Cold Weather is Here Again!

            Once again, the weather has turned and cooler temperatures are starting to become the norm.  With the arrival of cold weather comes the use of heat producing appliances to keep our homes and businesses warm.  If you haven’t already done so, it is recommended that you engage a reputable heating and air conditioning company to service your furnace or heat pump and make sure that it is working properly before the really cold weather settles in.  For those of you that undertake that job personally, there are a few things that you should bear in mind.  When you take the service access panels off, be prepared to clean the motor and blower thoroughly.  Use a brush (a paint brush works fine) to clean inside the air openings of the motor and blower louvers.  Once you’ve dusted the air handling section, use the blower end of a shop vac (if available) to blow all of the dust out of the air handler.  If you don’t have a shop vac, use a standard vacuum cleaner and suck out as much dust as possible.  Lint and dirt buildup can burn and help to spread a fire, particularly if the furnace is started, allowed to operate, and service ignored for several seasons.  With heat pumps, air has to be able to flow freely through the inside and outside coils and therefore, has to be free of and any trash and debris that might have accumulated during the summer.  As with gas fired units, the air handler also has be cleaned and kept free of dust and lint.  Air filters should be replaced at the beginning of each heating (and cooling) season and inspected at least once per month.  Filters should be replaced when you can’t see through the media.  If you can’t see through the filter media, then air is being restricted enough to affect the heating (and cooling) capacity. 

            Aside from standard heating units, there are those that use kerosene or propane gas heaters.  In addition to a through cleaning, care must be taken to remember that small, fuel burning, space heaters and some gas log appliances are NOT VENTED.  As a result, they will produce CARBON MONOXIDE, a deadly, toxic gas.  Since these appliances are not vented, carbon monoxide is released into the space being heated.  DO NOT go to sleep with one of these types of appliances in operation.  Death from asphyxiation is a likely result.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, and vomiting.  Victims of carbon monoxide poisoning should be evacuated to the outdoors as quickly as possible while awaiting ambulance service.  Moreover, if you have to use a portable generator because of a power outage, remember, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is still present if the generator is operating inside the home or garage.  If using a small electric heater, a through cleaning is also required.  The main thing to remember when using space heaters, whether fuel burning or electric, is to keep them far enough away from combustible materials.  The heaters usually come with operating instructions that discuss how far from combustible material the heater can be placed.  However, the operating instructions are usually misplaced, discarded, or lost.  If you can’t remember how far away to place a heater, generally, a three foot distance is usually far enough away to keep most combustible material cool enough to keep it from igniting.  However, if the material feels too warm at a three foot distance, then move the heater back to increase the distance until the material feels cool.  USE COMMON SENSE! 

Eight Deaths – Really?

We’ve all heard about the eight people who lost their lives at the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Florida.  We’ve also heard about how the Center lost power and as a result, also lost their air conditioning.  The loss of power as a result of Hurricane Irma was not unusual.  With all the destruction, it would have been unusual if they hadn’t lost power.  For several days before the hurricane made landfall the whole country was hearing about Hurricane Irma and how destructive the storm could be.  For at least one week, the staff of the facility had time to prepare for the storm.  Granted, nobody knew where the storm would hit, how much damage would result, how much rain would fall or how bad flooding would be.  Knowing that a major storm was about to hit, it’s hard to believe that the staff didn’t plan to have extra water, food, and medicine on hand just in case it was needed.  Surely, the staff recognized the need to have extra batteries available for electronic medicine dispensing machines, oxygen monitors, vital sign monitors, and the like.  So, how is it that a critical necessity like electric power is overlooked?  Did the center not have a backup power generation system?  If not, why couldn’t they have rented a couple of generators before the storm?  In both cases, the backups would most likely have required the storage of gasoline in order to be prepared for a power outage.  In all fairness, the storage of gasoline could have been as dangerous to patients as the lack of cool air.  If the hurricane had damaged the facility, the stored gasoline could have been a huge fire hazard.  It’s easy to sit back, second guess and criticize those that were supposed to have been in attendance of the patients.  But, when the hazards are considered, choices have to be made.  To err on the side of caution is not necessarily a bad thing.  Food? Yes. Water? Yes. Medicine? Yes. Gasoline? Wait a minute!  Where will it be stored?  Can the stock be safely accessed if debris and flood water are in the area? Can generator fuel tanks be safely filled?  Can generators be safely operated without danger to staff or patients?  These and many more questions will be asked by investigators in order to determine if criminal charges are warranted.  Hopefully, those things that can be improved upon will be improved and staff as well as patients will be as well protected as can be during a major storm.  However, if negligence on the part of management or staff is found to have been a factor in the deaths of the eight patients, then criminal charges should be levied against the responsible people.

 

 

 

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