Characterized by freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, high winds and cold temperatures, a major winter storm can last for several days and cause considerable damage. With that in mind, here are a few safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe during winter storms.

Watch Out for Warning Signs

Extreme winter conditions can lead to the shutdown of entire regions, communication disruptions, power outages, property damage, and worst case, loss of life.

During winter storms, you should monitor the news for warnings and advisories including, among others:

•    Winter weather advisory – Weather conditions that are expected but not likely to be life-threatening.
•    Winter storm outlook – Possible storm conditions in two to five days.
•    Wind chill temperature – How cold you’ll feel when outside.
•    Blizzard warning: Frequents gusts of sustained winds coupled with blowing or falling snow, which will limit visibility and is expected to prevail for over three hours.
•    Winter storm warning: Severe and life-threatening conditions that are ongoing or will begin in the next 24 hours.

If you hear any of these warnings or advisories, it is advised that you take necessary precautionary actions as soon as possible. Some suggested actions -and when to take them -are below.

Before the Storm

•    Winterize your vehicle
•    Get your mechanic to check your antifreeze, battery, windshield fluid and wipers, thermostat, ignition system, oil, defroster, heater, exhaust system, flashing hazard lights, and lights
•    Install winter tires with sufficient tread
•    Ensure your home heating system conforms to local codes
•    Insulate your water pipes
•    Weather-strip and caulk your windows and doors
•    Repair Roof leaks
•    Trim tree branches that may fall on your house or any other structure
•    Buy emergency heating equipment
•    Get a smoke detector and a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector if you’ll be relying on a wood stove, kerosene heater, or fireplace
•    Get a fire extinguisher
•    Vent all fuel-burning equipment to the outside
•    If you reside in a flood-prone locale, consider buying flood insurance. Take note that homeowners insurance typically excludes flood damage, and therefore, you should talk to your insurer about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

During the Storm

•    Wear warm clothes
•    Keep up to date with weather updates through local media or NOAA Weather Radio.
•    Eat regularly
•    Hydrate but avoid caffeine and alcohol, which may exacerbate hypothermia and cause dehydration
•    Check on neighbors, relatives, and friends
•    Before you drive anywhere, let someone close to you know about your journey and when you’re likely to arrive

After the Storm

•    Follow public safety instructions and guidelines
•    When shoveling snow, take regular breaks to avoid overexertion
•    Clear the exhaust vents of your furnace systems to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
•    Before you start your vehicle, make sure you clear snow from the exhaust pipes to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
•    Before you use your heating system or emergency generators, ensure your home is well ventilated
•    Do not allow snow to accumulate on your roofto prevent roof damage or collapse
•    Park your vehicle carefully so that public safety vehicles and plows can maneuver safely

To protect yourself and your loved ones during a winter storm, follow these simple winter storm safety tips. Additionally, consider home insurance coverage that protects your home from winter storm-related damage. For help securing homeowners insurance for your property, contact the team at Tompkins Insurance Agencies today.