Preparedness Corner
February 2003
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

Sweater, check. Heavy coat, check.  Earmuffs, check. Gloves, check.  All in the closet and ready to go.  Waiting.  Now in mid winter, I wonder where the snow and the cold are.  With temperatures higher than normal and few snowstorms, we again are looking at a long dry summer.  Enjoy the winter while it is still here.  And while the winter is mild, how about “checking” the gear for the house.

Now is a good time to see if your home is ready for winter, if it ever gets bitter.  Inside and out.  For example the biggest reason that colds flu spread so easily in the winter is because of the lack of fresh air moving around.  So open it up once in a while and clean house.  Everyone spring cleans, but why live in a closed up house breathing all the dust and dead bugs that have collected in your HVAC system all summer long.  Try doing your spring-cleaning in the fall.  If you didn’t, try doing it now while the winter is mild.

Performing some routine maintenance and winterizing your home can help protect it and keep your family safe during the winter months.  Start with the inside systems and work your way outside.  Check your carbon monoxide detector for batteries and proper working order.  Yes, smoke detector also.  Try all the windows to ensure proper seating and operation.  Doors too.  There is no use giving all your money to the power company.  If we ever get really cold temps, you can crack the cabinet doors under the sinks to allow heated air from the house to keep the pipes warmer.  Same for the sink, let em drip a little to keep the flow going if you have problems with freezing pipes.  Look at your insulation in the attic and see that it goes all the way to the end of the walls.  This is something easily overlooked by the builder and can cause ice dams when too much heat escapes your living space into the attic, melting the snow quicker than normal.  This can overwhelm your gutter system causing damage.  Clean out the gutters too.  It’s a yucky job but somebody has to do it.  Caulk the places where any water could enter.  Make sure the chimney flues are clean and the damper works.

Lets not forget the garage and other outbuildings.  We tend not to insulate these as well as the house and if there is water in these buildings, they are more susceptible to freezing.  Try looking up also.  People tend to look down when walking, driving, or checking for broken items.  They are closer and therefore more noticeable.  Stand back, look up, and get the big picture on the condition of your home.

Most of the permanent residents have now been in their homes for almost five years.  I am jealous.  I would rather be wrapped in a blanket reading this by the fire than writing it from a distant state.  Anyway, when was the last time you checked the hoses on the washing machine? Or as some put it, “the warsher”.  A long, long time ago, I recommended a water pump shut off switch near the door so you didn’t come home to find a dry cistern and a soaked home.  Bears are not the only things that cause flooding.  I was reminded of this because of a flooding call I just went on due to the hot water hose breaking loose.  When we got there, the hose was doing the ‘water wiggle” dance.  The poor homeowner didn’t even know how to shut off the water or where the main shut off was.  And since I mentioned it, have you ever exercised that valve? An emergency is not the time to find out the main water valve is stuck.  Last time I checked, we have pretty hard water.

Lastly, place the non-skid boots next to the door ready for a quick dash for more wood.  Falling on your bum is not fun when it’s cold.  Just like in a fire, the proper equipment and having that equipment in good working order makes for an easier job.  Even if it is working fine, at least you have seen it, worked it and know its condition.

See you all soon,

PS: Goodbye to my neighbors leaving for new adventures.  Thank you for what you have shared with me.  Your friendship will be sorely missed.

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background