With the snow falling outside as I type, I am reminded of us millions of "lucky" women who will experience gobs of snow from now until next April. There are many aspects of our Winter Wonderland that can be dangerous, or even deadly. Here are some simple, yet vital ways to make sure we, and our families, stay safe this season.
At home -
Make sure furnaces and chimneys have been recently cleaned and inspected. Always make sure vents, flues and other ventilation systems are opened when needed.
If you plan to be away this winter, make sure you turn your thermostat down to save energy but have someone come over to run water and make sure your pipes don't freeze. A frozen pipe that bursts can ruin a home within a few hours.
Keep ample supplies of water and canned or dry foods in case you lose electricity due to a storm. During winter months, it takes utility companies a lot longer to repair lines so you may be up to five days without service. Make sure you have plenty of batteries, candles, flashlights and a fully charged cell phone. Have a back up plan made in advance, we are usually given at least 24 hours notice of an impending storm.
Don't leave lit Christmas trees or lit fireplaces unattended!
Do not allow ice skating on unapproved ponds or lakes. Countless people drown or nearly drown every year from this activity and emergency responders risk their own lives too. It's not worth it.
Sledding is a blast! Don't sled near busy roads, parked cars, trees or water.
Wrap children up well. There is no need to be stuck inside every winter but make sure hands, heads and feet are protected and that no-one stays out so long that frostbite or hypothermia is an issue.
Clear snow from paths, walkways and entrances and use salt - someone may fall and hurt themselves - not only is this painful but you may be sued so if you are responsible for the public sidewalk that spans your property, make sure it is cleared and salted regularly. Don't allow heavy snow fall to accumulate on your roof tops if possible. It can do harm to your structure and if icicles are melting, keep away from them, they can be very sharp.
Shoveling snow is hard work. Someone with heart disease, ill-health in general or the elderly should not shovel snow. If you have a snow blower and the time, be a nice neighbor and offer it for use or do it for them yourself!
When out and about in your car, have a fully charged cell phone with you at all times and don't go to the store for something unnecessary if there is a strong storm approaching. Be wary of black ice and watch for deer or other animals crossing (not only will you hurt or kill a deer, they may hurt of kill you, not to mention do terrible damage to your car) and don't tailgate. Allow people to drive a little more slowly that normal - they may be elderly or have small children in the car - don't try to force them to go faster than they are comfortable. Not everyone is driving a Hummer or giant SUV and may not have four wheel drive. There is nothing worse than Joe Giant Truck flashing his lights or driving a foot behind you in an effort to get you to drive faster in blizzard conditions. Do not give in. Busy guy Joe will get to his destination eventually - your focus is that you and your family do too!
Make sure you have water in your car (you may have to do this each trip as water will be completely frozen if you keep it there all the time and containers may burst). Have a supply of warm blankets and snacks and some extra diapers and wipes if you have small kids. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. A white-out situation can be very dangerous. Skidding off the road is very common - you want someone to know you are missing! First Aid kits for the car are available in most grocery-retail stores.
I hope some of these tips help. There is nothing like having a fire lit and watching a good movie on Christmas Eve with the family while watching the snow light up the world outside. But living in very snowy climates like mine makes winter pretty dangerous at times. Common sense and simple planning ahead can make winter a safer time of year.
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