Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category


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November 19th, 2014

It’s that time of year again and it’s very important that you take appropriate steps to protect your home against winter’s fury. Many homeowners may be surprised to learn that winter storms are the third largest cause of catastrophic losses and melting snow causes significant damage to property year-after-year. The following are a number of steps you should take prior to the season’s first snowfall:

– Clean out gutters; leaves and other debris can cause ice damming when water is unable to drain. Water instead seeps into the house causing damage.

– Check for moss on the roof. Moss retains moisture. If not removed, it will cause rotting and diminish the effectiveness; along with the useful life of the roof.

– Trim trees and remove dead branches; weak branches break and could damage your home or car.

– Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations. Use caulking to seal openings to prevent snowmelt from seeping in.

– Have the heating system serviced annually.

– Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly. More fires occur during the winter.

– Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located.

– Look for structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired before problems occur.

– Protect against rodents and animal damage: close openings into soffits, attics, basements, crawl spaces; be sure all trash and garbage have been removed from the home.

– Keeping mice out: Remove any open food, storing food in cans or closed heavy plastic containers, and closing obvious mouse entry points will help.

– Watch for slow water trickling down a shallow drain line outside can build up enough ice to block the drain or even freeze and burst the drain pipe.

Are you planning an extended vacation this winter? Follow these precautions to help assure a pleasant return home.

– Turn off unneeded electrical components. Modern TV’s and items that use plug-in wall chargers and voltage converters are always using electricity. Unplug sensitive electronic equipment to protect against power surges or lightning.

– Mothballs keep mice out of cabinets in unheated structures (e.g. garages). Place the whole box of mothballs, opened, but not poured out, into the cabinet, closet, or vehicle.

– Windows and doors: make sure that all windows are closed. If the home has triple-track storm and screen windows, make sure that the storm windows are closed with the glass “down” – not just the screens down. Latch and lock these openings.

– Monitoring services: decide if you want or need a professional to winterize your home and or to monitor it during the time that it will be shut down. Consider a protection service that range from weekly or even daily visits to check on a property to emergency responses to a no-heat call or water-entry call that can be made automatically by a home security system when those conditions occur.
* If power outages are common in the area, a battery-backup for alarms and sump pumps would be a smart addition to the home.

– Freeze Alarms: systems that warn of loss of heat or freezing conditions in a home can notify you or a property manager when something needs attention. Security systems can add freeze-alarms. If your home already has a security alarm system it’s usually a small matter to add low-temperature, loss of heat, loss of electrical power, and water flood sensors to the system. If your home does not already have a security system some simple devices can turn on a light to alert neighbors to a heat loss or flood.


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August 30th, 2013


Many dealers will let you off of the lot with confirmation of your auto policy number – promising to follow up with your agency/agent to let them know of the new purchase. Several have not followed up … this translates to your driving around without coverage on your brand new vehicle.

Please follow up on your own with your agent and have that new vehicle put on your coverage. Not doing so could result in a painful, personal financial loss.

Coverages to Consider for Your Boat

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August 8th, 2013

You are finally ready to buy that boat you have been dreaming about for years! But before the loan can be finalized, they need proof of insurance.
Maybe you hadn’t thought about it yet, but there are a lot of insurance options to meet your particular needs for your specific boat. Here are some to consider:

• Watercraft Liability. Pays for bodily injury and property damage to others resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of your boat. It is important to know that this will not pay for your boat or your injuries.

• Physical Damage. Pays for physical damage to your boat for virtually anything that could happen to it, with only a few exceptions such as wear and tear or deterioration.

• Emergency Towing and Assistance. Pays for the towing of your boat to the nearest place where repairs can be made; delivery of gas, oil or a battery; and road trouble service for the boat trailer.

• Boating Equipment and Trailers. You may be surprised to learn that boating equipment and trailers are limited to $1,000 on many homeowners policies. You can specifically insure your boating equipment and trailer with your boat, which will provide broader coverage at the limits you need.

