Severe weather is threatening millions of people from coast to coast in the next few days including heavy rains in California and freezing temperatures, snow and ice from the south all the way to New England. The American Red Cross has steps people can take as this new round of harsh weather crosses the United States.
WINTER SAFETY TIPS
Parts of the country will see bitter cold temperatures along with ice and snow. People in those areas should keep these tips in mind:
- Wear layers of clothing to stay warm, along with a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
- Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures. Consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.
- Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
- Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
PREVENT HOME FIRES
Winter storms and cold temperatures often bring a rise in the number of home fires. Follow these tips to help prevent a fire in your home:
- Keep all potential sources of fuel at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces - paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs
- Never 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 (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters. When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
- 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.
The best way to remain safe is to stay off the road during severe weather, if possible. If you have to drive in snow or freezing rain, follow these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm:
- Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
- Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
- Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
- Don’t pass snow plows.
- Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.
People should download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to advice on what to do in emergencies and disasters like winter storms. You’ll find tips on how to plan ahead in case heavy rain or a snow storm threatens. The app also contains weather alerts, life-saving information and ways to contact family and friends in one free, easy-to-use app for mobile devices.
PLEASE GIVE BLOOD
This latest round of severe winter weather could worsen the current severe winter blood shortage. The storm could force blood drives to be cancelled in the midst of the Red Cross’ current emergency call for blood and platelet donations.
Hectic holiday schedules for blood donors along with snowstorms and severe weather contributed to about 37,000 fewer donations in November and December than what was needed. In December alone, almost 100 blood drives were cancelled.
Eligible blood donors are urged to schedule a donation today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donors can help even more people by inviting a family member, friend or co-worker to donate too. The Red Cross encourages individuals to make a donation appointment and to complete a RapidPass online health history questionnaire to help speed up the donation process.
Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.