Winter Safety Guide

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Written by Guest | September 13th, 2019
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Guest Post by Julia Ellison

When temperatures drop and daylight hours are shortened with the onset of winter, a wide variety of challenges arrive along with those seasonal changes, some of which can lead to unsafe conditions for you and your family. You can guard against these unsafe conditions by following these nine tips in our winter safety guide:

1. Prepare for a power outage

Power outages are a common occurrence during the colder months. They are often caused by a buildup of ice on power lines or around transformer equipment. Regardless of the cause, you need to be prepared for power outages that can lead to unsafe conditions in your home. Here is what you can do to prepare for a power outage:

  • Have an alternative heat source, such as wood or gas, available to keep your family comfortable until power is restored.
  • Have an alternative power supply. A gas-powered generator or solar stored power can overcome the power issue over a short period.
  • Have an alternate means of cooking or heating water in case the power is out for an extended period.
  • Be sure that plumbing lines are well insulated and that exposed pipes will stay warm. Frozen water and sewer lines can break and cause all sorts of damage to your home while making it very unsafe as well.

A power outage can have catastrophic consequences or be little more than an inconvenience depending on how well you are prepared to face it.

2. Prevent people from breaking into your home

Once of the most common issues that people face during the winter are home robberies. These typically occur when people are away at parties or when they leave town to visit family for an extended period. They can be prevented by applying the following home security measures:

  • When going out of town for an extended period of time, set up timers to various lights in your home so anyone watching your house will think that you are home, making your home less of a target to potential thieves.
  • Install a quality home security system that will notify the police if an intruder breaks into your home.
  • Have a trusted neighbor or family member pick up and store your mail and newspapers. People who see an overflowing mailbox or a buildup of newspapers on your porch will know that you’re away. If you can’t find someone to pick up your mail, then tell the post office you’d like to have your mail held until you return home.
  • Make sure your doors and windows are securely locked so an intruder won’t be able to enter your home.

The winter is a popular time for people to get robbed since many people are traveling. However, following these important safety precautions can help you avoid getting your home broken into and losing valuable items.

3. Prevent freezing pipes

Frozen pipes are a common challenge people face during the winter. Freezing pipes can create significant damage to your home and cause unsafe living conditions. Though water lines are what most people think of when it comes to a bursting pipe, sewer lines can also become frozen and clogged. When a sewer line bursts, it can create another serious health risk. Here are some tips to prevent pipes from freezing:

  • Insulate attics, crawl spaces, and exterior walls with an R-factor insulation that will resist temperatures well beyond the extremes common to your local region.
  • Install additional pipe insulation over pipes that might be exposed to freezing temperatures.
  • Add heat tape to sections of water lines that might be at risk to freezing temperatures.
  • Leave cabinet doors to exterior water lines open so that the warmth inside your home can prevent them from freezing.
  • Be certain that all exterior water and sewer lines in and out of your home are buried well below the frost level in your local region.

Frozen water lines become a major factor when people are out of town for the holidays and don’t adequately prepare for the possibility of frozen water lines. Avoid dealing with a burst pipe by following some key safety instructions.

4. Prepare for snow

Snow buildup can become a safety issue as well. There are a wide variety of ways that snow threatens you and your family. Being prepared to face it and keep it from becoming an issue is easier than you think. Here are some quick tips to ensure your home is ready to handle snow:

  • Keep your eaves and overhangs free of excess snow. Snow buildup in these areas tends to create ice, which can be dangerous if it falls on a person. Also, increased accumulation can cause structural members in your roof to become overloaded, causing your roof to collapse.
  • Snow and ice on your sidewalks and driveway is a safety hazard for your family and friends, as well as regular pedestrians. It’s important to shovel your snow promptly or have a company plow your property for you if it becomes too much snow for you to handle.
  • Snow buildup in your trees or on your roof can become a problem if power lines are positioned beneath them. A sudden release of snow from either of these areas will snap a power line, leaving your home without power until you can get it repaired. It’s important to reroute your power lines so that they are not subjected to these possible issues.

