Tips And Treats
Winter is one of the four seasons of temperate zones. Astronomically, it begins with the winter solstice (around December 21 in the Northern hemisphere and June 21 in the Southern hemisphere), and ends with the spring equinox (around March 21 in the Northern hemisphere and September 23 in the Southern hemisphere).
In meteorology it is by convention counted instead as the whole months of June, July and August in the Southern hemisphere and December, January and February in the Northern hemisphere. Some cultures and regions, such as Ireland and Australia, also define Winter this way.
With its cold and often stormy weather, winter presents many safety challengesboth indoors and out. Being prepared and following simple safety tips can help you stay safe and warm this season.
Last Updated - 13th November 2005
Keeping Your Home Safe And Warm
Follow these safety tips to prevent injuries and deaths related to heating your home.
- Install a smoke alarm near bedrooms and on each floor of your home. Test it monthly. If it has a 9-volt battery, change the battery once a year.
- Install a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm near bedrooms and on each floor of your home. If your alarm sounds, press the reset button, call emergency services and immediately move to fresh air (either outdoors or near an open door or window). Know the symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, get fresh air right away and contact a doctor for proper diagnosis.
- Make sure heating equipment is installed properly. Have a trained specialist inspect and tune up your heating system each year.
- Keep portable space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that can burn, including bedding, furniture, and clothing. Never drape clothing over a space heater to dry.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Never leave children in a room alone when a space heater is in use.
- If you use a kerosene heater, use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer. Never put gasoline in a kerosene heater--it could explode. Before you refuel the heater, turn it off and let it cool down. Refuel outside only.
- When using a kerosene heater, keep a door open to the rest of the house or open a window slightly. This will reduce the chance of carbon monoxide build-up in the room.
- Have your fireplace chimney and flue inspected each year and cleaned if needed. Open the flue and use a sturdy fireplace screen when you have a fire. Burn only untreated wood; never burn paper or pine branches--pieces can float out the chimney and ignite your roof, a neighbor's roof, or nearby trees.
- If you use a wood-burning stove, have the chimney connection and flue checked each year. Make sure the stove is placed on an approved stove board to protect the floor from heat and coals.
- Never use your range or oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
Surviving A Winter Storm
- Before cold weather hits, make sure you have a way to heat your home during a power failure.
- Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby when using alternative heating sources.
- Keep on hand extra blankets, flashlights with extra batteries, matches, a first aid kit, manual can opener, snow shovel and rock salt, and special needs items (e.g., diapers).
- Stock a few days' supply of water, required medications, and food that does not need to be refrigerated or cooked.
- Monitor the temperature of your home. Infants and persons over age 65 are especially susceptible to cold. If it's not possible to keep your home warm, stay with friends or family or in a shelter.
- Dress in several layers to maintain body heat. Covering up with blankets can also conserve heat.
Clearing Snow And Ice
Clearing snow and ice from driveways and sidewalks is hard work. To prevent injuries, follow these safety tips
- Dress warmly, paying special attention to feet, hands, nose, and ears.
- Avoid shoveling snow if you are out of shape. If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel snow unless your doctor says it's okay.
- Do light warm-up exercises before shoveling and take frequent breaks.
- If possible, push snow in front of you. If you have to lift it, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back. Do not toss snow over your shoulder or to the side.
- Don't drink alcohol before or while shoveling snow. Never smoke while shoveling.
- Use rock salt or de-icing compounds to remove ice from steps, walkways, and sidewalks.
- Sand placed on walkways may also help prevent slipping.
- If you use a snow blower (also called a snow thrower), follow these safety guidelines:
- Read the owner's manual before starting your snow blower. Make sure you understand all the recommended safety steps.
- Make sure all people and pets are out of the way before you begin.
- Do not put your hand in the snow blower to remove impacted snow or debris. Turn the machine off and wait a few seconds. Then use a stick or broom handle to remove the material.
- Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running.
- Fill up with fuel before you start, when the engine is cool.
Driving Safely In Winter Weather
Snow, ice, and extreme cold can make driving treacherous. These safety tips can help make winter car travel safer.
- Before winter arrives, have your car tuned up, check the level of antifreeze, make sure the battery is good, and check your tire tread or put on snow tires.
- Keep emergency gear in your car for everyday trips:
- cell phone
- jumper cables
- sand or kitty litter (for traction)
- ice scraper, snow brush, and small shovel
- warning devices (e.g., flares, reflectors)
- For long car trips, keep food, water, extra blankets, and required medication on hand.
