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Cold Requires Extra Safety Steps

By Staff | Jan 13, 2010

AccuWeather.com reports nearly the entire eastern half of the United States is enduring bitterly cold temperatures not experienced since January 1985. With such chilling news it’s important to understand how these freezing temperatures can affect homes, roads, and loved ones, and learn how to prepare and protect what’s most important during the winter season.

Pet Care

Pets need proper care as much as humans. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma. org) there are many simple ways to protect even outdoor pets in cold weather.

While it is best to keep pets indoors during the winter months, if this is not possible, outdoor pets must be provided with shelter. Their home should be elevated off the ground to prevent moisture accumulation and have a door of some kind to keep out winter winds, sleet, and snow.

Shelters should be insulated or heated. Water sources may be heated to permit constant access to unfrozen water; thermal units designed specifically for this purpose are readily available.

Outdoor pets require extra calories to keep warm. Feed your pet according to its needs when the temperature drops. In severely cold or inclement weather, no pet should be kept outside. Indoor pets should have sleeping quarters in a draft-free, warm area with their bed or mattress elevated slightly off the floor.

Snow and salt should be removed from your pets paws immediately. Frostbitten skin is red or gray and may slough. Apply warm, moist towels to thaw out frostbitten areas slowly until the skin appears flushed. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for further care. Snow removal products should be stored out of the reach of pets and small children as their toxicity varies considerably.

Home Sweet Home

A great resource of safety tips for various aspects affected by the winter season can be found at New York State’s Emergency Management Office Web site, www.semo.state.ny. us. This thorough Web site provides the following information and recommendations to keep warm and safe this winter:

Stockpile the following supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents one from leaving the home: Flashlights and a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, non-perishable foods, non-electric can opener, bottled water, one-week supply of essential medicines, extra blankets, first aid kit and manual, fire extinguisher, and emergency heating equipment.

Take the time to winterize the home. Have the heating system checked annually and caulk doors and window sills to keep cold air out. Replace batteries of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. To keep pipes from freezing, wrap pipes in insulation and let faucets drip a little.

If the heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need and use only safe sources of alternative heat. Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a cap. If the electricity goes out, turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload, but leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Many common household items can produce the colorless, odorless gas. Do not operate generators or use charcoal to cook indoors, and do not use a gas oven to heat the home. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches, and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.

The fire hazard is greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions. Always keep a screen around an open flame and never use gasoline to start a fireplace. When using alternative heat sources, always make sure to have proper ventilation. Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors-and make sure they work. Establish and practice a well-planned escape route with the family.

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Winter can be a fun-filled time when enjoying outdoor activities such as skiing, skating and sledding. However, before going out, follow these recommendations:

Dress in many layers of clothing and wear a hat and mittens. Come inside often for warm-up breaks. Signs of hypothermia and frostbite are: shivering, fatigue, and numb and pale nose, fingers, toes, or earlobes. If any of these symptoms are experienced, seek immediate attention to prevent further risk. Cold temperatures also put an extra strain on the heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car increase the risk of a heart attack. To avoid problems stay warm, dress warm, slow down when working outdoors, and take frequent rests to avoid over exertion. If one feels chest pain-stop and seek help immediately.

On The Road Again

Whether it’s a short or lengthy trip, traveling in winter conditions is undoubtedly dangerous. Follow these tips to help stay safe on the roads:

Make sure the car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight, extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods, and brightly-colored cloth to use as a distress flag. Keep the battery charged on a cell phone and keep these items with you while traveling any distance to be able to call for help. Further winterize the vehicle by having a mechanic look over the car and install good winter tires. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. Make sure there’s a windshield scraper and brush in the vehicle also.

Lastly, if one is ever trapped in a vehicle during a blizzard or other cold, harsh conditions, stay in the car and wait for help. Run the engine for short periods of time to stay warm but keep the down-wind window open and make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow. Turn on the dome light at night when the engine is running to signal rescuers and hang a brightly colored piece of cloth or piece of clothing from the car. Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

Although nearly everything mentioned seems common sense, it’s never a bad idea to be reminded of ways to keep from harm’s way-especially as we enter a very cold and dangerous season. On a final note regarding roadway conditions, everyone has a different comfort zone. Please be respectful when following cautious drivers and cinder trucks and plows.