For many of us the backyard is our home away from home, or more specifically our home outside our house. Many of us will be spending a lot of time in our yards this summer and keeping things safe is just as important in the backyard as it is inside the home. Here are some reminders for backyard safety this summer and throughout the year.
- Grills – Keep your grill at least ten feet away from the side of your house, and keep it away from decks and shrubs. Never use it inside garages or under porches for cover. Keep children and pets away from the grill while in use, and always extinguish the coals before leaving it unattended.
- Decks – Waterproofing will help keep your deck in good shape. Inspect it for cracks and splinters, as well as for screws or nails popping up through the wood. Test railings for sturdiness.
- Plants – Choose plants carefully for your landscape to prevent any interactions like rashes or worse. Likewise inspect existing plants and know what poison ivy looks like and how to remove it safely.
- Pools – Follow existing guidelines and local laws for fencing around a pool. Store chemicals in a safe place and out of reach from children. Check that the drain cover complies with established safety standards. Establish house rules for the pool including, “No one swims alone.”
- Pests – Keep the mosquito population down by eliminating sources of standing water. Change the water in birdbaths and fountains frequently. Do not overuse weed killers or pesticides and be aware of their potential dangers for humans.
- Play Sets – Check frequently for the effects of use and weather like loose bolts, splinters, rust, etc. Provide a soft cushion like wood chips around equipment. Supervise young children while they play.
- Underfoot – Eliminate dangers in the yard that may cause tripping like sticks, rocks, tree stumps and uneven terrain.
- Mower -The spinning blades of power mowers can make dangerous projectiles out of sticks, stones and even toys. Keep everyone inside, especially children, when mowing the lawn.
With the holidays just days away, many drivers are planning long distance holiday road trips to visit family and friends. Your road trip will go much smoother and will be much more enjoyable if you do a little extra planning in advance. Below are eight travel tips to help you plan for your road trip:
- Join a travel club – If you don’t already have a membership to a travel club, join one before you leave town. It will save you a lot of headaches if the unexpected happens while you’re on the road.
- Speaking of the “unexpected”… – Whenever you go on a long distance road trip, you should EXPECT the UNEXPECTED. Anticipate spending extra time on your road trip for whatever might come your way whether it’s a problem such as a flat tire or road construction that slows you down, or a nice surprise like happening upon a charming little town along your route or a tourist attraction that you didn’t know you’d be passing by. If the “unexpected” is a nice surprise, slow down and enjoy it.
- Check you air pressure – Before you leave town, check the air pressure in your tires, including the spare. Improper air pressure can lead to poor handling, lower gas mileage, and in extreme cases it can even cause overheating and a blowout.
- Take turns driving – Switch drivers often. It is safer to switch drivers frequently so no one gets tired or starts “zoning out” behind the wheel. Plus everyone gets a chance to enjoy the scenery while they are the passenger.
- Take frequent restroom breaks – As a rule, you should use the restroom every time you stop during your road trip. Even if you don’t think you have to go, go anyway. If you haven’t traveled your route before, you might not know when you’ll come across the next rest stop, gas station, etc.
- Plan rest days – If you’re driving from one side of the country to the other, your trip could take a few days. Build rest days into your travel schedule. This will give all drivers and passengers a chance to rest and regroup, not to mention it will be good for your car. Constant driving can be taxing on your car. If you take a break or two, your car will be less likely to overheat, breakdown, etc.
- Eat healthy – Roadside convenience stores aren’t exactly known for their healthy food options, so pack a cooler for your trip. When the munchies hit you in the car, you’ll be better off with a healthy snack like fruit, yogurt, juice, etc.
- Entertain the kids – If you’ll be traveling with children, your trip will be more enjoyable if the kids are entertained in the car. Bring travel games, books, magazines, a children’s music CD, etc. Plan to play games like “I Spy”, sing songs, and count blue cars or big rigs. If your kids are entertained, they are less likely to cry all the way to Grandma’s house making your ride more peaceful and enjoyable. And don’t forget their favorite blankets, stuffed, animals or other comfort items that might help them nap in the car.
For more tips, please check out 8 Travel Tips for a Holiday Weekend Road Trip.
Cold weather can cause all kinds of transportation problems, so don’t put off having your car inspected and serviced now. Below is a checklist of the most important areas of your car to review or inspect in order to be prepared for winter.
- Check all of the fluids. This includes oil, brake fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid.
