While winter in Michigan can result in some amazing scenery when everything freezes over, it’s also a very harsh and unforgiving time of year. If you own a home, you should take some precautions to make sure that you and your home are ready for winter. You don’t want your home, which is supposed to be a haven, to become a hazard itself. That’s why we’re going to share some winter safety tips to take care of you and your family this winter.
Winter tips for indoor safety
Ensure you have good ventilation
Good ventilation in a home is much more important than most people think. Having good ventilation can not only save you or buy you more time in case of a CO leak or fire, but it can also help stop germs or viruses from being passed around. Moving air also helps with the overall cleanliness and hygiene of the home during winter.
Having good ventilation is particularly important in the kitchen and bathroom. You shouldn’t use the chimney unless your ventilation is sufficient. Don’t forget to check the vents, ducts, and outlets both inside and outside. If they’re clogged or blocked in any way, they’re hindering the ventilation in your home. If you have one, you should also check and service your HVAC system as part of this.
Inspect your electrical system
Electrical faults not only damage your appliances and leave you without power during winter, but they are also one of the leading causes of home fires. Physical damage, loose wires, bad insulation, contact with water, and overloading of outlets are all potential causes of a fire. They can also result in electrocution.
If you see any warning signs like appliances or outlets that constantly trip, buzzing wires or outlets, flickering lights, etc., you should have them looked at ASAP. Replacing old or worn out outlets and extension cords is already a step in the right direction.
Keep the germs at bay
Ever notice how bugs seem to make their rounds around the office? The same happens in our homes when we’re all cooked up together for most of winter. When you go out, you’ll most likely go to crowded places like malls and restaurants. This means your immune system needs to be functioning at full capacity to keep you from getting sick.
Make sure that you stock up on immunity boosters and vitamins to stay healthy and prevent yourself from getting sick. Some non-prescription flu medicine can also keep the symptoms at bay for those 24-hour bugs.
Make sure your furnace is in good shape
Here in cold Michigan, our furnaces tend to work overtime during winter. This can lead to plenty of strain on them, particularly if they haven’t been serviced in a while and/or they have dirty or clogged filters. In the best case scenario, you could be left without a furnace during the coldest days. At worst, a faulty furnace could end up burning down your home.
Unless you really know what you’re doing, you should have a professional look at your furnace. Many people think they know but end up missing significant issues that become a hazard later on. A furnace needs to be serviced twice a year. This makes before and after fall and winter the ideal time.
Clean your chimney
A chimney that isn’t regularly cleaned can be a source of multiple hazards or issues. For one, they can produce creosote which is a flammable compound that can start a fire in your home. If too much ash collects in the chimney, it can also pollute the air inside of your home.
Not only should you keep your chimney clean but you should also install a screen in front of it. This will stop hot or flaming material coming out and possibly setting your home on fire. Also, make sure that you use the right wood and that it’s dry.
Check for carbon monoxide leaks
As odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is potentially fatal, carbon monoxide has an ominous and well-earned reputation as a silent killer. However, many of our appliances today, like space heaters, gas stoves, and furnaces, still use this gas. Even your car is a potential source if you leave it idling in the garage too long.
The best way to deal with this is to buy CO detectors that are similar to smoke detectors and install them in the home. These should warn you before levels get dangerous. You should also make sure all your gas equipment is in good condition. If you, or anyone in your family, shows symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Always make sure to turn off your heating or cooking appliances
A surprisingly common way that home fires get started is by people forgetting to turn off their stovetop, oven, or other appliances. This is particularly true after parties or family gatherings when there is so much going on that it’s easy to forget to turn off appliances.
Fires can also get started when cooking food overnight. This is also one of the main reasons why it’s so important to have working smoke detectors/alarms to alert you before a fire even starts.
Handle space heaters with care
Space heaters might be the most commonly used appliance to heat rooms during winter, but they are also one of the most dangerous. Space heaters’ elements reach extremely high temperatures in order to heat up the surrounding air which also makes them a fire hazard.
If space heaters are left on for too long, they might catch fire themselves. However, the most common way fire starts with these appliances is when they are too close to other flammable materials. This is why you should make sure your space heater is far away from curtains, furniture, etc. and that they aren’t stationed where people might accidentally touch them.
