Aspen Insurance Agency Named As One of the Best Insurance Agencies in Denver

Best Insurance Agencies in Denver

Aspen Insurance Agency was recently awarded and named as one of the Best Insurance Agencies in Denver for 2020, by Expertise. We are thrilled to receive this recognition and continue to remain committed to delivering the best customer service experience for our clients.

Although we were founded in Denver, Aspen Insurance Agency continues to support clients nationwide. Check out all of the states that we do business in here.

Thanks for the support, Denver- We appreciate your business!!

Interested in learning more about the services we provide?

Request a Quote from a Licensed Agent or give us a call today!

Aspen Insurance Agency Named As One of the Best Health Insurance Agencies in Denver

Aspen Insurance Agency was recently awarded and name as one of the Best Health Insurance Agencies in Denver for 2022 by Expertise. We are thrilled to receive this recognition and continue to remain committed to delivering the best service experience for our clients.

Although we were founded in Denver, Aspen Insurance Agency continues to support clients nationwide.

Thanks for the support Denver – We appreciate your business!

Home Computer Security

History of the Password

Over the last 20 years, cyber security has become a concern for business and individuals alike. Personal computers, tablets, and smartphones have revolutionized how we interact with almost everything. With a few clicks of a mouse, or swipe of a finger, we can buy clothing, book flights, reserve hotels rooms, deposit checks, pay bills; there isn’t anything we can’t do from the comfort of our own home.

Our personal information is stored, somewhere, by a seemingly uncountable number of vendors, institutions, and web sites. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are adept at using software to invade our home computers or smart phones to extract our personally identifiable information. Criminals also seek to install ransomware, locking corporations and users from accessing computers.

Just as we secure our homes with a lock on the front door, we also need to secure our online identity, our most basic protection is the humble password. The password in combination with an email address or username, identifies the authorized user of frequently accessed sites or apps and any retained personal information.

Too often, we underestimate the importance of passwords, selecting something easy to remember rather than difficult for an attacker to break.

In this multi-part series, we examine various security threats from personal computing and techniques to best protect yourself from the dangers of criminals wandering the internet looking for victims.

History of Passwords

Passwords are secret data, typically an arbitrary string of characters which include letters, digits, or other symbols. If the permissible characters are constrained to be numeric, the corresponding secret is sometimes called a personal identification number (PIN). A key attribute in picking a password is to select something which is hard to guess, so a password may be composed of multiple words, separated by spaces: a passphrase.

The longer the password (or phrase) the harder it is for software password-breakers to reveal the actual password.

Passwords have been in use for much longer than the internet or computers. There are historical references to the use of “watchwords” in the Roman military. Sentries challenging anyone wishing to enter an area to supply a password or watchword, only allowing entry upon hearing the correct password.

Passwords were used by the military over the years, evolving to include both a password and a counterpassword. During World War II, GIs would challenge any individuals entering an area with a password, to be replied with a counter password.

The first time a password was used in computing was 1960 at MIT. The university had a large mainframe computer to be shared by numerous researchers. Each shared not only the mainframe but a single disk file as well. The password was developed so users could access the computer for their allotted time (in 1960, computing resources were severely limited) and only have access to their own specific files.

The first time a computer password was hacked was also 1960, when researchers started using others’ passwords to gain more computer time.

Though the password is a less than perfect approach to security, it went on to become the go-to method for computer security due to its simplicity, which is also a disadvantage.

Attempting to reduce the password disadvantages, a cryptographer at Bell Labs devised a technique called “hashing” where the entered password values were converted to numeric output which could be used to compare to an entered value to validate the passwords but could not be used to reverse engineer the password.

With hashing, the actual password is not stored, only the numeric values to validate the password entered matches. Hash functions used in cryptography have the following key properties:

  • It’s easy and practical to compute the hash, but “difficult or impossible to re-generate the original input if only the hash value is known.”
  • It’s difficult to create an initial input that would match a specific desired output.

Thus, in contrast to encryption, hashing is a one-way mechanism. The data that is hashed cannot be “unhashed”.

Additional layers of security include “salting”. Modern password databases to further protect a password by inserting random data with the password, then hashing the resulting values.

