Oh, (Cold) Snap! 10 Furnace Safety Tips

By: Sue Wilson, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

Two years ago, 10 kids and two adults escaped a home fire in Lorain that began in the furnace.

Take a minute to consider your furnace. Here are 10 tips to keep your family safe when the temperature outside goes down, and the heat inside goes up.

  1. Have an annual furnace check up from a service professional to make sure that your system is running efficiently and safely. They’ll make sure there are no leaks, venting issues, broken parts or frayed wires that could be a hazard.
  2. Keep the area around your furnace clear. Don’t store anything potentially flammable near the furnace or water heater; especially newspapers, clothing, boxes, rugs, paint or chemicals. Vacuum dust, dog hair or anything that could sucked into a vent or open flame of a pilot light.
  3. Clean or change your furnace filter monthly. A dirty filter will cause your furnace to operate less efficiently and cost you money. It could also block airflow and increase the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) leaking into your home.
  4. Never use an oven or stove as an alternate heating source, as there is a serious risk of CO poisoning from fumes.
  5. Purchase a CO detector if you don’t have one and test and replace batteries of the ones you have in your home.
  6. Make sure your home has working smoke detectors. Change the batteries every 6 months. If you are in need of a smoke alarm, call the Red Cross at 330-535-2030 to request free installation by one of our volunteers.
  7. The area around your furnace and water heater should be a child-free zone to protect them from potential burns from hot vents or open flames, and to insures they will not inhale dangerous fumes.
  8. Space heaters are not intended to heat an entire home. Exercise extreme caution when using unvented, electric or propane space heaters, and follow instructions to lessen the chance of a fire or carbon monoxide exposure.
  9. If you smell gas, leave the area and call the fire department, or gas company.
  10. Make sure you have a fire escape plan, and that everyone in your home knows it and a designated meeting place once out. For more information on fire prevention click on this link on the Red Cross. 

THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Northeast Ohio Weather Turns Frightful

Since Northeast Ohio has been experience a nice (for some) respite from the polar vortex winters of the past few years, it is quite possible that we’ve all forgotten how to react to cold, normal-Ohio weather.

With frigid temperatures sticking around for the next 10 or so days, it’s time to review!

Freezing Pipes

  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • For more freezing pipe tips and tricks, visit our page on redcross.org!

Fire Safety

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Test smoke alarms once a month, if they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • For more information about fire safety, visit the Home Fire tab on redcross.org/prepare.

Personal Safety

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to the cold. Be aware of both the temperature and the wind chill when planning outdoor activities. 
  • Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
  • Dressing in layers helps you retain heat. You can remove layers as needed if you become too warm.
  • Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to help avoid hypothermia or frostbite by keeping your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
  • Get out of wet clothes immediately and warm the core body temperature with a blanket or warm fluids like hot cider or soup. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol if you expect you or someone you are trying to help has hypothermia or frostbite.
  • Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia that can be a serious medical condition: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
  • Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
  • Download the Red Cross First Aid app for more information about how to respond during a personal safety emergency.

10 ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures

COLD WEATHER SAFETY TIPS

Here are ten ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures:

Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

  1. Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
  2. Know the signs of hypothermia – confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If someone has these symptoms, they should get immediate medical attention.
  3. Watch for symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
  4. Bring the pets indoors. If that’s not possible, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  5. Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes.
  6. Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home.
  7. Space heaters should sit on a level, hard surface and anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away.
  8. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  9. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  10. Learn how to treat cold weather related emergencies by downloading the free Red Cross First Aid App at redcross.org/apps. More information about winter safety is available on redcross.org.