The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local News

December 20, 2012

Winter presents unique safety issues

Homes usually use more resources in the colder months

ANDERSON, Ind. — You just got a new big-screen TV for Christmas. You unpack it and plug it into the nearest outlet without much regard for what else is connected.

You fall asleep with the TV on, and wake up to a house fire. What could you have done differently?

Usually, disasters like this can be combated with common sense, said Anderson Building Commissioner Frank Owens.

“If you’re concerned, I’d say trust your instincts,” he said.

Homes typically expend more electricity and gas during cold months. Darker days require more light, families like to be festive with Christmas lights and move inside for entertainment. This leads to greater strain on power outlets and sometimes fire hazards.

Owens said most buildings or homes built in the past 20 years have significantly more amperage, making them less of a hazard.

“If you live in an older home or building, you just have to watch about overloading those outlets,” Owens said.

Chimneys present another and less expected hazard for owners of fireplaces. Having your chimney and flue cleaned regularly can prevent embers and smoke from coming back into the house.

Owens said preparing your home for the winter can also save you money.

“You can make sure all of your windows are properly insulated,” Owens said. “That can be done with plastic or caulk. Especially making sure basement windows are insulated can save money.”

Gone for the holidays

Let’s say you safely install your new TV and avoid fire hazards.

You’re so excited to watch that you set the large box it came in outside next to your garbage bins.

You come back from vacation and find your home burglarized and your new TV gone. You tipped your hand, said police Chief Larry Crenshaw.

“Crooks are getting smarter,” Crenshaw said. “Most of them don’t plan burglaries weeks in advance. They could just see something like that in the yard and decide they want it.”

Crenshaw said the problem could easily be prevented by cutting up or breaking down large boxes, or simply using trash bags to hide what’s being disposed.

Theft is a crime of convenience, Crenshaw said, and the harder you make it for criminals, the less likely it will occur.

“It’s all about minimizing risk,” he said. “Always lock the door to your home and car. Don’t leave valuables or gifts in plain view in your car. Don’t leave your purses.”

Families leaving for vacation also open themselves to theft. Communication provides a possible solution, Crenshaw said.

“Find a neighbor you can trust while you’re gone,” he said. “Ask them to keep an eye on the house. Or tell the police. They can’t watch it all day but they can keep an eye out.”

On the road

Drivers log hours on the road during the winter, and roads become treacherous for sheer traffic volume as well as conditions. Whether heading out for shopping, driving to family or traveling to vacation destinations, drivers can prepare for trouble on the road, said Madison County Emergency Management chief Todd Harmeson.

“Obviously, everyone knows you should travel with a cellphone, but you should have an emergency kit for the road,” Harmeson said. “Blankets, flashlights and warm clothing are good things to have.”

Harmeson also said it’s a good idea to leave early to account for weather and keep in touch with anyone you’re meeting.

“Nobody wants to get hurt out on the road. It’s better to arrive slow but safe,” he said.

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @J4keSteel on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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