Tag: carbon monoxide

Winter Storm Prep

Winter storm

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

How To Protect Your Home–And Your Family–In An Emergency

Intro to this week’s Advisory – From time to time, readers contact me to offer a suggestion, a correction or, happily, a Guest Advisory! This week is an example. It was written by Oliver Lambert, co-creator of DisasterSafety. As its name suggests, his site focuses on safety resources including but not limited to hurricane, flooding, wildfire, blizzard, earthquake, and tornado. His  mission is to provide the most updated and accurate info on how to stay safe before, during and after these disasters. For those of us who like to-do lists, this article has what you need for several of them! And if you want even more info, follow the links included.  Thanks, Oliver!

Winter can be a fun time for many families, especially on snow days; sledding, building snowmen, and drinking hot chocolate are some of the best parts of cold weather.

However, winter storms can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and can leave your home–and your family–exposed to the elements. Even if there’s no damage, there may still be power outages and other issues that can lead to emergency situations.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to prepare for a major winter storm, and it’s important to do so as soon as the weather turns cold. In many parts of the country, fall and winter are unpredictable seasons, meaning the snow could fly at any time.

Being prepared means having the right tools to deal with Mother Nature plus a plan for your family’s safety.

Read on for some of the best ways to get started.

Winter Prep your home

It’s a good idea to walk from room to room inside your home and look for ways you can prep them for winter weather. This means reversing the direction your ceiling fans turn in so they’ll push down the warm air that collects near the ceiling; having your fireplace and chimney checked and cleaned; laying aside enough firewood to get you through the season; checking and replacing furnace filters and making sure the unit is in good working order; installing a carbon monoxide detector or replacing the batteries in the one you have; and protecting your pipes from freezing. For some tips from professional property managers on how to help your pipes stay warm even in freezing weather, read on here.

Think emergency

It’s important to think about how you’ll handle an emergency. If the power goes out, or if you get stuck inside your home due to heavy snowfall, what will you need to get through several days?

Backup generators, kerosene heaters or wood burning stoves (CO warning!), flashlights, extra batteries, a small radio, blankets, a reserve of food along with any cooking tools you’ll need, medication, and anything your pets may need is a good start.

Make a list and ensure you have everything you need to get yourself and your family through an emergency.

For tips on how to handle heating when the power is out, check out this article from the Red Cross.

Stock up on tools

Bad weather in winter means you’ll likely have to do some shoveling, so stock up on salt and make sure you have the right tools, including sturdy gloves that will protect your fingers from the cold and a shovel that’s in good shape. (The Red Cross article mentioned above reminds you not to overexert yourself in cold weather, too!)

Remember to have a camera handy for when the storm is over so you can photograph any damage for the insurance company. This includes damage to your roof, windows, deck, and gutters. If possible, take “before” photos of these areas in the fall, before the first snow. For more tips on how to handle any storm damage, check out this article from the real estate professionals at Redfin.com.

Get your car ready

Winterizing your car will take some collaboration between you and a mechanic, who can check  fluids, tires, and windshield wipers and make sure everything is ready for the cold.

What you can do is stock the car with a jug of water, blankets (foil emergency blankets are compact and inexpensive), flares, a spare tire and set of tools, a flashlight, and a bag filled with snacks such as granola bars in case you get stranded for a little while.

Look outside

The exterior of your home is just as important as the interior when it comes to a winter storm. Branches that are dead or hang close to your house should be trimmed so they don’t become weighed down with ice, and the gutters should be cleaned so icicles don’t form and clog them up. Clear walkways and make sure you have plenty of salt or brine on hand to keep them from becoming slippery hazards.

Remember that each family member should be aware of your plans for winter weather; talk about what you’ll do in case of an emergency and where everyone should meet in case you get split up. Keeping communication open will ensure that everyone stays safe.

Thanks for reading, for making your own check-lists, and being ready for winter.  Here in Southern California we continue to have historic high temperatures — 91 degrees on Thanksgiving Day! — and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that two-thirds of the continental US will likely experience warmer-than-normal conditions this winter season. So, things may not be quite as bad as they could be!  

But no matter the long-range outlook, a cold snap or two will surely happen. Be ready.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Portable Generator Safety Update!


The recent blizzard in the Northeast may not have been as bad for New Yorkers as anticipated, but it was bad enough to cause power outages to thousands.

When we hear power outage, we naturally think “generator.”

Generator safety Emergency Plan GuideHere at Emergency Plan Guide, we have looked several times at the pros and cons of generators while we considered purchasing one for our own neighborhood. And we have told the story of what happened AFTER we purchased it, too!

Today, as we head into National Severe Weather Preparedness Week (February 3 – 7), it seems a good time to add one more piece of information to the discussion.

Generators can be dangerous!

Here are three things to keep in mind as you consider the purchase of a new generator and/or get ready to turn yours on.

1. Location. The most important safety alert has to do with where you place your generator. You know that the off-the-shelf, standard generator kicks out significant quantities of carbon monoxide (resulting from the burning of fuel). Too much CO in the air can render you unconscious and kill you. In fact, According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), unintentional CO poisoning claims more than 400 lives a year, and about half of those are due to generators.

To protect yourself from the dangers of CO, run your generator outside and place it at least 20 ft. from the building, further if there are any doors, windows or vents. In particular, never run your generator in the garage, even if you keep the door open.

2. Connection. When the generator is running, it can power a number of appliances (as long as its fuel lasts). Use a heavy-duty outdoor electrical cord (10 gauge or better) with grounded plug (the three-prong one) to run from the generator outside to the appliances inside. Adding a heavy-duty power strip at the end in the house will make it easier to plug in the appliances.

