Freezing temperatures, ice, snow and wind can cause severe damage to your home and property. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, here are some areas to evaluate to help protect your home:
Build Up of Ice and Snow on Your Roof
Ice dams occur when heat from a house escapes the attic and warms the roof. Snow on the roof melts and then refreezes, causing a ridge of ice to form and trap water on the roof. This water can leak into the home, causing major damage. Safeguard your roof by:
- Thoroughly clean gutters in the spring and late fall. Clogged gutters may allow ice to form and back up under the roofline.
- Make sure proper attic insulation is in place, keeping your house warm, but your attic cool – reducing snow melt on the roof.
- Ensure continuous ventilation of attic air, which should be only 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside.
- Heavy ice and snow build-up on your roof can cause seepage or even a collapse. If snow accumulation is significant, hire a professional to “shovel” the roof.
Plumbing Inside and Outside Your Home
Plumbing located within exterior walls or unheated crawl spaces is most vulnerable to freezing or bursting. Protect your pipes by:
- All interior pipes should be insulated or have wall insulation around them, especially in vulnerable areas such as attics, crawl spaces and along outside walls.
- Use weather -resistant insulation to protect exterior pipes.
- Cabinet doors under sinks should be kept open during a heavy freeze to allow heat to circulate around pipes.
- Hire a professional to winterize the outdoor sprinkler system and remove all residual water, which can freeze and cause pipes to burst.
- Disconnect exterior hoses from their faucets and install frost-free hoses and hose bibs.
- Properly insulate unfinished areas such as basements and garages, where pipes may be exposed.
- Keep your thermostat set at a minimum of 55 degrees in the winter.
- Install a low temperature alarm if you are away often. It will activate your alarm system if the home temperature falls below a pre-set level.
- If you suspect a frozen pipe, shut off the water main source and call a plumber.
Fireplaces, Furnaces and Heating Systems
Improper use or poor maintenance of heating systems can cause fire, puff-backs and smoke damage. Wood burning fireplaces and stoves are among the worst culprits when it comes to winter house fires. Follow these fire preventive measures:
- Clean chimneys and flues on fireplaces and stoves annually.
- Use a fire screen to control flying embers and burn only seasoned hardwood to reduce the potential for creosote buildup. Place ashes in a metal container and remove from the house immediately. Never put ashes in or near the trash.
- Service furnaces and boilers at least once a year.
- Check for scorch marks from baseboard heaters on interior walls.
- Keep portable space heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable objects, such as window treatments, furniture and bedding. Do not use extension cords to power the unit.
- Keep backup generators outdoors – away from open windows, doors and vents. And never use an outside grill inside the house either.
- Change smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries every six months. Replace detectors after 10 years.
Severe weather could impact access to your home in the event of a fire, medical or other emergency. Take these measures before a winter storm to ensure fast and easy access:
- Your house number should be clearly marked in a conspicuous area at the front of the home.
- Contract a snow removal service that guarantees removing the snow from your driveway after every 6 inches of accumulation.
- A large maker should be placed near a fire hydrant. Clear away surrounding snow.
Secondary, Seasonal Homes and Unoccupied Homes
Secondary/seasonal homes or homes that are unoccupied during much of the winter require special consideration:
- Hire a property manager or caretaker to check on the home at least once a week for mechanical failures and signs of damage. An inspection should include running the water in every sink, flushing toilets, and opening cabinet doors under sinks to avoid freezing pipes.
- If the home is not professionally winterized, set the thermostat at 55 degrees or higher. Unheated seasonal structures with plumbing should be winterized.
Winter storms caused an estimated $3.5 billion in 2015, up almost $1 billion from the year before.
Be prepared for the next storm by downloading this Winter Storm Action Plan, which discusses two significant winter hazards and outlines loss prevention practices businesses can implement to help minimize exposure to loss.
ATTENTION RIDE SHARING DRIVERS!!!
Wagner Agency, Inc. can now provide automobile insurance coverage through a national carrier for individuals using their personal automobiles for ride sharing programs. This program provides specific coverage needed for ride sharing drivers that is often excluded from personal automobile insurance policies. If you are a ride sharing driver, make sure you are properly protected! Please contact us today at 412-681-2700 x221 for a quote!!!
The Wagner Family is honored and humbled to receive the 2015 PNC Community Builders Award last evening from Sy Holzer of PNC Bank at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh campaign thank you event. The award represents four generations and commitment to our Jewish community, both financially and lay leadership. Richard Wagner graciously accepted the award on behalf of our family. We thank PNC Bank and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for their recognition.
