Ohio Winter Safety Awareness Week: Are your home and vehicle ready for the season?

It’s hard to believe it, but winter is almost here. That means now is the time to prepare your home and vehicle for cold weather and snow. Ohio’s winter weather can be unpredictable, and you need to make sure you and your family are prepared for the unexpected. November 11-17 is Ohio’s Winter Safety Awareness Week, and our members have some winter safety tips in preparation for the season.

Vehicle tips

It’s important to be prepared in case of becoming stranded due to a snowstorm. Keeping your car stocked with supplies for the worst-case scenario can help prevent a bad situation from becoming worse. Review this list of emergency items to keep in your car from our member, American Family Insurance:

  1. Warm clothes and a blanket. Keep an extra hat, scarf, pair of mittens and boots in your car. A good winter-rated sleeping bag is a nice addition too. You’ll have additional layers if you unexpectedly have to walk for help.
  2. Food with a long shelf life. Pack a few cans of easy-open beans, protein bars, a small unopened jar of peanut butter, and a bag of crackers. Bring along several bottles of water on the day of travel, but store these separately because they may freeze if left in your vehicle on cold days.
  3. LED flashlights. Having a few on hand will allow you to hand one off to someone if they need to walk at night to seek help. Stock extra batteries too.
  4. Spare wiper blades. It’s a good idea to swap out your wiper blades as winter approaches. If the ones on your car are a little worn but still usable, hold onto them when you get new ones.
  5. A six pack of 30 minute road flares. These can be found at most auto parts stores, and often come with a highly reflective orange vest in a convenient carrying case. Use these for signaling help or starting a fire. Keep these stored away from children.

View the complete list here.

Driving tips

Driving in the winter is more dangerous due to snow, ice, sleet, and other road conditions. In general, it’s a good idea to drive slower than you normally would. Even if the roads look clear, you or another driver could run into black ice. Review these safe driving tips for winter conditions from our member, The Cincinnati Insurance Companies:

  1. Conduct a pre-trip check. These are extremely important during the winter. Get into the habit of making sure windows and mirrors are clean and wipers are cleared before you start out. Clean all lights; make sure your heater and defroster are working properly. Carry an extra jug of windshield washer fluid.
  2. Have an exit plan.If conditions become hazardous, get off the road at the nearest exit, gas station, or other safe place and wait out the storm. Let someone know where you are.
  3. Give yourself plenty of time.A 30-minute trip in good weather conditions may require double or triple that time in poor conditions. Warm up your vehicle so that windows are clear and you’re not looking through an “ice tunnel” in the windshield.
  4. Take it easy! If your mind and body are telling you it feels safe at 40 mph, drive at 35 mph. Drive 5 mph below what you think or feel is safe.
  5. Make gradual directional and lane changes.Signal well in advance, then slowly complete the maneuver. Extend the distance interval between yourself and the vehicle in front of you; it takes longer to stop in sloppy weather.

View the complete list here.

Home tips

Snow storms always mean the possibility of power outages, and bad road conditions mean it could take several days for it to get fixed. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for power loss in cold weather by making sure you have the proper materials to get you through.

In addition, it’s a good idea to check up on other areas of the house that may require attention with the changing weather. GEICO offers some tips to prep your home for the oncoming season:

  1. Have your furnace inspected. You might have ignored recommendations to have someone give your gas or electric furnace an annual check-up. Why spend $50 to $100 just to be told everything is fine? Easy answer: because it’ll be significantly more if you have to call for an emergency repair when it’s freezing outside. Furnaces can collect dust, suffer outdoor air intake blockages, or have gas ignition issues that might go undetected until it’s too late.
  2. Clean your gutters. You should be doing this regardless of the season, but gutters clogged up with leaves and other debris in winter can be especially hazardous—blockages that slow water flow can allow for ice to form, creating dams and icicles that can damage your exterior.
  3. Look for loose exterior fittings. If you have siding, shutters, or other additions to your home that are growing loose with age, make sure they’re tightened up before freezing and blistery weather moves in. Strong winds and ice can strip them right off the premises.
  4. Wrap your water pipes. Ask someone in plumbing about a frozen, bursting water pipe and you’ll probably get a look of pity and horror. Pipes that are exposed to colder temperatures in unheated or cool areas of your home are susceptible to freezing and expansion, which creates a tremendous mess if they burst from the pressure. Wrap your pipes in insulation to help keep them warm and make sure everyone in your household knows where the water shut-off is in case of an emergency.
  5. Check your vents. You don’t want furniture or other obstacles blocking warm air from circulating inside your home. More importantly, you don’t need anything obstructing the air intake vents, since that could end up “suffocating” your furnace and causing expensive repairs. Keep all vents free from anything that could impede air flow.

View the complete list here.

The OII and our members want to make sure everyone has a safe, happy, and healthy winter. With these tips, you and your family will be better prepared for the upcoming season.