- Have the battery serviced including cleaning the terminal ends and checking cables for wear. If it fails a load test or is more than four years old, replace it.
- Check tire tread for wear. If you drive on remote roads consider replacing all-season tires with snow tires for added traction in snow and ice.
- Make sure tires are inflated properly as cold temperatures will lower pressure. Specifications for your car are usually found on the edge of the door or in the glove box.
- Have your breaks inspected. Control on slick roads is key in the winter.
- Test defroster, heater, and all the lights including turn signals and headlights.
- Replace windshield wipers to ensure best visibility.
- Keep the gas tank full to prevent moisture freezing in the gas lines.
- Carry emergency items. Include a blanket, extra clothing plus boots, gloves, hat, ice scraper, snow shovel, flashlight, flares, kitty litter for traction, jumper cables, a phone charger, and maybe your favorite snacks to get you through that enormous traffic jam on the way home from work.
Hurricane season begins in June and lasts to the end of November. If you live in a coastal area, of course you will want to prepare ahead of time. Below are eight hints and tips to help you prepare:
- Plan – Create a plan for your household and review it with all of its members. Include a place away from home where everyone can meet if they cannot get home. Also, designate a contact away from your immediate area that everyone can call in case of emergency. Keep hard copies of emergency numbers in case cell phone batteries fail.
- Emergency Kit – Put together an emergency kit in a waterproof container and keep it in a handy place. Include items like a battery operated radio, first aid kit, water, non-perishable foods and flashlights.
- Utilities – Know the procedures for shutting down electric, gas, water, etc. Prevent damage from sewers and septic systems with a backflow device.
- Stormproof – Consider reinforcing roof trusses, garage door openings and other vulnerable areas. You may want to install storm shutters. If you board up windows and other openings, have your supplies ready to go. Secure outdoor items. Keep the trees near the house trimmed and consider replacing landscaping gravel and rocks with softer items like bark or mulch.
- Evacuation Route – Review the safest and most direct route to your community shelter should you have to evacuate. Plan to avoid dangerous areas like dams or levees and know alternate routes should yours be blocked.
- Pets – Collars and chips should include your current contact information. Have leashes and carrying cases ready in case of evacuation.
- Check Information – You may be able to sign up with your local government for emergency alerts via phone or email. Make a record of important phone numbers to call for assistance. Don’t forget to have your insurance information handy just in case.
- Cash – When disasters hit and power is out for prolonged periods, cash is king. ATMs don’t work, businesses may not be able to process credit cards for a while and banks may be damaged or closed. Plan ahead and have a reasonable amount of cash available.
The Garage Plan Shop made a New Year’s resolution to enjoy the great outdoors in 2014, and we invited you to do the same. In January we posted a list of ideas for fun and interesting things to do outdoors. Below is another list of ideas to help you renew your commitment to getting outside and enjoying everything around you.
- Catch lightning bugs with your kids on a summer night.
- Take your kids for a nighttime walk around your neighborhood with flashlights.
- Visit local outdoor attractions such as the zoo, a botanical garden, or a natural area.
- Visit a local park you haven’t been to before.
- Plan a road trip and stop at national monuments, historic sites and other points of interest along the way.
- Visit a Civil War battle field.
- Drive one of America’s scenic highways or byways.
- Visit a nearby park several times throughout the year and observe how it changes as the seasons change.
- Learn to identify native trees, flowers and shrubs.
- Learn to identify native birds and those that migrate and only visit your area seasonally.
- Plan a weekend camping trip with your kids or friends to a new campground.
- Schedule a weekly outing with other friends and take your kids to the park for a picnic and to play on the playground.
- Fly a kite.
- Stargaze on a clear night and learn to identify some of the constellations.
- Take a boating safety class.
- Take a class to learn about a new outdoor recreational activity like rock climbing, archery or scuba diving.
- Take your kids apple picking, strawberry picking, to the pumpkin patch, etc.
- Take in Mother Nature’s display of fall colors in a city, state, or town you’ve never visited.
- Enjoy winter sports with your kids like skiing, sledding and ice skating.
- Take your kids horseback riding.
- Hike a new trail once a month.
- Teach a child about an outdoor sport you love.
- Participate in a charity event or fundraiser such as a walk or fun run.
- Get involved in a neighborhood beautification project such as picking up litter along roadways or planting flowers at a community garden.