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The Top Five Least Known Dangers of Winter

February 11, 2014; 11:00 AM ET

The recent cold snaps in parts of the country have highlighted the dangers of extreme cold. Besides the well-known risks of frostbite and hypothermia to both people and animals, there are several other risks that are commonly overlooked but often quite dangerous.

See the list below for the top five lesser-known dangers of winter.

1. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a fairly common risk that can be combated in a relatively easy way.

To protect oneself against poisoning, a carbon monoxide detector can be installed in the home. This detector will monitor levels of the gas in the air and alert the homeowner with an alarm when levels are too high and dangerous

Before the winter season, home heating systems should also be inspected to ensure that the system is clean-burning and that there are no leaks in the ventilation system, which could cause an emission of carbon monoxide.

Another frequent mistake made during the wintertime is turning a car on in a garage to heat it up. While heating up a vehicle may be ideal for driving purposes, leaving a car running in an enclosed space can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If a car needs to heat up prior to driving, make sure the garage doors are left open, so that the gas can be released into the air outside.

2. Burns

When a home is heated using a wood or coal stove, burns can be another serious health risk during the winter months.

Due to the openness of these systems, the surface of the stove or other heating device can be hot to the touch. So, when it is on make sure to close off the area with a fence or gate, to inhibit access for children and pets.

The threat of fire is a major problem as well, especially with open fireplaces. One way to prevent fires is to burn only hardwoods like oak or maple in fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Never burn trash, paper or cardboard. Make sure your flue is open and it is professionally cleaned, and that the liner of your chimney is properly installed before the winter to prevent chimney fires.

3. Fires

According to the Home Safety Council, in January and February fires caused by heating systems surpass cooking fires as the main cause of house fires.

With fireplaces aglow during the wintertime, open fireplaces especially can be prone to starting house fires. The best way to prevent these types of fires is to burn only hardwoods such as, oak or maple. Trash, paper and cardboard should never be burned.

The months prior to the fall and winter seasons are the best times to have a fireplace professionally cleaned and the inner lining of chimneys checked.

4. Freezing Pipes

During extremely cold weather, freezing or bursting pipes is another major issue.

This phenomena can be prevented by keeping your heat on, no lower than 55 degrees, through the winter months. This will keep the household warm and usually allow the pipes to stay somewhat warm too. Additionally, pipes can be insulated before the winter season.

5. Roof Collapses

As snow can accumulate heavily during the winter months, roof collapses are a common winter problem.

Depending on the age, slant and condition of your roof ice and snow build up can cause a roof collapse. The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep tools handy that allow for timely and easy snow removal after a storm.

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