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Preparing your home for a winter storm

Published on January 22, 2024


Snowstorms are a fairly common occurrence, so it’s important to prepare your home.

What can you do to limit damage to your home, both inside and out? How can you avoid having to make home insurance claims? Here are a few tips.

Keep an eye on the weather report

Local news and weather apps will warn you about the intensity of an upcoming winter storm. Be sure to tune in.

  • Special weather reports will keep you up to date on intense conditions that may be cause for concern.
  • Storm watches will provide information about all related weather phenomena like visibility, fog, freezing drizzle and frost.
  • In general, in the 24 hours before a severe storm or weather hits, we’re likely to be able to gauge its intensity.
  • Warnings are urgent messages about current or imminent conditions. Use them to prepare and take necessary precautions.

The purpose of these messages is to make sure you’re not caught off guard. They’ll warn you about extreme precipitation (snow, freezing rain, etc.), temperatures and wind chill. Use this information to decide whether to go out or stay in. The more you know, the better you can protect your property and stay safe. All you have to be is prepared.

Prepare your emergency kit

Even when you’re warm and cozy at home, prevention and caution should be on your mind. Make sure to keep an emergency kit in an easily accessible place.

Your kit should have everything you need for you and your family (this includes your pets) to get by for 72 hours.

These are the emergency kit essentials:

  • Non-perishables (nuts, granola bars, canned goods, etc.)
  • Three days worth of drinking water (essential should your water be cut off or frozen; use small bottles for easy transport in the event that you must evacuate)
  • Medicine (check the expiration dates and throw out expired ones)
  • Personal hygiene products (towels, wipes, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.)

Plan for a power outage

Snowstorms, high winds, ice storms... they can cause a lot of damage when they deprive you of power for several hours or days.

Be sure to have an auxiliary source of heat like a gas, kerosene or propane heater. It’ll not only keep you warm, it’ll keep the pipes from freezing. To help you plan ahead, consider getting the following items:

  • Camp stove or propane barbecue (for cooking outdoors)
  • Generator (install at least 6 metres from your home)
  • A change of clothes (consider fabrics made to wear in winter)
  • Sleeping bags or blankets
  • Spare batteries and chargers (phones, flashlights, radios, etc.)
  • Flashlights and headlamps
  • Utensils (knives, forks, spoons, manual can opener, etc.)
  • Cordless and hand tools (hammer, pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, etc.)
  • Fire extinguisher and emergency ladder

Make sure to have your chimney cleaned regularly, especially if you use your fireplace to heat your home. That way, you’ll have good, clean air. Caulk doors and windows to keep the heat in.

Winterize your home

Intense snowfall can block exits, so it’s important to have an arsenal of snow removal tools. Clear your driveways regularly. It’s for your own safety.

Keep the following handy:

  • Shovels
  • Ice scrapers
  • Coarse salt or sand
  • Gas-powered (preferably!) snowblower
  • De-icers

If you've ever experienced an ice storm, you know the damage that falling branches or trees can cause. So take care of your yard by having the health of the trees checked. Ideally, do that before winter. Fall is the perfect season to do all kinds of small maintenance jobs, like:

  • Clean the gutters so that the water from the melting snow will drain away.
  • Inspect the foundation and roof for signs of water seepage.
  • Winterize your pool.

Prepare an evacuation plan

An evacuation plan means you’ll know what to do in the event of an emergency. Even though it may seem excessive, you’ll be glad you have one when you need it. Its purpose is to make sure that your family knows what to do and how to do it. It can save you a lot of headaches.

The important thing here is to agree on how to best handle a winter storm:

  • Staying put or going to a safer place
  • Means of communication when phones don't work
  • Muster stations near or far from home
  • Accommodation options (neighbour’s house, friend’s house, etc.)
  • Emergency exits (show your children how to get out of the house)
  • Important telephone numbers in the emergency kit
  • Pet transportation equipment

In short, make sure everyone in the family understands the evacuation plan.

If you decide to leave your home, turn off the water supply and drain the pipes to keep them from bursting.

Home sweet home

Before a snowstorm hits, prepare your home to limit damage and avoid having to make insurance claims.

Check with your broker to make sure that your home insurance coverage is adequate, so you can make the most of winter!

This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace professional advice.