Keeping Your Affairs in Order from Afar

Home Security Checklist during Vacation

Summer is here!  For you, this could mean that bags will soon be packed, and that you and your family will be excitedly heading for glistening waterways like Glimmerglass or for attractive places of amusement and learning similar to what we have here in Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, leaving home for long periods of time is a risk – there are some who may be looking out for a temporarily empty nest to encroach upon, or a technical time-bomb could erupt.  Both could leave you disadvantaged in various ways, depending on your homeowners policy, and both could also reverse the intended effects of vacationing.  

We want you to be protected from these catastrophes and to also be reassured that they won’t occur so that you can have fun and find some relief in relaxation.  Prepare yourself for a carefree summer holiday with the help of our home-security checklist!  In general, it is a good idea to leave your house looking as though it were still being lived in, but to also safeguard your possessions and have an emergency plan in the event that something goes wrong.


  • Ask a neighbor or a friend for assistance.  
  • Give your neighbor/friend keys, alarm codes, emergency phone numbers, directions for taking care of plants, pets, the house, or yard, directions for a plan for emergencies, and directions for where to bring mail.
  • Let local law enforcement know of your plans to leave and of your house-sitter if you plan to leave for more than a week, and if you live in a small community or you know a police officer.  They may be able to look out for your home in particular while you are away.  
  • Contact your credit card and home security companies and let them know you will be away so they know how to interpret what may be different card or alarm activities.  Update your security system with your neighbor’s or friend’s contact information for the time being.
  • Within 30 days of or by 3am ET on the day of your departure, you can go online to hold your mail at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/ unless you want a friend or neighbor to collect it during your time away.
  • Contact your homeowners insurance provider to go over your policy and make sure that it is updated.


  • Turn appliances off.  Unplug some of them to protect from potential fires.
  • Don’t leave any one light on continuously.  A light switch timer can keep your home looking-lived in if it turns lights on and off at different intervals that can even match your typical routines, but leaving one or two lights on for the duration of your outing can really raise the electric bill.  A TV timer could provide the same service.  
  • Turn off water valves.  If take a vacation in the winter, you may want to leave them on and have your neighbor or friend occasionally run water to make sure the pipes do not freeze and break.  If this might be the case, show them where they can turn off the water valves.
  • Turn off gas.  
  • Acclimate the thermostat to the seasonal temperature, but make sure it is livable for your pets and plants, and that it won’t damage your possessions and tools.  
  • Raise the temperature in your fridge to prevent blowing a circuit and to save energy.
  • Clean out your fridge and dispose of any food that could go bad in the time that you are away.  Take out your trash.  Clean your sink and anything that could attract animals or start growing mold.  Clean your garbage disposal with half a cup of vinegar and water.
  • Lock all doors and windows, including cat/dog flaps.  
  • Leave your curtains as open as you would if you were still at home, but relocate any valuables out of direct sight and even into your safety deposit box at your bank or another secure place in your home.  Also lock up or safely store your computerware and important documents.
  • Shorten the length of the ring on your landline, and do not update your answering machine with the news that you will be away on vacation.  Similarly, do not post your absence on social media.  
  • Park your car inside your garage, unless it is going with you on your trip.  Also clear it of any tools that could be used to help break into your house.
  • Check and update your smoke detectors.  



  • Ask your friend/neighbor to park their car in your driveway every once in awhile. 
  • Before you leave, mow your lawn, or enlist help to attend to it in your absence.  
  • Put all toys and yard supplies away, especially tools that people could use to get into your house with.  
  • Relocate any spare keys.
  • Request that your neighbor might move your trash bins to the curb and back on garbage day, even if there isn’t anything in them.
  • Put a bar across or deadbolt any glass or screen sliding doors.
  • Lock all sheds and turn off the power to the garage door.  
  • Install a motion-sensitive light outside.  

Did we miss something?  Would you like to clarify or update your policy?  Give us a call!  Our Cooperstown office phone number is 607-547-2951, and you can reach our office at Morris at 607-263-5170.  Also feel free to email us at agent@bierizinsurance.com or agent@morrisinsuranceny.com.  Happy travels!

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5 Things to Consider When Buying Boat Insurance

We understand that, with summer right around the corner and water temperatures sure to be rising, you want to get back out on that water fast.  While the draws of Glimmerglass and other bodies of water are many, your safety is nothing to be hasty about, and so here we provide 5 things to consider when buying boat insurance.  

