Stop sign near snowy road

Each year, winter poses a very real threat to home and car owners.

The consequences of being unprepared for extreme weather can be long lasting, leaving many homeowners and drivers to deal with the financial fallout into spring and beyond. By winterizing your home and car, you can protect yourself from potential consequences when freezing weather and winter storms strike.

Preparing your home for winter storms

Here are key areas to check before the next winter storm to ensure your home is winter-ready:

Insulation – Freezing weather can lead to pipes leaking or bursting, and plummeting temperatures can cause discomfort to your household. Help make your house safe and comfortable for all by insulating walls and attics, installing weatherstrips on doors and windows and using insulation sleeves on water pipes. You may even consider an insulated blanket for your house’s water heater.

Roofing – Is your roof prepared for heavy snow? A contractor can conduct an inspection to ensure it can withstand excessive snowfall and check for areas that need repairs to help keep the roof over your head leak-free. To prevent ice dams, a water-repellent membrane can be installed under your roof covering.

Furniture – It’s important to keep heat circulating in your home during winter. Make sure furniture does not block heating vents, and that the flue to your fireplace (if you have one) is closed when not in use. During extreme cold spells, it may be helpful to keep cabinet doors open, allowing warm air to circulate around pipes in kitchens and bathrooms.

Insurance – We recommend checking to see what your homeowners insurance covers in the event of inclement weather. Review your insurance policy to find out if it covers common wintertime claims such as burst pipes or roof damage from ice dams and to see if you may benefit from additional coverage.

How to prepare your car for winter

Winter weather can be challenging for even the most experienced drivers. According to the Department of Transportation, 22% of all vehicle crashes in the U.S. – and 16% of fatalities – are due to severe weather such as rain, snow, sleet and ice. It’s important to understand the risks of weather-affected roadways to adequately prepare for treacherous driving conditions1.

Adjust your driving patterns – If inclement weather is on its way or already at your door, avoid driving altogether. If you need to drive in harsh conditions, limit your driving hours to daylight. It’s generally a good idea to stick to main roads that will be plowed and salted and to avoid any back road shortcuts.

Check your vehicle before you get behind the wheel – Before you hit the road, top off your car’s fluids, including antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, gas and oil. Inspect your tires for appropriate tread; consider snow tires or chains if you experience multiple adverse winter events where you live.

Stock up in case of road emergencies – Make sure you equip vehicle for the unexpected. Keep a bag of salt or sand in your trunk to melt ice. Store numbers in your phone for both towing services and roadside assistance, which may be available through your auto insurance. Consider keeping a well-stocked emergency kit in your car.

What to do if you get trapped in your car

If you find yourself stuck in your vehicle, it’s helpful to know what to do. Follow these guidelines in case of emergencies where you and your vehicle are stranded:

Stay inside – Remain in your car where rescuers are most likely to find you, and take turns sleeping if you’re with someone. Somebody should always be awake to alert rescuers.

Keep warm – Run the engine and heater approximately 10 minutes every hour and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. You can also move around inside your car to generate heat and insulate windows using loose papers, floor mats and seat covers.

Alert others – If it’s dark out, turn on the inside light so rescue crews can find you more easily. If you’re stranded in a remote area, stomp out the words "SOS" or "HELP" in the snow so rescuers can see them from above.

Preparing for cold weather

Once you’ve prepared your home and car for the onslaught of wintertime risks, remember to take care of yourself, too. Severe cold can be deadly, so brush up on these tips for self-care during the coldest months:

In case of an ice storm:

  • Stay indoors while the storm is active.
  • Be careful when you go out – watch for snow and ice on walkways and proceed with caution.
  • If you need to shovel snow, don’t overexert yourself. Stretch first, take breaks, drink plenty of water and ask for help if you need it. Pushing yourself too hard can bring on a heart attack, a common cause of death in the winter.
  • Keep your clothes dry; wet clothing loses its insulating value and rapidly transmits cold.

Be wary of these cold-related injuries:

  • Frostbite – Whether you’ve been shoveling snow or out for a walk, be vigilant for signs of frostbite such as loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities. If you notice any of these signs, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Hypothermia – If you or someone you know has been exposed to extreme cold, watch for signs of hypothermia such as uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and exhaustion. Seek medical help as soon as possible.

For more on how to prepare yourself and your property for extreme weather, visit our catastrophe resource center. We hope these tips will help keep you out of harm’s way and help you stay protected from winter storms and cold this season.

Need to file a claim? Visit our claims center or call 1-800-421-3535.

1 https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/q1_roadimpact.htm

Insurance terms, definitions and explanations are intended for informational purposes only and do not in any way replace or modify the definitions and information contained in individual insurance contracts, policies or declarations pages, which are controlling. Such terms and availability may vary by state, and exclusions may apply. Discounts may not be applied to all policy coverages.