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Weather Alert: review these storm preparedness tips

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Warm weather usually means fun in the Carolina sun, but summer heat also can bring severe weather. Threatening thunderstorms often loom large on summer afternoons, so it’s important to be prepared for downpours and accompanying lightning. Consider the following suggestions when planning both outdoor and indoor events this summer to reduce the risk of a lightning strike.

  • Watch the weather. Pay attention to your local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If there’s a chance of thunderstorms, consider rescheduling or moving the event indoors. If that’s not possible, have an emergency plan in place in case a severe storm rolls in, and designate a sufficient nearby structure as an emergency shelter.
  • Stay inside. If severe thunderstorms are imminent, go indoors and wait until they pass. Safe, enclosed shelters include homes, schools, offices, shopping malls and vehicles with hard tops and closed windows. Open structures and spaces do not provide adequate protection.
  • Duck and crouch. If you’re caught outside during a severe storm, it’s important to crouch low on the ground, tuck your head and cover your ears to help protect yourself from harm. Do not lie down; lightning strikes can produce extremely strong electrical currents that run along the top of the ground, and laying horizontally increases electrocution risk.
  • Turn off faucets. During a thunderstorm, lightning can sometimes be conducted through the plumbing. Avoid any type of contact with running water, including bathing, showering and washing your hands, dishes or clothes.
  • Turn off electronics. All electrical appliances—televisions, computers, laptops, gaming systems, stoves and more—that are plugged into an electrical outlet could carry a current from a lightning strike. Surge protectors will reduce the risk of damaging electronics.

Stay away from windows. Not only is lightning a threat, but high winds and hail create flying debris that could be harmful during a thunderstorm. Close all windows and doors and stay as far away from them as possible.

Winter Storm Watch in Effect

With the Winter season comes seasonal storms, which can vary from icy roads to freezing temperatures. It is important that as a home resident you know the correct precautions to take against harsh Winter weather. Please be sure to take the necessary precautions in regards to freezing temperatures.

Home tips
Frozen pipes can lead to a big mess. Here are a few tips for guidance on avoiding weather-related disasters at home:

  • Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight, preferably through a faucet on an outside wall.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets so warmer air can circulate below the sinks.
  • Know the locations of your shut-off valves, in case a pipe bursts.
  • Shut off any outdoor spigots and bring in hoses.

If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your plants, here a few ways to care for them during the cold weather:

  • Bring your smaller container plants, especially succulents, indoors. Mulch or cover outdoor plants with straw, blankets or cardboard.
  • Be sure to turn off automatic sprinklers, detach hoses from faucets and wrap the faucets to protect outdoor pipes.
  • Don’t worry if plant leaves wilt; they protect themselves against cold by dehydrating themselves. Given time, most will perk back up.

Pet owners should take special precautions with their animals during freezing temperatures. It’s best to keep all pets indoors.

Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm, including car engines. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make plenty of noise by honking the horn.

Stay warm!

Keep Warm, but Safe

December, January and February are the deadliest months for home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths. That’s why it’s important for you and your loved ones in your HOA community to take extra precautions during the winter.

Thinking of buying a space heater? The NFPA recommends, and your homeowner association insists, you make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions or have it professionally installed. If you have an electric-powered space heater, plug it into an outlet with sufficient capacity. Never use an extension cord. Your association may not allow liquid-fueled space heaters.

Turn off space heaters whenever the room is unoccupied or when manufacturer’s instructions say they should be turned off. Portable space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark. To avoid any type of accidents, it’s best to turn them off when you go to bed, or at least make sure they’re placed in lit and low traffic areas.

If you use a fireplace or wood stove, use only dry, seasoned wood to avoid the build-up of creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire and accounts for most chimney fires and the largest share of home-heating fires. Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.

Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. After the ashes have cooled downl, dispose of them in a metal container, which should be kept at a safe distance from your home.

Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, that the venting is kept clear and unobstructed, and that the exit point is properly sealed around the vent. This is to make sure deadly carbon monoxide does not build up in the home.

Other reminders from the National Fire Protection Association include:

  • Don’t use your oven to heat your home.
  • Inspect all heating equipment annually, and clean as necessary.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and install a carbon monoxide alarm outside each sleeping area.

For more information, visit

Have a Safe Halloween

Halloween is every kid’s delight. It’s a blast to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating, attend parties and, most of all, eat candy.

Although Halloween is a favorite holiday for children, it can be scary for parents. Costumes can be dangerous, too much candy can be sickening and walking around at night can be risky.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (in anagram form) to make sure the little ghouls and goblins in your community have a safe Halloween:

S: Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be short, soft and flexible.

A: Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Children should walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

F: Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see trick-or-treaters.

E: Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before they’re eaten.


H: Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help see and help others see you.

A: Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it when done to avoid skin irritation.

L: Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

L: Lower the risk for serious eye injury by avoiding decorative contact lenses.

