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USAA Urges Home Protection as Winter Weather Approaches
Leading insurance provider to the military community offers winterproofing tips
SAN ANTONIO, TX, DECEMBER 2, 2009 – Winter weather often takes a backseat to other forms of destructive weather, but according to the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 8% of all catastrophe claims from 1989 to 2008 resulted from winter storms. Every year, water damage from burst or frozen pipes, roof collapses from heavy snow, fires from space heaters, and other winter-related damage plague property owners around the country with costly results.
“Winter storms may not have names like hurricanes, but they do not lack major impact, and homeowners need to be on guard and vigilant in protecting their property as the season approaches,” says Elizabeth Gulick, executive director, National Catastrophe Operations, USAA. “Fortunately, with a little planning, minimal labor, and common sense, damage can be largely avoided.”
With a military community that includes millions of military families, USAA is aware of the unique challenges facing homeowners who must frequently relocate. Transplanted property owners may be unfamiliar with typical local extreme weather patterns and are often unaware of the appropriate precautions to take.  USAA offers the following tips to help keep homes and businesses safe and dry during the winter season:
·         It starts at the top: Ice dams form when heat from the attic melts the snow on the roof where it refreezes on the edges preventing roofs from draining properly. Make sure the attic is well ventilated to ensure the roof stays cool. Also, check the ceiling insulation to keep heat from escaping into the attic. At ground level, remember to keep walk ways and driveways shoveled and salted to prevent accidents.
·         Don’t refrain from the drain: Proper drainage is essential to cycling precipitation off of the roof. Remember that leaves often build up during the fall. Clear any debris from drains and make sure gutters are clean and stable. Keep an eye on window wells and walls, and remove any snow buildup.
·         Pipe down: Bursting pipes cause millions of dollars worth of property damage every winter. Insulate all accessible pipes, and when temperatures dip near freezing, drip all faucets to prevent ice buildup. Also, install protective covers on exterior faucets. Avoid turning off your thermostat when the property is unattended, keeping the temperature warm enough to prevent freezing. Inspect the external walls of your property for cracks or holes, and fill them with caulk or insulation to keep cold air out.
·         Some like it hot: Many people turn to space heaters during the colder months of the year. If you’re in the market for a space heater, make sure it has been tested by the Underwriters’ Laboratories and check its list of features to confirm that it has an automatic shut-off function and heat element guards. If you already own a space heater, inspect the cords for fraying or cracks and never run the cord under rugs or carpeting. Carbon monoxide detectors in every room are crucial if you choose to use a liquid-fueled heater.

In addition, special care and caution is recommended for chimneys and winter heating fuel oil tanks. Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned regularly and kept clear of branches. Only wood seasoned for six months to a year should be used (never burn your Christmas tree or treated wood in the fireplace).  Heating oil storage tanks also should be inspected and kept clear of undergrowth and debris. Pipes should be positioned to avoid ice, snow, or water build-up.

The aftermath of many winter storms all too frequently puts a sharp dent in many property owners’ wallets, as unexpected out-of-pocket expenses arise.  Homeowners should check their deductibles when at policy renewal time so that they are aware of any changes in out-of-pocket expenses.
As the recession continues, Gulick also urges homeowners to avoid cutting corners when it comes to home protection.
“In the current economy, people may try to save money by using alternative heating methods, such as wood or wood pellet stoves, or more space heaters,” says Gulick. “It’s very important to take seriously the unique safety precautions that accompany these heating solutions.”
USAA offers more information on how to prepare your home for winter at:


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posted 12/3/2010

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