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. 

Have a Safe 4th of July!

Everyone is looking forward to the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend! We wanted to be sure to send out some steps that you can follow to stay safe, whether enjoying a nice meal with friends and family or going for a swim.

The biggest take away? Download the first aid app to help you and your family be prepared for whatever may happen!

Fourth-of-July-Grill-Tip-FINAL

GRILLING SAFETY Every year people are injured while using charcoal or gas grills. Here are several steps to safely cook up treats for the backyard barbecue:

  1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use.
  2. Never grill indoors – not in the house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.
  3. Make sure everyone, including the pets, stays away from the grill.
  4. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, the deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

WATER SAFETY Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. While enjoying the water, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. Other safety steps include:

  • Swim sober and always swim with a buddy. Make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
  • Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters.
  • Keep a close eye and constant attention on children and adults while at the beach. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
  • Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.

DOWNLOAD SWIM, FIRST AID APPS The Red Cross Swim App promotes water safety education and helps parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. The app has features specifically designed for children, including a variety of kid-friendly games, videos and quizzes. It also contains water safety information for parents on a variety of aquatic environments including beaches and water parks. The First Aid App provides instant access to expert guidance on a variety of situations from insect bites and stings to choking and Hands-Only CPR. People can download the apps for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in their app store or at redcross.org/apps.

HOME POOL ESSENTIALS COURSE The Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF) have developed an online safety course for pool and hot tub owners. Home Pool Essentials helps people understand the risks of pool ownership, how to maintain a safer and cleaner pool, what safety equipment is appropriate, how to prevent pool and hot tub entrapment hazards, and how to respond to an emergency.

 

 

 

Frozen, But Not in a Disney Princess Sort-of Way…

True story: One frozen January day in 2013, I went to check on my parents’ home while they were out of town. As I entered the house, it was immediately clear that something was very wrong. I could still see the steam from my own breath even as I walked in to the living room. And there was a rushing sound coming from the back of the house, like I was standing at the observation deck overlooking Niagara Falls.
In their absence, my parents’ furnace had gone out and one of the pipes in the upstairs shower had burst in the frigid temperatures. Water was cascading through the ceiling of the kitchen, pouring out of the cabinets, raining through the overhead light fixture. The carpet in the dining room, just through the arched doorway, was soaked 4-feet out from the pool of water standing on the linoleum.
Everything had to be replaced.
Being prepared and informed may help you and your family avoid the messy and often expensive issue of frozen pipes. With today’s below freezing temperatures already causing concern, here is some information and suggestions around how to thaw  water pipes in the home if they do freeze and what you can do to prevent the problem.
frozen-pipe-ice.jpg
Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem:
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, kitchen cabinets – or bathrooms when the furnace has been not working for who-knows-how-long. Pipes that run against exterior walls (like my parents’) that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Here’s what you can do right now:
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • 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.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
To Thaw Frozen Pipes
  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
Preventing Frozen Pipes today or tomorrow (or anytime this season):

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
Future Protection:
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.

Thanksgiving is almost here!!

If you are like my family members, you can already taste the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. But with children and pets (and let’s face it – some grown-ups, too) running around and through the kitchen, paying close attention while preparing the feast is vital to having a safe holiday.

“Cooking is the number one cause of home fires,” said Mike Parks, Regional CEO. “Last year over 40 individuals – more than a dozen of them children – experienced a home fire over the holiday weekend. Education is key in preventing cooking fires.”

TOP TEN COOKING SAFETY TIPS

1. Don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.

2. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended – stay in the kitchen. If you just leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.

3. If you’re simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly.

4. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.

5. Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.

6. Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains—away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.

7. Clean cooking surfaces on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.

8. Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. Contact your local fire department to take training on the proper use of extinguishers.

9. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.

10. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year. We can help! Learn more about our free smoke alarm and education program, Operation Save-A-Life, at www.redcross.org/neoosal!

 

Bonus Tip

Download the American Red Cross First Aid App. The app provides users with quick, expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency. See all the Red Cross apps at redcross.org/mobileapps.

10 Home Fire Prevention Tips

With cold weather creeping in, it’s time to think about heating your home.

Here are ten tips you can take, today, to help your family stay safe this winter:

  1. Install a smoke alarm on every level of the home, and inside and outside each sleeping area.
  2. Make sure that the cooking area is free from items that can catch fire, like dish towels or pot holders.
  3. Check your electrical cords to verify that they are not frayed or cracked.
  4. Never leave children and pets with unattended with candles.
  5. Clean out your clothes dryer lint filter and venting system (this should also improve how well your dryer works!)
  6. Carbon monoxide alarms should be located on each level of the home. And, yes, you can take the “two birds, one stone” approach by buying a combination CO2/Smoke Alarm unit!
  7. Move furniture and other items that can catch fire so that they are at least 3-feet from fireplaces, wall heaters, baseboards, and space heaters.
  8. HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN with two ways out of each room!
  9. KNOW WHERE TO MEET ONCE YOU ARE OUT OF THE HOUSE!
  10. PRACTICE YOUR ESCAPE PLAN!

You can help community members in your area receive a free smoke alarm installation by donating to Operation Save-A-Life, the home fire prevention program offered through the Red Cross.

For a more thorough look at fire safety in your home, check out this Home Fire Safety Checklist.

Power Outage Preparedness

That you are able to log onto this blog and read this article is a testament to the reliability of the company that supplies your electricity.  Unfortunately, stormy weather can knock out power, as it did Tuesday night for some 20,000 First Energy customers.

And as sweltering as the summer of 2016 has been, the demand for power has been great.  Sometimes, electrical equipment can be overloaded with so many air conditioners running.  That, too can cause power outages. While outages aren’t always predictable, it’s easy to be prepared and keep your loved ones safe during one.

HAVE A KIT

get-a-kitThe top items in your power outage kit should include water, a battery powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries. It is important not to use candles during a power outage because they a more likely to start a fire. Other items include:

  • Medications (7-day supply) and required medical items
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Non-cordless telephone
  • Full tank of gas

For more information on building a kit, check out our 72-hour kit blog post.

FOOD

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use perishable food from the refrigerator first, freezer items second and non-perishable food last. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours and a freezer half-full will stay cold for 24 hours.

ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT

Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including appliances, equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. It is important to do this because when the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment. You can protect appliances that can’t be unplugged, like refrigerators and freezers, with a surge protector.

CAUTION: CARBON MONOXIDE KILLS                CO2

Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside an enclosed area. Cooking in enclosed areas with alternate sources for electricity can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire. These tips below will help you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Always locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in your to provide early warning of any accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If you hear the carbon monoxide alarm sound, move to a fresh air outdoors or an open window or door. Call for help from that location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

For more information on what to do during a power outage please visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/power-outage.

Get more information on surviving during this summer’s relentless heat here.  And download the Red Cross Emergency App, to monitor more than 35 different severe weather an emergency alerts, to help keep you and your family safe this summer and throughout the year.

 

Some like it HOT, 3 Ways to Stay Safe in this Week’s Heat

summer-heatSome like it HOT.

But with toasty Northeast Ohio temperatures expected over the next few days, it’s important that you keep three key things in mind to beat the heat: stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed. And don’t forget about your friends and neighbors, check on those most at-risk at least twice a day.

Stay Cool

  1. Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  2. Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.

Stay Hydrated

Your body may sweat more in these temps, which means you will be losing fluids.

  1. Drink more water than usual.
  2. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more fluids.
  3. Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.

Stay Informed

Download the free Red Cross First Aid app to learn more about how to treat heat related illnesses – like heat cramps or heat stroke.

For more information on at-risk populations, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/