14 safety tips to follow before leaving home for the holidays

Family leaving the house to go on vacation

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If you are traveling for the holidays, follow these 14 safety tips to keep your home safe while you are away from your home.

  1. Make sure alarm systems and motion sensors are in place and working properly. Connect these to your phone to monitor activity at all times of day.
  2. Use automatic lights and close all windows and blinds to deter potential intruders.
  3. Leave a spare key to your home and car with a trusted neighbor. Let them know when you are leaving, how long you will be gone, and how you can be contacted.
  4. Keep all trees and bushes trimmed. Overgrown shrubbery can be a good place for burglars to hide.
  5. Unplug appliances from the outlets to avoid fires and excess electric use.
  6. Keep your home thermostat no lower than 65 degrees. While you want to save money when you're away, you also need to make sure your pipes don't freeze and expand, causing connection faucets and pipes to freeze and break.
  7. Double-check that all your doors and windows are locked.
  8. Arrange for mail and deliveries to be temporarily stopped or have a neighbor pick these up for you. Piled-up deliveries could signal a vacant home and make your house a target for intruders.
  9. Make sure holiday decorations and plug-in lights are running properly to prevent possible fires and disasters.
  10. Consider installing security cameras inside and outside your home. Many cameras are wireless and linked to your phone, providing around-the-clock surveillance access.
  11. Keep a car in the driveway to give the impression that your home is occupied.
  12. Don't post or geotag on social media while you are away. You don't want intruders to know your home is left unattended. Instead, wait until you're home to share your adventures online.
  13. Hire a snow removal service or neighbor to keep your driveway and paths clear while you are away.
  14. Take an inventory of your valuables and lock them away in a safe along with sale receipts or appraisals.

Contact a Gallagher representative to review your home insurance policy and make sure not only that you protect your home while you are away but also that your insurance provides you with the right protection all year round. Have a safe and happy holiday from Gallagher!

Safety and maintenance for your water heater

Warm water is something that most of us take for granted. When we turn on the faucet to wash our hands or step into a hot shower, we don't stop to think about the condition of the appliance that's producing the heated water. However, it's important to keep your water heater in good condition so it can function safely. A poorly maintained water heater can leak and cause water damage, which can impact the structure of your home. That's why it's important to observe the following maintenance requirements.

Man working on a water heater
  • Keep the area around the appliance clear. Remove dust, paper and debris, and never use aerosols or other combustibles in the same space where your water heater is located.
  • If your water heater is in the garage, install it so the pilot light is at least 1.5 feet above the floor. Gasoline vapors sink toward the floor, so a raised pilot light can help prevent them from igniting.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector close to the water heater. This is imperative if you have a gas water heater, as carbon monoxide isn't something you can see or smell. Remember to test the detector every couple of months according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Inspect the flue for leaks. The flue expels exhaust gas, so any cracks or gaps could leak carbon monoxide into your home. If you find any gaps, replace the flue immediately.
  • Test the temperature/pressure (T&P) relief valve. As the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors explains, the T&P valve is located near the top of your water heater. It's designed to prevent explosions by opening and relieving pressure when extremely high temperatures build up inside the tank. You should test the T&P valve once a year by pulling up on the handle. If you can see water flowing out of the pipe, it's free to open. Note that if you find it challenging to reseal the valve due to sediment buildup, you should immediately call a plumber to replace the valve.
  • Use a specially designed insulation kit to insulate your water heater. Insulation can prevent heat loss and high energy bills during the winter. However, it's important to wrap the heater correctly. Leave the following components uncovered: the T&P valve, drain, control panel, pilot light, draft diverter and air intake. If you have a gas-fired water heater, leave the top clear as well.
  • Set the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. As the Mayo Clinic advises, this will help protect you from scalding yourself. Note, however, that a lower temperature can lead to the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the water tank.
  • Have a qualified plumber perform water heater maintenance once a year. Your plumber should clean the burners, inspect the flues and vents, check the anode rod, and if necessary, replace the T&P valve. He or she should also check the tank for leaks.
  • If the water heater is overheating, cut off the heat source and call a plumber. Do not go near the appliance, as this could be highly dangerous. Simply trip the circuit breaker if it's an electric water heater or shut off the gas if it's gas-fired. Then wait for it to cool down and for the plumber to arrive.

Keeping your water heater in good condition can save you from unexpected water damage. Installing a leak detention device that will automatically shut off the water flow to your water heater is also a great way to prevent damage from water leaks, and many insurance carriers offer discounts on your homeowners policy for installing these systems. To learn more about this and other potential discounts on your insurance policies, contact a Gallagher representative.

