Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Tips For Outdoor Grilling Safety

The Summer means 4th of July, reunions and outdoor grilling. But, with all the merriment, it is important to be mindful of outdoor grill safety. The National Fire Protection AgencyHearth, Patio and Barbecue Assocation and Consumer Product Safety Commission offer the following safety tips for outdoor grilling:

  • Any grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep your grill on a flat, level and steady surface.
  • When getting ready to use an LP gas grill, you should check your grill, turn on the LP tank valve and check for any signs of leaks. This can be done with a cup of soapy water poured over the valve and fittings.
  • Check the tubes which lead to the burner units to be certain they have not become blocked or clogged. Insects, such as dirt-bobbers may build a nest in these areas and block the flow of LP gas to your grill. This can reduce the efficiency of the grill or render it totally useless. In some cases it may also result in a dangerous situation by allowing LP gas to leak out.
  • Once all lines and valves have been checked for leaks or blockage, the grill is ready to ignite. Always have the lid to the grill open when you ignite the LP gas. If the lid is closed it is possible for excess gas to build up under the lid and ignite, causing an explosion. You should also never lean over the grill while igniting the gas. Any excess gas will also ignite and could result in facial burns. Stand away from the grill until the burners are ignited and burning normally.

LP gas cylinders are designed with your safety in mind. If used and stored properly these tanks can provide many years of safe and reliable service. If used or stored improperly they can present a very real danger to your home and family. Always keep the following warnings in mind when dealing with an LP gas cylinder:

  • Never use a gas grill indoors
  • When not in use, the LP cylinder should always be turned off
  • Never store an LP cylinder inside your home
  • When the LP cylinder is not connected to the grill the outlet valve should be plugged
  • LP gas cylinders can only be filled to 80% of their capacity
  • LP gas cylinders should be stored and used in an upright position

A charcoal grill is very different from an LP gas grill. When the gas grill is turned off the fire is extinguished and the area will cool somewhat rapidly. With a charcoal fire the coals may continue to burn for up to 48 hours. These coals can reach temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and remain a fire hazard until completely extinguished. Always remember that you should:

  • Never use a charcoal grill in your home – the charcoal gives off dangerous carbon dioxide gas which is deadly in confined spaces.
  • Never add lighter fluid directly to hot coals
  • Only use lighter fluid to light charcoal, never use gasoline or other substances.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources
  • Do not close the lid of the grill until you are ready to begin cooking
  • Be very careful when putting out a charcoal fire with water. The steam created when the water contacts the hot coals can cause severe burns.
  • Do not leave the grill unattended – especially if other people such as playing children are in the area
  • To put out a charcoal grill fire, place the cover on the grill, close the vents and allow the coals to burn out completely. Let the ashes cool for at least 48 hours and then dispose of them in a non-combustible container.
  • If you must dispose of coals before they’ve completely cooled, remove them individually with long-handled tongs and carefully bury them in a can of sand or in a bucket of water. Never pour the hot coals into a pail of water, or viceversa. Steam from the briquettes may burn you.

And, as indicated by my previous post Ten Steps to Safely Deep Fry a Turkey, always make sure you follow the instructions of your grill or an outdoor fryer explicitly. So, enjoy your summer celebrations but be mindful of the tips of above so that you may keep yourself and your family and friends safe and happy.

5 Ways to Reduce Water Damage after a Flood

Storms are causing heavy rain and flooding across the U.S. this week. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) offers recommendations in the infographic below for reducing damage in buildings from flooding.

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Lightning Safety – Surge Protection for Your Home

The start of the summer has brought on severe storms across the U.S. and with storms usually comes lightning…

DisasterSafety.org has the following lighting safety tips regarding surge protection for your home:

1.    Unplugging electronic equipment when there is lightning in the area is the most reliable means of protecting that equipment from a power surge.

2.    Know the important difference between a surge suppressor and a power strip. A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and allows you to plug in multiple electronic devices. However, a power strip does not protect equipment from being damaged by a spike in electrical power. Like a power strip, a surge protector also gives the user the ability to plug in multiple electronic devices, but it also protects your electronic devices from sudden power spikes.

3.    Connect telephone, cable/satellite TV and network lines to a surge suppressor.

4.    Make sure the surge suppressor has an indicator light so you know it is working properly.

5.    Ensure the surge suppressor has been tested to UL 1449, which should be indicated on the packaging.

6.    Purchase a surge suppressor with a Joule rating of over 1,000. The Joule rating typically ranges from 200 up to several thousand – the higher the number the better.

7.    Look for a surge suppressor with a clamping voltage rating (voltage at which the protector will conduct the electricity to ground) between 330 v, which is typical, to 400 v.

8.    Purchase a surge suppressor with a response time of less than 1 nanosecond.

9.    Avoid cutting corners. You don’t want to protect a $1,000 television or computer system with a $10 surge protector. For $25 and up, you can provide much better protection.

