Tornados and Driving Safety

What to Do If You’re Caught in Your Car During a Tornado

Tornadoes are the most violent storms anywhere, and about 1,200 touch ground in the United States every year, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

They’re as unpredictable as they are violent. Twisters most often occur in the early spring on the Gulf Coast, in May and June on the southern plains and in June and July in the upper Midwest. But, tornadoes can occur any time of year and have been recorded in every state, says the NWS.

If a twister forms when you’re traveling through an unfamiliar region, or even while driving near home, you don’t have much time to make smart decisions that can help save your life. The NWS and Red Cross recommend these actions if a tornado catches you while you’re on the go:

Be Alert and Prepared

  1. Know the difference between a watch and a warning:
    • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible around the general watch area. This tells you to be alert and prepared.
    • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been seen or has appeared on weather radar. This tells you to take immediate action to protect yourself and family.

  2. Know how to access emergency broadcasts in case you encounter worrisome conditions:
    • Local news stations.
    • NOAA Weather Radio. Dial the VHF public service band from 162.400 to 162.550 MHz for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) All Hazards broadcast.
    • Local NWS Weather Forecast Office. Access local watches, warnings, forecasts and radar images online – just not while driving.

  3. Know the warning signs of a tornado:
    • Dark clouds, frequently greenish.
    • A wall cloud, attached to the base of a thundercloud but isolated and lowering.
    • Flying debris.
    • Large hailstones.
    • A roaring noise, ranging from the sound of a waterfall to that of a jet engine.
    • A funnel cloud, a rotating funnel extending from the base of a thundercloud. Once it touches the ground, a funnel cloud is a tornado.

If You’re Caught Outside or Driving

  1. Don’t wait to see a funnel once you hear a Tornado Warning.
    • Run to a sturdy building. The basement is the safest place, but a windowless interior room on the building’s lowest level is the next alternative. Mobile homes are not safe.
    • Get into your car if you cannot immediately get to a shelter on foot. Fasten your seat belt and drive to the closest sturdy shelter.

    Don’t try to outrun a tornado, because they can move across the landscape at 60 mph.
  2. If large objects start to fly past as you are driving, pull over, park and choose the best of the following two options:
    • If you can get significantly below the level of the roadway, such as in a deep ditch, get out of the car and lie face down with your hands protecting your head.
    • Otherwise, keep your seat belt on and stay in the car. Lower your head below the level of the windows, protecting yourself with your hands. If any other protection is available, such as a blanket, wrap that over your head as well.

Always remember, whenever you encounter severe weather, that a violent storm can escalate and travel quickly. If you’re at home, be ready to put your emergency plan into place, if you can – practicing family drills and setting aside supplies ahead of time will help. If not, take the most appropriate safety measures possible, such as the ones shared above.


Insurance Coverage During a Disaster

The best disaster preparation includes planning, family drills, emergency supplies—and a call to your local independent insurance agent to review the storm damage coverage your homeowners insurance and car insurance policies provide. Review your polices with your Blue Ridge Insurance agent today.

Article courtesy of Safeco Blog


10 Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft

Easy Steps to Help Protect Your Identity*

Shopping online. Visiting the doctor. Buying gas. In nearly all of the things we do from day to day, there’s the risk of identity theft.

You could unknowingly give your information to a fraudster thinking you’re shopping at a legitimate site. Your doctor’s office could experience a data breach. Or, you could come across a tampered credit card reader at the gas pump.

The risks your identity faces go on and on. So, what can you do to stop it? Unfortunately, virtually no one today can completely negate the risk of identity theft. But, we can all take some important steps to help prevent it.

Here are 10 sensible habits to adopt that will help you protect your identity:

