RALEIGH, Jan. 3, 2018 — As people across Eastern North Carolina prepare for the first local winter storm of 2018, the American Red Cross urges residents to stay safe and warm by following basic safety tips.
“The best way to stay safe in winter weather is to prepare your home, family and pets before temperatures drop, and snow and ice start to fall,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross of Eastern NC. “The Red Cross encourages families to be mindful when heating their homes with space heaters, dress in layers before going outside, and bring pets indoors.”
Safely Heat Your Home
Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and fatal fires peak in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping. In December alone, the Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina Region (53 counties) responded to 185 families who lost their homes to fire. That’s nearly 6 families every night in December. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends:
• All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
• Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
• Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
• Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned if necessary.
• If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets, or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
Protect Yourself from Freezing Temperatures
Avoid unnecessary exposure to the cold. When you prepare to go outside in severe cold weather, please remember the following:
• Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears, as most heat is lost through your head.
• Dress in layers to help retain heat; remove layers as needed if you become too warm.
• Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.
• Wear waterproof, insulated boots to help avoid hypothermia or frostbite by keeping your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
• Get out of wet clothes immediately and warm the core body temperature with a blanket or warm fluids like hot cider or soup. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol if you suspect you or someone you are trying to help has hypothermia or frostbite.
• Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia that can be a serious medical condition: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
• Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
• Create a disaster supplies kit — Get together lifesaving items in both your home and vehicle.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
Now is the time to protect your house pipes from freezing and bursting.
• Let cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes or pipes in exterior walls. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage or in walls adjacent to the garage.
• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
• Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
• More information on preventing and thawing frozen pipes is available here.
Keeping Pets Safe
• 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 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.
• Salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate a pet’s paws. Wipe their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates their mouth.
Visit www.redcross.org/prepare for more information on preparing for winter weather.
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 cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.