June 2012 - Susman
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Despite All Precautions

Joe Tyler sits with his young daughter at his side with the scenery of their rural farm in Leona Valley as a backdrop. She is perhaps four years old and shy of the camera. Joe — dressed in a casual shirt and shorts — is hard to envision as a high-powered international trade analyst, the career he once pursued eighty hours a week. Joe’s wife Caroline was a similarly employed executive in another field. Together, they led a very lucrative and busy life. Shortly after the birth of their daughter, Joe and Caroline each purchased a life insurance policy to care for their newborn in the event of a tragedy. It was closer than they imagined. Caroline was diagnosed with cancer and died soon after.

The benefits of Caroline’s policy allowed Joe to raise his daughter instead of delegating her care to a nanny. He has been able to make the necessary changes to be a true parent to his child in the aftermath of this tragedy.


Road Rage

Road rage. You hear about it, you know what it is, however when is the last time you actually were involved in it? Being in the insurance industry, you can bet that I hear about road rage, its effects on driving habits, premiums for auto insurance and so on. I’m a trained professional, so I would never fall into that trap I know so much about and take it out on another driver, or would I?

I’m driving home from the office, minding my own business. The street I’m driving on begins to narrow, well it always does that after all. However today there appears to be some parties in progress. There are rows of cars parked on both sides of the street and I immediately notice no less than ten valet scurrying up and down the street picking up and dropping off cars. Being the careful, well trained vehicle operator that I am, I slow down for safety.

After a few moments, I’m at a complete halt; not really much of a choice with cars on both side of the already narrow street and people walking around and valet personnel hopping and jumping about. Soon I’m inching my way up, taking turns with cars coming down the street, I pull to the left, the car passes, I migrate up a car length while the opposing traffic does the dose-e-do with me. This is the safe, polite and in all truth only way to slowly crawl up the street and we’ve all done it before. Haven’t we?

From what appears to me as out of the blue, a car whips around the corner and I would have sworn connected its front bumper to my rear bumper. As I’m inching my way along, this car is for all intense and purposes, attached to me. After a few duck and cover operations trading space to let oncoming cars go by and then moving along myself, this car, or more accurately this driver starts honking at me. It’s a shame that a car horn only signify objects in front of you and not behind, because if I had the ability to honk back at him, I would certainly have opted to do so.

After honking at me for a solid minute give or take, I would have loved to let him pass, however alas, there is barely enough room for one car to get by let alone one car pass another. So, I do what any conscientious law abiding driver would do – I stop. Completely stop and wait for my little attached to my bumper tumor to take a few breaths and relax. Sure, in hindsight, I can see how this would probably not accomplish that at all, and in fact it didn’t. It royally pissed this guy off.

Being the uber-social fella I am, I figure if I roll down my window and wave to him, smile, perhaps make the “calm down” gesture, he will get my drift and actually, well, calm down and relax. After rolling my window down I do just that and wouldn’t you know it, I can hear him, well, saying, cursing at any rate, trying to communicate back to me. Ok, so maybe I should just keep moving then. So I keep moving up, stop, pull to the right let a car go by, go up a little more, rinse and repeat.

At long last I make it to a place where there actually is room for a car to get around me, apparently a spot a valet didn’t yet fill and my little growth takes the opportunity to speed right around me. I’m expecting “the look” or worse, so I put on my best and most friendly smile. Instead of any communication human to human, he instead pulls infront of me and slams on his breaks bringing me and all cars behind to a halt. I can’t say screeching halt, as much as that would make this sound so much more dramatic, after all we are only going a few miles an hour at best. I sigh and say to myself, ok, get it out of your system and we’ll all move on. Sure enough, after a minute or so and people behind me begin to honk, he starts moving along. All is forgotten and we’re all moving along again, same pace, just a new leader in the pack, him.

Uh oh. Now he pulls over and waits to be passed. I exhale and just drive on past, not even turning my head to engage him. Sadly, he is not ready to live and let live. Tires smoking leaps behind my car, almost hitting the car that was behind me and again re-attaches his front bumper, fugitively speaking, to my rear bumper. Now I’m spooked. I’m not going to let this dude follow me to my front door, so I take the first opportunity to turn on to a street, hoping he will pass. Nope. No dice, he turns with me.

