La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -
As the mercury falls and the holidays approach, the last thing you need is to worry if you're safe in your own home. But according to Ben Hein of the American Red Cross, you might want to give your winter home safety plan a second look.
“Life is busy,” said Ben Hein, Disaster Service Program Manager at the American Red Cross in La Crosse, “and sometimes it's easy to overlook some of those things that we can do to make sure we're prepared.”
One of the leading winter hazards doesn't come from a flashy ice storm or a hundred year blizzard; it comes from simply trying to stay warm.
“Here in Wisconsin where we rely so heavily on heating in the home during the winter time there is a lot of additional hazards around the house,” said Hein, “including furnaces, fireplaces, folks who may not be using space heaters correctly.”
So what can you do? First, make sure all flammable materials are at least 3 feet away from any open flame or heat source. Have furnaces and fireplaces inspected regularly and never use gas generators or space heaters indoors where they can create unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.
“Both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms making sure those are in good working order,” said Hein, “that the batteries are tested on a regular basis.”
Another important aspect of home winter safety is preparing before the storm.
“We really encourage people to put together an emergency supply kit so that they can have that available,” said Hein, “in the event that they are staying in their home for a period of time or the electricity goes out.”
Emergency supply kits contain simple, but potentially lifesaving items such as additional food and water, a weather radio, necessary medications, even sand or kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery.
But while winter weather poses its own challenges, it also has some advantages.
“With severe storms, tornado outbreaks, those things may happen relatively quickly,” said Hein. “For the most part during winter weather, they're somewhat forecastable and therefore we can plan for them a little bit more in advance.”
While it's impossible to plan for everything, following these tips will give you a good start to a safe winter season.