoice with your policy (mailed or emailed), using our new online payment tool allows you to quickly and easily submit a payment towards your policy premium, 24/7.

Simply navigate to brownstoneinsurance.com/pay to use our new online payment tool at your convenience.

We're happy to be offering this new option for you and hope that you find it useful.

5 Important Life Lessons I Learned from Jessica and Patrick

This past Friday, the Brownstone office had the sincere pleasure of meeting Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, the newlywed couple who suffered unimaginable tragedy as spectators of the Boston Marathon in 2013. 

But the challenges that awaited the young couple after they woke in different hospitals and began to acclimate to lives as amputees have not stopped the dynamic duo from serving as shining examples of good overcoming evil.

You might remember that Brownstone Insurance became involved with a fantastic organization called NEADS: Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans immediately following last year's Boston Marathon. As an organization, we make it our goal to support community efforts each year. Following last year's marathon, we knew we wanted to help, but we wanted it to be in a very personal way.

I came across the story of NEADS' campaign, "Pawsitively Strong," shortly after the marathon. Their goal is to provide specially trained service dogs to survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings for free. NEADS spends thousands of dollars and countless hours caring for and training these amazing service dogs, and this campaign really hit home with the staff of Brownstone. I don't think any of us planned for just how much our relationship with NEADS would change our lives though.

I arranged for Cathy Zemaitis, Director of Development for NEADS, and her service dog Currahee, to visit our office and give a demonstration of just how talented these dogs are. We were hooked. We quickly told Cathy that we wanted to sponsor the first pairing of a service dog with a Boston Marathon bombing survivor.

When I received the call that the first match had been made between a service dog and Jessica Kensky, I was thrilled for her. I had already heard about Jessica and her husband Patrick on numerous social media and news outlets and couldn't wait to hear more about her journey with her service dog.

Cathy explained that Jessica had been paired with aptly-named service dog, Rescue! Rescue was named by the Worcester Firefighter's Association who donate money each year to NEADS as part of their Name a Puppy Program. Perfect, right?!

This past Friday, Jessica and Patrick were kind enough to agree to come visit the Brownstone office and to share their story of what life has been like with Rescue. The experience was truly touching.

Here are 5 important life lessons that I walked away with after meeting Jessica, Patrick and Rescue:

#1 - Good will always overcome evil. This sounds almost Disney-ish, but it's the truth. Maybe it doesn't always happen as quickly as we'd like it to, but in the end good people will live fulfilling, meaningful lives and bad people won't. Plain and simple.

#2 - Attitude is everything. Sometimes a simple positive outlook and some enthusiasm can cure the worst day. Have you ever been around a "Debbie Downer" and suddenly find yourself having a negative attitude too? It works the same way with positivity! So learn to look on the bright side of things and see what happens.

#3 - Life is too short and precious to waste doing things you don't want to do or with people who bring you down. 

#4 - Service dogs are positively amazing animals and more people could benefit from becoming educated about them. There are service dogs to assist and benefit many different cases including: those with physical challenges, hearing impaired, visually impaired, soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, those with behavioral challenges and so many others. Yet with so many individuals benefitting from the aid of a service dog today, there are individuals that still do not respect laws and etiquette when encountering them. Check out this great resource published by NEADS outlining the rights of service dog owners.

#5 - Never underestimate the love of a pet. Jessica and Patrick's dog Rescue is a service dog, sure, but he's also a dog who looks at his owners with sincere love and willingness to help them in exchange for some belly rubs and kisses. I've always been a firm believer that every child should grow up with a pet of some sort. Pets provide companionship, a sense of responsibility and unfaltering love. I personally own two cats and two dogs and could never imagine a life that did not include the love of pets. They truly make a difference and can put a smile on my face even after my worst day.

Here are some photos of our afternoon with Jessica, Patrick, Rescue and Cathy and Currahee!

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Financing Broker Policies

By: Stephanie Adams, Program Underwriter

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Our brokers frequently ask, "Can we finance the policies we write with you?"

We wanted to answer that question and explain some options for you.

We do not offer financing for our brokered policies and there are a few reasons why. The main reason is that if we financed the brokered policies, you as the broker would not receive any notifications that the finance company would send such as late notices, cancellations etc. Another reason is that it confuses the insured's as to where to send payments and who their agent is.

