Ice Storm Damage: Tips for Prevention and Response

Our last post responded to the most common issues clients called us about following last weekend's ice storm, and whether most insurance policies provided coverage or not. 

Now that the last storm has past, it's time to get ready for the next one (which hopefully isn't any time soon!). Here are a few tips to reduce your chance of an ice storm damaging your property. 

  1. Consider buying a generator. It can take awhile for utility crews to restore your power in times of widespread damage, especially if you live in a rural area. Having a generator to run your furnace, sump pump and refrigerator can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a nasty loss. Make sure that your generator hookup is done by an electrician; there were cases of improper use of generators causing house fires during this ice storm. It costs about $1,000 for an electrician to rig your house for the generator hookup. The cost of the generator itself varies by size and capacity. This cost can be minimal compared to the time, expense and stress of property damage. 
  2. Keep your trees pruned and healthy. Although several of our clients believed that the trees that fell on their houses, cars, etc. were healthy, some clients admitted that they'd procrastinated on pruning or felling dead limbs or trees. Even healthy tree limbs can succumb to the weight of an ice storm. Reduce the risk of damage by removing limbs that overhang your home, fences or driveway. 
  3.  If you are on well water, fill your bathtub with water in preparation of the storm.  
  4. Keep your chimney clean.  This is good advice for everyone, but especially for those who don't regularly burn wood. Many wood-burners know to have their chimney cleaned at least once a year. Those who only use their fireplaces or wood stoves sporadically often postpone doing that. There were cases of house fires during this ice storm from dirty chimneys. 

In case of an extended power outage:

  1. Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed. Food will last surprisingly long in a closed appliance, especially if the house is cold because the furnace isn't working. If you notice that the temperature of the food is dropping too much, consider storing it in coolers, or even outside. Take advantage of winter temperatures!
  2. Remove items from your basement floor. If your sump pump fails, water can back up quickly – more quickly than you thought possible. Plan ahead by lifting things off the floor.
  3. NEVER run a generator in the house! Carbon monoxide, a deadly odorless, colorless gas, is a byproduct of internal combustion engines. These units should never be run in enclosed living spaces. 
  4. Open kitchen cabinets to allow the warmer air in the house to reach your water pipes. Pipes are often against cold outside walls – even colder when the house has no heat, electricity or hot water running through the pipes. 

We hope you find these tips helpful as you think about the next winter storm.