Winter Safety Tips

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Ronald Rios

By Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Ronald G. Rios

The winter months are quickly approaching, perhaps even sooner this year than we all would have liked. The recent October snow storm left many of us with downed trees and without power, and showed us first hand how dangerous a winter storm can be, especially if you are not prepared for it.

You can protect yourself and your family this winter, and minimize the risk of many potential hazards year-round by following these important safety tips:

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms or other sleeping areas. (Remember to change the batteries at least twice a year.)
  • Clean the lint trap of your clothes dryer after every load and vacuum out the exhaust hose once a year.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in the kitchen, laundry room and garage. An extinguisher with an ABC rating can fight fires caused by paper, wood, cloth, flammable liquids and electrical short circuits.
  • Place escape ladders near a window in all bedrooms above ground level and have a family escape plan in place.

One serious winter threat to your family’s safety is carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide can come from several sources including gas-fired appliances or generators, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces, charcoal grills and motor vehicles. Be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and treat any activation as real. When the alarm goes off, immediately evacuate the house, call 9-1-1 from a cell phone or a neighbor’s house and wait for public safety officials.

When cooking, do not wear loose-fitting clothing that can be ignited by hot burners. Be sure to turn off the burners as soon as you are finished using them. The stovetop should be free of clutter at all times. Towels, pot holders, bags, and other items can catch fire if left on or near a hot stove. Keep kitchen appliances clean and in good condition, and turn them off when you are finished using them. Throw away appliances that have frayed or cracked wires, or replace the cord before using them. Make sure to not overload electrical outlets with too many plugs or extension cords.

In case of an emergency be “Ready-to-Go” or “Ready-to-Stay” if the power goes out. Stock up on batteries, flashlights, portable radios, canned foods, manual can openers, bottled water and blankets so you are prepared if you are without power or need to stay in your home for an extended period of time. Use flashlights or battery powered lanterns instead of candles to avoid a potential fire hazard. If the temperature outside is below freezing and your home has no heat, run tap water at a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Perishable food can be stored outside or in an unheated outside building.

If you must evacuate your home quickly, you should have a “go kit” prepared. This kit should include items such as: food, clothing, toiletries, medications, spare eye glasses, important documents such as your Social Security card and identifications, and possibly even sleeping bags. If you have a pet, make sure you have food and any medications it may need as part of your “go kit.”

The winter months present many safety hazards, but you can protect yourself and your family by planning ahead to minimize some of those risks. I would like to wish all homeowners a safe and healthy winter.

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