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  • Tips on Preparing for a Winter Storm

As New Englanders, we know, better than most that winter comes once a year. And while the calendar insists that the winter solstice begins on December 21st and ends on March 20th, Mother Nature doesn’t always see it that way, which is why we are no strangers to experiencing a wintry mix in November and harsh blizzard-like conditions in April. We’d even go as far as saying that no experienced New England homeowner ever really puts their ice melt, snow shovels, or bulky gloves away, because the weather around here, regardless of what the calendar says, can change in an instant.

Having experienced a somewhat mild winter so far this year (knock on wood), when we started hearing murmurs about Winter Storm Harper, the first real winter storm of the 2019 season, we knew that now was a good-a-time as any to start having a conversation about how homeowners should prepare for winter storms and harsh weather conditions in general. However, the team at Morse, of course, wanted to shake things up a bit, so, instead of rattling off a list of to-dos, we asked our staff one simple question, “As a Southeastern Massachusetts homeowner yourself, what do you do to prepare for winter in New England?”, and here’s what they had to say.

“Well, I can think of a whole host of things, but first things first, protect your biggest asset, your home.” – Carol Boswell, Account Manager, Personal Lines

Whether you’ve lived in Southeastern Massachusetts for a few months or several years, you know that heavy snowfall is a very real threat to homeowners, renters and condo dwellers alike, as it can often lead to a damaged roof, ice dams, downed trees, and street flooding, just to highlight a few. Which is why taking the time to prepare and protect your home before catching wind of an incoming storm is key.

Every Fall, Carol, with the help of her family, does her best to tick off as many, if not all, of the following to-dos in preparation for the unpredictable New England winter months.

  • Thoroughly inspect all exposed pipes for possible signs of cracks and leaks
  • Make sure that all piping is adequately insulated and that outside water sources are shut off
  • Remove fallen leaves and excess debris from gutters
  • Bring all toys and small outdoor furniture inside. As for larger items, such as benches, tables or metal firepits, tie them down to make sure they stay put during periods of strong winds.

While a standard homeowners insurance policy may provide protection against a variety of weather-related events, your property must be considered “properly maintained” by your insurance provider in order to receive payment on a claim involving weather. Which is why tackling simple home repairs prior to the winter may mean the difference between receiving a check from your carrier and being left footing the bill for some pretty hefty repairs.

“Create a winter storm emergency kit. Not only is it smart, but it’s also a fun project for the entire family.” – Stacy Quaglia, Account Manager, Personal Lines
Severe winter storms can bring with it whipping winds, heavy snowfall, ice, and freezing temperatures, all of which can wreak havoc on your property and sometimes even leave you without heat and electricity. That’s why it’s important for you and your family to prepare for the worst case scenario. Stacy recommends you consider buying and storing, in a waterproof container, the following household items to be used in case of an emergency:
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Water
  • Clothing
  • Blankets
  • Medication, like Ibuprofen or Tylenol, including all prescriptions
  • Flashlight with working batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Extra supply of batteries
  • Extra gas for your car
  • Cellphone with chargers and backup batteries
  • Important family documents including copies of your insurance policies, bank accounts, and license/passport
  • Baby formula, bottles, diapers, and wipes
  • Pet food
“My mind immediately goes to my home’s plumbing, and that’s because frozen pipes are a very real threat to New England homeowners.” – Tim Morse, Vice President
According to the Insurance Information Institute, extreme winter weather is the third-largest cause of covered damages after hurricanes and tornadoes, in fact, losses from snow, ice, frozen temperatures, and similar weather conditions averaged $1.2 billion annually over the past 20 years.

Frozen pipes are by far one of the most significant risks for New England homeowners, especially when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. Southeastern Massachusetts is no stranger to experiencing below freezing temperatures especially on a cold January night, which is why, Morse, of course, would encourage you to take the time to make sure that your pipes are properly protected, as frozen and burst pipes, can bring an onslaught of added expenses and unnecessary stress. The Institute of Business and Home Safety reports that a burst pipe can cost a homeowner on average $5,000 in damage.

Below are a few tips from Tim to help prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • Set your thermostat to a warm and steady temperature day and night. This may make for a costlier heating bill, but it will still be significantly less than fixing or even replacing your home’s plumbing.
  • When the weather is particularly cold outside, let the water drip from the faucets. Running water through the faucet – even a slight trickle – can help prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the running water is typically above freezing.
  • Open all kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around your exposed pipes.
  • Shut off all outside water sources, including outdoor water features such as fountains, waterfalls, pools, showers, and sinks.
  • If you have an underground sprinkler system in your yard, you’ll want to make sure that the system is drained and switched off before the winter to prevent freeze damage.

In the unfortunate event, your pipes do freeze, do your best to try and locate the frozen pipe. From there, you’ll want to turn the water on, warm the pipe using a hairdryer or heating pad, and call a licensed plumber. If you are unsure where the pipe has frozen, common places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation. And should a pipe burst, immediately shut off the water at the main valve and call a plumber to assist you.

If you experience a loss and need to file a claim this winter, of course, the team at Morse is here to assist you through the entire process, as well as answer any claims related questions you may have.

“I always make a point to review and evaluate my insurance before the winter. That way should something happen, I know I have the coverage I need to help remedy the situation.” – Dan Morse, President
No matter what season it is, it is critical to know what your specific homeowners’ policy covers and what it does not, especially if you were to experience a loss at home. Because every insurance policy is different, we strongly encourage you to sit down with an experienced agent, like Morse, at least once a year to ensure you are protected from not only the harsh winter months but anything else that life may throw at you.

Every fall, Dan schedules a quick phone call with his trusted agent, so as soon as the winter weather hits he can worry less knowing that his family as well as his home, garage, car, lifestyle, and landscaping are all properly protected.

A standard homeowners policy may provide the financial coverage you need in the event of a covered weather event, but not always. For instance, if you were to experience a flood in your basement because over a foot of snow rapidly melted after a storm, any resulting damage to your home or your things, including furniture, family heirlooms, and clothing, would not be covered, unless you have a separate flood insurance policy in place.

At Morse, it’s our job to ensure that you, your home and your things are adequately protected from weather-related damages during all four seasons which is why we would encourage you to schedule a policy review with your agent today to ensure you have the optimal coverages in place for you and your home. But a comprehensive policy can only protect you so far, which is why our team hopes that you found the tips and to-dos discussed throughout this blog, insightful and informative.

The weather can change fast in New England, which is why partnering with a local, experienced and independent agent, like Morse, can mean the difference between being equipped to handle Mother Nature and her unpredictable mood swings, and paying out of pocket. From home insurance FAQs to instant quotes, to quality customer service, the Morse team is here to support you with whatever you need. Contact us today at 508-238-0056, visit us online or stop into anyone of our four convenient Massachusetts locations.

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