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Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in A1 Insurance Blog | 0 comments

Arizona City To Use Digital Speed Limit Signs

The city of Scottsdale, Ariz. is installing digital speed limit signs that will be able to change limits as needed.

KSAZ-TV reported that Scottsdale officials plan to implement four adjustable signs later this month.

City Transportation Director Paul Basha says the signs will be programed to read either 35 mph or 25 mph during high traffic times.

Speed will be reduced between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and during special events.

Some residents say they hope the signs don’t create speed traps.

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Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in A1 Insurance Blog | 0 comments

California Super Storm Climate-Driven? Still Insufficient to Quell Drought

December 12, 2014

Windsor, Calif. flooding. AP Photo

Yet however strong the storm and no matter what’s causing it, California’s ongoing storm would need to be replicated at least five more times for meteorologists to declare an end to the state’s historic drought, according to a Bloomberg news story.

The storm is one of the most powerful to hit the state in years. A National Weather Service flood advisory was in effect for California’s San Joaquin Valley through noon today.

“Doppler radar indicated heavy rain causing urban and small stream flooding in the advisory area. up to two inches of rain have already fallen,” an NWS flood alert states. “Some road flooding has already been reported…including parts of highway 99.”

windstormRain is forecast throughout the day all over the state. In San Francisco today’s forecast calls for showers, thunderstorms and high surf advisories. Rain, thunderstorms and wind gusts are forecast for Los Angeles, while in San Diego wind gusts of 20 mph are expected along with rain and thunderstorms.

The state’s mountain areas are also expected to get plenty of snow. Blizzard warnings were issued for parts of the Sierra Nevadas. Two to 6 inches of snow were expected at lower levels and up to 9 inches at higher levels, on top of several feet of snow that has been falling over the past week.

However, below-normal rain and snowfall have left reservoirs at less than a third of capacity, so at least five similar storms would have to follow to replenish the deficits, Alan Haynes, service coordination hydrologist at the California Nevada River Forecast Center in Sacramento, told Bloomberg.

“We need a much wetter-than-normal season to recover,” Haynes said. “If we don’t get the precipitation up in the mountains, we don’t address the long-term supply issues that we’re facing.”

The moisture is coming from long streams of clouds and atmospheric vapor, many of which originate from Hawaii or beyond and are known as the “Pineapple Express,” brought from the Tropics.

“It’s essentially a fire hose of water brought up from the tropics that comes up and crashes into the West Coast,” said Michael Dettinger, an atmospheric scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

According to Climate Nexus, a communications group that works to highlight the impacts of climate change and clean energy solutions in the U.S., atmospheric river storms are responsible for 30 percent to 50 percent of all the precipitation in California and are also responsible for over 80 percent of major flooding events.

A report by Climate Nexus issued late Thursday states that climate research indicates that the impacts of these storms are expected to escalate dramatically if carbon emissions continue to be produced, and that atmospheric rivers may already be impacted by current warming:

  • As the world heats up and more heat is carried in the atmosphere as water vapor, heavy precipitation events are becoming more intense.
  • Climate models project that atmospheric river storms in California will become more frequent and intense in the future, which means it is likely that the current storm is a taste of what’s to come.
  • Surface temperatures off the coast of California during this particular storm are much warmer than usual, helping to pump even more moisture into the storm.

According to Climate Nexus, computer models predict that climate change will cause the very worst atmospheric river storms hitting California to become much more frequent and larger.

“One model illustrating the impacts of a large-scale atmospheric storm, similar in scope to the infamous river storm of 1861 that turned the Central Valley into an inland lake, found that such an event would inflict over $400 billion in damages in modern day California,” the group states.

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Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in A1 Insurance Blog | 0 comments

Uber Facing Roadblocks, Controversies in U.S. and Abroad

 

Uber Technologies Inc. has hit an increasing pileup of regulatory and legal hurdles this week, with its mobile application challenged from India to California.

The car-booking app yesterday was sued by the district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco over claims that it makes false assurances to customers about drivers’ background checks. That came after a judge in Spain banned Uber from operating in the country.

Earlier this week, Uber was sued by the city of Portland, Oregon, for allegedly violating local laws, while Rio de Janeiro declared the service illegal and the Netherlands halted ride- sharing service UberPop. In addition, New Delhi banned Uber this week after one of the service’s drivers was accused of raping a passenger.

