Cold Spell Nationwide Poses Threat to Homes, Businesses and Cars

I.I.I. Reviews Winter-Related Damage Covered Under Standard Policies

NEW YORK, January 12, 2010 Frigid temperatures are a fact of life for much of the country in January but the severe cold weather this month has also hit the nation’s southern states, making winter-weather related insurance losses even more likely, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
More than 22 percent of all U.S. homeowners losses in 2007 were caused by water damage and freezing, and winter storms are the third-largest cause of property damage, totaling about $1 billion annually, the I.I.I. has found.
Standard homeowners and business insurance policies provide coverage for a wide range of winter-related disasters such as losses incurred due to burst pipes, wind damage and wind-driven rain, as well as well damage or power outages caused by downed trees, limbs or other falling objects.
With temperatures approaching record lows in many places, it is important to avoid freezing pipes by keeping your home heated to at least 65 degrees, according to the I.I.I. The temperature inside the walls where pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves.
"Everyone should also know how to shut their home’s water system off," said Michael Barry, vice president, Media Relations at the I.I.I. “If water freezes and pipes burst, time is of the essence to keep damage to a minimum.”
Moreover, home and business insurance policies also typically cover insured losses emanating from “ice damming”a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house, damaging ceilings and walls.
The I.I.I. offers the following tips to homeowners who are concerned about the threats posed by frozen or burst pipes, poorly maintained fireplaces, and external conditions adjoining their home:

Inside Your Home

  • Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.
  • If you use fireplaces, wood stoves and electric heaters, watch them closely and make sure they are working properly.
  • Remember to close the flue in your fireplace when you are not using it.

Outside Your Home

  • Keep sidewalks and entrances to your home free from snow and ice.
  • Keep gutters free of leaves and debris so melting snow and ice can flow freely to prevent ice damming. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas 
  • If your garage is attached to your house, keep the garage doors closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.
  • If ice forms on tree limbs, watch for dead, damaged or dangerous branches that could break and fall because of wind or the weight of ice and snow and damage your house, a car or injure someone walking near your property.
  • If you haven’t already, make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.
If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting.
Damage to homes caused by flooding is excluded from standard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Automobile accidents resulting from slippery weather, however, are covered under a standard auto insurance policy. Damage to autos from falling branches or other debris is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

“Homeowners, business owners or motorists who have suffered losses need to contact their insurance company or agent as soon as possible to start the claims filing process,” Barry noted.

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

Back to top