Labor Day: Safe BBQs and backyard entertaining

As we head into Labor Day and approach the waning weeks of summer, most of us are eager to spend as much time outside as we can. The Mayo Clinic offers a guide to safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labor Day is traditionally a time for last minute vacations, road trips, and barbecues. But with coronavirus still a factor, most are opting for quieter events closer to home. If you are planning a small backyard get-together or BBQ, here are a few guides on how to do that safely. We’ve also summarized some tips for both hosts and guest that were suggested by various guides and health experts

Here are a few helpful guides:

Safety tips for backyard gatherings

  • Know your local guidelines about gathering sizes, but all experts agree: smaller is safer – and likely more comfortable for your guests.
  • Check in with invited guests in advance about any concerns they have. Let them know “the rules’ so they feel comfortable and will respect your wishes. For example, rules about social distancing, what they should bring (their own beverages) or shouldn’t bring (shared food dishes, unannounced guests) and any bathroom rules, such as flushing with seat down.
  • Respect boundaries if people decline an invitation. Don’t take things personally.
  • Skip the hugs and handshakes on welcoming guests.
  • Maintain social distancing – measure the space on your deck or your yard in advance to see how many seats can be accommodated 6 feet apart and base guest numbers on that.
  • Keep it outside. Have a plan to postpone if the weather turns bad and keep an eye on the weather.
  • Wear masks when not eating.
  • Wash hands frequently, bring / supply hand sanitizer.
  • BYO beverage, or provide them in individual cans or bottles.
  • Avoid shared plates, utensils, seasonings or condiments – things that people handle repeatedly.
  • Use disposable plates, utensils, napkins and place at each seat.
  • Avoid shared food dishes and plates. Provide individual servings.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas like doorknobs and bathrooms before, during and after the party.
  • In bathrooms, provide paper towels, hand soap on the sink, disinfecting wipes.

See our prior post: BBQ Basics: Take the time to review grilling safety tips

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Ideas for a safe and fun Fourth of July in New England

Things are looking much more positive and festive in New England for July 4 than they were a month ago for Memorial Day, but Covid19 is still looming so we all still need to be safe and careful. We worked hard to bring our numbers down, but we can see from some other parts of the country, things can spiral downward quickly if we don’t keep our guard up.

But you can still celebrate and enjoy the holiday. We’ve gathered some ideas and guidelines for how to have fun this Fourth of July!

The state of the states

Can you take day trips or weekend trips to adjoining New England states? See Northeast: Coronavirus-Related Restrictions By State for summaries, or we have state travel information below.

Virtual Holiday fun

If you plan to stick close to home, the New York Times offers some fun ways to mark the holiday virtually in Honor America’s Birthday (Safely) in 2020. 

  • They tell you how to enjoy televised NY fireworks, The Boston Pops and DC’s  “A Capital Fourth.”
  • They suggest several patriotic virtual tours such as The Statue of Liberty, Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park and other historic sites.
  • They offer a list of patriotic streaming movies, including a live recording of Hamilton on DisneyPlus.

The Washington Post also lists some holiday-related events, among them some real-world events in the capitol region and some televised and online events holiday events, such as July 4 at the National Archives, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts concerts, and an online ‘We the People’ Concert and Tribute at Washington National Cathedral, along with other virtual concerts.

Walking, Biking, and Hiking New England

Outdoor activities are among the safest things we can do.  Fortunately, here in New England, we have beautiful scenery. Here are some suggestions:

Entertaining at home

Here are a few helpful guides:

We’ve also summarized some tips for both hosts and guest that were suggested by various guides and health experts

  • Check in with invited guests in advance about any concerns they have. Let them know “the rules’ so they feel comfortable and will respect your wishes. For example, rules about social distancing, what they should bring (their own beverages) or shouldn’t bring (shared food dishes, unannounced guests) and any bathroom rules, such as flushing with seat down.
  • Respect boundaries if people decline an invitation. Don’t take things personally.
  • Know your local guidelines about gathering sizes, but all experts agree: smaller is safer – and likely more comfortable for your guests.
  • Maintain social distancing – measure the space on your deck or your yard in advance to see how many seats can be accommodated 6 feet apart and base guest numbers on that.
  • Keep it outside. Have a plan to postpone if the weather turns bad and keep an eye on the weather.
  • Wear masks when not eating.
  • Wash hands frequently, bring / supply hand sanitizer.
  • BYO beverage, or provide them in individual cans or bottles.
  • Avoid shared plates, utensils, seasonings or condiments – things that people handle repeatedly.
  • Use disposable plates, utensils, napkins and place at each seat.
  • Avoid shared food dishes and plates. Provide individual servings.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas like doorknobs and bathrooms before, during and after the party.
  • In bathrooms, provide paper towels, hand soap on the sink, disinfecting wipes.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Beach lovers’ guide to Memorial Day in New England