Having said this - if your insured would like to finance the policy you broker through us you can finance directly for them using any finance company you have access to. If you do not currently have access to a finance company you can contact Premium Financing Specialists and they would be happy to finance policies for you.

When you finance a policy for your insured we would be listed as the writing agent so we would receive all notices from the finance company and still handle cancellations, reinstatements and any other requests so there is no extra work on your end, but you would also receive copies of all notices as well.

If you have any questions regarding financing for your insured's, or if you would like to contact Premium Financing Specialists kindly contact a Brownstone Program Underwriter by opening a Live Chat session with us or call our office at (617) 236-6400.

What is a Building Limit?

By: John Linehan, Program Underwriter

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A building limit is the amount of money that Brownstone Insurance will pay up to in the event of a loss. The amount should be a reflection of how much it would take to rebuild the property in the event of a total loss. Getting an appraisal of your property is a very useful tool when determining building limits.

It is important to remember when choosing your building limit that with our outstanding “all-in” policies that you should include the costs to rebuild the interior of your units as well. Think about what it would cost to replace floors, walls, ceilings and fixtures inside the individual units. Keep in mind that the building limit is not what the sale price of the property would be, but the cost to rebuild.

The way we look at the building limit of a property is in price per square foot. We divide the square feet of the property (units and common areas) and divide it by the building limit that is chosen by the customer. This comes out to a number that is the price per square foot. The minimum price per square foot that we can write is 200 dollars per square foot for brick buildings and 160 dollars per square foot for wooden buildings.

We recommend that you choose a building limit above these minimums so that in the event of a complete loss the building can be completely replaced. If improvements are made to a building, it may be wise to increase the building limit which can be done at any time. This protects the investment that you have made into your property.

Our team of underwriters have a vast knowledge of the Boston area and beyond so they have an idea of around where your building limit should be and the amount others like you are using for their building limit values. Please feel free to ask their opinions on the amount of coverage that should be purchased on a property. 

Do You Really Have to Follow Insurance Recommendations?

By: Amy O'Donnell, Program Underwriter

Many risks placed in the Brownstone Program are inspected by Regional Reporting Service. Pursuant to the inspection, we often hear "Do I really need to follow through with the recommendations?" The answer is yes, and there are many reasons.

Property owners often feel that their actual insurance policy should be sufficient and they should not have to spend anything further on insurance recommendations. What is often overlooked is that completing the recommendations will save both headaches and money down the line.

The inspection is done to determine the overall condition of the risk. The company wants to avoid future claims and naturally so should the owner of the property.

Some recommendations are as simple as: replacing washing machine hoses, installing handrails, repairing walking surfaces or replacing stair treads.  

Critical recommendations are made when there in an increased risk of hazard. For instance, Installing self closing/locking doors increases the safety of the building as well as the safety of the owner or tenants. Another example of a critical recommendation could be when the electrical is not up to code. Another one we often see is when grills are be present on balconies/decks or are simply too close to the structure, as a risk of fire is increased.  

The picture below is from a grill fire on the balcony of a 24 unit apartment in Quincy.  This is exactly why we require that you follow through with our recommendations.

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3 Mistakes to Avoid While Driving in Snowy Conditions

By: Michelle Prall, Client Advisor

It's winter in New England, and another snow storm has come. If you find yourself stuck somewhere and you are forced to drive in snowy conditions, please avoid these three common mistakes:

1.  Following too closely

Many people make this mistake. This will lessen your reaction time if there is a problem with the vehicle(s) in front of you.

In general:

  • A driver in a car should drive at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front in ideal conditions.
  • A vehicle towing a trailer or caravan should allow two seconds, plus one second for each 3 feet of trailer.

Remember to also:

  • double your following distance in poor conditions.
  • increase your following distance if you are driving a heavy vehicle.


2.  Slamming on the brakes

When you feel your car starting to go out of control, you naturally want to slam on the brakes. Avoid this! This will remove the traction from your tires and it will actually take away your ability to control your vehicle. Steer your vehicle in the same direction you feel it slipping and then gradually apply the brakes.

3.  Driving too fast

This is the biggest mistake people make while driving in snowy conditions. It takes much longer to brake on an icy/ snowy road than it does on a dry road. Driving too fast will reduce the time you have to react and it will increase the severity of any collision.

Be smart, alert and safe out there!

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Staff Visit to the Friendship Home in Norwell

By: Paul Joyce, Client Advisor

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Friendship Home in Norwell MA with my co-worker, Michelle Prall. 

