17 Essential Tips To Driving This Summer

17 Essential Tips to Driving This Summer

With the holiday season upon us, many of will be jumping in your cars for that day trip out or holiday with the family. While we can’t do anything about the British weather, traffic delays or the incessant “are we there yet?”, we can give you 17 Essential Tip to Driving this Summer to keep you and your passengers safe and help your journey run that little bit smoother.

  1. Check your fuel, oil, water, coolant and tyre pressure before setting off to avoid breakdowns.
  2. Plan your route especially if you are travelling to an unknown area.
  3. Ensure you have refreshments and a fully charged mobile phone in case of emergency.
  4. If you suffer from hay fever, remember to take your medication, you don’t want to have a sneezing fit driving at 70mph.
  5. When loading luggage inside the vehicle do not obscure your view through the rear window and if using a roof rack, do not overload and ensure it is strapped securely.
  6. When travelling with children pack toys, books and iPad’s etc. to keep them occupied.
  7. Buckle up and consider buying an in car safety harness for the dog for their and your protection in the event of a road traffic accident.
  8. Stay focused, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel and never check your phone while behind the wheel.
  9. Don’t drive tired, schedule regular stops of at least 20 minutes.
  10. Have sunglasses to hand; dazzle from the sun could cause an accident.
  11. Beware of slow moving or wide vehicles such as tractors.
  12. Slow down and give a wide berth to horses being ridden or cattle crossing the road.
  13. Give consideration to learner or newly qualified drivers; we have all been there once.
  14. Road repairs are a common sight in summer but loose chippings can cause cracks and chips to your windscreen and paintwork. Keep to any temporary speed limits and keep your distance from the vehicle in front.
  15. Take extra care when driving during or after rain as the road surface can become slippery.
  16. Keep your keys safe, it is all too easy to lose your keys whilst playing on the beach or taking a dip in the sea.
  17. Never leave a child or a pet unattended, heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 14c and on a hot day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels within minutes.

So remember, be prepared, keep your cool, don’t rush, expect delays and have a safe journey!

Keep Your Home Safe While On Holiday

Keep Your Home Safe While On Holiday : 10 Essential Tips

The holiday season is a great time to unwind and experience exotic destinations. The use of technology has allowed us to protect the homes we leave behind, and we’ve therefore taken the opportunity to highlight our top ten tips to ensure your future holidays remain memorable for all the right reasons.

1.Managing social media

Hacking into social media accounts can be an easy way to check if your house is unoccupied and  increases the chance of a burglary. Children in particular can be unaware of the pitfalls of providing details of forthcoming holidays.

2. Electronic alarm systems

An approved intruder alarm is a good deterrent but don’t forget to set the system and let the key holders know that you’re away. A remotely monitored system can also incorporate the fire protection – so consider upgrading the fire alarm to link into the intruder alarm panel.

3. Install time switches

The use of time switches for lighting and audio systems is a simple way to give the impression of  occupancy thus reducing the risk for opportunist burglars.

4. CCTV cameras

Modern CCTV cameras are good visual deterrents. Cameras can be used simply as a means of access control or arranged to provide full perimeter protection. Some systems allow remote viewing via your smart phone or tablet device too, which is useful if you’re away from home regularly.

5. Water leaks

When the home is unoccupied there is a higher risk of water damage going unnoticed. If there is daily attendance by a neighbour or staff then this can reduce the risk. Alternatively the plumber can shut-off the water supply before you leave or you could consider a water leak detection system which would turn off the water supply in the event of an abnormal flow.

6.Allow a friend or neighbour to leave their car in the driveway

Some private clients also use professional house sitters while on extended vacations who can look after pets while keeping the house occupied too.

7.While in another country

It is easy to relax and forget where you are when your holiday starts, which is the whole point of a

holiday. However, this makes you more vulnerable and an easier target. Try to lower your profile and blend in to avoid attracting attention and ensure that you are never isolated away from your group.

8. Store valuables in the main hotel safe

The guest room safes provided by hotels only have limited security features so we recommend using the main hotel safe for any valuables taken on holiday.

9. Have a mobile phone available at all times

For emergencies with speed dial for the police, friends and family nearby.