  1. Your Boat is Not Covered by your Auto & Homeowners Insurance Policies
  • Auto & Homeowners Policies Limitations
    • While your auto insurance will cover your boat when you are traveling with it attached to your vehicle on land, it does not cover your boat when it is in the water.  
    • Similarly, your homeowners insurance will cover your boat for damage done to it while it is on your property, but, when your boat is on the water, it will usually only cover a small boat or at most; a boat with a small engine in certain waterways.  It also often does not cover for salvage work, wreck removal, and pollution or environmental damage.
  • Similarities with the Other Policies:
    • As with homeowners insurance, your boat insurance covers you for injury to others while they are on your boat, and it also offers you replacement cost or cash value in the event of damages.  
    • Like your auto insurance, your boat insurance covers you for your boat’s damage to others and others’ boats and docks, as well as for the damage done to your own boat by others’ or the environment.  Furthermore, it can be additionally protected against its theft or theft of contents (often specialty gear), against vandalism, fires and floods.  It can also cover you for towing and while you are outside of the US.
  • Differences from the Auto & Homeowners Policies:
    • Unlike these two other policies, your boat insurance policy can be suspended while your boat is not in use, which can save you some money.
    • Your boat insurance policy also covers you for permanently attached items like motors, oars, anchors, and navigational equipment.


  1. Pick the Right Agent (Check with our Team at the Bieritz Agency and Morris Insurance)
  • It is never fun to suffer a loss and then be pressed into haggling over discrepancies in the insurance policy, so it is wise to put the effort in upfront by locating the right agent for you, and thoroughly discussing your needs with them.  
  • Make sure they are familiar with boats and boating.
  • Make sure they are connected with well-respected marine insurer companies.
  • Make sure they are providing you with advice that is reasonable and applicable to you and your boating needs.
  1. Factors that Affect Policy Cost
    • Where you Plan to Boat:
      • Inland or coastal
      • Freshwater ($) or saltwater ($$$)
      • In-country or out-of-country
      • Specific locations out-of-country
    • Storm Plan
      • In the event of a strong storm, whether or not you decide to have your boat stored in a secure facility or towed to a safer locale could affect your policy price.  If you want to be covered for damage done during a storm, you must follow the plan.
    • Agency
      • You can bundle your policies and get discounts if you buy your boat insurance from the same insurance company that holds your auto and homeowners policies.


  • Type of Boat


  • Suspension
    • During the off-season (or times of the year when your boat is not being used), you can suspend your policy and reduce your costs.
  • Things that may Qualify for Discounts:
    • Taking a boating class or previous training and certification in classes
    • Good driving and boating record
    • Safety equipment and fixtures
  1. Agreed vs. Market/Actual Cash Value
  • Like cars, your boat suffers a decrease in the amount of money it is worth as soon as you put it on the water, and it continues to decrease with time.  
  • When you agree on a policy with your agent, you can decide whether, in the event of your boat being partially or completely destroyed, you want to be reimbursed to an “agreed value” or a “market/actual cash value.”  
  • Agreed value is what you and your agent decide the boat’s worth is at the time of purchasing insurance for it.  
  • It tends to cost more than market/actual cash value, which is the value of the boat in its “lifespan” at the time of the incident.  
  • While you might get more money back for damages with agreed value, insurers may push for actual cash value, which could offer you savings at the time of purchasing the policy.  


  1. Whether or not you feel your craft should be insured, it might be a good idea to buy a minimum liability coverage worth at least $500,000.  


Accidents happen, and it is always helpful to have something to fall back on!  If you are looking for information about insuring your boat, give our team a call at either of our offices in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170.  


Be safe and enjoy the water!

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Flood Safety

Spring is here and with the season’s change comes the rain.  It seems that we have had a good deal of precipitation just over the last two weeks in our region – and if you are looking at our local rivers and streams, we are noticing that the water is running fast and high.  Floods happen everywhere – they are not relegated to specific regions like tornadoes or hurricanes.  Our area has certainly had more than a few years over this last decade where flooding has been severe.  For safety, please keep an ear out for warnings and follow the safety suggestions below!


  • Flood insurance often takes up to 30 days to go into effect, so if you are in need of a rider, you need to plan for this well in advance.  Our team can provide you with additional information and details on how flood insurance works.
  • Prepare for emergency situations with your family.  Hold a meeting and talk about what needs to be done in case of a flood, have a plan for communications in case people are at work or at school, and don’t forget about your pets.
  • Make up several emergency kits and keep one at your office, your home and your family vehicles.  If you don’t know what should be in your emergency kit, you can find information here: https://www.ready.gov/kit
  • Be aware of flood warnings and move to higher ground.  If you are advised to evacuate, please do so.  If you are already on higher ground, be prepared to stay there until it is safe to travel.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • Never drive or walk through flooded streets.