“The-low cost premise is starting to look doubtful,” said Erik Gordon, who teaches entrepreneurship at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. “If the lower costs arise from insufficient screening and supervision of drivers and no insurance, the advantage is not sustainable and the valuation could collapse.”

The developments amount to one of the heavier two-day periods of anti-Uber activity this year, as the San Francisco- based app runs into established transportation industries. They follow an upswing last week when Uber announced $1.2 billion in new funding at a $40 billion valuation, making it the most highly valued U.S. technology startup with a market capitalization greater than Tesla Motors Inc. and Hertz Global Holdings Inc.

‘Ubermentum’ Fades

In October, Uber’s vice president of policy and strategy, David Plouffe, declared that the company was undergoing a period of momentum — which he dubbed “ubermentum” — after Washington let ride-sharing service UberX operate in the city and following regulatory breakthroughs in Colorado and Illinois.

“There’s some ubermentum here,” Plouffe told Bloomberg West’s Emily Chang in the Oct. 29 interview.

“We think we should be regulated, but some of these laws go back 50 to 60 years ago and don’t work now,” Plouffe, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama, said in a conference call with press that same day. “What happened in D.C. should be a model elsewhere.”

Uber has long been controversial because the service, which lets people hail rides from their smartphones, has disrupted long-established taxi and limousine services.

Moving Fast

Founded in 2009 by Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, Uber has expanded to more than 250 cities in 50 countries, roiling the transportation markets in those locations. Uber is opening in a new city at the rate of one every other day.

“We are committed to the riders and drivers in those cities who want safe, reliable, hassle free options,” Nairi Hourdajian, a spokeswoman for Uber, said by e-mail.

Uber also thumbs its nose at regulations when it debuts its service. It typically jumps into a new locale in spite of laws protecting the taxi industry and forces regulators to adapt as consumers embrace the app.

Austin Geidt, Uber’s 29-year-old head of global expansion, has said she used to agonize over data on competition and demand in different cities to decide where to expand next. Now the company is moving too quickly to over-think the road map, she said in a recent interview.

“At this point we go so quickly, I wouldn’t say that it particularly matters,” Geidt said. “If we’re not there now, we’ll be there in a week.”

Earlier this year, Uber and similar services faced protests across Europe from taxi drivers. Uber is also coming to grips with regulatory challenges in Thailand, Colombia and U.S. states including Nevada.

The company has grappled with other controversies, as well. Last month, Uber executive Emil Michael made comments about how the company was willing to pry into journalists’ private lives, triggering questions about its data-privacy policies. Uber has since hired a law firm to conduct an internal privacy review.

–With assistance from Mark Milian and Karen Gullo in San Francisco and Siddharth Philip in Mumbai.

 

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Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in A1 Insurance Blog | 0 comments

Drone Use Takes Off Despite Safety Concerns, Restrictions

The government is getting near-daily reports — and sometimes two or three a day — of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission, federal and industry officials told The Associated Press. It’s a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual.

Many of the reports are filed with the Federal Aviation Administration by airline pilots. But other pilots, airport officials and local authorities often file reports as well, said the officials, who agreed to discuss the matter only on the condition that they not be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Michael Toscano, president of a drone industry trade group, said FAA officials also have verified the increase to him.

While many of the reports are unconfirmed, raising the possibility that pilots may have mistaken a bird or another plane in the distance for a drone, the officials said other reports appear to be credible.

The FAA tightly restricts the use of drones, which could cause a crash if one collided with a plane or was sucked into an engine. Small drones usually aren’t visible on radar to air traffic controllers, particularly if they’re made of plastic or other composites.

“It should not be a matter of luck that keeps an airplane and a drone apart,” said Rory Kay, a training captain at a major airline and a former Air Line Pilots Association safety committee chairman. “So far we’ve been lucky because if these things are operating in the sky unregulated, unmonitored and uncontrolled, the possibility of a close proximity event or even a collision has to be of huge concern.”

The FAA requires that all drone operators receive permission from the agency, called a certificate of authorization, before they can fly their unmanned aircraft. Most certificates limit drones to 400 feet in altitude and require that they remain within sight of the operator and at least 5 miles away from an airport. Exceptions are made for some government drones. The military flies drones in great swaths of airspace in remote areas designated for military use. Customs and Border Protection flies high-altitude drones along the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.