With my luck for the day, I have turned onto a cul-de-sac and have no choice but to turn around and head back and surprise surprise he has pulled over and rolled his window down to have a little chit-chat with me. So be it. I slowly pull up, with no other option, and our two driver windows are only a foot apart. I stop and open my window.

He asks what I was doing, and although I think it was pretty self evident, I decide to give him an honest answer. I tell him I was driving carefully up the street. He says I was holding up all the traffic, and I explain to him that I was really going as fast as was physically possible and he really should just relax, it’s always better to drive and error on the side of caution. Next he wants to know why I had the “audacity” to stop in front of him. Again, I smiled and gave him an honest answer, “to give you a few seconds to calm down.” He tilts his head to the side studying me to see if I’m serious and then smiles and says, “ok, well take care and have a great day.” Not even the slightest hint of sarcasm in his voice either, oddly enough. I pay him the same respect back and we both pull away.

I notice he drives the other way, back down the street, meaning he actually was following me, at least for a while to follow me, not to get to anywhere specific in the direction I was traveling. That won’t give me too many nightmares.

At the end of all of this, I’m left in my driveway thinking it all over. What did I do wrong, where did I go wrong? Leave a comment below and you tell me who you think was in the right, or wrong.

Karl Susman, Agent

“He Was Careful About What He Did, With a Keen Attention to Detail”

Dale Geistler died in November 2003 at the age of 55 after a two-year battle with leukemia, leaving behind his wife, Diana, and four children. As a self-employed manufacturer’s representative, Dale, worked out of his home yet his effervescent personality made him a friend and colleague to many. Perhaps due to the care with which he approached life, he purchased a whole life insurance policy from his insurance agent, including a disability insurance plan. He began construction of his dream home: a log cabin in Juniper Hills, CA.

In November 2001, Dale was diagnosed with leukemia and his disability benefits became active. He and Diana were able to seek out specialized treatment secure in the knowledge that his income continued to support the household. Sadly, Dale died two years after his diagnosis. His attention to detail still serves Diana through income investments.


A Life Insurance Policy As a Legacy of Love

Young, slim and blonde Leslie Bibb looks to be as comfortable during her interview as her career as an actress would lead you to believe. From her home in Beachwood Canyon, she recalls the joy of her parents’ marriage as remembered through photographs of the couple dancing, laughing and raising four daughters. Her memories are based on the photographs as Leslie was only three years old when her 39-year old father was killed in a car accident and her expression changes for a moment to show the shock of his loss still haunts her. She quotes a wise LifeHappens adage, “The love we show while we are alive is why we live. The love we show after we are gone, allows life to continue on.”


I Stop On Red

Life’s not fair. At least, it doesn’t seem so on this end where the scales don’t always balance out. Melissa and Mark seemed to start a fairy-tale life when they first met. They married in October of 2002 and by late February of 2003, Melissa discovered to their joy that she was pregnant. Mark, a professional financial advisor and insurance agent, personally oversaw the term life insurance and variable life insurance policies with which he planned to protect his family. Living in an area similar to Country Club Park, Melissa, Mark and Melissa’s brother planned a dinner out after work. However, after a long day of work, Melissa begged off and the two men left for dinner without her. Mark died that night when someone ran a red light and crashed into the car Melissa’s brother was driving. Two weeks later, Mark and Melissa’s daughter Madison was born. Melissa continues to raise Madison and has started the Mark Wandall Foundation in honor of her husband and to minimize deaths from similar accidents.


Are my things covered during a move?

Moving is a pain, but according to the US Census, 37 million Americans did just that between 2008 and 2009. No matter how good the circumstances, no matter how great the opportunity, the process of moving all of your possessions from Point A to Point B can have you reaching for the Maalox. It’s bad enough you have to pack everything and move it. But no matter how much bubble wrap, newspaper and packing peanuts you use, something always breaks. And that’s just the things in boxes. furniture get scratched or torn, things go missing, it’s always something.

