Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and Division of Insurance Advise Massachusetts Residents to Prepare for Winter
Boston, MA (December 19, 2016) — Damage as a result of winter storms can be costly and dangerous. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the Division of Insurance want consumers to take action to protect themselves and their property from winter’s fury.
“We’re not waiting for the first storm or lengthy freeze to warn consumers about the risks of not being adequately prepared for winter weather,” said Consumer Affairs Undersecretary John Chapman. “Consumer’s homes and cars are their biggest assets. By spending a little money now to get them ready for winter, consumers could prevent needing to make expensive repairs later.”
The Division of Insurance recommends consumers take preventive measures when preparing a home or vehicle for winter.
Winterizing your home:
- Walkways and driveways should be cleared of snow and ice and treated with ice melt. Use a pet-friendly alternative to avoid illness or injury to animals.
- Trim trees back from your house and away from power lines.
- Clear gutters and downspouts and keep roofs free of significant snow accumulation.
- Inspect the underside of the roof for signs of leaks.
- Make sure the chimney is clean and in good working order.
- All water pipes should be properly insulated to prevent freezing.
- Have a battery back-up for any electric smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Check the heating system and make sure heat is being delivered to all vents.
- Keep dryer vent unobstructed.
Protecting your vehicle:
- Have a mechanic check your vehicle to make sure all systems are running properly.
- Make sure tires have adequate tread and the recommended air pressure.
- Check your spare tire and make sure it, the jack, and lug wrench are all stored in the trunk.
- Keep jumper cables, a shovel, tire chains, a bag of salt or sand, basic tools, and a medical kit in the car.
- Carry a cell phone and have a flashlight, ice scraper, snow brush or broom, and signaling devices such as flares or reflective triangles in the vehicle. Bring along extra warm clothing, gloves, a blanket, food and water.
- Keep the windshield wiper fluid tank filled and make sure your wiper blades are in good working order.
- Maintain at least a half tank of gasoline.
- Clear accumulated snow and ice off your car as soon as possible.
The Division advises consumers to speak with their insurance companies about their policies in the event they need to file an insurance claim. “Being prepared also means policyholders should review their coverages and be certain they understand their responsibilities,” said Insurance Commissioner Daniel Judson. “If your policy doesn’t cover the type of damage your home or car sustains the expenses could be significant.”
- Report claims to your insurance company as soon as possible. Independent insurance agents should be notified of any claims as well.
- Protect your damaged property to the extent you can to prevent further damage and salvage what you can.
- Note and photograph all damage and losses. This will assist in settling claims.
- If temporary housing is necessary, check your policy for Loss of Use coverage. Your policy may cover such expenses up to a stated amount.
- Be sure everything is considered in the claim. Back-up your claim with written estimates.
Consumers with questions about their insurance coverage can call the Division’s Consumer Services Unit at (617) 521-7777. The Division’s website at www.mass.gov/doi also provides valuable information regarding all lines of insurance, including auto and homeowners.
The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the State’s lemon laws, data breach reporting, and home improvement contractor programs, and the State’s Do Not Call Registry. Follow the office at its blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter @Mass Consumer.