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Prepare Your Home for winter

Every year, it is predicable that the outside temps will drop and the cold north wind will blow. Most people are unprepared for the winter and most homes are also not prepared to keep the coldness out. The problem here is that because of this short sightless many people die. The elderly and the babies are the most susceptible.  Pneumonia and influenza are the leading cause of death during the winter time. You also have to be prepared for Frost bite and hypothermia. One last thing you must keep in mind while you prepare for the winter season, is that it is a very strong possibility that a winter storm might cause power outages and you will have to survive in your home for long periods of time, with no communications or power.

USAEBN recommend that you prepare for 10 days. In almost all situations, by the 10th day you have a sound grip on your situation and are ready to progress on any matter that you need to do, like evacuate to a shelter or a friend's house, etc.

Although periods of extreme cold cannot always be predicted far in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes provide you with several days’ notice. Listen to weather forecasts regularly, and check your emergency supplies whenever a period of extreme cold is predicted. Prepare for extremely cold weather every winter—it’s always a possibility. There are steps you can take in advance for greater wintertime safety in your home.

 

Home Preparedness

Your ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age, and older people are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently, and check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.

Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze. Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.  To the extent possible, weatherproof your home by adding weather-stripping, insulation, insulated doors and storm windows, or thermal-pane windows.

  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Install Heavy curtains on your windows.
  • Install snow fences in rural areas to reduce drifting in roads and paths, which could block access to homes, barns, and animals’ feed and water. 
  • If you live in a flood-prone area, consider purchasing flood insurance to cover possible flood damage that may occur during the spring thaw. Homeowners’ policies do not cover damage from floods. Ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program if you are at risk.
  • Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

 Personal Winter Preparedness

  • Keep food supplies up to a 30 day level. Food that doesn't require heating or refrigeration, such as canned meats, soups and stews, cereal, and energy bars
  • 1 gallon of water per person per day (allow enough for thirty days)
  • Thirty-day supply of prescription medicines
  • Blanket and cold-weather clothing for each family member
  • A warm coat, gloves or mittens, hat, and water-resistant boots for each member of the family. 

Although periods of extreme cold cannot always be predicted far in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes provide you with several days’ notice. Listen to weather forecasts regularly, and check your emergency supplies whenever a period of extreme cold is predicted.

If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure that they have access to unfrozen water.

One last thing about preparing you home for the winter . Know ahead of time how to help the elderly or disabled friends in your neighborhood. Check on them regularly and be prepared to bring them into your home if the situation calls for it.

 

Indoor Safety

Light and Cook Safely

If there is a power failure:

• Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles, if possible.

• Never leave lit candles unattended.

• Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors— the fumes are deadly.

Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:

• Plug in appliances to the generator using individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords.

• Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet because of the risk of electrocution.

• Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.

Conserve Heat

You may need fresh air coming in for your heater or for emergency cooking arrangements. However, if you don’t need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your home. Avoid unnecessary opening of doors or windows.

Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors, and close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night.

Monitor Body Temperature

Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room because (1) infants lose body heat more easily than adults; and (2) unlike adults, infants can’t make enough body heat by shivering. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If the temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere. In an emergency, you can keep an infant warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on the baby. Pillows and other soft bedding can also present a risk of smothering; remove them from the area near the baby.

Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather. Also, check on elderly friends and neighbors frequently to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.

Keep a Water Supply

Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes rupture.

When very cold temperatures are expected:

  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Keep the indoor temperature warm.
  • Improve the circulation of heated air near pipes. For example, open kitchen cabinet doors beneath the kitchen sink.
  • If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch.
  • Instead, thaw them slowly by directing the warm air from an electric hair dryer onto the pipes.
  • If you cannot thaw your pipes, or the pipes are ruptured, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home. As an emergency measure—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most microorganisms or parasites that may be present, but won’t remove chemical pollutants sometimes found in snow.

Eat and Drink Wisely

Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor.

 

Conserve Fuel

Winter storms can last for several days. Great demand may be placed on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.). Suppliers of propane and fuel oil may not be able to replenish depleted supplies during severe weather. Electric and gas services may be temporarily disrupted when many people demand large amounts at the same time. Lower the thermostat to 65°F during the day and 55°F at night. Close off unused rooms, and stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors. Cover windows at night.

 

Listen to your radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.

Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).

 • Be aware of changing weather conditions. Severe weather can happen quickly. Temperatures may drop rapidly, winds may increase or snow may fall at heavier rates. What is happening where you are may not agree with local forecasts.

 

Fireplace / Wood Stove

 

Home Safety - Home Safety Tips for a Safe and Healthy Winter

Fireplace and wood stove Preparedness

If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year.

  • Also, if you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly, and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Have chimney and flue inspected.
  • 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.
  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside or near sleeping areas.
  • Keep young children away from working wood stoves and heaters to avoid contact burn injuries.

 

Heat Your Home Safely

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as well as the home safety measures on page 3, and remember these safety tips:

• Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.

• Do not burn paper in a fireplace.

• Ensure adequate ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.

• Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use— don’t substitute.

• Do not place a space heater within 3 feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never cover your space heater.

• Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.

• Never leave children unattended near a space heater.

• Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.

• Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.

• If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.

• Store a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher near the area to be heated.

 

• Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.

 

 

Portable Space Heaters

Portable Space Heaters

 

Make sure your heater has been tested for safety. Look on the bottom for a label such as ETL, UL or CSA.