The good news is that it’s Memorial Day Weekend, states are cautiously beginning to open beaches and parks, and the weather looks promising. The bad news is that the virus has not gone away so visiting your favorite coastal spots will come with many restrictions and limitations. If you are expecting a “normal” experience, you may be disappointed. You should “know before you go” and consider taking small steps to favorite outdoor activities rather than jumping in headlong … perhaps stay closer to home base to test the waters. Definitely don’t drive to another state without checking first – some states require 14-day quarantines for out-of-state visitors! But even if there is no quarantine requirement, check the status and availability of your destination, along with learning any rules and requirements that may be in place. Don’t count on lifeguards or public restrooms. Plan to bring face coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and possibly your own food and beverages. Even if some restaurants are open for takeout or outdoor dining, they will likely have limited capacity.

We amassed some resources to help you plan before you go to the beach.

First, how safe are outdoor activities? The New York Times checked with experts who say that being outdoors with is probably fine and if you adhere to appropriate social distancing and think things through. They warn about lowering your guard too much and caution about outdoor dining, using locker rooms at pools, and navigating crowds in places like beaches. See What We Know About Your Chances of Catching the Virus Outdoors

They suggest that:

Ideally, people should socialize only with people who live in their homes, they say. If you decide to meet friends, you’re increasing your risk, but you can take precautions. It’s important to keep gatherings small. Don’t share food, utensils or beverages; keep your hands clean; and keep at least six feet from people who don’t live in your home.

 

Be cautious as you venture into public outdoor spaces … we all need to stay safe ourselves and keep our families and neighbors safe. Keep your expectations low, be flexible, and avoid crowded spots. This first weekend “free” might be too crowded, a walk or a bike ride in your local area might be the best bet. Public health officials will be keeping tabs on how things go in this first big holiday of the pandemic and it will affect how things go over the course of the summer, so let’s all be careful, safe, patient and respectful. We don’t want to undo all the good we did by staying at home over the last many weeks!

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Newlyweds & insurance

Like 2.3 million other couples this year, you may be putting the finishing touches on your plans for a wedding. On average, there are 6,200 weddings per day in the US, but some months are more popular than others. The Spring is an active time, with 10% of all weddings in May and 11% in June. Statistics say that the average wedding budget is $20,000 and the average number of guests is 178.

From the event to the honeymoon, it’s a big deal with a lot of details, so it can be easy to overlook insurance. But we’re not just talking about wedding event insurance which, if you plan a costly event, you should definitely consider to cover cancellation or losses such as stolen gifts, damaged photos, rings or gowns and other unforeseen problems. In this case, we’re talking about insurance matters that you and your spouse should consider as you embark on a financial life together.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a handy tip sheet about insurance matters that engaged couples should discuss: Combining Your Insurance: Just got engaged? Don’t forget to talk about insurance. It discusses decision points and money saving tips for homeowners and renters insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, and life insurance.

Of course the easiest way to cover insurance is to make an appointment with your local independent insurance agent, who can walk you through all the considerations both for the event itself and for the various coverage options you’ll need going forward. As you embark on a new life together, you no doubt have many hopes, plans and dreams. The right coverage can keep you on track by protecting you from unexpected losses. Your agent will know the best coverage options and the ins and outs for saving money.

Below is an infographic Insurance Survival Guide for Newlyweds, also from NAIC. (For a larger version, click the link or the image).

Insurance survival guide for newlyweds infographic

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Insurance and The Oscars

Americans have about a $40 billion a year love affair with the movies and this weekend, that love culminates in the annual celebration of the Oscars. You can Google “Oscars 2020” for a hub of news, lists, videos, history and more related to events. And check out this handy guide for how to watch or stream the events live.

Behind all the glitz and glamour, insurance is one of the factors that helps make everything run smoothly. No costly event occurs without insurance – there are too many potential things that could go wrong. Expensive events – and these might range from a wedding to something as elaborate as The Oscars – should secure Special Events insurance. For weddings, there are special wedding packages you can purchase; for a complex event, custom packages are tailored to encompass the many risks, which would protect all parties against unforeseen losses due to any number of problems – event cancellation, sudden unavailability of a venue, failure of key vendors, catastrophic weather that might force a cancellation or ill health on the part of key performers, to name a few examples.

