Homes need protection from bitter cold, too

La PORTE COUNTY — Anyone who was in Northwest Indiana last week knows the temperatures were unbearable, and while there was a lot of talk of keeping people and pets safe during winter’s worst, what about your home?

“It’s that time of year when many people resort to space heaters and other sources to keep their homes warm,” according to American Red Cross spokeswoman Duchess Adjel. “Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in this country.”

And those fires seem to multiply as the temperatures fall.

“Indiana is facing unprecedented cold temperatures, which means there is a considerably higher risk for disaster than we typically face,” Adjel said.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. and the Red Cross have offered some tips on keeping your house warm and safe, and avoiding devastating fires.

They offer the following precautions:

• Check your carbon monoxide detectors

• Do not use stoves, ovens or grills for heat

• Clear snow and ice from your gas meter – gently – with a broom, not a shovel

• Don’t overload plugs

• All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment

• If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets – never into an extension cord.

• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.

• Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

The National Weather Service also recommends checking your furnace, your chimney and your carbon monoxide detectors, and insulating all exposed pipes.

With the colder temperatures, customers can expect their energy usage to increase,” according to NIPSCO, “especially as in-home appliances have to work harder and use more energy to maintain a consistent temperature or thermostat setting indoors.”

Additionally, intense cold creates a risk of widespread power outages; the Red Cross has contacted shelter partners to confirm availability and ensure teams are ready to act if a shelter is needed, Adjel said.

NIPSCO recommends that during severe weather, everyone should be prepared for the possibility of an outage, This includes:

• Compiling a storm preparedness kit, including essential medicines, non-perishable food items and water, flashlights, portable radios, extra batteries and a manual can opener.

• Making a list of emergency phone numbers, including NIPSCO’s 24-hour Customer Service Line at (800) 464-7726.

• If someone in your family requires life support equipment, making prior arrangements for a back-up power supply, such as a generator or going to a health care facility that has back-up power.

• Filling your gas tank, as gas pumps do not work if electricity is out.

• Having cash on hand, as ATMs will also be shut off if power goes out.

• If you have an automatic garage door opener, knowing how to open and close the door in the event of a power failure.

—From staff reports

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