Another security technique is “encryption”, where a key is used to convert a set of entered values to something which appears to be meaningless, but which can then be unencrypted. This technique is only used when the password or pass phrase must be known and reviewed for validation.

In our next installment we discuss how customers can increase their security.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Gun Owner Liability Insurance

In January this year the city of San Jose voted to require gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay an annual fee. The San Jose City Council overwhelmingly approved the measure despite opposition from gun owners who said it would violate their Second Amendment rights. The gun owners promised to sue.

At issue is the question of gun owner rights, versus the rights of the citizens for reasonable protection from irresponsible, or mentally ill, gun owners.

After all, the 2nd amendment states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.

Gun rights opponents (and most historians) point out the phrase “well-regulated Militia “was not intended to give individual citizens the right to own assault rifles or other weapons of mass destruction (at the time of the amendment’s passing, guns were single shot muzzle loaders incapable of the dangers posed by today’s advanced weaponry). The amendment was intended to reduce the need for a standing army: the fear of democracy undone by a commander in chief wishing to crown themselves king.

The intent of the passing of the ordinance is to encourage people in the 55,000 households in San Jose who legally own at least one registered gun to have gun safes, install trigger locks and take gun safety classes, Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Gun owners who choose not to get insurance won’t lose their guns or face any criminal charges, the mayor said.

San Jose Police Gun Removal Effort

In a parallel effort, the city’s police are also taking guns off the streets.

As of Monday night, San Jose has recorded just three homicides in 2022 — a dramatic drop in killings for the Bay Area’s biggest city. None of the homicides have involved a gun, and police believe that is due to their efforts to get guns off the streets.

“We have officers going out there every day, approximately 200 officers across three shifts. If people pay attention to our social media, they’ll see the vast amounts of firearms that are being taken off our city streets,” San Jose Police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said.

Many of the guns being seized are homemade guns without serial numbers making them nearly impossible to track.

“How do you prevent violent gun crime? By being proactive, by going out there and removing these guns off our streets before they’re able to be used in a crime, in a shooting, in a robbery,” Camarillo said.

Risk of Death by Gun

Just how pervasive is the potential for death by firearm?

US Deaths By Firearm
 NumberPercent of TotalChange
Deaths by Firearm2019202020192020 
Suicide23,94124,29260.3%53.7%351
Assault14,41419,38336.3%42.9%4,969
Legal Intervention52061136.3%1.4%91
Accidental Discharge4865351.2%1.2%49
Undetermined3464000.9%0.9%54
Total39,70745,221100.00%100.00%5,514

Between 2019 and 2020 the number of firearm deaths increased. The largest increase in deaths through assault.

Which begs the question: how pervasive the potential for accidental death by firearm is compared to other potential accidental causes.

US Accidental Deaths 2019
Cause of Death 
Accidental Poisoning65,773
Drug Poisoning62,172
Opioids (Legal and Illegal)45,489
Firearms39,707
Motor Vehicle Accidents39,107
Fire2,692

Of course, these numbers do not reflect the horror of school shootings or the increasing number of mass shootings (as an example, the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas only killed 59 people, though 441 were injured).

Even at Sandy Hook, only 22 individuals were killed: the fact they were under the age of 10 made the act particularly horrific but wasn’t high in number of fatalities.

Gun insurance would not prevent the acts of crazed or angry gunmen. It is intended to motivate all gun owners to be attentive to the inherent dangers of firearms and the need for security in storing their firearms (as an example, the Sandy Hook shooter had ample access to an assault rifle and ammunition. Had it been securely locked, the outcome may have been far less deadly, especially to the twenty-one murdered primary school students and their teacher).

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our advisors for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

U.S. Fire Dangers

U.S Fire Dangers

On Dec. 30, 2021, a wildfire swept through suburban neighborhoods in Boulder County destroying nearly 1,000 homes and forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate. The fire spread with astonishing speed prompting the evacuation of 35,000 people and burning about 6,200 acres

The wildfire, which Gov. Jared Polis called a “force of nature,” came unusually late in the year for Colorado, where a severe, multiyear drought set the stage for the fire to spread with ease. The Boulder area was hit with high winds, including gusts of nearly 110 miles per hour, fanning the flames coming two weeks after a powerful storm system generated dust clouds in Colorado and other extreme weather across the Midwest.

