The American Red Cross opened shelters along the eastern seaboard to offer people a warm, safe place to stay as Mother Nature’s latest wintry blast moved through New York and New England after covering the Deep South in a frozen glaze.
Red Cross workers operated shelters from Florida to Connecticut to help those affected by the storm. Thousands are without power, schools and businesses are closed, and major airports and highways shut down due to the wintry blast. According to news reports, Florida is the only state of the lower 48 without snow on the ground. The Red Cross continues to work with state and local officials to respond to the storm as needed.
Many homes are relying on alternate heat sources, especially in the Northeast where power outages have been reported and heating oil prices are up due to high demand. Alternate heating methods can be dangerous if not used 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. Look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over.
- 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 your power is out, there are things you can do to help ensure your safety until the power is turned 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 possible, people should stay inside and avoid unnecessary travel. The Red Cross offers these steps people can take to stay safe and warm:
- Prevent frozen pipes - when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If you can’t bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
If you must go outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Other safety tips include:
- Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.
- If you shovel snow, be extremely careful. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Avoid overexertion.
- Avoid traveling by car in a storm, but if you must ...
- Carry a Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk.
- Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
For more information on winter storm safety, visit www.redcross.org.