Although wintertime creates a sense of excitement for the festive season and the new year, it also brings a brisk temperature change. Extreme weather incidents have become far more common over the last few decades and is the cause of a variety of home insurance claims. Between frozen or burst pipes, boiler breakdowns and damaged roofing, it is critical to prepare for the colder weather ahead. Ed Foster, Insurance Executive, looks at how businesses and individuals can plan for severe weather conditions.
- Protect your pipes and gutters — Some of the most common winter claims result from frozen pipes and clogged gutters. Avoid this risk by maintaining a household temperature between 18C and 21C, putting foam lagging insulation on your pipes, and regularly clearing the gutters of any possible debris, such as leaves, branches or snow. In addition, don’t forget to check pipes and gutters for leaks or loose parts.
- Maintain your heating systems — Prior to the arrival of freezing temperatures, it’s important to schedule your annual boiler, furnace or chimney service to ensure the system is working properly and will keep you warm all winter. Remember that you must use a Gas Safe Registered Engineer for this process.
- Don’t ignore the outdoors — Be sure to routinely scan the outside of your home or office for potential winter weather risks, such as loose roofing tiles, large icicles or overhanging trees. Pay attention to winter weather reports and secure any garden furniture, tools or decorations that could get damaged in a storm. Move valuable items—such as your car—into a garage or under cover rather than near buildings or trees.
- Check your cover — Ensure your insurance cover is comprehensive: for businesses you should check you have policies to provide:
- Public liability insurance, which will provide cover against trips, slips and falls suffered by third parties
- Employer’s liability insurance, which will cover against trips, slips and falls by your employees
- Buildings and contents insurance which can cover against escape of water (burst pipes) and may include business interruption cover which protects against loss of income (or higher working costs) as a result of extreme weather incidents.
- Be prepared — Have an emergency list of who to contact to keep appraised of the changing situation. This should include your insurance company’s claims helpline as well as local authorities, gas and electricity providers.
Households and businesses with a plan to cope with extreme weather will cope significantly better than those with no preparations in place. Furthermore, it is worth remembering that business owners have a legal duty to keep their premises safe from hazards such as snow and ice. The gov.uk website has information on whether your area is at risk from flooding, and you can also sign up for flood warnings by phone, email or text as well as advice on planning ahead.