A couple in a car driving on a snow covered road

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Important tips to help prepare your car for winter

As winter approaches, make sure your car is ready for the cold, snowy weather that awaits.


Becoming stranded when the weather is at its worst can be a nightmare. The National Safety Council recommends having a few essentials in your car so you can avoid being stranded—or at least make the most of it if you are.

Your winter car kit should include the following, if possible, and you should never leave home in winter without it.

Shovel Compass
Ice scraper First-aid kit
Jumper cables Emergency flares
Cellphone charger Energy bars, snacks, canned nuts, crackers, etc.
Flashlight and batteries Matches in waterproof containers
One bag of kitty litter (for traction in snow and ice) Extra warm clothing including blankets, scarves, hats, gloves, hand warmer packets, etc.


Before winter hits, be sure to have your local mechanic inspect and winterize your car. These are some of the things you'll want to do when winterizing your car.

  • Check your tires. Some people switch to winter tires or all-season tires as winter approaches. You will certainly want to replace any worn tires before the snow and ice set in, and to make sure all tires are properly inflated.
  • Switch your windshield wiper fluid to a winter mix. Summer windshield wiper fluid can freeze in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so look for winter wiper fluid designed to be used at temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Replace your windshield wiper blades if needed. Depending on how often they are used, they may need to be replaced every six to 12 months, or when you notice impaired visibility when you're using them.
  • Test the antifreeze and make sure you have an adequate amount. A 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water works best, according to Consumer Reports.
  • Make sure your battery is in good shape and rated for the winter ahead of you. This is especially important if you've moved from a warmer climate to one that has harsher winters.
  • Remember to get your car's oil, air filter and exhaust systems serviced.

Doing these simple things will help keep your car safer this winter.

Winter also brings hazardous driving conditions, which increase the risk of accidents. Contact a Gallagher representative to make sure you have the right auto insurance coverage in place to protect your investment and your passengers all winter long.

Gallagher in action

Mclean Car Show crew Vintage car

Each year, McLean Insurance Agency, a recent Gallagher merger partner, organizes the Carz Cruizin to Cure Cancer event to honor the memory of its founder, Henry C. Megill Jr., who battled a rare form of lymphoma. Doug Megill founded this annual event in 2010 to continue his father's legacy and passion for making a difference in the community.

Funds raised by Carz Cruizin to Cure Cancer were donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, whose mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. This annual community and charity event featured classic, custom, foreign, sports, high-performance and hot-rod cars, trucks, and motorcycles in a parade and show, followed by juried entries, musical entertainment, raffles and great food!

This year, Carz Cruizin to Cure Cancer surpassed its 2019 goal of $50,000 and raised $53,000. This brings the total donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society up to a little over $250,000 over the past nine years.

Kudos to our team members at McLean for making a difference in their community!

Visit www.carzcruizinforcancer.org for more information.

Client service spotlight

Client service team

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Pictured at Rewards Dinner from left to right: Susie Daley, Gino Bonacci, Jamie Place, Matt Stringer, Mike Pesch, Sheren Stoehr and Steve Wennerstrum.

We are excited and proud to announce that Sheren Stoehr, a client service supervisor based in Whippany, New Jersey, was recently named the recipient of Gallagher's 2019 Client Service Leader of the Year Award. This award was created to celebrate leaders who continue to innovate and drive the changes needed to deliver the best experience for our clients.

Sheren Stoehr supervises Gallagher's personal service staff in New Jersey and plays an integral role in providing our clients with excellent service. As a leader, Sheren has the respect of her team and her peers. Her calm demeanor and witty humor have a way of disarming the most stressful situations. Sheren leads by example and pushes the Personal Lines team to achieve greater results, but also understands the importance of recognizing and celebrating their success. Congrats to Sheren!

The information contained herein is offered as insurance industry guidance and provided as an overview of current market risks and available coverages and is intended for discussion purposes only. This publication is not intended to offer legal advice or client-specific risk management advice. Any description of insurance coverages is not meant to interpret specific coverages that your company may already have in place or that may be generally available. General insurance descriptions contained herein do not include complete insurance policy definitions, terms, and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for coverage interpretation. Actual insurance policies must always be consulted for full coverage details and analysis.

Insurance brokerage and related services to be provided by Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Inc. (License No. 0D69293) and/or its affiliate Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Insurance Brokers of California, Inc. (License No. 0726293).