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Safety Tips

Home Fire Safety

Don't let your home and valuable possessions go up in smoke! More importantly, don't risk the lives of your loved ones because of potentially hazardous conditions in your home. Here are some ideas for beginning an effective home fire protection plan:

  • Install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
  • Test the batteries in smoke detectors at least once each month.
  • Store flammable household solvents and cleaning supplies in approved containers.
  • Eliminate combustible trash, especially oily or greasy rags, from garage and basement areas where they tend to accumulate.
  • Keep flashlights with fresh batteries handy in case you must exit at night. During a fire, the lights in your home may not work.
  • Lights that flicker or dim may indicate an electrical problem that can cause a fire. Make sure electrical circuits are not overloaded and that plugs and wires are in good condition.
  • Conduct fire drills at least once a year, showing family members the various ways of exiting your home in the event of a fire. Show them how to get through smoky rooms by crawling close to the floor where the air is likely to be more breathable.
  • Have emergency "chain ladders" available at one or more second floor windows.

In the event of a fire:

  • First, alert everyone in the home and evacuate the premises. Then call the fire department from a neighbor's home or from a cell phone.
  • Meet with family members at a prearranged location outside your home. That way you'll have peace of mind, and firefighters can avoid the unnecessary danger of reentering the burning building looking for individuals they think may still be inside.
  • Do not reenter your home or attempt to fight the fire yourself.

Swimming Pool Safety

The latest report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows that 345 children under the age of 5 drown in residential swimming pools each year. Among unintentional injuries, drowning has risen to the second leading cause of death to children under the age of 5, following motor vehicle accidents. Close supervision of children is key in preventing this devastating tragedy. Keep your family safe this summer with the latest tips from the CPSC.

As always, more information regarding consumer safety is available on the CPSC website:

Washing Machine and Dryer Safety

Dryers and washing machines were involved in one out of every 21 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 1999-2002.

Facts and figures:

  • Dryers and washing machines were involved in an average of 18,280 home structure fires per year between 2002 and 2005. These fires caused an average of 26 deaths, 468 injuries and $198 million in direct property damage per year.
  • Clothes dryers and washing machines were involved in 5% of the home structure fires reported between 1999 and 2002.
  • Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires; washing machines 5%, and washer and dryer combinations accounted for 3%.
  • The leading cause of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean (29%), followed by unclassified mechanical failure or malfunction (23%). Thirteen percent were caused by some type of electrical failure or short circuit.
  • Over half of these fires started with either clothing (28%) or dust, fiber or lint (27%).

Safety Tips:

  • Do not operate the dryer without a lint filter. Clean lint filters before or after each use and remove accumulated lint from around the drum.
  • Make sure that the dryer is plugged into an outlet suitable for its electrical needs as overloaded electrical outlets can result in blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.
  • Turn the dryer off when leaving the home.
  • Keep the dryer area clear of combustibles (i.e., boxes or clothing).
  • Dryers should be installed and serviced by a professional.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected by a professional regularly to ensure that the gas line and connection are intact

Source: NFPA's "Home Fires Involving Clothes Dryers and Washing Machines," report by John R. Hall Jr., May 2008.

Winter Storm Safety

Winter Storms Can Be Deadly...

  • Extreme cold can cause hypothermia (an extreme lowering of the body’s temperature) and death
  • Fireplaces, emergency heaters, and candles can cause household fires
  • Toxic fumes, such as carbon monoxide, from heaters can cause asphyxiation (unconsciousness or death from a lack of oxygen)
  • Hazardous road conditions can cause car accidents

Prepare for a winter storm before it hits. This is the best way to keep your family and yourself safe. Plan ahead: prepare your house and car; stock up on emergency supplies.

