As we prepare to “fall back” with the end of Daylight Savings Time, the tradition serves as a reminder to take steps forward to keep our homes and families safe.
Do not stop at turning your clocks back one hour on November 4th, keep going by getting your home ready for fall and winter. Associating certain tasks with Daylight Savings Time is an easy way to remember to do some of those routine, but important, tasks around the house.
Changing the batteries in all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be at the top of the to-do list. In fact, homeowners are encouraged to make that swap twice a year. Rather than tossing or recycling those used batteries, repurpose them for service in toys, media players and other electronics.
Fall is also a good time to check light bulbs and fixtures around the house. Making sure your house is well lit, especially at the top and bottom of staircases, not only makes it easier to move around, but can reduce the risk of someone falling or tripping. When you need to replace bulbs, consider using more energy-efficient options to save a little money.
Additionally, your home’s heating and cooling system should be serviced once a year either in the fall or spring.
The end of Daylight Savings Time is an appropriate time of year to refresh and restock your emergency preparedness kit. If your kit is properly maintained you should not have to throw away any food. Items close to their expiration dates should be cycled into the daily food supply so they can be eaten, then add foods to your kit with at least a 6-month expiration date.
The easiest way to tell if any food items and beverages have gone bad is to check the expiration dates. To avoid confusion, check for expiration dates when you put foods in the kit. If the product has no date or the date is written in code, use a marker to write the date you put the food into your kit or the date you need to remove it from the kit. Just remember to use the same method each time you update your kit.
In the absence of an expiration date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates high-acid canned items such as tomatoes; grapefruit and pineapple can be stored for a year to 18 months. Meanwhile, foods with less acid such as canned meats, poultry, fish and most vegetables can last 2 to 5 years if properly stored.
Replenish the water stored in the kit as well. Experts recommend changing the water supply in an emergency kit every 6 months.
In addition, make sure the clothing in your kit is appropriate for colder temperatures in the fall and winter, and do not forget to replace any provisions you used or borrowed. Test the flashlights, as well, and ensure the extra batteries are regular, and not rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries can lose their charge when left for long periods of time.
Finally, review your emergency contact list and update it if necessary, and review with your family your emergency escape plan in case of a fire.
Submitted by Brenda Hill, Ph.D. Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.