The Friendship Home was founded in 1999 by two local moms who had children with developmental disabilities. The goal of the Friendship Home is to “enrich the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities."

One visit to this wonderful place and you can see that they have achieved and surpassed their goal. They do this by offering a variety of programs for these individuals that foster community involvement.  

Some of the programs are:

  • Friendship Club
  • Bridges to Work
  • Travel Club

Every Wednesday, the Friendship Home opens their doors to the community by offering lunch that is prepared and served by the members on the Bridges to Work program. This particular program helps prepare these outstanding citizens for the opportunity to join the work force. On this particular day we enjoyed a ceasar salad with chicken, broccoli & ziti. The food was delicious, but what was most impressive was the pride and dedication that the members and staff had during the lunch.

On this particular day we were joined by employees from the Rockland Trust Co. and Tedeschi Food Shops.  Both of these local businesses encourage their employees to get involved with the Friendship Home.

Tedeschi’s also employs a number of these individuals. It’s a great partnership.

Peter Tedeschi, president and CEO said it best, “We wouldn’t have it any other way, and they’re great employees. We are proud to have them as part of our work force.” 

It’s amazing what two moms with determination and hard work can do.

 I can’t wait to go back again.

Charity Campaign Luncheon

Yesterday, Brownstone staff celebrated the completion of our office renovation in a meaningful way - by hosting a luncheon to thank the nominators and representatives of the 6th winning charities that each won a share of $10,000 that we promised to donate to area charities at this year's MAIA Big Event.

We were so proud to welcome supporters and representatives of the American Breast Cancer Foundation, Last Hope K9 Rescue, Operation Smile, In Control Crash Prevention, the CORSE Foundation and Santa's Magic for a wonderful catered lunch in our updated space. Following lunch, we presented each charity with their respective donation check.

Brownstone Insurance strongly believes in supporting our community, and giving back to the charities that our community members support was a great way to kick off this holiday season.

The fact that we were able to celebrate in our newly renovated space was the icing on the cake. Brownstone feels it is also important to invest in our own company and create a warm and welcoming environment for our employees, who are part of the same communities we aim to protect, and customers and visitors.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our charity campaign last month and for helping us do great things for the community!

Here are some photos from the day. Click the photos to view the gallery.

25 Maintenance Items to Do Every Year

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  1. Replace dim or broken lightbulbs to ensure adequate light throughout your property.
  2. Have your dryer vent cleaned. Build-up of lint or dust leads to thousands of dryer fires each year.
  3. Inspect your roof for missing or damaged shingles.
  4. Remove weeds, plants and shrubs from around your property's foundation.
  5. Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  6. Inspect your oil tank for leaks or rust.
  7. Check carpets and rugs for tears or areas of lifting.
  8. Inspect your walkway and/or stairs leading to your property to make sure no hazards exist, such as lifting concrete.
  9. Test sprinkler systems.
  10. Clear air ducts and other ventilation systems.
  11. Check and reapply sealants as necessary. Sealants include things such as decks, and window caulking.
  12. Consider having a pest control specialist visit your condo or multi-unit property once per year, even if tenants have not complained about pests. Insects such as cockroaches and termites can triple their population in a matter of days and quickly infest an entire property.
  13. Clean gutters and check for holes to allow free water drainage and prevent ice dams.
  14. Check your local property laws to see if an annual heating system inspection is required.
  15. Have your chimney professionally cleaned.
  16. Trim tree branches and shrubbery that have grown too close to windows, doors or the exterior of your building.
  17. Power wash siding and windows to remove dust and mold buildup.
  18. Check insulation around pipes.
  19. Inspect washing machine hoses and replace those that show signs of wear or leakage.
  20. Test fire extinguishers and make sure they are available in all common areas.
  21. Check any decks or wooden patios for hazards such as protruding nails or loose boards.
  22. Have your roof inspected and identify problem areas that might need replacing.
  23. Check electrical outlets for hazards such as fraying wires or loose-fitting plugs.
  24. Check lightbulbs in common area light fixtures to make sure fluorescent bulbs of the same wattage recommended by the manufacturer are installed. Fluorescent bulbs give off less heat.
  25. Check for water stains, rotting wood or peeling paint, as these may be signs of water damage.