Test your smoke alarms
Smoke alarms are potentially life-saving devices because they can alert you to either put out a fire before it begins or to evacuate the house. You should make sure that all your smoke alarms are in working order and that they have back up batteries ready for them. Batteries should be replaced once or twice a year depending on how often they have been used.
The NFPA provides extensive guidelines on smoke alarms and advises homeowners to install them in the bedroom, next to sleeping rooms, in the kitchen, and in the basement. Make sure that every level of the home has at least one smoke detector.
Prepare your pipes for winter
In winter when the temperatures get really low, water freezes. That’s not good news for our pipes in our homes. While it might just sound like a small inconvenience, water freezing in your pipes can cause them to crack or rupture which can lead to serious damage.
Some of the things you can do to ensure this doesn’t happen is to drain your pipes if you leave your home for long periods, leave taps dripping slightly, insulate your pipes with heat tape, etc.
Winter tips for outdoor safety
Take care of any outdoor electrical issues or hazards
People often spend a lot of time taking care of the electrical systems in the interior of their home, that they forget about those in the exterior. However, these are under greater threat from the elements during winter and may cause equally big problems.
Make sure that any switches outside your home are in good condition. Just like the interior, also make sure that all wires, outlets, and extensions are in good condition and protected.
Trim your trees
Many of the plants in our yard simply can’t keep up with winter and start losing some of their parts. During storms or after heavy snow, trees can lose entire branches which can either physically damage your roof or harm someone. It can also clog up or break your gutters.
While you should trim all your plants in your yard and garden as part of good groundskeeping practices, it’s also important for your home’s safety. Look for any branches that are on their last limb (pun intended), and get rid of them before they fall off. You should even trim healthy branches as far away from your home and roof as possible.
Keep a watch on your roof
Your roof comes under serious strain from nature during winter. Not only does it protect you from the weather conditions, but also from falling or blowing debris. Before winter sets in, inspect your roof and make sure to fix any leaks, missing or damaged shingles, damaged gutters, and make sure everything (including vents) are clean.
If at all possible, you might want to check your roof for any signs of damage after a big storm. This may also require that you access your attic and make sure everything looks good from the inside as well.
Keep your walkways clear
People use your walkways to access your home. It’s important that, even if you don’t have time for the entire yard, to at least keep your walkways or driveways clear of snow. People or cars can slip on them causing unnecessary accidents. Try to shovel snow off your driveway as soon as possible to stop it from compacting, which happens by walking or driving over it.
Don’t overdo the shoveling
Here in Michigan, we all know what hard work shoveling through inches of snow can be! What many of us don’t realize is that this can be extremely dangerous to your health and that exertion from shoveling is a common occurrence. Of course, it would be ideal to shovel as often as is needed to stop your snow from getting too bad. However, this isn’t always possible.
That being said, always make sure to wear the proper gear when shoveling snow. Despite it being cold, you can easily get dehydrated. So make sure that you always have something to drink. Listen to your body and take a break when you start to feel out of breath. Also, don’t shovel on the coldest days or during extreme weather. It’s easier to shovel dry and freshly fallen snow.
Safely store your fuel/waste
During fall, almost all our yards collect a lot of waste from leaves, twigs, or falling branches. Frequently, we’re in too much of a hurry or too busy to dispose of it as quickly as we should. Not only are these piles of waste a lure for bugs and rot, but they can also be a fire hazard.
If you’re storing your leaves or debris to make mulch for spring, then make sure it’s stored in a safe place, away from any potential fire hazards. Likewise, take the same precautions when storing your firewood or gas canisters. Keeping your firewood dry will make it safer to use in your chimney.
Be prepared in case of a disaster
The best things you can do to prepare yourself and your family in case of a disaster are:
- Make sure you have enough fuel to use for heating in case of an outage.
- Stock up on non-perishable food supplies.
- Make sure you have your local emergency contacts and know where your local disaster centers are.
- Keep an eye on weather news sources such as the National Weather Service and any local weather radio channels there might be
Don’t take chances this winter!
These winter and safety tips are meant to protect you and your family in and around your home. However, please remember to stay vigilant and safe wherever you are and whatever you may be doing. If you’re reading this because you’re moving to Fenton, Michigan, be prepared with these helpful resources for relocating to Fenton. On a final note, make sure that you start tackling these safety tips as soon as possible!