Flood Preparedness: Tips For A Great Family Plan

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Flood Preparedness: Have a Family Plan

We are just a few days removed from the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (Aug. 29, 2005), and like most Americans, I remember watching as New Orleans flooded and stranded thousands of people in their homes, under the oppressive heat of an August in South Louisiana without food, water, or even the ability to use the restroom.  While there are many reasons why so many people died that horrible week after Katrina made landfall, one of the BIGGEST reasons was because people didn’t have a plan in place in the event of a disaster.

Disasters are GOING to happen!!  

It’s not a matter of IF…………it’s a matter of WHEN

Since that is the case it is EXTREMELY important that EVERY person, and family, have a plan in place for when disaster strikes.  It is NEVER a good idea to fly by the seat of your pants when the potential for loss is so great.  Having a plan of evacuation, knowing where to go, knowing what to bring, etc. will allow you to think clearly when it is most needed.

So, here are some tips on having a great family plan in place for when disaster strikes.

Family Plan Tips

1.)  Identify the types of hazards that could affect your family.  Know your home/properties vulnerability to storm surge, flooding, wind, etc.  

Do you live on the beach or even a few blocks off of the beach?  Know the treat of storm surge is real.

Live near a river or levee system?  Know how far and what would happen if the river overran it’s banks.

Understanding the types of hazards near you can help in preparing you for them when they come.

2.)  Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hazard.  In some circumstances, the safest areas may not be in your home at all, but within your community.

We all know about going into the inner most room during a tornado, but where do you go if the Mississippi River levee system breaks?

3.)  Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet.  These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.  

There will be times when you absolutely MUST leave the area.  When that is the case you should have a prearranged meet up location in the event you and your family are separated when the crisis begins, or get separated when trying to flee.  Remember this shouldn’t be hundreds of miles away but somewhere close enough for everyone to get there safely and be out of harms way.

4.)  Have an out-of-state friend/family member as a family contact so all your family members have a single point of contact.  

This allows everyone to check in, in the event that the agreed upon meet up location is compromised or considered in harms way.

5.)  Make a plan now for what to do with your pets should you need to evacuate.  

My recommendation.  BRING YOUR PETS WITH YOU.  They are family and should be treated as such.

6.)  Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.

You never know when an emergency will take place and if one or both parents are injured or incapacitated it could mean the difference between life and death if your children know where the emergency numbers are and how to call them.

7.)  Check your insurance coverage.  Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.  

Remember, flood insurance is usually NOT covered by homeowners and if you are not familiar with your homeowners insurance and you expect to have flood coverage, you may be upset to find it isn’t.

8.)  Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.

This is very important!!  Have emergency food and a supply kit in the event you have to hunker down in place for several days during a disaster.  Most survivalist groups will tell you to have at least 72-hours (3 days) worth of food and water.  I agree with that as well as having at least 2-3 weeks if you need to stay put for longer periods of time.

9.)  Use a NOAA weather radio.  

I love these things, not only are they fun to work with when you are riding out a storm, but they are just cool looking devices.  Just remember if you don’t have a hand crank radio (which I recommend) to replace the batteries every 6 months, just like you do smoke detectors.

10.)  Take First Aid, CPR, and disaster preparedness classes.

I highly recommend this as it just allows you to be more prepared……….and they are usually pretty fun (well I enjoy survivalism and preparedness stuff so maybe I am a nerd.)

 

It is EXTREMELY important that EVERY family has a plan in the event of a disaster.  Hopefully the above tips will help you get your family plan started or improve it in some way.  If you do have a plan share with me some of the things on your list or you think should be added to this in the comment section below.

Until next time remember.

I got you covered,

Shawn

Flood Insurance: How It Works

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Flood Insurance: How It Works

 

Hurricane season is here, and with it comes the renewed conversation every year about flooding and flood insurance.  Being that Tropical Storm Erika is expected to be a threat to the eastern coast of the United States sometime early next week, and the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is August 29th, I thought it would be good to dedicate the next several posts to flooding, flood insurance, and what you need to know.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP): What is it?

