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Staff Spotlight: Natalie Stofiel

Every month we like to introduce one of our staff members so you can get to know them better. This month, our Personal Lines Account Manager Natalie told us fondly about her (very) recent wedding.

You won the lottery! What’s your first purchase?

If I won the lottery, one of my first purchases would be to pay off all of my debt; then I would probably go on a shopping spree, and pay off my friends and family’s debts as well. Beyond that I would probably purchase a car or two for my husband and I. I would maybe make a few investments, and eventually buy a house and live a comfortable life!

Share one thing you love to do that you always strive to include in your daily routine.

To read for 15 minutes from a self-help or success type of book. I also try to listen to podcasts by successful people. I feel like in doing these things I’m introducing new knowledge and starting my day off in a positive light.

What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?

I love to play softball, but as I’ve gotten older I don’t really have much time for that! Lately I’ve been finding myself spending more time on outdoor hobbies like hiking, picnics, and water activities. In addition, living in the Pacific Northwest I have grown accustomed to our rainy days, and I love to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea!

Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences.

It actually happened about two weeks ago: I married the love of my life, and was able to have the most perfect day! This memory is still so fresh in my brain, but I know that it is going to be one of the most memorable days of the rest of my life.

What is your favorite Biggs story?

My favorite Biggs story has to be during my first week here, when we all took a trip to Crosley Lanes for the annual bowling party. We got to choose teams and bowl against everybody in the company! It was really fun to get to know people in a casual setting and still have lots of fun!

Is your favorite season spring, summer, winter, or fall – and why?

I love every season of the year – that way you always have something to look forward to! But I do particularly love the holiday season. 😊

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I would choose the power of persuasion; I believe that not only could you do some really fun things with this (like borrow a yacht), you could also do some really good things with it!

You can find Natalie’s contact information on our Team page!

Urban Mobility Report shows Portland-area drivers spending record time, money on commute

Drivers are spending more time and more money sitting in traffic, according to one new study. So much money, you could buy a flight to Europe.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute published their annual Urban Mobility Report this week. They found Portland-area drivers spend an average of 66 hours per year in traffic. That’s the 14th highest in the nation. In 2008, it was 46 hours per year.

Researchers found Portland commuters are wasting an average of 31 gallons of gas every year. Total, they say congestion costs each driver $1,193 per year.

“I think that is underestimating it honestly. I think a lot of people have it worse,” said Vanessa Valentine, who commutes to Clackamas from Vancouver.

“It’s pretty depressing. Certainly, the most frustrating part of my day is getting off work and dealing with that,” said Scott Veazie, who commutes to Portland from Vancouver every day.

“When I worked in downtown Portland, I was spending an average of three-and-a-half to four hours a day in traffic,” said Dulcie Cameron, who also lives in Vancouver.

According to the study, Portland ranks 7th in the amount of gas wasted per person each year. Researchers found the worse congestion happens at 4 p.m. on Fridays.

“It’s no secret that Portland has seen a real increase in congestion the last couple years,” said Don Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

Researchers say there is no single way to reduce congestion. They say it will keep getting worse.

Hamilton says ODOT is working on several projects to reduce traffic. He says signs that give drivers a real-time look at traffic delays is already helping. ODOT reported a 20 percent drop in number of crashes along Hwy 217 the year after installing one of those signs, according to Hamilton.

ODOT has also widened some freeways with auxiliary lanes, which go between freeway exits and entrances. They are planning to do the same thing on I-5 through the Rose Quarter, but this project is controversial.

“These are good tools for reducing congestion and they reduce the number of fender benders, and sideswipe, and rear-end crashes that we see on the highways, that means fewer delays caused by crashes,” said Hamilton.

Those opposed to the project contend adding the lanes will only invite more cars to use the road and say it won’t help with traffic.

Hamilton said ODOT is also considering tolling along parts of I-5 and I-205. They’re also exploring the possibility of a new bridge over the Columbia River.

