Winter is the time of year that a lot of people in the Northeast dread. The cold, snow, and frost are all elements that can cause accidents, damage to property, and injuries. These can all cause individuals and businesses to worry whether something will happen and whether they have the funds to pay for damage or medical bills that may occur. Accordingly, here are some tips and advice to help ease your mind.
Prepare Your Property for the Next Winter Storm
Snow storms are prevalent in the Northeast during the winter. Luckily they can be predicted sometimes even a week ahead of time which gives you time to get your property ready. There are many steps that can be taken in preparation for a winter storm to get your property ready and to help prevent slips on ice.
One of the best things you can do to prepare for a winter storm is to treat your property. This would include sanding or salting all parking lots, driveways, walkways, ramps, and steps before the storm hits to prevent the build-up of ice.
It is also important to keep an eye out for pooling of water when the snow starts to melt. These puddles may quickly turn to ice due to winter’s freezing temperatures. In addition, be sure to keep an eye out for areas below roof overhangs and downspout areas. Water tends to gather near these areas once the snow is melted and can ice over.
Slip prevention is not limited to the outdoors. Snow can easily be brought indoors by people’s shoes, which then melts in minutes causing a slip hazard. To help prevent people from slipping, non-skid area rugs should be provided in the doorways and other high traffic areas along with caution signs to warn others about the potentially slippery surface.
Another thing to think about when it comes to maintaining your property during cold weather is preventing pipes from freezing. Some steps to take include: sealing and/or insulating all areas where there is cold air, insulating piping near exterior walls, and knowing where your water cut-off valve is located and how to shut the water off. Make sure to keep an eye on your pipes and maintain a low temperature and/or water flow alarm in the building. It is also important to check on vacant buildings daily during extreme cold weather. If your pipes do freeze, do not try to warm them with a blowtorch or other heat source as that can be a fire hazard.
Heating Equipment Safety Tips
In the winter, temperatures drop substantially causing us to turn up our thermostats indoors. Before you adjust the temperature setting, keep these tips in mind:
- Prevent a fire hazard by maintaining 3-ft clearance between heating equipment and combustible storage.
- Boiler and furnace rooms should be kept clear and never be used for storage.
- Do not use temporary/portable heaters.
- Provide annual service of heating equipment and keep equipment tuned up.
- Check oil/gas levels and maintain fuel source during winter months.
It is always recommended to have a qualified contractor service your heating equipment each year. After being used all during the previous winter season, then going months untouched, there is a chance your equipment needs some tuning up. It is also important to keep an eye on your fuel source throughout the season and stock up when needed. Some people like to keep their fuel consumption to a minimum in order to save on fuel costs, however, keep in mind that without adequate heat pipes can easily freeze causing a lot of property damage. To prevent this, it is important to keep your home or business warm enough to keep your pipes from freezing.
Boiler and furnace rooms should never be used for storage. According to NFPA, the leading factor contributing to home fire deaths was flammable objects being located too close to the heating equipment. These incidents could have easily been prevented.
Safe Shoveling Techniques
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the year of 2015, over 158,000 people were treated for injuries sustained from manual snow and ice removal. The majority of these injuries included sprains and strains in the back and shoulders. Such injuries may have been prevented by following a simple safety tips such as:
- Stand with feet about hip width for balance, keep shovel close to your body
- Bend with knees, keep stomach muscles tightened
- Stay hydrated
- Push snow when you can or throw snow forward
- Clear more often, lighter/smaller loads
- Pace yourself
- Twist; move feet (nose over toes)
- Throw snow over your shoulder
In addition to the “dos and don’ts” listed above, it is recommended that before shoveling snow, you should warm up your muscles with some light exercise. Warming up will increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare your body for shoveling which can be a strenuous activity.
While shoveling, it is important to remember to pace yourself and to take water breaks as needed to prevent dehydration. Although it may seem like a lot more work to shovel more often, it may save time and energy in the long-run. Consider getting out and shoveling more often during a storm to prevent a large, overwhelming job in the future.
Choose the right shovel for the job; not one that is too long or too short for your body type. Finding a shovel that works comfortably with your body may decrease bodily injury caused by extra unnecessary movements. And as always, remember to use your legs not your back when lifting snow, and discard the snow in a forward motion.
Do the Penguin Shuffle
Have you ever seen a penguin walk? You may have noticed that they move with more of a shuffle movement rather than a standard walk. With their feet pointed outwards, they take short steps and their bodies rock from side to side. They keep their center of gravity forward and walk with their wings out for extra balance. The majority of penguins live in winter climates, which makes them great examples to learn from when it comes to walking on ice.
Walking on ice calls for extra attention to your movements. Unlike walking on regular pavement, we must plan each step carefully. It is important to remember to change your posture to maintain the proper balance. Normally when we walk, we stand completely upright with our center of balance located in between our strides. Walking on ice is a different story. We must shift our weight to our front leg, which causes us to lean slightly forward. It is a habit for most to push off on the balls of your feet while walking. However, when walking on ice, it is important to remain flat-footed and point your feet out. It is also important to remember to bring your arms out for balance, bring your center of gravity forward, take small, careful steps or shuffle like a penguin, and keep your head up. Unlike during other seasons, we must wear the proper footwear containing enough traction to walk on snow and ice more safely. With these simple tips in mind, we may be better prepared to walk outside this winter.
Winter Driving Safety Tips
Each winter, the Northeast is hit with a number of winter storms that cover the roadways with snow and ice. Over time, snow bank heights increase on the side of the road, black ice accumulates, and the days get darker faster. These conditions make it much more dangerous to drive. We must remember that we cannot drive the same way as we do in the summer. There are extra precautions to take to help ensure that your life and the lives of your neighbors remain unharmed.
It is important to leave earlier than usual to make sure you have enough time to clean off your car and defrost your windows before hitting the road. Test your brakes for black ice, and be extra cautious while taking turns as snow banks may impair your view of oncoming traffic. Always assume the roads are icy and leave plenty of room between the vehicles in front of you. There will always be dangers while driving, but these four tips may make you better prepared to hit the road.
Some other tips to consider include:
- If at all possible, refrain from driving when the roads are in poor condition
- Never drive with a low gas tank
- Keep an emergency supplies box in your trunk
- Know who to contact in the case of an emergency
- Make sure windshield wipers are not damaged
- Keep washer fluid levels full
- Make sure all lights are functional and visible
- If ABS brakes are triggered, keep continuous pressure on the brake pedal
For more winter safety tips, contact Acadia’s Virtual Loss Control team at [email protected].
At Acadia Insurance, we are here to answer any questions you may have. To find an agent near you, visit acadiainsurance.com.
Acadia is pleased to share this material for the benefit of its customers. Please note, however, that nothing herein should be construed as either legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.