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Winter is here

Prepare car and home for the season’s challenges

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Kevin Klippel, a mechanic at O’Shea Tire and Service Center in Cortlandville, puts snow tires on a vehicles last week. Snow tires are among the recommendations experts offer for improving safety on the road and at home as the winter arrives.

Early last winter, Scott Jackson tried to drive up a hill to his mother’s house using all-season tires. He couldn’t make it.

He had to back down the hill, a dangerous and scary experience that made him realize how important snow tires are.

“That was one of the determining factors for always getting snow tires,” he said, while picking up his car after having its tires changed. “There’s a considerable difference between those and all-season tires. I’d just rather be safe than sorry.”

Like many people, he wants to get his family home safe to a warm house. It’s why he was among others who stopped at O’Shea Tire and Service Center over the past month.

O’Shea owner Rich Borra said it’s been busy at the shop since October with people coming to get snow tires installed. He estimated the garage sees about 25 to 30 cars a week and 75 percent of those cars are getting snow tires.

“Winter tires, and four winter tires, is the best way to go,” Borra said.

The reason for that is the difference in tread on the tires. State regulations require at least a 2/32 of an inch tread depth for seasonal tires — at least part of Abraham Lincoln’s head on a penny covered when put between the tread. Snow tires should have at least a 6/32 of an inch tread depth, Borra said. That’s deep enough to cover the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the penny.

The increased tread depth allows the tire to compress snow into the grooves and then release it as the person drives.

Another item people are coming in to get replaced are windshield wipers.

“Most people don’t realize they need them until they use them,” Borra said, adding mechanics will also check other parts of the car like the battery to ensure its working properly.


Car maintenance tips

• Check tire pressure and oil level.
• Inspect windshield wipers.
• Top off windshield washer fluid.
• Get snow tires.
• Make sure heater works.
• Inspect lights, including hazards.
• Inspect brakes.
SOURCE: New York state


Just like cars, your home has to be safe. With winter nearly here, heaters are on, fireplaces are in use and people are cooking at home more.

It’s prime season for fires, preferably safe ones. Cortland firefighters haven’t seen many incidents over the years.

“Lately it hasn’t been too bad,” Deputy Fire Chief William Knickerbocker said. “We’ll take phone calls on anything and also give advice on anything fire safety.”

Code enforcement could be part of reason for the improvement, he said, and fire safety education.

Kitchen fires increase in the winter, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Also half of all home heating fires occur between December and February, when people are more likely to cook at home and use space heaters, Knickerbocker said.

To stay safe, Knickerbocker said, never plug kitchen or heating appliances into power strips.

“The increased power use will tax the ability of the appliance and power strip, causing a fire,” he said.

The prevention association reported that 1 in every 7 home fires and 1 in 5 deaths involved heating equipment.

The other big fire starter in the winter: candles.

“Any open flame should never be left unattended,” Knickerbocker said.


Heating safety tips

• Plug heaters only into wall outlets.
• Never use an oven to heat your home.
• Have a professional inspect heating equipment and chimneys.
• Keep items that can burn 3 feet from heating sources.
• Put candles in stable holders.
SOURCE: Federal Emergency Management Agency


If you cover your windows to lock in warmth, Knickerbocker suggests doing so in a way that ensures it’s an accessible escape route.

Knickerbocker, who has kids, suggests getting a fire detector that lets parents record their voice to help wake young children up.

“Studies are telling us children are more likely to respond to your voice than an alarm,” he said.

Knickerbocker said he used the devices in his own home.

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