 

Space heaters need to have plenty of space around them.

 

Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn - including furniture, people, pets and curtains.

 

There should always be an adult in the room when a space heater is on. Turn off space heaters before leaving a room or going to sleep.

 

Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use.

 

Never use space heaters to dry clothing or blankets.

 

Kerosene Heaters

 

Check with your local fire department on the legality of using kerosene heaters in your community. Use only the correct fuel for your unit and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Refuel outdoors only, and only when cool. Keep your kerosene heater at least 3 feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.

 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. When power outages occur during emergencies such as winter storms, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.

 

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Every home should have properly installed and maintained carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. CO alarms can help detect CO, a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. Exposure to high levels of CO can cause death. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu and include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and irregular breathing.

  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01). It is especially important to have a CO alarm near sleeping areas.
  • Test and maintain your CO alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If your carbon monoxide (CO) alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location and call for help. Remain in the fresh air location until emergency personnel say it is ok.

 

Because of the risk of CO poisoning, never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any closed room or where people or animals are sleeping. CO poisoning from fuel burning appliances kills people in the United States each year.   

 

CO can leak from faulty furnaces or fuel-fired heaters or can be trapped inside a home by a blocked chimney or flue. Burning charcoal inside a home produces CO. Running an automobile engine in an attached garage can cause CO to enter a home and so can running a portable generator if it is near windows, doors, or vents, even if it is outdoors.

 

 

Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home. Never use a portable generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, including in your home or in a garage, basement, crawl space, or other partially enclosed area, even with ventilation. Locate a generator outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors. Generators can produce high levels of deadly CO very quickly.

 

Portable Generators

Portable Generators

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they also can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use.

 

Electrical Hazards

Follow these tips to protect against electrical hazards:

  • Keep the portable generator dry and do not use it where it could get wet by rain or snow. To protect it from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy like structure. Dry your hands if they are wet before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into the portable generator. Or, use a heavy-duty, outdoor rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin.
  • Never try to power the home wiring by plugging the portable generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “back-feeding” This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
  • If you must connect a portable generator to the home wiring to power appliances, have a qualified electrician install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes. Or, check with your utility company to see if it can install an appropriate power transfer switch.
  • For power outages, permanently installed stationary generators are better suited for providing backup power to a home. Even a properly connected portable generator can become overloaded. This may result in overheating or stressing the generator components, possibly leading to a generator failure.

 

Fire Hazards

Follow these tips to protect against fire hazards:

  • Never store fuel for your portable generator in the home. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass, safety containers. Do not store them near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.
  • Before refueling a portable generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

 

 

Protect Your Property

Protect Your Property

If you live in an area where severe winter weather is possible, you should:

 

Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary, insulate the walls and attic to reduce your home's power demands for heat. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.

 

Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.

 

Protect pipes from freezing by:

Wrapping pipes in insulation or layers of newspaper and then covering them with plastic to keep out moisture.

Letting faucets drip a little.

 

Know how to shut off the main water valve and how to shut off and drain outside faucets. Outside faucets are often controlled by a valve inside the home. Keep a wrench near the valves.

 

Install heat tape on water pipes. Put the tape on all exterior water pipes and interior pipes located on outside walls or anywhere else that temperatures could go below freezing. Follow carefully the manufacturer’s instructions for installation.

 

If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or newspaper and wrap the pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold or where the cold most likely penetrated. A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution to prevent overheating, also works well.

 

Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood- or coal-burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater. If you have a stove, be sure it is properly vented and in good working order and that you dispose of ashes safely. Keep a supply of wood or coal on hand. If you have an electric space heater, either portable or fixed, be sure it is certified by an independent testing laboratory. Plug a heater directly into the wall socket rather than using an extension cord and unplug it when it is not in use. Use a kerosene heater only if permitted by law in your area; check with your local fire department. If you have a kerosene heater, use only the correct fuel for your unit. Properly ventilate the area of use. Refuel the unit outdoors only, and only when the unitis cool. Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions. Keep all heaters at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.

 

When using fireplaces, stoves, and space heaters, ventilate properly and guard against fire. Using alternative sources of heat such as these greatly increases your risk for fire and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

 

Consider storing sufficient heating fuel. Regular fuel sources may be cut off. Be cautious of fire hazards when storing any type of fuel.

 

If you have a fireplace, consider keeping a supply of firewood or coalBe sure the fireplace is properly vented and in good working order and that you dispose of ashes safely.

 

Install snow fences in rural areas to reduce drifting snow on roads and paths, which could block access to homes, barns, and animals' feed and water.

 

Create a place where your animals can be comfortable in severe winter weather.  Bring your companion animals indoors. Horses and livestock should have a shelter where they can be protected from wind, snow, ice, and rain. Grazing animals should have access to a protected supply of food and non-frozen water.

 

Be aware of the potential for flooding when snow and ice melt and be sure that your animals have access to high ground that is not impeded by fencing or other barriers. You may not be able to get to them in time to relocate them in the event of flooding.

 

Ensure that any outbuildings that house or shelter animals can withstand wind and heavy snow and ice.

 

Consider purchasing flood insurance, if you live in a flood-prone area, to cover possible flood damage that may occur during the spring thaw. Homeowners' policies do not cover damage from floods. Ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if you are at risk. More information on NFIP is available at www.fema.gov/nfip.