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Staying safe: Your winter weather guide

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HANCOCK COUNTY — The Daily Reporter has compiled a variety of safety tips for combatting the dangers of severe winter weather. Emergency response officials say even those who refrain from travel are at risk, especially if they venture outside to shovel snow in subzero temperatures. Doing your part is essential to keeping your home and family safe, experts say.

Signs of frostbite (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • numbness

What to do if you detect frostbite (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
  • Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.
  • Seek medical attention

If You Become Stranded (Source: Indiana Department of Homeland Security):

  • Unless there is a safe structure nearby, do not leave the car, since it is the best protection
  • Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm. An idling car only uses about one gallon of gas per hour
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the car for rescuers to see
  • Light a flare or turn on a flashlight to let others know you are stranded
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is free of any blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Keep hydrated by drinking water from your preparedness kit. Don’t eat snow, as it will lower body

Keep pets safe (Source: Humane Society of the United States)

  • All pets should be brought inside if possible
  • If a pet must remain outdoors, make a shelter that is large enough for the animal to lie down comfortably but small enough to trap body heat
  • Outdoor shelters should be raised off the ground, with the inside covered in cedar shavings or straw
  • Face outdoor shelters away from the wind, and cover the shelter door with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Prepare a winter emergency kit for your vehicle. Supplies should include (Source: Indiana Department of Homeland Security):

  • At least two blankets or a sleeping bag
  • Flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries
  • Booster (jumper) cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Extra clothing, particularly boots, hats and mittens
  • A steel shovel and rope to use as a lifeline
  • Bottled water or juice and nonperishable high-energy foods (granola bars, raisins, nuts, peanut butter or cheese crackers)
  • Thermos or container that won’t allow liquids to freeze
  • First-aid kit and necessary medications
  • Sand or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction if your vehicle gets stuck in snow or ice
  • A cell phone and charger which can be adapted to vehicle use
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Candle, matches, heat sticks/packs, lighters, hand-warmers, etc. (Be sure to crack the window if you using a heat source inside the vehicle)

If you find a frozen pipe (Source: State Farm):

  • Turn off the main water supply
  • Identify the location of the frozen pipe by opening up faucets in other parts of the house. Check outside walls and crawl spaces. Feel pipes to see if parts are extremely cold
  • Open the faucet connected to the frozen pipe all the way
  • Use a gentle heat source, such as a blow dryer, to thaw the ice
  • Once ice is melted, turn water supply back on
  • Wrap pipe with foil or fiberglass insulation, and cover that with a tubular insulation sleeve, to prevent refreezing

If a frozen pipe has burst (Source: State Farm):

  • First, shut off electricity to avoid shock
  • Turn off main water supply to prevent more water damage
  • If water is coming from hot water pipe, shut off valves from hot water heater
  • Call a plumber to fix the cracked pipe
  • Call your insurance company, which can advise you on what to do next

Safe heating (Source: Indiana Department of Homeland Security):

  • If purchasing a space heater for the first time, check to make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing labortory
  • Use the proper grade of fuel for any liquid-fueled space heater. Never use gasoline in any heater not approved for gasoline use
  • Wait until all equipment has cooled before refueling a space heater. Do so only in a well-ventilated area.
  • Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity. Do not use an extension cord.
  • Do not leave space heaters on in an unoccupied room.
  • When you go to bed, turn off the space heater to avoid starting a fire by knocking it over if you get up in the middle of the night.

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