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The monthly MJ Sorority Newsletter – This issue covers background checks, event planning resources, rising food costs, summer to do lists & more.

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The ruling body for fire safety codes is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This entity determines the fire safety codes and is the recognized standard by which all businesses are to follow.

It is the NFPA that sets the codes for the types of sprinkler systems that must be or can be installed in a building primarily based on its occupancy. In 1896, they developed the first code for systems in residential or habitational type occupancies: NFPA 13.

NFPA 13 is designed to serve two distinct purposes:

  • To eliminate the risk of bodily injury or death of residents/guests
  • To significantly reduce fire damage to the property and any subsequent water damage from the fire response efforts

The building must be 100% sprinklered including attic space whether accessible or not. The costs to install can be substantial for the following reasons:

  • Piping must be steel which is more labor intensive to fabricate.
  • Attics must be also be sprinklered.
  • Aesthetic work is more substantial with the exposed steel pipes.

For a variety of reasons such as cost and labor, NFPA came out with a modified code in the 1970s for residential housing: NFPA 13R (Residential). The main purpose of this risk management tool was purely the protection of lives, unlike NFPA 13 which also was protecting the physical property.

A criterion for the residential housing was that the structure had to be less than four stories in height. As such, the sorority chapter houses did qualify for 13R status, with the only caveat being the attics were not to be used for any purposes and were to have limited access to the attic space.

When the interest for sprinkler systems began to escalate, we were successful in getting the insurance company to provide substantial credits for a property that met the NFPA 13R code. Even though the primary benefit was life safety or the liability exposure, the insurance company agreed to apply this credit to the property premium due to our rationale, which included the following:

  • As generally 57% of the account premium is for the property exposure whereas the liability was only 15% thus the dollar discount was far more substantial
  • As an inducement to get the property owners to budget for a sprinkler system
  • To support the best risk management tool for life safety of your members, employees and guests

Over the years, we have seen an exposure emerge which has become a challenge, which is that the chapter house attics frequently aren’t sprinklered. Of the six property fires over $100,000 in claim cost, four of them started in the attic, which was unsprinklered and had no other type of fire detection system.

The biggest problem comes from the fact that the fire burns for some time in the attic and/or roof area, and it isn’t until it burns through the attic flooring for the debris to land on the next floor before the sprinkler system is engaged and the fire department is alerted. The second problem then comes when the fire department gets there and has to release far more water than normal to extinguish the fire. Subsequently, you have more of your building damaged by the fire and more water damage in trying to put it out.

The liability insurance company underwriters are still very pleased that there is reduced if not completely eliminated bodily injury exposure, but the property underwriters are growing concerned about the exposure of attic fires.

The obvious solution to this dilemma is to install sprinklers in the attic, but this would be virtually impossible for expense reasons. We have done extensive research on this matter and can reach no other conclusion.

We can however recommend another solution to the fire protection alert delay that presently exists which is the installing of a heat sensor to your existing fire alarm system in the attic space. The fire department gets alerted to a fire much faster than without sensors, and there is ultimately less property damage along with the life safety benefit. For further reading on heat sensors, check out these additional resources.

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The monthly MJ Sorority newsletter. This issue covers: increase in cyber incidents, preventing phishing scams, workers’ compensation coverage spotlight, FAQ about MJ approving events, unofficial houses, and two MJ Insurance webinars on data analytics and supply chain challenges.

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MJ Sorority’s monthly newsletter. This issue covers summer reminders, the letter to member’s parents template, summer to do list, automobile liability graphic, and more.

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MJ Sorority’s monthly newsletter. This issue covers boiler inspections, increasing construction costs, spring chapter house inspection recommendations, and more.

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You may or may not have had the opportunity to consider building new or renovating your sorority chapter house. It would be an understatement to say that there has been chaos in the construction market. Cost of materials has skyrocketed, and materials continue to be difficult to come by. A representation from a large national construction firm recently remarked, “rebuilding the same property compared to a year ago would cost at least seventeen percent more. Such increases have been fueled by an overwhelming demand for building materials and the supply chain bottleneck.”
 Why is this important for your chapter house? As an insured, you are obligated under your insurance coverage to insure your building and contents at the valuation of replacement cost, which does not reflect any depreciation of values due to age. The insurance company is then obligated to “repair or replace for like kind and quality” should your property be damaged due to a covered cause of loss.

We are seeing new construction come in at a minimum of $200 per square foot (except in California where it is more like a minimum of $350 per square foot). In looking at near and medium term factors that will continue to affect your property valuation, the effects of inflation combined with more costly natural catastrophes, which are occurring far more frequently.

