6 Days, 6 Ways To Protect Your Home and Family This Winter

With extreme cold weather affecting families from coast to coast and tomorrow marking the first official day of winter, we have put together six ways you can protect your home and family from winter weather conditions.

Day 1:  Enter to win a Kohler Generator. A home generator will keep systems running to protect your home and family. Generators:

  • Provide heat to keep you warm and comfortable
  • Prevent  pipes from freezing and causing water damage
  • Keep communications systems running so you can stay informed of weather and travel conditions for friends and family
  • Ensure that water removal pumps or sump pumps are protecting the basement from water damage as snow begins to melt
  • Preserve food and fresh water for the family
  • Support well pumps for running water/toilet flushing

Day 2:  Prevent Frozen Pipes by Foam, Dome or Drip. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy, money and frustration. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands and can exert pressure of up to 2,000 pounds per square inch – enough to rupture almost any pipe filled with water. When a pipe bursts, it can spill several hundred gallons of water per hour, resulting in the second most common cause of home insurance claims in America. 

Day 3: Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping. Don’t forget about holes in the attic, basement and crawlspaces. The easiest place to insulate that will generate the biggest results is your attic. The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests at least 12 to 15 inches of insulation on the floor of your attic.

Day 4: Check your portable heaters and fireplaces. Half of all fire-related deaths are caused by items placed too closely to heat sources. Make sure that your heater is tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing company, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories. Keep portable heaters at least three feet away from drapes, furniture or other flammable materials. Place the heater on a level surface away from areas it can be bumped or knocked over. Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials. Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment. Make sure all vent pipes extend at least three feet above the roof.

Day 5: Make your car winter safe. Create a car emergency kit with flashlights, a distress flag, blankets, extra food and water. Keep it there throughout the season.

Day 6: Prevent Ice Dams. Ice dams are formed when air in the attic is warm enough to cause snow and ice on the roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly. Pools of water then become trapped under layers of ice that seep under your roof covering (tiles or shingles) into the attic. Keep the warm air downstairs where it belongs with sufficient insulation on the floor of the attic. Consider using a dehumidifier to control water vapor. Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; including holes created from installing light fixtures, ceiling fans or disco balls. Provide attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold outside air. Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams and water damage in your home. Keep gutters and downspouts clear to allow melted snow and ice to flow away from your home.

21 Ways to Weather Winter

Preventing Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed when air in the attic is warm enough to cause snow and ice on the roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly. Pools of water then become trapped under layers of ice that seep under your roof covering (tiles or shingles) into the attic.

1. Insulate the floor of the attic. Consider also using a dehumidifier to control water vapor.

2. Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; this includes any holes       created from installing light fixtures or ceiling fans.

3. Provide good attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold outside air. Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams and water damage in your home.

4. Keep gutters and downspouts clear to allow melted snow and ice to flow away from your home.

5. Never climb up on the roof to remove the snow. You can cause significant damage to your roof coverings not to mention yourself if you were to slip and fall. And don’t install large pieces of equipment in the attic. This will only raise the temperature in the winter months.

6. Don’t use salt or other minerals to melt the snow on your roof. These are very damaging to roof shingles and tiles not to mention gutters and downspouts.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Damage from frozen pipes is the second most common cause of insurance claims in America. The average homeowner will have to spend thousands to repair damage from a frozen, leaking pipes.

7. FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.

8. DOME: Place an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots also reduce the likelihood of the water in your homes pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.

9. DRIP: By allowing a slow drip from your faucets, you reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture.

Check Your Insulation

Doors and windows are just some of the places that you should ensure are well insulated before the temperatures start to drop.

10. Check and refresh caulk annually before cold weather sets in.

11. Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping.

12. The easiest place to insulate that will generate the biggest results is your attic. The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests at least 12 – 15 inches of insulation on the floor of your attic (more if you are in a colder climate).

13. If you don’t have energy efficient windows, consider using shrink film window insulation kit from a local hardware store.

Winterizing Outside Your Home

14. Before the storm approaches, lay down a layer of deicing sand/salt to minimize the buildup of ice during the storm.

15. After the storm, lay down layers of deicing sand/salt to melt the snow and ice. Once it begins to melt you can chip away at the layers with a snow shovel to move it off of steps and walkways.

16. Move outdoor furniture, grills, toys and other items to a covered protected space.

17. Seal your deck to protect it against snow, ice, rain and all of the other elements it is vulnerable to.

18. If you have plants outside that cannot take cold weather, consider moving them indoors bringing a little life and décor to the inside of your home. If this isn’t possible, cover plants and shrubs when temperatures are forecast to drop below tolerable levels.

19. Clean your gutters of any debris once all the leaves have fallen and install gutter downspout extensions a minimum of four feet from the house.

20. Turn off and drain all of your outdoor plumbing including hose connections, pool connections, sprinkler systems, etc. After you’ve turned off the water, leave faucets in the “on” position and remove any plastic components.

21. Drain the gas from your lawn mower and service your snow blower with a tune-up.

For more information on weathering winter this season, visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org or www.flash.org

Black Friday Winter Preparedness Gift Ideas from FLASH

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With families experiencing colder-than-normal temperatures already during the month of November and with freezing temperatures over the Thanksgiving holiday, the FLASH team suggests adding a few winter safety items to your Black Friday shopping list.

There’s no better gift than one that offers your loved ones safety and protection and even has the potential to save their lives. FLASH developed a comprehensive list of winter-weather preparedness gift-giving ideas that can protect friends’ and families’ homes and ensure their safety.

