Considering the gorgeous spring, summer and fall we’ve had this year, it’s easy (and perhaps tempting) to forget about winter’s cold bite, isn’t it? But the fact is that we’re Minnesotans, and we know what’s coming…even if our first snowfall and colder temperatures are unusually late this year.
In fact, the National Weather Service has predicted as much as a foot of snow over the next couple of days for the western and northern parts of our state. Which is why it’s handy that this week is Winter Hazard Awareness Week. This annual campaign is a great time to remind ourselves of safety tips to get us through the coming cold months.
For example, if you’re one of the many Minnesotans who doesn’t bat an eye at driving in winter weather, take a moment to congratulate yourself—then complete your Winter Safety Checklist
. It starts with winterizing your vehicle to minimize your chances of breaking down when it’s cold and snowy out.
Travel throughout Minnesota will be significantly impacted during this weekend’s storm, so it’s important to be ready. Do you have a winter survival kit
in your car? Creating a kit won’t take much time and could make all the difference for you and your family. Always look at weather predictions before you leave. If your phone doesn’t have a built-in weather app, here’s a list
of weather alerts or emergency preparedness and warning apps you can sign up for. Then be sure to tell someone where you’re going and notify them when you arrive safely. If you don’t report when you’re supposed to, you’ll be easier to find on the way. And if you have to wait for help in your car, make sure you know what to do—and what not to.
Your phone becomes indispensable during winter outings (but please don’t surf or text on it while driving). Do you know what information to give a 911 operator
if you’re in an unfamiliar area? Snowplows will soon be a common sight on Minnesota roads. Do you know how to stay safe around them? (Hint: Among other things, it’s important to stay back at least five car lengths to allow for a snowplow’s slow speed and the additional stopping distance needed for wet or icy conditions.)
You may be sad to say goodbye to fall, but remember that winter is a lot more fun when you’re safe and sound.
Eight great reasons to take a motorcycle training course
Motorcycle training season is over for another year, and many riders have come away with some great new skills and a lot more confidence. If you’re still on the fence about taking a motorcycle training course, consider that over 5,500 students participated in 529 courses around the state this year.
In our Basic Riding Course alone, there were 4,648 students, of which 1,362 were women (in case you were thinking it was all men). And over 98 percent of them said they felt respected and encouraged by their RiderCoach, and that their RiderCoach was well prepared, an effective communicator, and showed concern for their personal safety.
Still not convinced? Here are eight of our favorite quotes from real students about their motorcycle training experiences:
1. “I really enjoyed the course and felt prepared to take my bike out on the road way. I would and have recommended to people to take this course!!!”
2. “I was probably the student in my class with the least amount of experience and I was nervous at the beginning. But, once on the range, it didn't take long for me to feel at ease. Because this was such a positive experience, I will be taking further training classes to grow in my ability. I will also be a walking commercial for this course.”
3. “I haven't ridden in 31 years-----this course was an excellent refresher--very glad I took it.”
4. “This course was amazing! I learned so much about safety and riding defensively. I am 60 years old and was the oldest student during the course. I am happy to say I passed my motorcycle license/endorsement the first time.”
5. “I was very pleased at how quickly I picked up riding skills. The instructors were very clear in their directions and gave excellent examples. They were exacting in their correcting which helped me learn quickly.”
6. “I am planning on taking this class at the beginning of each riding season. Thank you for having an excellent curriculum and wonderful instructors.”
7. “This course is an exceptional opportunity to work on riding skills in a well-established and controlled environment, with helpful coaching and demonstrations. Taking the time to put in practice on the range helps me to be a better rider on the street.”
8. “I strongly encourage this class not only for beginners, but experienced riders as well. I learned many things that I had simply not thought of.”
If you’re interested in learning more about our motorcycle training courses, check them out on our website
and watch this video
. Registration opens Feb. 1, 2017. Hope to see you on the range next spring!
Youth firesetters need our help
Yes, children are smaller than us—but when they start fires, they can be big and even deadly. It happens more than you’d think, even here in Minnesota. For example, last year, there were 386 youth-set fires in our state, according to the State Fire Marshal Division's 2011-2015 Youth-Set Fires Report. Of the ignition sources listed, lighters were the most common.
Of course, not all of these were set on purpose. Children are naturally curious about fire and tend to imitate adult behavior. In fact, children and adults alike find fire fascinating.
Fire is part of American culture, from the baby’s first birthday candle and the holiday table to the Fourth of July fireworks, the cozy fireplace, and the recreational campfire.
But although curiosity in children is normal, starting fires is not. Nor is it a phase. In fact, fire is potentially deadly, and it moves fast. Young children just don’t understand that, older children, and even adults overestimate their ability to control a fire.
Research shows that without intervention, youthful firesetting behavior tends to continue. Children who repeatedly start fires need help.
The Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division has developed a helpline as an opportunity for citizens to find the help they need to curb firesetting by juveniles. A simple call will get help on the way. The incoming call will be answered by an automated system, and then reviewed by a deputy state fire marshal. The deputy will then forward the case to the youth fire intervention team for assistance.
There are 10 youth fire prevention and intervention regions across the state, consisting of mental health professionals, social services, juvenile justice and fire department representatives, and peace officers.
Early intervention is critical for kids who start fires. If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to call.
The number for the Youth Firesetter Helpline is 800-500-8897. You can learn more about youth firesetting on the State Fire Marshal Division’s
Get your furnace or fireplace checked by a pro
It’s true that we’re having an unusually long, warm fall this year in Minnesota. It’s also true that winter is inevitable, and with it comes those temperatures that make us appreciate our furnaces and fireplaces.
But fireplaces and chimneys were responsible for a sobering 173 residential fires last year; and fixed, portable, and central heating units were the cause of another 88. That’s 261 excellent reasons to get your fireplace and/or furnace cleaned and inspected by a professional before the cold weather hits.
If you use portable heaters, make sure to keep them at least three feet away from anything flammable, and turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
If you have a woodstove, be sure it’s properly installed and ventilated. And never, ever use your oven to heat your home.
And remember that fire isn’t the only way heating units can turn into killers. If they’re not functioning properly, stoves, furnaces and fireplaces can put off dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
That’s why it’s important to have CO alarms in your house. To make sure they’re working properly when you need them, test them once a month.
So for now, make yourself a hot cup of tea and snuggle under a blanket on the couch with your phone. Then use it to call a professional to clean and check out your heat sources so that when it’s time to use them, you’ll know you and your family will be safe.
Fall back on fire safety: Change smoke alarm batteries
It’s not that daylight saving time is easy to remember; it’s that you have no choice. If you don’t set your clocks back an hour this weekend, you’ll be an hour early to work Monday morning. Another important task that should be performed every six months is changing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. So why not do them at the same time?
The best motivation for this? Smoke and CO alarms save lives…but only if they work. Last year in Minnesota, 16 percent of the state’s 57 fire deaths took place in homes without smoke alarms or with inoperable smoke alarms. And the most common reason they’re inoperable? Dead or missing batteries.
The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most people are sleeping. That’s why smoke alarms are so important, and why you should have one on every level of your home, both inside and outside sleeping areas.
What’s more, smoke alarms need to be tested once a month and replaced every 10 years (there’s a manufacture date on the alarm; give it a look when you replace the batteries this weekend). And of course, have a plan in place for when the alarms actually go off. Make sure everyone in your home knows it and practice it together.
So as you go around your house this Saturday night or Sunday morning setting each clock back one hour, why not grab a handful of fresh batteries to pop into the smoke alarms as you go? Two birds, one stone, and a much safer family.