Stay Safe During Frigid Temperatures

Winter
Winds, wind chill combine to make venturing outside dangerous.

Mother Nature has unleashed extremely cold temperatures and snow over a large part of the country. Temperatures are dipping below zero and strong winds make time outdoors brutal. The American Red Cross has steps people can take to stay safe during these chilly days.

IF YOU VENTURE OUTSIDE, wear layered lightweight clothing to keep warm. This works better than a single heavy coat. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow. You should also:

  • Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
  • Also seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, sidewalks.
  • Be extremely careful when shoveling snow. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Avoid overexertion.
  • SAFETY AT HOME If the power goes out, use flashlights to provide light. Do not use candles for lighting. Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water. Other tips include:

  • 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.
  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.
  • Use a sturdy fire screen around fireplaces when in use. Burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs.
  • Use generators correctly –never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Check smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button and replacing batteries as necessary.
  • Don’t overload your electrical outlets.
  • TRAVEL SAFETY Snow is expected over large parts of the country from the Northeast to the South. If you have to drive during a winter storm, the safest thing you can do is plan to arrive at your destination before the storm hits. Watch weather predictions for your entire route so you know what to expect along the way.

    If you must travel while it’s snowing, make sure you have an emergency preparedness kit in the car. Keep your car's gas tank full 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.

    If you do get stuck in the snow:

  • Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
  • More information on how to stay safe this winter is available on this web site.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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