Red Cross issues safety tips ahead of winter weather

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The American Red Cross has issued a list of safety tips for residents in eastern North Carolina ahead of upcoming winter weather.

“The best way to stay safe during a winter storm is to prepare your home, family and pets before the snow starts to fall,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the Red Cross in Eastern NC. “The Red Cross recommends families be mindful when heating their homes with space heaters, dress in layers before you play outside, and bring pets indoors.”

Safely Heat Your Home
Here are six ways you can stay safe from home fires during this winter season:

• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
• Test the batteries in your smoke alarms once a month, and change them if they’re not working.
• Create an escape plan that includes two exits from each room and practice it until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes.
• Follow the “three feet” rule and keep children, pets and flammable items at least three feet from heating equipment. Turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room and when you go to sleep.
• Use gas wisely and never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home. Four percent of Americans admit to having used a gas stove to heat their home.
• Use flashlights, not candles because battery-operated flashlights or lanterns are safer than candles during power outages.

Protect Yourself from Freezing Temperatures
Avoid unnecessary exposure to the cold. Be aware of both the temperature and the wind chill when planning outdoor activities. When you prepare to go outside in severe cold weather, please remember the following:

• Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears, as most heat is lost through your head
• Dress in layers to help retain heat; 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 suspect 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.
• Create a disaster supplies kit — Get together lifesaving items in both your home and vehicle. Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare for more information on disaster preparedness.

Prevent Frozen Pipes
Many homeowners may not be ready for frigid weather either. Now is the time to protect your house pipes from freezing and bursting. With the cold weather upon us, preventive action may make all the difference.

• Let the cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes or pipes in exterior walls. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing
• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage or in walls adjacent to the garage.
• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
• 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.
• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
• More information on preventing and thawing frozen pipes is available here.

Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.

Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare for more information on preparing for cold weather.

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