This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 30 Nov 2014


Winter brings with it a set of new safety challenges. Stories of families suffocating in their homes due to gas leak from heating equipment or becoming victims of a fire that started from leaving an unattended flame used for heating are not uncommon. Winter transportation can mean coping with hazardous roads with conditions changing in an instant. To keep you safe this winter here are some tips.

The people

— Take it easy and don’t over exert yourself. Actions such as pushing a stranded vehicle, shovelling snow or clearing other debris can increase the chances of heart ailments.

— Overheating should be avoided; while staying warm is important, peel away layers to stay comfortable

— While you may feel less thirsty it is still important to drink plenty of water

— Always ensure that young children are supervised as they may harm themselves with heating equipment

Enjoy the cool winter but don’t forget to take safety measures

At home


— Equip your home with a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors and have them frequently checked to make sure that they work!

— Have your heating system checked by a professional annually

— If you use wood for heating clean your fireplace and chimney before the first use of the season

— If you use gas for heating ensure that pipes, clamps and heaters are checked for leaks

— Replace defective heater materials immediately and avoid repair

— Inspect and flush your water heater before the first use of the season

— Make sure your home is properly insulated

— Close off rooms you do not use to minimise heating needs

— Insulate water pipes — for this you can use wrapping paper and cover with plastic

— Make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water, in case the pipes burst

— Remember the risk of electric shock in and around standing water

— Keep a window slightly open when using a kerosene heater

— Keep a screen around an open flame

— Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces

— Refuel heating equipment outdoors and only when the unit is cool

— Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects

— Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family in case of a fire

— Keep an emergency kit which includes a torch handy

— Switch off all portable heating devices before sleeping or when leaving the home

— Extinguish open fires before going to bed or leaving the home

— Thaw frozen water pipes by pouring boiling water over it

— If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning ventilate the area and get to a hospital

— Try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch

— Run generators indoors

— Use charcoal for indoor heating

— Use a gas oven to heat your home

— Use gasoline to start your fireplace

Note the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. Call for medical assistance immediately if any of these symptons are present.

On the road

In regular cold conditions:

— Maintain antifreeze levels in your car if you live in a part of the country where temperatures fall below zero

— Charge / replace older battery in your vehicle

— Check tyres and spare for proper inflation

— Keep fuel tank full. This helps avoid moisture build up and fuel-line freezing

— Drive slower than the regular speed limits as braking may require an extra effort

— Don’t accelerate while turning as the car could skid due to bad road grip

— Don’t warm up your car by keep it running in an enclosed space; there are chances of carbon monoxide poisoning

Some emergency supplies that you may consider storing in the vehicle:
— Additional antifreezeIf residing in an area prone to snow:

— Bag of sand or road salt. The bag’s weight gives better traction and the contents can be spread under slipping tyres.

— Ice scraper

— Small shovel (to dig away the snow or to spread the sand on the road)

— Tyre chains (but learn to put them on as well)

— Flashlight with extra batteries

— Warm clothes or blankets

— Drinking water

— First aid kit

— Keep some snacks

— Complete toolkit

If you get stranded due to weather conditions:

— Shelter somewhere safe out of the cold

— Communicate your location to your family if possible

— If you have to stay in the car and it’s snowing ensure that the exhaust pipe doesn’t get blocked as it could result in carbon monoxide build-up inside the car

This winter season help yourself, neighbours, friends and family to stay safe.

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