Wintertime Heat and Fire Safety


As the cold weather settles in, we’re spending more time inside our homes. It’s that time of year where we turn up the heat, cook indoors, and build a few fires. It is a fun time to cozy up with family and friends, but it’s also important to stay aware of household heating and electrical hazards. Follow these safety tips to make sure that you keep your home as safe as possible.


Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Colder seasons increase the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a clear, odor-less gas produced by sources such as heating systems, fireplaces, and car exhaust. Installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home is an easy way to alert you of this potentially fatal gas. Similarly, place smoke alarms in each bedroom, in the hall, and on each floor of your home. Alarms should also be tested monthly to ensure they are working properly.



We all love the romantic glow and comforting fragrance of candlelight. But, in a NFPA study from 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 9,300 home structure fires that were started by candles. Most candle fires begin because they were too close to flammable items, were left unattended in a room, or simply because they were knocked over. Be cautious of this when lighting candles in your home and be extra careful when they are around children and pets.



Cooking is one of the main causes of home fires, especially during this time of year. Rather than grilling, people stay indoors to cook.  The main source of kitchen fires comes from cooking on the stove. With open flames and hot oil, it’s essential you pay attention and keep your eyes on the stove at all times when cooking. Keep your clothing and flammable materials away from open flames. Also do not leave anything on the stove even when it’s not in use. Most importantly don’t get distracted!


Electrical Appliances

Fires are also caused by electrical system failures, as well as poor maintenance and misuse of electrical appliances. Be sure to have correctly installed wiring and do not overload circuits and extension cords. Also make sure you have the right cord for the appliance: keep the heavy duty cords for outside use.


Portable Space Heaters

Space heaters are the easiest temporary sources of heat to keep your room toasty in the winter. It is highly recommended to keep these at least three feet from combustible materials such as towels, clothes, and newspapers. Do not leave them on when you leave the house and do not attempt to heat the entire home with them. They are meant to be for small spaces.



There is nothing more comforting than hanging out around the fireplace in the colder months. Take simple precautions to minimize their risk as a fire hazard. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Be sure to use the right kind of logs and don’t use an excessive amount of materials to build large fires. Keep them at a management size, enclosing the front of the fireplace with a screen to keep the sparks from jumping out into the room.  Also, keep the damper open, never closing it when hot ashes are in the fireplace.


Keep your homes and families warm, cozy, and safe this season by following these simple safety tips!

Tips & Tricks For Driving in the Snow

While the snow looks beautiful coming down, it makes driving way more difficult and increases your chances of an accident significantly.  While it’s best to avoid driving in bad weather as much as possible, it’s often unavoidable- especially in New England. If you must hit the road during a snowy winter wonderland, keep these tips and tricks in mind to stay as safe as possible.

1. Drive Slow– This must be the most obvious thing to state when it comes to driving in the snow, but it has to be said. Really though, actually drive slower and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. The snow makes the roads slippery and reduces visibility so you’ll need to give yourself plenty of more time to react to changing conditions. This advice is heavily aimed at those who drive SUVs, 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive cars. While those type of cars do offer some more traction and control, it does not make you invincible or your car a super SUV. The roads are still significantly less safe and require slow driving.

2. Give Yourself Distance– Most people follow the 2 (or 3) second rule of thumb to calculate the minimum distance they should keep behind from the car in front so that there is adequate time to stop. In the snow, you want to at the very least double this distance. Ideally, triple it. If you do slide or skid on the snow, the farther away you are from other vehicles the safer you’ll be.

3. Lights– ALWAYS have your lights on when driving in the snow. With the reduced visibility, you’ll want to make your surroundings as visible as possible. On the side, you’ll want other drivers to be able to see you as well.

4. NEVER Use Cruise Control- You’ll need extra vigilance and extra control when it comes to driving in the snow. Not only do you need to adjust your speed more frequently when driving in the snow, you’ll also need much more control over steering, even if you’re driving on a straight road. Never use cruise control when driving in the snow. Ever.