The National Flood Insurance Program, or the NFIP for short, was created in 1968 by Congress to help alleviate the financial devastation caused by flooding.  Historically, flooding has brought damage and destruction to communities in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

Overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NFIP helps homeowners, business owners, and renters in participating communities to purchase federally backed flood insurance. This insurance is designed to provide an alternative to disaster assistance to help meet the escalating cost of repairing flood damage to buildings and their contents.

Who can get flood insurance?  YOU!!

  •  If you live in or own a business in a high-risk area (or a Special Flood Hazard Area, known as an SFHA)
  • If you live or own a business in a moderate-to low-risk area-and possibly at a lower cost.
  • If your home or business has flooded before.
  • If your mortgage company doesn’t require it.

Flood Insurance Basics

Whether you realize it or not, you are at risk for flooding.  The risk may be low, but the risk is still there.  The NFIP and myself are dedicated to making property owners and renters aware of the need for flood insurance-not only for those in high-risk areas like the coast or all Louisiana residences, but also for those in moderate t- low-risk areas.

Properties outside of the mapped high-risk areas are NOT exempted from flooding!!

What most homeowners don’t know is that MOST homeowners policies DO NOT cover flooding.  Only a flood insurance policy will protect you from the costs associated with flood damage.  Homeowners can insure a home for up to $250,000 and its contents for up to $100,000.  If you are a renter you can cover your belongings for up to $100,000.  Non-residential property owners can insure a building and its contents for up to $500,000 each.

The average premium for a yearly flood insurance policy?  

About $700 per year.  

That is MUCH more affordable than having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to repair your property without coverage.

Flood Insurance Requirements

Residents and business owners who live in or work in an SFHA (Special Flood Hazard Area) are REQUIRED to purchase flood insurance if they have a loan from a federally regulated and insured lender, and they MUST carry it for the life of the loan.  Those outside of the mapped SFHA’s can also purchase flood insurance, and they may be eligible for a lower-cost policy called Preferred Risk Policy.  I recommend everyone learn about their flood risk and to protect yourself with flood insurance.

Personal Story:

Personally, I am NOT in a mapped flood zone or SFHA, but I carry flood insurance.  Here’s why:

Flood Insurance:  How It Works

The above picture was taken in my back yard after a day of heavy rain.  As you can see the water is up to my knees (I am 6 feet tall).  While that may not mean much, the fact is that the drainage for the small lake in our back yard was obstructed and caused the rain to be unable to drain properly from our property and the properties around us.  The rains lasted for several days and got within 10 feet of our back porch.  While the water would have needed to rise further in order to cause any damage to our home, the potential is there and that is why I carry flood insurance personally.  I also live about a quarter mile of the Mississippi River levee system and can see the levee from my home.  If that levee were to ever break or breech we would experience MASSIVE flooding and damage.

How to Purchase Flood Insurance

Call me or email me (225-266-4573/swilson@midsouthagency.com)

I am a registered flood agent with the NFIP and the federal government, and can help you determine where your property is located within the NFIP Flood zones.  Or if you don’t live in the South Louisiana area, give your local insurance agent a call or go to FloodSmart.gov/purchasefloodinsurance.

Last Thing:  Waiting Periods

If you are nervous about Tropical Storm Erika and want to get flood insurance ASAP there is one little catch.  Typically there is a 30-day waiting period when purchasing a new policy.  There are exceptions to the waiting period so contact me to see if any of those exceptions apply.

I hope this helps you understand some of the basics of flood insurance.  If you have any questions or would like to purchase flood insurance feel free to contact me, I would be glad to help.

Until next time remember:

I got you covered!

