Winter is in full blast! With frigid temps and snow already covering the ground, we have gotten our first taste of the long winter months ahead. Although the weather outside may be frightful, don’t let the chill get you down. The ever changing seasons in New England each bring their own unique qualities filled with fun and delight. As you enjoy the wintery weather, don’t forget that this time of year also brings its challenges. When you stay ahead of the game and are prepared, you will minimize potential dangers whilst keeping the magic and fun of winter alive. There’s nothing quite like the beauty of a white blanket of shimmering snow. Winter in the Northeast is one of the most breathtaking seasons of the year, and it is also one of the best times to be outdoors. The silver lining to the shorter, colder days of winter is the snow and the sports activities that are typically reserved for this time of year. Winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, sledding and ice-skating provide fun, excitement, fresh air and fantastic exercise. The indoor entertainment brings its own enjoyment filled with cozy blankets, cuddles in front of fireplaces, hot cocoa, and spending time with the ones we love. Even though winter is the coldest season there is lots of warmth to go along with it. Just make sure you keep your home, health, and sanity intact by taking winter preventative measures now.
The reality is as cold as the sub zero temps. Winter can be a dangerous season and brings multiple hazards to New England. The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. It is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes. For example, winter cold kills more than twice as many Americans as does summer heat, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. According to SafeWinterRoads.org, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually. The ice and snow creates dangerous conditions as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 million Americans are injured and 17,000 people die, as a result of slip and fall injuries every year. From 1999 to 2011, a total of 16,911 deaths in the United States, an average of 1,301 per year, were associated with exposure to excessive natural cold. In 2015 almost 56,714 individuals were injured while participating in the winter sports of snowmobiling, snowboarding and ice skating and required treatment in emergency rooms, according to the National Safety Council.
It’s clear that winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous. Stay safe and healthy by planning ahead. Although the harsh winter comes as no surprise, many of us are not ready for its arrival. If you are prepared for the potential dangers of winter, you will be more likely to stay safe when the temp drops and snow falls. When well prepared for winter, you’re free to enjoy normal thrills that accompany the season.
Let’s check out some of the top safety tips to get prepared for winter season! There are lots of variables to think about and consider when winter safety is involved. Here’s a comprehensive list we put together with help from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Weather Underground.
Winter Storms Home Preparedness Checklist
- Before winter approaches, add the following supplies to your emergency kit:
- Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways
- Sand to improve traction
- Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
- Heating fuel, like dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove
- Clothing and blankets to keep you warm
- Make a family emergency communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency
- Listen to a radio or local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS) and be alert to changing weather conditions
- Minimize travel, but keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle
- Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather
- Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water
During the Winter Storm
- Stay indoors during the storm
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow; overexertion can bring on a heart attack — a major cause of death in the winter
- Stretch before going outside to shovel
- Keep dry and change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat (wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly)
- Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately
- Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are noticed, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible
- Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day, don’t travel alone, keep others informed of your schedule, stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts
- Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate)
- Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55°F
Winterize Your Home
- Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic
- Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment
- Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm
- Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year
- Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing; Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them
- Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts)
- Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out
- Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work
Carbon Monoxide Safety
- Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors
- The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide
- 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
Winter Driving Preparedness
Make sure to prepare your vehicle before the winter season begins. The following steps will help you ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive during winter weather:
- Check your brakes, transmission and tires
- Check that your battery and ignition system is in top condition and that battery terminals are clean
- Check radiator coolant and sturdiness of hoses and belts
- Check your anti-freeze and thermostat to avoid freezing
- Check your windshield wipers and deicing washer fluid
- Check your headlights, tail and brake lights, blinkers and emergency flasher
- Check your exhaust system, heater and defroster
- Check fuel and air filters
- Check your oil and power steering fluids
- Properly lubricate door locks that may be prone to freezing
- Before beginning your trip, check the current road conditions and weather forecast. For statewide highway information 24 hours a day checkout your state’s Department of Transportation
- Keep your car’s windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice
- Buckle up
- Allow yourself plenty of time to make it to your destination
- Be aware of sleet and freezing rain
- Be aware of potentially icy areas
- Brake early and slowly and avoid slamming on the brakes
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road
- When driving on ice and snow, do not use cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers
- When merging into traffic, take it slow — Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slide
- Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary — treat these as you would emergency response vehicles
- Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car
- Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. This is good for emergency preparedness and it keeps the fuel line from freezing.
- Most importantly, drive smart!
Winter Driving Safety Kit
Keep a basic winter survival kit in your vehicle: flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, first-aid kit. Load your car with winter travel gear : tire chains, ice scraper/snowbrush, jumper cables, road flares.
Dress Warmly and Stay Dry
Adults and children should wear:
- a hat
- a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
- sleeves that are snug at the wrist
- mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
- water-resistant coat and boots
- several layers of loose-fitting clothing
- Inner Layer: Wear fabrics that will hold more body heat and don’t absorb moisture. Wool, silk, or polypropylene will hold more body heat than cotton.
- Insulation Layer: An insulation layer will help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Natural fibers, like wool or goose down, or a classic fleece work best.
- Outer Layer: The outermost layer helps protect you from wind, rain, and snow. It should be tightly woven, and preferably water and wind resistant, to reduce loss of body heat.
- Stay dry—wet clothing chills the body rapidly.
- Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm.
- Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body.
- Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia
Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia especially dangerous, because a person may not know it’s happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.
Frostbite is a bodily injury caused by freezing that causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation.
Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.
Walking on ice is extremely dangerous. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.
Be Safe During Recreation
- Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing.
- Do not leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold.
- Avoid perspiring or becoming overtired. Be prepared to take emergency shelter.
- Pack dry clothing, a two-wave radio, waterproof matches and paraffin fire starters with you.
- Do not use alcohol and other mood altering substances, and avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid walking on ice or getting wet.
- Carefully watch for signs of cold-weather health problems.
What to Do if You Get Stranded
Staying in your vehicle when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:
- Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
- Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
- Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
- Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
- Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.
- Huddle with other people for warmth.
Long-time New Englanders joke, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.” Over the next few months, we may be exposed to severe and dangerous weather. It’s extremely important to remember if we’re not prepared for it, winter can threaten our property, our safety or our life. If you’ve been hurt or injured in wintery weather, contact Schulze Law to day so you can understand your options.
Don’t forget to enjoy the sparkle of the winter season safely!!!