O: Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

W: Wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls.

E: Eat only factory-wrapped candy. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook.

E: Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult.

N: Never walk near lit candles or other open flames. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

If you’re hosting a party or expecting trick-or-treaters:

  • Provide healthy treats, such as individual packs of raisins, trail mix or pretzels. Offer fruits, vegetables and cheeses to party guests.
  • Use party games and trick-or-treating as an opportunity for kids to get their daily dose of 60 minutes of physical activity.
  • Be sure walking areas and stairs are well-lit and free of obstacles that could cause falls.
  • Keep candle-lit jack-o-lanterns and other open flames away from doorsteps, walkways, landings and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, keep them out of reach of pets and small children and never leave them unattended.
  • Drive safely and watch out for trick-or-treaters.

Reduce Threats to You and Your Children

Countless accidents, injuries and deaths occur anywhere around your home and HOA community is no exception.

Children, for example are often at greatest risk—even when we do everything we can to protect them. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 20 deaths and more than 200,000 toy-related injuries in 2005 alone, and that’s just counting injuries treated in emergency rooms. Nine of the deaths occurred when children either chocked on a toy or aspirated an object into the lungs. Several died as a result of accidental strangulation.

To reduce any or all tragedies pertaining to children’s safety, CPSC provides information that can help you and your family avoid some of the more common threats. CPSC publications cover topics like safe practices pertaining to toys, children’s furniture, clothing, cribs, electrical devices, home heating equipment, household products, poison prevention, pools and much more. CPSC also offers information on holiday safety, indoor air quality and safety for older Americans.

Let’s all take extra precautions this holiday season. Free, downloadable information on these and other safety topics is available at

Lead Paint Safety Tips

Most Americans are aware of the dangers produced by lead, particularly in paints. Recognizing these dangers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized a new regulation to protect people from lead based dangers generated by renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition. This work can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children.

The new rule affects contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and schools built before 1978. Homeowners Association members planning to have work done to their home need to ensure that contactors engaged in this kind of work have undergone proper training and earned their certification. For contractors, this means they must be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. Once certified, the firm can advertise that it is certified by EPA under the RRP program, and will also be given rights to use EPA’s “Lead-Safe Certified Firm” logo.

Homeowners considering renovations can search for certified companies on the EPA

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that can be particularly dangerous because it is colorless and odorless. Symptoms may occur when encountering CO such as headaches, nausea, dizziness and even permanent brain damage or death can occur. CO is extremely toxic to humans, causing hundreds of people to die each year from accidental CO poisoning, many of them while using portable generators during severe weather.

A byproduct of burning fuels such as gasoline, propane, kerosene, natural gas, oil, wood or coal, carbon monoxide is emitted from internal combustion made by engines, like those that power lawn mowers, portable generators, cars, power washers and many household appliances such as furnaces, ranges, fireplaces, water heaters and room heaters. To prevent CO poisoning in your homeowners association community, be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Do not use portable generators indoors, including in garages, carports, storage sheds and the like, even with doors and windows open. CO can quickly build to lethal levels in even partially enclosed spaces.
  • Educate your family about the causes of CO poisoning and how to prevent exposure to this deadly gas.
  • Do not place pressure washer engines indoors, and, when using pressure washers outdoors, keep engines away from open windows, doors or vents during use, as CO can seep inside through the openings.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment or burn charcoal indoors.
  • Hire qualified professionals to install new furnaces and appliances and to inspect and service your HVAC system, chimneys and flues.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills and tools.
  • Always refer to the owners’ manual when performing minor adjustments or performing maintenance on fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Never leave a car running in a garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Install CO detectors throughout your home, especially in hallways near sleeping areas, and follow the manufacturers’ instructions for testing and replacing. Keep detectors unobstructed by furniture or draperies.
  • Never use your gas oven or clothes dryer to heat your home. Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.

For additional details about how to prevent CO poisoning, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at or the website for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control at

The Importance of Fire Extinguishers

Your HOA strongly encourages homeowners to keep at least one, and preferably several, fire extinguishers in your home. Fire extinguishers reduce the potential for damage which keeps your HOA insurance premiums—and your assessments—down. Several types are available, and each has a specific use.

How Many?
Common household fire extinguishers are only intended to stifle out small fires before they become serious. It’s always a good idea to keep as many as necessary to grab quickly before a fire gets out of control. For starters, it would be wise to have one in the kitchen, at least one on each floor, one in the garage, and one near valuable electronic equipment.

What Type?
The kind of fire extinguisher you should use depends on what’s burning in your home. Different types of extinguishers are available for different types of fires, and each is prominently labeled with an alpha designation:

Class A fires: paper, wood, cardboard. If household items like cardboard, fabric, or wood (a sofa, for example) are on fire, water will do the best job of putting it out. This is a class A fire, and extinguishers containing water are labeled with an “A.” Keep in mind that water is useful only on class A fires, and actually can be dangerous on other types of fires: water spreads grease fires and conducts electricity in an electrical fire.