Shawn

 

10 Things To Know About Condominiums

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10 Things To Know About Condominiums

 

My goal with this blog is to help give general understanding into the MANY areas of life where insurance is needed, but can be confusing.  Over the last week I have had several clients inquire about condominiums and how the insurance involved would work.  While each client’s situation is different, I thought I would share 10 Things To Know About Condominiums, to help those looking at purchasing a condo, or those who currently have one and want to understand a little more about them from an insurance point of view.  The information provided below is taken from this month’s Insurance Journal and the Spotlight section on pg. 44

10 Things To Know About Condominiums

10 Things To Know About Condominiums1.)  The condominium association owns and insures the outside structure of the condominium building.  The condominium master policy agreement (bylaws) stipulates what part of the structure is owned and insured by the association and what part make up the individual’s unit that the unit owner is responsible for insuring.  For instance, the bylaws may stipulate the unit owner is responsible for everything on the inside of the drywall.  – Terry McConnell, Vice President, Personal Lines

 

2.)  There is no standardization of master policy language so it’s vital to understand the specific agreement in order to know what the unit owner’s insurable interest is in the condominium unit.  To complicate matters, some states have enacted Condominium Acts which supersede the master policy agreement and stipulates insurable interest for the association and unit owners.  A unit owner should look for a policy that offers coverage for personal property, real property/building additions and alterations, personal liability, and loss assessment.  – Terry McConnell, Vice President, Personal Lines Underwriting at Erie Insurance

 

3.)  Over the years, condominium owners associations have been moving toward policies that provide less coverage for a lower cost.  This shifts more of the responsibility for loss or damage to the unit owners and the loss assessment coverage in their policies.  – Pete Ducich, Senior Director, Personal Lines for Farmers Insurance

 

 

4.)  Reviewing the Unit Owners Building Property coverage in their policy with their sent is also a good idea to assure that individual unit owners have a clearer understanding of the coverage they may need in the event of a loss.  – Pete Ducich, Senior Director, Personal Lines for Farmers Insurance

 

 

 

10 Things To Know About Condominiums5.)  The number of community associations in the U.S., including homeowners associations, condo communities and cooperatives, grew from approximately 225,500 in 2000 to 333,600 in 2014, with condo communities representing up to 45% -Community Association Institute

 

 

6.)  Some 66.7 million people lived in common-interest communities and cooperatives, in the U.S. in 2014.  States with the most associations are; Florida (47,100), California (43,300), Texas (19,400), and Illinois (18,150).  – Community Association Institute

 

10 Things To Know About Condominiums

7.)  In Florida, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. plays a critical role insuring condos, most notably older units concentrated close to the water, but Florida’s private insurance market is increasingly robust.  – John Rollins, Chief Risk Officer, Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

 

8.)  Citizens Property in Florida continues to propose modest rate increases for condo unit-owners (HO-6) policies under a legislative mandate  capping annual increases at 10%.  This is due to historical inadequacies that need to be addressed for several years to come. – John Rollins, Chief Risk Officer, Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

 

 

10 Things To Know About Condominiums9.)  In New York City, some carriers are still treating parts of Manhattan as coastal property and won’t write in certain areas near water.  Company inspections continue to be an issue for insured and brokers.  And some carries no longer write condo buildings that have bars or restaurants because of what they perceive as added exposure to the property or their liability.  – Leslie Rogoff, Marketing Manager at Madison Avenue Brokerage and Director for Professional Insurance Agents of New York State

 

 

10.)  Many times, unit owners do not understand the interaction between their individual policies and the master policy.  One area where this comes into play is in coverage for loss assessments.  Condo owners should understand what their obligations are in the event of losses to the common property.  That way, they can work with the insurance professional to ensure adequate coverage.  – Bryan Cook, Senior Assistant Vice President at Amica Mutual Insurance Co.

 

 

I hope these 10 Things To Know About Condominiums help you better understand that the best way to understand your insurance policy, is to read it, ask your agent questions, and to get a clear understanding of where your policy puts you and the risk you are taking.

 

 

Until next time.

 

 

I’ve got you covered,

Shawn

Are Auto Insurance State Minimums Enough?

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Are Auto Insurance State Minimums Enough?

