1. Deep-Six Water Damage

Beware the Flood: Melting ice and snow can accumulate on roofs and inside walls, causing water damage and ice dams (when ice buildup causes melting water to seep under the roof).

• Clear gutters of leaves and other gunk so water can drain.
• Remove snow from basement stairwells, windows and along walls.
• Keep attics ventilated so temperatures are similar to the outdoors, preventing melting snow from re-freezing along the roof's edge.
• Ensure attic floors are well insulated.

Watch the Roof: Though not typically encouraged, due to ice buildup the National Weather Service is recommending that property owners and builders clear snow off flat rooftops, awnings and overhangs in order to prevent roof collapses and water damage. Though collapsed roofs are rare, there have been a number of them in New England this year, according to The New York Times. As getting up on your roof is pretty dangerous, it's best to contact a roofing/ snow removal professional.

2. Prevent Frozen Pipes

Pipes burst when pressure builds up between an icy spot in the pipes and closed faucets. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends these preventive measures:

• Use caulking to seal cracks in outside walls and foundations near water pipes.
• Leave cabinet doors open to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes.
• Keep a slow trickle of water running in faucets connected to exposed pipes that go through unheated spaces.
• If you go away, or are concerned about overnight freezing, do not lower your heat temperature too much, and consider draining the water system.

3. Prep for Power Outages

Ice storms are one of the biggest winter dangers, causing power outages, injuries and even fatalities due to fallen electrical wires and trees. Just one-half inch of build-up can be enough to snap tree limbs and fell power lines.

Stock Up Before an Outage:
• Flashlights and extra batteries
• Portable radio with extra batteries
• Sufficient heating fuel
• Non-perishable food and bottled water • First-aid supplies and prescription medications
• Emergency heating source
• Fire extinguisher and smoke detector

During an Outage:
• Wear layers, including a hat.
• Unplug sensitive electronics: TVs, stereo, VCR, microwave, computer, telephone, answering machine and garage door opener.
• Set refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings (reset to normal when power is restored). Do not open the refrigerator or freezer door. Food can stay cold in a full refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and 48 hours in a well-packed freezer (24 hours if half-packed).
• For more detailed information on what to do in a power outage, go to the CDC website.

If a Tree (or Power Line) Falls...
• Watch for downed or hanging electrical wires hidden by snowdrifts, trees or debris. Never touch or move downed lines.
• Check on neighbors, especially the elderly or infirm.
• Get more details on downed trees and power lines.

4. Shovel With Care

Heart attacks from overexertion and shoveling snow are one of the leading causes of death during the winter, along with vehicle accidents. Shoveling is basically the same as lifting weights, only snow can be much heavier than a barbell -- and there are no machines to spot your form. If you don't have a snow blower, or can't hire someone to shovel for you, protect yourself with these simple guidelines.

• Use a smaller shovel to avoid overloading, and keep it close to your body to protect your back.
• Don't toss snow a long distance. Small shovelfuls are just as fast as fewer heaping ones, only safer.
• Like lifting anything heavy, bend at and lift with your knees, not your back.

Quitting Time: If you feel shortness of breath, heavy sweating or any kind of abnormal pain, it's time to pay the neighborhood kids to take over. To prevent overexertion, take frequent breaks, drink fluids and wear dry, waterproof clothing -- you are less prone to injury when muscles are warm. Never wear wet clothing, gloves or hats.

5. Outsmart Your Car

Slipping and Sliding: If you start to slide, turn in the direction of the slide. If you get stuck, don't try to get out unless it's a very low bank. Turn off your engine. If the exhaust pipe is blocked, carbon monoxide could seep into your car and cause suffocation.

Stuck? Spin Sparingly: In New Hampshire, a car burst into flames after the driver spun the wheels too long trying to get unstuck. While that may be a fluke, Rochester Fire Marshal Mark Dupuis advises against spinning in general, unless it's a very small bank.

If it is just a small bank, use a shovel to clear snow from all four wheels and the tailpipe. Sprinkle sand (or kitty litter) around all the wheels. Start the car, put it in reverse, and back up a little. Put it in drive and creep forward. Rock the car back and forth gently, without gunning the engine, and you might be able to roll out of it. If not, call 911 or your roadside assistance provider. Whatever you do, don't go in search of help -- you could get lost or suffer exposure. Stay in the car, stay warm, and call for help.

Before You Drive: Fill your gas tank and windshield wiper fluid, and clear off all ice and snow. The National Weather Service recommends stocking your trunk with the following items:

• Blankets/sleeping bags
• Flashlight with extra batteries
• First-aid kit
• Knife
• High-calorie, non-perishable food
• Extra clothing
• Shovel
• Windshield scraper and brush
• Tool kit
• Tow rope
• Booster cables
• Water container
• Compass and road maps
• Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
• Sack of sand (or cat litter)


Related Articles:
What to Do After a Severe Storm
Flood Preparedness
Power Outages and Food Safety
Winter Pet Safety