Winter Safety

Keep your house safe in winter by following these simple suggestions:

Furnace or heater -- Ensure your furnace or heater is working properly. The best way to do this, is to have it safety-checked at the beginning of each winter season. A malfunctioning furnace or heater could emit carbon monoxide and create a dangerous situation in your house. Carbon monoxide poisoning produces these flu-like symptoms: headache, upset stomach and vomiting, or ringing in the ears. If your whole family seems to come down with the flu at the same time, it could be carbon monoxide poisoning. Call your physician right away, and have your furnace repaired.

Smoke detectors -- Every floor of your home should have a working smoke detector to warn you if you have a fire. Too often the smoke detectors are there, but the batteries have expired. Get into the habit of changing to a new battery twice a year - in spring and autumn when the time changes.

Tree and decoration safety -- Holiday decorations are festive and joyous, and they warm our spirits. But make sure they don't warm your house with deadly fire - use only fire retardant ribbons and cloth, and don't get combustibles too close to open flame, such as a fireplace or a candle. If you have a live tree, water it daily to retard drying. And never plug too many lights into a plug or extension cord. Unplug the tree when you leave the house and when you go to bed.

Gift safety -- Consider the age of children for whom you're buying gifts. Also consider younger siblings who would have access to gifts. Remember that toys with small parts can present a choking hazard for children under 3. Be sure to check the eyes and other attached parts of dolls and stuffed animals to ensure they're on tight. If you have a pet, don't leave wrapped gifts that smell (food, perfume or scented soaps) under the tree.

Cooking safety -- Winter always bring fabulous culinary opportunities that warm the heart as well as the stomach. Chilies, soups and stews are popular and relatively easy to prepare. If you have toddlers in the house, however, be sure your pot and pan handles are turned in toward the stove. And keep hot beverages out of children's reach.