By Devese “Dee” Ursery
With the return of harsh winter conditions emergency agencies are encouraging residents to prepare themselves to stay warm and safe while doing so.
Winter storms and cold temperatures can be dangerous, so staying warm, safe and healthy by planning ahead is the best option. Prepare your home for power outages and check on the elderly as well as the chronically ill.
If you are prepared for the hazards of winter, you are more likely to stay safe and healthy when temperatures start to fall. Staying inside is no guarantee of safety, but with precautions residents can keep their home safe and warm during the winter months.
Chief John Bailot of Collinsville Fire Department said the best time to start winterizing your home is before temperatures fall below freezing. He suggests that homeowners prepare their homes for the winter season by weather stripping, installing storm windows and making sure water lines are insulated if needed. Residents should have their furnace inspected/serviced by an HVAC technician.
According to Bailot power outages are sometimes accompanied with winter storms and being prepared can not only keep you warm, but safe and healthy as well.
“Keep generators at least 20 feet from the residence and do not overload extension cords. -Do not leave candles unattended,” Bailot said. “Follow manufacturers recommendations if using any other heat source than the furnace. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.”
In situations where there are power outages due to winter conditions, many people use their fireplace to heat their homes. If this is the case, residents should make sure the chimney has been cleaned of any creosote. For those without a fireplace there are a variety of options out there like indoor kerosene heaters, propane heaters and wood or pellet stoves.
“Whichever heating device someone purchases they should make sure that it is listed and tested by a third-party testing firm,” Bailot said.
Bailot said there is no season where fires are more prevalent than the next. But unattended candles, wood-burning stoves and misplaced infrared space heaters are the cause of a lot of house fires during the winter season. Service heating appliances, clean fireplaces and wood burning stoves are precautions that homeowners can adhere to that would help prevent house fires. Ashes stay warm enough to start a fire sometimes for up to three days.
“A good reminder is that if someone is using a wood burning fireplace or stove, when removing the ashes, they should be placed in a closed metal can away from any building,” Bailot said. “Many fires are caused by ashes from a fireplace being placed into a paper bag or plastic container and in or near the house”
First and foremost, in case of a fire, get everyone out of the house and call 911, according to Bailot.
“Never re-enter a house once excited for any reason. When the fire department arrives tell them what you know about everyone being out of the house and accounted for,” Bailot said. “Have an evacuation plan and practice it. Also make sure everyone in the house knows how to get out, even if it’s a second floor window and meet at the pre-arranged meeting spot.”