As the air turns cooler and leaves drop from the trees, it’s important to keep a few important fall safety tips in mind. With proper precautions and safety awareness, your family can enjoy that crisp autumn weather while avoiding some of the dangers that come with the season.
Fire Safety Tips for Fall
When the weather turns cold most people spend more time inside their homes using fireplaces, furnaces, and heaters to keep warm. There’s nothing quite as cozy as a fire, but it presents some safety hazards. Keep these tips in mind
Service Your Furnace
Before the cold autumn and winter weather sets in, be sure to call your heating and cooling company to service your furnace. A specialist should inspect the furnace to make sure everything is in working order and that there are no leaks.
Use Fireplaces Safely
Keep that fire in its proper place by using a fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying out of the fireplace. Never leave a burning fire unattended, and make sure a fire in a fireplace is completely out before going to bed.
Use Caution with Space Heaters
A space heater can be an effective way to warm up a chilly room, but it’s essential that you read the instructions on the unit before you use it. If your space heater requires venting, make sure you have vented it to the outdoors. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home; only use space heaters that are approved for this purpose. Always allow at least three feet of empty area around space heaters.
Reconsider Leaf Burning
According to information from the Environmental Protection Agency, burning leaves produces dangerous and cancer-causing chemicals. For this reason, homeowners should avoid disposing of leaves this way. If you decide to burn leaves, wear a protective mask. Burning leaves should only be attempted far away from a house or other structures on a homeowner’s property. Always check the weather forecast before starting to burn leaves. This activity should not be attempted in windy conditions.
Exercise Candle Caution
Candles are a great way to give a room that warm glow, but they can also cause fires. According to the National Candle Association, almost 10,000 home fires start with improper candle use. Never leave candles burning if you go out or go to sleep, and keep your candles away from pets and kids.
Change Smoke Alarm Batteries
Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when you turn back your clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Make sure to check the alarms with the new batteries installed. Check and replace any home fire extinguishers that have expired.
Safety Tips for Fall Driving
There’s nothing more beautiful than a fall drive, but this season brings some unique hazards for drivers. Being aware of these potential dangers can help keep you and your family safe and prevent accidents.
Be Aware of Poor Visibility
Falling leaves, while beautiful, can obscure your vision, as can rain and fog. Shorter days are part of the fall season, making it more difficult to see children playing or people walking and riding bicycles. Be aware of the limitations in your visibility, and slow down if you can’t see well. Use your dimmed headlights in bad weather with decreased visibility. If possible, try not to be on the roads when it’s hard to see.
Watch for Children
Children love to play in piles of leaves, so use extra caution where leaves are piled at curbside. In addition, the school bus will be making its rounds now that school is back in session. In addition to educating children about back-to-school safety, it’s important to stay vigilant as a driver.
Slow Down on Wet Pavement
In many areas of the country, rain is common during the autumn. If it’s raining, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. Wet roads make it more difficult to stop. When wet leaves are on roadways, they make the pavement slippery, and it can be difficult for drivers to get good traction.
Be Prepared for Bright Sunlight
When sunrise occurs later in the morning, it can also present challenges for drivers. Have a pair of sunglasses in the vehicle to wear when the sun is bright is a good strategy. If it becomes too difficult to see because of bright sunlight or glare, a good strategy is for the driver to pull over until he or she can see again.
Watch Out for Ice
As the temperatures drop further at night, a driver will need to spend some extra time in the morning scraping frost off his or her vehicle. Shady spots on the roadway may be home to black ice, which a driver may not be aware of until his or her car starts to skid on it.
Safety Tips for Fall Boaters
According to a report from the US Coast Guard, autumn boating accidents are far more likely to be fatal than those that occur during the summer months. Although there are many more boating accidents in the summer season, boaters involved in accidents during the fall months are exposed to cold water and other weather hazards. Keep these tips in mind for safe autumn boating.
Be Prepared for Changing Weather
Since fall weather can change quickly, you should always be prepared for possible cold, windy, and wet weather even if the sun is shining. Stay closer to shore, so you can turn back if the weather changes. Bring appropriate clothing, such as warm coats, rain gear, and gloves.
Watch for Signs of Hypothermia
Small open boats combined with cold, wet weather can lead to possible hypothermia. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are a few of the signs you should know:
- Shivering or trembling
- General lack of coordination, including stumbling and dropping things
- Drowsiness, confusion, and apathy
- Mumbling and slurring of words
- Weak pulse and shallow breathing
Tell Others About Your Trip
Make sure you tell a friend or family member your boating plan and your expected return time. There are fewer boaters in the fall to help in the case of an accident or emergency.