Newer A-type extinguishers are available that spray a fine mist of water, which is safer (less likely to conduct electricity) and causes less damage to documents or books. Water mist extinguishers are appropriate for a home office or home library.

Class B fires: gasoline, kerosene, grease, oil, and other combustible liquids. This type of fire is common in the garage or kitchen, and you should use an extinguisher labeled B or BC. Most contain dry chemicals similar to bicarbonate of soda (a great all-purpose kitchen fire extinguisher) in a pressurized foam base. Others contain Halon (older models) or Halotron.

Class C fires: electrical equipment. Bicarbonate type (BC) extinguishers are also useful for electrical fires. But don’t confuse electrical with electronic fires—you probably don’t want chemical foam on your computer or entertainment components. Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are also labeled BC, and these are probably better for extinguishing fires on or near electronic or other delicate equipment.

Halon is great for electronic fires, but if you’re concerned about the ozone layer, you might prefer the more environmentally friendly Halotron. Keep the Halotron extinguisher near the computer or your entertainment electronics—it won’t cause any damage if it’s used on any of these—or in the kitchen to use on grease or electrical fires.

What Does the Number Mean?
Along with the alpha designations listed above, fire extinguishers also have a number. This indicates how much fire the extinguisher can handle. For instance, higher numbers put out bigger fires. However, bigger isn’t always better. Large extinguishers are more difficult to handle and can only be used by one person at a time. If you feel you need added coverage, stock several smaller extinguishers around the house rather than just one large one. 

The All-Purpose Problem
Fire extinguishers labeled ABC will handle all classes of fire, and they would seem to eliminate the question, “What type do I need?” But the all-purpose extinguisher has some disadvantages. They’re usually large and hard to handle, they contain chemicals that can corrode aluminum and damage electrical systems, and they leave a messy yellow residue.


Fire Chimney Safety

There’s nothing as comforting as a warm, crackling fire on a cold, winter night, but also nothing more dangerous if your chimney is damaged.

Broken or cracked chimneys can cause heat, smoke and toxic gasses, such as carbon monoxide, to leak into your home and even cause house fires. Chimney damage can be obvious or hidden, so use the following checklist, provided by your homeowners association, to ensure that your fireplace doesn’t result in problems or disaster:

  • Check to see if bricks have fallen or the chimney is leaning.
  • Look for shiny areas on your exterior metal chimney pipe. This could mean the chimney has shifted—during the recent East Coast earthquake, for instance.
  • Look for cracks at joints where the chimney connects to the firebox, at the roofline and in the attic.
  • Check for debris that may have fallen into the fireplace.
  • Use a screwdriver to check the mortar between the bricks or stones. If it crumbles when you pick at it, the chimney is likely a hazard and in need of repairs.
  • When in doubt, consult a licensed engineer or contractor. For the name of an inspector, call your insurance or mortgage company.

Remember, disasters can happen even in the best of homes. That’s why every home should be equipped with carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Here are a few tips:

  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in sleeping areas and on every level of your home and away from air vents. Interconnected smoke alarms are best, because if one sounds, they all sound.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and change alkaline batteries at least once a year. Use a familiar date, like your birthday or when you change your clocks, as a reminder.
  • Prepare and practice a fire escape route with everyone in your home, including children.

For more information, visit

Before the Bell Rings: Back to School Safety

As students begin to sharpen their pencils and get ready to head back to class, it’s important to ensure they have a safe school year. Here are some tips on how your family can be proactive and avoid potentially harmful situations:

  • Make sure your school has updated emergency contact information. Write down any specific instructions that should be followed in case of an emergency, and have the school keep them in your child’s file.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers before classes start to alert them about any medical issues your child might have. Also, explain to the teacher what he or she should do in case of a medical emergency such as an allergic reaction, asthma attack or seizure—and provide school personnel with prescribed medication such as EpiPens® (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors) and inhalers.
  • Help your child memorize important phone numbers so that they know how to get in touch with you and other trusted adults. Also, program those numbers into their cell phones, or provide them with a list to keep in their backpacks and wallets at all times.
  • Let your child know exactly who they can go home with after school if their regular ride can’t pick them up, and make sure they know not to accept rides from people who aren’t on the list.
  • If your child will be walking to school, walk the route with them several times before classes start to make sure they understand traffic laws and are able to walk the route on their own. Also, find a friend or sibling they can walk with, and make sure they always use the buddy system.
  • Show your child which houses in the neighborhood they can go to in case no one is at home after school. Talk to your HOA management board to see if there are any official safe houses in the community that your child can go to.
  • Report reckless drivers to your HOA managers and the police to help make sure the neighborhood remains safe, particularly during times when kids are going to and returning from school.