10.    Consider hiring a licensed electrician or home/building inspector to review the power, telephone, electrical and cable/satellite TV connections in your home. Have them check that you have adequate grounding of the power line connection and your power distribution panel. All of the utilities should enter the structure within 10 feet of the electrical service entrance ground wire and be bonded to that grounding point.

Be sure to follow the above tips as they will protect your home and your belongings.

Flash Flood Safety

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As parts of Texas experience unprecedented flooding the last two days, here are flood safety tips by DisasterSafety.org:

Flash Flood Safety

  • Be aware that flash flooding is very dangerous and can move quickly. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. In fact, two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.

Flash Flood Watches and Warnings

Flash Flood Watch

If flash flooding is possible, be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Flash Flood Warning

If a flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

Please be sure to take all instructions by your local authorities seriously, and if they have ask you to evacuate, please do so. It could save your life and the life of your loved ones.

Photo Credit: Daniel Kramer, featured on HoustonPress.com

Backyard Safety Tips

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As families move outdoors to enjoy nice weather in Spring and Summer, special precautions should be taken to ensure outdoor areas are safe from potential hazards. Swimming pools, barbecue grills, gardening tools and fertilizers, and lawn toys all pose risks to children and adults alike. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety gives the following backyard safety tips:

  • Practice constant, adult supervision around any body of water, including pools and spas. Nationally, drowning is a leading cause of death to children under five.
  • If you’re considering a swimming pool purchase, contact your local Building Department first to determine exactly what permits are needed and what requirements you must follow.
  • In-ground and above-ground pools, including inflatable pools holding more than 24 inches of water, must be surrounded by a fence or other barrier at least four feet high. Any gates in the fence must be self-closing and self-latching.
  • Reserve a spot on a wall or fence near the pool for lifesaving devices, including a portable or mobile telephone.
  • Steps and ladders for above-ground pools should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use.
  • Use a cover for the pool when it is not in use.
  • Make sure drain covers are properly fitted and paired or have vacuum suction releases to prevent being trapped under water.
  • Consider installing a pool alarm that can alert if someone enters the pool.
  • Spa water temperatures should be set to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to avoid elevated body temperature, which could lead to drowsiness, unconsciousness, heat stroke, or death.
  • Designate the grilling area as a “No Play Zone” and keep kids and pets well away until grill equipment is completely cool.
  • Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before use.
  • Do not move hot grills.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.
  • Don’t leave toys, tools and equipment in the yard.
  • Keep steps, sidewalks and patios in good repair.
  • Check all swings, slides, playhouses and other structures for sharp objects, rusty metal pieces, breaks or weakened support pieces.
  • Learn CPR

Photo credit: house-designideas.com

The Difference Between A Tornado Watch Vs. Warning

As 26 residents were injured last night in Van, Texas due to a tornado, it is important to review the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

tornado watch is issued when the weather conditions are favorable and there is a possibility of a tornado developing in your area in the next several hours. During a tornado watch, you need to be alert and prepared to go to safe shelter in case a tornado warning is issued. Stay close to a radio or TV and pay close attention to the weather reports.

During a tornado watch you should also:

  • Review your emergency preparedness plan
  • Make sure you have your disaster kit ready

Possible signs of a tornado to look for during a watch are:

  • Dark greenish or orange-gray skies
  • Large hail
  • Large, dark, low-lying, rotating or funnel-shaped clouds
  • A loud roar that is similar to a freight train

tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been spotted in your area and is showing up on Doppler radar. This means you must take shelter immediately in a safe and sturdy structure. If there is a tornado warning you should:

  • Get inside a secure building (not a mobile home) as soon as you can
  • Get to the lowest floor, preferably a basement
  • Get as close to the center of the room (and as far away from windows) as you can
  • Try to get under a heavy table if possible
  • Crouch low, facing down, and cover your head

And, as I have mentioned before, one of the most valuable tools is a weather radio. You need to know what is going on around you as weather changes rapidly and with little warning.

So as we all enjoy the Spring weather, know that tornado season is officially here and we all need to be aware and prepared.

Spring Home Maintenance And Safety

It is that time of year again when the weather is getting warmer and flowers are starting to bud. As you enjoy being outside, remember there are a lot of things that need to be done to your home for both maintenance and safety. Freshhome.com has some great hints on preparing your home, both inside and out, for Spring cleaning like:

  • Removing twigs from your gutters
  • Cleaning fan blades and air filters to improve the air quality in your home
  • And, how Spring cleaning may pay dividends in the long run

My suggestion for Spring cleaning is start with your windows. The sooner you can clean the screens, wipe the glass and let in the sunshine, the sooner you can take advantage of all the sites, smells and sounds of your neighborhood shaking off the cloak of winter because Spring cleaning can be psychological as much as physical.

