Landscaping can play an important role in protecting your home from fires. Consult your local garden center to learn more about fire-resistant plants and shrubs.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (March 13, 2019) – Polar Vortex. Deep freeze. Below average temperature highs and extreme temperature lows. Snow in unlikely U.S. cities like Malibu, Calif. Rain, rain and more rain. The 2018-2019 winter season has had its ups and downs nationwide, and many Americans are ready for spring’s arrival. With more temperate weather conditions on the horizon, Mercury Insurance says now’s the time for homeowners to turn their thoughts to spring cleaning and home maintenance to help protect against the common causes for insurance claims.
“Spring is a beautiful time of year, with trees, plants and flowers starting to bloom,” said Christopher O’Rourke, Mercury’s vice president of property claims. “It also allows homeowners to see the impact that extreme cold, frequent downpours or windy weather might have had on their properties – roofs, windows, the home’s foundation and trees are particularly important to inspect to help avoid costly repairs caused by water, windstorms and hail damage. Ensuring yards and homes are properly maintained before hot temperatures arrive can make a huge difference in protecting your home and family in the event of an unexpected loss, especially with the potential threat of wildfires and hurricanes as the year progresses.”
According to O’Rourke, water damage accounts for nearly 50 percent of Mercury’s homeowners insurance claims.
“Water can cause a lot of damage. It’s important to watch for evidence of leaks to help prevent property losses and costly repairs,” said O’Rourke.
Homeowners can take the following steps to protect against water damage.
- If the temperature continues to dip below freezing as spring approaches, be sure to insulate pipes that run against exterior walls to help prevent them from freezing and potentially bursting. Leaving cabinet doors open to allow warmer air to circulate around plumbing also helps.
- Inspect pipes for cracks and leaks. If you find any, have them repaired or replaced immediately.
- Check appliance hoses at least once a year and replace any that are cracked or have leaks.
- Review the manuals for your appliances for maintenance tips to keep them in good working order.
- Make sure showers, tubs and sinks are properly sealed and caulked.
- Regularly inspect the area around the toilet wax ring (where the toilet and the floor meet) for moisture and replace the wax ring if necessary.
- Know the location of your main water shutoff valve so you can turn off your water supply in the event of a burst pipe or damaged hose. When leaving for the weekend or longer, turn off the main water supply to help keep the pressure from building up. Many homeowners encounter a water leak when returning home and this simple step can keep one from happening.
- Maintain and inspect your air conditioning unit annually. This is particularly true for attic-installed units.
- Keep rain gutters and downspouts free of debris. Install gutter guards to prevent debris from accumulating and position downspouts to direct water away from the house.
- Ensure windows are properly sealed and caulked, and close storm shutters when severe thunderstorm warnings are issued.
- Annually inspect the roof for damaged, loose, missing or old shingles – especially if your area has experienced a drought – and replace them. Also look for gaps in flashing around vents and chimneys. If potential damage isn’t easily visible from the ground or a window, it’s best to hire a professional for the inspection.
“Windstorms and hail can damage roofs, windows, fencing and landscaping, and cause nearly 20 percent of our claims. It’s wise to move patio and lawn furniture, and potted plants indoors before a storm,” said O’Rourke.
O’Rourke also advises that homeowners insurance doesn’t typically cover damage caused by rising water related to weather or run-off from overflowing bodies of water. Flooding is the nation’s most common natural disaster, so it’s important for homeowners to ensure their property is properly protected if they live in an area that can be impacted by these types of events. Visit the National Flood Insurance Program or speak to an insurance agent to learn more about how to get flood insurance.
The National Interagency Fire Center reports there were 58,083 wildfires in the U.S. in 2018, which burned nearly 8.8 million acres. California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced in January that more than $11.4 billion in insured losses from wildfires had been reported from the November 2018 fires and more than 46,000 claims were reported by insurers.
“Wildfires seldom offer warning when they sweep through areas, leaving homeowners little time to protect their homes. This risk can be mitigated before a fire erupts by keeping yards free of dry brush, grass clippings and twigs, trimming tree branches and pruning bushes. Homeowners should also make sure their roofs and gutters are cleared of leaves and debris,” said O’Rourke.
O’Rourke also recommends homeowners take the following precautions to protect against wildfires.
- Keep garden hoses attached to faucets during warmer months to aid fire personnel, if necessary.
- If a wildfire starts, track smoke and its impact on your visibility to determine if you should evacuate prior to an official evacuation notice being put into effect. Monitor if the fire and smoke change direction to determine your safest evacuation route.
“Landscaping can play an important role in protecting your home from fires. Consult your local garden center to learn more about fire-resistant plants and shrubs,” said O’Rourke.
To protect against fires that start within the home, homeowners should:
- Install smoke detectors in each room on each floor and check them regularly to ensure they’re in working order. Modern alarms can be synced to smartphone apps, which will alert you if smoke is detected even if you aren’t home, and several models now feature voice alerts instead of loud beeps.
- Don’t overload wall outlets or use items with frayed electrical cords.
- Keep flammable items, like curtains and furniture away from portable heaters, and turn heaters off before going to sleep.
- Don’t leave lit candles unattended and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
- Keep at least one fire extinguisher in the home. Make sure everyone knows how to properly use it and have it inspected once a year.
- Never leave a lit stove unattended and keep flammable materials away from the burners.
- Establish an escape plan in the event of a fire and practice it with your family twice a year.
“Most home fires are due to inattention, like leaving stove tops, candles and space heaters unattended while in use,” said O’Rourke. “The simple act of paying attention can go a long way toward preventing a fire.”
About Mercury Insurance
Mercury Insurance (MCY) is a multiple-line insurance organization predominantly offering personal automobile, homeowners and business insurance through a network of independent agents in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. Since 1962, Mercury has specialized in offering quality insurance at affordable prices. For more information, visit www.mercuryinsurance.com or Facebook and follow the company on Twitter.
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