Winter weather safety tips

(Media General photo)

While Kansas is known for its turbulent thunderstorms and tornadoes, it’s important to remember that frigid winter conditions are a considerable danger across Kansas.

We’ve got some help from the winter weather experts in New England area, and they offered several tips on what they advise during winter weather emergencies.

PERSONAL TIPS  |  DRIVING TIPS  |  HOUSEHOLD TIPS  |  PHONE TIPS  |  SNOW REMOVAL TIPS

BEFORE AN EXTREME COLD EMERGENCY

DURING AN EXTREME COLD EMERGENCY

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMinimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. Also consider your pets.
  • Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear a hat, mittens (rather than gloves) and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Check with elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to ensure their safety.

Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damage to body tissue that is frozen.

  • Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.
  • If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.
  • Slowly rewarm the affected areas as you await medical assistance.

Hypothermia, a drop in body temperature, can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Incoherence
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Apparent exhaustion.

If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.

  • If medical assistance is not available, slowly warm up the person, body core first, wrapping them in a blanket or using your own body heat.
  • Do not warm the extremities first, for this drives the cold blood towards the heart and can lead to heart failure.
  • Do not give the person alcohol, coffee, tea or any hot food or beverage. Warm liquids are best.

WIND CHILLS

The Windchill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold.

As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop.

When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.

Below is a table to show how long it may take frostbite to take in factoring both temperature and wind speed.

NWS windchill chart

DRIVING TIPS

  • Winter Storm LeonAccelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids.
  • Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Never tailgate. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not (video), the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

WHAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR WINTER SURVIVAL KIT (FOR VEHICLES)

  • Blankets
  • Extra clothing
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • A can & waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water)
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Windshields scraper
  • Shovel
  • Sand
  • Towrope

WHAT SHOULD BE IN YOUR WINTER HOME EMERGENCY SUPPLY KIT (INDOORS)

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio with extra batteries.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Essential prescription medicines.
  • Non-perishable Food.
  • Non-electric can opener.
  • Water (one gallon per person/per day).
  • Baby items
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags.
  • Fire extinguisher

IF THE POWER GOES OUT

  • If electricity is lost for an extended period of time, a snowbank in your yard can become a makeshift freezer for food.
    When utilizing alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy, ensuring everyone knows how to use it properly.
  • Test smoke alarms.
  • If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors.
  • At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.
  • Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.

PROTECT YOUR PIPES

frozen-pipesTo keep pipes from freezing:

  • Wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
  • Allow a trickle of hot and cold water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze.
  • Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.

PROTECT YOUR PETS

Snowy paw prints

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says if it’s too cold for humans outside, it’s likely too cold for pets.

Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to both sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to retain body heat.

  • The floor should be elevated a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw.
  • The entrance of the doghouse should be turned to face away from prevailing winds
  • The entrance should be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.

PHONES ARE PRONE TO THE COLD

iPhones

As temperatures dip into the sub-freezing region, many will start to consider how to protect themselves, their homes, and their pets from the cold. Although, one must not forget to keep their cell phone safe, as the frigid temperatures can be damaging to those types of devices.

Exposing your cell phone to extremely cold temperatures for an extended period of time can:

  • Cause its battery to drain faster
  • Make the phone’s hardware brittle, which could lead to cracked screens
  • Cause condensation to form inside of your phone’s screen
  • Increase the risk of permanent damage

In this day and age, many can’t go a day without their smart phone, but the easiest way to protect your phone if you’re heading out in frigid temps is to leave it at home.

Aside from the obvious, AT&T also suggests to:

  • Never leave it in your car or trunk for extended periods of time, since it’s not protected well enough
  • Leave it inside when shoveling or sledding, since it’s not only cold, but your phone could also get wet
  • Always keep your phone in a protective case
  • Invest in a Bluetooth earpiece, so you can keep the phone in your pocket.
  • If your phone has been exposed to frigid temperatures, shut it off and don’t turn it back on again until it’s warmed up.
  • If you have to use your smart phone in the cold, it’s a good idea to pick up a pair of touch-screen gloves, so that your hands will be safe and warm while you do so.

SNOW REMOVAL TIPS

Stay safe from slips and strains by following these recommendations for safe and effective snow removal:

  • Shovel all sidewalks adjacent to your property to the bare pavement. This includes any sidewalks outside your fence lines and to the sides/rear of your property.
  • Clear a path at least 36 inches wide. This allows space wide enough for someone using wheelchair, walker or stroller.
  • Strategically pile snow. Don’t create new problems in the street or sidewalk when clearing your car or driveway.
  • Clear ramps at corners and crosswalks. These strategic spots are particularly dangerous and often overlooked.
  • Chop or melt all ice. Ice is the primary cause of falls; it’s not enough to simply remove the snow.
  • Keep street storm drains clear of snow and report clogged drains. The snow will melt, and effective drainage protects streets from icing over and developing potholes.
  • Clear snow around any fire hydrants near your house. Seconds count when a fire occurs and it’s critical for firefighters to find and access hydrants.
  • Shovel frequently. Don’t wait until the snow piles up. Shovel intermittently – after two (2) inches of snow has fallen – to maintain safe conditions and prevent injury when clearing snow and ice.
  • Be neighborly. Consider helping those who may have difficulty clearing their own sidewalks.

Important health and safety reminders when clearing snow and ice:

  • Stretch during and after working outside. Gently stretch your back, arms and legs to help prevent injury and muscle strain.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothes frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • Cover your mouth. Protect your lungs from extremely cold air by covering your mouth when outdoors.
  • Wear shoes with good soles. Falling is the most common injury when removing snow and ice.
  • Wear shoes with a good cleat tread and layers of absorbing socks.
  • Separate your hands on the shovel. By creating space between your hands, you can increase your leverage on the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back. Make sure your knees are bending and straightening to lift the shovel instead of leaning forward and straightening with the back.
  • Push the snow. It is easier and better for your back to push the snow rather than lift it. Never throw snow over your shoulders.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unfamiliar exercise, such as shoveling snow or pushing a car, can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.
  • Stay safe. Walk carefully on snowy and icy sidewalks. If using a snowblower, NEVER use your hands to unclog the machine.
  • Maintain an awareness of utilities when removing snow. Do not cover fire hydrants with snow when clearing sidewalks and driveways. Do not shovel snow into the street storm drains.
  • Offer to help individuals who may require special assistance. Seniors and people with disabilities can benefit from a thoughtful neighbor, and they often need extra help during snowy conditions.

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