South Carolina is not known for its winter sports, but when the season turns cold, some will venture out to explore the more snowy parts of the world. Winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and skating are great ways to enjoy nature. But do you know if you’re covered out of state in case of an accident? What if your accident involves someone else?
Fortunately for you, the Insurance Information Institute has put together a nice breakdown of what you need to know when it comes to insurance and winter sport claims. Their tips are as follows:
Health insurance: If you are injured in the U.S., your personal health insurance should cover your medical expenses, depending on the specific details of your policy. What if you need to get airlifted out because of a medical emergency? Your health insurance might help cover that, but you should check with your insurance company.
Travel insurance: Your personal health insurance may not cover all your medical expenses if you get injured abroad. (Again, it depends on your policy, so call your health insurer to make sure). That’s where travel insurance can come in handy. Make sure your travel insurance covers emergency medical assistance. This could cover situations like being airlifted off the mountain after a ski accident.
Homeowners insurance: What if you accidentally injure someone else on the slopes? Your homeowners insurance may kick in to cover some of the liability you incur. Ditto renters insurance. But different states determine ski accident liability differently, and your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover everything, so talk to your agent to find out what your coverage is.
Personal umbrella liability: Liability payments can be expensive. That’s why some people will buy a personal umbrella liability policy, which is basically extra liability insurance. It will cover some types of liability your homeowners insurance excludes – and will also cover higher payments, sometimes up to $1 million (homeowners is often limited to $300,000).
Winter weather is not something that hits the Palmetto State often. But when ice, snow and wind do show up and you’re home is not prepared, it can have devastating consequences not just to your home, but also to your wallet.
Fortunately, The Insurance Information Institute has given some great tips on things you can do to avoid the expense and inconvenience of winter damage.
Prepping the outside of your home:
- Clean out the gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, which is what happens when water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
- Install gutter guards. Gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
- Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and, wind could cause weak trees or branches to break free and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.
- Repair steps and handrails. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
- Use caulking to seal cracks and wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Caulk and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent warm air from leaking out and cold air from blowing in.
Prepping the inside of your home:
- Frigid temperatures, snow and ice can wreak havoc on water pipes and tax heating systems. Ensure all your home’s internal systems are “go” for winter safety and efficiency.
- Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water then can refreeze, leading to more ice build-up—and may even lead to ice dams that can damage your roof.
- Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes. Consider insulating garages and other unfinished areas to keep pipes from freezing.
- Provide a reliable back-up power source. In the event of a power outage, continuous power will keep you warm and help to prevent frozen pipes, or a frozen battery operated sump-pump. Consider purchasing a portable power generator to ensure safety—and be sure to follow all guidelines for safe operation.
- Have your heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check pipes closely for the presence of cracks and leaks. Have any compromised pipe repaired immediately.
- Protect pipes in attics and crawl spaces with insulation or plug-in heating cable. Be sure to purchase UL®-listed models of heating cables with built-in thermostats; these will turn on the heat on when it is needed. When using the cables, always follow manufacturers instructions closely.
- Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
- Move combustible items away from near any heat sources that you’ll likely be using. This includes fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.
- Install or check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Not only do residential fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning—so regularly check that your detectors are in working condition.
- Know where your pipes are located and learn how to shut the water off. If your pipes freeze, speed is critical. The quicker you shut off water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better your chance of preventing major damage.
- Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is found, have all necessary repairs performed as soon as possible.
- Take steps to prevent flooding. Your licensed contractor can also advise you about measures to prevent flooding from melted snow and ice runoff. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other improvements can prevent water damage to your home and belongings.
- Consider insuring yourself for a sewer backup. Flooding related to melting snow can overburden sewer systems. Raw sewage backed up into the drains in your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewer backup is not covered under standard homeowners insurance or renters insurance policies, nor is it covered by flood insurance but can be purchased as either a separate product, or an endorsement.
The new year is a fresh start, a symbolic one at least! The beginning of the year is always a great time to look back on the past 12 months and review how life went. It is also a great time to sit down and plan out how to have a successful and safe future.
While insurance and home safety planning may not be at the tip top of your New Year’s resolution list, you should spend some time making sure you are ready for the coming year. Taking a few moments to plan can enable you to protect your property from suffering a loss, help you be prepared for an unexpected medical expense and to make sure you have your items properly and sufficiently insured.
Be Smart, Plan.
Do you and your loved ones have a plan in place for an emergency in the case of a house fire? A flood? Have you done your home inventory yet? How about an emergency kit?
All these things should be reviewed with your family regularly so everyone is prepared. If you haven’t gotten these things together, the new year is a great time to start practicing these habits and review them with loved ones. It is also a good idea to download the SCEMD’s Emergency Manager Mobile App to help keep you informed, safe and all of your important information together.
Reading back through your insurance policies to make sure you know what is covered and what is not is also a good idea. It helps to be prepared and know what you may need help covering. Talk to your agent to see if there is anything that should be updated, revised or newly considered. A good option is getting a Catastrophe Saving Account. This account is much like a health savings account, but covers out of pocket costs from a natural disaster using state income tax-free dollars.
For your property, mitigate issues by being prepared. Coastal properties should be built to code and retrofitted wherever possible. If your property is close to any body of water or in a low lining area you should strongly consider flood insurance, as flood damage is not included in regular homeowner’s insurance. When South Carolina was impacted by Hurricane Florence, most of the damage was due to flooding. Many homeowners are shocked to find out that flood insurance is not a part of their homeowners policy. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) typically write flood insurance policies. Please keep in mind there is a 30-day waiting period before your coverage goes into effect – so the sooner you plan ahead the better. If you live in a hurricane prone area, don’t wait for the announcement of a hurricane by the National Weather Service to buy supplies or come up with an evacuation plan. Have your supplies ready to board-up and seal the house against the storm and be ready to put your evacuation plan into practice.
You can learn more about storm readiness in the SCDOI’s Home Preparedness Guide for Sever Weather, located on our website.