Important home safety reminders for staying warm in freezing temps | PEMCO

January 12, 2024 by PEMCO Insurance

GettyImages-1429941112.jpgWhen the temperatures dip to freezing, Pacific Northwesterners pull out all the stops to stay safe and warm indoors.  

Temperatures across Washington and Oregon are dipping to new lows, and highwinds and winter storms are predicted to last through early next week. When it’s this cold, the safest place to be is home!

Here are our tips for keeping your home a safe, secure, and warm place to be while you weather the storm. 

Generator safety 

Generators can help heat your home and keep key appliances running. When used properly, they are very safe. However, proper usage is key.  

  1. Never use a generator in an enclosed space like a garage, carport, or porch. That's because they can emit deadly carbon monoxide equivalent to six running cars. Keep it at least 10 feet from your house and the neighbors', leave your doors and windows closed, and keep the garage door down. 

  1. Keep the generator dry. Unless it's sunny, build a tarp tent over it to keep the rain off. 

  1. Use a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord that's rated for the load it will be carrying. We like twist-and-lock cords made specifically for generators that have multiple plug-ins you can use for your appliances. In addition, make sure the extension cords you use to connect your appliances to the generator are intended for outdoor use, rated to handle the wattage needed and long enough that you don't need to plug multiple cords together. If you notice a cord feels hot, stop using it. 

  1. Never plug the generator into a wall outlet, thinking you'll power that circuit. That causes "back feed" where electrical current can go back out onto the grid and create an electrocution risk for utility crews and your neighbors. Attach appliances directly to the generator with your extension cords. 

  1. Never refuel a generator when it's running to avoid the risk of explosion. Allow it to cool and leave at least an inch and a half from the top of the tank so the gas has room to expand when the machine warms up again. 

  1. Run the generator a few times a year (even if you don't have a power outage) to keep it working properly. Drain the fuel when not in use or add a fuel conditioner so the gas doesn't degrade between uses.

Proper fireplace use 

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace to keep you warm and cozy by the crackling fire, make sure you keep these safety tips in mind. 

  1. Ensure your chimney has been recently serviced. Creosote build-up or other damage to your chimney can create a fire hazard, so annual inspections and cleanings are recommended.  

  1. Use the proper fuel. Firewood needs to be dry and properly seasoned, otherwise it will fill your home with smoke. Particle logs are pretty, but they do not emit as much heat as wood. Don’t burn just anything—be sure to use only seasoned firewood.  

  1. Don’t overload the fire and keep logs towards the back of the hearth. Make sure the area around your fireplace is clear. 

  1. Use a screen and keep a fire extinguisher close. Remember, never leave a fire unattended. 

  1. Keep carbon monoxide detectors in working order. 

Space heater safety 

Space heaters are a convenient and often inexpensive way to keep warm, but word to the wise: safety precautions are necessary. Space heaters can cause burns or home fires if not used properly. 

  1. Place your space heater on the floor only. Don’t put it on a desktop or counter. 

  1. Keep at least three feet of clear space around your space heater and ensure it is free of furniture, pillows, blankets, toys, children, and pets. Also make sure it's clear of any flammable materials (such as paint and aerosols). 

  1. Don’t leave your space heater unattended. When you leave the room or go to bed, make sure the space heater is unplugged.  

  1. Don’t plug other electrical devices into the same outlet or extension cord to avoid overheating. 

More cold weather safety tips 

Keeping yourself and your family warm and safe indoors while also protecting your home are essential when the temperatures dip well below freezing. Carbon monoxide poisoning, home fires, water leaks, and gas leaks are all very real risks. Our experts share a few more tips to help keep your loved ones, home, and property safe during this cold weather snap.

  1. Don’t use outdoor grills, camping stoves, coal, or propane-fueled cooking devices indoors. These tools can produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide, and they need to be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas.  

  1. Don’t leave candles unattended or near anything flammable. 

  1. Monitor your indoor pipes. Leave under-sink cabinet doors open and set faucets to the lowest drip to prevent them from freezing.  

  1. Know where and how to shut off water and gas supplies. If you smell gas, shut it off and evacuate your home immediately.  

With all these safety tips in mind, we hope you can bundle up and enjoy the long weekend from the comfort of your home. While icy cold days may not be ideal for all of us, they sure can be beautiful! 

Stay safe,

Your PEMCO team 

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