By Brian Acton
Fall may have just arrived, but it’s a good idea to start looking ahead to winter now. Cold weather can cause hazards in your home that pose serious injury risks, and if you start preparing now you can make sure your home is ready before winter hits.
It’s not too early to get started. Here’s how to guard your home against winter injury hazards.
- Get Ready for Slick Walkways
Outdoor walking areas such as driveways, paths, and sidewalks can get icy in winter, and a slip and fall could cause a serious injury. You should be prepared to clear walkways and treat them for icy conditions when winter precipitation hits. Make sure you have a good snow shovel to remove snow and slush and some kitty litter, gravel, and/or ice melt to add traction or melt ice.
- Prepare for Power Outages
Severe winter storms lead to power outages. A loss of power can lead to injury if you fall when trying to navigate your home in the dark. Make sure you have flashlights, lanterns, or other sources of light in multiple areas of the house (candles should be avoided as they increase the risk of fire). For extended power outages, you may want to stock up on canned goods, bottled water, and other provisions.
- Trim Back Branches
When trees on your property get overloaded with ice, branches can crack and fall, causing injury or property damage. Trim back branches from your roof, power lines, and walkways to prevent damage to your home and injury to anyone on your property.
- Make Sure Your Heating Works
You should make sure that your heating system is in working order - a cold home can lead to hypothermia, for which older adults are at greater risk (even homes at 60 to 65 degrees can cause hypothermia in older people). Most HVAC manufacturers recommend an annual inspection and system diagnostic for your heating unit by a licensed technician. You can also check areas that will let in cold air yourself - such as weather-stripping in windows and doors, drafty areas in the attic or basement, and locations where plumbing or wires enter the home.
- Check Your Fireplace and Chimney
If you use a fireplace in your home to keep warm, now is the time to check it for safety. You should check the fireplace for drafts and make sure the chimney is free of any cracks that could cause a fire hazard. Professional chimney sweeps can clean out your chimney from last year and check for any issues.
- Check Your Gutters
Gutters that become overloaded with ice and snow can pull away from your home, leading to injury for anyone standing below or anyone climbing up to the roof to make repairs. Make sure to clean out your gutters of fall leaves and make sure they’re properly fastened to your roof.