Power Outage Tips

Whether or not you know it’s coming, a power outage can be a major disturbance. It never hurts to be prepared and to know what to do once the lights go out.

Before

  • Power outages can happen at any time and are unavoidable, but the costs associated with them can be lessened by installing a home backup generator at a home or business.
  • Have a place in your home where flashlights, a battery-powered radio, and extra batteries can be easily found.
  • If you know the outage is coming, set aside extra water and buy or make extra ice. You can use the ice to keep perishable items cool.
  • Make sure the battery in your smoke detector is fresh. Test the smoke detector on a monthly basis to make sure it’s working.
  • Keep an appliance thermometer in the freezer. If the freezer is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder when the power returns, all the food is safe.

During

  • If possible, use flashlights instead of candles for emergency lighting. Candles used in unfamiliar settings can be dangerous fire hazards.
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment, or electronics that were on when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary “surges” or “spikes” that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace.
  • Leave one light on so you know when the power returns.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer. This will help keep your food as fresh as possible. Be sure to check food for signs of spoilage.
  • Use generators safely. If you have a portable generator, only run it outdoors with adequate ventilation. Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages. The exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if inhaled.
  • Listen to the radio for updates.

The year-end holidays can be a time for beautiful home decorations, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission warns of an increasing number of injuries from consumers stringing up festive lights and other holiday decorating activities. During November and December 2010, CPSC estimates that more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations. This is an increase from 10,000 in 2007 and 12,000 in 2008 and in 2009.

Estimates of deaths and injuries related to fires from Christmas trees and lit candles are down, but there are still an alarming number of incidents says the CPSC. Between 2006 and 2008, there was an annual average of four deaths and $18 million in property damage related to Christmas tree fires. During this same time period, CPSC received reports of about 130 deaths and $360 million in property losses related to candle fires.

The CPSC has UL suggest the following 12 safety tips to help keep your holiday home safe this year:

  1. Check for freshness when buying a live Christmas tree. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and don’t break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin and, when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  2. Keep trees away from heat sources. Fireplaces, vents, and radiators can rapidly dry out live trees and increase the risk of flammability. Be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water and monitor water levels daily. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.
  3. Check for a “Fire Resistant” label when buying an artificial tree. It indicates the fake tree is more resistant to catching fire. But still exercise caution since an artificial tree, like a live evergreen, can still catch fire.
  4. Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations when trimming a tree with children. Keep trimmings with small removable parts or ones that resemble food or candy out of children’s reach to avoid choking dangers.
  5. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
  6. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Chose a place where kids and pets cannot reach or knock over burning candles. Lit candles should also be placed away from flammable items—trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  7. Use only lights that have been tested by nationally-recognized laboratories, such as UL. Decorative indoor and outdoor lights must meet strict requirements. UL’s red holographic label signifies that the light decorations meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor usage. UL’s green holographic label signifies the lights are safe for indoor use only.
  8. Check each set of lights for damage. Discard decorative light sets with broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  9. Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use. Indoor extension cords should not be used for outside lights.
  10. Check outdoor lights for labels showing that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
  11. “Fire salts” should be used with care. The salts, which produce colored flames when thrown into lit fireplaces, contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if swallowed. Keep them away from children.
  12. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

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Firework Safety Tips

With Independence Day approaching, comes celebrations that will include fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.

  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities.  Never give fireworks to children.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.  Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

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Clutter & Fire Hazards

Hoarding not only can create egress and ingress issues for evacuating occupants but also can delay fire crews entering the structure. Often, exits are blocked and rooms are filled to the ceiling with stacks of belongings that can easily fall over and entrap firefighters. Although firefighters may force open an inward-opening exterior door to enter, getting out through the same door may present a problem. Also, if a firefighter is in distress, accessing and removing him can be difficult. First responders have a double-edged sword to deal with—fire prevention and firefighter safety.

Clutter doesn’t necessarily translate to hoarding conditions, but as shown in the photo below, if a tragic even should occur it will be difficult to navigate through a home in which is in disarray.  Also, homes with an unusual amount of clutter can be breeding grounds for mold growth.

