Winter Weather Safety
Every winter people die in America from exposure to cold, carbon monoxide poisoning, traffic accidents on icy and snowy roads, and heart attacks when shoveling snow. To survive a winter storm you must be prepared. When winter is here, follow these tips.
- Drink non-alcoholic beverages like tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and soup.
- If you suspect a problem with your heater, have it checked immediately.
- Keep space heaters away from walls, furniture, and curtains.
- Keep your carbon monoxide detector in working order.
- Listen to the radio for continuous weather updates.
- Offer assistance to elderly and disabled people living alone.
- Prescription drugs may increase vulnerability to cold. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
- To protect against frostbite, cover any exposed skin.
- Wear a hat.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, warm/dry clothing in several layers.
- Wear mittens since they are warmer than gloves.
If you get frostbite, warm the area slowly by wrapping it or placing it next to warm skin. Do not rub the affected area.
If you experience dizziness, confusion, impaired vision, numbness, stiffness, a puffy face, slowed breathing, or fatigue, you may have hypothermia. Call 911 immediately and move to a warmer location. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that causes your body temperature to fall below normal which will affect your normal body functions.
Heating equipment is another big concern during the winter months. Millions of dollars in fire losses and numerous lives are lost annually across the United States due to unsafe heating equipment or heating equipment that is not properly cared for. Follow these recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for safe heating during the winter.
- Have any gas-fueled heating device installed with proper attention to ventilation. If un-vented gas space heaters are used in bedrooms or bathrooms, make sure they are small and well-mounted. NFPA codes prohibit use of liquefied petroleum gas heaters with self-contained fuel supplies.
- Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and all other solid-fueled heating equipment inspected annually by a professional, and cleaned as often as inspections suggest. Use only wood that is properly seasoned to reduce creosote build-up.
- Keep a 36-inch clearance between space heaters and anything that can burn.
- Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing them in a metal container.
- Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.
- When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory, and be sure to have fixed space heaters installed by a qualified technician, according to manufacturer's instructions or applicable codes. Or make sure a qualified technician checks to see that the unit has been properly installed.