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Winter’s Harsh Arrival Calls for Preparation, Precautions
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December 9, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2019 — p>If there was any question of when winter would finally arrive, the bitter cold, driving winds and snow leave no doubt that it is here. The American Red Cross has advice that can help keep you and your family safe during this unpredictable season.

Winter Storm Safety Checklist
Winter Storm Safety Checklist [PDF]
   Related Links
  • Generator Safety
  • Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
  • Frostbite and Hypothermia [pdf]
  • Power Outage Checklist [pdf]
  • Why Talk About Winter Storms? [PDF]

Power Outages
Winter storms often bring power outages along with them. Follow these tips to weather outages safely.

Food safety:
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours.
  • Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
  • Use your non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer. If it looks like 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 keep it covered at all times.
Electrical equipment:
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics. Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out.
  • When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment. Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.
  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
Using generators safely:
  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.

Heating Safety 
Heating the home is one of the leading causes of home fires. Take these precautions to cut your risk of starting a fire in the home.

Use alternative heaters safely:
  • First, never use your stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Never leave alternative heaters unattended—turn off space heaters or extinguish the fireplace before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Keep all flammable materials and potential fuel sources—including but not limited to newspapers, matches, bedding, clothing, carpets and rugs—at least three feet away from heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces and stoves.

Place your space heater on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away. Look for a space heater model that shuts off automatically if the heater falls over.

Keep the fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Never leave fireplaces unattended. Be sure to have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected once a year.

Be Prepared
Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home. Check them once a month by pressing the test button, and replace batteries as necessary.

Make sure both your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly, and practice your home fire escape plan so every member of your family, including young children and elderly, can get out quickly and safely. Your escape plan should include at least two routes out for every room in the home, and a meeting place outside your home.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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