Winter Safety Smarts

You may have bundled up your home this winter to resist the worst temperatures and storms, but have you taken the precautions needed to ensure your family is safe and secure?

Snowstorms and cold temperatures present a whole new set of safety risks. The following tips will help protect your family while keeping energy costs down.

Snow build-up

Keep snow and ice from building up and covering your gas meter, roof overhang and exterior vents. Melting snow from a roof, freezing rain or water leaking from an eaves trough can cause ice and snow to build up. This may create a hazard by cutting off gas service and causing any gas appliances to malfunction.

When removing snow, avoid piling it up against any meters or vents. Use a broom or your hand to clear any meter or other equipment. Also keep your flues and chimneys free of ice and snow.

Outdoor safety

Keep a container of salt or sand at entrances to sprinkle on ice. Remove any liquids or other materials that can be damaged by freezing from unheated areas such as the garage, tool shed or outside storage bins. Have your snow blower checked out well before the first snow, and never run it inside a garage or basement. If no one in your home is physically fit to shovel snow, get a power snow remover or arrange for someone in proper physical condition to clear your walkways and driveway.

If you burn wood in your fireplace, keep only a few days' supply indoors. Store the rest outside under some form of cover to protect it from rain or snow. If wood is stored indoors, it will dry out and burn too quickly. It may also bring some unwanted insects indoors for the winter.

Indoor safety

Be sure your heating system has been professionally inspected, adjusted and cleaned. Not only is a poorly-maintained heating system less energy efficient, it can break down, catch fire or become the source of carbon monoxide during heating months. Exposure to this odourless, tasteless, colourless gas can cause flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, lead to brain damage or death.

An improperly installed or maintained natural gas furnace, water heater or other equipment could release carbon monoxide into your home. Install carbon monoxide detectors in sleeping areas and check them regularly to ensure they are working properly.

Furnace air filters should be replaced regularly, so have a ready supply handy. And the area around your furnace should be open, clutter- and dust-free. Vacuum the furnace vents in each room and floor regularly. If your furnace has a built-in humidifier, be sure to clean and maintain it over the winter.

A fireplace can be warm and cozy in cold weather, but it will operate safely only if it was built correctly and is well-maintained. If you use it often over the winter, have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned once a year by a professional. Never leave a burning fire unattended and never pour water over a fire. Use a fire screen to prevent sparks from flying.

Be prepared

Power failures can and do occur. In winter, it's important to have emergency supplies on hand that will help to keep you warm -candles, matches, flashlights, blankets, food that doesn't require much cooking, disposable plates and cups. If you live in a rural area, a battery-operated radio and fresh batteries may be the only way you can keep in touch with the rest of the world.

When the power goes off:

Disconnect or turn off any motor driven electrical equipment such as the water pump, refrigerator and oil burner. If left connected, these may be damaged if there is a surge of voltage when power is restored.
Don't empty your freezer. A fully-loaded freezer may keep food frozen for up to two days. Never re-freeze food that's gone soft.
Keep windows and doors closed to conserve what heat is left.
Keep pipes from freezing when the temperature drops by leaving faucets slightly open. This won't work, however, if the water supply comes from your own electric water pump.
If the temperature in your home drops below 10C, consider leaving and seeking refuge where there is a power supply.




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