Find more details on what to do before, during and after a flood at http://www.susquehannafloodforecasting.org/before-during-after.html


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Area Classic Car Events 2017

As the weather begins to warm up throughout the spring months, our thoughts begin to turn to our summer pastimes and hobbies.  For classic car enthusiasts, this means getting ready to hit the road to attend regional car shows or taking your own classic car out of storage to show her off to fans.  


If you are looking for shows coming up in our region of Central NY, we have listed a few of them below.  If you are looking for additional events, you can increase your radius and find shows coming up this spring/summer/fall (in Rheinbeck, NY, the Albany Region and the Finger Lakes Region).  


Do you own a classic car? Or maybe you are considering buying one?  If so, give our team a call for a quote!  We work with over 20 different companies and can help tailor your policy to fit your needs and your budget.  Contact Bieritz Agency in Cooperstown at 547-2951 or Morris Insurance in Morris at 607-263-5170.


2017 Classic Car Events


This Model T Ford at the Northeast Classic Car Museum is used for photo opps! You can touch it and sit in it and have your picture taken!

Year Round/Daily, Northeast Classic Car Museum – 9am-5pm, Norwich, NY

If you are a classic car enthusiast and you have not yet been to the Northeast Classic Car Museum, you are missing out on a real treat.  The museum boasts over 160 classic and vintage vehicles on display in 5 connected, climate-controlled buildings.  Exhibits include the Fabulous Franklins, Cars Made in New York State, the Post-War collection and more.  Visitors are also treated to original videos, WWI & WWII aircraft engines, period fashions, and much more. Well worth the visit!


May 27 and 28, 57th Annual Antique Auto Show and Flea Market – 8am-5pm, Norwich, NY

Join the Rolling Antiquer’s Old Car Club, AACA at the Chenango County Fairgrounds for this fun weekend event.  Daily admission is $5 per person; Children under 12 are free.  Saturday will feature muscle cars; Sunday features Antique Autos;  


June 24, Classic/Exotic Car Show- 10am-4pm, Windham, NY

Windstar Realty Group is proud to announce that they will be producing a Classic/Exotic Car Show at Windham Mountain Resort to benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The event, which will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2017, is expected to draw classic car enthusiasts from across the country with over 1,000 classic and new exotic vehicles on display.


August 6, 36th Annual Car Show – 9am-4pm, Richfield Springs, NY

Richfield Springs Lions Club will be hosting their 36th Annual Car Show on Sunday, August 6, 2017 in Spring Park on Route 20.  Gates open at 9am and close at 4pm.  Driver’s choice voting ends at 2pm.  Entertainment, Raffles, Trophy Presentation (3pm) – Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles are all welcomed.  Registration is $9 at the door or $7 in advance.


October 7, Morgan Concours d’Elegance and Car Show – Time TBA, Springfield, NY

Hyde Hall Historic Site at the north end of Otsego Lake will be hosting a gathering of prestigious Morgan Cars. Food drink and fabulous British custom cars!

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When (and When Not) to File a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

Knowing when and when not to file an insurance claim is one of the tricks of the trade for someone trying to manage the costs of damage to one’s property or house.  Every insurance agency has different regulations for what makes a valid claim, as well as for what policy modifications are necessary after a claim has been made.  Often, insurance rates are raised.  Based on the circumstances of the claim and of a homeowner’s claim history, policies can even be cancelled and a client can earn a reputation in the field that makes other providers refuse them or offer unaffordable policies.  Therefore, it is helpful to know generally when and when NOT to file a claim for property damage.  

Don’t file a claim…

  • If you can handle paying for the damages yourself because
    the cost to repair damage is only a few hundred dollars more than your deductible (some will recommend that you choose the highest deductible rate as you can handle).
  • If it would make your second claim in the past 3 years, or the 3rd or 4th claim in the past 10 years.   
  • If the event causing damage or the item damaged is not covered by the policy.  (It could still be written down in your history as a claim.)
  • If the damage should have been reported and claimed sooner, and has only gotten worse since then.  Providers will be reluctant to pay for it it.  