Always Wear Life Jackets
Wearing your life jacket, while always a smart move, is even more important in the fall. If you should accidentally fall overboard, the cold water will quickly drain away your strength.
Autumn Home Maintenance Safety Tips
Fall is the time for yard clean-ups and readying your house for the cold winter ahead. Keep these safety tips in mind as you work.
Look Up Before Pruning Trees
If you have decided that your yard needs to be spruced up by trimming your trees, be sure to look up and survey the area carefully before you start. Make careful note of where power lines are located before you set up your ladder so that it is positioned away from them.
Use Caution on Ladders
Wearing appropriate footwear is important when using a ladder; shoes or boots may be wet, causing you to slip as you climb the ladder. The ladder should be positioned on a flat surface before use. Be sure that the tools you are using are specifically designed for this purpose and are in good condition before starting work.
Clean Up Fallen Leaves
Keep your driveway and walkway clear of falling leaves. Wet leaves can create a hazard for pedestrians in the fall by making sidewalks slippery. Later in the season, snow may mix with leaves to increase the risk of falling. Homeowners should mulch or rake up fallen leaves and dispose of them according to local bylaws.
Safely Enjoy the Beauty of the Season
By keeping these important fall safety tips in mind, you can be sure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and your family from seasonal dangers. This will leave your mind free to enjoy the beauty of this glorious season.
Kitchen Mold Removal
Are you concerned that black mold could be lurking in your kitchen, perhaps hiding in the cupboards? Not only is it unattractive, it can also cause respiratory problems for your family. The following guide can help you locate, prevent and destroy any black mold that has taken up residence in your kitchen.
Where to find black mold in the kitchen?
Black mold tends to grow in dark, damp areas, which means it could be festering in a kitchen cabinet or cupboard for a long time before you uncover it. For this reason, it’s vital that you identify the areas in your kitchen that are going to be most prone to mold growth. This will give you the necessary knowledge so that you can find the problem before it gets too bad. Places to check include the following:
- Underneath the kitchen sink. Check the cabinet bottom and the back wall where the sink pipes enter for dampness or past signs of water damage, such as bubbling or peeling surfaces. Even if black mold isn’t visible, it could be growing on the underside of the sink cabinet or behind the wallboard.
- Under the refrigerator. A leak from a water line to the icemaker or simple condensation collection underneath the fridge could create the optimum environment for fungal growth. If your kitchen flooring looks like it has suffered water damage or if there is standing water and mildew present, black mold could also be growing under the floorboards. Also, check any cupboards near the fridge to make sure there is no moisture damage.
- Cabinets above or next to wall mounted microwaves or oven hoods. Another common trouble spot is behind the cabinets that border microwaves and hoods. This is because moisture and condensation from cooking can accumulate in these cupboard areas, especially if ventilation is insufficient.
Kitchen mold prevention
Since prevention is key to black mold management in the home, now that you know your kitchen’s trouble spots you are better able to stop it from growing in the first place.
Begin by checking underneath the sink on a regular basis and fixing leaks immediately. Keep the sink cupboard area clean and neat so you can empty it out for a quick leak check regularly. If you are like many people and use this cupboard area for cleaning supplies, place the supplies in a handled carrier so you can quickly pull everything out. A good time to check is after you have been using the sink, such as after dishwashing. If there is a leak, it is likely going to be damp if you just drained the sink.
As for the fridge, it’s good practice to pull it out and dust the rear coils every one to two months, anyway. Simply pencil this chore into your home maintenance calendar. You can then use this opportunity to check beneath the fridge for leaks and to make sure water lines are attached and not leaking.
Finally, inspect the area around and under the cabinets, microwave, and hood after you use the oven or microwave. If you find a lot of moisture or condensation, chances are that you need to add a stronger fan or better ventilation to the kitchen.
Kitchen mold removal
Black mold can be tenacious when it comes to removal. Although you can often remove the visible black mold by yourself, there is likely hidden mold that you cannot find for removal as easily. The basic removal process is as follows:
Step 1: Testing Testing is done if there is signs of moisture but no obvious visual signs of fungal growth. Testing may also be done if there is light visible growth, since the remediation firm will need to determine the extent of the growth.
Step 2: Seal the infested area The home is sealed. This means that the area that has mold, in this case the kitchen, is sealed off from the rest of the house so that black mold removal doesn’t send spores into other areas.
Step 3: Identification and replacement The cause of moisture is identified and fixed. Otherwise, the mold will simply return if there is still a moisture source. This may mean the removal and replacement of cabinets and wallboard so they cleaning can occur under them.
