Tips for weathering the season safely.
There isn’t much you can do to avoid the blustery weather and hazardous driving conditions associated with winter. But a little maintenance can keep you warm and comfortable at home and safer on the road.
There’s No Place Like a Safe Home
Light Your Fire…Carefully. People who have a fireplace often say there’s nothing cozier than sitting by a warm fire. If you do have one, keep in mind that while the smoke may smell good, it isn’t good for you. Smoke blowing back into a room means the fireplace isn’t operating properly.
Before you use your fireplace, make sure your chimney is free of debris such as bird nests and creosote (a buildup of flammable tar and soot from burning logs) and that the bricks, mortar and liner are in good condition.
Get Your Furnace Serviced. Have your furnace serviced by your heating company before frigid temperatures take over. A gas furnace should be serviced at least twice a year, including examination and cleaning of the parts that commonly malfunction like the air filter, the fan, the pilot light, and the heat exchanger. An improper gas connection or a crack in the heat exchanger can cause high and unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide to spread through your home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 people die and more than 50,000 are treated annually for carbon monoxide poisoning, a colorless, odorless gas that can induce dizziness, headache, nausea, and confusion. Installing a carbon monoxide detector can alert you to its presence.
Aside from health problems, forgetting to service your furnace can affect its performance. If it isn’t properly cleaned, you may find that your furnace doesn’t heat your home evenly or as powerfully as it did in the past, and you’ll wind up burning more money to stay warm.
Be Alarmed! Smoke alarms can fail when you need them the most because of dead or missing batteries. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that three out of five home fire deaths are caused by non-working smoke alarms and that more than a third of deadly fires occur in homes without alarms. Replacing the batteries in your smoke alarm twice a year cuts the risk of a deadly house fire in half.
Ice and Snow? Take it Slow
Winter driving is snow joke. Each year over 1,300 people are killed in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and more than 116,800 people are injured. In the event you do start to skid, the first thing to remember is - don’t panic! First, take your foot off the accelerator, then steer in the direction of a skid, so when your wheels regain traction, you don’t have to overcorrect to stay in your lane.
Don’t Let Winter Tire You Out. Check the tread on your tires. You can use the penny test– if you place a penny in the tire tread upside down and you can see Abe Lincoln’s entire head, then it’s time to replace the tire because your tread is no longer deep enough. Also, proper tire pressure helps keep you moving along safely. Expect your tires to drop at least 1 pound per square inch (PSI) of pressure each month, no matter the weather. Tires will drop another pound per square inch of pressure for every 10 degrees of temperature drop.
In Case of Emergencies. Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include: a cell phone portable charger, blankets, jumper cables, a flashlight, extra batteries, a bag of salt, sand or cat litter (for traction), and a first-aid kit. Add in a few snacks, like granola bars or canned nuts, as well as bottled water (dump some of the water so the bottles are only two-thirds full to keep them from freezing).
With the proper safety awareness and precautions, you and your family can enjoy the best that winter has to offer, while avoiding many of the season’s dangers.
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