Before you run out for milk and toilet paper in a pre-snow panic, you’ll want to ensure that your home is ready for a day or two of hunkering down. Here’s what experts say you should do now:
1) Protect your outdoor faucets, which are particularly vulnerable to plunging temperatures. Shut off the inside valve leading to any outside faucets and unhook hoses. Run the outside faucet to drain any water from that pipe and then close it.
2) Watch out for your water pipes. If yours are prone to bursting, keep cabinet doors beneath sinks open so warm air from your home can reach the pipes more easily. Use a blow dryer to warm up exposed pipes instead of space heaters, which can be a fire hazard. If you’re in an older home, consider keeping your thermostat up a bit higher than usual, even up to 74 degrees. Even a few degrees makes a difference, plumbers say. “You’ll spend a little more on your heating bill, but you’ll save your pipes,” said Tom Nicholson, president of Kensington-based Nicholson Plumbing Co.
3) Use space heaters with care. Keep them at least three feet from any curtains or clutter and turn them off when you go to bed.
4) Plan for a possible power outage. Stock up on flashlights and batteries. Charge cellphones, laptops and the tablets you might want to keep the kids entertained. Don’t burn a candle unless you remain in the room with it. Don’t use a gas stove or burners for heat — they are a burn hazard and a source of potential carbon monoxide. Don’t use a gas grill indoors, including in your garage, because of the carbon monoxide risk. Don’t run generators in garages or outside where it’s close to windows, through which carbon monoxide can seep into a home. If the power goes, unplug appliances to prevent them from succumbing to a surge when it comes back on.
5) Keep snow clear from outside drains and vents from your home. You’ll need the drains, including for sump pumps, clear when the snow starts to melt, and indoor heating systems can shut down if the vent gets clogged.
6) Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Anything that uses combustion to produce heat, including gas appliances and wood-burning fireplaces, can produce carbon monoxide if not vented properly.
7) Keep an eye on what you’re flushing. Having a home full of people home all day means lots more flushing than usual. Make sure everyone goes easy on the toilet paper, as this will be a tough weekend to get on a plumber’s call list. “If this is as bad as they’re saying, no plumber will be able to get around in it,” Nicholson, the plumbing company owner, said of the storm.
8) Clear snow from area fire hydrants.
9) Make sure your furnace filter is clean. A clogged filter can shut it down.
10) Make a “personal disaster kit” that includes water, food and medicines. This is where the milk and toilet paper come in.
11) Lastly, take a deep breath and watch the flakes fall. As Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, put it: “Just have fun and relax. With a little bit of planning ahead of time, the experience will be wonderful for most of us.”