The fire was compared to the 2013 Black Forest fire, at the time the most destructive in Colorado’s history, destroying about half as many homes.

In California, the wildfire season experienced an unusually early start amid an ongoing drought and historically low rainfall and reservoir levels. In January 2021 alone, 297 fires burned 1,171 acres (4.74 km2) on nonfederal land according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, almost triple the number of fires and more than 20 times the acreage of the five-year average for January.

Unfortunately, these were not one-time freaks of nature.

Analyzing Wildfires

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led paper shows that large fires have not only become more common, but they are also spreading into new areas, affecting land which previously had not been in danger.

The paper’s writers analyzed data from over 28,000 fires occurring between 1984 and 2018 using the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) dataset. Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) is an interagency program whose goal is to consistently map the burn severity and extent of large fires across all lands of the United States from 1984 to present.

MTBS examines all fires 1,000 acres or greater in the western United States and 500 acres or greater in the eastern Unites States.

Data analysis confirms fires have gotten larger, more frequent, and more widespread across the United States since 2000.

“Projected changes in climate, fuel and ignitions suggest that we’ll see more and larger fires in the future. Our analyses show that those changes are already happening,” said Virginia Iglesias, a research scientist with CU Boulder’s Earth Lab and lead author of the paper.

Analyzing the data, the report compared the 2005 – 2018 fire seasons to the preceding two decades. In both the West and the East, fire frequency doubled. In the Great Plains, fire frequency quadrupled. The amount of land burned each year increased from a median of 1,552 to 5,502 square miles in the West and from 465 to 1,295 square miles in the Great Plains.

Over the course of 20 years, the amount of land burned each year more than tripled.

Additionally, the analysis concluded that the size of fire-prone areas increased in all regions of the contiguous United States in the 2000s meaning the distance is smaller between individual fires and that fires are spreading into areas which had not burned in the preceding time periods.

These results confirm what had been suspected by the media, public and fire-fighting officials: fires are getting bigger, affecting more populated areas and are harder to fight. These results align with other troubling risk trends: “These convergent trends, more large fires plus intensifying development, mean that the worst fire disasters are still to come,” said William Travis, co-author, and Earth Lab deputy director.

In other words, with more development, and spreading populations, more homes, people, and towns are at risk of fire.

The Camp Fire of 2018 in Northern California is one of many examples. The fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history and the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.

Drought was a factor: Paradise, in the Sierra foothills, which typically sees five inches of autumn rain by November 12, had only received one-seventh of an inch by that date in 2018.

The fire, ignited by a faulty electric transmission line, caused 85 civilian fatalities, injuring 12 civilians and five firefighters. It covered an area of 153,336 acres (239.6 sq mi), and destroyed more than 18,000 structures, with most of the destruction occurring within the first four hours. The towns of Paradise and Concow were almost completely destroyed, each losing about 95% of their structures.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Wedding Insurance

Wedding Insurance

 

Of life’s major milestones, the happiest must be the wedding. Months before, the blushing bride and her entourage (Mom, Aunts, besties, cousins, sisters, etc) decide what dress should she wear? What venue? What band or entertainment? Which caterer and what menus?  Dad meanwhile is off in the corner calculating the cost of each decision.

Yes, a wedding is a happy occasion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential problems. After all, weddings represent a considerable investment and have become big business. The Wedding Report states there are 2.1 million weddings in the U.S. each year, with a total value of more than $54 billion.

According to the 2020 American Wedding Survey from Brides.com, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $28,964 with the actual amount varying by geography, preferences, and available budget. However, as the saying says: “the best laid plans of mice and men….”.

The Covid pandemic is an excellent example. The pandemic caused many planned (and paid for) weddings to be cancelled with many couples losing deposits placed on venues, caterers, and bands.

Though Covid may have been a once-in-a-lifetime situation, there are other kinds of event mishaps during event planning and execution creating financial loss for the bride and groom, or the family, when covering their own expenses.

Wedding Insurance

Wedding insurance is available to help reduce the risk of unplanned whoopsies. For instance, covering presents damaged when over-exuberant dancers knocked the gift table into the wedding cake.

Depending on coverage required, wedding insurance could cost anywhere from $95 to more than $500. Travelers Insurance recommends purchasing coverage sufficient to cover the loss from a worst-case scenario if the wedding needs to be cancelled or rescheduled for some reason.

Wedding insurance usually covers non-refundable deposits and some purchases if circumstances require you to cancel or reschedule the wedding, assuming the circumstances are beyond your control. Getting cold feet and backing out of the wedding is typically not covered.

Wedding Day Problems

Wedding venue

The bride found the perfect setting for her dream wedding. An antique restored farmhouse on a manor farm, which caught fire and burned to the ground days before the wedding. Wedding insurance would have covered the cost of cancelling the wedding, as the fire was outside of the insured control. Insurance will also cover venues that may be inaccessible due to weather, such as flooding after a hurricane. Other situations covered by insurance include banquet halls losing their license or going out of business.

Insurance covers rescheduling the wedding and the cost of items such as flowers, tent rentals and the reception. Some venues require proof of liability insurance. Some special event policies have endorsements which allow the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception to also be included within the coverage.

Weather

Planning a wedding six months in advance is far enough out to only have a general idea of the weather.

In some parts of the mid-west, a late spring wedding could be in a sunny, 80-degree day, or be held in the middle of a snow or ice storm.

Wedding insurance will cover the cost of cancelling a wedding if conditions prevent the bride or groom, key family members or the majority of guests from getting to the wedding site.

This can be important if the wedding is planned to be a destination wedding to a remote island, or even if the plan is to have it in hurricane season or the middle of winter.

Vendor issues

According to Travelers Insurance, 44% of wedding insurance claims are for vendors hired for the event but failed to perform as promised. Vendors may be caterers, officiant or limousine driver who fails to show up as promised. It may also cover a photographer’s camera bag stolen during the wedding or a dress shop or a florist who files for bankruptcy just before the wedding.

Insurance might cover a range of risk reduction including covering lost deposits or the cost of photo reshoot.

Property Damage

My mother always said, “to have a successful party, get very tipsy first thing”. That’s great but being a bit too tipsy could be the reason for inadvertent property damage. Say a reception at a historic venue has artwork or furnishings damaged, or an inebriated guest falls into the champagne table, damaging both the table and the Oriental rug underneath.

Travelers Insurance says 28% of its claims involve wedding-related property damage to a location.

Other coverages include:

Cancellation Coverage: Travelers Insurance states 8% of wedding claims involve illness or injury to the bride, groom, or a key member of the bridal party, requiring the wedding to be cancelled or rescheduled.

Bridal Attire: Travelers Insurance says 6% of its claims involve problems with bridal attire, with insurance covering a wedding gown that is lost, damaged or stolen.

Wedding insurance will also cover a bride or groom in the service who is unable to attend due to deployment, or having their leave revoked. Other coverage includes special wedding jewelry, liquor liability, wedding gifts that are stolen or damaged at the wedding, and personal liability covering accidents which occur during the event.

You should decide if you need wedding insurance based on numerous factors. The higher the overall event cost the higher the potential loss. Other situations such as a wedding participant in the service, or the event scheduling may cause more risk than others.

But, it’s nice to know you have options.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Reducing Risk with “Smart” Tech

Reducing Risk with

“Smart” Tech

“Alexa, what’s today’s weather?” “Alexa, how is traffic on the highway?” “Alexa, do you detect a water leak inside the house?”

Alexa can do that! Perhaps, not yet…. but the concept is not a far-fetched as it might seem. There are smart sensors which do monitor for water leaks. And, according to a survey conducted by Nationwide Insurance, only 7% of survey respondents use such technology. Contrast that figure with the 66% rate of smart device penetration into households.

What is very interesting is most homeowners are unaware that smart technology can actually save money on insurance, by reducing the risk of costly home problems.

Smart Technology Price Barriers

Much of the smart tech inside homes of today is intended to increase security and make homes more energy efficient. The most common smart tech is video doorbells, home security cameras, and thermostats. The smart home product sector is expected to grow 25% over the next five years.

However, many homeowners are reluctant to install a device due to cost. Other reasons include a lack of knowledge on what sensors and tech is available as well as concerns about security. The fear of technology that is always “on” (listening for the keywords “Alexa” or “Hey Google” especially after seeing news stories of hackers able to reprogram home video cameras.

While cost is still an objection, over 60% of consumers have said they would be interested in installing smart devices as long as they helped lower premiums, according to the Nationwide survey.