Our Big Event Charity Campaign

As many of you know, the MAIA Big Event was this past weekend. This is always a huge event for Brownstone Insurance. In the past, we've given away some extravagant prizes to our friends who stop by our booth - a Louis Vuitton luggage set, a surprise trip to Paris, a Tiffany diamond necklace, Christian Louboutin shoes, among other items.

But this year, we did things a little differently. 

Given all that the city of Boston went through this year, we felt it was appropriate to give back. So, we set out on a mission to support local charities nominated by you. We offered a simple nomination form for people to tell us about their favorite charities and hired a graphic recorder (an artist) to come and draw illustrations of each charity on huge canvases set up in our booth. The result was pretty amazing! Clicking on the image below will enlarge it so you can see the fantastic work of the artist and all the charities that you guys nominated!

After the event was over, we posted each individual charity on our Facebook page and let our friends and fans cast votes for their favorite causes by simply "liking" the image of the charity they support.

The response was overwhelming! People advocated for their charities by sharing posts, like the images and spreading the word.

It was a tight race, but at the end of the campaign the results were as follows:

Last Hope K9 Rescue had the most votes with 387 likes and will receive $3,000!
Operation Smile came in second with 229 likes and will receive $2,000!
In Control Crash Prevention came in third with 127 likes and will receive $1,000!
The Corse Foundation came in fourth with 126 likes and will receive $650!
And finally Santa's Magic came in fifth with 68 likes and will receive $350!

Stay tuned for a follow-up post when we deliver to the charities.

 

Brownstone's Big Event 2013

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Brownstone is gearing up to really outdo ourselves with our Big Event prize, and this year, everybody wins. This year's prize is much more extravagant than a Tiffany necklace, Louis Vuitton luggage or a trip to Paris. But we need your help.

We are feeding Boston for the holidays. 

Please help us achieve our goal by donating your non-perishable food items at the Brownstone booth during the Big Event Trade Show (booth #121 and 120). 

Do good, feel good, and help make a stronger community.  

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and among the largest food banks in the country. They made a commitment in 2013 to provide at least one meal a day to every person in need in eastern Massachusetts and we want to help them achieve this goal.

Below is a list of preferred food items, according to the GBFB. If you would like to donate monetarily, every $1 provides 3 meals for those in need.

Preferred Items:
Dairy: Milk - dried, evaporated, and boxed (such as Parmalat)
Protein: Beef stew, nuts, peanut butter, beans, and peas (dried or canned), chili, tuna fish, chicken, salmon (canned)
Vegetables: Tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, vegetables (canned), tomato juice
Fruit: Raisins and other dried fruit, applesauce, any canned fruit in its own juice
Grains: Crackers, oatmeal, whole grain rice, all types of pasta, ready to eat low sugar/high fiber cereal (Cheerios, Raisin Bran, etc.)

*For the safety of volunteers GBFB prefers non-glass containers. Baby food or pet food cannot be accepted.

We look forward to seeing you at this year's MAIA Big Event and hope you'll join us in making this time of year a little more joyful for those in need.

Brownstone Seeks New Talent

Big things are in the works here at Brownstone. We've moved to a temporary space while our office is being 100% renovated (sneak peek photo of the progress coming soon!) and we're looking for fresh, motivated talent to add to our team. 

But if you're looking for a typical, old-fashioned job posting, you won't find one here. If you haven't noticed by now, we're a little more progressive than most companies. So, we put together a talent graphic that visually emphasizes some of the traits we're looking for in the people who can help us grow as a company.  

We have several positions we are looking to fill, but no insurance experience is required. Take a look at our talent graphic and if it resonates with you, email me at Beth@brownstoneinsurance.com!

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Paul Joyce's 25th Anniversary with Brownstone

Today is a special day here at the Brownstone office. Why, you ask? Because we're celebrating the fact that Paul Joyce, Client Advisor in our Personal Lines Department, has been working with Brownstone for 25 years! (A side note I found a little amusing - that is almost as long as I have been alive!) 

Not many people can say they've been with the same company for 25 years, so we must be doing something right!  

Paul was greeted by the whole staff this morning and we showered him with gifts, including an American Express gift card, a bottle of his favorite drink, some balloons, flowers, a pin and a crown to wear for the day. He was quiet surprised. 

The entire staff then enjoyed lunch together and the owners gave a great speech about their history and memories of working with Paul.

Paul has developed great business relationships with many of his clients, so please join us in wishing Paul Joyce 25 more great years with Brownstone! 

 

Paul Joyce

Paul Joyce