File a claim…

  • When your property has suffered major damage.
  • When the cost of repairing damage is far beyond your means.
  • When the last time you filed a claim it was because the cause of the damage was different from the present cause of damage (ex.: it was burglary before and now it’s weather)
  • As soon as possible after damage has occurred to keep your property insurance-worthy.  Again, insurance providers will be reluctant to cover damage if damages have been steadily getting worse over the years (ex.: mold, rot).
  • When the damage was done by weather or other similar catastrophes (most insurers don’t raise rates for those types of claims).


If you are still unsure about when it is best to file a claim, look for help!  Your policy is a good place to start, although you may need some help interpreting what it means.  You can always contact our offices for guidance.  We offer two convenient locations: Bieritz Insura
nce Agency in Cooperstown, NY and Morris Insurance Agency in Morris, NY, and we pride ourselves on great customer service.

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Snowmobiling Safety Resources

snowmobiling safety resourcesSnowmobiling is fun, but it doesn’t come without potential risks.  The ability to take a snowmobile for an exhilarating and challenging ride sometimes far away from civilization and in freezing temperatures comes with the responsibility of making sure you know how to operate it, of knowing the area you’re riding in, and of knowing what to do should things go wrong.  Learning regulations, precautions, and other safety tips helps to ensure that the risks of riding don’t become reality.  Although reading about them can feel like a chore, having them behind you gives you a confidence that can boost enjoyment of the activity altogether.  

The following are resources about snowmobiling safety that cover many of the ways you can exert more control over your ride, and through that, gain the freedom and fun that you might have sought in the first place.

  • SnowmobileCourse.com www.snowmobilecourse.com/usa/newyork/snowmobile-laws.aspx
    A short highlight of laws and regulations mostly regarding age, one exception to them, and a brief reminder of safety practices.  This site also includes links to more detailed information about the laws and regulations of snowmobiling, links to more information about Fresh Air Educators Inc.’s New York State Approved Snowmobile Safety Course, as well as to more information about how to obtain the required snowmobiling safety certificate.

  • International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) www.snowmobile.org/snowmobiling-safety.html
    A longer and more detailed cautionary that covers alcohol use, awareness one’s own abilities and limits as well as that of their machine, snowmobiling gear and other ways of dressing for the weather, hypothermia, respecting others’ property, knowing the route and informing others about the plan, driving over ice, and driving in the dark.  It also included a Safe Riders! pledge to riding safely, as well as links to ordering safety brochures and to a test.  Lastly, the site described their Safe Riders! Snowmobile Safety Awareness Program, and offered a link at the bottom of the page in a picture to beginning it.

  • SnowTracks
    Another longer and detailed cautionary article that opens with ultimately asking riders to prioritize safety while driving.  It continues with a cautionary about different conditions to be on the lookout for, such as thin ice and hidden obstacles beneath snow, and then it strongly deters against mixing alcohol and snowmobiling.  It also details what to do if the vehicle breaks through the ice, and then advises on keeping a repair kit for the machine, along with other maintenance necessities.  It finally addresses the environment, and talks about how to respect it and adapt to it, as well as how to determine risk to oneself from it.  

Freedom on the snow comes with the responsibility of investing in caring for oneself, one’s mode of travel, and one’s surroundings.  Doing so grants us more security that fun is all that is had on snowmobile outings.

If you are looking for information about insuring your snowmobile, give our team a call at either of our offices in Cooperstown at 607-547-2951 or in Morris at 607-263-5170.  Be safe and enjoy the snow!


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What to do After an Auto Accident

No matter how careful we are as drivers, car accidents are a fact of life: millions occur in the United States each year.  As such, it is important to be prepared for them, even as we do our best to avoid them while behind the wheel.  

car-accident-1660670_640Stock your car with…

  • Safety Tools: carry cones, flares, and warning triangles to warn traffic, a phone for calling for help, a flashlight for night light, and a first aid kit.
  • Emergency Information: carry a list of contact numbers, documents with information about any particular medical conditions that are pertinent for you and your family, insurance cards to exchange, and instructions about what to do after an accident.
  • Recording Tools: carry pen, paper, and a disposable camera to collect information and to record what happened.

Stock your brain with…

  • Appropriate Medical Knowledge: know how and when to use a first aid kit, and understand that it might take time for injuries to present themselves.  Call an ambulance when in doubt about the extent of your own or another person’s injuries.  A loss of consciousness can indicate a concussion or a closed head injury.  A person who is unconscious or who has neck/back pains should never be moved unless there is a more pressing threat to their safety – and only then, by supporting their neck and back or moving them as little as possible.
  • Insurance Information: know your coverage in regards to towing and renting cars.
  • Instructions about what to do after an accident.

