Cold weather safety tips – especially for seniors

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

February 7, 2020- Surviving winter weather here in Northeast Ohio takes more than just praying for spring (and hoping the groundhog’s prediction is right this year). It can be especially dangerous for the elderly. So if you are a boomer, or you have parents that are, here’s a ‘Do’ and a ‘Don’t’ deserving some serious consideration.

Snow shoveling

Don’t. (If that’s not an option, continue reading.)

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Consider rock salt or other chemical deicer pellets. Let that do the work instead of you.

If you must go out to shovel, stretch your arms and legs for a few minutes before going outside. Warm muscles work better and are less likely to cause problems.

Wear sturdy shoes or boots with good, non-slip soles. Old tennis shoes with no tread can be extremely slippery on ice. Wear a warm hat and gloves.

Use a sturdy, but lightweight shovel, and push rather than lifting if possible. If lifting is necessary, do it in small loads. If the snow is extremely heavy or wet, and you’ve had back problems, flex your knees while lifting instead of using your back muscles.

Have a friend or spouse check on you every couple minutes. If you should slip and fall, they can call 911 if needed. Even if you had your cellphone in your pocket, if you were to hit your head on the sidewalk, you could freeze before regaining consciousness.

Keeping warm inside

Do. Staying inside with a warm heat source is the best way to conquer winter weather, but all heat sources are not equal.

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Never use your kitchen stove for additional heat.

Never burn anything in a fireplace or Franklin stove that is not properly vented. Make sure the flue is open and the chimney is unobstructed.

Keep all flammable materials away from the hearth area of your fireplace, especially draperies that might blow around the flames.

Only use UL-rated portable electric heaters and only use one per electrical circuit.

Never leave the electric heaters on at night or when you leave the room. Make sure the cords are not a tripping hazard.  Make sure pets can’t tip them over.

Check outside vents of heaters, water heaters, clothes dryers and furnaces to make sure they are not blocked by snow.

Install and check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms regularly. If you need smoke alarms in your home, we can help. Call your local Red Cross chapter and get put on a list for free installation.

Consider donating to the American Red Cross

On average, the Red Cross responds to a home fire every eight seconds – many in the wintertime. For many people, we are the first organization to bring them financial help and ongoing assistance as they try to recover. It’s only with financial donations from people like you that we can offer this emergency assistance. Please consider donating, and keep warm!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

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