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Keep Safe This Winter

Though it’s felt more like spring so far across much of the U.S. and Canada, real winter weather is on the way. When it arrives in full force, cold temperatures and severe weather can quickly turn ordinary situations into hazardous ones. Follow these simple precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter.

Safety at home

  • Get your heating system inspected and cleaned to make sure it’s working properly and ventilated to the outside. This is especially important for fireplaces and chimneys.
  • Install smoke detectors if needed and test batteries in existing devices. See if your smoke detector doubles as a carbon monoxide detector and learn the dangers of this deadly, odorless, colorless gas.
  • Monitor space heaters closely – they cause 32 percent of home heating fires.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen – 75 percent of home fires start at the stove.
  • Dispose of Christmas trees sooner than later once the holidays end. Dry trees can catch fire easily and are responsible for about 210 fires a year.

Safety on the road

  • Prepare your car for winter travel by checking your tires, antifreeze level and using a windshield wiper solution made for the winter months.
  • Whether it is rain, sleet, snow or something in between, SLOW DOWN when driving. Weather-related crashes kill about 6,250 people each year and injure 480,000 more.
  • Increase your following distance behind other cars.
  • Accelerate and brake slowly to avoid spinning out or sliding in wintry conditions.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full in case you’re on the road for longer than expected.
  • Keep an ice scraper, jumper cables and a properly inflated spare tire (along with the tools to use it) in your car.

Be ready for emergencies

  • Prepare for power outages and other events at home by doing the following:
    • Stock up on extra drinking water and food that doesn’t need to be cooked
    • Have flashlights (and extra batteries) or candles (and matches) on hand
    • Charge cell phones and other devices before storms hit
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car that includes:
    • Blankets, gloves, hats and extra socks
    • A flashlight (and extra batteries)
    • A bag of sand or pea gravel for extra traction if you get stuck
    • A first-aid kit (along with any medicine you take regularly)
    • Non-perishable food for snacking and extra bottled water
  • Always check the weather and be aware of forecasts before you leave the house.

Stay safe outdoors

  • Work slowly when doing outdoor chores to avoid injury and overexertion. Sweating accelerates heat loss and can lead to hypothermia.
  • Dress in warm, light layers and wear waterproof shoes, gloves and a hat. For more on dressing for winter work outdoors, see this Lifelines article.
  • Avoid ice on walkways and steps and put down salt, sand or another de-icer if possible.
  • Don’t engage in outdoor activities (e.g., hiking, snowboarding, etc.) alone. If you do, tell a friend or family member where you’re going and when you plan on getting back.

[Nick Fox]

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