- Avoid driving in snow or ice storms. If you must travel in bad weather, drive slowly. Let someone know what route you're taking and when you plan to arrive so they can alert authorities if you don't get there.
- If your car is parked outside, make sure the exhaust pipe and the area around it are free of snow before you start the car. Snow packed in or around the exhaust pipe can cause high levels of carbon monoxide in the car.
- Don't sit in a parked car with the engine running unless a window is open. Do not let your car run while parked in a garage.
- If your car stalls or gets stuck in snow, light two flares and place one at each end of the car, a safe distance away. Make sure snow has not blocked the exhaust pipe. Then stay in your vehicle and open a window slightly to let in fresh air. Wrap yourself in blankets and run your vehicle's heater for a few minutes every hour to keep warm.
Walking In A Winter Wonderland
Walking in icy, snowy weather can be dangerous, but these tips can help make your trek safer.
- Dress in layers and wear boots with nonskid soles. Wear a bright scarf or hat or reflective gear so drivers can see you.
- Walk on sidewalks if possible. If sidewalks are covered in snow and ice and you must walk in the street, walk against the flow of traffic and as close to the curb as you can.
- Don't wear a hat or scarf that blocks your vision or makes it hard for you to hear traffic.
- When traveling with babies or small children, dress them in bright or reflective clothing. Always keep children--whether in a stroller or on foot--in front of you and as close to the curb as possible.
- Before you step off the curb, make sure oncoming cars and trucks have come to a complete stop.
Winter Vacation Checklist
Protect your home while you're on vacation. Before you leave, it's always a great idea to:
- Lock all windows and doors
- Have newspaper and mail stopped or regularly picked up by a trusted neighbor
- Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your home
- Make sure a neighbor knows where the water main shut-off is located in the event of a broken pipe
- Set timers on interior lights, to deter burglars
- Unplug TV, computer and appliances susceptible to lightning and power surges
- Advise your alarm company and local police if you will be gone for an extended vacation
- Take jewelry and valuable papers to a safe deposit box
- Arrange for care of pets
- Turn off water valves to your washing machine, icemaker and dishwasher
- And when cold weather threatens, make sure to:
- Set the heat in your home to no lower than 55 degrees
- Allow water to drip from a faucet near an outside wall
Additional Winter Tips
- Keep downspouts and gutters clean to prevent ice dams on your roof
- Disconnect all garden hoses
- Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing. Typically, those near outer walls, in crawl spaces, and in the attic are most vulnerable.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to reach uninsulated pipes under sinks and where appliances are near exterior walls
- Shut off and drain the water system in your home (except indoor sprinkler systems) before an extended vacation
- Remove the screens from the storm window frames and install storm windows. Storm windows help reduce the cost to heat your home and help prevent windowsills from rotting.
- Inspecting gutters and downspouts for debris and fallen leaves can reduce the chances of an ice dam forming. One good step is to spray water down the downspouts to wash away leaves and other debris. A good tip: Place gutter screens over gutters.
- Extreme caution should be exercised when working on or around the roof. Consider hiring a professional.
- Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic. These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. Remember: the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.
- Store firewood at least 30 feet away from your home to reduce a home's fire load and the chance of attracting termites.
- Familiarize responsible family members with the main gas valve and other appliance valves.
- Responsible family members should be familiar with the location and operation of valves. If you are unsure of the location and operation of these valves, contact a qualified plumber.
- Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper and space under the dryer. Poor maintenance allows lint to build up in the exhaust duct and may cause a fire.
- Make sure all electrical holiday decorations have tight connections. If possible, use 3-prong plugs and cords. The use of 2-prong adapters, which permit 3-prong plugs to be used in 2-prong outlets, doesn't always provide grounding to protect against shock. Unplug decorations when not in use.
- Use of extension cords should be temporary. To help reduce the chances of overheating, electric cords, including extension cords, should never be bundled together or run under rugs and carpet.
- Check the attic for adequate ventilation. Check the exterior wall to be sure the ceiling insulation is not blocking the outside air from the soffit vents from getting into the attic. Make sure the attic has plenty of vents. Caution should be taken in all attic spaces that are unfinished.
- Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter. Keeping this clean of cooking grease will help keep a stovetop fire from spreading.
- Check the water hoses on the clothes washer, refrigerator icemaker, and dishwasher for cracks and bubbles. Replace hoses that show signs of leaking.
- Test all ground-fault-circuit-interrupter (GFCI ) type outlets. These need to be tripped and reset once a month. If they do not trip or reset, have the outlet changed by a qualified electrician. These types of outlets are required around wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens to offer protection against shock.
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