When you items are still in your old home, they’re covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. When they get to your new home, they are covered again by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. So, if you break the glass face of your grandfather clock at the old place or the new place, you can have it repaired. But what if it falls off the moving truck or the movers accidentally break it with the dolly? Is it covered?

The short answer is no. Your homeowners or renter’s policy will only cover things while they are in your home. While they are being transported, unfortunately, they have no coverage at all.

Unless, of course you take out a specific policy which covers such things.

C’mon now, you knew there had to be something out there.

There are three types of insurance you can get to cover your items while they are in transit. The type you choose depends on your personal circumstances.

  • If you hire movers and they pack for you, liability insurance is usually included in the moving fee. Ask the company you hired if the insurance is part of the moving contract, or if it is extra. Don’t use a moving company that does not offer liability insurance in case of property damage or destruction.
  • If you hire movers and you do the packing, liability insurance is usually extra, and from the moving company’s standpoint, that makes sense. If they didn’t pack the boxes, they have no way of knowing what is inside the boxes, the condition of the items in the boxes, etc. You would be surprised the number of people who put 22 dishes in one box without any protection, then are shocked when they open the box and discover shards of ceramic where their plates used to be. And if course, it’s the moving company’s fault.
  • If you’re moving yourself, ask your insurance agent if your policy covers possessions in transit. More than likely, the answer is no, but you might be able to secure special insurance for the move by paying an extra premium. Again, this varies by insurance provider, but it can’t hurt to ask.

No matter the option you choose, an itemized list of all your valuables will be required. You can’t expect a moving company to pay out on a missing or damaged Rembrandt that was hanging next to the dogs playing poker, without proof.

Southern California Fire Season is Back

An Early Fire Season Follows a Dry Winter For the State

According to Mike Rosenberg’s June 11, 2012 article, “Dry Winter Has California Nervous About Fire Season,” on the MercuryNews.com website, fire season officially began May 28th in the Bay Area when seasonal fire stations were staffed. Usually delayed until late summer to the mid-fall, this year’s highest fire risk comes at least a month earlier than usual. Craig Clements, a Fire Science Professor at San Jose State was quoted, “Everything’s already dried out. We might bet to the point in June where we would be usually in July.” Based just on one area of Cal Fire patrols, almost 1,800 brush fires have burned almost 10,400 acres as compared to last year’s figures of almost 950 fires that burned close to 6,000 acres.

A Year-Round Fire Season For Southern California?

That’s better news than what’s been repeated for half a decade in the Southern California. As early as 2007, the Los Angeles Times website was printing articles warning of a fulltime fire season in the area. In one piece, “Malibu’s Fire Season Now Year-Round,” staff writers quoted still-serving Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “We don’t have a fire season anymore. We have a year-round first season, and it has profound implications for how policymakers … are going to plan for the future, because you can no longer plan for a September-through-November fire season.”

The Formula For a Bad Fire Season

According to Professor Clements, wildfire prediction is “tricky.” Most fires start secondary to accident or negligence, although a not insignificant number are attributed to arson and lightening causes a number as well. Generally, the first part of the equation starts with dry vegetation usually from drought, although some years of above-average spring rains can incongruously produce bumper crops of potential fuel loads which dry from the combination of the hot summer months and competitive overgrowth.

Clements continues our wildfire lesson in his interview. In addition to dry fuel, high temperatures and a low humidity are necessary to set the stage with for the event, providing dry, hot fuel loads that lack sufficient moisture that might have conceivably dampened a spark enough to put the tiny fire out. Finally, wildfires that spread beyond their original area of ignition after exhausting available fuel require “gusty winds” to transport the fire and flame to new fuel and acreage. Large fires create their own weather and wind due to the enormous oxygen deficit produced by the inferno.

The Unique Stage For Malibu Fires: A Natural History

Long before Malibu became synonymous with the good life and desirable real estate, Mother Nature had devised other plans to periodically keep the area clean and well kept, at least from a natural perspective. As the website MalibuComplete.com remarks, “[f]ires in Malibu are an ancient phenomenon, part of a natural cycle of vegetation growth, drought, and fire.” The unique geography and flora of the area sets the stage for this cycle perfectly. The canyons of Malibu run north-to-south and are covered with “dry chaparral brush,” the extent and depth of which depends upon the ancient fire cycle described above. Combine the Santa Ana winds, enough available fuel, dry conditions, high temperatures and a spark or two and you have the beginning of the natural Malibu fire cycle.

