Polar Vortex. Nor’easter. Bomb Cyclone. Clipper. While there are a variety of colorful names given to winter storms, they all have something in common: It’s frightening – and potentially life-altering – to get caught in one.
This is especially true if that storm causes damage to your home or car. But the more you can do ahead of time to prepare for inclement weather, the better off you’ll be if and when the snow starts falling.
Getting your home and car winter ready
Even if you’re expecting a milder winter, chances are you’ll still have to deal with some sort of seasonal storm. Knowing that, here’s what you can do to properly prep your home and car – no matter the weather forecast.
Stay in the (s)know. In order to truly be ready for a winter storm, you need to know when it’s coming. This means regularly checking weather reports and signing up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
Make arrangements for your abode. When winter weather comes a-raging, make sure your home is safe and fully stocked. Start by prepping the outside of your house with salt, which will help melt snow more quickly. If you have a snowblower, make sure it’s out of storage and functioning properly, or consider renting one for the season. If you use a plowing service, give them a call to understand timing and logistics for getting your driveway cleared.
When it comes to the inside of your house, learn how to keep your pipes from freezing, and test all of your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re in working order. Stock up on essentials, such as water bottles, non-perishable food, a portable radio and a first-aid kit, should you find yourself stranded or without power.
Get your car in gear. In a perfect world, weather warnings should give you enough time to get to a safe place before a blizzard hits. But we all know weather is unpredictable. So, if you get caught in your car during a storm, make sure you’re prepared to ride it out. Create an emergency supply kit that includes everything from jumper cables, sand and a flashlight, to warm clothes, blankets and nourishment. And don’t forget to fill your tank regularly so you aren’t left without gas. Check out this handy graphic from Weather.gov for a list of auto essentials.
Staying on top of insurance
While hopefully you endure the storm without incurring damage, you need to be equipped in case destruction does happen. This starts by making sure you’re properly insured.
The 411 on homeowners insurance. The good news is most standard homeowners policies cover typical winter-weather related damage. This includes wind, wind-driven rain, trees or other falling objects, and the collapse of a structure due to weight of ice or snow. If you’re wondering whether you need Hazard Insurance, the answer is you likely already have it – it actually refers to the part of your policy that protects the structure of your home from natural disasters.
Note that some insurance companies assign additional deductibles for wind and hail damage, plus a deductible for other covered perils. This is designed to keep your homeowners policy affordable.
While most common blizzard-related damage is covered, it’s important to know that issues such as interior water damage from a storm (when there isn’t damage to the roof or walls), flood damage and water damage from backed-up drains or sewers aren’t covered automatically, but can be added to your policy for an additional premium.
Evaluating your auto insurance. Comprehensive insurance (often purchased with collision insurance) is optional coverage that covers damage related to winter weather. A comprehensive claim will raise your premium by about $31 every six months, but it’s worth it if you live in an area with frequent winter storms–collision claims are more common during snowy or icy weather because of slick roads.
When disaster strikes
Hopefully you’ll follow the advice given above, so if and when a blizzard blows your way, you’re in a good position to recover quickly. Yet, you can’t anticipate all of the consequences resulting from a winter storm. Here’s how to ensure you stay safe and minimize the headaches of potential damage.
Securing your most important asset – you. If you find yourself on the road during a storm, seek shelter somewhere close by. If you get trapped in your car, pull over and remain in the vehicle until the storm subsides. If you’re inside your home, stay inside to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. Also, be cautious of anything that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning, like generators or grills. And if an injury occurs, call 911 and wait for them to help you – don’t try to get anywhere on your own. Throughout the storm, be sure to monitor local news and alerts for emergency information and instructions. Learn more ways to stay safe at Ready.gov.
Once the storm subsides. When the worst of it is over you may think you’re in the clear, but you must continue to be cautious when venturing outside. Dress warmly and cover all extremities to prevent frostbite. Also, avoid overexertion from shoveling or snow plowing, which could potentially cause a medical emergency.
What’s next with insurance. If there has been damage to your home or car, you need to act quickly. Begin by taking photos and videos for documentation. Then it’s time to call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. They’ll let you know what other documents, forms and data you’ll need to file your claim. Before making any permanent repairs, ensure your insurance company has inspected your property and you’ve agreed on costs. If necessary to avoid additional damage, investigate temporary repair options. Save all of your receipts so you get sufficiently reimbursed.
After a major disaster, those without insurance (or whose insurance companies have denied their claims) may qualify for federal assistance. (Being reimbursed for the same damages by your insurance provider and a federal agency is considered insurance fraud.) Visit disasterassistance.gov or call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and share a few details about your situation to see if you qualify.
Weathering the weather
Winter weather is unpredictable, and it’s often unavoidable depending on where you live. And while snow storms can wreak havoc on your home and your car, proper preparation will allow you to confidently handle whatever the weather throws – or blows – your way.