10. Remember your personal safety is more important than your personal property

If confronted by criminals, agree to their demands as this will diffuse the situation and avoid confrontation.

by AIG Private Client Group (PDF of article here)

Microchipping Your Dog

Microchipping Your Dog

Compulsory microchipping of man’s best friend came into effect on the 6th April 2016. Lost or stolen dogs will now be more readily reunited with their owners under new microchipping laws brought in to improve dog welfare.

The new measures are intended to cut the rise in strays, encouraging owners to take responsibility of their pets and provide accountability in the event of an attack. Government figures reveal that more than 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost each year, at a cost of £57m to the taxpayer and welfare charities. The law governing dog attacks will be extended to cover private property, closing a legal loophole giving dog owners immunity from prosecution for attacks on people or animals on private property. However householders will be protected from prosecution if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser on their own land.

Rather like the old dog licences, microchipping is now compulsory for all dog owners in the UK. Owners will need to ensure their animal is not only microchipped but their details are kept up to date. It is important as the registered keeper that the database that holds your pets details is informed if you move home, sell or pass on the dog or if it dies.

Microchipping is a simple, painless and relatively inexpensive solution which involves inserting a sterile microchip the size of a grain of rice; coded with the owners details, between the dog’s shoulder blades by an experienced individual such as a vet. Weaned puppies must be chipped at their second set of vaccinations at 8 weeks plus. Any owner whose dog is found without a chip and can be traced by local authorities will have the benefits of microchipping explained to them and given a short period of time to have the dog microchipped or face a fine of £500.

As a nation of dog lovers, traceability gives peace of mind to owners allowing lost dogs to be quickly reunited, limiting the stress and avoids Fido spending unnecessary time in kennels. Of course cats and other animals that are large enough can be microchipped too; in case they get lost or stolen, but don’t worry there will be no legal obligation to have Tiddles or Thumper microchipped just yet.

To update your pets microchip, please visit – www.pettrac.co.uk/pet-owners/update-pet-microchip.

Flood RE

Flood Re Explained

Over the last couple of years we have seen on the news just how devastating flooding can be. According to the Environment Agency (EA) there are over 5 million properties in the U.K that are at risk of flooding and this number is growing.

In June 2013 it was announced that the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the government agreed to a memorandum of understanding to ensure that flood insurance continues to be affordable and available to private households in flood prone areas. The press at the time highlighted that individuals in flood-prone areas were being heavily penalised if their home was deemed to be in a high risk flood area (even if their home has never actually flooded). Some people were unable to obtain flood cover with their household insurance. Flood Re has therefore been implemented from April 2016.

What is Flood Re?

Flood Re is managed and owned by the insurance industry and is directly accountable to Parliament. It is funded by an annual levy on insurance companies which will mostly be passed on to the consumer. Flood Re is designed to cover homes at high risk of flooding. Insurers will place these high risk homes, into a fund. These are properties they feel unable to insure themselves. There will however be some exclusions for access to Flood Re:

  • Homes in England’s highest council tax band, H.
  • Equivalent properties in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Homes built after 1 January 2009.
  • Small businesses and charities as well as let and commercial properties.

The Flood Re levy should raise £180m each year.

Insurance Implications

The introduction to Flood Re is particularly beneficial to households living with a high risk of flooding. Whilst both brokers and customers might have struggled in the past to access affordable cover, Flood Re has opened up the market to be able to ‘shop around’. Whilst your home may not be a flood risk, everyone is responsible for the payment towards Flood Re.

Driving in France

Driving in France

More people visit France each year than any other European country and as the holiday period approaches, many will jump in their cars and take a relatively quick and inexpensive trip across to France via the Euro Tunnel or ferry. We’ve put together this article of driving in France to remind you of the differences between French and British driving laws.*

In early 2015, the French Government announced a 26 point action plan to improve road safety by improving driver’s concentration.  So even if you regularly drive on the continent you should plan your route and check out the current rules and regulations before departure.

