As dangerous winter weather continues to plague most of the country, the American Red Cross urges everyone to stay safe and stay at home if possible, and offers these steps to follow:
GET RED CROSS READY Make sure you have enough heating fuel on hand. Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
Don’t forget your pets. Bring your companion animals indoors. Create a place where your other animals can be comfortable in severe winter weather.
If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.
- 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. Keep these devices outside away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
- Operate the generator on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up by poles.
- Don’t touch a generator with wet hands.
- Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet.
IF THE POWER IS OUT
- Use flashlights in the dark — not candles.
- If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
- Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment.
- Turn off or disconnect any appliances and electronics that you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
- Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
- During a prolonged outage, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to protect your food.
- First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables are safe to eat when they have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Then, use food from the freezer.
- If 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 cover it at all times.
STAY SAFE OUTSIDE
- Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat.
- Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises first to reduce your chances of muscle injury.
- Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
- Get out of the cold immediately if the signs of hypothermia and frostbite appear.
Signs of frostbite include lack of feeling in the affected area or skin that appears waxy, is cold to the touch, or is discolored (flushed, white or gray, yellow or blue)
What to do for frostbite:
- Move the person to a warm place
- Handle the area gently; never rub the affected area
- Warm gently by soaking the affected area in warm water (100–105 degrees F) until it appears red and feels warm
- Loosely bandage the area with dry, sterile dressings
- If the person’s fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated
- Avoid breaking any blisters
- Do not allow the affected area to refreeze
- Seek professional medical care as soon as possible
Signs of hypothermia include shivering, numbness or weakness, a glassy stare, apathy or impaired judgment or loss of consciousness.
What to do for hypothermia:
- CALL 9-1-1 or the local emergency number
- Gently move the person to a warm place
- Monitor breathing and circulation
- Give rescue breathing and CPR if needed
- Remove any wet clothing and dry the person
- Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on the person.
- Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used when first wrapped in a towel or blanket before applying. Do not warm the person too quickly, such as by immersing him or her in warm water.
- Warm the core first (trunk, abdomen), not the extremities (hands, feet).
PREVENT FROZEN PIPES
- 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.
- 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 the same temperature both during the day and at night.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
- If you turn on a faucet and 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.
HOME HEATING SAFETY
- Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
- Don’t leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
- Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- 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.
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.