Red Cross urges safety during freezing weather

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

As temperatures drop across the county, the Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross is urging residents to take steps to guard against hypothermia and other emergencies common during severely cold weather.

“Winter can be a beautiful time of year in Covington County, but it also brings quiet dangers such as brutally cold temperatures — exactly like the ones we are seeing now,” said Merrill Davis, the chapter’s executive director. “Everyone, especially senior citizens and children, should take precautions to guard against hypothermia this winter, and the Red Cross can help.”

Severely cold weather may cause hypothermia, a serious condition that predominantly affects young children and people over the age of 60. Symptoms of hypothermia include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately upon experiencing these symptoms.

“There are several things you can do to protect yourself,” Davis said. “These dangerous temperatures we are seeing are prime examples of why it’s important to protect yourself.

“Here are several things people normally don’t realize,” he said. “Dressing in several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves, and most of your body heat is lost through your head. Wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.

“Those are simple steps one can do,” he said.

Also, the Red Cross urges residents to:

Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia including: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.

Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of frostbite including: numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or skin that appears waxy feeling skin.

Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.

Remove wet clothes immediately and help warm your core body temperature by wrapping yourself in a blanket or drinking warm fluids like hot cider or soup.

Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol if you think you might have hypothermia or frostbite.

“And not only do you have to worry about protecting yourself when you’re out in the weather, you also need to take measures to protect your home,” Davis said.

He recommended residents:

Be careful with candles – Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.

Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves yearly — Use a sturdy fire screen with lit fires. Burn only wood — never burn paper or pine boughs.

Use generators correctly — Never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring.

Prevent frozen pipes — When the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. 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 a consistent temperature.

Check smoke alarms — Make sure alarms are working properly and replace batteries as necessary.

Be aware of overuse of electrical outlets — Don’t overload your electrical outlets. Be careful that extension cords don’t create hazardous walkways.