Winter safety tips to help you outsmart Jack Frost

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteeer.

With the first day of winter only one day away, like it or not, Jack Frost is getting ready to spend a few months in Northeast Ohio.

Red Cross pet photo 2018While winter weather in Northeast Ohio can be unpredictable, the one thing you can expect is that it will bring headaches. Blizzards, freezing cold, Nor’easters and ice storms can all have significant impacts on travel, schools, businesses and health. They can even impact our homes.

Pretending winter is not coming is not going to make the calendar fast forward to July. Do not let winter catch you off guard. Here are some winter tips to help you stay safe and be prepared for Jack Frost.

Be Informed

It is important to know the difference between advisories, watches and warnings to understand what they mean when one is issued in your area by the National Weather Service:

  • Advisory: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconvenience and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.
  • Watch: Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.
  • Warning: Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.

outside-winter-safety-tips-twPrepare your home

  • Protect your pipes from freezing. To learn how to protect your pipes, click here.
  • Make sure your home heating sources are installed according to local codes and permit requirements and are clean and in working order.
  • Install storm windows and cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to add additional protection from the cold winter air.
  • If you have a fireplace, keep a supply of firewood on hand. Be sure the fireplace is properly vented and in good working order.

Get your vehicle winter ready

  • Have a mechanic thoroughly look over your vehicle by checking your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster and oil.
  • Install good winter tires.
  • Items to keep in your vehicle all winter include a windshield scraper and a small broom, a small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels, matches in a waterproof container, a bright colored (preferably red) cloth to tie to the antenna and an emergency supply kit, which includes warm clothing.

Winter driving

While the Red Cross encourages you to stay off the road if possible, if you must drive during inclement weather, follow these tips on how to drive safely during a winter storm and what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:

  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • 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 snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.

If you happen to become stuck:

  • Stay with the car. DO NOT try to walk to safety.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running to avoid draining the battery.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it –- don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.
  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won’t back up in the car.
  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
  • Keep one window slightly open –- away from the blowing wind –- to let in air.

American Red Cross National Headquarters Building 2001Be sure to download and use the American Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. You can find this and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or by visiting redcross.org/apps.

Deck the halls and trim the tree: Tips for a festive and safe home

Written by Brad Galvin and edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteers

The holidays are approaching, so is the heightened risk for home fires. Unfortunately, this time of year is tragically one of the busiest for fire departments due to the surprising danger of holiday décor, dry Christmas trees, holiday cooking and misuse of fireplaces and chimneys.

fireplace-1024x683.jpgBeautiful, fragrant and festive, the live Christmas tree can be very risky if safety precautions are not observed. The longer the tree is in the home without being given ample water, the more it will dry out and become a fire hazard. A dry live tree can go up in flames quickly if there is an electrical mishap with a strand of lights or if an open flame gets too close to the needles. It is important to continue to give your tree plenty of water and keep it away from energy sources. Strands of lights should be checked frequently.

According the National Fire Protection Agency, between 2012 to 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires per year that started with Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of four deaths, 15 injuries and $12 million in direct property damage annually.

Festive décor should be installed with common sense in mind. Décor such as candles and lights can catch their cheerful counterparts such as garland, bows and wreaths on fire if they aren’t properly inspected and used correctly. Do not overload sockets and connect too many extension cords.

Hams, casseroles and delicious cookies are staples on the holiday plate but use caution 240_F_146531964_rcj4af3xtTm2f3nW8aoKU9G6Y14fPSt6when using the oven and cooking range. FEMA recommends a common-sense practice of simply staying in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or cooking on the stove top or broiling food. The idea of “set-it and forget-it” is dangerous. Additionally, FEMA recommends to never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a wooden deck. It’s imperative to watch the fryer carefully, as the oil will continue to heat until it can catch on fire. To avoid oil spillover, don’t overfill the fryer.

The holidays are the perfect time to enjoy the crackling of a fire in the fireplace. Stockings hung from the mantel is an iconic holiday image. While picturesque, it is critical to be smart when operating the fireplace. Some suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics include:

  • Even if the chimney is not due for cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.
  • Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable (furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.). If these items get too close to the fireplace, they could catch fire.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house. If you leave the room while the fire is burning or the fireplace is still hot, take your small child with you.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher nearby.

heating-en

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family. The excitement can often divert our attention and distract us from our usual diligence. It’s imperative to use these common-sense suggestions to decrease the risk of a dangerous home fire.

You can learn more about preventing home fires with tips from the American Red Cross at redcross.org. The Red Cross offers simple safety tips that take you safely through the holidays and into the new year. Read  them here.

Think S-A-F-E-T-Y as you trim your tree this year

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Northeast Ohio. While the dusting of snow is lovely, and while we are all busy getting ready for the holidays, we need to be aware of the potential for home fires during this season.

decorations-home-fire-engThe National Fire Protection Association warns us that Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the three days most likely to experience fires started by candles.

Consider that Northeast Ohio experienced 14 fires just over Thanksgiving weekend alone.

The American Red Cross wants people to stay safe from home fires—the nation’s most frequent disaster—by testing their smoke alarms and practicing their home fire escape plan with free resources at redcross.org/homefires. In addition, you can follow these 10 simple safety tips as you put up lights and ornaments:

  1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.
  2. If you are buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.
  3. If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it frequently to keep it fresh. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.
  4. If using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.
  5. When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.
  6. If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.
  7. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.
  8. Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.
  9. Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles.
  10. If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.45180555475_4b8c6fc3dd_z

Every eight minutes, donations to the Red Cross help someone affected by a disaster—most often, home fires. You can help save lives by making a financial donation to support our mission, signing up to become a volunteer or taking steps to protect your own family from home fires. Visit redcross.org to learn more.

