Category Archives: Safety tips

Last minute snow reminders

It looks like our neighbors in the mid-Atlantic will bear the brunt of Jonas while here in New England we’re only expected to get a few inches of snow. Though it’s important to be prepared for any amount of snowfall, there’s no need to clear out the milk and bread aisles in a pre-apocalyptic frenzy.snowy city illustration

Just in case, check out these last-minute tidbits on getting ready for snowfall. Once you’re prepared, then you can spend your weekend drowning out the weather hype by cheering on New England’s favorite football team.

Have the right supplies

Make sure you have the essentials for dealing with snow. A roof rake, a shovel, and some rock salt or another deicing agent should be sufficient for this weekend’s storm.

While you’re gathering materials, consider assembling an emergency supply kit. This’ll be helpful in the event you lose power. Your kit should include survival basics, like water, nonperishable food, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, a cell phone charger, and a first aid kit. For more ideas on what to pack in your emergency kit, check out the American Red Cross.

Stay connected

Oftentimes, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect when it comes to snowstorms. In the days leading up to Jonas, for example, forecasts have called for anywhere between 2” and 12” of snowfall in our area. These ever-changing forecasts lend themselves to the simple fact that weather patterns are unpredictable and can change at a moment’s notice.

Therefore, watch for alerts from organizations like the National Weather Service or tune into local news broadcasts to stay up to date on the latest weather conditions in your area.

Communicate

Apocalyptic snowstorm or not, it’s always good to have a communication plan set in place so you know what to do and who to contact in the event of an emergency.

We’re here for you

Even though we’re not projected to get a crippling blizzard this weekend, there’s always the possibility that things can get damaged when it snows. If something happens and you need to report a claim, please contact us immediately so that we can help.

You can either report a claim online or by calling Bunker Hill at 888-472-5246.

Since it’s only the third week of January, we’re not out of the woods just yet – there’s still plenty of time for some blizzards reminiscent of Nemo in 2013 and last year’s Juno. But for now, let’s enjoy this weekend’s “mild” snowfall.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Don’t shoot the messenger: Hurricane season is upon us

Although it seems like spring JUST arrived (well, in some places it did), the last thing we want to do is rush it by looking ahead to summer. But, if Mother Nature continues her streak of extreme weather this year, it’s wise to start considering the potential for hurricanes. And as 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of Katrina, one of the country’s costliest and deadliest hurricanes, it’s a sobering reminder that we all should be prepared for unexpected severe weather.Hurricane warning

  • Communication is key, so have a Family Emergency Plan. This is a good strategy not just for hurricanes, but extreme weather in general. Make sure family members know how to reconnect after a storm. Children should be trained on how to call 911 for help and should memorize the number of a trusted out-of-state family member or friend to contact if necessary. Be sure each family member knows the phone number of that contact as well.
  • Along with communication preparation, physical preparation is imperative.  To ensure you’re well-prepared for a severe storm, consider making an emergency supply kit equipped with at least the following:
    • Three days’ supply of basic food, water and clothing
    • Flashlights, weather radio, and fresh batteries
    • Any necessary prescription medications
    • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account information in waterproof, portable bags
    • Extra cash
    • First aid kit

Visit FEMA’s website for additional comments

Be prepared for an evacuation 

  • Identify meeting places both within and outside your city or town
  • Listen and watch for instructions from the authorities on safe escape routes to established shelters (Pro tip: The American Red Cross provides a list of shelters nationwide that’s updated every thirty minutes)
  • If you have a car, fill up the gas tank before a storm in case of an immediate evacuation
  • Identify multiple ‘escape’ routes out of your area in the event there are road hazards, such as flooded streets, washed out bridges or downed power lines
  • If time permits, secure your home by unplugging all appliances and locking your windows and doors

As is the case with all extreme weather conditions, the best way to be prepared is to have a plan. Let’s hope for a mild summer, but also be aware of the realities of weather and ready ourselves for the unexpected.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

 

New Englanders may face ice dam woes after historic snowfall

Mother Nature’s been relentless this winter – testing both our will and patience in New England. Although this week we were spared a large snowstorm, the almost seven feet of snow we already have in the Boston area means roofing woes remain for most. So while we are continuing to dig out, it’s important to be cognizant of the snow sitting on your roof.icicles

If you notice icicles hanging from your roof, water dripping from the roof overhang, or interior leaks or new stains on your ceilings, it’s likely an ice dam has formed. Ice dams are caused by snow on your roof that melts and then refreezes in the overhang, creating a blockage in the gutter and preventing proper drainage. Ice dams’ damage can be costly, so if you suspect one on your roof, it’s important to address it right away.