But even special events coverage may not be enough to cover the risk. In Insurance Business America, Lauren Ingram talks to insurance experts about a number of insurance risks posed by an event such as the BAFTAs or Oscars that may not be a consideration at another event. As one example: “the accumulation risk of celebrities within one location and the security risk of having a number of high net worth individuals all within one location” might make the event a potential target of terrorism.

Other parties – vendors and even the stars themselves – might need coverage of their own for various risks related to the events. For just one example, consider this: The New York Times notes that the expensive jewels adorning the stars – ranging in value up to $12 million – are generally rented. The jewelers who loan them out require the stars to secure their own insurance coverage for the gems. But according to Chubb, the lending jewelers will generally provide security and someone to escort them. The article offers an interesting behind-the-curtains look at a little known aspect of the gala. (By the way, if you own expensive jewelry, you should make sure you have a special policy to cover it. This is true of any expensive collections – talk with your agent about the limits of your homeowners policy.)

Here are a few other Oscars and insurance-related items of interest:

Personal events such as weddings benefit from insurance, too
Private events can also benefit by similar types of coverage. As the average cost of a wedding climbs – in the U.S., the average cost of a wedding in 2019 was a whopping $38,700. with he ceremony and reception taking up a huge chunk of that, at $29,200. Wedding insurance can cover costs for cancellation due to weather, illness, or venue unavailability. It can also cover losses if gifts are stolen, damage or loss of photos, rings, gowns, and the like, and other unforeseen problems. If you are planning a costly reception, you may want to discuss wedding insurance options with your agent. In addition to insurance for cancellation or other problems, your reception venue may require liability insurance. You should also be sure to verify that your wedding venue and your vendors are properly insured, and learn exactly what and how their insurance might extend to cover any problems you might experience. Your local independent insurance agent can help you find the right coverage for your event.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Super Bowl LIV Party Planning: Snacks, safety & more

This Sunday, Super Bowl LIV returns to South Florida for a record 11th time. The game will kick off at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET at the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens. This year’s contenders are the San Francisco 49ers who haven’t won in 25 years vs the Kansas City Chiefs, who haven’t won in 50 years – so it should be a great game with a lot of fan excitement and passion on both sides. We’ve got some ideas for your Super Bowl party ranging from party foods to guest safety … and a few fun odds and ends.

Here’s a pre-game preview:

To follow before, during and after the game on Social Media:

Party Snacks:  If you’re are planning a party but haven’t set your menu yet, we have some ideas. Here’s a how-to on building a Super Bowl snack stadium, and here are 12 football-shaped foods. For a few other menu planning ideas, check out 80 touchdown-worthy party foods and Big Game Bash party recipes.

Party Safety: If you are attending a party, make sure you have a designated driver or alternate transportation planned in advance. Keep an eye on your friends and don’t let them drive under the influence either. If you are the host, you need to plan for more than just the menu – it’s important to look after guest safety to avoid any host liability. The Insurance Information Institute explains:

Social host liability, also known as “Dram Shop Liability” laws vary widely from state to state, but 43 states have them on the books. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

Here are some hosting safety tips:

  • Make sure all of your guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange alternate transportation.
  • Serve lots of food and include lots of non-alcoholic beverages at the party.
  • Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game and begin serving coffee and dessert.
  • Keep the numbers for local cab companies handy, and take the keys away from anyone who has had too much to drink.

It’s a little late for this year’s Super Bowl, but if you are a homeowner who likes to host parties, you might want to talk to your independent insurance agent about umbrella liability insurance, which increases your protection.

Something for everyone

If you’re into the Super Bowl more for the party and less for the sport, you might find Puppy Bowl 2020 more to your style. Meet the stars Puppy Bowl stars and starting lineup. See the preview below.

Some people are only it for the halftime show or the ads. Here’s everything you need to know about the halftime show, featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. NBC sports has an overview of Super Bowl ads including the cost of the ads and spots to watch or preview: Check out the Super Bowl Commercials for 2020.

Every year, we also wait for the hilarious annual posting of the NFL Bad Lip Reading – it’s usually posted sometime near the Super Bowl. As of this today, it isn’t up yet, but here’s the 2019 version to get you in the mood.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Follow the incredible one-night journey of Santa Claus

Do you ever wonder how Santa Claus manages to deliver all those gifts to all those kids in just one night?  This short video breaks down the annual global trip by the big guy in the red suit the way that an actuary might see things – using math, numbers and science.

