Winter safety tips
Take the time now to get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:
- Have your heating system checked by a professional annually. This will ensure that your system is working safely and efficiently which, in turn, will save you money. If you heat by wood, clean your fireplace or stove. Have your chimney flue checked for any buildup of creosote and then cleaned to lessen the risk of fire.
- Change your furnace filter monthly during the winter season.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
- Inspect and flush your water heater.
- Clean gutters. Leaves and other debris will hamper drainage.
- Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors when the time changes (twice a year).
If the lights go out:
- Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
- To help prevent freezing pipes, turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
- Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
- Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.
Neighbors helping neighbors:
If someone you know is elderly or dependent on life-sustaining or health-related equipment such as a ventilator, respirator or oxygen concentrator, you should make plans now to ensure their needs are met during severe winter weather and possible power outages.
- Help them stock a home disaster kit including a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-operated radio, bottled water, non-perishable foods, essential medicines, and extra blankets or sleeping bags.
- Check on them after a storm or power outage. Help register them as a special needs customer with their utility company so they will become a priority customer. Notify others who could provide help such as neighbors, relatives, nearby friends and local emergency responders such as the fire department.
- Have a list of emergency numbers readily available.
- Have a standby generator or an alternative source of power available. Be aware of the safety rules for its use.
Winter is a time we should pay close attention to the safety of our pets. Here are some safety tips to follow:
- Ingesting anti-freeze can be fatal for your dog or cat. It has a sweet taste and even a tiny amount can cause severe kidney damage and even death. If you spill some, soak it up immediately. (Clay kitty litter works well. Discard the litter once the anti-freeze has been absorbed.)
- Pets that live outdoors should be fed a bit more in the winter because they need the extra calories to stay warm. They also should have fresh water put out a couple of times a day, or consider a special bowl that prevents the water from freezing.
- If your pet goes outdoors, be aware of the temperature. Pets can get frostbite very easily on the ears, tail and paws.
- When walking your dog, check the paws to make sure that ice is not building up between the toes and that salt from the roads is not irritating the skin.
- If your dog is a swimmer, keep it on a leash around open water or unstable ice. Hypothermia can set in quickly and the dog may be unable to get out of the water.
- Before you start your car, you should honk the horn to make sure that a cat has not decided to nap in a warm spot under the hood of the vehicle.
- If decorating for the holidays, keep ornaments out of the reach of your pets. Remember that poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and other plants can be toxic if ingested.
Source: U.S. Office of Emergency Management