The storm has come and gone, and now you are left with the aftermath. Your home likely needs your attention, and you may not know where to start. Before you jump in headfirst on a project, be careful—you don’t want to accidentally make your repair needs worse or injure yourself.

If your power is out, do not use campfire grills, generators, or other gas-burning heat sources indoors without ventilation, as they could cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home. Dress in layers to keep warm, and conserve the heat in your home by closing all doors and windows. When looking for a light source, opt for battery-operated flashlights over open flames to minimize the risk of fire. And if you have a fireplace, put it to use, making sure to tend the fire carefully to avoid accidents.

If your pipes have frozen, you will need to take care to thaw them out properly. Do not use a blowtorch, as you could melt your pipes and cause more damage. When water freezes, it expands—which can exert a lot of pressure on the pipes in your home. This leads to ruptures and flooding. If you suspect a frozen pipe, open your faucet. A trickle when you expect a rush is a sign you’re on the right track. Pipes on outside walls and in uninsulated areas are the most likely to freeze. Once you find the pipe, apply heat using a method that does not involve an open flame. Hair dryers or towels soaked in hot water are a good bet. When in doubt, contact a licensed plumber.

If your driveway is blocked in with snow and ice, do not rush to clear it. Take the work in 15- to 20-minute sections, and be careful not to overexert yourself. Walk carefully and watch out for patches of ice, as the risk of injury is far greater in winter conditions. Moving snow and ice is an intense workout, and every year people injure themselves trying to do too much too fast.

If you have trees or branches in hazardous places, do not take on the work yourself without assessing the situation. In the event of smaller branches and trees, it is possible to do the work yourself. Cut damaged branches away with clippers or a saw rather than pulling them down, as you could further damage the tree by peeling away bark. Use extreme caution if working with a chainsaw. In the event that a tree has fallen onto your house, call a professional to remove it.

If your roof and gutters need attention, do not climb on top of your house without first considering personal safety. Because heat rises inside your home, the snow on top melts and refreezes, creating a layer of ice underneath the snow on top of your house. Your gutters may also be frozen through with refrozen ice that has run off your roof. Roof damage is an incredibly common problem to have after a winter storm, and in almost all situations, it’s best to call a professional.

Preparing beforehand for a winter storm can help avoid many issues, but some can’t be accounted for. Knowing what not to do when faced with an unexpected problem, like an oak tree coming to rest on your garage, can save you stress and injury in a time when neither is welcome.

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Sources: American Red Cross; The Center for Food Security and Public Health; Ready; The Weather Channel; The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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