Take Steps to Protect Your Valuables

If you’re like most people, you own at least a handful of items that are extremely meaningful to you. Whether these objects hold financial or sentimental value, it’s important to protect your cherished treasures.

From jewelry and silverware to antiques and art, countless valuables are stolen or destroyed each and every year. The FBI estimates that more than 6 billion home burglaries take place in the United States every year. And, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, a residential structure fire occurs every 82 seconds in America. These statistics are good reasons why you should take the appropriate steps to safeguard your valuables.

Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to protecting your valuables from burglary, fire or another disaster:

• Make a list. It can be difficult to remember all the things of value that you own, especially in the wake of a difficult situation, such as a burglary, house fire or other catastrophe. Therefore, one of the simplest yet most effective steps you can take to protect your valuables is to make a list of these items.

The more detailed the list, the better. If any of your valuables have serial numbers, be sure to include that information. You also should include any identifying features of the object as well as information about the object’s value.

Keep a copy of this list either in a locked fire safe or a safety deposit box. This way, in the unfortunate circumstance that your home is burglarized or damaged, you can refer to your list to determine which of your valuables have been stolen or destroyed.

If you lose items in a house fire or burglary, it is your responsibility to prove loss to your insurance company. Providing the insurance company with a detailed written record of your valuables will increase the odds that your claim is processed fairly and quickly.

• Take photos and videos. You also should keep photos and/or videos of your most valuable items. For insurance purposes, even a simple snapshot is sufficient. However, it may be easier to shoot an entire “home inventory” video. This type of video will allow you to account for all of your belongings. Remember to keep these photos and videos in a safe place-either in a locked fire safe or a safety deposit box.

• Engrave your items. You also may consider using an electric engraving pen to engrave your name or an identifying number on all of your most valuable items. If law enforcement authorities find a thief in possession of these marked items, it will be much easier for them to prosecute the criminal and return the objects to you. Additionally, engraving your name on valuables may discourage a thief from stealing the objects in the first place because marked items are much more difficult to sell.

• Invest in a safe. You may want to purchase a fire-resistant, combination safe where you can store some valuables, as well as information about your valuables. There are a wide variety of safes available on the market today. Depending on the features included, the price of safes can range anywhere from $150 to $2,000 and above. Although this may seem costly, a good safe could prove to be well worth the expense if it protects your valuables from theft or harm.

Car Care Tips for Colder Temperatures

With the winter season upon us, it is important to ensure that both you and your vehicle are road-ready and prepared for winter weather.  The first signs of car trouble often arrive with the first signs of winter. Sluggish performance, rough idling, and difficult starts are all potential warnings of problems that could get worse as the temperature drops.

Here are some key tips to make sure your vehicle doesn’t leave you stranded in the dead of winter:

Check your vehicle’s fluid levels. Maintaining a 50/50 mix of antifreeze will prevent your engine coolant from freezing as temperatures drop. Be sure your engine oil is ready for the season — when having the oil changed, remember that severe cold weather can require a switch to a different oil viscosity for better lubrication at lower temperatures. And don’t forget to check that your power steering, transmission and brake fluids are properly filled.

Test electrical system.Lighting on long, dark nights, combined with cold starts and heater operation, increase electrical demand. While most modern batteries are sealed and cannot be filled, a charge test will ensure enough cranking power to start your engine as temperatures fall. Also check starter, alternator and drive belts to ensure your electrical system is up to the task.

Examine braking system.Check hydraulic brake fluid to make sure it is clean and change it more than two years or 50,000 miles old. Ensure system components and the parking brake operate freely and safely.

Ensure all lights are working.Winter driving also comes with shorter daylight hours — and a greater likelihood of at least some portion of your commute being driven in the dark — so it is important to check all vehicle lighting. Check not only your headlights, but your taillights, instrument lights, back up lights, turn signals, parking lights and brake lights. These lights are important not only because they help you to see, but also serve as a way to help you communicate clearly with other motorists.

Keep an emergency kit.Motorists need to have supplies if they get stranded. Be sure to have a working flashlight, ice scraper, water, candy bar, kitty litter, shovel, blanket, fully charged cell phone, etc.

Replace worn tires.Make sure tires are inflated, according to your owner’s manual, and have sufficient tread. Take a penny, insert it into the tire tread, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, consider a new set of tires.

Install new windshield wipers.Don’t use your wipers to clear your windshield of frost – use a plastic ice scraper or your vehicle’s defrost button. Replace brittle or torn wipers.