DSCN5099

5 Risks Using Public Pools – Part 2

Legionnaires’ Disease

Water and vapor facilitate the transmission of a bacterium lung disease called Legionnaires’ Disease that is similar to pneumonia. The disease has a strong presence in indoor public swimming pools due to the inhaling of the bacteria in water vapor. It tends to grow in water naturally in “manmade environments,” reports the CDC. However, exposure to the disease does not necessarily mean that you will become ill. In case you are uncertain about whether or not you have been exposed, the CDC says to look out for these signs and symptoms:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • high fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches

These symptoms can take from two to 10 days to show. With 10,000 to 50,000 cases of Legionnaires’ in the United States reported each year, it is important to take all the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of this infectious disease.

Athlete’s Foot 

Feet exposure in a swimming facility can increase the risk of the highly contagious athlete’s foot. Swimmers who have acquired this disease can easily infect others with the pieces of fungi that fall from their feet if they do not wear sandals or pat their skin after they swim. The National Health Service (NHS) reports that communal showers, swimming pools, and changing rooms are the three top places that athlete’s foot is spread. A helpful tip when you frequent the pool is to wear water-resistant shoes or flip-flops, and avoid borrowing shoes.

Swimmer’s Ear

This bacterial infection occurs in the outer ear canal that appears several days after a swim. When water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, it allows for bacteria to grow and infect the skin, says Mayo Clinic. The germs that are commonly found in chlorine pools can bring on this illness and is known to be the common cause of swimmer’s ear. The imbalanced levels of disinfectant and pH levels in pools play a significant role in acquiring swimmer’s ear.

Cancer

Swimming for 40 minutes can result in cancer-causing DNA mutations. In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers studied the effects of genotoxicity in swimmers and the link to the risk of cancer. The 50 healthy adult participants who swam for 40 minutes in a chlorinated pool were seen to have an increased micronuclei in blood lymphocytes, which is linked with cancer risk along with urine mutagenicity brought on by the exposure to these agents. In the pools used for the study, researchers reported the presence of more than 100 DBPs linked to gene mutations, which means swimming pool chemicals contain a moderate risk of cancer. The results of this study does not mean that swimmers should stop this healthy exercise. It is advised that after 40 minutes of this physical activity, you become more susceptible to the chemical agent associated with cancer.

Prevent these five health risks from affecting you and your family. Remember to be swim smart.

Holiday Safety Tips

The holidays are meant to be a time for fun and celebration with family and friends. However, the hectic pace of the holidays can also present increased risks, such as overcrowded stores and greater opportunities for thieves to target your valuables and personal information. Here are five simple tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season:

  1. Watch Out for Porch Pirates
    Theft of packages from front porches and stoops increase as online shopping drives more home deliveries during the holidays. Take advantage of electronic delivery alerts and other protections to make sure your gifts are safely delivered — and received.
  2. Beware of Parking Lot Pilfering
    While you are in the mall purchasing gifts for your friends and family, thieves may be roaming through the parking lot looking to steal valuable items in unlocked cars. Shoppers should remember to always lock their doors, park in well-lit areas and hide valuables from plain view.
  3. Protect Your Identity, Both Online and in Stores
    Before you go shopping, think about how much information a thief would get his hands on if your wallet or purse was stolen. Avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports unless absolutely necessary. When shopping online, be sure to only use a secure website, log off from that site after you have completed your purchase, and monitor your bank accounts and credit card activity regularly throughout the holidays.
  4. Travel Safely
    The holiday season brings a number of unique driving risks. During this time of year, we have difficult weather conditions, limited daylight and drivers in unfamiliar areas. By planning extra travel time and eliminating distractions, you can help ensure safe travels during the holidays.
  5. Prevent a Home Fire – Use Candles Wisely
    Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Dec. 23. are three of the top five days for home fires caused by candles. Never leave a burning candle unattended, and do not put any candles or open flames near Christmas trees or other holiday decorations that could quickly spark a fire in your home.

Halloween Safety Tips

Walk Safely

  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
  • Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
  • Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
  • Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to
    the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  • Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

When Trick or Treating

Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.

Costumes 

  • Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
  • Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  • When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.

Driving

  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

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