Plan Ahead and Prepare for Winter with a House Checklist:
  • Insulate walls and attic
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside
  • Insulate any water lines that run along outer walls
  • Service snow-removal equipment
  • Have chimney and flue inspected
  • Install easy-to-read outdoor thermometer
Before a Winter Storm Hits: 

Stock up on emergency supplies for communication, food, safety, heating, and car in case a storm hits. Make sure you have at least one of the following in case there is a power failure: a battery-powered radio (for listening to local emergency instructions) or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receiver (for listening to National Weather Service broadcasts). More information on NOAA weather radio receivers is available at

Find out if your community warns the public about severe weather through siren, radio or television and listen to emergency broadcasts. Know what winter storm warning terms mean:

  • Winter weather advisory - Expect winter weather conditions to cause inconvenience and hazards
  • Frost/freeze warning - Expect below-freezing temperatures
  • Winter storm watch - Be alert, a storm is likely
  • Winter storm warning - Take action, the storm is in or entering the area
  • Blizzard warning - Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snowdrifts, and life-threatening wind chill

Food and Safety Supplies: 

Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies on hand, including the following:

  • Drinking water
  • Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
  • Prescription drugs and other medicine
  • First-aid kit
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
Keep a Water Supply: 

Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break. Follow these tips:

  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously
  • Keep the indoor temperature warm
  • Allow more heated air near pipes. Open kitchen cabinet doors under the kitchen sink
  • If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer
  • If you cannot thaw your pipes, or if the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home
  • Have bottled water on hand
  • In an emergency—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow
Heating Supplies:
  • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
    • Fireplace with plenty of dry firewood or gas log fireplace
    • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters (Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area)
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water. Use electric space heaters with:
    • Automatic shut-off switches
    • Non-glowing elements
  • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes and never leave children unattended near a space heater. Keep the following safety equipment near any heat source:
    • Chemical fire extinguisher
    • Smoke alarm in working order
    • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To keep safe, follow these tips:
    • Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet
    • Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite
    • Use individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to plug in other appliances
Cooking and Lighting Supplies: 
  • Never use charcoal grills or portable gas camp stove indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns
  • Avoid using candles
  • Never leave lit candles unattended
During a Winter Storm:

Indoor Safety

  • If possible, stay indoors and dress warmly
  • Conserve fuel. Lower the thermostat to 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night
  • Close off unused rooms
  • Seal drafts from doors and windows

Outdoor Safety

  • Babies and the elderly are more at risk from the cold and should be kept warm
  • Dress warmly. Wear loose-fitting, layered clothes. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water-repellent
  • Wear mittens rather than gloves—mittens are warmer
  • If you shovel snow, do stretching exercises to warm up and take breaks often
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air
  • Avoid working too hard (strains your heart)
  • Drink water and other fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Watch for signs of frostbite: Feeling of “pins and needles” followed by numbness (no feeling). Skin may freeze hard and look white. When thawed out, skin is red and painful. Very bad frostbite may cause blisters or gangrene (black, dead tissue)
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia (uncontrolled shivering, slow speech, memory loss, stumbling, sleepiness, extreme tiredness)
  • If you think you have frostbite or hypothermia, don’t eat or drink anything containing caffeine or alcohol—they can worsen your symptoms
  • Drink warm liquids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol (alcoholic drinks cause your body to lose heat more quickly)
  • Do not eat snow (lowers your body temperature)
Keep Your Car in Good Working Condition this Winter by Checking:
  • Antifreeze
  • Windshield wiper fluid (wintertime mixture)
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Ignition
  • Emergency flashers
  • Exhaust
  • Tires (air pressure and wear)
  • Fuel
  • Oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Defroster
  • Battery
  • Radiator
Prepare Your Car with Emergency Supplies Including:
  • Cell phone, portable charger and extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Extra hats, coats, mittens
  • Blankets
  • Chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Canned compressed air with sealant (emergency tire repair)
  • Road salt and sand
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Bright colored flag; help signs
  • First aid kit
  • Tool kit
  • Road maps
  • Compass
  • Waterproof matches and a can (to melt snow for water)
  • Paper towels
In Your Car:
  • Travel with caution
  • Listen for travel warnings
  • Avoid icy roads if possible
  • Use tire chains
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify help if you are late
  • Check and restock emergency supplies in your car before you leave
  • Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; the windshield may shatter
If You are Trapped in Your Car in a Winter Storm, These Safety Tips Will Help to Keep You Safe:
  • Stay in the car
  • Do not leave the car to look for help unless help is visible within 100 yards
  • Display a “call for help” sign
  • Raise the car hood or hang a brightly colored cloth on the antenna to signal for help
  • To keep warm, turn on the car’s engine for about 10 minutes each hour
  • Run the heater only when the car is running (Avoid running the car battery down)
  • Turn on car lights only when the car is running (Avoid running the car battery down)
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow (Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Open a window slightly for fresh air
  • Do light exercise to stay warm
  • If you’re alone, stay awake as much as possible
  • If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping
  • For warmth, huddle close together
  • Wrap your body and head with extra clothes, blankets, newspapers, maps, or removable car mats
  • Do not eat snow (lowers your body temperature).
  • If no other water is available, snow can be melted for water using a can and a lit match (Water must come to a rolling boil for one minute to kill most germs, but boiling water won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow)
For more information, visit, or call the CDC public response hotline at (888) 246-2675 (English), (888) 246-2857 (español), or (866) 874-2646 (TTY).


