By Rob Mullin, Deputy Chief, Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services (CVFRS)
Well, it is that time of the year again. Here are some tips to help you get through our Vermont winters safely.
Wood Stove Safety
It is advisable to get your chimney cleaned a minimum of twice a year. In the fall, before you light your first fire, to get rid of any nests that may have been built over the summer and in the spring, to get rid of any creosote that has built up since the last cleaning. It is also recommended to check your chimney on a regular basis during the burning season. When you check your chimney, make sure you check your dampers as well. When you burn wood, try to burn only dry wood, it will give you the maximum amount of heat, burn cleaner and reduce creosote buildup in your chimney. If you are new to wood burning, or unsure of something, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for operating your stove or fireplace. If you are not sure find a local dealer for that brand and they can assist you.
You should also have your furnace serviced a minimum of once a year. If it is an all-in-one that also heats your hot water, it should be checked twice a year, in the spring and fall. Please make sure that your vents are kept clear of snow and ice to prevent carbon monoxide from backing up and entering your house. I am sure that your fuel delivery folks would also love to have a shoveled path to your fill site as well.
It is advisable to have a smoke detector in every room of your house except for kitchen and bathrooms. If you cannot do that, at least one on every level and in the common areas. The best location for a smoke detector is on the ceiling in the middle of the room. If they can be hardwired and interconnected, that is best. If battery operated, change your batteries twice a year. When you change your clocks, change your batteries. To have the best protection from fire, have both kinds, a photoelectric and an ionization detector. The photoelectric will detect a slow burning fire and the ionization will detect a fast-developing fire. If you have any questions, you can call CVFRS at (802) 425-3111.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You should also try to have a CO detector on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide mixes with the oxygen in your home and is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It is a silent killer! Carbon monoxide is the unburned gasses from a flame. If you have your furnace in the basement, be careful where you put your CO detector, you could get some false alarms when your furnace starts or shuts down. The best places for a detector would be on the first floor near the basement door and upstairs in the hallway near the bedrooms. We recommend the plug-in type with a battery backup. Again, if there are any questions, please call CVFRS.
The only safe ice is no ice! If you must go onto the ice, please make sure you do it safely. Go with a buddy if possible and stay away from each other. If one falls through, the other can dial 911 and show us your location. Call 911 before attempting to rescue anyone or an animal. The best thing you can do for your pet is to call 911 and lead the rescuers to them. If it is less than two inches thick, stay off! Four inches may support a person(s), 5 to 6 inches may support snowmobiles and ATV’s, 8 to 12 inches may support cars and small trucks, and 12 to 15 inches may support medium size trucks. If you do drive a vehicle on the ice, please make sure the windows are open enabling you to escape if the need arises. Please try to wear some sort of flotation device, if you do fall through, it will help keep you from sinking and possibly going under the ice.
If you do fall through while walking, cover your mouth and nose, and keep your other arm outstretched to catch the ice shelf as you fall. If you do fall through, don’t panic and keep kicking! Get to the shelf and stretch out your arms and then kick to try to get yourself out. If you do get out, roll away from the hole, do not stand up! If you are unable to get out under your own power, allow your arms to freeze to the shelf. This will keep you from sliding under the ice shelf. Please do not go onto the ice to rescue your pet, dial 911, we will respond to rescue animals. Tell somebody your plans and location in case something does happen.
Please get your snow tires on sooner than later! All season tires on front or rear wheel drive do not work. Put together a small survival kit (extra hats, gloves, scarfs, blankets and some protein bars) and keep it in your car just in case. It may be helpful to have a small container of sand in your car to help get unstuck. Increase your following distance on slippery roads and use your headlights 100 percent of the time. Be aware of your location all the time in case you go off the road and need to call for help.
Fry turkeys outside and not on a porch or under an overhang. Make sure that the turkey is 100 percent defrosted. and don’t overfill the fryer with grease. Lower the turkey in slowly to avoid splashing–oil and water do not mix. Check out the turkey fryer video on our Facebook page to see what can happen.
If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure the water reservoir does not dry out. If at all possible, use LED lights, they are much safer. Keep your tree away from uncovered electrical outlets and put your lights on a timer. Use wires, rope or string to help support your tree.
Have a bucket of sand near your entry door for the steps and/or walkway, keep your pathway shoveled and clear, keep your driveway as clear as possible. This will allow emergency vehicles to get to your house.
On that note, can we find your house? Is it well labeled with a reflective 911 sign that is visible from both directions in all types of weather? If not, we have them available at the fire station for a small cost. Just visit our website, click on Community Outreach at the bottom, download or print the 911 sign form, fill it out and send it in. We will contact you when it is completed.
Do you live alone? If so, if something happens to you while you are alone, can we get in to help? If not, we will have to force entry, more than likely causing some damage. Please call the fire station to inquire about our Knox Homebox Program.
As always, Charlotte Fire and Rescue is only a phone call away. If you have any questions, call the station. And if there is ever any doubt whether it is an emergency or not, dial 911.