What To Remember When Driving In France

  • You must be over the age of 18 to drive
  • The French drive on the right hand side of the road
  • French road signs do not always correspond to those found in the UK so it is important to know their meaning
  • Local driving styles and speed limits differ to that of the UK
  • Legal blood alcohol limits are lower than in the UK
  • The French police strictly enforce motoring violations and you will face on the spot fines often payable in the exact amount of cash (motoring fines range from € 17 minimum Class 1 offence to €150,000 maximum Class 5 offence)
  • If you break French laws you can have your UK driving licence confiscated and your vehicle temporarily impounded if there is no alternative driver with a valid licence with you

It is illegal:

  • To eat, apply make up, read a map, touch or program a device or listen to excessively loud music whilst driving (2016) – € 75 fine
  • To use headphones whilst driving a car, motorbike or bicycle. However, Bluetooth or integrated systems are still permitted (2016) – € 75 fine
  • To use a mobile phone whilst driving (this includes whilst stationary in traffic) – € 135 fine
  • To smoke when there is a child under the age of 12 travelling in the vehicle. It is also worth mentioning that smoking is also banned outdoors at children’s play areas including motorway rest areas (2015) – € 68 fine
  • Not wearing seat belts – € 135 fine
  • For children under the age of 10 to travel in the front seat. Children weighing less than 15kg must use a child safety seat. Over this weight can use a booster
  • To drink drive (The drink-driving limit in France is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – 30mg less than the UK limit). (The limit has been reduced further for those with under 3 years driving experience – 2015) – € 135 – € 4,500
  • To speed – € 135 – € 3,750
  • To park within 5m of pedestrian crossings (2015) – € 17
  • To use your horn in a French city except in case of an imminent crash
  • To use satnavs or mobile apps that detect French speed cameras. You can be fined even if the device is switched off! – € 1.500
  • It is compulsory to have with you in the vehicle:
    • Vehicle documentation – € 135 fine
    • National driving licence
    • Original Registration Documentation (V5)
    • Motor vehicle insurance documentation
    • MOT if the car is over 3 years old
    • GB Sticker on the rear windscreen (unless your licence plate has the GB Euro-Symbol) – € 90 Fine
    • A breathalyser (2008) – € 0 (The fine was withdrawn in 2013)
    • Head lamp converters for driving on the right to avoid dazzling on coming traffic – € 90 fine
    • Spare light bulbs – € 80 fine
    • Warning triangle (2012) – € 135 fine
    • Reflective jacket (which must be within easy reach without having to exit the vehicle) (2012) – € 135 fine
    • It is compulsory for motor cyclists to carry a reflective jacket and wear them in the event of a breakdown or emergency (2016).
    • Motorcycles are required to have daytime running lights
    • In winter, snow chains must be used on snow covered roads
    • If you wear spectacles you must have a spare pair in the car with you.

*(Each European country has its own laws and requirements and you are advised to check before you travel. This list is not exhaustive and is for information purposes only.)

Don’t let medical emergencies, loss or damage to belongings or travel delays ruin your trip, whether you are traveling within the UK and Europe or to the far ends of the earth contact us for comprehensive single or annual travel insurance.

Halloween Safety Tips - 2015

Halloween Safety Tips – Don’t Make Your Night a Frightful One

Tips to staying safe this halloween and fireworks night:

Halloween is likely to encourage as much creativity in theft as it does in costume design. However, it is not just theft that you need to be aware of. Accidental damage, and vandalism, will – as ever – mean that some people’s Halloweens are SERIOUSLY frightful. Fireworks will also play a major part over the next two weekends.

Both homeowners and business owners should protect their property as best as possible ahead of the festivities. It might be children looking for bonfire materials on commercial premises, or causing havoc to homes when no treats are available – the TRICK is to be prepared. Here are some top halloween safety tips from the team at Brownhill Insurance Group:

Home Owners

Never keep keys, handbags or wallets near to the front or back door, or near to any window. “One thief used a hook through a client’s cat flap to grab the house keys and then let themselves in” laments Megan Thompson, one of Brownhill Insurance Group’s Private Client Account Executives. Whether you are out and about on Bonfire night (and therefore not home to protect your property) or if you are opening up your home to trick or treaters, be mindful of opportunists.

If you are welcoming trick or treaters, remember that young people will be coming on to your property:

  • Make sure automatic security lighting is working well.
  • Remove any hazardous material that might be blocking your driveway and could cause harm if accidentally tripped over.
  • Rope off any valuable plants and ensure that any valuable garden statuary is made secure and is not hazardous.
  • If you are getting creative with pumpkins or lanterns with candles in them, make sure that they are far enough out of the way so that costumes won’t accidentally be set on fire.
  • If your door has a spy hole, look through it before answering the door. If not, see if there might be a way of taking a peek through a window near to the front door. If you are intimidated by the look of any visitors, do not answer the door. In extreme cases, call the Police.
  • If you will not be at home, make sure that all doors and windows are locked and that no valuables are on show through windows. Close curtains.