Preventing Water Loss Incidents

Alexa may not be able to lower premiums, but smart sensors can detect water-loss incidents caused by pipe, fixture, or water heater leaks and have the most potential to reduce homeowners’ risks. Interestingly enough, 27% of survey respondents were aware of products that monitor for water flow and leaks. Less than 25% of respondents reported being aware of the availability of smart tech which can close water valves, in the event of a leak.

As average water damage or pipes freezing can cause more than $10,000 in damage, these sensors can provide a layer of protection, especially in winter months when many folks are vacationing away from home. Many homeowners take precautions to secure the home from theft and fire and typically don’t consider water damage risks until it has become a problem.

Insurers are aware of the cost impact of water losses and will offer discounts to homeowners to take appropriate precautions ahead of time.

Check with your insurance agent and see how increasing your home intelligence might save you money on premiums and increase your peace of mind.

Trust me: coming home from vacation to a waterfall on your inside staircase is not a pleasant end to a great vacation.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, CO servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance professionals and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Home Computer Security – History of the Password

History of the Password

Over the last 20 plus years, widely available personal computers, tablets, and smart phones have revolutionized our interaction with almost everything. With a few clicks of a mouse, or swipe of a finger, we can order clothing, book flights, reserve a hotel, deposit a check, pay a bill; there isn’t anything we can’t do from the comfort of our own home, or the neighborhood coffee shop.

Our personal information is stored, somewhere, by a seemingly uncountable number of vendors, institutions, marketing companies web sites. Unfortunately, criminals, adept at using software to invade our home computers or smart phones are also aware of the vast amount of information available. Criminals search for security weaknesses to extract our personally identifiable information, such as credit card or social security numbers, birth dates and more to able to set up false identities or deplete our online accounts. Criminals also seek to install ransomware, locking corporations and users from accessing computers.

Just as we secure our homes with a lock on the front door, we also need to secure our online identity, our most basic protection is the humble password. The password in combination with an email address or username, identifies the authorized user of frequently accessed sites or apps and any retained personal information.

Too often, we underestimate the importance of passwords, selecting something easy to remember rather than difficult for an attacker to break.

In this multi-part series, we examine various security threats from personal computing and techniques to best protect yourself from the dangers of criminals wandering the internet looking for victims.

History of Passwords

Passwords are secret data, typically an arbitrary string of characters which include letters, digits, or other symbols. If the permissible characters are constrained to be numeric, the corresponding secret is sometimes called a personal identification number (PIN). A key attribute in picking a password is to select something which is hard to guess, so a password may be composed of multiple words, separated by spaces: a passphrase.

The longer the password (or phrase) the harder it is for software password-breakers to reveal the actual password.

Passwords have been in use for much longer than the internet or computers. There are historical references to the use of “watchwords” in the Roman military. Sentries challenging anyone wishing to enter an area to supply a password or watchword, only allowing entry upon hearing the correct password.

Passwords were used by the military over the years, evolving to include both a password and a counterpassword. During World War II, GIs would challenge any individuals entering an area with a password, to be replied with a counter password.

The first time a password was used in computing was 1960 at MIT. The university had a large mainframe computer to be shared by numerous researchers. Each shared not only the mainframe but a single disk file as well. The password was developed so users could access the computer for their allotted time (in 1960, computing resources were severely limited) and only have access to their own specific files.

The first time a computer password was hacked was also 1960, when researchers started using others’ passwords to gain more computer time.

Though the password is a less than perfect approach to security, it went on to become the go-to method for computer security due to its simplicity, which is also a disadvantage.

Attempting to reduce the password disadvantages, a cryptographer at Bell Labs devised a technique called “hashing” where the entered password values were converted to numeric output which could be used to compare to an entered value to validate the passwords but could not be used to reverse engineer the password.

With hashing, the actual password is not stored, only the numeric values to validate the password entered matches. Hash functions used in cryptography have the following key properties:

  • It’s easy and practical to compute the hash, but “difficult or impossible to re-generate the original input if only the hash value is known.”
  • It’s difficult to create an initial input that would match a specific desired output.

Thus, in contrast to encryption, hashing is a one-way mechanism. The data that is hashed cannot be “unhashed”.

