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10 Safety Tips to Prepare for a Safe Winter in New York

Winter is that time of year which can bring its own unique circumstances that make accidents more likely and dangers more catastrophic.  Of course, not all accidents are preventable, but there are steps that can be taken to minimize accidents and the potential impact on yourself and your family.  Below are a list of 10 Safety Tips to prepare for the upcoming winter from the perspective of experts in New York Personal Injury Law:

  1. Smoke and Fire Detectors - Fires are a major concern in the cold weather months with the need for heat and the simple recognition that many people use different heating sources depending on their circumstances.  Regardless of the heating sources used, smoke and fire detectors are a must.  These should be installed and inspected prior to winter months to ensure that they are working properly and, if necessary, the batteries have been replaced and are in good working order.  This simple safety device can make an immeasurable difference in the prevention of tragedy.
  2. Servicing your car - Prior to the winter, you should bring your car or cars to be serviced and winterized.  This will insure that your tires are in good shape and can handle road conditions as much as possible.  Your fluids will be checked and replaced to insure that your engine will not have any issues and your windshield wiper fluid is full for those snowy and sleety days when you really need it.
  3. Snow removal and treatment - For those with homes with sidewalks, it is important to check to make sure that all shovels and snow removal equipment are working and do not need to be replaced.  A snow shovel might have broken towards the end of the previous winter and now is the time to replace it.  In addition, enough salt and sand should be on hand to get you through the first winter weather events.  As experience tells us, supplies of these products dwindle quickly once the season begins and wintry weather is predicted.  A good practice is to get these supplies and store them beforehand so that you have plenty on hand when necessary.  Remember, you and your family, as well as any guests and visitors, could be hurt from slipping on snow and ice that was not adequately cleared.
  4. Boiler/furnace inspection - When is the last time your boiler/furnace was cleaned and inspected?  If your fuel is delivered, how do you know you have enough and won't run out? Every winter, we read stories of tragedy involving people who die due to their boiler/furnace failing.  A simple inspection and service by a heating professional can insure that your boiler/furnace is in good working order. 
  5. Portable heaters - Many people need to use these devices to provide extra heating.  These devices should be checked prior to the winter to insure that they are still working properly.  The power cords should be inspected to check for any nicks or exposed wires which could pose a fire hazard.  The units themselves should be inspected for any signs of damage which could also pose a fire hazard.  If these units are to be used, a good safety practice is to plug them into a power strip with the ability to disconnect the power in the event of an electrical short or power surge.
  6. Winter clothes - check to make sure that all of the family's winter gear is in good shape and accessible  for you and your family.  Take a few minutes to locate the boots, gloves, hats, coats, scarves, etc. so that when that first winter storm comes, you are not searching for everything.  Also, if you have children, make sure everything fits them and is in good condition.  The day of the first storm is not the time to realize that your child has outgrown their winter boots from last year.
  7. Water and pipes - anyone who has ever experienced a pipe-burst due to freezing will tell you the damage that it can cause.  Often times, the flooding is not even realized until hours after the pipe burst.  There are things that can be done to minimize the chances of this happening to you.  Before winter, make sure all outdoor water pipes (i.e. hose faucets) have the water turned off and the hoses disconnected.  If you have pipes inside your home that are on exterior walls and prone to freezing, there are types of insulation that can be put on those pipes to reduce the chances of freezing.  Also, if you know that certain pipes in your home tend to freeze when the temperature drops to a certain level, being extra vigilant about running the water a little bit, letting the faucet drip or other techniques to prevent freezing should be made a priority.
  8. Fireplace cleaning - for people with fireplaces who use them regularly, it is imperative that the fireplace and chimney be cleaned and inspected prior to the winter.  Dirty fireplaces and chimneys are a major fire hazard which can be easily remedied.  The fireplace flue can be inspected by a homeowner with a flashlight.  The damper should be inspected to make sure it opens and closes properly. Once the damper is open, you can look into the flue to make sure it is free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. A quick look at the firebox will reveal cracked or missing bricks and mortar. In addition, the fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year by a professional chimney sweep.
  9. Emergency supplies - Bottled water, flashlights, batteries, canned and dried foods, etc. should be on-hand in the event of an emergency such as a power loss.  Not only is it important to have these supplies on-hand, they should also be in a place that is accessible to you and your family should the need arise.
  10. USE COMMON SENSE - this is perhaps the most important winter safety tip of all.  If the weather is terrible and it is dangerous outside, do not go out unless you absolutely have to.  If you have guests coming over, make sure your front walk is cleared and salted.  If you have to go outside in bad weather, dress warmly.  If you have to drive, drive slowly and cautiously.  There are probably dozens of other examples of things to do and not to do in winter conditions, but time after time, we see examples of people getting injured doing things which make us ask, "Why were they doing that?"  The simple solution is - Be careful!

If you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries or death as a result of the negligence of another person or company, the attorneys at Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool will give you a free consultation to determine your legal options. To see if you have grounds for a claim, call 212-406-1700 or contact us online.