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   Winter Safety Tips


 


Winterize Your Home

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.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary, insulate walls and attic. This will help you to conserve energy and reduce your homes power demands for heat.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. This will provide an extra layer of insulation, keeping more 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. If you did not do it when you set the clocks back, do it now.
  • To keep pipes from freezing:
    • Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers
    • Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture
    • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing
    • Know how to shut off water valves

If The Lights Go Out

If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:

  • 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.

Generator Safety

Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when you are faced with a temporary loss of electric service. Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:

  • Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
  • Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturers instructions.
  • Keep children away from generators at all times.

Fire Safety

Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and heaters can add a cozy glow, but make sure you are using them safely.

  • Always keep a screen around an open flame.
  • Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors.
  • Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
  • When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
  • Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup -- and then clean it.
  • Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors ... and make sure they work! Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.

Road Safety

When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.

  • If you must travel, make sure you car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods and brightly-colored cloth to use as a distress flag.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent gasoline freeze-up.
  • If you have a cell phone or two-way radio available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans.

Snow Blower Safety

Do you have a snow blower? Did you know that most snow blower injuries happen because the operator did not read the operating instructions?

So, read your owners manual and follow these tips:

  • Never leave your snow blower running and unattended.
  • Make sure the discharge chute is not aimed at passing motorists or pedestrians.
  • Never put your hands into the discharge chute or augers to clear stuck snow and ice.
  • Never add fuel when the engine is running and hot.
  • Make sure you know how to turn the machine off quickly.

Useful Tip Before you start shoveling snow (especially very wet snow), spray your shovel with PAM Cooking Spray. This will help the snow slide off easier. This also works with snow blower impellers.


Protecting Pets

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.

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Last Modified: December 22, 2010
Please forward all questions about this site to: Kathy Folkers

 


DOE, Office of Science One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

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