 

Does having the state minimum auto coverage mean you are fully covered?

The answer may surprise you!!

Let’s begin by first defining what auto insurance state minimums are;

Auto Insurance State Minimums are the insurance coverage minimums required by the state. 

Still confused?

Let me explain; every state has a MINIMUM required coverage for auto insurance.  Here in the state of Louisiana it is $15,000 for bodily injury per person in one accident, $30,000 bodily injury for all injuries in one accident, and $25,000 property damage for one accident.  What all that means is that if you are in an accident the most that will be paid per person in the accident is $15,000, or $30,000 per accident, and $25,000 toward property you damage.

Let me give you an example:

Let’s say you live in Louisana (like me), and you are driving to work one day with the state minimum requirements for auto insurance, you look down for one second to put a coffee cup down or change the radio station, and when you look up you notice the light you were getting close to has turned red.  You slam on the brakes but skid into another car broadsiding it.  Your good day just turned bad.  The car you hit had two people in it and both are injured.  One has extensive injuries which you find result in $35,000 in bodily injury, while the other has $25,000 in injuries.  Being that you have Louisiana State insurance minimums the person with the $35,000 in injuries will get $15,000 toward their bodily injuries claim, the other person with the $25,000 will also get $15,000.  However, because you have state minimums your insurance company will only pay up to $30,000 bodily injury in one accident.  That means because the injuries in the other are amount to $60,000, your insurance company will only pay $30,000, which leaves you on the hook for $30,000.

Yeah, YOU will be paying the remaining claim of $30,000 after the insurance company has paid their requirement.

Guess what……….we’re not done yet.

The car you hit has $30,000 in damage and being that you have state minimums, your insurance company will only pay $25,000 toward the claim.  Which leaves you on the hook for another $5,000.

Your bad day just got worse!!

You are now on the hook for $35,000 in damages in an accident you caused even though you had insurance coverage.

Do you have $35,000 hanging around in your bank account?

Probably not!!

So what happens?

Well, the folks you hit can sue you for the remaining balance which means you could lose your house, have your wages garnished, or lose any savings, 401k, etc you might have.  It’s a BIG deal friends!!  Making sure you have the proper amount of coverage is VERY IMPORTANT!!!

Don’t play around with trying to just get away cheap insurance, because your cheap insurance may actually be REALLY expensive!!

While state insurance minimums will keep you legal, they may not keep you covered!!

In an upcoming blog I will cover some ways to protect yourself by upping your limits, and show how paying a little more each year may keep you from being on the hook for MAJOR claims.  I will also go into why an Umbrella policy may be something you really might want to look into.

 

If you liked this post or found it helpful please like, comment, and share.  It helps spread the wisdom.  :)

 

Until next time.

I got you covered,

Shawn

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

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10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

Why do we have Insurance?

Mainly, it is to help cover the cost of a catastrophic event that may take place in our lives. While insurance can help cover many of the cost associated with lawsuits from things like auto accidents, property damage, etc. there are many other ways one can protect oneself and also lower the cost of insurance without breaking the bank.  Occasionally, I will share ideas on how one can save money and protect yourself by taking non-insurance steps that help limit your exposure to potential hazards.

Today’s post deals with ways to protect yourself from lawsuits that are associated with your covered auto.  We all spend time everyday in our vehicles, and in so doing increase our risk of potential accidents, claims, and lawsuits.  Knowing ways to help limit our exposure can not only help us steer clear of potential lawsuits, but also help us lower the cost of the insurance we have.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

 

1.)  Obey Traffic Laws, including speed limits.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

This one is a no brainer.

Seriously, there are traffic laws for a reason.  One key to limiting your exposure to potential lawsuits is to obey traffic laws………ESPECIALLY SPEEDING!!  Drivers who speed have more accidents!!  Don’t believe me?  Check this out:  A California study showed that with one speeding ticket in the last two years, your probability of having an at-fault accident increased by 95%.  Two tickets and your probability increased to 170%.  Three tickets?  254% more likely to have an accident.  Four tickets?  You’re almost 300% more likely to have an at-fault accident.

