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Are You Prepared? Floods

Flash floods can occur within minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam. Overland flooding, the most common type of flooding event typically occurs when waterways, such as rivers or streams, overflow their banks as a result of rainwater or a possible levee breach and cause flooding in surrounding areas. It can also occur when rainfall or snowmelt exceeds the capacity of underground pipes, or the capacity of streets and drains designed to carry floodwater away from urban areas.

Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live or work, but especially if you are in low-lying areas, near water, behind a levee or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood.

Before a Flood
What would you do if your property were flooded? Are you prepared?
Even if you feel you live in a community with a low risk of flooding, remember that anywhere it rains, it can flood. Just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, does not mean you won’t in the future. Flood risk isn’t just based on history; it is also based on a number of factors including rainfall, topography, flood-control measures, river-flow and tidal-surge data, and changes due to new construction and development.
Flood-hazard maps have been created to show the flood risk for your community. This helps determine the type of flood insurance coverage you will need since standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. The lower the degree of risk, the lower the flood insurance premium.

To prepare for a flood, you should:
• Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Please contact Warren G. Bender Co. if you would like us to provide you with an emergency kit checklist or sample family communications plan.
• Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
• Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
• Consider installing “check valves” to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.
• If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.

During a Flood
If a flood is likely in your area, you should:
• Listen to the radio or television for information.
• Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
• Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:
• Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
• Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
• Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
• Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
• Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.

After a Flood
Your home has been flooded. Although floodwaters may be down in some areas, many dangers still exist. Here are some things to remember in the days ahead:
• Use local alerts and warning systems to get information and expert informed advice as soon as available.
Avoid moving water.
• Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or a relief organization.
• Stay off the roads and out of the way as emergency workers assist people in flooded areas.
• Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur. Listen for local warnings and information. If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, get out immediately and climb to higher ground.
• Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
• Take another route if you come upon a barricade or flooded road. Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed for your protection.
• If you must walk or drive in areas that have been flooded:
o Stay on firm ground. Moving water only 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
o Flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways. Flood debris may hide animals and broken bottles, and it’s also slippery. Avoid walking or driving through it.
• Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
• Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
• Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.

Staying Healthy
A flood can cause physical hazards and emotional stress. You need to look after yourself and your family as you focus on cleanup and repair.
• Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage.
• Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewer systems are serious health hazards.
• Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
• Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals.
• Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do jobs one at a time.
• Contact your insurance agent to discuss claims.

Flood Insurance: What You Should Know
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damages from flooding. A separate flood policy is needed to cover losses to your property caused by flooding, including:
• Structural damage
• Furnace, water heater and air conditioner
• Flood debris clean up
• Floor surfaces (carpeting and tile)
You can also purchase a flood insurance policy to cover the contents of your home, such as furniture, collectibles, clothing, jewelry and artwork.
You insurance broker can assist you in determining your flood risk and coverage options.

In addition to insuring your home, Warren G. Bender Co. is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact us at (916) 380-5300 or today.

Filed under: Personal Insurance,Property & Casualty — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 8:53 pm December 22, 2015

Spirituality in the Workplace

Religion may be a staple in the lives of many of your employees, while others may not consider themselves religious at all. To ensure that all employees are treated equally, create an environment that enables employees to practice their beliefs without forcing them on others. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must try to “reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs, observances and practices when requested, unless accommodation would impose an undue hardship on business operations.” The following provides some best practices in finding the right balance for your organization.

To ensure employees are treated equally during the holidays, consider the following:
• When planning holiday-related parties or events for your organization, avoid focusing on one religion’s holidays—consider celebrating holidays as a whole, or including multiple holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, the Day of Enlightenment, etc.
• Allow employees to display holiday-related decorations in their personal workspaces, if they do not offend others or infringe upon their beliefs.
• Provide flexible scheduling, the option of telecommuting or paid leave, and give employees the option of using these benefits to attend religious services or to be away from work for holidays your organization does not recognize.
• Avoid planning important work-related events (such as mandatory meetings and company-sponsored holiday parties) on days that coincide with holidays, even if they are holidays you do not personally celebrate.
• Offer holiday swapping or floating holidays for employees who prefer to work on company-recognized holidays and use their holiday time on different days.

Company Practices
Consider employing the following practices within your company:
• In your cafeteria and at company-sponsored events, offer foods that meet a variety of common religious-based dietary constraints.
• Allow for dress code modifications to accommodate religious apparel.
• Designate a private space in your office that employees may use for religious practices and prayer during their break times.

Filed under: HR — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 8:45 pm

Government Investigating Rising Drug Costs

A U.S. House of Representatives investigative panel plans to hold a 2016 hearing on skyrocketing drug costs. The panel is conducting an investigation into drug pricing and has reached out to drug companies to gather information.

One of the drug companies being investigated is Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. The panel is looking into allegations that the company has been involved in questionable billing practices, as well as examining the company’s relationship with the specialty pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services.

Valeant first disclosed its ties to Philidor late last month, amid concerns over the pharmacy’s tactics to get insurers to pay for Valeant medications. It has since severed ties with the pharmacy, saying it has lost confidence in Philidor after questions about its business practices.

Valeant is also facing investigations by prosecutors in New York and Massachusetts over its drug pricing and its programs that provide financial assistance to help patients cover out-of-pocket expenses for their medications.

Filed under: Employee Benefits,Health & Wellness,Recent Headlines — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 5:38 pm

OSHA Penalties Could Jump Dramatically by Summer 2016

According to certain provisions in the budget passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on Nov. 2, federal agencies like OSHA could radically increase their penalties in order to account for inflation.

The budget allows federal agencies to institute a one-time “catch up” increase for 2016, after which agencies will adjust penalty amounts annually for inflation. Since OSHA hasn’t adjusted its penalties since the early 1990s, the increase could be drastic.

While the Consumer Price Index has risen by about 80 percent since the last time OSHA adjusted its penalties, language in the legislation caps the increase to a maximum of 150 percent.
For more information about OSHA penalty increases, contact Warren G. Bender Co today and ask about our “Compliance Bulletin: OSHA Penalties to Increase in 2016,” which illustrates potential fee increases.

Filed under: OSHA — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 5:15 pm