Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Blizzard Damage?
Blizzards are storms with heavy snow, winds exceeding 35 mph and visibility of less than ¼ mile for at least three hours. Severe blizzards occur when temperatures are near or below 10 degrees fahrenheit with winds exceeding 45 mph. When these conditions are met the National Weather Service (NWS) will issue a “blizzard warning.” These storms are most common in the upper Midwest and Great Plains but can occur anywhere.
Create an Emergency Plan and Disaster Kit
As with any disaster, your first and foremost responsibility is to keep yourself safe by having an evacuation plan and knowing where your local shelter is. You should also know if your local shelter takes pets if you have one. Keeping extra fuel in your car to avoid gas lines and having alternative routes in case of traffic during a mandatory evacuation can help to ease the evacuation process. Besides protecting yourself and your loved ones, there are concrete steps that you can take to protect your home and your belongings in case of a blizzard.
Evacuation and Sheltering-In-Place Emergency Kits
The main two types of emergency kits are for sheltering in place and for evacuating. These kits can be kept at home, in the office and in your car. The basic recommendations for an emergency kit are as follows:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
- Weather appropriate clothes
- Food for three days (don’t forget pets!)
- Extra batteries
- Portable radio, with battery or hand-cranked power source
- Moist towelettes and trashbags for personal sanitation
- Face masks
- Local Maps
- First-aid kit/Prescription medication
- Extra eye glasses
For a blizzard, add warm clothes and blankets to your emergency kit to help prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Waterproof, protective footwear and gloves are also highly recommended additions to your emergency kit.
Paper copy of emergency contacts
For shelter emergency kits, experts recommend having enough provisions to sustain your household for 72 hours. To increase the likelihood of a swift and safe exit, evacuation emergency kits should be created for each individual member of your household. These evacuation supplies should be stored in an easily transportable container, such as a backpack.
Incorporate checking your emergency kit into your seasonal cleaning routine. Remember to replace expired food supplies and medications as well as to update clothes according to proper sizes and weather conditions. Seasonal updates and staying aware of what items are getting close to expiration will provide you peace of mind about the readiness of your emergency kit.
Having all of your necessary supplies readily available is a great way to ease the stress of any disaster and increase your likelihood of staying safe and healthy. Keep in mind that if you are sheltering-in-place, you may not have access to water or electricity.
Developing an Emergency Plan
FEMA provides a comprehensive guide to help you to prepare for and survive a blizzard. Practice your emergency plan with your household, remembering to create both an evacuation plan and a stay-in-place shelter plan. Never stay in your home when it is advised that you evacuate for a blizzard.
You may have several different disaster scenarios to act out, depending on how disastrous the blizzard is and what natural disasters follow the initial storm. This is why it is so essential to construct a comprehensive disaster plan and practice it diligently with the other members of your household. Your household members should be aware who is responsible for pets and various dependent household members, such as small children, people with disabilities or seniors who may need assistance.
Obtain Proper Blizzard Insurance Coverage
Much like hurricanes, blizzards can raise other concerns like high winds, heavy snow, freezing rain, flooding and ice, all of which may do substantial damage, especially when combined. For example, strong winds can create a hole in your home for ice and snow to enter and damage your belongings inside.
Standard homeowner insurance policies may cover various blizzard related damage, including damage sustained from ice dams, which melt on the roof and refreeze, seeping into your walls and ceilings as a result. You may also be covered if the snow on the roof builds up to the point where your roof collapses or if your pipes burst when exposed to freezing temperatures.
The National Flood Insurance Program, which sells flood insurance, notes that floods are the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster. Your home could flood if the blizzard brings high tides that send icy tides into the streets. Standard homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover flood damage. You must buy it separately.
Insurance companies may also incorrectly attribute water damage from a blizzard to a flood. Take pictures and prepare to argue your case if your home suffers water damage from a blizzard. Flood insurance is only mandated for people living in high risk flood zones, so it is important to consider purchasing a separate flood policy.
After the Storm
When the blizzard is over, there are several steps you can take to ensure your safety. Diligently monitor local news and safety alerts. If you have evacuated the area, only return home when directed to by authorities.
The NWS refers to blizzards as “deceptive killers” because most death and injuries are indirectly related to the blizzard itself. The main causes of injury and death surrounding a blizzard include: automobile accidents due to ice and snow, heart attacks from overexertion while clearing snow and hypothermia and frostbite from the cold weather conditions.
Stay dry by dressing in warm and protective clothing. Avoid overexertion when clearing and shoveling snow. If you must drive, remove snow and ice from your tailpipe before starting your vehicle. Clean all snow and ice from your car before you drive it and check your car regularly if it is idling.
Once you are home, take steps to prevent additional property damage. For example, if your roof was damaged you may want to cover it with a tarp. Keep in mind that insurance may not cover damage that occurs after the blizzard. Document home damages to the best of your ability via photograph and video to assist in the claims process.
File your claim with your homeowners insurance company as soon as you can because insurance claims will take some time to be processed. If you are missing key documentation, additional delays are possible. However, there are steps you can take to curb the stress of a blizzard by planning ahead.
Proactivity and planning provide the best peace of mind. An appropriate homeowners insurance policy is essential to your home’s recovery from a blizzard. Additionally, home inventories are very valuable in aiding in the claims process. Create a home inventory as soon as possible if you do not already have one. Be familiar with what your homeowner insurance policy covers specifically. To protect your home and belongings talk to an insurance expert to make sure your policy has you covered in case of blizzard related damage to your residence.
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Homeowners insurance was not designed to cover small or even big fixes, but to repair damage that is covered under the stipulations of your policy. In fact, you may end up paying more in monthly premiums if you file a claim that gets rejected. For this reason, we advise you to fully review your case and your policy to see if you’re covered before filing a claim.
Homeowners insurance is an important protection to have even when it’s not required for a primary home, a vacation home or condo.