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Winter has its charms-lacy snowflakes, shimmering icicles and warm and cozy evenings by the fire. Winter's charms can quickly become winter's harm for homeowners. To keep your home safe and secure during the cold and stormy days of winter, please follow these important tips:


Keep gutters clean. Clogged gutters can prevent the flow of melting snow and ice and create leaks in ceilings and walls. Keep your gutters free from debris and consider installing gutter guards.

Repair and insulate pipes. Freezing water in pipes can cause them to burst. Repair cracks and leaks, and cover pipes with heating tape to keep out the cold. When using heating tape, it is important to follow the manufacturer's installation and operation guidelines.

Trim trees. Falling trees from wind and ice can create damage to your home or car. Be aware of these potential problems-Cracks in the tree trunk or major limb-Hollow and decayed trees-Trees leaning significantly-Branches hanging over or near the roof-Limbs in contact with power lines.

Ensure space heaters are UL-tested. Select heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories(UL) and a model with automatic shut-off. It is recommended that you contact your insurance agent if you are planning to use supplemental heating, as it may       impact your insurance coverage.

Keep items away from space heaters. Maintain a clear area of 36 inches around your space heaters, and include a noncombustible shielding under the heater. Never leave heaters unattended while operating.

Clean and inspect fireplace. Regularly clean out your fireplace to prevent obstructions and creosote buildup. Store cooled ash in a non-combustible container. Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and serviced annually by a professional.

Cap the Chimney. Installing a cap of wire mesh will prevent debris from blocking your chimney.

Fireplace usage tips:
-Burn seasoned wood to prevent creosote buildup.
-Never burn newspapers, plastics, charcoal or trash in the fireplace.
-Close the flue when your fireplace is not being used.
-Keep the entire hearth area clear of combustible materials.
-Use a screen to prevent sparks from escaping into the room.
-Ensure ashes are cool before disposing them in metal container.

Check smoke alarms  monthly. Make sure you install new batteries annually in every smoke alarm in your home. It is also a good practice to install a carbon monoxide alarm near each sleeping area in your home.

(Sources: Institute for Business & Home Safety, National Fire Protection Association, and Insurance Information Institute)

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