structural support, increasing the risk of it toppling onto your property in a storm. • Trees are living things that change over time. It’s import- ant to check them at least once a year. A tree that was healthy and survived the last storm isn’t guaranteed to survive the next one. HOWTO PREVENT TREE DAMAGE It’s easy to take tree health for granted. We assume our trees will always remain standing and won’t require any mainte- nance. Costly problems can sneak up on you, so be sure to: • Inspect your trees on an annual basis and spot check them during your quarterly inspections. • Utilize a professional arborist to diagnose and treat any issues and to give you advice if a tree needs to be cut down. • Trim dead branches or cut down dead trees in a timely manner, as they could fall at any time. HIRING A PROFESSIONAL IS BEST If you notice any signs of trouble with your trees, consult a professional, preferably one that has been certified by either the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Both organizations have accreditation programs, adhere to a code of ethics, and re- quire prior experience in the field of arboriculture. Any professional you hire should have the appropriate liabil- ity insurance in place. Tree trimming can be very dangerous, so call someone who is experienced and properly protected. To find an arborist in your area, call TCIA at 1-800-733-2622 or run a ZIP code search on ISA-certified arbor- ists can be found through a search tool at ELEMENT #2 Water – Preventing a Burst Pipe Without question, the most common type of water loss we see are those resulting from a burst pipe. In recent years, Arctic vertices have pushed freezing temps further south, damaging properties simply not equipped to handle that type of cold. A few degrees difference in temperature can have a big impact on your investment. Here are some helpful tips to keep your proper- ty comfortable and loss free even when the temperature drops: For Occupied Properties • Insulate pipes on exterior walls, crawl spaces, and the attic. (Remember, insulation does not create heat.)

• Keep your thermostat well-maintained to ensure it con- tinuously registers the correct temperature. • Text or e-mail reminders to tenants when a cold snap is approaching to: - Open cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate to un-in- sulated pipes under sinks and appliances. - Let warm water drip overnight, especially for faucets on outside walls. For Vacant Properties • Set the thermostat to no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit – may need to be higher for properties in more northern locations or when colder temperatures hit.

Protect Your Investment from These Elements thisWinter PART 2 OF THE "WINTER DEFENSE" SERIES.

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BreAnn Stephenson is assistant vice president of Affinity Loss Prevention Services. Contact her at For seasonal maintenance checklists and more loss prevention tips, visit

by BreAnn Stephenson


rotecting your property in the winter can mean pro- tecting it from the cold, but there are other elements that can be particularly punishing if you don’t develop a healthy respect for them, namely Earth, Water, and Fire. Read on to find out how you can protect your property from Earth and Water this winter. I covered Fire already in the November issue of Think Realty Magazine , so in this issue, I'll cover the others: Earth and Water. ELEMENT #1 Earth – Preventing Tree Damage Trees can be remarkably destructive. We’ve seen property damage totaling upwards of $70,000 from a single loss. Limbs or a whole tree could fall on your property, your neighbor’s house, a passing car, or even a pedestrian. A punctured roof can lead to water damage if you don’t tarp it quickly. Many of the tree losses we see can be prevented by making tree mainte- nance more than just an afterthought.

DID YOU KNOW? • A few tree species have brittle wood that makes them more susceptible to damage in a storm. They include: Chinese Elm, Silver Maple, Boxelder, various poplars, and Bradford pears. • A tree’s roots are crucial to its overall health. Damaging them can create points of entry for pathogens, reduce its ability to take up nutrients and water, and endanger its 1. Trunk Damage – look for peeling bark, gaping wounds, or vertical cracks in the trunk 2. Prematurely Bare Branches – look for leaves that drop off before fall arrives or don’t come back in the Spring 3. Damaged Roots – look for a leaning trunk, small branches sprouting from the trunk, or heaving soil at the tree base 4. Fungus – look for shelf or bracket fungus on the trunk or branches and mushrooms growing at the base or along the root system 5. Location – look for poor drainage or increases in sun and wind exposure, both of which can com- promise tree health

Keep Your ROI From Going Up in Smoke Cooking fires are not only life-threatening, they are are costly for RE investors. StoveTop FireStop turns stove-induced fire breakouts into a thing of the past, extinguishing a flame before it becomes unmanageable.



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Indicators of poor tree health are pretty clear if you know what to look for. Knowing these indicators may help you save an ailing tree or enable you to remove a tree before it becomes a hazard. Here are five warning signals to look for:

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