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The winter season is beautiful, fun, and challenging. Now that the blustery time of year has settled into the province for the next few months, additional safety measures must be taken to make sure you and your property are prepared for the frigid temperatures and winter storms. The cold, unpredictable weather adds a whole new set of hazards and risks to your homestead. To make sure your house can handle the dropping thermostat and snowy conditions, it is important to take preventative measures to keep you warm, safe, and injury free this winter. Before the weather gets too cold, let’s discuss the top winter safety hazards and how to reduce your risk of accidents:

Safety Tips for Winter

Frozen Pipes

Before the temperatures get too cold, it is important to inspect pipes and drainage system for leaks, erosions, or weakened areas. Freezing climates can exasperate minor problems and quickly turn those small irritations into costly repairs.  To prevent your pipes from freezing, and water damage occurring inside your house, turn off all outside pipes and drain the excess water. Insulate your pipes so they are protected from icy build up. Shut off your sump pump and close the valves so it does not continue to run in the early winter stage when the ground is not completely frozen.

Inspect and Insulate Your Water Tank

Safety Tips for Winter: Water Heater

Having your water tank go is stressful enough, but it is even more problematic when it is cold outside. If your hot water tank is located in an area of your place that is not adequately insulated, the colder interior temperatures can damage the tank, causing leaks and other damage that can leak into your room. Inspect your tank before the mercury drops to make sure there are no eroding or worn areas.  Wrap your water heater in a specially designed insulating water tank blanket to protect it from the cold.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Half of all annual carbon monoxide deaths occur in January, February, and March when the temperatures are at their lowest. Carbon monoxide can enter the home gas heating systems such as stoves or make-shift heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, and running automobiles. Because the gas is odourless, homeowners often do not realize they are inhaling the deadly gas until it is too late. Poor ventilation systems and closed windows and doors create a safety concern because they keep the CO from escaping your place.

Because the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is much higher during the cold months, property owners must take adequate safety measures to make sure the CO gas is not getting into closed, poorly ventilated rooms. Before the temperatures dip too low, get your furnace and vents properly inspected and cleaned so there is adequate air flowing out of your place during the winter season. Avoid using gas operated appliances that produce CO to heat your house. If you have a gas operating stove, inspect it regularly, looking for leaks and other signs of damage. If you have a real fire place, hire a professional service to clean your chimney so soot, ash, and other built up debris does not block the air and smoke from escaping. If you have a garage, especially one attached to your home, never leave your vehicle running while it is parked in a garage. Carbon monoxide can still enter your home, even if the garage door is open.  

Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and check them twice yearly along with your smoke detectors.

Heating System Issues

Safety Tips for Winter: Heating System

Your furnace and other heat producing appliances will soon be working overtime as the deep freeze of the winter season settles into the area. Many people do not get their furnaces, vents, and other heating sources checked regularly so issues are discovered when they start using the heating system. Poorly functioning or damaged furnaces can cause numerous problems including CO poisoning, fire hazards, freezing pipes, and uncomfortably low temperatures inside your living space. It is important to get your heating vents and appliances cleaned and inspected before the cold season to reduce your risk of running into problems when you need the heat on. Getting someone in to inspect your heating setup as soon as you notice any issues will also lower your risk of injury or danger to your homestead.

Ice and Snow – Slips and Falls

Slips and falls are common during this time of year as winter storms and fluctuating temperatures cause dangerous, icy conditions throughout the city and exterior home space.  Injuries can range from minor bruising to a more severe head injuries or broken bones.  To protect yourself and others from getting hurt in your yard, keep your outside walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice. Shovel after every snowfall and use natural or store-bought deicers on the ice to break up the dangerous slippery surface on your sidewalk and parking pad.

Fire Hazard and Space Heaters

Safety Tips for Winter: Space Heaters

Space heaters and other warming sources are a great way to add extra warmth at home, in the garage, or at the office but they are also dangerous fire hazards.  During the winter season, portable heaters should only be used when you are in the area and for short periods of time only as instructed on the packaging. When using a space heater, keep it a safe distance away from any combustible products to prevent fires from starting. Always check the cords before plugging your unit into an outlet and do not use the appliance if the cord is broken or damaged.

Using other heat sources such as stoves, candles, fireplaces, and other appliances should also be carefully used and monitored for safety during the winter. Burns and fires can quickly occur if the heat source is left unattended.

Frayed Extension Cords

Extension cords are used more frequently during the winter season to plug in holiday decorations, block heaters on vehicles, and additional heating devices within the home. Before using your cords, always check them to make sure there are no breaks, cracks or exposed wiring. Damaged cords can cause electrical shortages, shocks, and fires. 

When plugging in your vehicle or outdoor lighting, make sure you are using a cord specifically designed for outdoor use. Indoor extension cords are not made to withstand the dropping temperatures, ice, and moisture. They cannot support the higher voltage required by block heaters and other outdoor systems. Using the wrong cable can cause electrical issues in your home.

Once the mercury drops well below freezing, external electric cords coverings can crack and expose or damage the wires inside. To prevent electrical damage or injury from happening, check your outside cords regularly and replace damaged plug-ins.

Stock Up and Be Ready

Safety Tips for Winter: Stock Up

Winter storms can make travel dangerous. Even a quick trip to your local store can be difficult when a pile of snow is blanketing the roads and walkways. Rather than risk of trying to drive through mounds of snow, keep a steady stock of the essentials in your home. Having a household stocked with enough food and supplies will keep you and your family safe and fed if you get snowed in. Always keep extra food, water bottles and other essentials including a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flash lights, and batteries on hand so you can stay home where you are warm and safe during a blizzard.

The winter season is here. This colder time of year adds different safety considerations to your home and family. Taking proactive and preventative steps will lower your risk of hazards and injuries at home.