Winter tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Emergency supplies list:
Alternative ways of heating your home during a power failure:
dry firewood for a fireplace or wood stove, kerosene for a kerosene heater, furnace fuel (coal, propane or oil), electric space heater with automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements, blankets, matches, multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher, first aid kit and instruction manual, flashlight or battery-powered lantern, battery-powered radio, battery-powered clock or watch, extra batteries, non-electric can opener, snow shovel, rock salt, special needs items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.)
Prepare your home for winter: Although periods of extreme cold cannot always be predicted far in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes provide you with several days’ notice.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly, and check your emergency supplies whenever a period of extreme cold is predicted.
If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year.
Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one in the yellow pages of your telephone directory under chimney cleaning.
Also, if you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly, and replace batteries twice yearly.
Your ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age, and older people are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently, and check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze. To the extent possible, weatherproof your home by adding weather stripping, insulation, insulated doors and storm windows or thermal-pane windows.
If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure that they have access to unfrozen water.
Prepare your car for winter You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, every fall have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze, as needed. Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture. Replace any worn tires and check the air pressure in the tires.
During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
What to do if you get stranded in a vehicle: 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: Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna  as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing).
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.
Polk County has 211, which is an alternative to 911 for information on local agencies.  Calling the Sheriff office is always an option when you are without help at 828-894-3001.

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