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’Tis the Season: 5 Tips for Staying Safe and Warm This Winter

Put away the flip-flops and sundresses and unpack the boots and sweatpants, because by the end of this month winter will officially be upon us. Before curling up next to a fire with some hot cocoa, make sure that you and your family are prepared for the plunging temperatures.

Here are five easy tips to ensure that everyone has a safe and warm winter:  

  1. Give your space heaters some space: Space heaters are useful tools for keeping your home warm and cozy, but they also pose a major fire hazard if misused, accounting for 43 percent of heating-related fires over the past decade. Make sure space heaters aren’t too close to flammable materials or placed in heavy traffic areas, and are turned off when unattended. “Staying warm is important, but staying safe is even more important,” says Judd Hollander, MD, senior vice president for healthcare delivery innovation and professor of emergency medicine. “Don’t leave your space heater unattended—only use it while you are in the room.”
  2. Chim Chim Cher-oo: Do your family—and Santa—a favor and make sure that your chimney is clean and unobstructed. Aside from a dangerous build-up of smoke, chimney fires are often identified by an acrid smell and a loud rumbling noise—akin to a passing train or low-flying plane. It is recommended by the Chimney Safety Institute of America to have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
  3. Slow and Low: If you’re going to light a fire, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. This will allow you to manage the amount of heat and the height of the flames.
  4. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Pop in a couple of new batteries and make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are fully functional. It is recommended that there be a smoke detector inside every room, and at least one CO detector on each floor. “Smoke detectors are the thing in your house most likely to save your life. They can also cost you a good night’s sleep when the dead batteries begin chirping,” Dr. Hollander says. “Remember to change the batteries when the clock changes for daylight saving time to ensure you can keep sleeping safe and sound.”
  5. Gear Up: With temperatures dropping it’s important to make sure you’re layered up appropriately. The hands, feet, nose, and ears are the body parts most susceptible to frostbite, so hats, scarves, gloves, thick socks, boots, and winter coats are all staples for braving the cold this winter.