Of course, the best way to treat ice dams is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. However, prevention methods are more long term solutions and should be completed before winter’s onset to be most effective. Check out this blog post to learn more about prevention techniques.

So in the meantime, consider the following when dealing with ice dams:

  • After a snowstorm, hire a professional. This is the safest way to remove snow from your roof because professionals will have ample experience and proper equipment
  • However, if you wish to remove the snow yourself, remember to:
    • Use a roof rake safely – other tools could damage your shingles
    • Avoid standing underneath icicles or roofs with large amounts of snow
    • Be very careful when climbing ladders because rungs can be slippery with snow and ice on them
    • Don’t use a roof rake near electrical wires
    • Have someone nearby to check on you in case you need help or are injured
    • Create a channel in the ice dam by filling a large sock with calcium chloride and laying it across the dam, perpendicular to the gutter. The sock will gradually release the calcium chloride – a melting agent – and create a channel in the ice for water to flow through. You might need several socks for an ice dam that runs the length of your roof

If it reaches the point that an ice dam has formed and water begins leaking inside your home, collect the dripping water in buckets and pans. Mop up any standing water and remember to move any furniture, clothes and other valuables out of harm’s way. It’s also imperative that you promptly call a professional who can properly remove the ice dam and treat the damage.

Ice dams can be costly to both your home and wallet, so while we trudge through this never-ending winter, be on the lookout for warning signs that one may be forming (or has formed) and address it as soon as possible.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Is your home ready for winter?

Now that we’ve retired our Halloween costumes, rakes and pumpkins, tis the season for cozy nights by the fireplace and hot chocolate. Winter can be a delightful time, but like any season in New England, we take the good with the bad. So, before you bust out the big sweaters and slippers, make sure your home is prepared for the cold months ahead by considering some simple winterization steps:

Be wary of ice dams. Ice dams are a buildup of ice in gutters and roof overhangs that form when the snow melts from the rooftop and refreezes in gutters. Given the amount of snowfall we receive in New England, ice dams can be a common problem for regional homeowners. Ice dam removal and prevention tips:

  • For a quick fix, immediately following a snowstorm, use a roof rake to clear off the first three to four feet of snow to prevent it from refreezing in your gutters. Be sure to clear any debris out of the downspouts so the gutters can properly drain.
  • Keeping your attic cold is another way to help prevent snow from melting and refreezing in your gutters. To do this, you’ll need a well-insulated space free of air leaks.

For more information on ice dam prevention and removal, check out this blog post.

Watch out for frozen pipes. Frozen pipes are another classic headache for homeowners – especially in areas subject to harsh winters. Frozen pipes aren’t exactly easy to deal with – and can be quite costly – so in order to prevent them from happening, consider the following steps:

  • Wrap your pipes with insulation
  • Seal cracks and holes in your home’s walls and foundation
  • Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to increase warm airflow to hard-to-reach plumbing
  • Let your faucet drip to alleviate pressure in the pipes
  • Be sure your home’s temperature doesn’t dip lower than 55°F

Read our blog post on frozen pipes to learn more about prevention and treatments.

Replace the furnace filter. Throughout the winter, if your heating system has a filter, it’s important to change or clean it about once a month. A fresh filter every 30 days or so will keep the airflow clear, thus decreasing energy demand and saving you money on heating bills. If you have other types of heating systems, such as oil or gas, it’s also a good idea to schedule an annual service by the oil or gas company.

Check the chimney. If your home has a fireplace or a wood burning stove that you plan to use, be sure to get the chimney or flue inspected by a professional. While you’re thinking about that cozy fire, don’t forget to replace the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, especially those closest to the heat source.cold weather ahead

Catch the drafts. Perhaps one of the simplest yet most effective steps you can take in winterizing your home is to seal air drafts. Inspect windows and doors leading outside and feel for cool drafts. If you find one, seal it with a door sweep or a draft snake for a quick fix. If your budget permits, consider installing storm doors and windows that are better equipped for blocking cold air.

Regulate your thermostat. Investing in a programmable thermostat that regulates your home’s temperature during the day and at night could save you money on heating bills. According to energy.gov, homeowners can “easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while [they’re] awake and setting it lower while [they’re] asleep or away.”

Rotate your ceiling fan. This concept might seem counterintuitive since fans are traditionally associated with creating a cool relief in the summertime. But, if you rotate your ceiling fan clockwise at a slow speed, it’ll pull cool air up and push hot air down.