  1. Limit what you carry in your wallet, and know what’s there in case it goes missing. First things first, don’t carry your Social Security card on a regular basis. Instead, keep it in a locked safe at home. Have a form of identification or some other card with your Social Security number (SSN) on it? Carry a photocopy of it instead of the real thing, and cut out or otherwise render your SSN unreadable. As for credit cards, only carry the ones you need. Finally, make photocopies of the front and back of the cards you always keep in your wallet and store them in your home safe. If one (or all of them) goes missing, you won’t have to search high and low for the card issuer’s contact information.
  2. Keep your computers, software and other electronics secure and up to date. This means using strong passwords or enabling passcodes – remember not to write them down. It also means installing firewall, spyware and virus protection. Keep everything up to date (and backed up) for the latest security enhancements. For your portable devices, consider installing software to remotely wipe your data or locate the device if it’s ever lost or stolen.
  3. Don’t over share. Does every entity that asks for your (or your child's) SSN really need it? Take a moment to think instead of automatically jotting it down. At the very least, maybe only the last four digits will do. In addition, be careful what you share online. Posting your full address, phone number, license plate number or your birth date online, even if it’s in a photo, may help others piece together a full picture of your identity.
  4. Do check your credit reports throughout the year. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus once a year. And, since the information on each report is oftentimes largely the same, you can stagger your requests and receive a different report once every four months. Once you receive it, check your report for accounts and other activity you don’t recognize. Even a credit check from a company you haven’t done business with could be an attempt at identity theft. To order your free credit reports, call 1-877-322-8228 or visit
  5. Keep an eye on your accounts. Your account statements can alert you to identity theft sooner than your credit report, in most cases. Check regularly for unauthorized charges or withdrawals and other illicit activity, such as address changes or additional cards you didn’t request.
  6. Watch your surroundings. Whether you’re using the ATM or a portable device, you want to be sure others nearby aren’t watching as you type in your PIN or password. And, just because you don’t see anyone nearby doesn’t mean they’re not there. If you’re using a shared or public WiFi, everyone else on the same network may see the data, including passwords or account numbers, you submit. Be sure to conduct sensitive transactions on secure networks.
  7. Reduce your mail. Start by opting out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT and following the prompts. This should stay in effect for five years and help curb the risk of someone else obtaining a new credit card in your name. Next, sign up for paperless billing with your financial and service providers and/or schedule automatic payments through your bank. The less mail containing personal and account details that comes to your home, the less likely it is to fall into the wrong hands.
  8. Be skeptical when someone asks for your information. Scam artists don’t always have to steal your information. Sometimes they convince you to give it up willingly by telling you via a phone call, email, snail mail or text that you won a prize or need to verify your account. To claim the prize or account, you’ll, of course, need to supply some sensitive information. Requests like these are almost always inauthentic – what’s known as a “phishing” scam. So, stay on guard and contact the entity through a known, verified method to inquire about the matter, rather than providing personal details on the spot.
  9. Mind your garbage. If you’re throwing out account statements or other documents with personal information, you’re making it easy for dumpster divers to learn a little, perhaps a lot, about you. They may even learn enough to take over one of your accounts. So, shred your sensitive documents and then recycle them – don’t just throw them out in the garbage.
  10. Tidy up at home. Tax returns, credit cards you use infrequently, checkbooks, passports, birth certificates – these and other important documents should all be stored under lock and key. Whether it’s in a home safe or a locking desk or file cabinet is up to you. And, don’t leave the code or key in an easily discoverable place.

Despite your best efforts, you may still discover that your identity has been stolen, If so, take immediate action to:

  • Fill out the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Take your affidavit to the police and file a report. Be sure to get a copy for your records. It will come in handy if you need to close fraudulent accounts, straighten out your credit report and more.
  • Call your financial providers to request new account numbers and, if needed, cards.
  • Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert, which will encourage creditors to contact you before opening new lines of credit, on your credit report. The bureau you contact will share it with the other two.
    Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    Transunion: 1-800-680-7289

And, if you’re involved in a data breach and offered free credit monitoring, be sure to take advantage of it.

In today’s world of hyper connectivity and speed, it’s easy for your information to end up in the wrong hands. But, by being cautious with how you use and share your information, and checking for misuse, you can help keep your identity secure.

Add Identity Recovery Coverage to Your Home Policy

Your homeowners policy no doubt already covers stolen personal property. Add Identity Recovery Coverage to your policy, and, if your identity is stolen, it will help with certain recovery efforts, too. Talk to your agent at Blue Ridge Insurance about adding this optional coverage to your policy today.

*Article by Safeco February 1, 2016 Blog at

Safety Items to Keep In Your Car – the Winter Edition

Cold Weather Supplies for Your Vehicle

By Safeco Insurance

You keep your home stocked with emergency supplies. (Right?)

What about your car?

During winter, extreme weather and road conditions can lead to all kinds of trouble when you’re commuting or traveling — crashes, being stranded, getting lost or stuck. And cold temperatures make those situations more dangerous than usual.

So keep a stockpile of emergency items in your car, just like you do in your house. In the best-case scenarios, you’ll never have to use them or they’ll help keep you comfortable for an hour or so while you wait for a tow truck to arrive. But, if you’re ever caught in a truly sticky situation, they just might be key to your survival.

The folks at the Wisconsin Emergency Management agency, as you can imagine, are quite familiar with the perils of winter travel. So don’t just take our word for it. Here are some of their recommendations for what to keep in your car to help keep you safe in the snow and ice:

  • A shovel, tire chains, tow rope and sand or cat litter: All of these can help you get your car unstuck. And jumper cables are always good to have in your car, too.

  • A windshield scraper: Preferably one with a brush attached.

  • Blankets, sleeping bags, gloves and extra clothing: Staying warm is crucial while you wait for help — especially if you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting.

  • Bottled water and snack food, such as energy bars, peanut butter and raisins: It could be hours before you get moving again, so you need to stay hydrated and nourished.

  • A first-aid kit: Keep one in your car no matter the time of year.

  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio: Listen to weather updates, information on emergency response efforts, etc. while conserving your car’s battery.

  • Emergency flares, reflectors and a battery-powered or hand-crank flashlight: All of these will help you attract attention and help other drivers avoid you.

Your kit doesn’t have to be limited to the above, of course. Feel free to add items that suit your individual needs. But, most importantly, keep the kit in your car at all times — and then keep these additional safety tips in mind:

  • Keep your vehicle well maintained (and gassed up).
  • Create a trip plan and share it with friends or family.
  • Stay in your car if you get stuck. Walking to find help is an easy way to get lost and separated from others in your party.
  • To reduce battery drain, only use your emergency flashers if you hear vehicles approaching. You can keep your dome light on to remain visible.
  • Add roadside assistance to your car insurance policy for help in an emergency.

Remember, it doesn’t take much time or money to prepare an emergency kit. It’s the potential cost of not having one that is enormous.

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