Is Your Home Winter Ready? - pt. 2

In part 1, we discussed the problems that may lead to ice dams. In this part we discuss a different physical source of loss; but first let's look at an important legal responsibility created by the winter season. Creating A Clear Liability

Snow doesn't show favoritism. Instead of conveniently falling onto unused areas, it covers homes, sidewalks, driveways, roadways and everything else. As a responsible homeowner you need to arrange to make the travel ways on your property safe. This calls for clearing your walkways of snow and ice. It is also important to clear your property of items such as rakes, shovels, tools, toys and similar items. Remember that it takes only a small amount of snow to hide items that, during clear conditions, are easily seen and avoided. So make sure that you move such property and make repairs to uneven or cracked pavement. Keep in mind that clearing walkways (including stairs) is an invitation for pedestrians to use the path. So, once you clear an area, make sure that you keep it clear, especially from ice. Also, don't create piles of snow that can obscure either a driver's or a pedestrian's view. Finally, be sure that your property is safe for children who are enjoying winter. Don't allow children to slide around without being aware of pedestrians or motorized traffic and don't let anyone throw snow or iceballs at cars.

Don't forget the inside of your home. Visitors should be kept safe from harm by making sure you keep insides stairs and floors clear of slippery water. Keep things dry and consider providing mats that provide good traction and an area where folks can clear snow and ice from their shoes or boots. Firing Up A Hearty Loss

Do you own a fireplace, woodburning stove or portable heater? What about a gas or electric furnace? If so, you need to take steps to make sure that they are safe and used properly.

Have your furnace inspected to make sure that it will operate properly in cold weather. Clean filters and vents will go a long way to keep your furnace a source or warmth rather than a cause of a fire loss. An inspection should also make certain that your furnace is not a source for dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.

Fireplaces and woodstoves should also be inspected and, if necessary, thoroughly cleaned. A byproduct of burning wood, creosote, builds up in chimney and stove flues very quickly. Even a single wood-burning season could produce enough buildup to create a fire or severe smoke hazard. Don't do the inspection yourself. It's worth the cost to have a professional inspect and clean your fireplace or stove. Also, make sure that you don't burn soft wood or paper. Using anything other than hard woods exposes your fireplace or stove to quicker creosote buildup (soft wood) or more intense heat (paper) which could clog or contribute to cracking a flue or liner.

Be very careful with the use of portable heaters. Depending upon the type, they can be prone to malfunction or could be a hazardous source of burns, especially for children. Further, many types can be easily tipped with the combination of heat source and fuels, creating a serious fire hazard.

Finally, make sure you have fire/smoke and carbon monoxide detectors properly installed and in good working order. Test them and put in new batteries. Small expense; big payoff.

As always, an insurance professional is a valuable source of safety and insurance information. Don't hesitate to contact an agent to discuss your questions. If you haven't had the chance, please be sure to read part 1 of "Is Your Home Winter Ready" which discusses ice dams.

COPYRIGHT: Insurance Publishing Plus, Inc. 1999

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