Jim Williams, who heads the FAA drone office, caused a stir earlier this year when he told a drone industry conference that an airliner nearly collided with a drone over Tallahassee, Florida, in March. The pilot of the 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet reported the camouflage-painted drone was at an altitude of about 2,300 feet, 5 miles northeast of the airport. The FAA hasn’t been able to find the drone or identify its operator.

Some other recent incidents:

  • The pilots of a regional airliner flying at about 10,000 feet reported seeing at least one drone pass less than 500 feet above the plane moving slowly to the south toward Allegheny County Airport near Pittsburgh. The drone was described as black and gray with a thin body, about 5 feet to 6 feet long.
  • Air traffic controllers in Burbank, California, received a report from a helicopter pilot of a camera-equipped drone flying near the giant Hollywood sign.
  • Controllers at central Florida’s approach control facility received a report from the pilots of an Airbus A319 airliner that they had sighted a drone below the plane at about 11,000 feet and 15 miles west of Orlando. The drone was described as having a red vertical stabilizer and blue body. It wasn’t picked up on radar.
  • The pilots of a regional airliner reported spotting a drone 500 feet to 1,000 feet off the plane’s right side during a landing approach to runway 4 of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. The drone was described as the size of a large bird.
  • A 5-foot-long drone with an attached camera crashed near Dallas Love Field in Texas. The wreckage was discovered by a worker at a factory near the airport. Police said they were looking for the operator.

In some cases the FAA has “identified unsafe and unauthorized (drone) operations and contacted the individual operators to educate them about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws,” the agency said in a statement. The FAA also said rogue operators have been threatened with fines.

Aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member, said he’s skeptical of some of the reports because most of the small drones currently being sold can’t reach the altitudes cited by pilots. Still, “it needs to be run to ground. That means a real investigation, real work done to determine just what these reports mean,” he said.

More than 1 million small drones have been sold worldwide in the past few years, said Toscano, the official with the drone industry group. It is inevitable that some will misuse them because they don’t understand the safety risks or simply don’t care, he said.

“This technology has a phenomenal upside that people are still just trying to understand,” he said. “As unfortunate as it would be that we have an incident, it’s not going to shut down the industry.”

The FAA is expected to propose regulations before the end of the year that would allow broader commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The FAA prohibits nearly all commercial use of drones, although that ban is being challenged. So far, the only commercial permits the agency has granted have been to two oil companies operating in Alaska and seven aerial photography companies associated with movie and television production.

But the ban has been ignored by many other drone operators, from real estate agents to urban planners to farmers who use them to monitor crops.

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in A1 Insurance Blog | 0 comments

Safety Tips, Travel

Taking a Spring Break? Keep Your Home Safe While You’re Away

Homeowners Safety While on Vacation

For many, the winter months are a welcome time to escape the short days and chilly temperatures by taking a vacation. And is there a better way to celebrate the end of winter than to take a spring break?

Whether you’re going to bask on a sunny, white-sand beach in the Caribbean or hit the slopes for some skiing or snowboarding, you have to take precautions to ensure your home stays safe while you’re away. After all, what could be worse than returning from a relaxing break or an active adventure to find a disaster has occurred, such as a break-in, or water or fire damage?

To ensure your vacation doesn’t end in tragedy, follow these tips before you go.

  • Check for any leaks and fix them. For example, ensure your refrigerator ice maker is not leaking!
  • Turn furnace and hot water heaters down. Set your heater at approximately 50 degrees to ensure pipes and appliances don’t freeze. But if you have pets and they are going to be in the house, set it closer to 72 degrees.
  • If you have pets, make arrangements for their comfort and safety: either board them or have a friend come over daily to care for them.
  • Unplug all appliances, such as coffee makers, toasters and exercise equipment.
  • Leave a light or two on so the house doesn’t appear deserted at night.
  • Lower blinds and close curtains so that passers-by can’t view your valuables.
  • Leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor so they can enter the home in case of emergency.
  • Have a friend or neighbor bring in newspapers and mail or cancel delivery for both during the time when you’ll be away.

If you have the opportunity to get away, we wish you happy trails, and hope you come home to a safe and welcoming home!

A1 Insurance-Robert Attala

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