How to Make Walkways Safe in Icy Conditions

young man remove snow near the...
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By Mary Boone

With the National Weather Service reporting bone-chilling temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit for one major city and massive amounts of snow affecting many others, safety is top of mind for many Americans. Preparing your home for snow and ice can help prevent the slips and falls that account for 300,000 serious injuries and 20,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Reduce the risk of falls by following some of these simple steps.

Indoor tips: Prepping the areas around the entryways of your home can help prevent the chance of a fall during the colder months.

• Place skid-resistant door mats near entrances to dry your footwear.
• Check the bottoms of your feet each time you enter the home, and clean off the accumulated ice, snow or water.
• Keep floors as dry as possible.

Outdoor tips: Clearing walkways and treating the surfaces with salt or sand is key to preventing falls. Wooden porches, decks or steps have a tendency to become especially slick in winter. Be prepared with adequate supplies of salt and sand.

• Shovel and treat pathways with salt or sand immediately after storms. Prevent dangerous ice buildup by clearing sidewalks before snow is compacted by footsteps or melts and refreezes.
• Salt lowers the freezing point of water and can be spread on sidewalks or driveways to keep them from getting icy, or to help melt away ice that has already formed. Salt works in temperatures above 12 degrees Fahrenheit, but can be tough on grass and shrubs and can eat away at concrete and steel.
• Sand does not melt ice and is an abrasive material that is applied to icy walkways to provide traction. Sand can be effective, even when it's too cold for salt to do its job. Just be warned: If you use too much sand, you'll need to clean up drainage areas when spring finally rolls around.
• If you don't have sand on hand, other abrasive materials such as kitty litter, saw dust and wood ashes can be used to create traction on icy walkways.
• Adjust downspouts to drive water away from pathways. In winter weather, it doesn't take long for pooling water to become icy patches.

Long-term solutions: Before next winter rolls around, you can lower the slip factor by making some permanent changes to your home:

• Ensure that there is adequate lighting -- both indoors and outdoors.
• Adhere or screw abrasive strips to wooden surfaces like your porch, deck or patio. The strips are inexpensive and widely available at hardware or home improvement stores. If you don't like the idea of strips all over, another solution is to add non-slip strips to your deck in key areas only.
• Paint or stain outdoor wood surfaces with a product containing a non-slip additive.

More about protecting yourself and your property in winter:
How to Prevent Ice Dams
What to Do With Frozen Pipes and How to Prevent Them
Should You Set Your Thermostat to Emergency Heat in the Winter?

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