When it’s cold and snowy outside and we get through our long and icy winters, Canadians tend to divide into groups.
There are those of us who go into hibernation mode. These people tend to spend as much time as possible inside, cranking up the fire, curling up with a good book or movie, marking off the days of calendar until the arrival of spring, and, in the meantime, looking at tropical island travel brochures or local activities that can be done indoors.
Others love the snow and Canadian winters, and make a point of taking advantage of all the activities the season has to offer, including skiing, snowshoeing, or skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway.
Whatever camp you belong to, the cold season brings with it some safety issues that we should all keep in mind to ensure we get through the winter comfortably and without injuries.
From sources that include Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, here are a few tips on winter safety, inside and outside your home:
INSIDE THE HOME
Fireplaces: If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace that you can take advantage of in cold weather, there are some safety issues to keep in mind.
If you have a traditional wood-burning fireplace, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs says that you should not remove fireplace embers or ash.
“If you do, place them in a metal container with a lid and cover them with water. Do not place them in a plastic or paper bag or other container that is not fire-resistant. Do not dispose of them indoors or close to your home or another structure,” the association says on its website.
The Association also offers the following advice:
Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat.
Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire. Use only seasoned and dried wood.
Never leave the fire unattended or let it smoulder. Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.
Heating: Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional, and leave any furnace repairs to a qualified specialist.
The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs says that you should “keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.” The Association also offers this advice:
Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
Never use your oven to heat your home. Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.
Smoke Alarms: The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs says that most fatal fires occur at night when people are sleeping. “A working smoke alarm will detect smoke and sound to alert you,” the Association says. “Test your smoke alarms regularly by pressing the test button or by using smoke from a smouldering incense stick.
Replace batteries regularly. Install a new battery in each alarm at least once a year. All battery-operated smoke alarms are required to emit a warning sound, usually an intermittent “chirp” when the battery power is low. When warning chirp sounds, replace your battery immediately. Never wait. Change your batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall. Smoke alarms do wear out, so if you think your alarms are more than 10 years old, replace them with new ones.”
OUTSIDE THE HOME
Don’t put off clearing your snow: When it’s unpleasantly cold outside, we all know it can be tempting to leave newly fallen snow on your front steps or driveway, rather than tackling it with a shovel or snowblower as soon as possible. But it becomes even more of a headache when the temperatures get colder and that fresh snow crusts into rock-like hardness or ice-rink slickness over the night, making it even more difficult to remove. To avoid slips or injuries, clear the snow and sprinkle with melting-salts.
The Fire Chiefs Association says it’s particularly important to make sure snow is cleared from a back porch or front porch that could become filled with snow and possibly make opening the door difficult after a heavy snowfall.
“It’s also important to ensure that all entry/exits in your home are cleared from snow to ensure you can get out in case of a fire. Make sure all windows are not frozen in case you need to use these as an escape mechanism.
If there is a fire hydrant near your home you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow so in the event it is needed, it can be located.”
To read more safety tips from the Association, visit the website at http://www.oafc.on.ca/winter-fire-safety-tips
Outdoor Activities and Excursions:
Public Safety Canada offers some advice for safe winters. Among the tips the organization offers:
Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle
When you drive in the winter, particularly when you’re going on a long trip, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit in your car in case of any incident. Among the items Public Safety Canada recommends for the kit are food that won’t spoil (such as energy bar); a first aid kid, a small shovel and snow brush; a wind-up flashlight; a candle in a deep can and matches; jumper cables; bottled water and an extra blanket. For other ideas on what to include in the emergency kit, visit http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/kts/cr-kt-eng.aspx
For those who enjoy outdoor adventures in winter that go beyond skating at the local rink and might include venturing into the countryside or trails for hiking or snowshoeing, Public Safety Canada recommends visiting www.adventuresmart.ca to help you plan a safe and enjoyable outing, including essentials you should bring with you and filling in a trip-planning report that you can leave with friends or family to let them know where you’re heading.
To learn more about how to become better prepared to face a range of emergencies, you can visit www. getprepared.ca
Let’s all have a safe and enjoyable winter, even as we look forward to spring.
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