The crisp, fall air has us getting ready for the winter season. Love it or hate it, the winter season is arriving. It is important to take a little time to make sure your home and your family are ready for any potential hazardous winter weather that may come your way.
Are your heat sources ready and safe?
What is your primary source of heat during the winter? Do you have any backups heat sources to rely on in case of power outages? Be sure to inspect all heat sources to make sure they are running properly and are safe.
The improper use of heating devices and generators during the winter creates significant dangers from carbon monoxide poisoning. CO poisoning accounts for nearly 15,000 emergency trips annually and over 400 deaths. Be sure to have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances inspected and serviced by a qualified technician each year. Install CO detectors on every level of your home. Battery-operated CO detectors will be necessary in the case of a power outage.
Never use a generator inside your home or garage and be sure to place the generator far away from your home. Generators create large amounts of carbon monoxide very quickly. Remember, there is no way to detect carbon monoxide other than by using a detector. You will not be able to smell or taste the gas even if you are being poisoned. Even keeping doors and windows open will not keep a lethal dose of CO from building up within your home.
Wintertime house fires are often caused by fireplaces that haven’t been properly cleaned and prepared. Before your first fire of the season be sure to remove any creosote, a flammable, sooty buildup, and clear out any possible obstructions that could spark a chimney fire. Have your chimney inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney inspector. Never leave a fire unattended. When not in use, be sure to close the damper above the firebox to keep cold air from blowing in and warm air from escaping out the chimney.
As part of your severe weather plan, know how you will heat your home in the case of a long term power outage. Be sure you keep enough fuel for your emergency heating equipment on hand at all times. And familiarize yourself with your heating equipment BEFORE you need to use it. In the case of a real emergency consider keeping mylar blankets on hand to retain body heat and prevent hypothermia. Prepared4X Emergency Mylar Ponchos are more comfortable and more durable than traditional mylar blankets. Consider having a few on hand for your family to use.
Is your property protected?
Keep trees trimmed back so they don’t hang over your house or any other structures can reduce possible property damage. As snow and ice accumulate on tree limbs they become incredibly heavy and even a healthy tree branch can snap under the weight. Never park your car beneath a tree during a snowstorm or blizzard. High winds can snap tree limbs and diseased, dying limbs can quickly become hazardous flying objects.
Cleaning out gutters and drain pipes will reduce the likelihood of any water damage to your home from snow and water build-up. Ensure all water can properly drain from your roof. Additionally, disconnect and drain all garden hoses so that water can’t build up and freeze inside the hose. Frozen water from a garden hose can burst an outdoor spigot or even the water pipe it is connected to.
If you haven’t done so in previous winters, ensure that all outdoor pipes are protected from the cold. Exposed pipes, especially those exposed to cold winds, should be insulated or possibly equipped with UL-endorsed tape with a built-in thermostat.
For interior plumbing, keep cabinets open during severe weather to allow warm air to circulate under the sinks and help keep pipes warm. Consider opening up a warm stream of water at each of your taps to reduce the likelihood of pipes freezing and bursting.
Part of your severe weather plan should include a plan for securing all outdoor furniture and equipment. High winds can both damage your outdoor patio furniture and put you home at risk if high winds crash your outdoor objects into the side of your home. Properly secure garbage cans, outdoor furniture, lawnmowers, and other lightweight to midweight objects that you normally keep outdoors.
Keep rock salt or another type of deicer available to help you clear your sidewalks. Non-clumping kitty litter can give you good traction and keep you from slipping and falling on wet or icy surfaces.
Consider reviewing your property insurance to make sure you are covered for any likely storm damage. Call once a year to go over your rates with your insurer to make sure you have the coverage you need at the best possible price.
Is your family prepared?
Go through your emergency kit to make sure you have adequate supplies for the season. Check to make sure none of your emergency food has expired. FEMA recommends keeping at least three days worth of food available at all times as well as at least three gallons of water per member of the household, one gallon per day.
Emergency kits should also include flashlights and plenty of batteries. Consider buying a hand crank operated or battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio to keep updated on changing weather conditions.
If a winter storm is forecasted, ensure that there is plenty of prescription medicine on hand as well as a general first aid kit stocked and ready.
Don’t forget to plan for fun! Winter storms and power outages can often be stressful and create fear for different members of the family. In a world so centered around having technology constantly available it can be disorienting to go without. Plan fun and entertaining activities to help keep everyone’s minds present and calm. Have things like puzzles, board games, cards, coloring books, magazines, and books available to help pass the time.
The risk of severe weather is significantly lowered if you take action to prepare for a storm before it arrives. Follow these helpful suggestions and the suggestions from the additional resources we list below to keep your family safe and prepared this winter season.
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Additional Resources For Winter Storm Preparation: