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Homeowners Urged to Take Precautions Against Winter Freezing


The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies urges homeowners to take precautions against damage from freezing water on the inside and outside of their residences this winter.

In general, the number and average cost of interior water damage losses, including burst frozen pipes, has been rising in recent years. From 2003 to 2006, the average claim cost more than doubled, according to Chubb statistics. Although the number of such claims dropped in 2006, loss activity appears to be heading back up this year. Ice damming-the accumulation of ice at the eaves and valleys of roofs-also remains a significant problem during winter months.

“Many times, homeowners transition from the fall season into winter without taking even the most basic of precautions to protect their homes from the harsh realities of winter weather,” said William Turnbull Jr., senior vice president of Chubb & Son and worldwide property claim manager. “Unfortunately, this often leads to both significant damages and headaches for homeowners. I hope more people heed the warnings and implement some simple precautions.”

A survey of 1,633 people in late 2005 found that many homeowners do not. Conducted by an independent research firm on behalf of Chubb, the survey found that nearly one-third (31%) of homeowners had experienced a water damage loss caused by a roof leak and one in five (20%) caused by burst water pipes. Before leaving their homes for vacation, 39% of survey respondents made the mistake of turning down the heat during cold weather months to less than 60 degrees. Forty-one percent of vacation homeowners did not shut off the water and drain pipes when closing up their dwellings at the end of the season.

Turnbull urged homeowners to take preventative measures and check their insurance policies or speak to their agents to understand how their coverages respond in the event of a water damage loss.

To help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, he suggested that they:

Properly insulate unfinished rooms, such as garages and basements, where pipes may be exposed;
Consider “snap on” insulation or wraps for piping;
Drain and shut off pipes flowing to outside faucets;
Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking;
Set thermostats at a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit;
If away frequently, consider the installation of a low-temperature sensor, which activates an alarm if the home temperature falls below a preset level; and
During extended unoccupied periods, turn off the water supply and ask a trusted individual to check the home on a daily basis for heating system malfunctions and frozen pipes.

To help prevent a roof leak, homeowners should have a qualified maintenance worker or roofer remove snow from the roof and gutters. Turnbull also recommended that homeowners check for proper ventilation and insulation of attics to help minimize and prevent ice damming.

In the event of a pipe burst, the homeowner should turn off the closest shut-off valve to the damaged pipe and contact a local firm that can help prevent further damage and begin the drying process. Chubb homeowners customers have access to a network of preferred water damage mitigation and restoration specialists.

The member insurers of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies form a multi-billion dollar organization providing property and casualty insurance for personal and commercial customers worldwide through 8,500 independent agents and brokers. Chubb’s global network includes branches and affiliates in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia.


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