Your priority should be health and safety.  ⅕ car accidents lead to death.  Don’t leave the scene.  Breathe and try to be calm.  Once you are aware of your own injuries and you are able to, check on your passengers.  Check on the other drivers and passengers.  Set up cones, flares, and warning triangles to avoid further collisions.  Move vehicles out of traffic, and if you can’t, remain inside of them with seatbelts fastened and the emergency lights on.  Always call the police.  Call an ambulance if you are unsure about your own or anyone else’s injuries.  

Most car accidents only involve property damage.  There are many legal and insurance matters to take care of in this respect, even while still on the scene.  

While still on the scene…

  • Talking to the Police: Don’t apologize or say the accident was your fault.  State only what you are certain of and tell the officers if you don’t know something.  Don’t make guesses.  Ask the officer for their name and badge number so that you can retrieve their report later for your insurance company.  You must get your report from the state police if the accident took place on a highway.  Make sure the statements of other passengers and drivers are factual as well.
  • Collecting Information: Record the situation – the date and time of your accident, the specific location where it occurred including road names and landmarks, the speed limit of that road, the direction of travel of you and other drivers at the time of the accident, the visibility and weather conditions during your accident, as well as any road hazards.  Take pictures of damages to your car and document all injuries.  Ask all drivers and passengers what they saw, and get their names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information.  If the driver’s name is different from that of the person listed on the insurance information, establish the relationship and take down that person’s information if they aren’t already a passenger in the car.  Ask any witnesses what they saw and if they know of any other accidents happening in the same place, and also collect their names, phone numbers, addresses, and how they are connected to the area (residents, workers, passersby).  
  • Don’t Decide who will Pay for Damages: Even if the accident is minor, injuries can present themselves after some days and weeks have passed, and thus the amount needed to pay could be a lot more than expected.

Soon after leaving the scene…

  • Obtain the Police Report: If it comes to it, it can help you prove fault.
  • File a State Vehicle Accident Report: They are available at police stations and on the DMV website.  They help insurance companies speed up the claims process.
  • Call your Insurance Agent:  Tell them what happened and what the damages and injuries are, and go over the police report with them.  
  • Get a Property Damage Valuation: This will be available through your insurance company.  Before and after photos of your vehicle are helpful for this.  
  • Call an Attorney: They may be able to help you get a proper damage valuation as well.  They will protect your rights and make sure that evidence is not destroyed.  It may do well to consult them before giving statements to insurance companies.  Also consult them before signing settlement contracts.  Don’t settle too early.  Don’t tell any attorney or insurance agent other than your own about the situation.  If someone else calls, refer them to your attorney or your insurance agent and ask them to arrange an interview.  Let your attorney and insurance agent know that someone called you.  
  • Keep Track of Your Health Care: Make a list of all the health care providers you’ve visited and all of the resulting expenses.

Car accidents happen.  No matter how much or how little personal or property damage is involved, the process for claims and settlement takes time.  Knowing what to expect and having guidance for what to do in these situations can relieve some of the panic and help avoid consequences of being unaware.  If you have any questions, our team at Bieritz is here to help!  Contact us in Cooperstown at 209 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326 (607) 547-2951 or in Morris at 128 Main Street, Morris, NY 13808 (607) 263-5170.



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Driving Safely in the Fall and Winter Months

The wet and snowy road conditions characteristic of the fall and winter months in the north are driving hazards that can cause skidding (sliding) and hydroplaning (in which a car drives on top of water).  Luckily, there are plenty of ways to avoid incidents such as these in the present and coming months:



  • First of all, eliminate distractions in order to focus.  Phones should be silenced, turned off, or stored away where they can’t be reached so attention can be devoted to the road.  You are allowed to ask passengers to silence their own devices if they are distracting you as well.  It may also be helpful to set up a 5 minute quiet time at the start of your journeys before turning on music or talking in order to get a feel for the road conditions and how you might need to drive that day.


