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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use. Indoor extension cords should not be used for outside lights.
- 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.
- “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.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
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.
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.
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:
- shortness of breath
- high fever
- muscle aches
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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With another holiday here, there will be hundreds of thousands enjoying an outdoor cookout. Here are a few safety tips to make sure you avoid any disaster while grilling.
General grilling tips
- Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
- The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
- Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
Before you use your grill for the first time each year, be sure it’s in working order and ready to use. A few simple guidelines can help:
- Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.
- Check the gas (propane) tank hose for the potential (gas) leaks. To do that:
- Turn the propane tank on. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see).
- Once you’ve determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or by administering the soapy bubble test and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and burners. If the leak stops at that point, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately.
- If you smell gas while cooking, move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately. Do not move the grill.
- There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
- If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
- Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
- When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.