Preparing your house for winter might seem daunting, but if you need motivation, just think about last year’s brutal winter and you’ll be running to the hardware store for sealant and smoke detector batteries in no time. And if you’re feeling ambitious, check out this helpful blog post from our affiliate, Plymouth Rock Assurance, on how to winterize your car!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Ice Dam-age

As Old Man Winter continues his iron-fisted reign over New England, you should be wary of potential, costly damage to your home. So let’s talk about ice: the good, the bad… and the pretty.

Okay, so besides being pretty to look at, there’s not a whole lot of “good” when it comes to icicles. Beyond their attractive shine, icicles are a sign that something bad could be happening to your roof.ice dam

Icicles are the byproduct of an ice dam: a buildup of ice in gutters and roof overhangs. Ice dams form when it’s warm enough for the snow on the top of a roof to melt, but still cold enough for water to refreeze once it runs onto the eaves of the roof. Once refrozen, the ice blockage causes water to be pushed back up under the shingles, often resulting in damaged shingles, sagging gutters, stained ceilings and peeling paint.

Dam Removal

If icicles are hanging from your roof, there’s a high chance an ice dam is clogging the gutter. To remove the ice dam, there are a few recommended techniques:

  1. Use a roof rake from the ground to carefully chip away at the ice. Be careful not to damage your roof.
  2. Fill a nylon sock with calcium chloride – a melting agent – and lay it across the ice dam. The agent will create a channel by melting the ice and allowing water to drain through the dam. Calcium chloride can be found at your local hardware store. Do not use rock salt because it can be harmful to the roof.

Since working on or below a roof during the winter can be dangerous, the safest option is to call a professional to take care of any ice dams.

Prevention

The most effective way to deal with ice dams is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Immediately following a snowstorm, a short term solution is to use a roof rake to clear off the first three to four feet of snow to prevent it from refreezing in the gutters – be sure to also clear debris out of downspouts so the gutters can properly drain.

A long term solution for ice dams is to keep the attic cold. By keeping the air in the attic cold, the snow on the roof is less likely to melt and run down to the gutter.

In order to keep the attic cold, it must be sufficiently insulated. An inadequately insulated attic will have cracks where the roof meets the exterior wall. This is where warm air leaks through, keeping the roof heated. So, inspect this area and if you find cracks, seal them with spray foam or sheets of rigid foam insulation.  There is more information online to help you prepare:

Although foam insulation can get pricy depending on the size of your attic, the benefit of preventing ice dams – and potentially water damage to your home – is worth the cost.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home, condo and renters insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in property and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Piping Up

As with each New Year, 2014 brought hopes for good fortune, opportunity for new experiences…and a polar vortex.

In New England we are accustomed to freezing temperatures,Frozen drainpipe but the crippling, Arctic-like air that swept through the region last week reminded us of the perils of home ownership that may arise in such conditions.  Of these perils, pipe bursts are among the most common and recently have become widespread throughout Massachusetts. Last week 35 people in Lawrence were evacuated from their homes when a pipe burst inside their building. The same issue affected Brigham and Women’s Hospital, causing patients to be moved to other hospitals.

How can you prevent frozen pipes from ruining your New Year? Here’s some useful knowledge and a few helpful tips.

How does cold air cause a pipe to burst?

Before addressing prevention and treatment of burst pipes, it is important to understand why pipes are prone to bursting in cold temperatures. Contrary to popular belief, the ice that forms and expands within the pipe is not the culprit; the burst actually results from the built up pressure between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.

Preventative measures

Now that winter is upon us, here are some suggestions on how to prevent the bursting of pipes in your home:

  1. Wrap your pipes with insulation. Be generous with the wrapping. The more insulated the pipe, the less likely it is to freeze.
  2. Any cracks or holes in the walls or foundation of your house should be sealed in order to minimize pipes’ exposure to cold air.
  3. For plumbing that is hard to reach, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets in order to increase warm air flow to the pipes.
  4. Let the water drip from the faucet in order to alleviate built up pressure in the pipe.
  5. If you are going to be away during a cold
  6. spell, make sure your heat is turned no lower than 55°F.

If you suspect a pipe is frozen, pipe up!
If you turn on a faucet and little or no water comes out, call a plumber. Turn off the main water supply but remember to keep the faucet open. If you are keen on thawing the pipe yourself, apply a small heat source (hairdryer, towels soaked in hot water, etc.) starting at the faucet end. Remember to keep the faucet open. Under no circumstances should you attempt thawing the pipe with an open flame. Exposure to fire is harmful to the pipe.