And you wonder why insurance companies bump up your rate when you get speeding tickets.

 

2.)  Don’t Drink and Drive.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

Again, this is a no brainer!!

DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!!!

Seriously!!!  It’s NOT cool, it’s NOT funny, and it’s NOT okay!!  EVER!!

We ALL have someone we know who has lost someone or have lost someone personally to a drunk driving accident.

Always use a designated driver!!!

 

3.)  Perform regular safety maintenance on your vehicle.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

Having your brakes, tires, steering, and lights checked by a mechanic on a regular basis will help limit the opportunity for an issue to arise. There are countless things within our vehicles that could lead to a potential accident, which could lead to a potential lawsuit.  Having your vehicle regularly maintenanced will go a long way in preventing potential issues.

 

4.)  When shopping for a vehicle, buy one that is highly rated for low damageability and passenger safety.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

Do you remember the Crash Test Dummies?

No, not the band, the actual crash test dummies that used to be one tv all the time?  Let me refresh your memory:

Another great way to reduce your potential for a lawsuit, and even lower your insurance is by driving a vehicle that is highly rated for being safe. The best place to check into which vehicles are the best is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  You can CLICK HERE to check out their site.  This site will give you crash test results on various makes and models of vehicles.

 

5.)  Opt in for added safety features like airbags and antilock brakes.

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings

Airbags, antilock brakes, and other safety features help reduce the potential for injury and death.  They also save you money on your insurance premium.  However, these features do cost more initially, but in the reality are worth it if an accident were to occur.  Opt in for the safety features when buying a new auto!!

 

6.)  Always wear your seat belt and DEMAND your passengers do also.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

Another no brainer here!!

Buckle up!!  Period!!

Seat belts save lives, save you from potential tickets, fines, lawsuits, and ultimately could save you from death!!  However, make sure that not only you are buckled up, but so are your passengers.

 

7.)  Buy child safety seats and ALWAYS use them.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

This is a BIG deal for our family and something we are really passionate about.  With 3 kids under 7 and one on the way, we have a LOT of child safety seats.  I am amazed at how often I drive down the street and see children unrestrained or not properly restrained in a child safety seat.  Parents, this is unacceptable!!  Make sure, make sure, make sure your children are PROPERLY restrained within the RIGHT child safety seat.

For tips on child safety seats and to look for a seat rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration go to their website by CLICKING HERE!!

 

8.)  Take a behind-the-wheel defensive driving class.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

This is a really good way to reduce your auto insurance premiums.  However, even if you don’t get credit, you will be a better driver and have less of a chance of getting into a serious accident.  Which is always a good thing.  Taking a defensive drivers course allows you to become aware of the potential dangers that exist from other drivers and how you can appropriately respond.

 

9.)  Require teen drivers to have at LEAST 30 hours of practice behind the wheel in all kinds of driving conditions before allowing them to get a drivers license.  

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

No one can get the adequate training one needs in order to drive safely through just a few hours of mandatory driving education.  If you have teens make them have at least practice driving in all kinds of conditions, so as to learn and understand that driving conditions can change quickly and one must know how to deal with that accordingly when driving.

While teen drivers (and teens in general) think they understand how to drive after taking a course on drivers ed, and getting behind the wheel a few times, the facts are that is just not the case.  Make sure your teen get’s a lot of practice in.  Think about it.  You are handing over the keys to a several ton, metal, death machine to a teenager who is probably more concerned about what is on the radio in the car than on how to actually drive it.  Give them practice in all conditions; rain, sleet, snow, sunshine, and night.  This helps them learn the many potential conditions that may arise when they are driving alone or without mom and dad.