5. Avoid getting locked out of your home

Getting locked out of your home is an annoyance during any time of the year. However, in the winter, getting locked out can become a more serious problem. Not being able to get inside your toasty-warm home in the winter could mean you’ll have to wait outside in the freezing cold until someone comes to help you enter your home. Here are some tips to keep in mind for avoiding this issue:

  • Always have a spare house key on yourself.
  • Keep a door key on the key-ring to your vehicle.
  • Don’t rely on your electric garage door opener to be your means of entry. In a power outage, your electric garage door opener will not work and you won’t be able to get into your home.

Besides being embarrassed, it’s very costly to have a locksmith come out to your home and give you new keys since you’ve misplaced your current house key. To avoid this from occurring, you should always have a spare key on yourself.

6. Clean your chimney

Clogged or dirty chimneys and stove-pipes are a leading cause of home fires during the winter. Chimney fires are particularly dangerous because they tend to go unnoticed until it is too late to stop them from exploding into an inferno. Here are several ways to prevent chimney fires:

  • Have your chimney or stove-pipe inspected and cleaned annually by a CSIA certified chimney sweep.
  • Ensure your dampers are working properly and that you’re providing your fireplace or stove with a sufficient amount of airflow.
  • Avoid burning unseasoned wood, which contains a high level of creosote. Hardwoods that are cured or properly dried for two to three seasons are best.
  • Don’t overload the firebox with wood in order to get a longer burn time as this tends to add to creosote buildup as well.

A wood burning stove or fireplace adds a cozy feel to your home and helps you stay warm during the cold. However, it’s important to follow these safety tips to prevent a serious fire.

7. Avoid ice buildup on your porches

Many people are injured every year from slipping on ice that has accumulated on their porch or the steps leading up to it. Keeping your walkways, as well as your porch and deck, free of ice or snow is very important. Here are some tips for avoiding ice and snow buildup:

  • Install gutters over porches and steps and ensure they are kept clear of snow and ice buildup.
  • Redesign the structure over your porch and steps so that water flows away from these areas instead of toward them. A gable roof with the A-frame portion parallel with the entryway is the best design.
  • Quickly shovel snow that’s formed on your doorstep, porch, steps, sidewalk and driveway.
  • Sprinkle rock salt, de-icing mix or cat-litter over the icy areas to help melt ice, and then clear it away on a regular basis.

Be aware of areas where ice is likely to build up and take proactive measures to prevent people from getting hurt. With a little bit of work, you’ll be able to ensure that no one slips or seriously injures themselves during the winter.

8. Use a space heater wisely

Space heaters are an alternative or supplemental form of heat that many people use during the winter. The right space heater, if used properly, can add warmth to your home and help to reduce the overall heating costs of your central heating unit. Here are some tips for the proper selection and use of a space heater:

  • Only select a space heater that is UL listed and includes a tip-over switch.
  • Be sure to place your space heater with plenty of clearance away from flammable objects like furniture, curtains, or blankets.
  • Your space heater should have guards that prevent children, pets, or you from being exposed to the heating element.
  • Don’t leave space heaters running overnight, unsupervised, or while you are out of your home.
  • Be sure that natural gas or propane type space heaters are properly ventilated to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide.

Space heaters, like fireplaces and wood burning stoves, add additional comfort and can be an alternative heat source in a pinch. Be sure to follow proper guidelines, typically printed on the manufacturer’s label and keep your family safe while using your space heater.

9. Start your car safely

Many people like to start their car and let it warm up inside before they leave for work or take the kids to school. This is a nice gesture for those who will be riding in the car, but can become hazardous if not done properly. Here are some tips for starting your car:

  • Open the garage door before starting your car so that exhaust fumes will go outside instead of building up inside your garage. Carbon monoxide is a deadly odorless gas that can seep into your home without notice and cause severe respiratory problems as well as death.
  • If you park your car with the trunk facing the back of the garage then pull out of the garage once you have started your car and allow it to warm up outside.
  • If you park your car in your driveway, go inside the house after starting your car instead of sitting inside it while it warms up. A parked car that’s pumping out exhaust fumes is a potential death trap for someone sitting inside.

Warming up your car on a cold morning can quickly become a deadly hazard if it’s not done properly. Keep you and your family safe by following our simple tips when you go out to start your car.


The cold weather creates a unique set of problems for your home and family. The worst issues and catastrophes can be prevented if you are aware of various potential dangers and how to avoid them. Following the nine tips of our winter safety guide listed above can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

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