  • Prepare your car for the season.  Lots of fall rain and winter snow requires effective wiper blades for on-road awareness.  It also requires tires with effective grip.  Worn-down tires are more at-risk for hydroplaning over wet leaves, and they won’t be able to guide the car out of trouble as easily as tires with good grip.  Furthermore, whereas regular tires in the winter cold become stiff and more breakable, snow tires are made out of softer rubber that can better adjust to the surface of the road.  They also have special grips that latch onto snow and ice on the road, decreasing the likelihood of skidding and providing more traction in guiding the car out of it.  
  • Drive slowly this season, slower than you would in the warm and dry months.  Drive slowly through puddles, if they can’t be avoided, and over wet leaves to prevent hydroplaning.  Do the same through snowfall; on hills, shifting into a lower gear can help the car stay attached to the road, and thus prevent skidding.  Additionally, approach overpasses, bridges, shady areas, and curves with caution.  The first three may be more at-risk for morning freezes, while curves are often places that people find themselves driving too fast.  Rain and snow can make these situations more dangerous.
  • Maintain a safe distance from the cars ahead of you in order to allow yourself enough braking time and to minimize potential damage.
  • If snowfall or leaves cover road lines, do your best to stay aware of and within them.
  • Brake gently to avoid hydroplaning and skidding.
  • If rain or snowfall makes you uncomfortable, pull over onto the side of the road in a safe location, turn on your emergency lights, and wait until the rain or snow passes or until you feel you can drive confidently again.  
  • Lastly, in the event of skidding or hydroplaning, try to remain calm.  Do not touch the gas or the brake, but steer gently in the direction you want to go.  If your rear wheels are sliding, steer to the right or the left depending on where they are sliding, and then straighten the wheel when the car itself straightens on the path you want to take.  Once you regain better control of direction, gently brake if the front wheels have been sliding, or gently accelerate if the back wheels are the culprits.  This is for the purpose of redistributing the weight of the car to the wheels that have been skidding in order to return some of their traction.

Driving always comes with some hazards, but in the northern hemisphere, there may be more times in the fall and winter that require particular caution.  Do your best to stay aware of road conditions and drive as they demand of you.  Make sure you are comfortable, focused, and prepared to take on the road and its hazards.  In this way you can do your best to maintain your own safety, that of other drivers, and that of each your own passengers.  


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Entrepreneurship and Your Business Insurance

From the Insurance Information Institute:

The i’s on Insurance: [Not So Risky] Business

Being an entrepreneur makes you the boss! But along with getting to choose your own hours, location, and business plan, it also means that you’re responsible for a lot of other things, like commercial business insurance. There’s a lot more to business insurance than getting the lowest business insurance quotes. It means understanding your business’s unique needs and the potential hazards that can threaten its success.

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The Importance of Maintaining Your Chimney

chimneyThe Fall Season has officially arrived in our area with the first frost (last night) and the cooler temperatures means that it’s time to start using our fireplaces and wood-burning stoves to help warm a room or to take a bit of the chill out of the air.  Before you begin to use these, however, it is recommended to inspect and clean them to make sure they are safe to operate.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, this should be done at least once a year, usually in the fall months.

A chimney inspection will check for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances.  Even if you don’t use your chimney often, there may be nesting materials from animals or other types of deterioration that make the chimney unsafe to use.  A chimney sweep will clear out any sooty buildup in the chimney (1/8″ can be enough to cause a chimney fire that could damage the chimney or spread to the home), and will typically also include cleaning of the chimney flue and smoke chamber.  Sooty deposits are also very acidic and can shorten the life of your fireplace and chimney.

Over time, chimneys may become clogged with creosote, a by-product of burning wood.  This builds up over time and leaves a highly combustible glazed coating on the inside of the chimney.  Creosote build up is often caused by poor air supply, so your regular chimney cleaning helps to prevent creosote formation as well.  Chimneys with poor air flow can also cause the buildup of carbon monoxide in your home.  At low levels, carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting, and at high levels, it can be deadly.
When a chimney is not cleaned regularly, there is the chance that soot will accumulate around the flue which inhibits the ability to draw smoke up the chimney and instead causes smoke to enter the room.  A black film around your fireplace, or on nearby furniture, carpeting or decorations, this indicates that your chimney is not working properly.

fireplaceIn addition to annual maintenance, we encourage our families, friends, and clients to always use safe fireplace practices:

  • use appropriate fuel for your fires;
  • use fireplace screens to protect nearby areas and provide a reliable barrier from embers;
  • maintain a safe zone of 36 inches or more around your fireplace or stove;
  • never leave a fire unattended
  • install monitoring equipment for smoke and carbon monoxide

Taking these steps help to protect your family and your home.  If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance and chimney fires, please contact our team at Bieritz Insurance Agency – located Cooperstown at 547-2951 and in Morris at 263-5170.

For additional information, click on over to our article on Fireplace Safety.