We’re all for math and science, but there’s also the magic factor to help explain this amazing feat. We think the folks at NORAD see things our way. They’ve been tracking Santa’s Christmas eve flight and reporting on his whereabouts since 1958. They deploy the latest technologies to track Santa, including radar, satellites, SantaCams and jet fighters. They are aided by Rudolf’s bright red nose, detectable by their infrared sensors. You can track him online at the NORAD Santa tracker or you can download a mobile app to track his journey on your phone.

Here’s the countdown calendar – it’s getting close …

And once his journey starts, you can follow it below.

Homeowners & Santa Claus

Meanwhile, as a host, we hope that you are properly covered to entertain a V.I.P. like Santa in your home. What if your dog bites Santa or he gets stuck in your chimney – are you covered against these or any other mishaps while he’s on your property? If you have homeowners insurance or rental insurance, the personal liability and medical payments portions should cover you, but you may want to check your coverage limits and deductibles.

If you plan to leave any sweets out for the big guy, Mrs Claus issues this plaintive plea: Please skip the cookies – Santa has a weight problem. Consider leaving a healthier snack. If you decide to leave cookies out anyway, you may want to get Santa to sign Christmas Cookie Liability and Indemnification Agreement. And something that should go without saying – don’t leave any wine or brandy out – you don’t want to be liable if a tipsy Santa leaves your house and has a DUI accident!

Whatever holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or something else, we wish you the joys of the season. We’ll see you in 2020!

zmimztion of Santa riding a Christmas tree rocket

 

*Source of the Santa animation

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday

Fast on the heels of Thanksgiving Thursday comes Frenetic Friday, better known as Black Friday – the busiest retail shopping day of the year. If throwing yourself into the fray is how you choose to work off your Thanksgiving calories, we have some tips to make the best of it (below), as well as a few shopping safety reminders. But if you’d rather pull out your fingernails one by one than brave the bargain-hunting hordes, you can choose to celebrate the day as Buy Nothing Day. Whether you choose to buy nothing out of conviction or laziness, it’s a good day to practice the fine art of relaxation with friends and family.

But Friday is just the start. What began as a single shopping day has spawned a series of themed days.

  • Saturday is the 10th annual Small Business Saturday – and we really like that idea. It’s less crowded and crazy and it focuses on small local businesses in your home community. Small businesses are the lifeblood and personality of every community so we encourage you to get out and support your neighbors. Find a Small Business near you.
  • Cyber Monday is a huge online shopping day. A little know alternate name for the day is Low Productivity Monday because employees everywhere are surreptitiously shopping for deals at their desks.
  • Our favorite day is Giving Tuesday, December 03, 2019, a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world on December 3, 2019 and every day. It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good, and since its founding, it has raised more than $1 billion in online donations in the U.S. alone. If you’d like to give something back after all that shopping, search for an organization near you to help you find organizations, events, and ways to give back in your own community. The Better Business Bureau has some Giving Tuesday tips to ensure you don’t fall for fake charities:

If you plan to shop online or off over the holiday weekend, here are a few pointers for getting the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

And a few tips to be safe and secure while shopping:

  • Keep packages out of site in your car. Lock them in your trunk and keep car doors locked
  • Be aware of your purse and wallet at all times – pickpockets love crowds. If you can, avoid a purse or wallet entirely and store phone, cash, credit cards and IDs in a secure inner pocket.
  • Carry only the money and credit cards you need. Don’t flash cash.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Thieves and con-artists specialize in distraction techniques.
  • Don’t overload yourself with packages and impair your awareness, mobility or vision – take some to the car.
  • Remember where you parked your car. Have your keys ready and be alert for strangers when you approach it.
  • Shop with a friend or family member, particularly at night. There’s safety in numbers.

Here are a few safe online shopping tips:

  • Update your web security, anti-virus and malware detection programs snf be sure your firewall is on.
  • Be on alert for email phishing offers, the spoofed mails look authentic. Don’t click the link, type in the website.
  • Purchase only in a secure environment – check for “https” in the address in your web browser – the “s” stands for “secure” – never conduct a transaction without it.
  • Public Wi-Fi is not secure so avoid doing banking and transactions that would expose your credit cards, passwords, or personal info.
  • Update your passwords before shopping. Create unique passwords for each site.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for “free” gift offers and contests from unknown sites.
  • Don’t give away any personal information or credit card numbers to anyone you don’t know.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Spooktacular guide to Halloween events in New England and South Florida

It’s time to get your ghoul on! Between now and early November, there’s no shortage of spooky, haunted happenings to scare and delight you. We’ve selected a variety of haunted events and spooky places to help you enjoy the season over the next week. What’s the Weather Forecast for Halloween? Here’s the Farmers’ Almanac Prediction.

