Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Safety

Plan Now to Avoid Singing The Power-Outage Blues This Winter

It’s been two days of strong winds and snow in the New England region, as we write this post, and a good reminder to all of us living in the Region, and particularly, those living on Boston’s South Shore or in some other New England coastal area, that we should always make sure we’re well-prepared for a power outage.  Unfortunately, this somewhat common winter power-outage circumstance can leave businesses and families without heat, electricity, and/or communication services for one or many days.

Most of us hardy New Englanders and those who live on Massachusetts’ Eastern coast know how un-fun and un-safe (particularly for the elderly, young children, and those who are ill) not having power in the late fall and winter can be. Homes and businesses can get cold really quickly in our colder temps, perishable food like meat and dairy can go bad, and one can easily trip or get physically hurt for other reasons when you can’t see your way around your house or office after the sun goes down. Why not avoid, or at least minimize, all the aforementioned possible unpleasant — and potentially dangerous — impacts of a winter storm power outage by taking the following preparation steps.

Steps to Prepare for a Power Outage:

I. Ideally, weeks before a winter storm may hit and knock out power in your area:

II. In the days leading up to a predicted winter storm:

  • Think like a camper — purchase candles, flashlights, and battery-operated lanterns if you don’t already own some, and be sure you have matches and the right-sized batteries on hand for the aforementioned items. You may also want to purchase a radio if you don’t have one, and have batteries on hand for it.
  • Go nuts — if you don’t already have a decent supply, stash up on high-protein packaged items like nuts, canned goods like tuna fish, and jarred food like peanut butter that don’t require heating, and therefore, a power source. You’ll also want a good supply on hand of other non-perishable items like crackers, and a loaf or two of bread that should stay fresh for a number of days.
  • Act like a thirsty person — keep an extra supply of bottled water on hand and ask those you live with not to drink it, so it’s there when you need it!
  • Go down the family member checklist — make sure that any needs related to a family members’ physical and emotional health challenges will be met during a storm time frame when roads may not be drive-able or pharmacies open. Be sure family members have a sufficient supply of any prescription or over-the-counter medications or other treatments they may need to maintain their health.
  • Seek out the warm, comfy, cozy stuff — to prevent having to do so in the dark, identify where you’ve stored any thick blankets, sweaters, and socks for yourself and family members and consider moving them to a more accessible place. For example, if your surplus of blankets is stored in a basement closet that would require you to go down a set of stairs in the dark during a power outage, why not move them upstairs for the winter?
  • Don’t forget furry family members — make sure you have plenty of food in the house for your pets, whether they be four-legged creatures or ones that swim in a bowl or tank.
  • Fill up your tank — speaking of tanks, in case you need to vacate your home or business (that is if roads and weather conditions make it safe to travel) to stay at a shelter like a school, a friend’s or family member’s home, or a hotel, make sure you have plenty of gas in your car. And, related to cars, be sure to purchase and keep a cell phone charger that works in your car should you need to recharge your phone and are able to make it safely to your car to do so.

We’re always here to chat with you about ways to keep your roof, home, business, and family warm & safe this winter, but be sure to also check out our other “winter safety” blog posts:

Be Carbon-Monoxide Smart to Keep Loved Ones Safe This Winter

While we’re South Shore MA roofers who specialize in safety related to your residential roof or commercial roof, we want to do all we can to keep our New England neighbors safe on a variety of home and business fronts, regardless of the season! So, we’re sharing another in a series of posts related to home and business safety.

During the months of winter, how many times have you listened to the news and learned of a family that was made deathly ill, or that even perished, from Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning? We always think such a thing could never happen to us, but that’s only true if we take the necessary precautions to keep our homes and businesses CO-safe, particularly during the months of winter when CO Poisoning impacts the largest number of individuals.

Why are CO-related deaths and emergency room visits so high in December, January, February and March? Due to extremely cold temperatures and/or power outages, more people use gas-powered furnaces and well as use inside their homes or offices alternative heating sources that weren’t meant to be used inside or in an enclosed space –- sources like charcoal grills or propane stoves and grills.

So, before snow starts accumulating and icicles start forming, and as you make preparations for the holidays and associated celebrations and visitors, add these to your to-do list:

  • Buy a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector if you don’t already have one – one for every level of your home – and set them up there.
  • Unless you’ve had one in the last nine months, schedule a check-up with a qualified technician for your heating system, water heater, and other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances.

Once and while snow is in the air, on the ground, and on your roof, be sure to adhere to the following on an ongoing basis:

  • Keep vents and flues free, i.e., unblocked – whether it be from any kind of debris, snow or ice. This means furnace vents, intake valves and chimneys should be kept snow-free.
  • Related to what we shared at the beginning of our blog post, never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
  • Even when bitter cold or power outages hit, never use a hibachi, charcoal grill, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper. If it’s too cold to stay in your home, go to emergency shelters or centers set up by your town, such as a school.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove.

And, regardless of the time of year, make sure you follow these CO Poisoning Prevention Guidelines:

  • Never run the motor in your car, truck, or other vehicle in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent – you don’t want exhaust to vent into an enclosed area.
  • The same guideline above for the same machinery/vehicles/tools above apply to a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure. Keeping the doors or windows open may not be enough to prevent CO poisoning. So don’t risk operating the aforementioned in these spots.
  • Recognize these symptoms of CO poisoning, including dizziness, light-headed-ness, and nausea.
  • Any time you suspect CO poisoning, or your CO detector sounds, leave your house or business, and call 911 or a health care professional right away.

Remember Carbon Monoxide Is An Odorless and Colorless Gas, So When In Doubt, Have Your Home or Business Checked Out! And, Be Sure to Read About What You Can Do on the Ice Dam Prevention and Ice Dam Removal Fronts to Keep Your Family Safe This Winter!