The National Weather Service has issued a Hard Freeze Watch for most of Southern Nevada Wednesday night through Saturday morning. This is the first cold snap this season. Here are some safety tips for dealing with freezing weather:
Keep anything that can burn, such as clothing, furniture, mattresses and paper products at least three feet away from any heat sources such as furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces, stoves and water heaters.
Furnaces (including natural gas/propane or electric) that have not been used for the last several months will have a buildup of dust and dirt on the heating elements. When the furnace is used for the first time, this dirt and dust will burn off, causing a burning smell, a very light haze or white smoke. This is not harmful and is common. This is just the residue burning off the elements and it may take several minutes and maybe three or four uses before it all burns away. If the smoke is dark grey or black, and the furnace makes rumbling noises, you should leave the house immediately and call 9-1-1 from a safe location.
If you use a fireplace, make sure the damper is open and the chimney flue is clear to allow smoke and gases to escape properly. Only one log should be permitted to burn at a time. The flame should never go above the lentil (the top part of the fireplace on the inside.) Discard ashes into a pail of water and let them soak for several hours before discarding. Do not discard ashes in the trash or store them in cardboard boxes or trash bags.
Use solid fuel such as wood or logs bought in stores in fireplaces that are designed for solid fuels. Do not use solid fuels in fireplaces designed for natural gas only.
With freezing temperatures, water pipes may freeze. If a pipe freezes, do not use a torch or any type of flame to thaw the pipe. The sudden increase in temperature will cause the ice to expand quickly and explode.
Do not use extension cords with electric space heaters. Extension cords can overheat and the heat from the extension cord can start combustible items on fire. Electric space heaters should be unplugged when not in use and if you leave the home.
Barbecues should not be used as heating devices, but they have been found in a number of Las Vegas homes in the past. Although they give off heat, they also produce lethal amounts of carbon monoxide gas that can overcome occupants inside a building with no warning.
Have furnaces checked by a qualified technician and change the air filters to the furnace once every 30 days. If they clog with dirt and dust, the furnace will pull fresh air down the chimney, which is also full of carbon monoxide gas, which is deadly.
Do not let your car run in the garage to heat up. After you start the car, make sure the garage door is open and move the car out as soon as you can. Even with the garage door open, lethal levels of carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe can seep into the home.
Never run an electric generator or other fossil fuel appliance in the home, including the garage. These devices produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.
Be aware of any moisture on the roadways, especially at night. Water from lawn sprinklers on the road at night can freeze, causing the roadway or sidewalks to be icy. Remember that bridges and underpasses freeze faster than regular road surfaces. Even the smallest amount of moisture can cause the road surface to be hazardous.