Additional layers of security include “salting”. Modern password databases to further protect a password by inserting random data with the password, then hashing the resulting values.

Another security technique is “encryption”, where a key is used to convert a set of entered values to something which appears to be meaningless, but which can then be unencrypted. This technique is only used when the password or pass phrase must be known and reviewed for validation.

In our next installment we discuss how customers can increase their security.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Coastal Flooding

Changing sea levels are an integral part of global climate change. Melting polar ice, raises sea levels, which inundates both low-lying wetlands (historically a high tide barrier to storm surge) and dry land. The shoreline erodes (reducing the effectiveness of the low-lying wetlands) contributing to coastal flooding increasing the flow of salt water into estuaries and nearby groundwater aquifers.

Higher sea levels also leave coastal infrastructure, such as homes, boardwalks, parks, more vulnerable to damage from storms.

“Relative sea level change” refers to the height of the ocean relative to the land at a particular location. As relative sea level rises due to climate change, one of the most noticeable consequences is an increase in coastal flooding.

Flooding typically occurs during seasonal high tides and storms that push water toward the shore. In recent years, however, coastal cities are flooding more frequently outside of extreme tides or high winds, due to rising sea levels. This type of coastal flooding is expected to increase in depth, frequency, and extent in the United States during this century.

Compare the number of flood days between 1950s and 2010s. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

City                  Flood days between 1950 and 1959:             Flood days between 2011 and 2020:

Key West, FL                           0                                                                      5

Charleston, SC                        0                                                                      6

Atlantic City, NJ                       1                                                                      10

Bar Harbor, ME                       2                                                                      10

Seattle, WA                             2                                                                      3

This does not include “nuisance”, or high tide flooding when tides push water levels temporarily higher than the normal tidal line. This flooding has minor impacts, flooding some streets or overwhelming storm drains.

Recurring coastal flooding can cause frequent road closures, reduced stormwater drainage capacity, and deterioration of infrastructure which was not designed to withstand frequent inundation or exposure to salt water.

40 percent of Americans live near the coast, and more than $1 trillion of property and structures are at risk. Flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the United States, accounting for more than $268 billion in damage in 2017. Make no mistake, flooding is not just a coastal problem. In the past 10 years, every state has experienced at least two major floods.

Protecting Your Coastal Home

Given that so much is at stake, what steps can a coastal homeowner take to protect their investment? Homeowners insurance policies don’t routinely cover flood-related damage.

Instead, a separate policy is required from the National Flood Insurance Program. Purchasing flood insurance at all could prove to be a challenge for homes severely damaged in a flood, or for those that have experienced repeated flooding. And without flood insurance, it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a mortgage from a bank or lender, or to sell your property.

To be eligible for coverage through the program, there are four possible approaches.

Elevation

The first approach is elevating a flood prone home.

In elevating, wooden pilings are sunk deep into the soil with the structure raised to sit on top of the pilings. Where raising is unfeasible, the structure is torn down and rebuilt on pilings. The objective is to raise the living quarters and essential services (heating and air conditioning, for example) above the what’s called “the 100-year flood,” or, what FEMA refers to as the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).

The higher the lowest floor is above the BFE, the lower the risk of flooding. Lower risk usually means lower flood insurance premiums.”

Statistics show that the coastal bottom lands of the East and Gulf coasts are most likely to experience this kind of flooding. But 90% of natural disasters in the U.S. involve flooding, which also hits homes near lakes, rivers, and small streams. Even dry areas of California, scorched by wildfire that has destroyed trees and vegetation, are vulnerable.

FEMA’s BFE yardstick means many coastal homes (or homes in flood prone areas such as rivers, lakes, and small streams) must be raised 7 to 9 or more feet, with the ground level either left open, or enclosed only for storage, workspace, or a garage.

The cost of raising a house onto pilings isn’t cheap: first the structure must be lifted off the old foundation and placed into a “crib” temporarily. Then, the home is raised again, now onto the pilings. Once on the pilings, walls frequently need to be repaired and stairs must be built to enter the raised first floor.

Given what appears to be a high dollar ticket project, why elevate?

One reason is your homeowner’s insurance will not cover future flood damage. If your home has already flooded, it may be easier to get insurance to pay for the elevation.