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Your Old Home can be a Smart Home

nestJust because you have an older home doesn’t mean you can’t make it into a smart home.  Many new home constructions are integrating smart home technologies into design, but even if you have an older home, there are systems you can implement in your home to manage systems that address security, locks, lighting, and heating/cooling.  Making your home a “smart home” can help save energy, time and expense and you might be surprised to find that installing some of these smart features can be affordable and can be done yourself!


Home security  

High definition security cameras are contained within an outdoor smart light and are placed at your home’s entry areas (plugged into your existing power so you don’t need to worry about battery replacement).  They detect activity outside your home and send you a mobile alert. From your phone app (from anywhere), you can adjust the lighting, view the camera feed, talk with a delivery person via 2 way intercom or activate a pre-recorded message or a siren.  


Smart Locks

Many smart locks for your home entry come with keypads as well as integrated ID with your smart phone that recognizes you as you approach and unlocks your door for you.  You can add and remove access codes for guests as needed. Some systems also have random numbers that will generate prior to use of your PIN to assure that any visible wear on the system keypad is evenly spread across numbers.


Smart Lighting

Lighting systems for inside your home typically include a wireless system and specialized light bulbs that allow you to customize your lighting needs – turning off lights when you leave your home, turning on lights when you are arriving home, adjusting lighting remotely when you are on vacation.  Some smart systems detect when you are in a room and when you leave and will adjust accordingly as well.  


Heating and Cooling

A smart thermostat for your home learns your preferences and habits, automatically warming your home when you get up in the morning and cooling your home in the evening while you sleep.  These systems typically will automatically adjust for seasonal changes and will provide your with reports about your energy savings (reports estimate a 10-15% savings on energy costs).  They can be integrated into older homes, but if you have lathe-and-plaster walls, you may want to hire a professional installer.  


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Dog Days of Summer – Keeping your home cooler on a budget

August is typically the hottest month of the year here in the Central New York region, and perhaps the only month that we struggle with trying to keep our homes a bit cooler.  In many cases it doesn’t make sense to install air conditioning for the short period of time that it might be needed.  Considering the small window of time that they are used, air conditioners can significantly increase your electricity costs.  If you find yourself on a budget but still needing to make your home more comfortable during the heat of the season, these ideas may be helpful to you!

  • One of the easiest things you can do is to keep your blinds and curtains closed, especially during the hottest parts of the day.  This one thing can help to keep your home about 20 degrees cooler.  
  • Allow cool air to freely circulate inside your home.  Open up doors between rooms, especially during the cooler nighttime hours. Opening your windows at night will also help to cool your house down.  
  • Consider using your outdoor grill instead of heating your kitchen with your oven and stovetop, and drink plenty of cool beverages to keep your body temperature down.  
  • Run your ceiling fans counter clockwise to draw warm air up to the ceiling and allow cooler air to flow back down to your floors where you spend your time.  You can also run your exhaust fan for a period of time in your bathrooms to help pull warmer air out of the house.  
  • Changing out your bed linens to lightweight cotton will also help to keep you more comfortable during hot weather.   
  • Try switching out your incandescent light bulbs which throw a lot of heat for cooler fluorescent CFL’s.  
  • And if all else fails, don’t forget the fan!  A small breeze can help you feel more comfortable, especially if you use a mister to slightly dampen your skin so that the fan evaporates the moisture and makes you feel cooler.  


For a few additional ideas and tips, check out the video below from PG&E

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Backyard Fire Pit Safety

camping-700215_1280Outdoor fire pits have become an increasingly popular outdoor home accessory.   If you have a fire pit or are considering adding one to your yard, here are a few things you should think about for safety.


  1. Check with your local building codes officer to determine if there is a legal minimum distance for placement of your fire pit from any built structures on your property (your home, sheds, etc.).
  2. Typically you want to place your fire pit in an open area with seating arranged with plenty of space for guests to maneuver around the fire without coming too close.
  3. There should be good ventilation around the fire pit as well.



  1. Use seasoned hard woods like oak or maple for your fires as softer woods (pines and cedars) have a greater tendency to pop and splinter when burned and can cause burning embers to fly.
  2. Start your fire with kindling only and avoid using lighter fluids of any kind in your fire pit.
  3. Use a screen to cover your fire pit to keep any stray embers from flying out.
  4. Never leave a fire pit unattended and keep a careful eye on children when the fire pit is in use.
  5. Don’t allow blankets or loose flammable clothing (nylons) near the fire pit.
  6. Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby to fully extinguish the fire when you are done (or use a garden host set for a wide gentle spray), and allow coals to fully cool for 24 hrs. before disposal.