Further, the details “designed” into the system all contribute to ensure that a fire of near-Biblical proportions will roll through the area every “15 to 45 years.” Chaparral is a near-perfect fire fuel: small enough to catch fire quickly, woody enough to produce a significant fire, infused with volatile oils to ensure the fire will burn long and hot enough to catch adjacent fuel on fire. The dry Santa Ana winds first gust through the area, leeching away available humidity out of the soil and plant life and then act to spread fires already ignited.

A Brief History of Modern Malibu Fires

According to the website MalibuComplete.com, the area’s “first major fire disaster” took place on October 26, 1929. While most of the Malibu Colony was obliterated, there was no reported loss of life and very few residents were even home. Reportedly, most were attending the Cal State and Stanford football game — “the state’s premier annual sports event” — in Palo Alto that evening. The stock market crashed as the residents returned to find their homes in ashes. “Luckily” for some of the newly homeless and penniless, there were no remaining structures to leap from in order to commit suicide.

The Malibu-related website provides the following list of modern fires in the area that destroyed multiple residences:

  • Malibu fire in 1956
  • Malibu fire in October 1958
  • Malibu Canyon fire in September 1970
  • Malibu fire October 1978
  • Malibu fire in 1982
  • Malibu fire in October 1985
  • November 2, 1993 Old Topanga Malibu fire
  • Malibu fire in October 1996
  • Malibu fire in January 2003
  • Malibu fire in January 2007
  • Malibu fires in October-November 2007

The Lessons of the 1993 Old Topanga Malibu Fire

The 1993 Old Topanga Malibu is of particular to note. It killed three and destroyed almost 400 houses and ancillary structures. Among the reasons cited for the enormity of the destruction included homes that did not meet the newer fire-resistant building codes, roads that fire trucks could not maneuver, uncleared brush that and water lines dating from the 1930’s that failed. Although an enormous amount of damage and loss resulted from the Old Topanga fire, reasons that allowed the fire to spread or prevented authorities from properly fighting the fires were addressed via new building codes, new road regulations, replacement of water mains and regular brush clearing, among some aspects.

A Christmas Eve Scare in 2009

Despite the regulatory and infrastructure changes mandated and put into place by the 1993 Old Topanga fire, a Christmas Eve firestorm roared through Malibu in 2009 frightening residents and bringing back memories of the infamous 1993 event. Kim Devore of The Malibu Times wrote in her article, “Deju Vu: Malibu Firestorm Brings Back Painful Memories of 1993 Fires,” of the community’s response to the fire and its potential. She quoted long-time resident Pete McKellar on the situation with the wisdom of his then 49 years in the community:

“There’s no comparison. That one started way back near the freeway so it had a chance to fuel and get rolling,” he said. “The winds were at a higher speed and more sustained. It came over the hill and in five hours 200 homes were gone. This is more protracted, but that was a real firestorm.”

Nonetheless, Las Flores Canyon was under a mandatory evacuation order on Monday, December 21 prior to Devore’s article. Subsequent news coverage indicates that damage was “minimal” in comparison to past fires and especially the 1993 inferno.

Resources for Property Owners

According to its website, “the Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center (OSCC) is the focal point for coordinating the mobilization of resources for wild land fire and other incidents” in Southern California. It provides predictive information, wildfire status information and links to many government and private resources.

Prevention Tips to Avoid Wild Fire Threats When Camping or Outdoors

According to Mike Rosenberg’s article of MercuryNews.com:

  • Don’t keep a campfire smoldering. In fact, try to avoid this option entirely. “Use portable gas stoves when cooking away from home.”
  • If you do need to use a campfire, ensure that all ashes are cool to the touch before departure.
  • Don’t toss cigarette butts out of car windows. Use your ashtray.
  • Don’t drive or park your car over a high grass or high-brush area.

According to a June 16th article in the Lake County News:

  • Equip All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), off-road vehicles and chainsaws with spark arresters.

