The massive winter storm that is bearing down on a 2,000-mile stretch of the United States threatens to cause massive power outages with its dangerous ice and blowing snow. The American Red Cross urges people to take the storm seriously and get prepared now for the possibility of losing power and heat in their homes during this destructive storm.
As Red Cross chapters begin to open shelters and warming centers in areas where the storm is hitting, the situation continues to stress the Red Cross blood supply. As of noon today, blood drives were being cancelled and the number of blood donations uncollected due to winter storms over the last several weeks rose to19, 200.
People are asked to make an appointment to give blood by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting www.redcrossblood.org. Those who live in the path of the storm are asked to schedule a donation time when it is safe to travel. All blood types are needed, but there is a special need for donors with O-Negative, A-Negative and B-Negative blood.
People have been responding to the call for blood donors, and the Red Cross is grateful to those who are stepping up to donate blood to help build the blood supply back to sufficient levels. The Red Cross distributes blood products to approximately 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the United States.
Safety tips for when the power goes out
If your home loses power, there are things you can do to help ensure your safety until the power is back on. Do not use candles for lighting. Use flashlights only. If you are using a portable generator, do not connect it to your home’s electrical system. Instead, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Leave one light turned on so you will know when your power returns. Turn off or disconnect appliances or electronics you were using when the power went out. Surges or spikes when the power comes back on can damage your equipment.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Use perishable foods in the refrigerator first. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. Then use food from the freezer, which will hold its temperature for about 48 hours if the door remains closed (24 hours if the freezer is only half full). If it looks like your power will be out for more than a day, use a cooler with ice for food in your freezer.
If you are using an alternate source to heat your home, this can be dangerous if not done properly. The Red Cross has steps people can follow to safely keep their home warm:
- Never use your stove or oven to heat your home.
- Place space heaters on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away.
- Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.
- Turn off space heaters or extinguish the fireplace before going to bed or leaving home.
- Keep the fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
- Keep all flammable materials such as newspapers, matches, bedding, clothing, carpets and rugs at least three feet away from heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces and stoves.
If possible, people should stay inside and avoid unnecessary travel. If someone must go outside, they should wear layered lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Covering the mouth will protect the lungs. Other safety tips include:
- Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry and to maintain footing in ice and snow.
- If shoveling snow, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Avoid overexertion.
- Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if someone must be out on the roads …
- Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk.
- Keep the car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
- The traveler should let someone know where they are going, the route being taken and expected arrival time. If their vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along the predetermined route.
For more information on how to stay safe and warm during this latest onslaught of winter, visit www.redcross.org.