There are many other coverages available, and we are happy to discuss all of the options. We can tailor a boat policy to meet your needs, so you can hit the water feeling confident that you are protected!


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October 27th, 2011

For you classic car owners, it’s time to put your cars to sleep for the winter. We’ve put together some steps to help you do it right.

1. Top off your levels.

a) Fill your gas tank and add a fuel preservative. The full tank keeps out moisture, and the preservative keeps the gas from breaking down. Take one last drive to circulate the preservative.

b) Make sure your antifreeze is fresh and topped off.

c) To avoid a nasty sludge in the spring, change the oil

2. Take preventative measures.

a) Give your car a good wash and wax to protect the paint. Protect the chrome with wax or paint sealant.

b) Over-inflate tires to avoid flat spotting, or jack up the car to take pressure off the tires.

c)Put a battery manager on your car.

d) To prevent rodents nesting in an engine compartment, try a rodent repellent under the hood. Just remember to remove it before starting up.

e) Put down a few moisture pads on the upholstery to absorb moisture and prevent mildew.

f) Cover the car with a breathable car cover to prevent corrosion and rust.

3. Re-circulate your oil.

When a car sits, oil settles into the pan, leaving the engine without lubrication. Disconnect the coil wire and crank the engine over several times. Reconnect the coil wire and you should be good to go.


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March 31st, 2010

5 ways to prepare for spring flooding (Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI) March 26, 2010 By Megan Schmidt Holland, Michigan


 While weather forecasters say this spring probably won’t be as wet as the past two years, it’s still best to be prepared for the worst.

“Mother Nature always proves us wrong,” Mark Walton, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, said. “The flooding Holland had the past two years, those were pretty unusual, pretty extreme events. It’s rather unusual to get hit back to back with that intensity of rainfall in pretty much the same location.”

In the past 20 years, four of 14 presidentially-declared disasters were for flooding events in Michigan, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Last June, spring floods caused a total $40 million in damages in Ottawa and Allegan counties, after 6.3 inches of rain hit the Holland area in just a few hours.

“This system kind of just sat there and dumped a whole bunch of rainfall on the Holland area,” Walton said. “When you have a very ‘juicy’ system that has a lot of moisture in it, it usually moves out of the area quickly. Even though this one stayed in the area only a couple hours, it was enough to do some damage.”

The year before, a June thunderstorm dumped more than five inches of rain in some areas along the lakeshore. Flooding and washed out roads were blamed for several deaths.

Walton said it’s difficult to predict a major rainfall event very far in advance -“you probably have around a day or so” – so it’s best to always be ready.

The following flood prevention tips were compiled from,,, and

Buy flood insurance
Having homeowners insurance does not mean you are covered for a flood.
“It is not covered. You have to buy it separately. It’s really that simple,”
John O’Brien, a Hudsonville insurance agent, said.

Keep in mind that your flood insurance policy must be in place 30 days before any flooding even occurs, he said.  And if someone says you don’t need flood insurance, get a second opinion, O’Brien suggested.  “Any insurance agent who tells you that you’re not in a flood zone in Ottawa or Allegan county, frankly, you should run away,” he said. “You should go somewhere else.”

You can rate your flood risk by entering your address at

Prepare your home
Make an itemized list of personal property. Photograph the interior and exterior of your home.  Store the list, photos and documents in a safe place.  Elevate your furnace, air conditioning unit, water heater and electric panel if you can. Any electrical system component can be easily damaged by floodwaters.

Put a sump pump in your basement to keep groundwater out of your home.  Place utilities such as washers and dryers on cinder blocks to raise them off the ground.  Cut drywall so it is one-half to one inch off the floor, especially if it’s in your basement. Concrete floors tend to absorb ground moisture, which can wick up the wallboard if it’s touching the floor, causing mold.

Install sewer backflow valves to prevent sanitary sewer lines from backing up in your drain pipes, which creates a health hazard. This type of installation is a job best left to a professional plumber.

