What You Need to Know About Dangerous Cold

Thursday, Jan 23, 2014  |  Updated 9:40 AM EDT
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What You Need to Know About Dangerous Cold

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Frigid temperatures will affect Connecticut in the coming days and there are some steps you can take to stay safe.

Warming Centers:

Several towns have opened warming centers, or you can call 211.

Dress Warmly

  • 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:
  • Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
  • Dressing in layers helps you retain heat. You can 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 expect you or someone you are trying to help has hypothermia or frostbite.

Recognize Symptoms

Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia, which can be a serious medical condition, and seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion
  • Severe shivering.

Recognize frostbite warning signs and seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms:

  • Gray, white or yellow skin discoloration
  • Numbness
  • Waxy feeling skin.

Home Safety

  • Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
  • Use caution with portable space heaters. About two-thirds of home heating fire deaths are caused by portable or fixed space heaters.
  • To prevent fire, place space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything combustible, including wallpaper, bedding, clothing, pets and people.
  • Never leave space heaters operating when you are not in the room or when you go to bed. Don't leave children or pets unattended near space heaters.
  • Drying wet mittens or other clothing over space heaters is a fire hazard.
  • Make sure smoke alarms are working properly and replace batteries as necessary.    
  • Have your chimney connections and flues inspected by a professional and cleaned if necessary prior to the start of every heating season.
  • Use a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires. Burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs.      

Using Generators

  • If you use a portable generator during a power outage, always operate the generator outdoors-never inside, including the basement or garage.
  • Do not connect a generator directly to your home's wiring – leave that work to a professional electrician and buy a generator designed for that purpose.
  • The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
  • Connecting a cord from the generator to a point on the permanent wiring system and back-feeding power to your home is an unsafe method to supply a building with power.
  • Don't overload your electrical outlets. Be careful of extension cords that present hazardous walkways.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

  • 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.
  • When the temperature is very low outside, 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 because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
  • 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.

If Your Pipes Freeze

  • If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
  • Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water.
  • Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. It could cause a fire.
  • You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
  • If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house. Leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.

Your Car

  • Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full.
  • A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Check the battery.  AAA recommends: Have a technician test it by performing a “load” test. Look at the cable connections to see if there is a white, crusty looking substance on the terminals. If there is, carefully disconnect them (negative first) and using a battery terminal cleaner (available for minimal cost at any auto parts store) clean the battery’s posts and the inside of the cable ends.
  • Replace windshield wiper blades every year.
  • Top off coolant. The system should be flushed and filled every three years. 
  • Check engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid.
  • See more tips here

Supply Kit

  • Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.)
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Sand, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
  • Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets and warm clothing for all household members
  • Ample alternate heating methods such as fireplaces or wood- or coal-burning stoves

Find more tips on the American Red Cross website.

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