American Red Cross offers cold weather tips

VERMONT — The recent spate of arctic temperatures brought winter home early. Such conditions can be dangerous. With that in mind The American Red Cross has steps to take to stay safe for those in the path of winter weather.
Keeping the home warm can be improved by doing the following:
•  Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out. Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
•  Make sure heating fuel tank is full.
•  When it’s frigid, stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. Remove layers to avoid sweating; if chilled, add layers.
•  Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.
•  Protect pipes from freezing.
•  If possible, bring 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.
Outdoor activities during the winter, particularly during extreme cold spells, can be a challenge. The Red Cross suggests:
•  Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat.
•  Cover the mouth to protect lungs from severely cold air.
•  Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
•  Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
•  Stretch before going out. Do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body if shoveling snow. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
•  Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
•  Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
•  For those who must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles
Winter driving has its pitfalls, but these recommendations can help drivers be prepared if they need to go out in winter weather. Stay off the road if possible during severe weather. If you must drive in winter weather, follow these tips:
•  Keep in your vehicle: A windshield scraper and small broom. A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats. Matches in a waterproof container. A brightly colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna and an emergency supply kit, including warm clothing.
•  Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency, and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
•  Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give full attention to the road.
•  Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
•  Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
•  Don’t pass snow plows.
•  Remember that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.
•  If stranded stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
•  Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
•  Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
•  Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.

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