The average home insurance claim as a result of frozen pipes is around $18,000 — and total losses from snow, ice, and freezing weather can exceed $1.2 billion per year. If you have not yet prepared your home or vehicles for the coming winter, you are at risk for suffering extensive damages.
An unprepared vehicle can malfunction and leave you stranded and an unprepared home may see damage due to frozen pipes, leaving its inhabitants soggy and cold. Here is information on what you can do to prevent this from happening.
How to Prepare Your Home
Take the time before the temperatures drop to make sure your home is ready for a winter storm.
- Clean any debris from your gutters. Debris can result in blockages, which can freeze over and send water cascading against the side of your home.
- Make sure to disconnect any outdoor water valves and hoses and insulate those that are exposed to the elements.
- Check your home for leaks and keep an eye out for overhanging branches that may fall. Snow can be extraordinarily heavy, so any accumulation can be enough to snap a bough from a tree.
- Ensure the underside of your home is protected. If gaps exist in your underpinning, make sure to cover them so wind cannot whip underneath your home. Not only does it put your pipes at an increased risk of freezing, but the wind will also sap the heat from your floors — an area that likely does not have as much insulation as the walls and ceiling.
- Purchase heat tape or insulation and wrap your exposed pipes with it. This will prevent the water inside from freezing when temperatures get too low.
- Check your vents. Ensure no furniture or carpet is blocking the vent. Warm air vents can sometimes grow very hot and pose a fire risk, particularly if the air is building up in a limited space. Blocked vents also prevent your home from warming up and can result in higher utility bills.
- On particularly cold nights, allow a small trickle of water to run through the faucets. It is much more difficult for running water to freeze.
How to Prepare Your Car
The majority of deaths during winter storms are related to automobiles. In most cases, they are due to individuals driving vehicles unsuited for the severe weather or people freezing while stranded. Read the following to find out how to remain safe during a winter storm with your vehicle.
- Only drive when necessary. If there is a blizzard raging outside your doors, you should only leave home if it is an absolute emergency.
- Before the temperatures drop, ensure your fluid levels are up to par. Check the antifreeze, wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and oil levels. Replace or top off any as necessary.
- If your tires are bald, take the time to purchase new tires. If you live in an environment that receives a large amount of snow, consider purchasing snow tires. These grant better traction on slippery roads.
- Keep a bag of salt or sand in your trunk. Should you get stuck in the snow, pouring this in front of your tires can grant you enough traction to escape.
- Before driving in snowy weather, clear your headlights, windshield, and the top of your car of any accumulated snow.
- Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times. This kit should include: a first-aid kit, a sleeping bag designed for winter temperatures, bottled water, dry rations, a fully-charged cellphone, and flares. If you do get stranded, these supplies will be enough to keep you safe and warm until you are able to escape or signal for help.
- If you are stranded, do not wander from your vehicle. Signal for help and remain there; you will be safer and warmer inside than you would be outside. Rescue teams are more likely to find you there.
- If you must run the engine, do so for about ten minutes every hour. This will prevent the engine block from freezing. However, make sure to clear the exhaust pipe to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to Prepare Yourself
Remaining aware of your surroundings while walking is just as important as prepping your home and vehicle. Snow and ice can make walkways slippery.
- Stay indoors whenever possible.
- When walking through snow, use a walking stick to gauge the depth in front of you. Walk carefully, taking one step at a time to prevent falls.
- If you get wet, change clothes quickly. The moisture in your clothing will sap your body heat away from you and put you at risk of hypothermia.
- If you begin to lose feeling in your extremities or their color changes to a very pale white, seek medical help immediately. These are the first signs of frostbite.
- If you begin to shiver uncontrollably, experience memory loss, disorientation, or feel a wave of warmth come over you despite the temperature, seek out a warm place and medical help. Hypothermia can make you feel warm even when you are freezing; this often results in people removing their protective layers and is one of the leading causes of death in winter.