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Stay Safe This Winter

With winter in full effect it is important to take time to ensure you are safely reacting to the cold weather. The sales of electrical products increase during the winter months, this combined with the colder weather increases the likelihood of electrical fires and injuries. The cold weather also brings hundreds of pound of snow which may cause health issues to those responsible for moving the snow.

This article will provide some tips to help keep you and your family are safe through these cold months. These tips will focus on Space Heater Safety, Heating Pads and Electric Blanket Safety, Carbon Monoxide Safety, Smoke Alarm Safety, Fire Escape Strategies, and Snow Shoveling Safety.

Space Heater Safety

In the United States the second leading cause of home fires is heating equipment. There are more than 65,000 home fires caused by heating equipment each year. In 2007 the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated there were 21,800 home fires directly involving stationary or portable space heaters. These fires caused 490 deaths, 1,180 injuries and $330 million in property damage.

Space heaters are not just a residential concern as they are also common in the work place. Below are some tips to ensure you, your family, and your employees are practicing safe space heater usage.

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels prior to using any space heater, store these instructions in a memorable place for future usage and ensure warning labels are never removed.
  • Prior to usage inspect heaters for broken or cracked plugs and for loose connections. Never use heaters that are frayed, damaged or worn.
  • When leaving a room or going to sleep always turn off and unplug your space heater. Space heaters should never be left unattended.
  • Don’t let children or pets play too close to a space heater.
  • Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip as these can overheat and cause a fire. Do not plug anything into the same outlet the heater is occupying.

Heating Pads and Electric Blanket Safety

Each year almost 500 fires are caused by heating pads and electric blankets. These appliances should never be used interchangeably or at the same time. Below are some safety tips to ensure proper usage.

  • Before usage, check for frayed, charred, or dark spots and check for cracks in the electric cord. Replace any old or warn items.
  • When using a heating pad or electric blanket ensure nothing is placed on top of it. When covered by other blankets or pets, the electric blanket may overheat.
  • Ensure electric blankets are never folded or tucked in while in use, this can cause it to overheat.
  • Never leaving heating pads or electric blankets unattended or used while asleep.

Carbon Monoxide Safety

Over 200 people in the United States die each year from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning as well as several thousand who are treated for CO poisoning. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless poisonous gas. Carbon Monoxide is often called the “Silent Killer” because without detection technology, it is virtually undetectable. Below are some Carbon Monoxide Alarm tips.

  • Install CO alarms outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.
  • Do not substitute CO alarms for smoke alarms, both should be installed in your home.
  • Purchase interconnected CO alarms to ensure when one sounds, they all do.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month by pressing the TEST button.
  • Know the lifespan of your CO alarm, these vary and should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure everyone in the family knows the difference between the CO alarm sound and the smoke alarm sound.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, ensure all persons in the building are moved to fresh air and out of danger.
  • Never ignore a sounding CO alarm.

Smoke Alarm Safety

Each day in the U.S. eight people on average die in a home fire- totaling almost 3,000 people each year. Around two thirds of all home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms even though the chance of dying in a fire is cut nearly in half simply by having a working smoke alarm. Many people are unaware of advances of newer smoke alarm recommendations and technologies, and lack the recommended level of residential smoke alarm protection. To ensure you are properly protected see the below tips.

  • Install smoke alarms in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on each level of your home.
  • Purchase interconnected smoke alarms: when one sounds, they all do.
  • Purchase combination smoke alarms that include ionization and photoelectric alarms. Ionization alarm is responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarm is responsive to a smoldering fire.
  • Install smoke alarms at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to reduce false and nuisance alarms.
  • Avoid locating alarms near bathrooms, heating appliances, ceiling fans and windows.
  • Alarms should be mounted in the center of a ceiling, if they must be mounted on the wall ensure they are placed at 6 to 12 inches from the ceiling.

Fire Escape Strategies

Though smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death, every home, family and workplace should be equipped with a fire escape plan. Preparation and practice is essential to ensure the most is made of the few minutes you may have to get out once the smoke alarm sound. Below are tips to help you plan and execute.

  • Ensure everyone in your family, including children, are involved in creating your fire escape plan.
  • Ensure everyone in your family can recognize the sound of the smoke alarm and know what to do when it sounds.
  • Establish a meeting place a safe distance outside your home/business where your family will gather after escaping. This place should be somewhere permanent such as a tree, mailbox, or light pole. This place should be somewhere firefighters can locate you easily.
  • Ensure each member of your family, including children, are able to call 911 and report your home address.
  • At least twice a year practice your fire escape plan. One of these drills should occur at night while your family is sleeping.

Snow Shoveling Safety

Each year thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths occur from shoveling snow. This may sound absurd, shoveling snow is your run of the mill winter chore. However, Harvard Health Executive Editor Patrick J. Skerrett says, “Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart.” On top of this, cold weather can increase blood pressure and heart rate. This makes blood clots more easily and can cause arteries to constrict, this can be the case even with healthy people. If you are a person with a history of heart disease, ask your doctor prior to shoveling snow. The National Safety Council recommends these tips:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; its lighter
  • Push the snow rather than lift it
  • If you do lift the snow, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion
  • If at any point you feel tightness in your chest or dizziness, stop immediately

Snow Blower Safety Tips

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends these tips while using a snow blower:

  • If the blower jams, turn it off
  • Keep your hands away from the moving parts
  • Do not drink alcohol and use the snow blower
  • Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk or running a snow blower in an enclosed space
  • Never refuel the snow blower while it is running

The ESI family hopes these tips can help you and yours stay safe this winter season.