Last step: Removal and cleaning The actual removal and remediation begins. The crew will use a disinfecting and cleaning solution that removes and kills the fungus. Stains from the black mold may be present on cabinets, but these can usually be painted over and repaired.
Summertime traditionally brings family trips, school vacations, as well as plenty of hot uncomfortable weather. Those sunny days, however, often come with high humidity and afternoon thundershowers — ideal conditions for annoying and potentially toxic mold.
It’s a pervasive menace that is poised each summer to grow and thrive in your house. Left unattended, fast-growing mold can cause damage that will cost in the thousands of dollars to eradicate or, worse, pose a dangerous threat to the health of your entire family.
“No one knows how many homes have mold behind the walls, but the best estimate is about 70 percent,” said Richard E. Gots, a doctor and founder of the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine, a biomedical consulting firm.
Gots’s estimate refers to mold that is at an “elevated level” and therefore should be addressed if the conditions exist for the mold to take hold and grow.
The Environmental Protection Agency sets levels for acceptable radon levels as well as a threshold for lead in the house or water supply, and states regulate termite inspections and control compliance. Yet there are no federal or state regulations that dictate a safe level of mold for a residential property.
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) has been campaigning for several years to pass legislation that would require residential property owners, including landlords, to disclose the presence of mold in their apartment, condo or house. This legislation is still pending.
According to the District’s housing code, the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) inspectors cannot cite a homeowner for mold because the city considers mold to be “an environmental problem,” rather than a housing or safety issue. Mold, of course, is notoriously difficult to detect, and what may look like dangerous mold can only be legitimately determined under a microscope by a competent inspector or lab. Additionally, most homeowner insurance policies will not cover damage from mold — they consider it a “preventable” condition.
In reality, mold is a fungus that can grow anywhere moisture is present. Mold spores thrive in warm temperatures (77 to 86 degree Fahrenheit) and wherever there are damp conditions. Mold spores are in the air we breathe, and they can grow on any surface. In a house, mold can be found in ceilings and walls, under sinks, in drywall, hidden behind wallpaper or baseboards, in the ductwork or even on furniture and clothes. It can also grow outdoors under wood piles or mulch, gutters or abandoned trash.
Mold in a house can lay dormant until it gets the needed heat and humidity to grow and multiply. Additionally, it needs a food source, such as dust, dirt or some other organic debris.
While not everyone will react to this growth in the same way, those sensitive to allergic or toxic mold can develop alarming symptoms upon merely entering a contaminated room. The result can be a serious — even life-threatening — illness if not treated in time.
If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to mold — or begin to experience dizziness, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath or other symptoms of illness — contact a mold specialist and have your property inspected as soon as possible. Licensed professionals will test the air quality of your house and take samples of the visual mold, which will be sent to a qualified lab for evaluation.
The EPA provides helpful information in its publication “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home” at www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html . And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focuses on the health hazards of mold exposure and provides recommendations for removing mold exposure at www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm#note .
In addition to the traditional methods for eradicating mold (such as using chemicals or chlorine bleach and physically removing infected surfaces), there is a new, enzyme-based alternative. Previously used as a protective spray for fruits and vegetables, it is now available for home use.
Jenn Sherwood, manager of Green Home Solutions of Maryland, says that the enzyme spray is a cost-effective, time-saving and environmentally responsible way for homeowners to eradicate mold. The process uses a “fogger,” which emits a fine spray that is able to penetrate most porous surfaces (such as drywall) or even non-visible areas — behind walls or inside insulation. This method of eradicating mold often eliminates the need to remove and replace the existing material.
The EPA regards this spray as nontoxic to humans or pets and harmless to both surfaces and belongings in the home. The enzyme works by creating a bond with the mold spore, and then breaking it down from the inside. As a result, the mold is chemically altered into a particle that is no longer allergenic, toxigenic, or able to reproduce other spores. This treatment can cost from one-third to one-tenth less than the cost of traditional methods.
Given that your insurance company may not cover mold damage, it’s important to take immediate action.
Here are three easy steps to help prevent mold when you go on vacation:
●Check for areas where water could accumulate — such as around windows, doors, bathroom leaks, kitchen sinks and washing machines.
●Clean surfaces of oil, soap, dust and dirt. Those materials are a feeding ground for mold when moisture is present.
●Set the temperature inside the house in the low 70s, if possible. If you suspect humidity, set a dehumidifier to keep the moisture level below 60 percent. In your closet, place a hanging moisture absorber (such as Damp Rid) that will trap excess humidity and eliminate musty odors.
