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Keep your home safe, cozy for the rest of the winter
Those two words come to mind when firefighters hear that temperatures are going to drop to the single digits for the first time each year.
Just like cars that won't start, falls on icy sidewalks and frozen water pipes, heater fires are one of the hazards winter's first real cold snap -- probably one of the most dangerous and disruptive hazards facing residents in our area.
And, like older batteries in cars, heaters that aren't up to snuff may fail once placed under the stress of countering bitterly cold temperatures.
We hope your furnace is in good operating condition, but if you suspect it may have problems, it may be hard to get a busy repair technician there in a timely manner on mornings like today. Ideally, you would have had a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your home's central heating system and repair leaks or other problems.
The same goes for fireplaces and wood stoves, which should be inspected each year and cleaned or repaired as needed.
In any event, install at least one carbon monoxide alarm near your sleeping areas, and make sure your smoke alarms have fresh batteries and are working properly.
Keep your gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced, never use an oven or range to heat your home, and never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or in a closed garage.
If you have a portable electric generator, only use it outside, away from any confined areas that could collect CO.
If you use a space heater, the Home Safety Council has the following tips:
* Make sure your heater has been tested for safety and carries a label such as ETL, UL or CSA.
* Leave plenty of room around your space heater, at least three feet from anything that can burn, including people and pets, and don't leave space heaters running around unattended children. Never use a space heater to dry clothing or blankets.
If you heat with wood:
* Burn only seasoned hardwood like oak, ash or maple, and do not burn trash, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees, because they burn unevenly, may contain poisons or cause a home fire.
* Have a professional chimney sweep inspect your chimney evey year, fix any cracks, blockages or leaks and clean out any build up. Consider burning a creosote log to help reduce the build-up of creosote in fire places, but make sure they are safety approved.
* Open the flue before using the fireplace, and use sturdy screens or glass doors to keep embers in the fireplace.
* Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside or near sleeping areas.
* Keep young children away from working wood stoves and heaters.
Southwest Nebraska isn't called "Nebraska's Hot Spot" for nothing, and it's not unusual to have an "open" winter with relatively mild temperatures.
If weather like this weekend's snow keep up, however, this won't be one of them.
Making sure your family is safe and cozy for the next couple of months will help make spring that much closer.