Winter is here! Stay safe at home and on the go

By Maria Marabito and Alana Mauger

Snow is on its way, which means icy roads, frigid temperatures and an increased risk of heating-related home fires. Stay safe with these important tips from the American Red Cross.

On the Go

  • Cold weather can be unpredictable. Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates so you can make responsible choices if going out into a storm.
  • Your car, just like your home, should have an emergency kit. The Red Cross has many online resources to guide you. Pack seasonal essentials like windshield scrapers, a small broom, sand, a flashlight, extra hats, socks and mittens (pro tip: mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves). Also, make sure you have an emergency blanket or sleeping bag in case your car breaks down in a snowstorm or deep-freeze situation. And if that happens, you’ll be glad that you packed extra food, like nuts and canned fruit, and bottles of water.
  • Use the buddy system. Be sure to bring your cell phone and make sure it’s fully charged. Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. Plan to travel during daylight and, if possible, take another person with you.
  • Employ common-sense defensive driving practices. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely, as sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways, and never use cruise control when driving in winter weather. Don’t pass snow plows, and remember that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.
  • If you get stranded, stay in your vehicle and wait for help; Don’t leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards, as you can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow. Display a trouble sign, like a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna.  To stay warm, run the engine for about 10 minutes each hour or five minutes every half hour. Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Remember to keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.

At Home

  • Keep fire prevention in mind. If you’re keeping cozy with a space heater or fireplace, make sure that any combustible materials, such as furniture or curtains, are at least three feet away. In fact, any heat producer, such as a stove and radiator, should be three feet from anything that could catch on fire. Never leave your portable heaters and fireplaces unattended while on. Don’t forget to test your smoke detectors monthly (do it now; we’ll wait), and make sure everyone in your household knows your emergency escape plan.
  • In the case of a power outage, use flashlights instead of candles. Prepare for inclement weather by making an inventory of your flashlights, making sure that every room has one and every person knows where they are, and having an extra stash of batteries.
  • Don’t forget your pets! Bring your pets indoors with you during extremely cold weather. Make sure you have supplies to clean up after them, since the weather might prevent them from doing their business outside. Shelter animals like horses or livestock as best you can against wind, snow, rain and ice.
  • Protect yourself from the elements. If you must be outside, wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves and a hat, and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Be kind to yourself if you must shovel snow. Stretch before you start and take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Remember to bend with your knees and lift with your legs to avoid a back injury.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends who are elderly or live alone.

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