The New Year has brought an historic wintry blast of cold temperatures to millions of people. There has also been a high number of home fires during the severe cold, and a storm is headed for California which could cause mudslides and debris flows in some of the areas impacted by the recent wildfires. The American Red Cross is busy helping people affected by these situations and has steps people can take to stay safe.
RED CROSS RESPONSE
Almost 100 people spent Sunday night in Red Cross and community shelters. Red Cross workers had shelters open in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Indiana, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia to help people dealing with the brutal cold.
Home fires are also on the rise. Over the weekend, the Red Cross responded to numerous fires, including some in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, Ohio and Texas.
In California, evacuation orders are up in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties where a strong storm could increase the risk of flooding and debris flow in areas now scarred by the recent wildfire. The Red Cross is opening an evacuation center and deploying trained disaster volunteers to assist.
PREVENT HOME FIRES
With cold temperatures there is often a rise in the number of home fires. Follow these tips to help prevent a fire in your home:Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned before another winter of use. If using a space heater, look for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home. Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces. Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Cut down on heating costs. Insulate the home by installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with plastic to keep cold air out.Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home. Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
THAWING FROZEN PIPES
The unusually cold weather is resulting in frozen water pipes for many. If you turn on a faucet and no water or only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
DOWNLOAD APPS People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.