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Take measures to ease the damaging effects of winter, says Amity Insurance

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QUINCY, MA ISSUED NOVEMBER 17, 2011….In the aftermath of the October 29th nor'easter many are concerned and anxious over the possibility that the winter of 2011-2012 could be a record breaker. It's hard to predict the weather, but if the turbulent weather patterns experienced over the past several months are any indication, we could be in for a tough season. But by taking a few basic measures, homeowners can be better prepared for whatever Mother Nature decides to dole out this winter, according to Amity Insurance Agency, Inc., the region's leading full service agency.

Clean out all gutters: Remove all sticks, leaves and debris; this helps melting ice and snow to flow smoothly and also prevents ice from collecting and forming a dam which can result in water seeping into ceilings and walls.

Keep trees and branches trimmed: Branches that hang over a house are likely to accumulate snow and ice, then break and fall, causing significant damage not only to your house, but to people entering the property.

Use gutter guards: These guards are useful for preventing interference of water flow from debris.

Seal cracks and holes: Caulk all holes and cracks to ensure that melted snow and wind can't enter the house.

Keep steps and handrails safe: It's important to ensure that steps and banisters are sturdy, for if they accumulate snow or ice, serious injuries may result.

Use insulation liberally: Homeowners would be wise to add extra insulation to basements, attics and crawl spaces. When heat escapes through the roof, it contributes to ice and snow melting faster; the melted ice and snow can re-freeze and accumulate, causing a roof to collapse.

Maintain a warm temperature: It's best to maintain the thermostat at 65 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing. The temperature in the walls is always colder than the house temperature.

Call the professionals: A home's heating system should be checked and serviced annually to prevent fires. Also, make sure that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Homeowners should also have a contractor evaluate the house for structural damage – it's best to identify and repair minor problems before they become major.

Know how to shut off the water: Learn where the main water valve and pipes are located. When pipes freeze, it's imperative to act quickly. If going away for an extended time, have someone look after your home or contact a service professional to drain the system.

Add an emergency pressure release valve: By adding this to a current system, homeowners will be protected against increasing pressure from frozen pipes.

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