The American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio is urging area residents to take precautions following the severe winter weather impacting the local area this week. Millions of people from the Midwest to the Northeast are facing extremely cold temperatures, high winds and heavy snow over the next few days. The Red Cross is watching the storm and prepared to respond if necessary.
“People should check in on their neighbors and use caution as record lows hit our area,” said Kenneth Robinson, regional disaster program officer for the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio Region, “Small things make the biggest amount of difference when it’s this cold. Failure to follow manufacturer directions on alternative heating sources or unthawing frozen pipes incorrectly can lead to even larger problems like house fires.”
The Red Cross offers the following tips for people to stay safe as extreme temperatures and record snow fall affect the community this week:
Cold Safety Tips
- Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
- After the storm, be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
- Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
- Additional winter safety tips can be found at redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm.
Using Space Heaters, Fireplaces, and Generators Safely
When heating systems are running at full force, many people resort to other sources to keep their homes warm. Follow the tips below to avoid fire danger:
- Never use a stove or oven to heat a home.
- If using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs.
- Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
- If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
- Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
- Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment people want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
- The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide. If the alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door and call emergency personnel.
- Additional tips for safe home generator use can be found at redcross.org/prepare/disaster/power-outage/safe-generator-use.
Power Outage Safety
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
- If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
- Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where the water service enters the home through the foundation.
- Avoid frozen pipes - run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing.
- Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children.
- Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
- Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. This may avoid a more costly repair job if the pipes freeze and burst.
- If the pipes are frozen, keep the faucet open. As the ice begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored.
- Contact a licensed plumber if the frozen area cannot be located, is not accessible, or cannot be thawed.
People can download the American Red Cross First Aid App for quick, expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency. This free app is available on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores. See all Red Cross apps at redcross.org/mobileapps.