Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions - Lifesaving Habits

by Mary Urban

When most people mention they are making resolutions for the New Year, images of strenuous exercise or improving eating habits come to mind. Change is difficult; by mid-February resolve to transcend into a state of fresh routines is forgotten, and we cast aside our determination to choose steamed broccoli over French fries.

But developing lasting, beneficial habits can also include home safety. Preparing for hazardous weather conditions, power outages, or taking precautions against home fires can bring peace of mind, empowerment, and save lives. Winter months mean greater usage of space heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, and even candles. Every eight minutes, the Red Cross responds to a disaster – and the vast majority of these are home fires.

Here are some quick safety tips:

Cooking Fires 

We can be easily distracted by visitors and loved-ones while cooking holiday dinners—fires from cooking are the No. 1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

  • Consider purchasing a fire extinguisher to keep in your kitchen. 
  • Never leave the room when food is cooking on stove-top. 


  • Place candles where they cannot be reached or knocked over by pets or children. 
  • Extinguishing all candles before leaving a room. 

Home Heating

Nearly half of American families use alternative heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or wood/coal stoves to stay warm.

  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. 
  • Keep bedding, curtains, etc. at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces. 
  • Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. 

Smoke Alarms/Escape Plan 

  • Make sure all family members know at least two ways to escape from every room of your home. Always include pets in your escape plan. 
  • Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly. A low battery warning usually sounds like a “chirping” noise. 
  • Smoke alarms wear out. Replace your alarms every 10 years. Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming over and around it regularly. Dust and debris can interfere with its operation. 
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms as well. If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. 

Power Outages 

In heavy snow, neighborhoods with tall trees and above-ground power lines can increase chances of power outages. For prolonged power outages, there are steps you can take to minimize food loss and keep members of your household as comfortable as possible.

  • An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. 
  • A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. 
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home. 
  • Keep bottled water on hand—one gallon per person, per day. 

For a comprehensive home and disaster safety list, visit the Red Cross website.

Scheduling time each month with your family to focus on just one aspect of preparedness can be a liberating and lifesaving habit, providing tools to empower all household members. Happy and safe New Year, and may all your resolutions last!

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