Do the math!  Add up the wattage of the appliances you intend to plug in to make sure the generator can support that load.

3. Protection. NEVER NEVER NEVER plug the generator into a wall socket in the house! First, a generator cannot power your whole house so from a power standpoint, that’s useless. Second, and more important, the power from the generator flows through the house and into the power grid. Workers working on repairs to the grid could be electrocuted because of YOUR generator!

For more about generators,

check out these Emergency Plan Guide posts:

And if you are thinking “generator” you also need to be thinking “carbon monoxide alarm.”

Read our review questions before you purchase anything.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Detectors

You may not be anticipating any severe weather, but please forward this information to friends who are right in the path of these winter storms. Thanks.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Five Tragedies in the Last Five Days


Carbon Monoxide Poisonings — Again!carbon monoxide alarm

I just came up with these five news items. All of them took place within the past five days.

1. New York –Officials investigating a carbon monoxide leak that killed one person and hospitalized more than two dozen people at a New York mall are focusing on the heating system.

2. MaineTwenty-one people suffered carbon monoxide poisoning and seven of them were hospitalized following an incident early Sunday afternoon at a Route 1 time-share resort that the fire chief said was not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.

3. New HampshireThree adults died and a fourth person was hospitalized after a carbon monoxide poisoning inside a home in Plaistow, N.H., fire officials said on Tuesday. Someone had removed the batteries from the victims’ detector

4. WisconsinEight adults and five children were taken to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning in Trempealeau County. Initial investigation showed a charcoal grill was being used to heat the home in the kitchen area.

5. Utah –A propane heater appears to have caused the death of a Utah father and his teenage son, who were poisoned by carbon monoxide while camping in a fishing hut.

We can’t have too many warnings!

I wrote about carbon monoxide poisoning just last month, but apparently we can’t get too many reminders. The three essentials:

Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Don’t use open fires for heating. This includes charcoal fires or propane heaters, which were apparently the cause of two of the above incidents.

Keep flues and exhaust vents clear of snow and debris.

If you still don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, click here to go directly to my list of the five most popular alarms, and then get what you need.

Please, don’t waste any time on this. It clearly is a matter of life and death.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Please forward this message to any friends who are experiencing particularly cold weather. You’d think CO Alarms would be obvious emergency prevention devices, but apparently not!

Carbon Monoxide Kills Family of Four


“Do you smell something funny?”

If you are being exposed to high levels of Carbon Monoxide, enough to kill you in just a few minutes, you won’t smell a thing!

Carbon MonoxideCarbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless!

I just read the story of a Chicago family that had moved into their new house on Saturday in October. The utilities weren’t going to be turned on until Monday, so they set up a generator in the garage to provide some heating and to run lights.

By Sunday morning they were all dead of carbon monoxide poisoning.

College educated folks. Suburban neighborhood.

How is this possible? They just didn’t know any better!

Given the weather reports lately, with power outages and threatened historic cold weather, be sure you know better. Here are the basics.

What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it combines with the hemoglobin in your blood, taking the place of the oxygen that should be there. Breathe in too much, and you will become sick and ultimately die from lack of oxygen.

What are the symptoms?

Very similar to flu, and can come on gradually if you are exposed over a period of time. They include headache, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness.

What produces carbon monoxide?

It’s produced when carbon products – like wood, gas, kerosene, charcoal – are burned but only partially consumed. Most common situation – when someone operates a stove or engine (car, lawn mower, power washer, generator) in an enclosed space like the house or attached garage. (In the Chicago situation, the generator was running in the closed-up garage.) Second most common situation – when a gas heater or gas stove isn’t properly set up, allowing the fuel to escape into the living area without being completely burned.

What’s the real risk in the U.S.?

First Alert quotes the Journal of the American Medical Association as saying that “1,500 people die each year” because of carbon monoxide poisoning. FEMA says that “more than 150 people die” from “non-fire” related carbon monoxide poising each year. Another source mentions “at least 170 deaths as a result of poison from “non-automotive” consumer products. ” Take your pick. One death is too many when they are all preventable.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

  1. First, of course, simply be sensible and don’t set up any kind of non-vented engine or temporary gas heater or cooker in the house!
  2. Buy and install a carbon monoxide detector – and pay attention to it! Remember, it probably gives off two kinds of “beeps.” One is soft and repetitive, and means that you need to change the batteries. The other is loud and insistent.
  3. If the detector goes off, trust it! (Don’t do like one lady did, wait several hours because “I didn’t smell anything!” Odorless, colorless . . . remember?) Take steps to protect your family. Get out into fresh air. Call 911 or the Fire Department.

My friend Russ Flanigan, a BPI Certified contractor in Vermont, adds these recommendations to the basic ones above:

  1. Install your detectors intelligently. They can be fooled by humidity, so don’t put them in the kitchen over the sink or dishwasher, or in the bathroom. Put them outside every separate sleeping area.
  2. Getting a new kitchen or cookstove? Insist on having it tested for carbon monoxide when it’s installed. (Per Russ, furnaces are routinely tested, stoves not so often.)
  3. Own a self-cleaning oven? Be sensible; don’t turn it on and go to bed. Rather, operate the self-cleaning function when you can keep the kitchen well aired.

Action Item: Add carbon monoxide to your “preparedness list.” Buy and install the appropriate number of carbon monoxide alarms.

Click here for a review of the different types, features and costs