Sandy Gadow, a freelance writer and author of “The Complete Guide to Your Real Estate Closing,”
In 2000, a new “toxic mold” panic swept the country, and after 16 years of untold lawsuits and billions of dollars spent, major myths still plague and unnecessarily panic association boards, managers and homeowners. The myths all too often cause exaggerated repairs, unduly frightened residents, and conflict. In this and the next column, I will address thirteen pervasive toxic mold myths.
1. Mold is new. Mold, one of the earliest and simplest life forms, has existed for thousands of years. Almost 100 years ago, mold was the basis of the discovery of penicillin. Mold is ever-present, as is dust or pollen.
2. The scientific and medical communities confirm mold’s many dangers. In 2004, the National Institute of Medicine published its comprehensive study on indoor mold exposure, called “Damp Indoor Spaces and Health.” A central finding was: “Scientific evidence links mold … in homes and buildings to asthma symptoms in some people with the chronic disorder, as well as to coughing, wheezing, and upper respiratory tract symptoms in otherwise healthy people… However, the available evidence does not support an association between … mold and the wide range of other health complaints that have been ascribed.”
That sounds like mold is as dangerous as dust or pollen to people with severe asthma. The announcement containing this finding is easily located by a web search, but it did not receive much press play – stories of frightened people living in tents are more interesting.
3. One must determine the kind of mold present. Mold consultants and plaintiff attorneys often describe some molds as worse than others. The most famous mold is stachybotrys chartarum, a mold producing infinitesimal quantities of a substance similar to botulism poison. However, the amount is so small they call it a “mycotoxin.” It sounds frightening, but the scientific community long ago debunked the myth that this or any mold was somehow poisonous to breathe. For example, read the National Institute of Health Fact Sheet on Mold, found at www.niehs.nih.gov.
4. California is protected by the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001. The act instructed the Department of Public Health to develop permissible exposure limits of the various mold strains. However, in 2005, and again in 2008, the DPH reported the task could not be completed with the scientific information available. Consequently, there is presently no official standard as to how many mold spores of any given variety are “unhealthy.”
5. Always start with a mold test. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends against mold testing. There is no standard as to how many mold spores are “unhealthy,” and indoor air sampling tests are extremely vulnerable to events in the home, which can change the results. A recent shower, window opening or carpet cleaning are some of the many factors that can completely change test outcomes.
Mold tests, to put it bluntly, primarily frighten the occupants and create a “need” for the expense of a mold consultant, and a second test after the area is cleaned. Since the health authorities have not confirmed any particular strain is more dangerous, and since there is no official standard as to how many airborne spores are unhealthy, there is rarely a good reason to spend the money on such a test.
Maintaining a healthy home goes beyond dusting and vacuuming. When is the last time you checked your smoke alarms? How about the last time you cleaned out your dryer vent? Follow the tips below to make sure your family and home are ready for a happy, clean spring season.
Grab a ladder, and check your gutters for debris. Remove as much as you can with your hands (Don’t forget to wear gloves!). Remove any leftover gunk with a garden hose. Take off any nozzle and have a helper turn on the water when you’re ready. Shove the hose into the downspout to power out of gooseneck bends. Make sure your downspouts channel water at least five feet from foundation walls.
Scrub Walls, Baseboards and Outlets
Scrub all the walls — in the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms and living areas — with a sponge or brush and mild soap and water. This includes baseboards and outlets. Make sure to completely dry outlet covers before replacing.
Replace all filters including water, range hood and air vent filters. You should replace these filters every 3-6 months depending on the type of filter you have.
Clean Faucets and Showerheads
Unscrew the faucet aerators, sink sprayers and showerheads, and soak them in equal parts vinegar and water solution. Let them soak for an hour, then rinse with warm water.
Sarah Wilson / Getty Images
A clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. To clean it, disconnect the vent from the back of the machine and use a dryer vent brush to remove lint. Outside your house, remove the dryer vent cover and use the brush to remove lint from the other end of the vent line. Make sure the vent cover flap moves freely.
Hire a window-cleaning service to clean all exterior windows.
Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos
A house with a crawl space has vents along the foundation walls. The vents provide air circulation that helps prevent excess moisture and mold growth, and they prevent critters from taking up residence underneath your home. The screens collect leaves and other debris from fall and winter. Spring is a great time to clean them out and check for damage. Clean the vents by hand or use a shop vacuum. Repair any damaged screens — critters can get through even the smallest holes.
Your grill has most likely collected dust during fall and winter. Help your grill live a long life with these maintenance tips, whether you have a charcoal or gas grill.
You can’t have a successful garden without good soil. Follow these tips on how to prepare your soil to help you grow a lush garden.
Test smoke alarms and CO detectors, and change out batteries as needed. It’s cheap, only takes a few minutes and can save your family’s lives.