When temperatures plunge, heating your home can become more difficult.
Here are some things you can do to prepare your home for colder temperatures:
- Have an HVAC professional inspect your furnace
- If you have a fireplace, have a trained professional sweep and inspect your chimney
- Change your furnace filter every month
- Be sure your furnace/fire place has no flammable materials nearby
- Be sure to cap the top of your chimney with a screen to keep out unwanted pests
- Inspect the exterior (including the foundation) for cracks, exposed pipes, and broken glass
- Have a professional inspect your roof, downspouts and gutters
- Insulate any exposed plumbing pipes
- Put new batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and be sure to test them
- Have an emergency kit in your home and cars
A home emergency kit should contain:
- Flashlights, indoor candles and lighters
- Battery-operated radio
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food items
- First-aid kit
A car emergency kit should contain:
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- Jumper cables
- A gallon of antifreeze
- Washer fluid
- Blankets and/or sleeping bags
- Extra fuses
- A tool box that includes screwdrivers (flat and Phillips heads), pliers, vise grips, pocket knife, tow ropes, a tire pressure gauge, ice scraper and an adjustable wrench
- Tire inflator
- Sets of extra clothing for every passenger
- Bottled water and non-perishable food items
- Sand or cat litter to provide tire traction and a shovel
- First-aid kit
Be sure you do not store flammable or combustible products near flares. There are few other tips for keeping your car safer in winter. Always keep your tank near full to avoid fuel line freeze-up. Try not to travel alone, especially in unfamiliar places and make sure someone knows the route you will be traveling. Be sure to winterize your vehicle before the season begins and make sure you have good tire tread.
When temperatures reach below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for even a short period of time, residents need to take extra precautions with their health. Two problems involved with extreme cold are frost bite and hypothermia.
Frost bite is a more serious condition than some people realize. It happens when the skin and body tissue just below the skin freeze. Frost bite typically affects more exposed areas on the body such as toes, fingers, and exposed areas of the face.
- Skin first becomes very cold and can feel firm to the touch
- Skin becomes numb
- Skin appears pale or turns a yellowish-grey color
- Skin feels hard to the touch
If you suspect someone has frost bite, dial 911 immediately. While waiting for emergency personnel get out of the cold and slowly warm the skin with warm water (not hot). If water is not available, try warming the frost bitten areas with warm clothing or by placing them next to warm skin, such as the armpit. Never rub skin to warm it as this can cause damage to the skin. Do not use heat sources such as fire, heating pads, stoves, radiators or heat lamps because the affected areas could easily be burned. Do not allow someone to walk on frostbitten feet if avoidable.
It is very important to seek medical attention for frost bite as it can lead to infection, nerve damage and damage to the skin, tissue, muscle and bone. Frostbite has been known to lead to amputations.
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when your core body temperature falls before 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your body is unable to replenish lost heat, a drop in core body temperature occurs.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Drowsiness or low energy
- Lack of coordination or clumsiness and stumbling
- Slurred speech/mumbling
- Mental confusion
Symptoms can progress to:
- Weak pulse
- Slow breathing
- Loss of consciousness
It’s important to remember that hypothermia is not always caused by outdoor conditions. The elderly are more prone to hypothermia and can even develop a case of hypothermia from colder indoor conditions that are tolerable to younger people.
If someone is showing signs of hypothermia, dial 911 immediately. If the person is outdoors, get them inside and remove any cold and/or wet clothing and cover the person in many warm layers of blankets while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.