Here are six tips to help you stay safe if you need to venture outdoors:
1. Avoid frostbite and hypothermia
- No one should venture outdoors without wearing appropriate outdoor clothing such as layers of light but warm clothing, mittens (better than gloves), hats, scarves and waterproof boots. The severe wind chills that are predicted for this weekend could lead to frostbite in minutes.
- You might also try hand and foot warmers. Be sure the foot warmers don’t make your boots too tight, restricting blood flow.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. Early signs of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling and numbness.
- Don’t drink alcohol if you plan to be outdoors in cold weather. Alcoholic beverages cause your body to lose heat faster. Reach for a hot beverage instead: Drinking warm, sweet beverages, such as hot chocolate, will help you warm up.
2. Keep pipes from freezing
- If your pipes are on an outside wall or above an unheated space, such as a garage, run water in the sink, tub or shower at a trickle and keep cabinet doors open to prevent pipes from freezing. This is even more important to do if you lose heat or power at any time during the “deep freeze.”
- You might be tempted to use a stove or oven to heat your kitchen or use an open flame to melt frozen pipes. These actions are highly likely to cause a house fire faster than they’ll heat your house.
3. Leave space for space heaters
- Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. Make sure the heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label.
- Choose a thermostatically controlled heater, because they avoid the energy waste of overheating a room.
- Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
- Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.
4. Keep the home fires burning — safely
- Open the damper before lighting the fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. This will avert the build-up of poisonous gases, especially while the family is sleeping.
- Never use gasoline, charcoal lighter or other fuel to light or relight a fire because the vapors can explode.
- Do not use coal or charcoal in a fireplace because because of the danger of carbon monoxide build-up. It is not a good idea to burn trash or wrappings in fireplace fires because polystyrene foam and other coated materials can generate deadly fumes. Flying paper embers could also ignite the roof.
- Do not overload the fireplace. Large fires can lead to overheating of wall or roof materials, particularly if the fireplace is constructed of metal.
- Always use a screen around the fireplace to keep sparks from flying out and to protect children and adults from accidental clothing ignition.
- Start by checking your tire pressure as extreme cold can deflate tires and make the car unsafe to drive.
- You should also be sure that your car battery is fully charged. But don’t run the car in an enclosed space such as your garage. It’s all too easy to be overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning, in the car, in the garage and in the house.
- If you’re going to be driving in life-threatening cold, be sure you have a car safety kit. The kit should include a blanket, warm clothes and gloves as well as fresh water in case your car breaks down or you become stranded. You can add hand and foot warmers if you have them.
6. Bring your pets in from the cold
Many pets — especially dogs — aren’t aware of just how cold the weather can be. You’ll have to be sensitive to their limits, and you may have to wrap your pet in a coat or boots to go outside.