  1. Check with your insurance company to find out if your policy holder requires you to declare use of a fire pit at your home.

If you should have any questions about your insurance, please feel free to contact our team at Bieritz Agency in Cooperstown (607) 547-2951 or Morris Insurance in Morris at (607) 263-5170.  We are happy to help you!


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Travel and Rental Car Insurance

Do you need to purchase extra Rental Car Insurance on your trip?

businessman-805880_640Summer vacation travel season is here!  If you are planning on heading out of town and using a rental car for your trip, you might find some of the information here helpful.  

Typically, when you are renting a car while on a personal vacation, your regular auto insurance policy will cover you for most of your needs. If you are traveling for business, your personal auto policy will not cover damage if you are renting for a business trip.  If you have insurance for auto, renter or homeowner, you are likely already covered for liability, personal accident and personal effects coverage.  The only coverage you might consider adding is additional collision damage insurance for a rental car.  You can purchase this coverage to also include loss of use charges should a vehicle need to be repaired after an incident.  This coverage can often be purchased through your private insurance provider for a minimal daily charge – far less than the upsell through a car rental agency.

If you are not covered by a private policy, you may be able to add rental car coverage through your major credit card account.  Check with Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express through the phone numbers on the back of your cards.  To receive the coverage through a credit card company, you must charge the entire rental on the credit card and decline the supplemental collision damage coverage offered by the rental company. It is important to note that you can’t have both.  Coverage through the credit card company may have additional restrictions based on the length of the rental term, the type of vehicle you are renting, or what country you are renting from.  

Another option is to purchase special travel insurance for your trip, to help cover your trip investment.  Travel insurance helps to cover your trip investment if you have flight cancellations due to illness, injuries, weather incidents or other travel related issues.  It can help you replace lost baggage, theft of property, tour operator bankruptcy, and more.   Travel insurance also has the option for adding collision coverage for a rental vehicle as part of your vacation insurance package.

What rental car insurance can do is protect you from a surcharge on your policy premium for a claim on an accident when driving a rental car.  It also can protect you from ‘loss of use’ charges when the rental car has to be off the road for repairs.  If you are declining additional coverage, always make sure you take the time to read the fine print on your rental contract before signing for your vehicle, and make sure that it indicates that you are declining the additional insurance.  

If you have any questions, check with our team at Bieritz Agency before your trip so we can help to advise you on what makes the most sense for you.  We offer two convenient locations in Cooperstown and Morris.

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Spring Project Ideas for your Property

house-insurance-419058_640Spring is a great time of year to look around your home and decide on areas that could use a good refresh.  Many homeowners keep a list of projects that they would like to do – now is the time to start crossing a few of those off your list!  If you don’t have a list, but want to make some updates before the summer months, here are a few ideas for some outdoor and indoor projects.  Some of these will depend on the amount of time and money you have to spend.  


For a good outdoor cleanup, consider renting a power washer on a nice sunny spring day and use it to remove dirt, debris, mold, moss and other materials from your deck or your driveway, the outside of your gutters and maybe even your siding.  

If painting is your thing, you could give a fresh coat of paint to your outdoor furniture pieces or maybe repaint your entry door or your house trim.

Landscaping work can include adding a new garden area or sprucing up an existing one.  Spring is a great time of year to clear out leaf litter between your house and your shrubs too!


You might add a new rug, buy a new piece of artwork or invest in a good furniture item, or maybe change out your window treatments to let in more sunlight.  Try slipcovers for a new look for older furniture pieces.

A change in your lighting can make a big difference as well.  If you have an older kitchen, perhaps you might like to update an old appliance or re-invigorate your kitchen cabinets with a new color.

Add a fresh coat of paint to a room or rooms.

Improvements and Your Insurance:

If you decide to do any major improvements on your home, check in with our team at Bieritz Agency to see if there is any added insurance protection you need during or following your renovations.  You may want to add big ticket items that you purchase to your contents items on your policy.    If you don’t already have a content list, check out our post from last November on Cataloging your Possessions for Insurance.

You can contact our team in Cooperstown at Bieritz Insurance Agency, 209 Main Street , Cooperstown, NY 13326 –
607-547-2951 or in Morris at Morris Insurance Agency, 128 Main Street, Morris, NY 13808 – 607-263-5170.  We are happy to help you!




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