How to Prevent Hail Damage

This past week, hail storms struck areas of Texas and as we know, hail can cause severe property damage.

DisasterSafety.org gives some of the following information on preventing hail damage:

WHEN YOU REPLACE YOUR ROOF COVERING

If you are replacing your old, worn out roof covering with new asphalt shingles and you are concerned about hail damage, make sure they have a Class 4 rating under Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) 2218 standard. A Class 4 rating tells you a sample of the product did not crack when hit twice in the same area by a two-inch steel ball. The UL 2218 standard is a useful method for testing impact resistance, but it isn’t perfect and works better for some roof coverings than for others. The UL standard measures whether a product cracks under impact. Some roof coverings, particularly some made of metal, may resist cracking, but can be dented and dimple. Nevertheless, post-storm investigations have shown that impact- rated products do in fact perform better in the real world than nonimpact-rated products. For rigid roof coverings, such as tile, an ice-ball impact test (FM 4473) has been developed. Some products have been test using that standard. While we [DisasterSafety.org] are not aware of any rigid products that have achieved a Class 4 rating with FM 4473, look for products with the highest possible rating using this standard.

TIPS FOR WHEN A HAILSTORM STRIKES

  • If you are indoors when a storm with large hailstones strikes, stay there. Because large pieces of hail can shatter windows, close your drapes, blinds or window shades to prevent the wind from blowing broken glass inside.
  • Stay away from skylights and doors.
  • If you are outside, move immediately to a place of shelter.

So keep in mind that Spring and Summer storms and tornadoes can bring hail and being prepared can prevent property damage as well as bodily harm.

Are You Prepared For A Tornado?

illinois tornado

A tornado damaged numerous homes last night in northern Illinois. This is a solemn reminder that, if you live in an area where a tornado may occur, it is crucial that you and your family are prepared.

The first step is paying attention to the weather conditions and reports. A “tornado watch” means that tornadoes are possible and a “tornado warning” means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Both should be taken very seriously. You may monitor your weather conditions via your local radio station, television newscast or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), if there is a tornado warning you should go to shelter immediately, either in a designated shelter or the lowest building level, like a basement.  If you have no basement then go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level  and stay away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

Danger signs of an approaching tornado are a dark (often greenish) sky, large hail, a large dark low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating) or a loud roar similar to that of a freight train. But, also keep in mind that tornadoes may occur quickly and without any warning and are sometimes proceeded by calm weather or a break in the clouds. This is why it is important to closely monitor local weather reports.

I have also written another post with more tornado tips along with a post regarding an option for repairing your car from hail damage (hail is often paired with tornado weather).

Enjoy the spring, but take tornado watches and warnings seriously and stay safe!

Photo Credit: @TomPurdyWI

Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety Tips

Severe thunderstorms are flaring up across parts of the Midwest, Great Plains and South. With severe thunderstorms comes thunder and lightning. It is important to keep in mind the dangers of lightning and how to keep yourself and your property safe during such weather.

The following are tips from the National Weather Service and National Lightning Safety Institute regarding safety during a thunder and lightning storm:

  • Unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use or when you will be away from home for a period of time such as a vacation. Having the power switched off does not protect a device if it is still plugged in to the electrical outlet; it must be unplugged to remove it from the electrical circuit. If you know a storm is approaching, take a few minutes to unplug items in the house that are susceptible to a power surge.
  • Move cars into the garage or away from treesIf a garage is available, park the car inside to avoid damage from hail, downed tree limbs or wind-blown debris. If no garage is available, try to relocate the car to a location that’s out in the open to prevent damage from downed trees or tree limbs.
  • Stay away from water and pipes. If a lightning bolt strikes nearby, the electricity can travel through water pipes, so prevent electrocution during a thunderstorm by avoiding the sink, toilet, shower and bath.
  • Don’t use your telephone landlineLightning strikes can send a surge of electricity traveling through the phone lines, resulting in electrocution. Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay away from the windows. There have been many cases involving people who have been struck by lightning while standing near a window. In addition, a downed tree limb or debris could come crashing through a window, resulting in serious injury or even death to anyone situated nearby.
  • Remain in an interior room during a severe thunderstorm.Some severe thunderstorm systems have been known to produce tornadoes, and super cell thunderstorms can produce intense winds that cause damage that’s comparable that which would result from a tornado. During a severe thunderstorm, bring children and pets into an interior room or hallway, and stay far away from windows. The goal is to place as many walls as possible between the residents and the outdoors.

In addition to the tips above, make sure your cell phone is charged, pack a storm preparedness kit (a storm kit should include non-perishable food items, pet food, medication, can openers, batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit and other storm survival essentials). Also, have a battery powered radio or NOAA weather radio in order to get up-to-date information on weather reports.