Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Safety Tips for Your Home!

How to prepare for power outages during winter snow storms –

[Jan. 11]

Since the brutal winter cold set throughout the country, many people are seeking ways to augment their regular heating systems or to heat their homes in a power outage. There have been many accidental house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings related to alternate heating sources such as electric space heaters, gas heaters, fireplaces. Following simple home winter safety practices can help assure your family’s safety.

Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside or near sleeping areas. Be certain to check the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors on a regular basis. Even if the detectors are hardwired into your home, they have a battery back-up in the event of a power outage.

Alternate Heating Source Safety Tips

According to Daniel L. Schmidt of the Fairfax County Virginia Fire and Rescue Department, the following safety tips will help you keep a safe home:

•Keep at least three feet of clearance between your alternate heat source and anything combustible.
•Do not keep or store combustible materials in closed areas or near a heat source.
•Never leave a heater on when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep, and never leave children or pets unattended near heating sources.
•If you use an electric heater, be careful not to overload the electrical circuit.
•Avoid using electrical heaters in bathrooms as they may come in contact with water.
•Only use heaters that have been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features, such as automatic shut-offs. It is important to install and use heaters according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
•Do not use a range or oven as an alternate heating source. This is a safety hazard and may be a source of toxic fumes.
•Do not use fuel burning appliances without the proper room ventilation.
•Never fill a kerosene heater while it is in operation or hot. Avoid overfilling.
In the event of a fire leave the house immediately, assuring all members of the family are out of the house – meet at a predesignated area such as a neighbor’s front door. Call the fire department from a cell phone or neighbor’s house. Do not re-enter the home for possessions!

Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety

According to the Home Safety Council, the following safety tips will help ensure a safe and satisfying experience when using your fireplace or wood burning stove:

•Burn only seasoned hardwood like oak, ash or maple;
•Do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees because these items burn unevenly, and may contain poisons or cause a home fire;
•Have a professional chimney sweep inspect chimneys every year. They will fix any cracks, blockages and leaks and clean out any build-up in the chimney that could start a fire;
•Creosote logs can be used to help reduce the build-up of creosote in fireplaces. Check labels to make sure the log has been tested and approved by UL. Even if you use creosote logs, fireplaces should still be inspected by a professional each year;
•Open flues before fireplaces are used;
•Use sturdy screens or glass doors to keep embers inside fireplaces;
•Keep young children away from working wood stoves and heaters to avoid contact burn injuries;
•Do not burn wood in a stove designed for pellets, or pellets in a stove designed for wood.

Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuel. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential CO source. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent and odorless killer that can take out an entire household if not detected and eliminated. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission there are several steps to help assure your families safety:

•Proper installation, operation, and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances in the home is the most important factor in reducing the risk of CO poisoning:
•Make certain appliances are installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local codes. Most appliances should be installed by professionals:
•Always follow the appliance manufacturer’s directions for safe operation;
•Have the heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually by a trained service technician;
•Examine vents and chimneys regularly for improper connections, visible cracks, rust or stains;
•Look for problems that could indicate improper appliance operations:
◦Decreased hot water supply;
◦Furnace unable to heat house or runs continuously;
◦Sooting, especially on appliances and vents;
◦Unfamiliar, or burning odor;
◦Increased moisture inside of windows;
•Operate portable generators outdoors and away from open doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors;
•In addition, install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home. Every home should have a CO alarm in the hallway near the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the most recent UL, IAS, or CSA standard for CO alarms. Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries. A CO alarm can provide added protection, but is no substitute for proper installation, use and upkeep of appliances that are potential CO sources.
The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever) including:

•Shortness of breath
•If you suspect that you are experiencing CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately.
•Leave the home and call for assistance from a neighbor’s home.
•You could lose consciousness and die from CO poisoning if you stay in the home.
•Get medical attention immediately and inform medical staff that CO poisoning is suspected. Call the Fire Department to determine when it is safe to reenter the home.
Bonus: by following the safety measures related to carbon monoxide safety you will also help to ensure your family home appliances are more eco-friendly because the systems will be their most efficient.

Be Prepared for Winter Power Outages:

•Stock up on batteries, flashlights, portable radios, canned food, boxed food, manual can opener, bottled water and blankets;
•Use flashlights rather that batteries, as they reduce the risk of fire;
•Make certain you have at least one hardwired phone, as wireless phones require electricity to work;
•If outside temperatures are below freezing and your home has not heat, or only localized heat, run water at a trickle (from the tap the farthest from the water main) to help prevent the pipes from freezing;
•If the outside temperatures are low enough, store perishable food in a plastic bin in an outside shaded area or in an unheated garage or shed;
•Have sterno cups and a sterno camping stove available to heat food;
•If your home is unheated for an extended period, drain the water pipes and turn off the main water shut-off valve and the water heater;
•If a water pipe freezes, wrap it with cloth and pour hot water over the cloth until the pipe thaws and water starts flowing again. Once the water is running again, remove the cloth strips and wrap the pipe with dry insulation;
•If a water pipe breaks, close the main water shut-off valve and call a plumber. If the pipe is easy to reach, you can use a pipe repair kit purchased from a hardware store;
•Never use a heat lamp to thaw frozen pipes, many house fires have been started because the heat lamp overheats the combustible wall surface.

The staff of greencelebrity.net hope you have a safe and warm winter, while observing home safety practices.

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