Wagner Agency would like to welcome Kyle Majerick to the staff as our newest producer. Kyle is a born and raised Pittsburgher hailing from Fox Chapel Area. He recently graduated from Ohio University with a major in Communications and minors in both Marketing and Sports Management. He has been an athlete at many levels for his entire life playing both soccer and football in high school and then to the colligate level for football place kicking. He currently is a volunteer football coach for the Fox Chapel Area School District coaching the special teams unit. Kyle also is very fond of skiing and snowboarding in the winter and fishing in the summer. He is very excited to start working in the insurance industry and he looks forward to meeting many new clients through Wagner Agency.
Between fits of rage from Mother Nature and an Interstate system sagging under the pressure of millions of vehicles, supply chain disruptions are more likely than ever before. These events can be devastating to an emerging business.
Large national or multi-national firms have disaster plans at the ready for just such an event, but what about the family-run business? It’s wise to take a few days to run through various scenarios that could interrupt your company’s income stream.
Long-time San Francisco business owners know better than many other businesses what one seismic event can do to crush not just bricks and mortar, but a business owner’s dreams. The region’s Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 disrupted supply chains for many of the Bay area’s businesses when the magnitude 6.9 heavily impacted transportation routes for months.
Have you considered what your business would do should your supply-chain be disrupted for a month? What if it were six months? Would your business even survive?
That’s why it’s a good idea to convene your top executives, or if you’re a small business, your inner circle, to conduct a brainstorming session. Consider your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Then whip out the calculator and factor in those once-in-a-blue-moon events that could bring your company’s productivity to a sudden, extended halt. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering event. It could be an electrical fire, a flood or even a wildcat strike.
Address those areas of exposure that pose the biggest threat to the viability of your business. Don’t put it off, because no one knows what tomorrow may bring.
Last evening, Wagner Agency, Inc. attended the Community Living And Support Services (CLASS) 22nd Annual Heroes Awards Dinner. Founded in 1951 as a small clinic for families, CLASS has grown to be a major human service provider in Western Pennsylvania and a strong national advocate for disability rights. Today, the agency serves more than 2,000 individuals, supporting their independence and community involvement.
How energy efficient is your home? Here are several of the most effective ways to save energy — and money — at home. Have you taken these simple steps to becoming a more ‘green’ homeowner?
- Change your lightbulbs. Switch out your incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which cost just a few dollars more. But you’ll save about $30 over the bulbs’ lifetime, and they’ll pay for themselves in about 6 months.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat is an easy way to control your internal climate. It works by automatically adjusting your home’s temperature to your schedule. That means you won’t waste energy when you’re not home. Already have one? Newer models are even better at helping you and your family save money. Check them out!
- Lower the temperature on your water heater. This can trim some money from your utility bills. Plus, it’s not good for your skin to take really hot showers anyway!
- Upgrade your appliances. Energy Star appliances use between 10 and 50 percent less energy and water than their conventional counterparts. Many utility companies and municipalities provide rebates or other incentives for customers to swap out old appliances for new ones.
Is your workplace an electronics orchestra? A “ding” notifies one co-worker of a new text message on their cell phone. A “beep-beep” lets the supervisor know they have received a Facebook “LIKE” on their tablet. A ringtone from “Call Me Maybe” tells the receptionist that her boyfriend is calling through on her smartphone.
Sound familiar? If so, it may be time for an office cell phone policy. We know what you’re thinking: It sounds a little overbearing. And quite frankly, limiting cell phone use isn’t an option for some professions that require frequent mobile communication with employees. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a conversation about whether a cell phone policy would work for you. Here are four things to consider when drafting a policy:
- Ask your employees what they think. Involve your staff in the process. This undoubtedly will include your management staff. But also consider IT, human resources, legal and even front-line employees. You need to have buy-in from your staff to make the policy effective.
- Set limits on cell phone use. Define when personal cell phone use is appropriate. Should ringers only be set to vibrate? Should employees leave their phones at their desks during meetings? Do you need limitations on text messaging?
- Consider banning cell phone use behind the wheel. You may not think that liability would be an issue with cell phones, but it is. There have been successful lawsuits involving car crashes that happened while employees were taking business calls.
- Review and enforce. No policy is any good without enforcement. Have employees sign an acknowledgement of the policy, then post the standard throughout the office. Keep it updated with yearly reviews and hold employees accountable