With the onset of winter come colder temperatures, unpredictable driving conditions and unexpected power outages. The National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control offer a wealth of tips to keep you safe and warm during the winter months.
Freezing winter temperatures can mean hazardous driving conditions. The National Safety Council offers the following tips to keep your vehicle in good working condition and to keep you prepared in the event of an emergency.
- Keep your fuel tank at least three-quarters full to avoid running out of gas in long lines of cars.
- Have your car serviced to check your battery, brakes and fluid levels including antifreeze.
- Equip your vehicle with an emergency kit. Items to consider include non-perishable, high-calorie foods, a flashlight and extra batteries, rock salt or cat sand for traction, a brightly colored cloth to call attention to your vehicle in a storm, flares, warm clothes and blankets, etc.
- If you become stranded, stay in your vehicle (unless you know exactly where you are and how far it is to get help). Keep one window slightly cracked as extremely cold temperatures can seal a vehicle shut. Put flares in front of and behind your vehicle and tie a bright piece of cloth to your antenna to call attention to yourself. Run the car heater for 10 minutes every hour depending on fuel levels.
Power outages are common during the winter months and seldom lengthy. However, if you do find yourself without power for more than a few hours, use these tips to stay safe and warm.
- First check your fuse box to make sure you haven’t blown a fuse. Consider keeping a couple of spare fuses handy in the event you’ve blown one and need another.
- Be sure to call your power company to alert them to the outage. The phone number will be listed on your utility bill.
- Check in on elderly neighbors to make sure they have what they need to stay warm.
- Children lose body heat more quickly than adults, so be sure to bundle little ones in layers. Include a hat and scarf even if indoors.
- Resumption of electricity can create a power surge which could have an adverse effect on sensitive equipment such as computers, stereos and TV’s. Unplug them at the source to prevent damage. You may want to leave a light on so you’ll know once power resumes.
- If the power is out for more than 4 hours, the CDC recommends putting milk and other dairy products, meats and other spoilable foods into a cooler packed with ice. Use a food thermometer to test the temperature of food you are about to consume; if it is over 40 degrees, discard the food as it is no longer safe. A full freezer will keep food for 48 hours; after that time, you may need to discard it.
- NEVER use an oven, charcoal grill, camp stove or gas range as an indoor heating source as this will create a toxic build-up of carbon dioxide, which is odorless and thus difficult to detect. Breathing CO2 can cause death.
- Never burn anything indoors unless you have proper ventilation. If you use a fireplace or wood stove, burn only dry wood. A portable kerosene heater can be used indoors in an emergency situation but be sure you have adequate ventilation and use only kerosene, never gasoline.
- Keep an emergency kit in your home. Include items similar to the ones you have in your vehicle kit: non-perishable foods (crackers, nuts, dried fruits and canned goods are good choices), a flashlight and extra batteries, wool blankets and other warm clothing, first-aid kit, can-opener, etc.
- Pipes can freeze and even rupture in the wintertime, so be sure to have a fresh supply of water on hand. The National Safety Council recommends having 5 gallons per person in storage.