Source: KATU News

How digital forensics detectives investigate a data breach

If you suspect that your company’s data has been breached or compromised, you potentially face a number of time-sensitive and highly technical questions. As seasoned digital detectives in the cyber space, digital forensics teams can help companies piece together any evidence and understand the scope of a breach. The information they discover can help you protect your business and your customers now, and help prevent future breaches.

While many companies employ general-skill IT professionals, digital forensics is a highly-specialized skill set, according to Kurt Oestreicher, Director of Forensics in Travelers’ Risk Control. While IT teams can get companies back in business following a breach, IT team members are often not trained in forensic investigation techniques that can prevent data from being altered. Travelers enlists with digital forensics firms to investigate data breaches for cyber insurance customers.

“It’s no different from any other crime scene,” Oestreicher says. “The most critical step is preservation of the evidence. If you don’t obtain the evidence properly, everything else you do may be rendered invalid if the case goes to court.”

Among the questions that digital forensics can help answer include:

A digital forensics team will examine the network and look for signs of a lingering attack, such as malware or unauthorized user accounts, or accounts with unauthorized privileges. The team can determine if an attack is still ongoing, and firm up the company’s defenses to halt continuing damage. Members of digital forensics teams who have worked with a variety of companies and breaches can bring with them more experience and insight than an in-house team with more limited external exposure might.

“Digital forensics teams can dig deep and turn around lessons learned that can help a company improve their network infrastructure and security,” says Oestreicher.

Understanding Can Aid Recovery

Forensics professionals work closely with a company’s crisis communications team to provide the public and customers with up-to-date information about any private information that may have been compromised, and information on the steps being taken to help protect customers against future breaches.

Getting an accurate count of records that may have been breached is especially important for companies with data that includes private, protected client or customer information such as Personally Identifiable Information or Protected Health Information, which are subject to growing state and federal notification regulations.

These requirements add an extra level of complexity and cost to recovery efforts. The average cost per record in a data breach that contains sensitive or private information grew 8% from $201 to $217 in 2015.1 If a company has 20,000 records compromised, that would amount to $4.3 million.

In the increasingly complicated landscape of data breaches, digital forensics is becoming one of the critical tools that companies can use to piece together clues about the size and scope of a data breach as they work to stem the damage, meet their legal and regulatory requirements and assure customers that they are taking steps to help prevent such a breach from happening in the future.

Reach out to one of our agents today for a quote on cyber liability!

Source: Travelers Prepare & Prevent

Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Miller

Every month we like to introduce one of our staff members so you can get to know them better. This month, our Life & Health Client Services Coordinator Jennifer shares the story of her memorable first moose encounter upon moving to Alaska.

You won the lottery! What’s your first purchase?

A Lagotto Romagnolo puppy; they are expensive, and I want one! Lagottos are known for truffle hunting and I think that would be a fun addition to my outdoor activities, plus, they are amazingly cute.

Share one thing you love to do that you always strive to include in your daily routine.

A morning walk between 2-3 miles with Abigail (my pug). Works better than coffee for me and she’s ready to rest while I’m at work.

What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?

I enjoy hiking, places old and new. I love to go camping or to be outside in general year-round, but preferably in the off season – I like the rain. I also have a small garden and recently got some backyard chickens for eggs. Wish me luck!

Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences.

I moved back to Washington after living in Alaska for 3 years. The first time I saw a moose was literally on my first trail hike. He was a bull moose with all the antler fanfare, the perfect image of what you would think a moose looks like. I was stunned by the sheer size of him and wasn’t sure what to do, so I walked by slowly and my hike continued without incident. I’ve seen many (really so many) moose during my time in Alaska but the first one has always stuck with me.

What is your favorite Biggs story?

Halloween!! If you have the chance to come by Biggs during Halloween, I highly recommend it 😊

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what is the one thing you couldn’t live without?

Family and food aside… chapstick.

Is your favorite season spring, summer, winter, or fall – and why?

I really like fall. It’s cool but not cold, the air is usually clear, and I can make soup out of anything.

What was your first job?

I know it’s a total cliché, but a paper route.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Flight, not supersonic but faster than a bike and no higher than a few hundred feet. Not that I’ve thought about it much though.