Businesses

The last thing a business needs is to lose out through time wasted making a claim, or through un-insured loss of profits as a result of stolen or damaged property. Warehouses, construction sites, yards and unoccupied premises are particularly vulnerable.

  • Be doubly sure you have locked up all premises at night and when un-patrolled.
  • Make secure, any building materials, tyres and pallets that need to be left outdoors, even if under cover.
  • Do not leave oil supplies lying around.
  • Make sure automatic security lighting and alarm systems are working well.
  • If possible, have your property guarded during this week.

Parents

Ideally, all children trick or treating should be accompanied by an adult.

  • Be visible, carry a torch and stay in well-lit areas.
  • Be careful not to frighten elderly people.
  • Be wary of taking food from strangers.

If your children will be trick-or-treating without you (they should be of an age that this is appropriate):

  • Plan a trick or treat route with them.
  • Instruct them not to talk to strangers in the street and not to knock on doors where there is a sign saying ‘No Trick or Treat Here’. You may even like to suggest that they only visit houses where you know the residents.
  • If they are carrying a smartphone, consider setting up a tracker so you are aware of their movements and current position.

First Aid

  • Familiarise yourself, preferably in advance of festivities, with first aid measures to take if your child is hurt. See the British Red Cross’s website for guidance for prevention and treatment.
  • If you are preparing costumes and taking your children out to trick or treat or see fireworks, think about the clothes that they are wearing (can they easily trip over in their costume? Are they fire resistance?)
  • Be careful carving pumpkins with sharp knives. Sweets can be a common cause for choking. See the British Red Cross’s website for guidance for prevention and treatment.

Road Safety & Reporting Crime

If you are on the roads, look out for excited little ghosts, ghouls and grim reapers crossing the road.

Be alert to youths congregating. Do not attempt to tackle a large group of people committing a crime on your own. Call the police.

Whilst bearing all of these security measures in mind, the most important advice that Brownhill Insurance Group offer is… Have Fun!

Brownhill Insurance Group partner with Spy Alarms

Spy Alarms has been supplying and installing industry standard intruder alarm systems to homes and businesses in Kent and London for 30 years. We are now also using CCTV, Access Control/Door Entry and Fire Protection systems to secure the properties of the grandchildren of our original customers. For us, it’s all about building long term relationships through trust in the reliability of our advice and installations.

From our experience, there are often situations where you as a residential or commercial policyholder may wish to install an alarm to satisfy and enhance your own security requirements. What is happening more regularly however is that insurers are stipulating that you must install an intruder alarm to comply with your policy conditions and a breach of these conditions may result in claims not being paid.

Spy Alarms is NSI Gold accredited and Safecontractor approved. The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) is recognised as the leading certification body for the security and fire protection industries in the UK.

This means that businesses and homeowners who choose Spy Alarms can be certain that our employees will work to the highest industry standards demanded by the Police and the insurance industry.

We are delighted to be working with Brownhill Insurance Group to provide top quality bespoke solutions for your security requirements and will offer a 10% discount on all intruder alarm, CCTV, access control/door entry or fire protection systems ordered from us by Brownhill customers. Take two services for an additional 5% off.

Please click here to book your free site survey and quote BROWNHILL.

Keep Yourself Warm This Winter – And Save Money

The clocks go back this Sunday (25th October); the good news – we’ll get an extra hour in bed that morning, the bad news – it’ll be dark at 4pm! With the darker days comes the colder weather and the annual ritual of turning on the heating.

For many, this time of year can be daunting, with high energy prices it is costly business heating our homes. A cold home can lead to many problems such as frozen pipes, it can also have health implications for its occupants. Large fluctuations in temperature can cause damp and mould to grow leading to further issues and additional costs.

