Weather Watches and Warnings, When Do You Worry?
Some of the terminology used by weather forecasters can be confusing if you are not a meteorology enthusiast. You should become familiar with the lingo used by your local weather gurus so that you can clearly comprehend the potential risk to you and your family. These terms can be applied to hurricanes, thunderstorms, and floods in warm weather or winter storms when it gets cold.
The National Weather Service (NWS) offers these definitions:
An Outlook is issued to raise public awareness of the possibility of severe weather or a flooding event. You may make plans to prepare for the event, should the outlook be upgraded to a watch. An outlook is issued 36 to 72 hours before the occurrence of the event.
A Watch is issued when the probability of hazardous weather or a flooding event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, or timing is uncertain. You can set your plans in motion to prepare for the event. A watch is issued 12 to 36 hours before the occurrence of the event.
A Warning is issued when hazardous weather or a flooding event is imminent, or has a high probability of occurrence within 12 hours. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life and property. A "tornado warning" means that a tornado has been spotted, and you should take shelter immediately.
The NWS is the only organization that has the authority to issue weather advisories such as outlooks, watches, and warnings for life threatening hazards.
The NWS also recommends that everyone purchase a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature. The tone-alert feature will automatically notify you when a NWS watch or warning is issued.
Chemicals in the Home
Some common, household cleaning products may contain corrosives, solvents, pesticides, and other toxic ingredients. When considering a household product for use in your home, read the label first to learn safety information and to know how to properly use the product.
If chemicals of any kind are in your home, be prepared for any emergency. Keep the local emergency number, local ambulance number, and the local poison control center telephone numbers on or next to the phone. You can usually find these numbers on the inside cover or first few pages of your local telephone book. You can also look for the nearest poison control center on the state and regional poison control centers website or call 1-800-222-1222.
Storage and Disposal:
Always store chemicals safely in a location inaccessible to children and pets, as instructed on the product label. Check the label for disposal requirements, which can vary from state to state. Find out who to contact in your state when you have questions on the disposal of household chemicals.
A Look at Air Quality
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, invisible gas and is the result of the incomplete combustion of carbon in fuel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that 56% of atmospheric CO comes from "on-road" motor vehicle exhaust. Other "non-road" engines and vehicles (construction equipment, boats) donate 22% to CO emissions nationwide.
Even low levels of CO can affect those with heart disease and cause chest pain. High levels can have an impact on healthy people and can result in vision problems, reduced ability to learn and work, reduced manual dexterity, and difficulty when performing complex tasks. Extremely high levels of CO can result in death. And, as if that is not bad enough, CO is one of the constituents of smog, which can also cause respiratory problems.
What Exactly is Bad About Ozone?
Over the past 20 years or so, we've been hearing a lot about the thinning of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. This upper atmospheric ozone layer commonly referred to as "good ozone" limits the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth. The world community responded to the thinning of the ozone layer phenomenon by eliminating the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Besides the upper atmospheric ozone layer, there is also ground level ozone. So, exactly what is it and how does it affect us?
Ground level or "bad ozone" is not usually emitted into the air but results when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) chemically react in the presence of heat and sunlight. The EPA states that some of the major sources of "bad ozone" are motor vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents. NOx, VOCs, and the resulting ground level ozone can be transported by the wind from urban areas, spreading over large areas and affecting entire regions.
Ground level ozone is often referred to as a summertime pollutant. During the summer months, when sunlight and hot weather are abundant, ground level ozone concentrations can rise to unhealthy levels damaging plants and the ecosystem in general. Even small levels of ground level ozone can cause a variety of health problems and prolonged exposure may cause chronic health problems.
You can check your local ozone levels by visiting the EPA AIRNOW web site. This website contains general information about air pollution plus current air quality conditions, as well as forecasted air quality data. The data is color-coded into six categories, each representing an Air Quality Index (AQI) level of health concern.
Particulate Matter: Is the Air a Little Hazy Today?
Have you ever wondered what makes the air appear hazy? The haze might be the effects of particulate matter, also know as particle pollution. These particles can include dust, dirt, soot, smoke, as well as particles that form on liquid droplets such as sulfates or nitrates. Some particulate matter is emitted into the atmosphere from a variety of ground sources including cars, trucks, buses, factories, construction sites, tilled fields, unpaved roads, stone crushing, and burning wood. Other particulate matter is formed indirectly from chemical reactions that occur in the atmosphere between the gases of combustion, sunlight, and water vapor. Particulate matter can remain suspended in the air for hundreds of miles and therefore can travel away far from the source. In addition, when particulate matter eventually settles to earth, it can make streams and lakes acidic and damage property, forests, and farm crops.
While the levels of particulate matter have dramatically decreased since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, there are still areas of the country that have particulate matter concentrations above the national standard. The EPA recognizes that particulate matter is affecting certain regions of the U.S. including some of our nation's most treasured areas such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Acadia, and Shenandoah National Parks. As a result, the EPA is working with States, tribes, and local governments to control the emission of particulate matter from industrial sources. Additionally in 1999 the EPA issued "regional haze" visibility regulations that call for long-term strategies that will return visibility in our national parks to near natural conditions.