For additional information on frozen pipe treatment:

 

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

 

Bunker Hill’s Tips to Winterize Your Home

As the weather continues to cool and homeowners begin to crank the heat, make stovetop chili, and sit by the fireplace, we at Bunker Hill Insurance want to make sure that our customers have the information they need to prevent house fires and keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

For this reason, we’ve created a video highlighting common safety hazards in the home that can easily go unnoticed—from smoke detectors with dead batteries, to dirty dryer exhausts, to outdated wiring.

Check out our video to help you avoid these hazards, and stay safe!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Safe at home: 5 home fire safety tips and how to protect your family from home heating fires

Long, cold fall and winter nights are the perfect time to relax at home in front of a cozy fire. Unfortunately, this time of the year is also when the frequency of home heating fires increases, especially in December, January, and February.

Here are some quick tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on what you can do to stay safe and protect your family:

Smoke detector1. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. You should place smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.

2. Install carbon monoxide detectors outside sleeping areas and on every level of your home, and test them regularly.

3. Have a qualified professional clean and inspect your heating equipment—fireplaces, wood stoves, furnaces, and chimneys at least once a year.

4. Turn off portable heaters when you leave a room or before you go to sleep. Use space heaters with an automatic shut off.

5. If you use a portable fireplace, take care to place it on a firm surface away from table edges or other furniture. Store ethanol fuel in a closed container, away from the fireplace and out of your children’s reach. Use a utility lighter or long wooden match to light the fire, and never pour fuel on an already-lit fire or into a fireplace that’s not completely cool to the touch.

Want more info? Visit http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers for more consumer fire safety tips.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Cold weather: Fireplace and chimney safety tips

FireplaceLast week’s recent heat wavelet aside, we’re getting ready for the colder weather, which means long, cozy nights in front of the fire.

Before you light up that wood stove or fireplace for your first fire of the season, make sure that it’s safe and ready to go. You should clean both the stovepipe and hearth opening to the chimney before you strike that first match (a wire brush would be a good tool for this). While you’re in there, check for clogs, cracks, or leaks. Check that stovepipe joints are tightly sealed. If you’re not sure how to clean and check your fireplace, call a professional chimney sweep to do the job.

Does your wood stove have a brick surround? Check the bricks for damage or cracks. Seal cracked bricks with repair cement, found at your neighborhood hardware store. Woodstoves should have a minimum 36” clearance on all sides to avoid danger of high temperatures causing nearby surfaces to catch fire.

Once your chimney, stove or fireplace have been checked and are in good working order, stock up on some well-seasoned hardwoods: ash, beech, hickory, maple or oak are all good choices. The wood should be dried for at least a year prior to burning; if it’s still green, store it on your property that’s not too close your home (to prevent rot and insects) or under a tarp to protect it from the weather. This will also help dry it out faster. You’ll know it’s ready when there are cracks in the end grain.

Enjoy the fall!

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowners and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

It’s never too late – the big one could be right around the corner.

Following are some basic tips on hurricane preparedness to ensure that you aren’t caught off guard.

  1. Create a “Family Emergency Plan” – creating a Family Emergency Plan ensures that every family member knows how to reach or reconnect with each other.
    1. Post emergency numbers (fire, police, ambulance) by the phone. Teach children how to call 911 for help Identify family meeting places in case you are separated. Choose a place in a building or a park outside your neighborhood. Everyone should be clear about this location
    2. Develop an emergency communication plan. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family’s contact.
    3. Make sure everyone knows the telephone number of this contact.
  2. Assemble an “Emergency Supply Kit” – your emergency supply kit should include basic food supplies and water to keep you and your family going for a minimum of 3 days. In addition, you should have a 30 supply of medications that you or your family members may take.  More information on what to include is listed below.
  3. Make sure that you and family members are aware of evacuation routes and the location of potential emergency shelters in case you feel that it is prudent to leave your home.
  4. Don’t forget about your car!  Your car should be placed in a garage and away from flood waters.  You also should fill your car with gas in the event you need to evacuate.

Remember, forewarned is forearmed – so keep your ears open for potential weather coming your way. Generally hurricanes that impact New England come from the south and you will have several days notice prior to landfall. Check out weather.com or The Weather Channel on a regular basis to stay up-to-date regarding developing weather systems that may impact you.

An Emergency Supplies Kit Should Include:

  • At least a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day)
  • At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • At least, one change of clothing and shoes per person
  • One blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and a portable radio and extra batteries for each
  • Emergency tools
  • Flashlight, extra batteries
  • Extra set of car keys
  • Credit card and cash
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Find additional safety and preparedness material:

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation provides auto insurance to personal and commercial auto insurance customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. They are members of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each separate company.