(BPT) Experts recommend homeowners take a few simple steps to prepare their property to be Winter Weather Ready.
When temperatures dip below freezing, it can create a cascade of failures around the home. Leaky roofs, frozen pipes and other damage frequently caused by severe winter weather lead to costly and time-consuming repairs that can be especially disruptive during the holidays.
“Most areas of the country will experience plunging temperatures at some point during the winter. Just last year, Texas and the deep South saw the crippling effects of severe winter weather,” said Dr. Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). “The impact can be especially challenging in areas that don’t experience it often or if it happens over the holidays when you have a house full of guests and services may be limited.”
Before Winter Weather Hits
Simple actions before a winter storm or freezing temperatures can help homeowners avoid maintenance emergencies. Start with these vulnerable areas of the home before temperatures drop:
* Inspect the roof for damage or leaks and, if needed, hire a professional to repair.
* Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
* Test the heating system to make sure it is running properly in every room of the house.
* Make sure pipes - especially those near exterior walls and in crawl spaces - and water spigots are properly insulated.
* Know where and how to shut off the water to your home in the event a pipe does burst.
* Trim back trees so branches don’t overhang the house.
* Set the thermostat to at least 55°F to keep pipes from freezing, even when you aren’t home.
* Have an emergency weather radio to stay informed of what could become a quickly changing forecast.
Following a Winter Weather Event
Inspecting a home soon after a winter weather event is important to identify problem areas early and prevent damage from spreading, but don’t stay in your home if you feel unsafe. Examine these vulnerable areas to look for signs of damage:
* Listen for creaking sounds, and look for a sagging roof, cracks in the ceiling, water stains on the ceiling or walls, and doors that no longer open correctly, which could all be signs of snow load damage.
* Check water flow at faucets. If it is slow or has stopped, your pipes may be frozen and a plumber may need to make repairs. Shut off the water supply until a plumber arrives to prevent further damage.
* Take note of downed trees or large limbs on your property that may require a professional to remove. Notify your local public works department if they are on the road or sidewalk.
* Begin snow removal soon after a snowfall, when it is easiest to remove, once it is safe to go outside. Start by clearing snow around your home’s furnace exhaust vent and then from the roof, garage and sheds to prevent ice dams and reduce snow load. It may be necessary to hire a professional to safely remove snow from roofs.
* Apply deicer to walkways and the driveway to help prevent slips and falls.
* Contact your insurance agent right away if your home is damaged. Take pictures of damaged or destroyed property, keep receipts for repairs and create an electronic file using cloud storage so you can access the information from anywhere.
For more tips to reduce damage from winter storms, visit DisasterSafety.org for IBHS’s full Winter Weather Ready guide.