The American Red Cross has steps people can follow as they face the cold temperatures of winter in the Dakotas.
Home Heating Safety – Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned before another winter of use. Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Other good steps to take to get one’s home ready for winter include:
• Make sure flashlights are available throughout the house and that they have fresh batteries. Winter storms can lead to power outages.
• Insulate the home by installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with plastic to keep cold air out.
• Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
• Have a disaster supply kit ready should winter storms hit. The kit should include a three-day supply of food and water per person, flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries. Other things to include for the winter include:
• Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and warm clothing for all household members, along with extra blankets.
• An alternate way to heat the home, such as a fireplace, or wood or coal burning stove.
Space Heaters – With temperatures dropping, many people are using alternate sources of heat to cut down on heating bills. The Red Cross recommends that people look for a model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Other safety tips include:
• 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.
Pet Safety – Cold weather can be particularly difficult on our pets that rely on us for their well-being, especially for outdoor dogs and cats.
• If possible, 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 the animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.
• If pets cannot 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 off 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.
For more information on how to stay safe during the cold weather, visit winter storm safety.
Red Cross Emergency App – You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App to select up to 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts on your mobile device. All Red Cross apps can be found in smartphone app stores by searching for American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.