Prevention Tips to Avoid Wild Fire Threats to Your Home and Property

According to Mike Rosenberg’s article of MercuryNews.com:

  • Be particularly careful when using power equipment, “a primary source of fires, particularly when grass is higher than normal.”
  • Avoid using a lawn mower to cut high grass.
  • Wait until mornings or cool days before beginning the chore of cutting dead grass within 100 feet of your home.
  • Keep your roof clear and clean of leaves in the event of area wildfires and floating embers.
  • Be careful when grilling out at home using charcoal. Be certain to fully extinguish flames and embers after cooking.

According to a June 16th article in the Lake County News:

  • Equip all chainsaws for around-the-home use with spark arresters.

According to a 2007 National Public Radio (NPR) transcript interview between hosts Robert Siegel, Melissa Block and Dr. Max Moritz, a fire ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley:

  • “[T]he most effective thing to consider is the wooden roof aspect, to rule that out. And we’re not seeing that as much on a new construction. The other is the venting. A lot of the new vent design looks more or less like a typical vent, but it has actually a screen over it to keep embers from getting in. Windows – double-pane windows, for example, the siding on homes and so on, these are all aspects of fire-resistant construction that need to be considered.”

According to Firewise.Org website for homeowners:

  • Trim overhanging branches;
  • Remove dead leaves from around your home and other structures;
  • Remove tall, dry grass from around the house using an electric weed eater, on a cool, humid morning;
  • Remove or trim back overgrown shrubbery with electric pruners or hand pruners;
  • Remove dead leaves from the roof and gutters;
  • Remove the lower limbs of trees to prevent a grass fire from igniting trees in the yard
  • Keep hoses, fittings, spigots and sprayers in good operating condition.

The Firewise website has a number of additional resources homeowners may find helpful, including construction tips, landscaping guides, remodeling hints and construction of fire wise homes.

Life Insurance – live forever

The human quest for immortality has led us down many roads–religion, science, exploration, meditation and just about anything else we could think of that might give us some glimmer of hope that we might manage to miss our final destination. Maybe we’re missing the obvious answer, though. Maybe we just need to buy life insurance.

Have you ever walked around downtown in a major city? The next time you do, look up at some of those big, beautiful, expensive buildings. Notice the names on them. You’ll see a common theme, with names like Prudential, AIG and Kemper appearing on some of the biggest. Insurance companies can’t build modern day palaces like that if they’re losing money. Since the idea behind life insurance is that you pay the insurance company until you die, then they pay your family the only way for the insurance companies to be making so much money is for the insured to be staying alive, right?

Oh sure, you could make the argument that the insurance companies just charge more to offset the cost of paying out death benefits, but the fact is that life insurance rates have actually been coming down over the last several years according to an article in USA Today. Perhaps a better argument is that people are living longer, meaning that insurance companies get to collect your premiums for a few more years before they have to pay up.

But maybe there is a link between owning life insurance and living longer. A life insurance company will use a number of factors to set your premium amount. An article on CNN.com explains that insurance companies will look at your health, lifestyle, occupation, family history and more, basically with the goal of determining exactly how likely you are to die at a young age. Really, if you want to know when you’re going to die, don’t talk to a fortune teller; talk to an insurance adjuster–they’re far more accurate. Anyway, the more likely you are to die young, as determined by the insurance adjuster, the higher your premiums will be. The logical conclusion would be that if you were really likely to die soon, your premiums would be so high that you couldn’t afford them. Therefore, the fact that you can afford life insurance might mean that you are not very likely to die soon. And if you can still afford your life insurance 50 or 100 years from now–so be it.

So the bottom line is that life insurance companies are in the business of knowing when you’re going to die, so if they’re willing to offer you life insurance as a decent price, the odds are that your number is going to be up for quite awhile. As for immortality, well, make friends with an insurance adjuster and I’m sure they’ll do what they can.

See Susman Insurance Agency Live and In Color

Did you know there are over 400,000 insurance agents in the United States? And more people are entering the field each year. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s one of the fastest growing industries. And yet, for the most part, insurance agents are pretty nameless and faceless. Everybody knows an insurance agent, but no one knows an insurance agent.

Until there’s a problem.

