You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

American Red Cross Issues Winter Storm Safety Tips as Winter Storm Slams the Northeast

ALBANY, NY (January 2, 2014) As this latest round of winter weather hits the Northeast, the American Red Cross is urging residents to follow Red Cross safety tips to stay safe.

“Residents in the Northeast are no stranger to winter weather,” said Gary Striar, CEO, American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region. “By preparing together for inclement weather, and knowing what to do during a storm like this one, we can make our families safer and our communities stronger.”

This winter storm is affecting millions of people from the Midwest to the Northeast. This storm is slated to drop between 10 and 15 inches of snow in the region by the time this event wraps up. Bitterly cold temperatures are the other headlines dominating this event. The Red Cross is watching the storm and prepared to respond if necessary.

“The most important thing people can do right now is stay informed,” said Tim Bachman, Emergency Services Director, American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region. “If someone finds themselves in a dangerous situation they need to evaluate their options before taking action. If it’s a true emergency always call 911.”

As with any disaster, preparation can be the difference between life and death. The Red Cross recommends these tips to keep community members safe:

Assembling an Emergency Preparedness Kit

Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing. Sand or non-clumping kitty 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 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.

Remaining Safe During a Winter Storm:

·         Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information on snow storms and blizzards from the National Weather Service (NWS).

·         Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.

·         All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.

·         Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

·         Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.

·         Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

·         Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold.

·         Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.

·         Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.

·         Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

·         Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.


Stay Safe During Cold Weather:

·         Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing your body heat.

·         Protect your pipes - run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes 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. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.

·         If you are 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.

·         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


Pets and Cold Weather:

·         Bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water.

·         If your pets can’t come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches from the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

·         Salt and other things used to melt snow and ice can irritate your pet’s paws and mouth. Wipe your pet’s paws with a damp towel when they come inside.

·         Chemicals like antifreeze are poison to your pets. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach.


Coping With Power Outages

Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they last a long time. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, don’t be concerned about losing your perishable foods. For prolonged power outages, though, there are steps you can take to minimize food loss and to keep all members of your household as comfortable as possible.



Food Safety During a Power Outage:

·         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.

·         Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

·         Use your non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.

·         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.



Electrical Equipment During a Blackout:

·         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.


Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills:

·         Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

·         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 your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.

·         If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.


·         Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.