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\u2019s fury.\n\n\u201cWe\u2019re not waiting for the first storm or lengthy freeze to warn consumers about the risks of not being adequately prepared for winter weather,\u201d said Consumer Affairs Undersecretary John Chapman. \u201cConsumer\u2019s 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.\u201d\n\nThe Division of Insurance recommends consumers take preventive measures when preparing a home or vehicle for winter.\n\nWinterizing your home:\n\nWalkways 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.\n\tTrim trees back from your house and away from power lines.\n\tClear gutters and downspouts and keep roofs free of significant snow accumulation.\n\tInspect the underside of the roof for signs of leaks.\n\tMake sure the chimney is clean and in good working order.\n\tAll water pipes should be properly insulated to prevent freezing.\n\tHave a battery back-up for any electric smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.\n\tCheck the heating system and make sure heat is being delivered to all vents.\n\tKeep dryer vent unobstructed.\nProtecting your vehicle:\n\nHave a mechanic check your vehicle to make sure all systems are running properly.\n\tMake sure tires have adequate tread and the recommended air pressure.\n\tCheck your spare tire and make sure it, the jack, and lug wrench are all stored in the trunk.\n\tKeep jumper cables, a shovel, tire chains, a bag of salt or sand, basic tools, and a medical kit in the car.\n\tCarry 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.\n\tKeep the windshield wiper fluid tank filled and make sure your wiper blades are in good working order.\n\tMaintain at least a half tank of gasoline.\n\tClear accumulated snow and ice off your car as soon as possible.\nThe Division advises consumers to speak with their insurance companies about their policies in the event they need to file an insurance claim. \u201cBeing prepared also means policyholders should review their coverages and be certain they understand their responsibilities,\u201d said Insurance Commissioner Daniel Judson. \u201cIf your policy doesn\u2019t cover the type of damage your home or car sustains the expenses could be significant.\u201d\n\nReport claims to your insurance company as soon as possible. Independent insurance agents should be notified of any claims as well.\n\tProtect your damaged property to the extent you can to prevent further damage and salvage what you can.\n\tNote and photograph all damage and losses. This will assist in settling claims.\n\tIf temporary housing is necessary, check your policy for Loss of Use coverage. Your policy may cover such expenses up to a stated amount.\n\tBe sure everything is considered in the claim. Back-up your claim with written estimates.\nConsumers with questions about their insurance coverage can call the Division\u2019s Consumer Services Unit at (617) 521-7777. The Division\u2019s website at\u00a0www.mass.gov/doi\u00a0also provides valuable information regarding all lines of insurance, including auto and homeowners.\n\nThe 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\u2019s lemon laws, data breach reporting, and home improvement contractor programs, and the State\u2019s Do Not Call Registry. Follow the office at its\u00a0blog,\u00a0on\u00a0Facebook, and on Twitter\u00a0@Mass Consumer.