Working Outdoors

Hot summer months pose special hazards for outdoor workers who must protect themselves against heat, sun exposure, and other hazards. It is important to know of the potential hazards and how to manage them.  


Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts and skin cancer. There are no safe UV rays or safe suntans. Protect yourself with these helpful hints:

  • Cover up- Wear tightly woven clothing that you can’t see through.
  • Use sunscreen- A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays. Be sure to follow application directions on the bottle or tube.
  • Wear a hat- A wide brim hat, not a baseball cap, works best because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.
  • Wear UV-absorbent shades- Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive, but they should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Before you buy, read the product tag or label.
  • Limit exposure- UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The combination of heat and humidity can be a serious health threat during the summer months. Take precautions, here’s how:

  • Drink plenty of water before you get thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing—cotton is good.
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
  • Eat smaller meals before work activity.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
  • Find out from your health-care provider if your medications and heat don’t mix.
  • Know that equipment such as respirators or work suits can increase heat stress.
Lyme Disease

This illness is caused by bites from infected ticks. Most, but not all, victims will develop a “bulls-eye” rash. Other signs and symptoms may be non-specific and similar to flu symptoms such as fever, lymph node swelling, neck stiffness, generalized fatigue, headaches, migrating joint aches, or muscle aches. Protect yourself with these precautions:

  • Wear light-colored clothes to see ticks more easily.
  • Wear long sleeves; tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
  • Wear high boots or closed shoes that cover your feet completely.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Use tick repellants, but not on your face.
  • Shower after work. Wash and dry your work clothes at high temperature.
  • Ask your health-care provider if using the LYMErix vaccine is okay for you.
  • Examine your body for ticks after work. Remove any attached ticks promptly with fine-tipped tweezers. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, or nail polish to remove the tick.
West Nile Virus

Illness from the West Nile virus is rare, but it does happen. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. You can help to protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Apply insect repellent with DEET to exposed skin.
  • Spray clothing with repellents containing DEET or permethrin.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks.
  • Be extra vigilant at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

More information is available at the following sites: or

Worry-Free Vacation

When you go away on vacation, your empty home may become a target for vandalism and theft. While your homeowner or renters policy will help you to replace your losses, it is best to follow these precautions before you leave on your trip:

  • Leave curtains and/or blinds open as usual.
  • Stop deliveries of mail and newspapers.
  • Hire someone to mow the lawn.
  • Set lights to turn on and off automatically throughout your home.
  • Store cash, jewelry and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.
  • Ask friends and neighbors to keep an eye on your home or apartment.
  • Notify the police that you will be away.

If you are unsure about whether you have adequate homeowners or renters coverage, check your policy or contact your insurance agent. That way, you can enjoy a worry-free vacation knowing that your home and its contents are covered properly.