We’ve put together some useful (low-cost) tips for keeping you and your home warm this winter, whilst saving yourself money:

  • Don’t leave your heating on all day. Some people believe it is possible to save money by leaving heating on all day at very low temperatures. This is not true and will not save you money, it is also a huge waste of energy.
  • Set your boiler’s timer. If you are out of the house for most of the day, set your heating to come on for a couple of hours in the morning (ideally an hour before you wake up) and four or five hours in the evening. More modern timers have the ability to set different schedules depending on the day, so you can have the heating on for longer over the weekend.
  • Set your radiator valves. You should have the ability to control each radiator in your home independently, spend a bit of time getting the temperature levels comfortable.
  • Closed doors keep heat in. If you have a living room off the hallway and your front door is made of wood, you may find you get a draft. Close your living room door during the evenings and you will notice the difference very quickly.
  • If you have gaps under external doors, consider investing in a draught excluder.
  • Put up curtains over your front door. Thick curtains really do work, especially if you have a large hallway and a wooden draughty door.
  • Close all curtains during darkness hours, to help maintain warmth in your home.
  • If you don’t have central heating, try oil heaters, they are more cost effective than electric heaters, quieter and do not create dust (like fan heaters). Once the oil is heated up the electricity turns off and the temperature is maintained for a long time.
  • A modern solution would be to use a smart thermostat such as the ones from Nest or Hive. These devices connect with your heating systems and learn your daily routines and adjust temperatures accordingly. You can also control them remotely (via a Smartphone) to set your heating to be ready for you when you arrive home.
  • Loft installation is possible the greatest heat saver. Some energy companies may give discounts or even fit for free, so make sure you call them before starting any work.

Make Sure You Are Covered

Winter in Britain brings with it many headaches. If you do find yourself falling victim to the cold season, make sure you have the correct insurance cover in place to help you get back on your feet. Brownhill Insurance Group can help you cover against:

  • Frozen and burst pipes
  • Escape of water
  • Storm damage

To discuss your needs, please call us on 020 8658 4334.

Winter MOT

Looking after your home is important all year round but during the winter months, a small problem can soon turn into a major issue. Here are a few things to consider checking around the house before the winter arrives:

  • Loose tiles – Check your roof for any loose tiles that may fall off during a storm. Falling tiles could cause damage to cars parked near your property, garden furniture or worse.
  • Gutters – Getting your gutters cleaned of any build up such as autumn leaves can prevent leaks and overflowing.
  • Drains – Clearing leaves from around drains can prevent flooding around your property.

Brownhill Insurance Group are a leading independent insurance Broker based in Kent.

The Summer BBQ – Top tips to Staying Safe

During the short British summer, we all enjoy nothing more than gathering friends and family for a joyful weekend afternoon barbecue. Proving our cooking skills in the garden earns us a certain type of credibility amongst guests that cannot be garnered elsewhere.

First we venture to the supermarket for the food where we always buy too much. Next comes the marinating of the meats, dicing of the vegetables and ensuring there are enough napkins leftover from the last barbecue. Then finally, after all the preparation, the guests arrive, we throw on the apron, ignite the coals and away we go!

This same scenario will unfold millions of times this summer across Britain, each time a different experience and most times without a hitch. But unfortunately sometimes things won’t go to plan. Across 2013 and 2014 there were over 100,000 outdoor fires that required the call out of the fire brigade. Although not all of these were a result of barbecues, it is important to remember the risks that our summer cooking fun can bring.

Here are our top tips to staying safe this Summer with your BBQ:

  • Keep your barbecues away from flammable garden furniture such as wooden or plastic chairs,
  • Move your barbecue away from sheds, fences, overhanging branches and foliage,
  • Never leave a barbecue unattended,
  • Never let children too close to the barbecue,
  • Use only recognised firelighters or starter fuels on charcoal barbecues,
  • If you’re a gas barbecue user, ensure the tap is off before changing the cylinder.

Fire Safety in the Home

Did you know, you are 4 times more likely to die in a house fire if you do not have a working smoke alarm?

We’ve put together some top tips to help keep you and your family safe.

      • Test your smoke alarms regularly. A faulty smoke alarm is as good as no smoke alarm!
        Top Tip – Set a monthly reminder on your phone.

        Test Smoke Alarm – It could save your life!

Fire-Safety-in-the-Home-Reminders

    • Ensure you have a minimum of 1 smoke alarms on each level of your property.
    • Plan an escape route for your entire family. Knowing which exit to take in the event of a fire will give you valuable seconds to get out.
    • Never leave cooking unattended in the kitchen.
    • Never overload plug sockets. You may not realise that even if you only use the allocated amount of sockets on a extension lead, you could still be overloading that socket.

      Is your extension lead overloaded? Use the socket overload calculator below to find out.

  • Each year up to 50% of house fires are caused from cigarettes. Put them out and dispose of them safely.

The Socket Calculator has been brought to you by Electrical Safety First.

For more safety information visit http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk