Extreme weather events are becoming more common across the United States. These events can be a threat to your home and its inhabitants if you don’t take precautions. Follow these nine essential tips to stay safe and minimize the risk of danger to your residence when bad weather strikes.
Service Your HVAC System Regularly
In the spring and fall, have your HVAC system serviced professionally so it’s ready for the coming weather season. In the fall, check over the furnace and replace old filters. In the spring, make sure the air conditioning is working properly and trim back any plants encroaching on outdoor compressor units.
Prevent Burst Pipes
Burst pipes can result in huge plumbing expenses and interior water damage. You can prevent this by ensuring your pipes are properly insulated against freezing and by knowing what to do in a cold snap:
Apply insulation to pipes in cold areas of the home.
Use insulation in walls where pipes run.
Know the signs of pipes subject to freezing, such as condensation or frost on their exterior.
Open under-sink cabinet doors during deep freezes to allow room heat to warm pipes.
Never turn off the heat when temperatures approach freezing, even if you won’t be home.
If your power goes out and you worry about freezing pipes, open your taps to a slight drip to help keep them from freezing completely.
Sign Up for Power Outage and Other Emergency Alerts
Whenever possible, enroll in your area’s alert system for power outages and other emergencies. Many regions now have mobile device apps and alerts for when power will be cut due to fire risk, for example, or when a serious storm is approaching.
Keep Your Electronics Charged
During times when extreme weather is likely, it is a good idea to keep your devices and flashlights fully charged. Consider investing in a lithium battery pack to charge them when the power goes out. A battery-powered radio is also great to have around for emergency broadcasts.
Have a Safe Emergency Lighting Option
While candles used to be the old standby for power outages, there are safer options if you need light. The battery pack chargers mentioned above often come standard with an LED light, which you can supplement with flashlights. Most smartphones also have a bright flashlight feature. Electric candles and battery-powered camping lanterns are other smart choices.
Store Food, Water, and Essential Personal Items for Emergencies
Don’t forget to keep emergency supplies on hand for times when the power goes out. Stock up on these items in advance:
- Nonperishable food items
- Foods you can eat without cooking if you don’t have a gas stove you can light manually
- An extra can opener
- Batteries in the sizes you need
- Drinking water, including enough for pets
- Extra water for washing and cleaning (wipes and dry shampoo are handy, too)
- Personal care and essential household items
- Medications and first-aid supplies
- Battery-powered fans and cooling bandanas
- Emergency heat blankets or sleeping bags
- Hand and foot warmer packs
Understand Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risks
Every year, during extreme weather events, Americans suffer tragic deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This is usually due to using things like using outdoor grills inside or trying to provide heat by turning on a gas stove, both of which are dangerous and should never be done.
Combustion of gas, wood, and charcoal without the proper ventilation can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide (CO) in the air, which can be fatal if inhaled, as it replaces oxygen in the bloodstream. Signs of CO poisoning include sleepiness, loss of consciousness, confusion, and blue hands, feet, and lips. Call 911 immediately if you or a family member experience these symptoms.
Never use outdoor grills or camp stoves indoors, and never use your oven for heat. Make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean before using them in cold weather. Buy a few carbon monoxide detectors for your home to alert you if dangerous levels of CO are present.
Make Sure Everyone in Your Family and Community Are Safe, Too
Remember to check in on family members and others in your community during extreme weather emergencies. People who are especially vulnerable include folks who live alone, seniors, families with babies, and those who are disabled.
Have an Emergency Plan If You Must Leave Your Home
Finally, develop an emergency plan in case staying in your home isn’t feasible due to extreme temperatures or storm damage. Know ahead of time where you can head for shelter and heating or cooling, such as public libraries, schools, and other facilities designated for assistance. When you plan in advance, you’ll stay safer and worry less, no matter when bad weather visits your town.