What do you need to have at home for the next snow day? Hot cocoa, a blanket, and a good book? Yes, but Consumer Reports says it's also important to have a few "practical" tools beyond a snow shovel to help you weather the next winter storm.
The time to shop for a storm emergency isn't right before it hits. Some simple planning can keep you and your family safe, and Consumer Reports has a checklist.
Safety first. When the power goes out, we're often stumbling in the dark, looking for candles for light and generators or space heaters for comfort. But used improperly, all of those can be dangerous, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms installed on each floor are a must, and replace the batteries twice a year.
Also consider buying fire extinguishers if you don't already have them.
If power outages are frequent, you might already have a generator or are thinking about buying one. A home standby generator must be connected by an electrician, but it can run nearly everything inside and almost make you forget there's a storm outside.
- Make sure to buy a model with an emergency carbon monoxide shutoff.
- Never use a generator in an enclosed space, like a garage.
- Always place it outdoors, at least 20 feet from your house, with the exhaust directed away from any windows or doors.
- CR advises buying the smallest generator to fit your needs so that it will use less gas to keep it running.
- A good space heater will let you hunker down in a room and stay warm. But never put one in a child's room.
- To prevent a fire, buy one with safety switches that automatically shut the heater off if it's knocked over or overheats.
- Always make sure to keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from furniture, curtains, or anything else that could be combustible.
- And remember to plug the heater directly into an outlet.
- Using a power strip or an extension cord can pose a fire hazard.
It's important to stress that space heaters should never be left unattended, and never leave them on while you're sleeping.
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Check that your heater has a label saying UL, ETL/Intertek, or SA, so you know that it meets voluntary safety standards.