You can find Jennifer’s contact information on our Team page!

Vancouver kids go back to school on Aug. 27

It may only be the beginning of August, but in a scant 3(ish) weeks, school will be back in session here in Vancouver! We at Biggs are proud to participate in the ‘Write from the Start’ school supply drive – we’ve been encouraging employees to don their jeans on a weekday for the price of $5 per person, and have been saving that money up since January for a total of $435 raised in support of this great cause.

Speaking of which – if you’re the parent of an elementary-aged child in the Evergreen district, you’re off the hook for school supplies! For the last several years, the district has been providing supplies for all elementary-aged kids. This of course comes at a cost, so donations of supplies and/or funds are a great help. Check out this link to learn how to contribute to their school supply drive, ‘Stuff the Bus,’ happening now through Aug. 17th and culminating in a free community event in Fisher Basin Park!

If your child attends Vancouver Public Schools, you can find their supply lists for elementary, middle, and high school here.

Do you have a teen angling to ditch the school bus and acquire their license this year? You may want to check out these tips from our friends at Safeco on insuring a teenage driver.

No matter how you’re prepping for back-to-school, all of us at Biggs hope it’s a smooth transition with minimal whining! 😉

Hurting while working – get to know disability insurance 🤕

Do you ever worry about what would happen if you got hurt, or became sick, and as a result were unable to work for a period? Losing crucial income due to illness or injury is a scary thought; so much so that maybe you’d simply try to tough it out… some funny folks at The Hartford imagined how that might go:

Don’t pass up on this important benefit – check out this page from our list of Life & Health solutions on disability income, and call us any time for a quote!

Earthquake insurance – a quick primer

With the recent quakes in California, earthquake insurance may be at the forefront at many folks’ minds. We’ve put together a quick primer on what this coverage is and what it does, and doesn’t, cover.

Earthquakes can cause great harm to home structures. They can damage housing foundations and collapse walls; even relatively mild tremors can destroy furnishings and belongings.

Homeowners and renters insurance do not cover earthquake damage; a standard policy will, however, generally cover losses from fire following a quake and, if such a fire makes your home unlivable, cover the additional living expenses incurred while you live elsewhere during repairs.

Cars and other vehicles are covered for earthquake damage under the optional comprehensive part of an auto insurance policy.

Earthquake coverage is available in the form of a separate policy or an endorsement from most private insurers and, in California, from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).

How it works

What it covers

What it might cover

What it doesn’t cover

What it might not cover

To see if you’re covered or not for these types of damages listed above, talk to your agent or broker and be sure to read your policy.

Sources: excerpted from the Insurance Information Institute and the WAOIC

Staff Spotlight: Shanna Lien

Every month we like to introduce one of our staff members so you can get to know them better. This month, our Commercial Agent Shanna shares her passion for fishing, reading, fishing, fall weather, and of course fishing!

You won the lottery! What’s your first purchase?

Airline tickets! I’d love to explore New Zealand & Australia with my husband for their unique fishing opportunities.

Share one thing you love to do that you always strive to include in your daily routine.

I love to read, I can’t go anywhere without bringing a book with me. I always try to fit reading into my daily routine as it offers me a chance to unplug from my phone and other distractions life may bring.

What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?

If you ask anyone who knows me, they would immediately answer that my one true passion is fishing. This is 100% accurate; most weekends I am targeting some species of fish on our local rivers and lakes. My current favorite fishery is Spring Chinook Salmon, because it provides a good challenge and the pay off when landing a “Springer” is an unbeatable experience.

Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences.

One of my most memorable experiences was when my husband and I got our corgi, Boo. We had been waiting months for a puppy and got the call one afternoon that a buyer in front of us had dropped out and we could pick up our puppy that evening. We were completely unprepared but immediately bought all the puppy supplies and drove to a little farm in Colton, OR to meet our newest family member. Almost 10 years later and I remember it like it was yesterday, Boo is the best dog that we could have ever asked for and she fits into our active lifestyle perfectly.

What is your favorite Biggs story?

