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A few simple steps can ease winter worrying

FPS staff report

SnowWinter officially arrived Dec. 21 but made itself known last week when a sleet and snow mixture covered the county.

A bit of preventative maintenance on your home and car could save you a big hassle and even money once winter arrives. 

“As winter weather starts arriving in Ohio, now is the time to prepare your home and car,” said Mary Taylor, Ohio lieutenant governor and Department of Insurance director.  “Left unaddressed, these small but important tasks can lead to expensive repairs, insurance claims, or even safety concerns.”

Though last year was unseasonably warm, Ohio winters have historically produced some big storms.  A record amount of snowfall hit the state in 2010.  Several other recent winter storms left behind millions of dollars in losses.

In preparation for winter, Ohioans should review their insurance policies with an agent.  Consumers should also utilize the Department’s new auto and homeowner insurance guides available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.  Experts at the Ohio Department of Insurance are available at 1-800-686-1526 to answer any insurance-related questions and you can follow the Department on twitter @OHInsurance and Facebook,

In addition, the free mobile smartphone insurance apps myHome Inventory and WreckCheck are available in your carriers’ downloadable apps marketplace.  They will help maintain inventory of your possessions and simplify the information exchange process after an auto accident.  The apps will be of significant help during a potential claim filing situation.

To best prepare for winter, Taylor recommends Ohioans take the following steps:

Home Safety Tips:
*Clean out gutters and downspouts.

*Look for missing shingles and broken, overhanging tree limbs.

*Inspect the underside of the roof from the attic for signs of leaks.

*Check water pipe insulation to prevent winter freezes.

*Make sure dryer vent is unobstructed.

*Assemble emergency supplies, including non-perishable food, water, flashlights, and a battery-powered radio.

Vehicle Safety Tips:

*Have a mechanic check your vehicle to make sure all systems are running properly.

*Make sure tires have adequate tread and air pressure.

*Keep your windshield wiper fluid tank filled and maintain at least a half tank of gasoline.

*Get a windshield scraper and brush for ice and snow removal.

*Carry a snack, water, blankets, and a first aid kit.

Claim Tips for Home Damage:

*Call your insurance agent/company as soon as possible.

*Be sure your agent knows how to contact you if you cannot stay in your home.

*Try to protect your property and salvage what you can.

*Closely inspect your property for damage.  Note and photograph any damage and losses. This will assist in settling claims.

*If required to seek temporary housing, check your profile for “loss of use” coverage.  Many policies cover such expenses up to a stated amount.

*Be sure everything is considered in the claim.  Back up claims with written estimates.

If You’re in an Accident:
*Be Safe - Make sure you stay away from moving traffic after an accident.  Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation.

*Assist others if necessary - Check on passengers in your car and in other vehicles and see if they need help, but only if it doesn’t put you in a dangerous situation.  Call emergency personnel if necessary.

*Take photos - Try to take as many pictures as possible of the damage and accident scene.

*Exchange information -  Get the name, address, phone number, date of birth from the other drivers involved in the accident.  Get the driver’s insurance information,including policy number.  Do not discuss whose fault the accident was.

*Get witness information   - Get contact information of those who may have seen the accident.  Your insurance company and/or police may want to speak to them later.

*File a police report - If the accident is not serious, you do not need to call the police to have them do a report at the scene.  You can move your vehicles to the side of the road, exchange information and then file a report later.

Important safety information is available on the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness’ website at www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.

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