Poor winter preparedness may leave some Northwest drivers out in the cold



​​​​​​​​SEATTLE – Are you winter-ready? According to the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance, many Northwest drivers take the basic precautions to stay safe and warm in winter months both at home and on the road, but the poll reveals a few areas of preparedness where residents may find themselves left out in the cold.

The latest PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll reveals that 83 percent of drivers in Washington and Oregon carry at least one emergency item in their vehicle, but of those prepared drivers, less than half (44 percent) pack extra water, and just 25 percent pack extra food.

The poll also finds that most drivers on both sides of the Cascades carry a first-aid kit and extra clothing or blankets, though drivers east of the mountains appear to be better prepared for their colder climate – about 70 percent of drivers to the east carry clothes and blankets, while about 50 percent of drivers to the west do the same.

Following that trend, more than twice as many drivers in Eastern Oregon carry a shovel compared to Western Oregonians (39 percent versus 15 percent). That’s echoed up north where 39 percent of Eastern Washington residents carry a shovel versus 19 percent of west-siders.

“We’ve seen below-average temperatures over the past few weeks all over the Northwest, and as things warm up, residents would be wise to winterize now before the next freeze sets in,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson.

At home, residents largely have the winter-prep basics down. Perhaps most importantly, while many are diligent about protecting their pipes by disconnecting outdoor hoses and covering outside faucets, about one-third still fall short – the poll finds that 33 percent just sometimes, rarely, or never cover outdoor faucets with a foam bib or cloth to prevent pipes from freezing and cracking.

“PEMCO sees more homeowner claims caused by water damage than anything else, and each winter that includes frozen pipes. It’s easy to prevent frozen, burst pipes. It only takes a few minutes and a couple of bucks to buy a foam faucet cover at the hardware store and mount it to your outdoor faucet. You’ll spare yourself a big expense and a big hassle,” Osterberg said.

The poll revealed that gutters also could use some additional TLC from Northwest residents. Just 39 percent of Washingtonians and 48 percent of Oregonians say they regularly clean them, according to the poll.

Perhaps more concerning, even fewer – 30 percent – check their yard for split or unstable trees.

When it comes to keeping warm, about one-quarter (27 percent) typically check their furnace annually. “While a faulty furnace may not put you in danger, they have a bad habit of breaking down under the strain of cold weather, and it might get awfully cold waiting for a repair man,” Osterberg added.

Of those who have chimneys in their home, about half (45 percent) say they rarely or never have them checked or cleaned before freezing weather arrives.

According to PEMCO, if you burn wood regularly, or burn more than half a cord annually, you should inspect your wood-burning stove and chimney at least once per year. Those who burn wood occasionally, like during the holidays, probably accumulate creosote more slowly, but would still be wise to do regular maintenance – creosote buildup can lead to chimney fires.

“We’re encouraged to see Northwesterners taking some precautions, but we can do better. Most of these preventive steps are quick and easy. They’ll save you money and keep you safe,” Osterberg said.

For a complete summary of PEMCO’s poll results, which includes additional winter prep topics such as auto, yard, and recreational equipment care, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in May 2014.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.

​About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit pemco.com. J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Two Years in a Row.” For J.D. Power award information, visit www.pemco.com/jdpower.​