Red Cross urging NC residents to brace for winter storm

NCDOT brine roads ahead of winter weather (Photo: WWAY)

RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — As people across North Carolina prepare for the forecast of snow, ice and winter’s cold blast, the Red Cross urges residents to stay safe and warm by following basic safety and travel tips.

“Red Cross is working with our local partners to monitor conditions and support requests from emergency management,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the American Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina. “To help keep people safe, the Red Cross encourages families to be mindful when heating their homes with space heaters, limit travel, to dress in layers before going outside, and bring pets indoors.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

  • Assemble an emergency preparedness kit. Full details here.
  • Protect pipes from freezing.
  • 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 you have enough heating fuel on hand. Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, placing great demand on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.).
  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.
  • Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.

HEAT YOUR HOME SAFELY
Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and fatal fires peak in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping.

Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in the U.S. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends these steps (More home fire safety information available here):

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets – never into an extension cord.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range, oven, charcoal or gas grill to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

STAY SAFE OUTSIDE

If you must go outside, protect yourself from winter storm hazards:

  • Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
  • 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 you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. 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.
  • If you 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 SAFETY

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
  • 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 your 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 snowplows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.
  • If you become 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.

STAYING SAFE AFTER A POWER OUTAGE

  • If electrical power lines are down, don’t touch them. Keep your family and pets away. Report downed lines to your utility company.
  • Use a flashlight, do not use candles during a power outage due to extreme risk of fire.
  • Don’t drive unless necessary. Traffic lights will be out and roads could be congested.
  • Turn off and unplug any appliances, equipment and electronics. When the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
  • Leave one light on, so you’ll know when power is restored.
  • Use perishable food from the refrigerator first. Then, use food from the freezer.
  • Perishable food is safe to eat when it has a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • If the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items. Keep food in a dry, cool spot and cover it at all times.

PREVENT CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) POISONING

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
  • Keep these devices outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home. Although CO can’t be seen or smelled, it can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY – DO NOT DELAY.
  • Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide. Test the batteries frequently and replace when needed.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

If you are using a generator, keep it dry and don’t use it in wet conditions.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning device inside a home, garage, basement or other partially enclosed area. Keep this equipment outside and away from doors, windows and vents, which could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • Operate the generator on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up by poles. Don’t touch a generator with wet hands.
  • Turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could catch fire.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never plug a generator into a wall outlet. Read more about using generators safely.

HOW TO HELP:

The Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis. In January, the Red Cross has had more than 200 blood drives canceled across the country due to winter storms forcing nearly 6,500 blood and platelet donations to go uncollected. More blood drives are anticipated to be affected by winter weather in the coming days and weeks, further complicating efforts to rebuild the nation’s blood supply. More blood donors are needed now, particularly individuals in areas currently unaffected by winter weather.  Donors in non-affected areas are urged to give blood or platelets. To make an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org.

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