But remember – there’s one spooky place you want to avoid on Halloween at all costs!

New England Halloween Happenings

Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular – from Zipline rides to Family Fun Nights, come enjoy thousands of carved pumpkins. Providence, RI

Sturbridge Village, The Legend of Sleep Hollow – “Recognized as one of the country’s top five Halloween plays, The Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale.

The Haunted Graveyard, Bristol CT– At dusk, take a terrifying 1 mile journey through darkly glittering catacombs to an eerie graveyard, to a vampire’s haunt, to a witch’s lair, then onto a misty lake and an ancient temple.

Haunted Happenings in Salem MA – What better place to experience Halloween than the city of the witch trials? There are a variety of events to choose from – this site says:“A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England. From the Grand Parade and Family Film Nights on Salem Common, to ghost tours, haunted houses and so much more.” Get an event calendar, a free guide & more.

Portsmouth NH Halloween Parade 10/31 – in its 25th year, this grassroots, all-inclusive celebration of community, creativity and free expression walks, stalks, dances, trumpets and drums its way through downtown Portsmouth.

Spooky World – Spooky World presents Nightmare New England and the Haunted Hayride. It is New England’s largest haunted attraction.Litchfield NH

Halloween happenings in Miami and south Florida

Zoo Boo – families and kids under 12 can trick or treat in costume, see wild animals get their Halloween goodies and more at the Miami Zoo.

Coconut Grove Pumpkin Patch Festival 10/26 and 10/27 – Pumpkins, Cornstalk Maze, Carnival rides, Scarecoew Village and more.

Howl-O-Ween at Pinecrest Gardens 10/27 – four-legged ghouls and their scary human companions enjoy a costume contest, a Doggie Fun Zone Agility course, food, drinks, live entertainment, a spooky Kids’ Zone and pumpkin patch.

3rd Annual Spooky Science Monster Mash, Frost Museum of Science 10/27 – Get ready for Halloween with a new chemistry potions show, Into the Cauldron; view underwater aquarium pumpkin carving., have a live animal encounter with one of our owls. Be spellbound as you discover how fun science can be!

Monster Splash Halloween Bash – Miami Seaquarium – through 10/31

Halloween on Lincoln Road 10/31 – 11/1 – Attracting over 50,000 participants each year, the landmark celebration is world famous for its spontaneous parades of the most creative and outrageous costumes.

South Miami Safe Streets Halloween Block Party 10/31 – Enjoy a visit from Scooby Doo, free candy, games, prizes, music, inflatables, and much more!

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Spooktacular guide to Halloween events in New England

It’s time to get your ghoul on! Between now and early November, there’s no shortage of spooky, haunted happenings to scare and delight you. We’ve selected a variety of haunted events and spooky places to help you enjoy the season over the next week. What’s the Weather Forecast for Halloween? Here’s the Farmers’ Almanac Prediction.

But remember – there’s one spooky place you want to avoid on Halloween at all costs!

New England Halloween Happenings

Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack O’Lantern Spectacular – from Zipline rides to Family Fun Nights, come enjoy thousands of carved pumpkins. Providence, RI

Sturbridge Village, The Legend of Sleep Hollow – “Recognized as one of the country’s top five Halloween plays, The Sleepy Hollow Experience is an immersive, outdoor theatrical experience that reimagines Washington Irving’s iconic 1820’s tale.

The Haunted Graveyard, Bristol CT– At dusk, take a terrifying 1 mile journey through darkly glittering catacombs to an eerie graveyard, to a vampire’s haunt, to a witch’s lair, then onto a misty lake and an ancient temple.

Haunted Happenings in Salem MA – What better place to experience Halloween than the city of the witch trials? There are a variety of events to choose from – this site says:“A festive celebration of Halloween and fall in New England. From the Grand Parade and Family Film Nights on Salem Common, to ghost tours, haunted houses and so much more.” Get an event calendar, a free guide & more.

Portsmouth NH Halloween Parade 10/31 – in its 25th year, this grassroots, all-inclusive celebration of community, creativity and free expression walks, stalks, dances, trumpets and drums its way through downtown Portsmouth.

Spooky World – Spooky World presents Nightmare New England and the Haunted Hayride. It is New England’s largest haunted attraction. (Litchfield, NH)

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.