The issue of valuation is further complicated in catastrophe-prone areas by the fact that potentially thousands of insured businesses will be seeking construction and professional services, such as roofers and other trades, to begin repairs on their properties at the same time. As a result, the costs of labor and materials will increase substantially (often ten to fifteen percent increases), which will then impact the cost of the claim.

Another influence we have been noticing in the Sorority Department is a substantial increase in the cost of a claim. Our records indicate a jump over the last six years of 223 percent on average

We want to continue to make you aware of the trends in the marketplace. If you want to discuss your current insurance limits, we encourage you to reach out to your Client Executive to ensure you are adequately insured in light of the rapidly changing market conditions.

Originally published in the April 2022 News & Notes.
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March 2022: Topics include property claims trends, spring weather resources, FAQ on hiring contractors, 2022 MJ Housing Forum recordings and more!

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All About Waivers: Attorney and Client Executive, Estacia Brandenburg, joins us to discuss all that you need to know about liability waivers and sorority events. Sara and Estacia discuss the basics of liability waivers, our position on waivers, and several of your most frequently asked questions.

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January 2022: Topics include winter weather reminders, Covid-19 updates, accounting best practices, renting your chapter house for events, and insurance limits.

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The milder days of spring are a perfect time to do a thorough spring cleaning and perform routine maintenance. After a long winter, it is a good idea to spend time on preventive measures to help maintain your property throughout the year. Tasks such as cleaning out your gutters, checking for dead trees and branches and cleaning and inspecting facility mechanical and plumbing systems, such as heating and air conditioning equipment, can help make spring a season of safety.

Cleaning and maintenance of your chapter house should be done inside and out. Although the tasks are different, checking to see if all the elements of your property are in good working order can help keep your members and employees safe and your maintenance expenses lower over the long run.

Inside the Chapter House

Here are a few things inside your facility that should be inspected to determine if they are in good condition:

  • Electrical Outlets and Cords: Check electrical outlets and cords throughout your property for any potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Extension cords and power strips are not designed to be permanent fixtures and should only be used on an interim basis.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Check your fire extinguishers at least once yearly, including the hose, nozzle and other parts to determine if they are in good condition and that the pressure gauge is in the “green” range. Check the expiration date.
  • Air Conditioning: Check around the unit for indications of leaks. Before turning it on for the season, have your air-conditioning system inspected and tuned up by a professional. Check the drain lines annually and clean them if they are clogged. Change the air filter.
  • Water Heater: Check for leaks and corrosion. Check your owner’s manual for any recommended maintenance.
  • Furnace or Boiler: Have your furnace or boiler cleaned or inspected annually.
  • Under Sinks and Around Toilets: Look for any signs of leaks or corrosion on pipes, supply lines and fixtures.
  • Plumbing: Check exposed pipes and valves in your basement or crawl spaces, if safely accessible, for signs of leaking or corrosion.
  • Appliances: Check supply lines for washing machines, ice makers and water dispensers, refrigerators, and dishwashers for signs of leaks or wear and tear.
  • Plumbing for Hose Spigots and Irrigation Systems: After opening valves for outdoor water supplies, be sure to inspect components for leaks. Don’t forget to check inside plumbing as well as outdoor spigots.
  • Dryers: Dryer lint can build up inside the vent pipe and collect around the duct. Clean both the clothes dryer exhaust duct and the space under the dryer. Use a brush to clean out the vent pipe. Look for lint buildup around the lint trap and clean it as needed.
  • Smoke Detectors: Daylight savings time is a good time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Inspect each smoke detector to determine if all are in working order, and make sure to test them monthly.
  • Light bulbs: Check each light bulb in every fixture for the correct recommended wattage and replace any burned out bulbs.

Outside the Chapter House

The cold winter months can do damage to your property as well. Here are a few things outside your facility that should be inspected to ensure they are in good condition:

  • Roof: Check for any damage from snow or ice, and make any necessary repairs to reduce the possibility of leaks. If you have a skylight, check outside for a buildup of leaves and debris. Also, check the indoor ceiling for signs of leaks. Remember to put safety first any time you are on a roof. If you have any doubt, leave it to the professionals.
  • Gutters: Clean leaves and other debris from gutters and downspouts to keep water flowing and reduce the possibility of water damage.
  • Trees: Visually inspect trees for damage or rot, and remove (consider hiring a licensed professional) any dead trees that might blow over in heavy winds or during a storm. Keep healthy trees and bushes trimmed and away from utility wires.
  • Lawn Equipment: Make sure lawn mowers, tractors and other equipment are tuned up before using. Store oil and gas for lawn equipment and tools in a vented, locked area.
  • Walkways and Driveways: Repair any cracks and broken or uneven surfaces to provide a safer, level walking area.

A little home maintenance in the spring can go a long way to help keep the chapter house safe and secure throughout the rest of the year.

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