Your flood insurance policy could cover up to $250,000 of loss to the structure and up to $100,000 of personal property. Filing an Increased Cost of Compliance claim may enable you to receive up to $30,000 (check with your insurance agent for your specific coverages).

FEMA also has a Hazard Mitigation Program called Flood Mitigation Assistance which may help you cover the cost to elevate. Also, elevating or flood-proofing your home will lower your flood insurance rates. Without it, your rates could climb 20% a year over the next five years. Since FEMA is $20.5 billion in debt from continuing hurricanes and other disasters, cheap flood insurance—which still averages less than $1,000 a year—could be a thing of the past.

The other approaches:

Demolition

The reality is some homes are too damaged to elevate or restore or, due to erosion, it is too dangerous to rebuild on that location at any level. For those homes or structures, the only real option is to tear down and remove the home or structure.

Not ideal, and it may be easier and cheaper to rebuild in a not-so-flood-prone location and elevate, rather than restore in place.

Relocation

Relocation is recognition that it is impractical to rebuild or elevate. Doing so will just put off the inevitable. So, here, the home, business or structure is removed from the site moved to a less flood-prone location.

Floodproofing

Floodproofing is typically an option for non-residential buildings. In floodproofing, the building is made watertight through a combination of adjustments or additions of features to the building. The intent is to reduce the potential for flood damage.

“If you don’t have a mortgage, you’re not required to have flood insurance,” says spokesperson Mark Friedlander, of the Insurance Information Institute. You can still have regular property insurance, but as any home insurance agent will tell you, it doesn’t cover a flood, whether it happens in a hundred years . . . or this one.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Flood Insurance

 


Headlines from August 2021
  •        Record Rainfall Causes Flash Floods in Flagstaff Burn Areas, Arizona
  •        98 Rescued, 35 Missing in North Carolina Floods After Rain From Tropical Storm ‘Fred’
  •        State of Emergency After Flash Floods in Steuben County, New York
  •        More Deaths Reported Following North Carolina Floods
  •        10 Dead, More Missing After Record Rainfall and Catastrophic Floods in Tennessee
  •        Death Toll Rises in Tennessee Floods, Over 20 Still Missing

Many of these areas had never seen flooding before, or at least, not flooding to this level. Both global climate change and population expansion are combining to flood (pun intended) the news with reports of lives lost and property destroyed by rising waters.

For decades, all flood insurance policies were written by the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). A change in 2021 allows private insurance companies to now offer a second option that may provide the same insurance at a lower cost for many homeowners.

Before calling your local agent, though, understand some of the key differences between private and NFIP coverage. For one thing, where the NFIP guarantees renewal of its policies, a private insurer has the right to decide not to renew a policy, or outright cancel it. As private flood insurance represents new products, there’s uncertainty about what policies might cost in the future and which companies may still be writing them.

National Flood Insurance

The NFIP, established by the federal government in the 1960s, was intended to provide flood insurance and to establish floodplain standards for the country. The 1960s was a time of expanding suburbs and settlement of exurbs, with folks choosing to raise their families outside the city.

Many of those areas, were in flood plains, with a history of 100 year flooding. Meaning, once in 100 years, the flood plain would again flood as heavy rains and storms caused rivers and stream to rise above their banks.

Around 90% of residential flood insurance in the U.S. is provided by the NFIP. 

Federal flood insurance includes two coverage types, each with their own separate out-of-pocket deductible.

  • Building property coverage: Pays to repair flood damage to your home or garage. Maximum building coverage limits for residential property is $250,000, which was more than needed in the 1960s, but with today’s real estate market, may not be enough to fully repair damage caused by flooding. 
  • Personal property coverage: Pays to repair or replace flood damaged furniture, electronics, appliances, and other personal property. The maximum personal property coverage limit is $100,000. 

Prior to July 1, 2019, if your mortgage was federally backed and you lived in a high-risk flood zone, the mortgage company could require flood insurance purchased exclusively through the NFIP. As of July 1, 2019, mortgage lenders were required to accept private flood insurance, as long as the policy had at a minimum of the same quality coverage as provided by NFIP.

Standard homeowner’s insurance policy does cover certain types of water damage, but will not cover damage from natural flooding, which is why mortgage lenders often require separate flood insurance for homes in special flood hazard areas. And now, coverage may be available on the private market.

