Stay safe during the Arctic blast

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

According to the National Weather Service, the coldest air of the season will arrive this weekend, and after a brief warm-up, will return by the middle of next week, with below-zero wind chills possible. High winds are also expected, with gusts as high as 32 mph tonight. The Northern Ohio region of the American Red Cross offers tips and resources to stay safe during this arctic blast.

As we stressed in our winter safety preparedness article, it is helpful to assemble an emergency preparedness kit and create a household evacuation plan that includes your pets.

Now that a winter storm is arriving, here are some tips.

Keep warm and informed

  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothes as much as possible. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing are best.
  • Eat regularly and drink fluids. Food provides the body with energy to produce heat, and fluids prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, however. Caffeine accelerates symptoms of hypothermia while alcohol slows circulation; both can cause dehydration.
  • Layer clothing when outside, and wear mittens or gloves and a hat. Frequently change wet clothing.
  • Protect your lungs from severely cold air. Cover your mouth, avoid taking deep breaths, and minimize talking.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Walk carefully on icy ground.
  • Make sure animals are safe and have access to non-frozen water and shelter.
  • Keep informed by listening to local radio, NOAA radio, or TV stations.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or live alone.
  • If you need to evacuate, know your route and destination. You can check here for a Red Cross shelter.
  • Download the free Red Cross Emergency App.

Vehicle safety

  • Have emergency supplies in your vehicle, including blankets, warm broth in a thermos, water, food, and plastic bags for sanitation.
  • Make sure your phone is charged.
  • Let someone know your route, destination, and ETA.
  • If you become stranded, staying in the vehicle awaiting assistance is often best. Trouble signs like a brightly colored cloth or raised hood can help.
  • Running the engine for about 10 minutes each hour can help keep you warm. Keep the exhaust clear of snow.
  • Turn on an overhead light when the vehicle is running to be seen.
  • Light exercises and movement help keep up circulation.

Home safety

  • Take caution with home heaters, fireplaces, and candles. Keep anything that gives off heat at least three feet away from flammable materials, never plug more than one heating appliance into an outlet, and never leave heaters and flames unattended. Heating equipment is involved in one of every six home fires.
  • Also be careful with generators. Keep them outside and away from windows to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and follow safety instructions. More information on generator safety is here.
  • Prevent frozen pipes. Opening cabinet doors lets warm air circulate around plumbing and cold water dripping through a faucet served by exposed pipes can help prevent freezing.

Additional winter storm safety information is here. Stay safe, warm, and when help is needed, we are ready.

Cold weather safety tips – especially for seniors

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

February 7, 2020- Surviving winter weather here in Northeast Ohio takes more than just praying for spring (and hoping the groundhog’s prediction is right this year). It can be especially dangerous for the elderly. So if you are a boomer, or you have parents that are, here’s a ‘Do’ and a ‘Don’t’ deserving some serious consideration.

Snow shoveling

Don’t. (If that’s not an option, continue reading.)

Doug 1

Consider rock salt or other chemical deicer pellets. Let that do the work instead of you.

If you must go out to shovel, stretch your arms and legs for a few minutes before going outside. Warm muscles work better and are less likely to cause problems.

Wear sturdy shoes or boots with good, non-slip soles. Old tennis shoes with no tread can be extremely slippery on ice. Wear a warm hat and gloves.

Use a sturdy, but lightweight shovel, and push rather than lifting if possible. If lifting is necessary, do it in small loads. If the snow is extremely heavy or wet, and you’ve had back problems, flex your knees while lifting instead of using your back muscles.

Have a friend or spouse check on you every couple minutes. If you should slip and fall, they can call 911 if needed. Even if you had your cellphone in your pocket, if you were to hit your head on the sidewalk, you could freeze before regaining consciousness.

Keeping warm inside

Do. Staying inside with a warm heat source is the best way to conquer winter weather, but all heat sources are not equal.

Doug 2

Never use your kitchen stove for additional heat.

Never burn anything in a fireplace or Franklin stove that is not properly vented. Make sure the flue is open and the chimney is unobstructed.