Winter storms from coast to coast are redefining this year’s must-have gift list. Here are suggested gifts that provide Comfort and Security as well as Home Mitigation:

Comfort & Security

  • AM/FM radios w/extra batteries
  • Automobile power inverters
  • Blankets
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • First-aid kits
  • Hand-crank powered appliances such as cell phone chargers, power supplies, radios and weather radio
  • Cell phone battery pack or case
  • LED flash lights w/extra batteries
  • FLASH Weather Alerts app
  • Power generators
    • Portable gasoline-powered generators
    • Permanent LP or natural gas standby generators
    • Solar-powered backpack to charge laptops, tablets, music players and other portable devices

Home Mitigation

  • Attic insulation
  • Insulated doors
  • Insulated faucet domes
  • Storm doors
  • Portable generators
  • Standby generators
  • Gift certificates for professional home inspections
  • Gift certificates for professional winterization services
  • Insulation for hose bibs, exposed plumbing, pool equipment
  • Weather stripping
  • Replacement windows

For a complete list of tips on how to stay safe and comfortable during power outages, click here. For more tips and resources on winter safety visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org. For comprehensive disaster safety and home mitigation information on weather of all kinds visit www.flash.org.

FLASH Unveils New Smartphone APP

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FLASH Unveils New Mitigation and Preparedness Smartphone App at 2013 National Hurricane Conference

App provides peril-based mitigation and preparedness tools and weather forecasting functions with the added value of NOAA weather radio technology.

As the National Hurricane Conference kicks off in New Orleans today; FLASH released “FLASH Weather Alerts” the first-ever precision, severe weather alert smartphone app that includes home mitigation and family preparedness information, videos and consumer support in English and Spanish.  The app combines bilingual preparedness and mitigation content with the powerful performance of a GPS, precision text – to – speech severe weather warnings.  Users can choose only one, or up to 100 alert options from flood, hurricane and tornado to wildfire and more.

Weather Features of FLASH Weather Alerts:

  • Local weather forecasts for seven days including hourly updates with temperature, precipitation and humidity
  • Severe weather alerts for up to six saved locations in the United States
  • Location-based alerting using smartphone GPS and local cellular towers to pinpoint locations making alerts more precise, reducing false alerts
  • Built in radar maps with animation, watch/warning boxes and hurricane cone of probability provide additional information for alerted users
  • Exclusive live video streaming from the National Hurricane Center and local television affiliates (where available) providing connectivity if cable, satellite or local TV is unavailable.
  • Devices automatically wake up when alerts are issued and text to speech feature speaks the alert to the user (preserves safety while driving)
  • Customizable alerts with more than 100 severe weather hazards including:
    • Floods and flash flood
    • Hurricane watches and warnings
    • Lightning (coming soon)
    • Marine advisories
    • Severe thunderstorm
    • Tornado
    • Wildfires
    • Winter weather alerts and more

Mitigation and Preparedness Features of FLASH Weather Alerts:

  • Mitigation resources put information to make homes stronger and families safer in the palm of the user’s hand – in English and Spanish
  • Follow disaster safety discussions on FLASH Facebook and Twitter
  • “Current News” feed provides event-driven preparedness/mitigation tips as severe events unfold
  • Season-specific mitigation/preparedness information reaches users when they need it most

All app features are included in the one-time price of $7.99 and will not require any additional in app purchases.  FLASH Weather Alerts is now available from the Apple AppStore and Google Play store for a reduced cost of $4.99 through Friday, March 29, 2013.

For more information visit  www.flashweatheralerts.org.

Hurricane Irene Power Outage Tips

As power outages continue to have wide-ranging impacts on hundreds of thousands of people in areas affected by Hurricane Irene, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH®) offers consumers these important safety tips:

  •  Keep extra cash on hand since an extended power outage may prevent you from withdrawing money from an automatic teller machines or banks.
  • Turn off any electrical equipment that was in use prior to the power outage.
  • Turn off all lights but one (to alert you when power resumes).
  • Keep a supply of flashlights, batteries, and a battery-powered radio on hand.  Do not use candles as they pose a fire hazard.
  • Resist the temptation to call 9-1-1 for information.  That’s what your battery-powered radio is for.
  • Keep a supply of non-perishable foods, medicine, baby supplies and pet food as appropriate on hand.  Allow one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Avoid opening the fridge or freezer. Food should be safe as long as the outage lasts no more than 4-6 hours.
  • Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door kept closed; in a half-full freezer for about one day.
  • Have one or more coolers for cold food storage in case power outage is prolonged.
  • It’s important to be aware that food that has not been refrigerated can cause severe health problems. Remember:
  • Discard perishable foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
  • Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Best rule to follow:  “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Have an emergency power supply for anyone dependent on medical equipment requiring electricity.
  • Connect only individual appliances to portable generators.
  • Never plug an emergency generator into wall outlets or hook them directly to your home’s electrical system.  They can feed electricity back into the power lines putting you and line workers in danger.
  • Use gas-powered generators only in well-ventilated outdoor areas.
  • When driving, be careful at intersections.  Traffic lights may be out creating a dangerous situation.
  • Check on elderly neighbors, friends or relatives who may need assistance if weather is severe during the outage.
  • Keep your car fuel tank at least half-full (gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps).
  • When power is restored, wait a few minutes before turning on major appliances to help eliminate further problems caused by a sharp increase in demand.