Thursday, 13 January 2022 18:58

Winter storm watch issued, Red Cross urges preparedness

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CHARLOTTE — As North Carolinians prepare for snow, ice and sleet over the MLK holiday weekend, the Red Cross urges residents to stay safe and warm by following safety and travel tips.


"Now is the time to prepare for snow, ice and brutal cold that could have dangerous impacts on families in our area," said Allison Taylor, regional executive, Greater Carolinas Region of the American Red Cross. "The safest place to be in a winter storm is inside, but it is critical that you prepare your home before temperatures drop and conditions become severe."

(Editor's Note: As of 7 p.m. Thursday, the winter storm watch did not include Richmond County and only extended as far west as Union County.)

The Red Cross encourages families to be mindful when heating their homes with space heaters, to dress in layers before going outside, and bring pets indoors.

HEAT YOUR HOME SAFE

Heat sources such as space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and fatal fires peak in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping. Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in the U.S. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends these steps: 

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets - never into an extension cord.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace. 
  • Never use a cooking range, oven, charcoal or gas grill to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

 STAY SAFE OUTSIDE

If you must go outside, protect yourself from winter storm hazards:

  • Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves, and a hat. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent the loss of body heat.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
  • Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
  • If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles

 WINTER DRIVING SAFETY

Stay off the road if possible, during severe weather. If you must drive in winter weather, follow these tips:

  • Keep in your vehicle:
    • A windshield scraper and small broom. A small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats. Matches in a waterproof container. A brightly colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna
    • An emergency supply kit, including warm clothing.
  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave right away in an emergency and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snowplows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

If you become stranded:

  • Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
  • Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
  • Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and conserves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.

HOW TO HELP

Help people affected by disasters and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

DOWNLOAD APPS 

People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

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