Keep all flammable materials away from the hearth area of your fireplace, especially draperies that might blow around the flames.

Only use UL-rated portable electric heaters and only use one per electrical circuit.

Never leave the electric heaters on at night or when you leave the room. Make sure the cords are not a tripping hazard.  Make sure pets can’t tip them over.

Check outside vents of heaters, water heaters, clothes dryers and furnaces to make sure they are not blocked by snow.

Install and check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms regularly. If you need smoke alarms in your home, we can help. Call your local Red Cross chapter and get put on a list for free installation.

Consider donating to the American Red Cross

On average, the Red Cross responds to a home fire every eight seconds – many in the wintertime. For many people, we are the first organization to bring them financial help and ongoing assistance as they try to recover. It’s only with financial donations from people like you that we can offer this emergency assistance. Please consider donating, and keep warm!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

 Oh, (Cold) Snap! 10 Furnace Safety Tips

By: Sue Wilson, Volunteer Leader and Board Member

Two years ago, 10 kids and two adults escaped a home fire in Lorain that began in the furnace.

Take a minute to consider your furnace. Here are 10 tips to keep your family safe when the temperature outside goes down, and the heat inside goes up.

  1. Have an annual furnace check up from a service professional to make sure that your system is running efficiently and safely. They’ll make sure there are no leaks, venting issues, broken parts or frayed wires that could be a hazard.
  2. Keep the area around your furnace clear. Don’t store anything potentially flammable near the furnace or water heater; especially newspapers, clothing, boxes, rugs, paint or chemicals. Vacuum dust, dog hair or anything that could sucked into a vent or open flame of a pilot light.
  3. Clean or change your furnace filter monthly. A dirty filter will cause your furnace to operate less efficiently and cost you money. It could also block airflow and increase the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) leaking into your home.
  4. Never use an oven or stove as an alternate heating source, as there is a serious risk of CO poisoning from fumes.
  5. Purchase a CO detector if you don’t have one and test and replace batteries of the ones you have in your home.
  6. Make sure your home has working smoke detectors. Change the batteries every 6 months. If you are in need of a smoke alarm, call the Red Cross at 330-535-2030 to request free installation by one of our volunteers.
  7. The area around your furnace and water heater should be a child-free zone to protect them from potential burns from hot vents or open flames, and to insures they will not inhale dangerous fumes.
  8. Space heaters are not intended to heat an entire home. Exercise extreme caution when using unvented, electric or propane space heaters, and follow instructions to lessen the chance of a fire or carbon monoxide exposure.
  9. If you smell gas, leave the area and call the fire department, or gas company.
  10. Make sure you have a fire escape plan, and that everyone in your home knows it and a designated meeting place once out. For more information on fire prevention click on this link on the Red Cross. 

THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Northeast Ohio Weather Turns Frightful

Since Northeast Ohio has been experience a nice (for some) respite from the polar vortex winters of the past few years, it is quite possible that we’ve all forgotten how to react to cold, normal-Ohio weather.

With frigid temperatures sticking around for the next 10 or so days, it’s time to review!

Freezing Pipes

  • 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.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • For more freezing pipe tips and tricks, visit our page on redcross.org!

Fire Safety

  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Talk to your children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Test smoke alarms once a month, if they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • For more information about fire safety, visit the Home Fire tab on redcross.org/prepare.

Personal Safety

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to the cold. Be aware of both the temperature and the wind chill when planning outdoor activities. 
  • Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
  • Dressing in layers helps you retain heat. You can 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 expect 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.
  • Download the Red Cross First Aid app for more information about how to respond during a personal safety emergency.

10 ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures

COLD WEATHER SAFETY TIPS

Here are ten ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures:

Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

  1. Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
  2. Know the signs of hypothermia – confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If someone has these symptoms, they should get immediate medical attention.
  3. Watch for symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
  4. Bring the pets indoors. If that’s not possible, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  5. Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes.
  6. Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home.
  7. Space heaters should sit on a level, hard surface and anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away.
  8. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  9. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  10. Learn how to treat cold weather related emergencies by downloading the free Red Cross First Aid App at redcross.org/apps. More information about winter safety is available on redcross.org.