Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips for Chimney and Furnace Season

With winter doing its thing, many are enjoying a warm fireplace.  Please read for your safety.

How do you protect yourself?  Here are some important safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration that can help keep you safe from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.

Furnace and Chimney Safety Precautions
-Have fuel-burning heating equipment and chimneys inspected annually by a licensed professional.  This includes your furnace, water heater, wood stove and any portable heaters.
-Make sure the damper is opened and clear of debris before using a fireplace.
-Never use your oven or stove to heat your home.
-When purchasing new appliances, look for products that have been tested and are labeled by a recognized testing laboratory.
-Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside and is kept clear and unblocked.
-Damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney, moisture around the windows and walls near a furnace, and excessive rust on vent pipes or the outside of appliances can all be signs of potential CO problems.  Call in a professional if you spot these signs.

CO Alarm Testing and Replacement
-Run a test on you CO alarms at least once a month, and replace them if they aren't responding correctly.  Sensors in carbon monoxide have a limited life.
-A CO alarm isn't a substitute for a smoke alarm, and visa-versa.  You should familiarize yourself with the different sound each alarm makes.
-If the carbon monoxide detector is beeping, go outside and immediately call 911 or the fire department.

Do you have a carbon monoxide detector?  If not why not?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter Storm Preparation

Severe weather can produce freezing temperatures and power outages.  In addition, using alternative heat sources may add the risks of fire, electric shock and carbon monoxide poisoning.  The Red Cross proposes the following steps to insure your safety.
Ready Your Home
-Move items indoors if they could be buffeted by wind (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans, toys, etc.)
-Elevate any items in the basement that could be damaged by flooding
-Insulate any exposed water lines and caulk any openings which may allow cold air to flow across interior supply lines
-Know the location of your main water shut-off in the event you suffer a burst pipe
-Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
-Ensure that family members can locate and operate fire extinguishers
If Your Area Is Blanketed By Extreme Cold
-Expose water pipes to warm air flow by opening doors to under-sink cabinets (remember to remove any harmful products and place them out of reach of young children and pets)
-Open doors to closets where you suspect water lines may run through the walls.  If water lines run through the garage, keep any/all garage doors closed.
-Adjust your thermostat so that it does not reduce the overnight temperature
-Periodically flush the toilets and run faucets (helps relieve pressure that builds up when pipes freeze, causing them to burst).  Trickle water from faucets connected to pipes you suspect will freeze overnight.
-Hair dryer may be used to help thaw pipes.  Open the faucet and slowly direct air across the pipe starting at the faucet end.  Do not use electrical appliances when standing in water.
-If you use auxiliary heaters, be careful to set them up at least three feet from flammables.  Plug directly into wall (i.e., avoid using extension cords).  Turn them off before you leave the room or go to bed.
-Vent all fuel-burning heaters to the outside
-Run back-up generators outside only
-Never use the oven to heat the house
If You Lose Power
-Recent study suggest 20 degrees is the temperature at which un-insulated water pipes freeze, but pipes exposed to flowing , subfreezing air are at risk even above this level.
-If you cannot adequately heat your home, IBHS suggests that you drain the plumbing system by closing the main water value and running every fixture (both hot and cold) until the water stops.
-Monitor local news channels for weather updates and go to designated public shelters if you are alerted to continued, extreme cold
photo courtesy of Maggie Smith/

Monday, January 6, 2014

5 Winter Driving Tips

The following winter driving tips will help prepare you for whatever Jack Frost throws your way this season:

BE PREPARED - keep an emergency kit in your car.  Should contain such necessities as an ice pick, snow shovel, brush, basic tool kit, kitty litter or sand, flashlight with extra batteries, booster cables, first aid kit, warning flares/reflective triangles, nonperishable food items and extra clothes/blankets to keep you warm.

CHECK YOUR TIRES - Your tires are your main connection to the road, so be sure they are inflated properly. As temps drop, so does the pressure in your tires - typically 1 pound per square inch for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

REMAIN CALM IN A SKID - Increase following distances on ice and snow so that you have at least 8-10 seconds (if not more) between yourself and the vehicle in front of you: this will give you ample time to respond to road and weather hazards.  Practice gentle acceleration and braking to maintain consistent traction in snowy and icy conditions; if your wheels begin to spin release the accelerator until traction returns.  If your vehicle begins to slide or skid, DO NOT PANIC!  Look down the road in the direction you want to go and gently steer in that direction.  Do not slam on the brakes, as that will upset the vehicle's balance and make it harder to gain control.

STAY IN CHARGE - A strong and fully charged battery is an absolute necessity in cold weather.  Be sure connections are clean, tight and corrosion-free to ensure full-strength winter starts.

STEP UP TO NEW SAFETY TECHNOLOGY - Practically every automaker offers electronic traction and stability control systems that work along with the car's anti-lock braking system to assist drivers in slippery road conditions.  These safety systems all function to help the driver maintain control in curves and turns, especially in wet or slippery conditions, by detecting when the vehicle begins to slip and reducing the throttle and applying the brakes to individual wheels to help correct the vehicle's orientation.  Traction systems also prevent the vehicle's drive wheels from spinning while accelerating under slippery conditions.

picture courtesy of Dan/