The EPA states that when particulate matter is inhaled, it can aggravate asthma and has been linked to difficult or painful breathing, coughing, chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, and even premature death.
About the Air Quality Index
The following is courtesy of the EPA
Each day at more than a thousand locations across the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measures and records the outdoor air concentrations of five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act. These five pollutants are ozone, particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. For each monitoring location, the EPA converts these raw measurements into an Air Quality Index (AQI) for each pollutant. The AQI ranges from 0 to 500 where a value of 100 generally corresponds to the national air quality standard for each measured pollutant. The highest AQI value for the individual pollutants is the AQI value for that day. For example, if on July 12 a certain area had AQI values of 90 for ozone and 88 for sulfur dioxide, the AQI value would be 90 for the pollutant ozone on that day.
In large cities (more than 350,000 people), state and local agencies are required to report the AQI to the public daily. When the AQI is above 100, agencies must also report which groups, such as children or people with asthma or heart disease, may be sensitive to the specific pollutant. If two or more pollutants have AQI values above 100 on a given day, agencies must report all the groups that are sensitive to those pollutants. Many smaller communities also report the AQI as a public health service.
EPA's AIRNOW web site ( www.epa.gov/airnow ) contains general information about air pollution plus real-time and forecast air quality data. The real-time and forecasted data are color-coded into six categories, each representing an AQI level of health concern. Each color category and the associated health concerns are defined as follows:
Good - With an AQI value between 0 and 50, air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
Yellow - Moderate. With an AQI value between 51 and 100, air quality is acceptable. However, unusually sensitive people may experience negative health effects.
Orange - Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. When AQI values are between 101 and 150, sensitive people (those with lung or heart disease, asthmatics, children, and the elderly) may experience negative heath effects.
Red - Unhealthy. When AQI values are between 151 and 200, everyone may begin to experience negative health effects. Sensitive individuals may experience more serious health effects.
Purple - Very Unhealthy. When AQI values are between 201 and 300, everyone may experience more serious health effects; a "health alert" is generated.
Maroon - Hazardous. When AQI values are over 300, the entire population is more likely to be affected, creating "health warnings" of emergency conditions.
You can check on the AQI in your area on the EPA website AirNow.
All children are curious by nature and most like to try and be ‘ grown up’ and utilize the kitchen. Unfortunately this can often lead to children finding themselves in dangerous situations. For the safety of your own and visiting children there are a number of steps you can take to protect them in every area of your home.
Appliances - Always place appliances at the back of the work top or counter and ensure all electric cords are well out of reach. It is also a good idea to unplug small appliances when they are not being used so children cannot operate them. This should also prevent any shocks if the appliance is accidently pulled into a water filled sink.
Stove – Exercise Extreme Caution when using the stove in the presence of young children. Always cook on the back burners and ensure that all pan handles are turned out of children’ s line of sight and reach. If the stove knobs are within a young child’ s reach use safety covers and keep stools or chairs well away. Make sure children’ s favorites such as chocolates and cookies are stored well away from the stove.
Plastic Bags - Ensure plastic bags are always out of children’ s reach and tie the plastic bags into knots, this will deter children from playing with them and should prevent accidental suffocation.
Safety Latch – Using child safety latches on all the cabinet doors will prevent youngsters from gaining access to dangerous chemicals, cutlery and breakable plates. If your children enjoy and ‘ insist on helping you in the kitchen’ , perhaps keep one cabinet door unlocked and keep plastic cups and plates for the child to play with.
Knives - Knives should always be beyond reach of curious little hands. They should be placed at the top or to the rear of your cabinet or dishwasher.
Pet Food – Keep pet food and water bowls away from toddlers since it may seem like a fun idea to mimic the actions of the family pet!
Teach older kids how to use kitchen appliances safely and with supervision, including the microwave oven.
Table Tops – Avoid using table clothes as they are easily pulled down, place drinks or food in the center of a table or at the very back of a worktop.
Never leave a baby or young child alone in the bathtub or shower, not even for a second. In addition to this, don't leave any water in an unattended tub. Use this checklist to cut down on other risks.
Adjust water heater temperature down to between 100° and 120° F hot enough for an adult shower, but not so hot that it could scald a child. Make it a habit to turn all faucets and taps off tightly so they're not easy for children to turn on.
Purchase a soft cover for the bathtub spout to protect kids from painful knocks and collisions with the tub spout.
Keep perfume, bubble bath, make-up, and other hazardous products in a closed cabinet, out of reach and sight.
Keep hair dryers and other electrical appliances (such as UV-C air purifiers ) unplugged, out of reach, and away from sinks and bathtubs to prevent burns and electrocution.
Use tub mats to prevent slipping. Check the size and style of the strips, Non-slip strips and appliqué s are often are too widely spaced to protect children and should be avoided.
Falls and accidents on stairs are some of the most common causes of injuries to children in the home. A few simple precautions can significantly reduce these dangers.
Use safety gates – Only use gates that meet current US safety standards. Avoid older gates, particularly accordion style as they can trap a small child’ s head, leg, or arm.
- Wooden stairs and socks or slippers make a slippery combination. Carpeted stairs are safer, especially if they have no raised metal edges or screws for the child to trip over. Keep stairs and landings free of clutter.