 

10.)  Allow your teen to drive based upon your determination of their ability to responsibly operate a vehicle- regardless of when your state says they are legally ready to drive.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Lawsuit Risk With Your Vehicle

Driving is a privilege.  Not a right.  As a parent it is our responsibility to make sure that our teens are responsible enough to handle the responsibility of driving.  While all teens have immature moments as they grow, parents must understand that a teen who behaves immaturely and irresponsibly out of a vehicle, usually will behave the same way behind the wheel.

Don’t be afraid to take their ability to drive away from them if they are irresponsible with the privilege.

Doing so may not only save their lives, but the lives of others also.

 

The above are just some of the ways one can reduce lawsuits and even save on your auto insurance premium.  If you need to update yourself on some of the above and put them into action, I HIGHLY recommend you doing so ASAP.

A BIG topic I will be covering in my next blog will be on whether or not state insurance minimums are enough to prevent you having to come out of pocket and possibly being on the hook for thousands in damages.

Until next time.

I Got You Covered,

Shawn

 

*  Special thanks to Jack Hungelmann and his book Insurance for Dummies for help in this post.  You can get his book by CLICKING HERE.

What You Should Expect From Your Insurance Agent

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What You Should Expect From Your Insurance Agent

 

Insurance Agent.

Nobody likes an insurance agent until they need one.

It’s kind of like being a lawyer.  Everyone thinks you are a snake until they need your services, then you are their best friend.  Of course, some of the people in our industry don’t help matters much by how they conduct themselves, their business, and the treatment of their clients.  Let me be clear, that not all insurance agents are annoying, money grubbing, snakes looking for higher commissions.  Most are hard working men and women who REALLY care about helping our clients get the coverage they need at the best price possible.

Our line of work is hard.

Really hard!!

We have to keep up with constantly changing state and federal regulations, rate changes, and new laws, we have to understand how the different federal and state agencies work, if they can work together, and how they do so.  We try to balance the razors edge of helping our clients have the most and best coverage without breaking the bank, and it’s not easy.

Having been in the industry for a little while now, I have learned that there is a right way and a wrong way in conducting business.  Because of that I want this blog to serve as a place where those who may not understand the insurance industry, and how it works, can peak behind the curtain and learn some of the basics on how this crazy world works.

For that to happen, I wanted this first post to establish what you (the client) should expect from your insurance agent.

What You Should Expect From Your Insurance Agent

1.)  Communication

We understand that most people don’t understand the insurance world and how it works. That is why a good insurance agent will communicate with their clients.  This helps build trust and credibility.  The insurance world changes often (at least recently it has) and sometimes those changes can affect the client.  That is why you SHOULD expect communication with your agent.

Also, when you are getting your insurance set up you SHOULD expect the agent you are working with to explain the policies, their endorsements (if you have any), and how deductibles, pay out, etc works.  It helps you, as the client to have peace of mind, as well as bringing clarity to how you can expect things to work in the event of a claim.

2.)  Service

Your agent should help you not only understand the coverage you are getting, but also how the coverage works.  That also includes helping you find the right coverage that fits your needs, as well as working hard to get the best price on coverage available.

We work in the service industry and if you do not like the service you are getting from your agent, you can always change.

If your agent isn’t shopping things like your auto or home owners on a regular basis (every couple of years), you may want to ask why.  Rates change and you can always be saving money!!

3.)  Knowledge

Your insurance agent should know what they are providing for you.  That means they should know and understand the policy, coverage, and anything else related to your insurance needs.  Of course, being that the world of insurance changes on a regular basis, there will be times where your agent will have to get more info for you, or ask someone on their team.  That’s ok.  No one can remember everything.  But……..if your agent doesn’t know the basics (which we will cover in another post), you may want to look for a new agent.

The insurance world can be confusing and the best way to learn how it works is to have an agent who works on the above 3 principles.  Doing so will ensure that you are not only working with a great agent, but that you can trust that your assets are well taken care of.

If you have any insurance questions or would like to get a quote on any current insurance you may have, feel free to contact me at 225-291-5060 (ask for Shawn) or swilson@midsouthagency.com

Until next time remember: I got you covered,

Shawn