When the winter season begins, everyone is so busy preparing for the holidays and enjoying the fresh snowfall that preparing for a safe winter around your home may become a forgotten task. But winter weather brings with it several dangers that require you to be prepared and vigilant to keep both your home and the people in it safe. Be prepared against these four winter dangers this season.
A slip and fall on an icy walkway may be a pain in the behind, but in some cases, it can also lead to serious injury. Keeping your walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice is an absolute must-do. Help keep ice from building up by shoveling snow when it falls, before it is driven or walked over. Compacted snow is harder to remove and more likely to turn to ice. Thoroughly salt all walkways and make sure there is no excessive build-up of water near your home coming from melting snow or downspouts.
It’s not just the ice on the ground you have to be cautious of. Icicles hanging from roofs can also be a safety concern. Help cut back on icicles building up along eaves by cleaning the gutters before winter begins. If you find that an area of your gutters is prone to icicles, it’s likely there is debris damming the water flow. If you can safely reach into the gutters to clear this blockage, do so, but always be very cautious using a ladder in colder weather. If you have icicles building up, break them off with a long broom so they aren’t falling on unsuspecting people as they pass underneath. Do this often, when icicles are still small, to decrease the risk of injury to yourself when taking them down.
It’s not just the ice outside your home that you need to prepare for, but ice inside as well. Inside your pipes, that is. This is particularly true if you have an older home. A frozen pipe can burst and lead to significant flooding and damage to your home and property. Make sure your pipes are sufficiently insulated, with particular attention to pipes that lay along an exterior wall.
Of course, when the cold weather arrives, it’s necessary to turn on the furnace, bring in space heaters or light the fire. But each method for heating your home comes with its own safety measures that must be followed.
Space heaters can easily cause fires, so it’s important to never leave them running unsupervised. Some now come with features that cause the heater, if tipped over, to automatically turn off to prevent fires. Space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from anything particularly flammable, like paper or fabrics. They should also be kept well away from all objects, even ones that aren’t obviously flammable. Additionally, space heaters should always be plugged directly into wall sockets, and never into extension cords or generators.
A roaring fire in the fireplace is one of the unique joys of the winter season and, with the right safety precautions, can be an efficient way to heat your home. However, a fire in a fireplace can be a risk for a house fire. You should always have a grate in front of the fire to prevent embers from jumping out of the fireplace and landing on flammable objects like furniture or flooring. Do not leave a fire unattended and be sure to close the fireplace doors if the fire is done and only the embers remain. You must also keep your chimney properly cleaned and maintained as the soot in a clogged chimney can catch fire if the temperature rises enough.
The most common method for heating homes in this part of the country is with a furnace, be it gas, fuel or wood-burning, all of which can pose a carbon monoxide risk. The best way to protect yourself against the risk of carbon monoxide in your home is to have CO detectors on every level of your home. Place them by all sleeping areas and ensure they are in good working order with functioning batteries. Make sure the furnace, fireplace or other heating methods are properly maintained and regularly inspected. Check out our guide to carbon monoxide safety in the home for more on keeping your home safe from this winter risk.
Winter storms are as unpredictable as they are inevitable, so it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. You should have an emergency kit in your home in case you are snowed in for a few days. This should include food, water, a shovel, flashlights, blankets, and alternative heat sources like a kerosene heater (if the power is out, the furnace is out!).
Before the winter weather hits, check around your power lines for close-hanging tree branches that could cause a problem in a storm. With heavy snowfall, even healthy branches can break, with a risk of hitting the power lines on their way down. If you’re concerned about any of your branches, talk to your local power company about how to have them safely trimmed. You should also look for branches hanging over the roof or near windows that could come down in a serious storm.
For a safe winter season, start preparing early. Don’t wait until you’re fighting bad weather to clean the gutters or trim the trees. Stock up on essential supplies you’ll need like shovels, salt, batteries, flashlights and water before the storm alerts start. The best defense against the dangers of winter is by being prepared.