Winter safety tips for your home and car
Storm tips to help you dig out or get through if you're snowed in:
- If your lock freezes up use a light or match to heat the key. You can also use a lock de-icer.
- To keep your doors from freezing shut, your best bet is to keep your car in a garage. If you don’t have a garage, apply a coat of petroleum jelly to the door's hinges and latches, or place a plastic trash bag between the door or window glass and the frame. Do not throw hot water on the car. It will freeze.
- Furnace goes out: Call your service provider. Use an alternative heat source such as a wood stove or fireplace in the meantime. Do not use your stove/oven as a source of heat. This increases your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Frozen pipes: Soak towels in hot water and wrap them around cold sections of the pipe. Keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes. Turn on faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within pipes will prevent freezing. Monitor your faucets for reduced water flow.
- Pipes that burst: If a pipe has burst, shut off the main valve and call a plumber.
- If no water is available, you can melt snow in an emergency. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened freezer should keep food frozen up to 48 hours. Food should remain cold in an unopened refrigerator for 24 hours. If power is out for a long period of time, snowdrifts can be used as a makeshift freezer for food.
- Unplug all equipment that will automatically turn on when power is restored or that may become damaged due to voltage irregularities.
- Use flashlights for emergency lighting. Do not use candles.
- Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.
- If you’re snowed in and can’t get out of your driveway, make some calls to snow removal companies. While this is a busy time, a provider may be able to squeeze you in. Check with your neighbors to see if there is a snow blower you can borrow. Canceled classes mean students are home from school. They might be interested in making some extra money shoveling your driveway and walkways.
- Stranded in your car:
• Run the motor for about 10 minutes per hour and crack your window to let air in.
• To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning make sure that snow is not blocking your exhaust pipe.
• Tie something bright to the antenna so rescuers will spot you
Before you head out:
• Tire tread: Air pressure in tires decreases in cold weather so get them checked out. Tires should not be worn down to less than 1/16 of an inch. Check tires once a week and make sure your tires are properly rotated and aligned.
• Warm it up: Let your car warm up 1 to 2 minutes so the oil can circulate throughout the vehicle.
• Frozen out: If your lock freezes up use a light or match to heat the key. You can also use a lock de-icer. To keep your doors from freezing shut, your best bet is to keep your car in a garage. But if you don’t have a garage you can apply a coat of petroleum jelly to the door's hinges and latches. You can also place a plastic trash bag between the door or window glass and the frame. Do not throw hot water on the car. It will freeze.
• Emergency kit: Stock your trunk with a snow shovel, an ice scraper, jumper cables, a flashlight, a blanket, bag of sand/kitty litter, clothing, water, non-perishable food, and a can of tire inflator.
• Check your fluids: Replace your antifreeze every two years. Check your oil. Make sure your water pumps and thermostats work. Check radiators and hoses for cracks and leaks and test heaters and defrosters for proper operation. Always keep the gas as full as possible.
• Battery: Make sure terminals are clean and tightened. If you suspect your battery won't survive the season, have a mechanic check it out.
After the Storm Home Inspection/Repair:
Long icicles hanging from your gutters are a warning sign of possible ice dams on your roof. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. This can cause serious roof damage.
Angie’s tips for dealing with ice dams:
1. Remove snow from the roof: There is a special tool for removing snow called a “roof rake”. Carefully pull it down the slope of the roof line. Never pull snow across the roof – you may damage the shingles.
2. Chip away at the ice: For immediate action you can chip away through the ice dam so the water can flow through. Stop when you get close to the roofing.
3. Call a professional: Removing an ice dam can be quite dangerous. A good place to start is with roofing contractors. Check the estimates and references of contractors in your area. Gutter cleaning companies may also offer this service.
4. Properly ventilate & insulate the attic: The main cause of ice dams is an overly warm attic.
What NOT to do:
1. Never walk on a snow-covered roof. Make sure you work from a ladder to access/fix the damage.
2. Do not install mechanical equipment or water heaters in attics.
3. Do not use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow off the roof. These chemicals are very corrosive. The runoff of these chemicals can also damage grass and plants.
Angie’s tips for keeping water out of the basement:
• Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and all walls.
• Maintain sloped exterior grades away from your house.
• Make sure your downspouts are clear.
• Don’t pile snow up against the house.
• If you have a sump pump, clean and test it.