Federal and state agencies offer winter, fire safety tips for Ohioans

·6 min read
AEP Ohio
AEP Ohio

In observance of the recent Energy Costs Day, American Electric Power Ohio offered simple tips for residents to make their homes more energy efficient.

“National Cut Your Energy Costs Day is a great day to make a list of what you can change in your home to create energy and financial savings this winter," said AEP Ohio Managing Director of Customer Experience Jon Williams. “By following these tips, you can make a difference in how much energy you use for home heating."

AEP Ohio's top tips include:

  • Caulk, seal, and apply weather strips to openings from your home to the outside.

  • Service your heating system annually to maintain peak performance and avoid winter breakdowns.

  • Heat pump systems are environmentally friendly, super-efficient and cost effective when operated properly. Small (2 degree) thermostat setting changes are the key to low cost operation.

  • Replace or clean system filters at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Unless your fireplace is equipped specifically for home heating, use it sparingly. Warm air escapes through the chimney.

  • Install a humidifier and set it at 35% to 40% humidity in the winter. This will help your home feel warmer at a lower temperature setting.

  • Vacuum or dust air registers regularly and make sure they’re not blocked by obstacles like furniture.

  • Lower the thermostat during the day when no one is home and overnight while you are sleeping.

  • Open draperies and shades on south-facing windows to allow more sunlight and heat during the day, but remember to close them at night.

AEP Ohio customers can view their daily and month-to-month energy usage, learn their highest usage day and sign up for high bill alerts on AEP Ohio's Energy Dashboard. They can log onto AEPOhio.com/Account to explore this tool.

With the winter weather comes home fire risks and the dangers of safely heating your home.

Fire safety tips

Ohio Fire Marshal's Office
Ohio Fire Marshal's Office

More than half of all home heating fires occur in the winter months and State Fire Marshal Kevin S. Reardon urges Ohioans to keep loved ones safe this winter by utilizing these helpful tips from the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of State Fire Marshal's Office and Manufactured Home Program.

“It may be tempting to use alternative heating right now, but it is also important to do so safely,” said Reardon. “The use of alternative heating sources can greatly increase the chance of a fire occurring. By following some basic safety tips, you can keep yourself and your family safe during this winter weather.”

In addition to suggestions for alternative heating safety, the State Fire Marshal’s office offers these tips:

  • Use kerosene heaters and space heaters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Alternative heat sources need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.

  • Make sure your alternative heat sources have 'tip switches' These are designed to automatically turn off the heater in the event they tip over.

  • Do not use your kitchen’s oven or range to heat your home. In addition to being a fire hazard, it can be a source of toxic fumes.

  • Never refill a space heater while it is operating or still hot.

  • Refuel heaters outdoors.

  • Make sure wood stoves are properly installed, and at least three feet away from anything that could burn. Ensure they have the proper floor support and adequate ventilation.

  • Be careful when using candles. Keep the flame away from combustible objects and out of the reach of children.

  • Make certain that your home’s smoke alarms are in proper working order.

  • Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas.

  • All smoke alarms should be tested monthly, and batteries replaced at least twice a year.

  • If you have elderly or disable neighbors, check on them regularly. Offer to test their smoke alarms and inspect their homes for fire hazards.

  • Have a fire escape plan that includes two ways out and a designated meeting place for family members once they are outside the home.

  • If there is a fire hydrant near your home, keep it clear of snow, ice and debris for easy access by the fire department.

Manufactured homeowners have some additional preparations for winter weather to maintain a safe place for their loved ones during the colder months. Additional tips for manufactured homeowners include:

  • Check the underbelly/bottom board of the home for rips or tears. If there are rips or tears and there is a loss of insulation, repair using products approved for use with manufactured homes either in the product’s information or in the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the home.

  • Check the skirting around the home to make sure it is intact and undamaged. Various events can cause damage to the skirting of the home (e.g., animals, yard work, weather), which can allow cold air to reach the underbelly/bottom board of the home and increase the risk of a home’s pipes freezing during cold temperatures.

  • Check water pipes for adequate electrical heat tape, which helps prevent your pipes from freezing in cold temperatures.

  • Make sure nothing (e.g., furniture, paper, etc.) is covering/blocking your heating vents.

  • Use draft stoppers to keep gusts of cold air from slipping in beneath your doors. You can buy them at a hardware store or create your own by filling a fabric tube with newspaper or simply using a rolled-up towel or blanket.

  • Consider adding curtains/blinds in front of doors or windows.

  • Check electrical outlets that can let heat escape your home, especially if cracked. To prevent warm air from leaking through your electrical outlets, turn off the electricity to the outlet, remove the electrical plates, and reseal the insides with caulk to keep warm air indoors.

Call the Manufactured Homes Program, 1-800-686-1526, or visit com.ohio.gov/MH.aspx if you have questions or concerns. Additional safety tips are available from the State Fire Marshal’s Office at com.ohio.gov/fire.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also recommends Ohioans be ready for all disasters by take these additional preparedness steps to be disaster ready for 2022:

  • Make an emergency kit. These portable kits should include food, water, medications, prescriptions, cash, radios, flashlights and other necessities. It is also recommended that you have hand sanitizer and face masks included in your kit, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Keep an emergency kit in your car in case you are stranded and include an extra set of clothing and blankets for the winter months.

  • Sign-up for emergency alerts for your area. It’s important to know how to get information when a disaster happens. Local radio and television stations provide information on how to stay safe and find temporary shelter.

  • Budget for a disaster. Financially prepare for the new year. Find out how with the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. Start to grow an emergency fund today so you can cover any unexpected changes in your day-to-day life.

  • Check your insurance policies. Understand what your policies cover in case of major disasters and talk to your agent to make sure you’re adequately insured against the risks you may face. Snap pictures of your property and make an inventory. Having a clear record of what you own will make the insurance process easier.

  • Protect your valuables. Store precious belongings, such as photographs or heirlooms, in damage proof containers so you don’t risk losing them permanently. Also keep copies of your critical documents safe and secure in case of emergency.

Visit www.Ready.gov/resolution for more information on how you can resolve to be ready.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Federal and state agencies offer winter, fire safety tips for Ohioans

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