People often only talk to their insurance agent when they have a problem: They wrecked the car. A tree fell on the house. They want a cheaper insurance rate, etc. You’ve noticed that your insurance agent is always happy to hear from you. Of course, you probably think it’s because it means they’re going to get PAID.

But that’s not the only reason your agent is glad to hear from you. No, really, we’re serious. Believe it or not, most agents like people, and one of the main reasons they got into the insurance biz is because they *gasp* want to help people. They are available to assist when you need help like we mentioned above, but they are also available to answer any insurance-related questions you might have as well. We can even answer some non-insurance-related questions, such as, the best route to get to Rodeo Drive or the best recipe for Lemon Bars.

When most people need to chat with their insurance agent, they pick up the phone and call. Or, if they happen to be in the area, they might stop by. But we offer a third way to chat with us: video chat. Yes, you can contact us and see live video your from home or work. There are no extra fees for this service, we just want to offer as many entertaining options for you to contact us as possible.

Think about how much fun this could be. Yes, we said “fun” in an insurance blog post. But seriously, think about it.

  • You just want to know what your insurance agent looks like. Anyone could put anyone’s picture on the side of a bus or on a shopping cart, but it’s hard to fake face-to-face chat.
  • You’re curious about what an insurance agent’s office looks like. You’re actually doing us a favor. Since you can call in at any time, Karl has to keep his office neat and tidy. It also means Karl has to take a lunch break and leave his desk. Maybe even leave the office. We love Karl, but he needs to get out more.
  • Did we mention the Lemon Bars? You can see them for yourself. They’re yummy!

So, the next time you need to “see” Susman Insurance or anyone on our staff here, give live video a try! It’s a great way for us all to become better acquainted.

Does Bluetooth Cause Cancer?

We have all seen them. The allegedly super busy executive, walking though the grocery store, putting beer, salad fixings and various sundries in a cart, all the while talking to himself. He’s on a bluetooth,of course, but you can’t help but be amused at watching someone seemingly talking to themselves.

Yes, the Bluetooth — that little handy device that fits inside your ear and makes your cell phone practically hands-free. Practically, because there isn’t a bluetooth out there that can always accurately understand the voice commands. But it’s pretty close to perfect technology.

Well, except for the whole cancer thing. For years, there have been discussions and concerns about cell phone and bluetooth devices causing cancer. Recently, the World Health Organization declared that cell phone could “possibly” increase the risk in brain cancer. And since a bluetooth isn’t just next to your ear, it’s IN your ear, it’s possible that it poses an even greater risk.

Sure, it’s possible to get cancer from your bluetooth device, it does emit radiation, which is proven to be cancer-causing. However, the Federal Comminication Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have determined the acceptable radiation levels for cell phones and bluetooth devices. The acceptable specific absorbtion rate (SAR) for a cell phone or bluetooth device is 1.6 watts per kilogram of body weight.

A bluetooth device has an SAR value of around 0.001 watts/kg. Can we say very little chance? Perhaps if you wore your bluetooth 24/7, it might be an issue. In 30 years. But for the typical user, it’s fine.

Now, I know that cancer is a scary topic, and many people are fearful of finding out they have it so they make sure they avoid as many cancer-causing issues as possible. But don’t you sometimes ask, “What doesn’t cause cancer?” Can you get cancer from eating a flame-broiled burger or steak? Studies suggest that you can. Can you get cancer from playing soccer in the sun for too long? Yep. What about the celebratory cigar? Definitely. So, it’s understandable why people would question the safety of taping a mini microwave to the side of one’s head. But still, the chances of you getting cancer from using a bluetooth headset are less than the chances of you having an accident if you are trying to talk on your cell phone, or worse, trying to text while you drive. So, to answer the original question, it hasn’t been proven that you can get cancer from using a bluetooth, but it hasn’t been disproven, either. However, if the Magic 8-Ball were answering the question, the triangle die in the blue liquid would most likely state, “More than likely, no.”

Or look at it this way: Even if you ate a steak with one hand, and a burger with the other, and while smoking a cigar you completed a scissor kick and won the soccer championship your chances of getting cancer are still extremely low.

But wouldn’t you pay to see that?