Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable and the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) are urging Wisconsinites to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their property from damage as more extreme winter weather hits the state this weekend.
“A few simple steps before you go to bed at night can protect your home, your family, and your bank account,” said Afable. “We’re so accustomed to cold temperatures and snowfall in Wisconsin that it can be easy to forget that severe weather can real havoc on our homes and communities. Driving a little more cautiously during icy conditions or opening you cupboards to protect the pipes in your home can make a big difference in protecting you and your family.”
OCI is sharing the following tips with Wisconsin residents ahead of the more freezing temperatures and icy conditions:
Home and office tips
Ice dams can form when melting snow runs down the slope of the roof and refreezes near the edge. Over time, water accumulates behind the ice dam and may seep into a home or business causing damage. In frigid temperatures, ice can form inside pipes causing water pipes to burst.
Protect yourself and your property:
• Set your furnace to a sufficient heat level to keep pipes warm.
• Open cupboard doors so heat can reach pipes.
• If your pipes burst, turn off the main water shut-off or the valve to the frozen pipe.
• Dry the area to prevent potential mold problems.
• Remove snow from the bottom portion of your roof using a "roof rake" or push broom. (Do not climb on the roof or chip ice away, which may cause damage to shingles and pose the risk of a fall.)
• Keep the attic well ventilated and insulated from the rest of the house to minimize the amount of heat rising to the roof.
• In general, water coming from the top down— such as ice dam seepage behind drywall— is covered by a standard homeowner's policy. Water coming from the bottom up— such as an overflowing river or ground water seepage— requires a separate flood insurance policy.
Your homeowner's insurance may provide coverage for ice damage, but a roof already in poor condition may affect that coverage. Check your homeowner's policy or talk to your agent to be sure you have adequate coverage and for information regarding any specific endorsements or riders.
Motor vehicle tips
When roads are covered with ice, snow, or slush even the most seasoned Wisconsin drivers can find themselves slipping and sliding. Winter hazards also include limited visibility during snowstorms, deer running into the road, and black ice.
Protect yourself and your vehicle:
• Maintain a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. Use care and drive slowly – if conditions are dangerous, consider waiting before getting on the road.
• Never drink and drive.
• Keep an emergency road kit, warm clothes, blankets, and a fully charged cellphone in your vehicle.
• Find out the latest road conditions by going to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website at www.511wi.gov, by calling 511, or by checking the 511 smartphone app.
• Review your auto insurance policy for any limitations in coverage. For example, consumers who carry collision insurance without comprehensive coverage are not covered in the event of damage to vehicles as a result of hail, wind, or flooding. Additionally, make sure your coverage is adequate for your needs.
If you are in an automobile accident, remember the following tips:
• Call the police.
• Obtain information such as the names, addresses, telephone numbers, insurance information, and license numbers of all persons involved in the accident, as well as contact information for all witnesses.
• Record the time, date, location, road conditions, make and year of the vehicles involved, insurance information, apparent damage and injuries and your version of what happened.
• Call your insurance agent. Make sure to have your policy number and other relevant information on hand. Also be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company and ask your agent what documents, forms, and data you'll need to file a claim.
• Take notes each time you talk to your insurance company, agent, lawyers, police, or anyone else involved in the situation. Write down dates, times, names and what you talked about, as well as any decisions or promises made.
• Save any receipts and bills, including those from a car rental or hotel room if the accident happens outside of your town.
Consumers with an insurance question or complaint can call 1-800-236-8517 or visit https://ociaccess.oci.wi.gov/complaints/public/ to file a complaint online.
Created by the Legislature in 1870, Wisconsin's OCI was vested with broad powers to ensure that the insurance industry responsibly and adequately met the insurance needs of Wisconsin citizens. Today, OCI's mission is to lead the way in informing and protecting the public and responding to its insurance needs.