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With snow piling up, safety officials urge homeowners to play it safe

With winter nowhere near an end, safety officials advise everyone to keep an eye on the snow load on their rooftops and rake or shovel them whenever necessary. While snow has been dry and fluffy so far, rising temperatures or heavier snowfalls can quickly increase the weight and create a safety hazard. (Photo by Donna Rhodes)
February 25, 2015
With snow piling up, safety officials urge homeowners to play it safe

By Donna Rhodes


PLYMOUTH — Safety officials wish to caution residents that snow is piling up fast this month, and while central New Hampshire has not borne the worst brunt of Mother Nature's fury, there is still a lot of potential for hazardous situations as snowy conditions prevail throughout the region.

Included in their advice are reminders about snow loads on the roofs of all structures, requests for people to maintain access to all doorways, and for everyone to check heating and appliance ventilation on the outside of their homes to make sure they are also clear of snow and ice.

Homeowners should also be alert to unusual sounds, new cracks in walls or ceilings, or the shifting of doorways and windows and alert safety officials should anything seem out of the ordinary.

"Thankfully, we haven't heard of any problems like that yet. People up here are pretty good about keeping their roofs cleared off," said Plymouth Fire Department's Deputy Chief, Tom Morrison.

Snowfalls thus far have been light and fluffy but as temperatures begin to warm in coming days, snow could become heavier in nature. Any sleet and rain could also increase the load on a roof, another reason to get the snow off a building now.

While there is no exact measurement on when a roof should be shoveled, flat roofs are more susceptible to the stress of snow accumulation than steeper, pitched roofs, but people should always err on the side of caution.

Morrison cautioned that besides keeping an eye on their roof, however, people should also be certain to clear snow from vents and shut off valves on the exterior of their home. Blockage of vents can cause carbon monoxide to back up into a residence, and valves, like those for propane or natural gas, should be available so they can be quickly shut off in the event of a leak.

Another good tip is to keep all entrances shoveled around any building, even if they aren't regularly used in the winter.

"You never know when you'll have to leave out another door or someone will need to get in if there's an emergency," he said.

Icicles hanging from rooflines can prove to be a safety hazard, too, Morrison said. Falling ice can cause severe injury at times and every effort should be made to remove them, most especially above doors and walkways.

Above all else, generators, gas grills and other such appliances should never be used indoors or near an open door or window.

As a result of the frigid temperatures this month, frozen pipes can also cause multiple problems. Heat tapes should be regularly inspected for cracks in their protective coating and replaced whenever even the slightest safety concern arises. Should pipes become frozen, proper safety measures should be taken to thaw the pipes before they burst and create further water problems.

An open flame should never be used to get the water flowing again, and space heaters should be used with extreme caution. Officials say licensed plumbers are often the best and safest recourse in rectifying any issues with frozen pipes.

Keeping water hydrants free of snow is an important communitywide safety measure. Only last week, a tragedy in Franklin was averted due to the fact that a member of the Franklin Fire Department had just shoveled out a hydrant in that city before a residential structure fire occurred. Access to that hydrant was critical in fighting the blaze.

Morrison said the Plymouth Highway Department does all they can to keep hydrants clear but they have also been plowing nearly around the clock lately as storm after storm has hit the region.

"It certainly wouldn't hurt to shovel a hydrant near your residence if you can," said Morrison. "I'm sure the highway crew would really appreciate any help they can get."

Officials from New Hampshire Homeland and Emergency Management are also going an extra mile toward thanking those who shovel out hydrants in their community. Residents who clear three feet of snow from around a hydrant in their town could possibly be rewarded for doing so by simply posting a photo of the cleared hydrant and its location on their Facebook or Twitter account. The photo should be "tagged" with #adoptahydrantNH and the entry will then become eligible to win an item for a home emergency kit.

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