Early Winter Home Preparations Can Keep Georgia Families, Property Safe

Press release from the issuing company

Friday, November 21st, 2014

As homeowners/renters are adjusting indoor climates for the seasonal changes spotlighted by this week's freezing temperatures, the Georgia Insurance Information Service (GIIS) encourages awareness that, alongside these necessary preparations, are ones that also ensure home and property safety.

"Home maintenance is certainly a year-round priority, but as we experience increasingly colder temperatures, our seasonal preparations take on added significance because of the potential hazards that accompany transitioning our property from summer/fall environments and keep us warm during the winter months," said GIIS Executive Director Jamie Kimbrough.

Having recently turned back the clock from daylight savings time, homeowners should use that annual ritual as a reminder to be sure they have an adequate number of Georgia law mandated smoke alarms, and they should install new batteries for the late fall and winter months.  A working fire/smoke alarm can be the difference between life and death, and between minimal and catastrophic loss due to the ravages of fire.

According to the Georgia Department of Insurance, most fatal fires start between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., while the family is asleep, and nine out of 10 fire victims are already deceased -- usually from smoke and toxic gases -- before the fire department is even called.

Not only do residential fires increase in colder weather months, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning and the potential for the loss of life.  As such, homeowners should consider installing carbon monoxide detectors and should check them prior to the onset of winter.

A home’s electric or gas heating system should be inspected now, to prevent fire and smoke damage caused by improperly working units.  Portable space heaters, open fireplaces, wood stoves and other alternate heat sources can save money, but they can also pose substantial safety risks if not installed and/or operated properly.

The U.S. Product Safety Commission says that more than 25,000 residential fires are associated each year with space heaters, and that more than 300 people die in these fires. To ensure home safety, only tested and certified heaters with guards protecting the heating element should be used. The GIIS website has specific guidelines for safe alternate heat source use.

In preparing their property for colder weather, homeowners are reminded to use caution when clearing and/or burning leaves, and they should contact their local fire departments prior to setting leaves ablaze as some jurisdictions require a burn permit or may prohibit burning.  Weather conditions should also be considered when burning leaves, and fire should never be set to leaf piles on windy days or when conditions are extremely dry and/or drought conditions exist.  As well, cigarettes should never be discarded near leaves or other dry vegetation.

Leaves, weeds, brush and other vegetation collected for burning should be kept at least 30 feet from a home, to prevent burning embers from blowing onto the structure and/or roof.  And, a water hose should always be available close by to extinguish any stray flames or sparks.  According to the Georgia DOI, more than 6,700 brush and grass fires were reported in the state last year, resulting in four fatalities and 20 injuries.  

Each household should have a well-rehearsed family escape plan, and a predetermined meeting place outside the house should be designated to account for everyone's safe exit. All rooms in a home, especially bedrooms, should have two escape routes. 

Water pipes are certainly susceptible to freezing and bursting during cold weather months, and the resulting damage can be costly.  Pipes under the house or in the basement should be checked for cracks, and they should properly insulated.  Consideration should also be given to insulating unfinished rooms, such as garages, to help keep pipes from freezing.  

Homeowners may consider installing an emergency pressure relief valve in their plumbing systems, to protect against increased line pressure during sub-freezing temperatures and the possibility of burst pipes.  Sink and bathtub faucets should also be left dripping at night to minimize the potential for burst pipes.

If pipes do burst, homeowners should know the location of their emergency water shut-off valve and should stop the flow of water to prevent increased property damage.

Standard homeowners and renters policies cover cold weather-related disasters such as burst pipes and damage caused by the weight of ice and snow.