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Red Cross Offers Safety Tips Ahead of Winter Storm Forecast

“Today’s preparations will pay off if the storm passes through our area.”

As the East Coast braces for a winter storm predicted to hit this weekend, the American Red Cross of Western Pennsylvania advises local residents to prepare now in case the storm brings snow, ice and gusty winds to our region.

 “While forecasts can change, we recommend Western Pennsylvanians prepare now for snowfall, icy conditions, and winds,” said Patricia M. Waldinger, regional CEO of the American Red Cross of Western Pennsylvania. “Today’s preparations will pay off if the storm passes through our area.”

 Here are safety and preparedness tips from the Red Cross:

 Assemble an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pack a winter-specific Emergency Preparedness Kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing for each family member. Sand or non-clumping cat litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit and a supply of essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage.

 Heed Storm Warnings: A Winter Storm WATCH means winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions via NOAA Weather radio, or local radio or television stations. A Winter Storm WARNING means that life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Individuals in a warning area should take precautions immediately. Stay tuned to local media to keep up with forecasts.

Use Caution Clearing Snow: Shoveling snow is strenuous work. Take it slow and easy to guard against over-exertion or back injury. Take regular breaks. If using a snow blower, keep hands and feet clear of moving parts. Always turn off your snow blower and use a stick or other implement to clear blockages; never use your hands. If there is a fire hydrant on your property, clear snow around the hydrant so it is accessible in the event of a fire.

Tips for Home and Car:  Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full, which will help to keep the fuel line from freezing. When the storm has passed, clear snow from all surfaces of your vehicle. It’s safer for you and other drivers. Be sure to keep furnace and gas dryer vents outside your home clear of snow to avoid the risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. If you lose power and heat, running water at a trickle from a faucet helps to prevent pipes from freezing.

Use Generators Safely: Never operate a generator inside homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, sheds or other partially enclosed spaces, even if using a fan or opening doors and windows. Carbon Monoxide (CO) can quickly build up in these spaces and linger for hours after a generator is shut down. Place your generator outside, well away from windows, doors and vents. Shut down the generator before refueling it. If you begin to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a portable generator, shut it off and get to fresh air immediately. You could have CO poisoning.

 Use Care When Outdoors in the Cold: Dress in light layers so you can adapt to temperatures. Wear a hat; most of your body heat is lost through your head. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear insulated, waterproof footwear. Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia that can be a serious medical condition: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms. Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.

 Download the Free Red Cross Emergency App: Download the Red Cross Emergency app for your smartphone. It has safety tips and real-time information to help you prepare, as well as tools to help you keep in touch during and after a major storm. To download the app, text GETEMERGENCY to 90999 or search "Red Cross Emergency" in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. For more information on winter storm preparedness, visit