Prepare emergency supplies
It’s a good idea to put together a kit containing the most essential items in case you need to leave home quickly, or if parts of your home become inaccessible or damaged.

Some suggestions from the American Red Cross: first-aid kit, canned food and a can opener, supply of prescription medicines, bottled water, batteries, flashlight, rubber boots and gloves, emergency cooking supplies, battery-operated radio and extra clothing.

Keep the kit somewhere that is most likely to be accessible in an emergency.
Consider a portable kit for your car, too.  If you have a safe place for them, keep sandbags, plastic sheets and lumber on hand, too.

Have a family disaster plan
Keep emergency numbers posted by the phone and teach younger children to dial 911. Have at least one out-of-state friend or relative as an emergency contact.

Plan and practice a flood evacuation route, considering a few routes from work and school that are on higher ground in case some roads are flooded.   Never attempt to drive over a flooded road.

Consider what you’ll do with pets. The American Red Cross of Ottawa County can help assist with finding care or temporary shelter for pets in emergencies, the chapter’s coordinator Robert Brooks said.

“That’s something I know can be common for people to overlook,” he said.
Know where to seek flood updates.  Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s flood outlook page at for flood watches and warnings across the country.


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December 1st, 2009

“Winter roars in and temperatures begin to drop, snow starts to fall, and
the ice begins to form.  This can create potential problems and lead to
ruined carpets and water damage to your ceilings and walls from leaks caused
by ice dams or bursting pipes.


An ice dam is an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof,
usually at the gutter.  When interior heat melts the snow on the roof, the
water will run down and refreeze at the roof’s edge, where temperatures are
much cooler.  Eventually, the ice builds up and blocks water from draining
off of the roof.  This forces the water under the roof covering and into
your attic or down the inside walls of your house.  Once an ice dam forms,
the potential damage can be serious.   Taking the following steps now can
avoid trouble later:

           Keep the attic well ventilated.  The colder the attic, the less
melting and refreezing on the roof.
           Keep the attic floors well insulated to minimize the amount of
heat rising through the attic from within the house.
     Clean the gutters – remove leaves and other debris from the gutters
either by hand, or with a scraping tool, and then give a good rinse with the
garden hose so that the rain and melting snow can drain.  Clogged drains can
form ice dams.  As gutters are being cleaned out, look for leaks and make
sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the foundation, where it
could cause flooding or other water damage.

These steps will help decrease the likelihood that ice dams will form or, at
least, reduce their size.

As an extra precaution against roof leaks in case ice dams do form, install
a water-repellent membrane under the roof covering.  Another suggestion is
to speak with your local building office about minimum code requirements for
ice dam protection.

Unfortunately, ice dams may be unavoidable if your home has recessed
lighting near the roof.  Heat generated from these lights melts snow, which
then contributes to ice dam buildup.  The only sure way to avoid this
problem is to eliminate recessed lighting fixtures near the roof.


Frozen water in pipes can cause water pressure build-up between the ice
blockage and the closed faucet at the end of a pipe, which leads to pipes
bursting at their weakest point.  Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside
walls are particularly vulnerable to freezing in extremely cold weather,
where holes in the home’s outside wall for television, cable or telephone
lines allow cold air to reach them.  To help prevent water in pipes from
freezing, take the following steps:

        Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow the
heat transfer.   The  more     insulation the better.
         Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water
pipes with caulking.
        Keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to
circulate around pipes (particularly in  the  kitchen and bathroom).
         Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to
pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.  Or drain the water
system, especially if  the house will be unattended during cold periods.

Tree Removal Scam

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August 13th, 2009

HOMEOWNERS BEWARE – As a result of the August 9th storm damage, there have been a number of phony tree removal outfits taking advantage of people in need.  They’ve been asking for a large deposit up-front.  Once the money is received, they’ll do a little work, claim that there is an emergency elsewhere and promise to come back when their work has been completed.

Welcome to the Oakes Agency!

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February 25th, 2009 is now fully functional

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