Red Cross tips for winter weather

Press release from American Red Cross, WNC Region:

Much of western North Carolina is getting ready for another bout of snow. Accumulation predictions vary from a dusting to a few inches depending on location. A real concern is ice following overnight freezing. To help keep our community safer as we continue to face the winter weather, the American Red Cross is offering safety tips for driving, home heating, and pets.

Home and Heating Safety:
• Have furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves inspected and cleaned.
• Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Develop a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
• Prepare a disaster supply kit to have ready. The kit should include a three-day supply of food and water per person, flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries. Other things to have on hand for the winter include:
o Sand, rock salt or kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
o Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and warm clothing for all household members, along with extra blankets.

Space Heaters:
The Red Cross recommends that people look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over. Other safety tips include:
• Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface in the home.
• Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
• Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
• Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

Pet Safety:
Cold weather can be particularly difficult on our pets that rely on us for their well-being, especially for outdoor dogs and cats.
• If possible, bring your pets inside during cold winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure they have access to non-frozen drinking water.
• If the animals are outside, make sure their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.
• If pets cannot come indoors, make sure they are protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough to allow them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in the pet’s body heat. Raise the floor a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Winter Driving Safety:
• If you do not need to travel, stay off the roads.
• Keep the car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
• Clean your car lights and windows to help you see.
• Avoid all distractions while driving such as eating, texting and talking on the phone.
• Pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
• Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy or icy roads.
• Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
• Don’t pass snow plows.
• Know that ramps, bridges, and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
• If you need to pull over, stay with your vehicle. Do no try to walk to safety.
• Tie a bright colored cloth to cloth to your vehicle for rescuers to see.
• Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes don’t back up in the car. Keep one window slightly open – away from blowing wind to let in air.
• Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.

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