While private flood insurance makes up a tiny fraction of the market, it’s becoming an increasingly popular, and occasionally cheaper, alternative to the NFIP. Private flood insurance tends to have a wider array of coverage options and higher limits of protection than the NFIP plan. 

NFIP vs Private Insurance

Coverage Differences

A significant difference between NFIP and private insurance is coverage options.

The NFIP maximum building coverage limit is $250,000. Private carriers can offer up to $1 million in coverage, with some companies offering higher limits. As the replacement cost for houses continues to increase, it may be worth purchasing that additional coverage.

Private flood companies also offer coverage not available through NFIP. Replacement cost under NFIP is only offered for primary residences. Other property types and contents are only covered at actual cash value. Private flood carriers can offer the option to add replacement cost coverage for both contents and secondary residences. 

Other optional coverages available only through private flood are:

  • Additional living expenses – coverage for temporary housing while the primary residence is under repair and restoration
  • Pool repair and fill – covers damage to the pool itself, as well as filtering equipment
  • Business income coverage – lost income while recovering from damage
  • Enhanced coverage for detached structures – for example, garages, offices, carriage houses

Waiting Periods

Another major difference between NFIP and private is the policy waiting period.

NFIP has a mandatory 30-day waiting period from the date of payment to the date coverage begins, with exceptions for loan closing requirements. However, the maximum private flood policy waiting period is only 15 days. And some companies allow coverage to go into effect immediately. 

Final Consideration 

With the rising number of flood emergencies, (six in August of last year alone affecting the entire country from California to Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Rhode Island), flood insurance helps protect your property.

The NFIP is required to be reauthorized by the government every so often (the most recent reauthorization was extended to February 18 of this year). If the NFIP were to expire, no policies through the program could be written or renewed, leaving private carriers as the only option.

As private flood carriers do not have to follow FEMA regulations, coverage rates can fluctuate. As there are multiple carriers, there is the option to shop coverage with multiple companies. Competition is always in the best interests of the consumer.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Social Media Privacy

It is no secret how pervasive social media has become in our society. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, TikTok all worm their way into our day-to-day consciousness demanding we post text and pictures describing our current exploits. Even something as mundane as last night’s dinner or someone else’s cute kitten at play must be posted, shared, and commented upon (and hopefully, “liked”).

However, our social posting addiction has a potentially negative side effect. Artificial intelligence (AI) combined with the harvesting of photos, videos, and postings can discern buying patterns and recommendations for further purchases. Although marketing products may be relatively benign, there are other purposes that may be gained from the skillful use of data, photos, and other personal information we freely give to the gaping maw of social engagement.

TikTok Privacy Violation

The design and technology site Gizmodo reported that TikTok had attempted to modify its privacy policy allowing TikTok to automatically collect mountains of voice and face data from U.S. users. In a series of 21 lawsuits, many filed on behalf of minors, plaintiffs accused TikTok and a now-defunct sister app, Musical.ly, of using a “complex system of artificial intelligence to recognize facial features in users’ videos”.

The AI used that collected data to determine a user’s age, race/ethnicity, and gender in order to recommend content and profiles for the user.

TikTok agreed to settle a $92 million class action lawsuit allowing any TikTok user prior to Sept. 30 to apply for restitution. Court documents related to the case state:

“By utilizing this private and biometric information, TikTok maintains a competitive advantage over other social media apps and profits from its use of improperly obtained data, all while failing to comply with the minimum requirements for handling users’ biometric data…”

Suits were filed in Illinois where the Biometric Information Privacy Act grants the right to sue companies accessing biometric data without consent.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, denied that it ran afoul of the law, agreeing to settle the suits in order to avoid going to trial. In a statement, ByteDance said:

“While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.

As part of the suit, TikTok has also agreed to stop disclosing users’ personal data to third parties like Facebook and Google, according to NBC News, and will also cease to record users’ facial features and track their location using GPS.

The questions each social media user should be asking right now are:

  • What are companies doing with my photos, videos, and online presence?
  • Is my personal information being used for something I approve of?
  • Am I protected from misuse of my personal information?

For a great many of us, our answer to all three questions would be the same: “I don’t know”.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, CO servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors and see how painless insurance shopping can be.