5. Avoid Slamming on the Break– If your tires start to skid, most people’s first instinct is to panic and slam on the break- don’t do this. Instead ease off the accelerator and try to steer the car out of potential collisions. Slamming on the breaks once your tires have already locked up and lost traction won’t help. Skidding out can be frightening, but try to stay as calm as possible in order to safely slow down and come to a stop.

6. Beware of Bridges– Bridges are the first to freeze and ice over in cold weather and snow. Unlike roads which lose their temperature on their surface, bridges they are exposed the wind and cold from every angle which promotes the perfect environment for black ice. Even if the roads seem okay in mild snow, use extra caution when you get to a bridge.

7. Clean Your Car– Don’t slack off when it comes to cleaning your car. Even if you’re just driving a short distance, that snow of your roof is a hazard. It can fall in front and obstruct your vision, or it can fly off on to the car behind you which is seriously dangerous. Also, always keep cleaning essentials in your car all winter long such a scraper and shovel and make sure your car has enough windshield wiper fluid for the season.

8. Keep Kitty Litter!– This neat little trick can be a life safer! Getting stuck in the snow is the worst, and the more you try to accelerate out of it, the more you dig yourself deeper. Adding kitty litter behind your tire will provide the traction the tire needs for you to drive your way out. Sand or salt also works well. Keep a bag of it in your trunk of your car if possible.

9. Emergency Kit– While emergency kits are important all year round, they are extra crucial in the winter months. Click here to see what essentials you should have in yours this winter!



Dealing with Ice Dams

Ice dams go hand in hand with those beautiful looking icicles that form around your house. The snowy roofs and freezing weather that winter brings causes thick ridges of solid ice to form inside the eaves. These dams can cause havoc on your roof by ripping down gutters and loosening shingles. Even worse, they can cause water to pour back into your house.

To prevent them, it’s helpful to know why they form in the first place. Attics tend to collect heat and keep the roof warm. The eaves, however, stay cold. When snow lands on the warmer roof, it melts, slides down into the cold eaves and freezes up. As the ice begins to accumulate, a dam forms causing melted water from the roof to back up behind it, unable to flow off of the house, and comes under the shingles and into the house.

Once this happens, the mountain of problems begins: peeling paint, warped floors, stained and sagging ceilings. On top of all of this, the soggy insolation in the attic loses R-Value and becomes the perfect host for mold and mildew.

Fast Fixes for Ice Dams

If you already have ice dams, a quick way to stop the leak is to take a box fan into the attic and aim it at the underside of the roof where the water is leaking through. The cold air will freeze the water in its tracks in minutes. Do NOT hack away at the ice dams. Besides causing damage to your roof, it is dangerous for you. Also, throwing salt on the dams will cause more harm to your plants than it will affect the ice.

A more effective way to melt the ice is with panty hose and calcium chloride (yep, you read that right. I said panty hose). Fill one leg of a panty house with calcium chloride ice melter, tie it up, then lay it over the roof so it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. A long-handled garden tool may be helpful to push it into position. The calcium chloride will eventually melt through the snow and ice to create a channel for water to flow down into the gutters or off the roof.

Heated cables are a great way to prevent ice dams. Attaching them with clips along the roof’s edge in a zigzag patter will equalize your roof’s temperature preventing the ice dams from forming. Only problem with these heated cables is they must be installed before the bad weather occurs. Another helpful tool to have is a roof rake with wheels that can help you scrape off the snow from your roof without causing damage to the shingles.

Will Homeowners Insurance Cover Damage by Ice Dams?

Standard Homeowners Insurance policies do typically cover interior and exterior damage from water flowing into a house because of an ice dam. Many Homeowner Insurance policies have water damage exclusions that applies to water that comes from underground sources, such as seepage through soil or backup in pipes. Ice damage is likely not excluded from your policy because the source of the flooding is coming from your roof.

Most policies, however, will not cover ice dam or snow removal from your roof or anywhere else on your property.   Some companies may provide some ice dam removal out of “good will.” Check your policy for details

Best Solution to Preventing Ice Dams

The most permanent solution for preventing ice dams is keeping the entire roof the same temperature, which can be easier said than done. With increased ventilation, adding insolation, and sealing off all air leaks that could warm the underside of the roof, you should be able to keep the same temperature all around. Check out ThisOldHouse’s tips on taking care of roof trouble spots so you can enjoy a dam free winter.


