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Originally published: 2013-01-22 16:19:20
Last modified: 2013-01-22 16:19:20

Safety list gets you out of the cold

by Sherrie Norris

Winters in the High Country have been known to be severe, but by making preparations in advance for emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, we can reduce the risk of weather-related problems.

With the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following information will help local residents make the best of a potentially bad situation in extreme winter weather conditions.

Promoting health and safety

Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, which can result in power failures and icy roads. Although staying indoors helps reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. 

Many homes may become too cold -- either due to a power failure or because of inadequate heating systems. When space heaters and fireplaces are needed to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Exposure to cold temperatures, inside or out, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. Consider the following steps for increased safety in your home and car.

Emergency supplies list:

• Alternate home heat during a power failure: dry firewood for a fireplace or wood stove, or kerosene for a kerosene heater• Furnace fuel (coal, propane, or oil)• Electric space heater with automatic shut-off switch and nonglowing elements• Blankets• Matches and candles• Multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher• First aid kit and instruction manual• Flashlight or battery-powered lantern• Battery-powered radio with clock• Extra batteries• Nonelectric can opener• Snow shovel• Rock salt• Special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries and medications)

Survival kit for your home

Keep several days' supply of the following:• Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration, such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods, and dried fruits; baby food and formula for infants.
• Water stored in clean containers, or purchased bottled water (five gallons per person) in case your water pipes freeze and rupture.
• Medicines that any family member may need.
• Listen to weather forecasts regularly, and check emergency supplies when extreme cold is predicted.• If planning to use a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, annual inspections are recommended for chimney, flue and adequate ventilation.
• Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use. • Do not burn paper in a fireplace.
• Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything potentially flammable, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never on top of furniture or near water.
• Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
• Do not use space heater if cord is damaged or produces sparks; keep cords from becoming a safety hazard.
• Store a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher near the area to be heated.
• Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated; test monthly and replace batteries twice yearly.
• Because older people are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold, those over   65 should, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an easy-to-read indoor location.
• Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.• Add weather-stripping, insulation, insulated doors and storm windows or thermal-pane windows.
• Bring pets indoors, or that is not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure that they have access to unfrozen water.

Winter Survival Kit for Your Car

• Many dangerous winter travel problems can be avoided by planning ahead with regular maintenance service.
• Have radiator system serviced, or check antifreeze level with a tester; add antifreeze as needed.• Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
• Replace worn tires, and check air pressure in the tires.
• Keep gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Equip your car with these items:

• Blankets
• First aid kit
• A can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water)
• Windshield scraper
• Booster cables
• Road maps• Mobile phone
• Compass• Tool kit
• Paper towels
• Bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for added traction)
• Tow rope
• Tire chains (in areas with heavy snow)
• Collapsible shovel
• Container of water and high-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Canned compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair)
• Brightly colored cloth for emergency signal.

Safe Lighting and Cooking 

If there is a power failure:• Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles, if possible.• Never leave lit candles unattended.• Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors--the fumes are deadly.• Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:• Plug appliances into the generator using individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords.• Do not use generator or appliances if they are wet because of the risk of electrocution.• Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.

Conserve Heat
You may need fresh air coming in for your heater or for emergency cooking arrangements. However, if you don't need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your home. • Avoid unnecessary opening of doors or windows. • Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors, and close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night.

Monitor Body Temperature

Because infants lose body heat more easily than adults, they should never sleep in a cold room;  unlike adults, infants can't make enough body heat by shivering.
• Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature.
• If rom temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
• In an emergency, you can keep an infant warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on the baby. Pillows and other soft bedding can also present a risk of smothering; remove them from the area near the baby.
• Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
• Check on elderly friends and neighbors frequently to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.

Keep a Water Supply

Extreme cold can cause your home's water pipes to freeze and sometimes rupture. When very cold temperatures are expected:• Leave all water taps slightly open for continuous drip.• Keep indoor temperature as warm as possible.
• Improve circulation of heated air near pipes by opening kitchen cabinet doors beneath  kitchen sink.
• If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch, but slowly by directing warm air from an electric hair dryer onto the pipes.
• If you cannot thaw your pipes, or the pipes are ruptured, use bottled water or water from a neighbor's home.
• Although not recommended and only as emergency measure, if no other water is available, melted snow can be used. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most microorganisms or parasites that may be present, but won't remove chemical pollutants sometimes found in snow.