Homeowner Safety Tips

Click on the tabs below to see safety tips for each season.

Summer storms often bring dangerous lightning and heavy winds.

Keep an eye on the sky:

  • Look for darkening skies, listen for thunder, look for flashes of light or increasing wind.
  • If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

When the storm approaches:

  • Avoid using the telephone, taking a bath or shower. Remember, telephone lines and metal pipes conduct electricity. Fences can carry a deadly charge for miles!
  • Draw shades and blinds. If the storm tosses an object against a window, blinds can prevent glass from shattering into your home.

If caught outside:

  • Find shelter in a building. If a building is not nearby, a hardtop car is fine.
  • Keep car windows closed.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • If possible, go to a low lying open place away from trees, poles or metal objects.
  • Do not go to a place that could fill with flood waters.
  • If you are stuck in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • Get as low to the ground as possible.

If someone is struck by lightning:

People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services. If the victim's breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should begin CPR.

When a tornado is coming, you have little time to make life-or-death decisions. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to survival. The tornadoes that struck New York State found many residents unprepared for such a disaster and left them wondering what to do if a tornado were to strike again.

Be prepared for possible tornadoes:

  • Conduct tornado drills every year. Designate an area in your home as a shelter, and practice having everyone go there in response to a tornado threat.
  • Discuss with family members the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is the time to remind your family where the safest places in your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for further developments. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

If you are at home when a tornado hits:

  • Go at once to the basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of the building. If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Get away from windows.
  • Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris.
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold onto it.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

If you are in a mobile home:

  • Get out and find shelter elsewhere. If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or a low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.

Always have the following disaster supplies on hand:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Portable, battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • Emergency food and water
  • First Aid Kit

Develop an emergency communication plan:

  • In case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when children are at school and adults are at work), have a plan for getting back together.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Keep your house safe and warm with a few quick checks this fall:

  • Keep your family safe by installing fire detectors on every floor of your home. Test the detector for proper operation and change the battery twice a year when you change the clocks in the spring and fall.
  • If you burn wood make sure your chimney is clean and free of residue. Dirty chimneys can be a major cause of home fires. You may want to hire a professional to inspect your chimney.
  • Get in the habit of changing your furnace filters before winter usage. Have your system serviced by a qualified professional. A clean, efficiently functioning heating system can save you money on your energy bills.
  • Clean and vacuum vents and baseboard heaters. This will reduce the number of airborne allergens in your home.
  • Clean gutters of leaves and twigs. Clean gutters will keep water from backing up and damaging your roof.
  • Inspect windows and doors and replace caulk and weather stripping if worn. This will help reduce heat loss and result in lower energy bills.

Prepare for upcoming winter weather:

Fall is the perfect time to protect your home against problems that can be caused by winter weather. The biggest threats are ice dams and bursting pipes, but melting snow can also lead to water damage.

The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) says taking these steps now can help you avoid costlier problems down the road.

  • Keep gutters clear of leaves and debris to help keep ice dams from forming.
  • Ensure that drains in outdoor basement stairwells and window wells are working.
  • Consider removing outdoor window flower boxes and other non-essential exterior fixtures (unless permanently built to the house with proper flashing) on which snow may accumulate and melt against the walls.
  • Ensure that skylights and other roof openings have proper weather stripping or gaskets around the edges to prevent snowmelt from seeping through.
  • Have a licensed plumber install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system to protect against the increased pressures caused by freezing pipes. (If you can't take this step, remember to let faucets drip slowly during cold snaps.)
  • Make sure your attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house into the attic, but keep combustible insulation (e.g. insulation other than fiberglass) at least 3" from any recessed lighting fixtures, fan motors, or other heat-producing devices.
  • Make sure attic vents are unobstructed.
  • Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow heat transfer.
  • Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.

Prepare for a winter storm before it happens:

Be sure to have properly operating smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Have extra blankets on hand. Be sure that each member of your household has a warm coat, gloves, hat and water-resistant boots.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit containing:

  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Flashlight
  • Battery powered radio with extra batteries
  • Canned food and non-electric can opener

If a STORM WATCH is issued, continue listening to your local TV/radio station. Avoid unnecessary travel.

If a STORM WARNING is issued, stay indoors. If you must go outside, remember, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Avoid unnecessary travel.