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Use Care When Clearing Roofs of Snow and Ice

Blocked vents can cause lead to carbon monoxide poisoning

As a month of record-breaking snow and cold weather comes to a close, the American Red Cross and Unitil, (www.unitil.com), a provider of natural gas and electricity to customers in New England, strongly encourage Maine residents to clear snow and ice from the roofs of their homes and business.

Heavy snow can cause roofs to collapse, often with little or no warning, and can also damage gas and electric lines. Ice and snow can slide off roofs onto tanks, meters and other utility components, causing serious damage and creating dangerous situations for homeowners.

“If you are using a rake to clear snow from your roof, please be very careful to avoid accidentally hitting overhead electric lines,” said Alec O’Meara, media relations manager for Unitil. “Please also be cautious not to throw snow or ice onto your home’s vents or meters. A buildup of snow and ice on gas and electric meters could cause them to malfunction.”

Unitil is advising customers to take the following steps to ensure vents and meters remain clear of snow and ice:

  • Remove snow and ice carefully from a meter or outdoor appliance vent carefully with a broom. Do not use a shovel as it can damage the meter. 
  • Avoid shoveling or plowing snow up against or covering the meter or pipe.
  • Remove icicles from overhead eaves and gutters to assure dripping water does not freeze the meter or vent pipe. Contact a qualified roofing vendor if you cannot reach icicles yourself.
  • Do not kick your gas meter in an attempt to break ice off, as this too can cause damage.

Snow-blocked vents can also cause ventilation issues leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. “This is a good time to make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home,” said Paul Clark, disaster program manager for the Red Cross in Maine. “Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and a working alarm is your best defense against this fast-acting, deadly gas.”

If you smell, see or hear a gas leak or you suspect carbon monoxide may be present in your home, leave immediately. If you are experiencing symptoms common to carbon monoxide poising such as headaches or severe drowsiness, call 911.

For additional winter safety information, please visit www.unitil.com or www.redcross.org.

About Unitil Corporation
Unitil Corporation provides energy for life by safely and reliably delivering natural gas and electricity in New England. We are committed to the communities we serve and to developing people, business practices, and technologies that lead to dependable, more efficient energy. Unitil Corporation is a public utility holding company with operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Together, Unitil’s operating utilities serve approximately 102,700 electric customers and 77,900 natural gas customers. Other subsidiaries include Usource, Unitil’s non-regulated business segment. For more information about our people, technologies, and community involvement, please visit www.unitil.com.

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/ or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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