There are too many too name, instead my favorite thing in general about Biggs Insurance is how we really are like family. Every Tuesday, I meet two Biggs retirees (Jamie Shindler & Jo Kramer) for a standing coffee date and often other Biggs employees past and present will show up and it’s always like no time has passed at all.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what is the one thing you couldn’t live without?

A fishing rod, of course!

Is your favorite season spring, summer, winter, or fall – and why?

Fall; I love the warm days and cool nights, fishing picks up on the Columbia River, and I’m in a fantasy football league with my closest friends that is always a ton of fun.

What does success look like to you?

Success to me is built on providing the best customer service to each one of my clients and them knowing that I always strive to meet their needs as well as educate them on insurance-related topics. Hopefully I’m making a difference in my clients’ lives by providing a strong trusting relationship that not only helps my career succeed, but their business as well.

You can find Shanna’s contact information on our Team page!

Leaving fully insured to go self-funded

There are two methods of financing the cost of an employee benefit plan – one is Fully Insured, where the employer pays a predetermined premium to a given carrier; the other, which has grown increasingly popular in recent years, is Self Funding, where the employer directly assumes the financial risk of providing health care to its employees. Self-Funded plans have numerous advantages – controlling costs is easier, and you can tailor your coverage to the needs of your workforce – but there are also drawbacks; namely, the employer must have sufficient financial resources to pay for claim costs.

Our Life&Health Broker and VP, Tyson Fuehrer, created a quick primer on some of the reasons more groups are opting to go self-funded:

You can find Tyson’s contact information on our Team page!

Contractor’s equipment: rent, buy, borrow or refurbish?

For contractors, equipment can be the lifeblood of a business, and keeping your construction equipment running well can be critical to a project’s success. When you need equipment, you review your anticipated work volumes and your fleet management to determine equipment needs. Then, it comes down to this: should I rent, lease, buy, borrow or refurbish? The choice can have a long-lasting impact on your business, especially for more expensive pieces of equipment.

Our friends at Travelers weighed the benefits and risks to these options for filling your equipment needs, and provided some tips to help make sure you’re properly covered:

Equipment Rental or Leasing

Insurance Considerations

Contractor’s equipment insurance policies can have different rules for rented, borrowed, and leased equipment as compared to the rules that may apply to equipment that is purchased. For example, the policy might not provide coverage for or may limit the value of rented, borrowed or leased equipment or it might exclude certain activities, such as waterborne construction.

Likewise, if the rental agent provides equipment rental insurance, you must pay attention to what’s covered and what’s not. This insurance might only cover damage from certain hazards, like fire. It may also exclude coverage if you lend the nonowned piece of equipment to someone else. Review the terms and condition carefully to ensure you don’t find yourself in a position without coverage.

Lastly, if you borrow equipment from another contractor, review your coverage carefully with your agent. You’ll want to be certain there aren’t any gaps in coverage for this scenario.

Buying Construction Equipment

Insurance Considerations

If you decide to buy construction equipment, you should make sure it’s covered under the right insurance. For example, if you buy a new concrete pump truck, is there coverage under your contractor insurance policy or the vehicle policy?

Some activities could also be excluded, like overloading a crane. You should review with your insurance agent how you plan on using the equipment to see if it’s all covered.

Contractor’s equipment policies typically have a reporting requirement for newly acquired equipment. This policy condition requires you to notify your insurer whenever you buy equipment that exceeds the policy limits. Ask your insurance agent whether your policy has such a condition so that you can ensure you are notifying your carrier within the specified timeframe.

Finally, you should insure the new piece of equipment to its correct value. This is simple for brand-new equipment, as it’s the purchase price. But correctly valuating used equipment can be more difficult. You should work with your agent to determine the correct valuation.

Using Refurbished Equipment

Insurance Considerations

With refurbished equipment, the main insurance concern is determining the correct valuation. If the insurance company values the equipment based solely on its age, it could underestimate its worth. To avoid undervaluation, request that your policy list an agreed value for refurbished equipment.

Source: Travelers Construction Insights