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    The Virtual Review: Thrifty, safe, toasty at home



    Story by Michelle Young 

    Defense Finance and Accounting Service

    The weather app tells me we're going to get some weather over the next few days. I always get that little sense of panic. I don't run out for bread and milk, but I do take a little mental note of checking some things around the house.

    I looked online for some kind of winter, safe at home, checklist, and there are dozens and dozens of short videos out there. The good part of that is I literally found videos from the 70's with animated ducks flying planes, insurance companies, fire departments, etc. The bad part is you can spend hours trying to compile a checklist that works for you, your location, and circumstances.

    What I put together with the help of many of these videos are some tips and tricks. This is certainly not inclusive but I did have fun researching. There were some spots in Colorado that talked at length about snowmobile safety, which doesn't apply to me, but was entertaining to say the least.

    And now I want a snowmobile.

    Get warm

    Heating elements are the number one source of fires in winter. As many, MANY fire, EMS and police videos reiterated and warned. I found videos from two to five minutes that spelled out very clearly what the hazards were, how to modify environments, and prevention also.

    A nice perk was that searching for the exact kind of heat system you have quickly points you down the right path.

    Portable space heaters: Always an option that requires a lot of attention and care, but there are newer models that limit dangerous exhausts, have shut offs if they fall over, and have temperature limits too. I also learned the hard way that they are a tremendous pull on energy and will really make your electric bill race up. If there's an opportunity to upgrade to a newer, safer, energy efficient one, try it.

    The fireman on a video at WLKY's channel explained that portable heaters should have a diameter of three feet in all directions of cleared space, on a hard surface, and that you should never go to sleep with any type of portable or open flame lit or on. He also said to avoid basements and garages.

    Furnace systems: These systems have an average lifespan of around 12-15 years. That's a long time to accumulate dust, pet hair, missing socks, etc. in the ductwork. Consider a duct-cleaning service to keep those pathways clear not only for health reasons, but to keep those potentially flammable items out of the way. And while you're at it, changing out the filter helps move air through efficiently and safely.

    Chimneys and stoves: These traditional heat sources are lovely in winter. They glow, they give off immediate and soothing heat, and they flicker in all the otherwise dark corners of January, but realistically, you have an open flame inside your house.

    Think of it like you would outside, the smoke and fumes need to be vented properly and the pathway should be clear (and cleaned regularly). The flue or vent system should also be closed when it's not in use, otherwise your warm air will exit extra quick!

    WLFITV's Amber Hardwick's winter tips video reinforced the need for a working carbon dioxide detector at home at all times but especially when extra heat devices are running. She also focused on using professional inspectors, chimney sweeps, etc. are critical on a routine basis, to maximize safety and the life of those items.

    Stay Warm

    Moving on to videos about staying warm, I found a group of videos hosted by TV weather people, insurance agents, and homeowners associations. I'm not exaggerating, the classes of these videos were so predictable and identical.

    Just like keeping the doors closed in summer to keep the air conditioning "in," you'll want to keep the warm air inside in winter. Tiny cracks and crevasses around windows and doors add up to larger heat losses, many reiterated.

    I watched a couple videos targeted at weatherproofing including a kind of shrink wrap window sealing product that uses a hair dryer to seal in warm air. There are also window and door weather stripping to keep drafts out and warm air in.

    Stay Safe

    In winter, whether out and about or at home, slips and falls certainly increase and most of the time that's due to water., reminiscent of annual SPIRIT training, walks us through how to prepare. "Start by layering, using waterproof clothing and shoes with rough treads, he said."

    Outside: Shovel, scrape, or salt walkways and driveways. Our narrator goes through the details of how to safely shovel snow—reminding us that shoveling snow is the number one cause of winter injuries.

    Inside: Keeping things warm and dry may sound simple but can create hazards. When moving back inside, have a designated spot for wet or icy boots, coats, and gloves to keep that moisture away from the rest of the house and allow for safe drying.

    It can be tempting to put those boots or gloves in the house to warm up, but be sure to keep wet boots, pants, etc. away from direct heat sources.

    Space heaters, fireplace, etc. can melt items or cause fires, and water getting into vents could drip and pool back into the system or even corrode. Also

    Safety kits: Often overlooked and undervalued in winter. One video on Cityline's YouTube page walked me through a couple different options. Many people have car safety kits, there are even premade ones, but what about a safety kit for home?

    The list of potential items to include is long. However, just like taking inventory of home heat needs, a home safety kit should include things to make life easier for you, for a few hours to a few days.

    Including things like snacks, bottles of water, and flashlights may be obvious, but if you need specialized items for a child, health needs, pets, or special circumstances, consider those in your plan. Also, battery packs, power banks and generators can take preparedness to next level.

    Don't wait until the weather rolls in to start preparing. It's not too late to start upgrading the heat at home, or prepping the areas outside their house for safety too. Keeping your home buttoned up with keep dollars in your wallet, that you'll certainly need soon for spring.

    What would you like me to virtually visit or try out next? Email me at and give me your suggestions. Your dedicated online review partner—Micki



    Date Taken: 01.22.2021
    Date Posted: 12.28.2021 12:41
    Story ID: 412015
    Location: COLUMBUS, OH, US 

    Web Views: 14
    Downloads: 0