Ice Dams Picture

Shoveling Safety Tips


When you think of going outside to shovel, it may seem like more of an inconvenience than a potentially dangerous activity, but believe it or not people are injured shoveling every single winter.  Whether it’s something as small as a strained muscle, or something as serious as a heart attack, injuries from shoveling are more common than you think, so keep these tips in mind and stay safe this winter!

  • Do not shovel if you’re not capable.  If you are older, out of shape, overweight, have issues with back pain or a history of heart problems, you shouldn’t be shoveling.  Save yourself the trouble and have a younger, healthier person do the dirty work while you make some hot chocolate indoors.  Another option is to purchase a snow blower, you’ll still have to go outside in the cold to clear the snow, but you won’t be at risk for straining your back or heart.
  • Warm up.  Like any physical activity, you’re supposed to warm up your muscles and stretch before you begin.  Shoveling is no different.  It can be extremely strenuous especially if there is a lot of snow on the ground, so make sure to do some warm up stretches to loosen up your muscles before you begin.
  • Use the right shovel.  You don’t want to use a shovel that is too heavy or with too large of a blade.  If you use a shovel with too large of a blade, your load will be extremely heavy and can put extra strain on your back and heart.  It’s also a good idea to get a shovel with either a wooden or plastic handle, as metal handles can get too cold.
  • Bundle up.  It’s important to wear the proper clothing when you shovel so you’re not at risk for hypothermia or frostbite.  Make sure your head, hands, and feet are all covered.  Your winter boots should be water-proof, warm, high-cut, and provide good traction so you don’t slip and fall.  It’s also a good idea to wear clothing that allows perspiration to escape from the skin surface.  If the temperature is in the negatives, don’t go outside to shovel until it warms up.
  • Pace yourself.  Like any physical activity, you need to pace yourself.  Even though you may want to get shoveling over with and get inside as quickly as possible, being safe is more important.
  • Make shoveling easier on yourself.  Push the snow to the sides of your driveway instead of lifting it, this makes it much easier on your back.  If you must lift the snow to get it out of the way, lift with your legs to avoid straining your back.  When you do throw the snow, do not throw it over your shoulder or to the side, face the direction you are throwing in, don’t twist to the side as this can also strain your muscles.
  • Do not push yourself, if you’re feeling winded or tired, take a break.  It’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid a potential injury.
  • Take time to cool down when you’ve finished shoveling.  It’s important to go inside to rest and warm up as soon as you’ve finished shoveling.  Make yourself some hot chocolate and relax with your favorite book or TV show to get warm and show your heart rate.

There’s definitely more snow to come this year so keep these tips in mind next time you need to shovel and stay safe!

Photo By: oddharmonic


MassDrive Winter Week!

Massachusetts Winter Week

Although it hasn’t really felt like a true New England winter yet, it is January and the peak of wintertime here in Massachusetts. As the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to stay home, but the great thing about winter in Massachusetts is that you certainly don’t have to – there is plenty going on throughout the state that will make you want to throw on that down jacket and join in the fun!

Here at MassDrive, we’ve compiled the best and most fun winter activities around Massachusetts this winter to share with you so you can make the most of your wintertime. Stay tuned throughout the week for posts here on the blog with fun activities for a snow day, the best skiing within driving distance and a listing of awesome winter events. Don’t let the cold scare you away – these activities are definitely worth a little chill!

Whether it’s hitting the slopes, enjoying a winter festival or building a snowman in the backyard, there is plenty to do during the colder season around Massachusetts. Follow us on Twitter for updates each day, and follow #mdwinterweek to join in on the conversation. You can also Like us on Facebook to participate in polls, share your winter photos and let us know what you look forward to doing every winter!

To get started early, you can check out this great website for awesome Massachusetts events this winter: Otherwise, stay tuned!

Do you have a favorite wintertime tradition? Make sure to tell us about it in the comments!

Photo by BostonPhotoSphere

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