Don’t stop now.  Also check out our tips for Cooking Safety and Travel Safety.

Also, as you continue to prepare to decorate your house, here is a video on holiday decorating safety tips you can watch with your family to ensure everyone can enjoy the holidays safely:

Travel tips to get you safely to your Thanksgiving celebration

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

thanksgiving-travel-safety

 

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings people together to give thanks and celebrate their blessings. Relatives gather around the table to enjoy their family’s version of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Each year, millions of people drive to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, making it one of the busiest times for road traffic.

 

If you are headed “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house,” as the childhood song goes, prepare in advance to ensure a safe visit. The American Red Cross offers 10 tips to help you stay safe if you are traveling by car:

  1. Make sure your car is in good condition for a road trip.
  2. Pack an emergency preparedness kit, supplies and a first aid kit in the trunk.
  3. Share travel plans with a family member or friend.
  4. Check the weather before departing and along your route. Plan for travel around any storms that may be coming.
  5. Be well rested and alert.
  6. Buckle up, slow down and don’t drive impaired.
  7. Follow the rules of the road and use caution in work zones.
  8. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  9. Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
  10. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

‘Tis the season . . . flu season. So if public transportation is part of your travel plans, keep this in mind. From luggage to seats, everything that you touch is likely touched by someone else. Follow these tips to help avoid the spread of germs.

  1. Handle your own belongings.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  3. Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or wipe down surfaces, such as armrests.
  4. Bring your own pillows and blankets. They can act as a shield against the seat itself.

To find out what supplies you should have on hand in an emergency preparedness kit, the Red Cross offers this checklist and quiz to test your knowledge: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html.

You can also download the free Red Cross Emergency App to help you monitor severe weather and emergency alerts.

Whichever road leads to your Thanksgiving destination, these Red Cross tips and tools can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Safe travels!

10 tips to stay safe this Halloween while trick-or-treating

image (1)

By: Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

Halloween, one of the country’s most popular holidays, is just days away. Soon neighborhoods across Northeast Ohio will be filled with witches, ghosts, pirates and superheroes.

As you prepare to take to the streets for some trick-or-treating fun, the American Red Cross offers some tips to help keep you and your family safe:

  1. Make sure trick-or-treaters can see and be seen.
    • Use face makeup instead of masks. Masks can make it hard for a child to see clearly.
    • Give kids a flashlight to light their way.
    • Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
    • Have everyone wear light-colored clothing to help motorists see your trick-or-treater at night.
  1. Use flame-resistant costumes.
  2. Plan the trick-or-treat route in advance. Make sure adults know where their children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door.
  3. It’s not only vampires and monsters people have to look out for on Halloween. Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.
  4. Walk, don’t run.
  5. Only visit homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door—NEVER go inside.
  6. Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street.
    • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.
    • Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.
    • Don’t cut across yards or use alleys.
    • Don’t cross between parked cars.
    • Use extra caution if driving. Young trick-or-treaters are excited and may forget to look both ways before crossing.
  1. Make sure a grown-up checks the sweet goodies before eating.
    • Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards.
    • Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

And finally, for those expecting trick-or-treaters at their homes looking for candy, follow these safety steps:

  1. Light the area well so young visitors can see.
  2. Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps. Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.

Download the free Red Cross First Aid App for instant access to expert advice in case your ghost, zombie or werewolf has a mishap. Use the Emergency App for weather alerts and to let others know you are safe if severe weather occurs. Find these and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

By being prepared and keeping these tips in mind, you and your little ghouls and goblins can have a safe, fun and candy-filled Halloween!

Don’t be a statistic: It’s National Fire Prevention Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer

A home can be rebuilt. Human lives, pets and mementos can’t.

For those with insurance, a home fire a major disruption. For those without insurance, it’s devastating. The good news is that most home fires are preventable.

As a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team, I’ve seen numerous fires that didn’t have to happen:

  • A kitchen fire was caused by unattended grease left in a pan on the burner; another was caused by loose papers left too close to the gas burner; and a third by a plastic highchair overhanging an electrical element.
  • Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wiring contributed to the loss of a beautiful century home.
  • An unattended burning candle and a young child playing alone in the home displaced two families.

I could go on, but the good news is that no lives were lost. However, with a modicum of prevention, they could have all been avoided.

Here are 10 simple tips to share with members of your family during National Fire Prevention Week:

  1. Make sure to have working smoke alarms and replace the entire unit if it’s more than 10 years old. Even with a good battery, the sensor in an old alarm wears out in 10 years.
  2. Create an escape plan and make sure every child and adult knows that they must be outside within two minutes of hearing the alarm. Practice the plan with your children so they know the official meeting place outside.
  3. Never smoke in bed or when extremely tired or intoxicated.
  4. Keep matches and lighters away from children.
  5. Keep lit candles away from flammables, children and pets.
  6. Take care that nothing can blow over or into your kitchen gas burners.
  7. Keep frying pan handles turned away from the front edge of the stove so they aren’t tipped by children or pets.
  8. Electric space heaters can easily start fires if clothes or newspapers are tossed on top of them.
  9. Keep a working fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it.
  10. Keep gas cans outside if possible; but, never in a basement or near a furnace or water heater.

Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, recognized the huge loss caused by fires, both to property and human life. To address the problem, he proclaimed the first Fire Prevention Week in 1926, with the hope it would become an annual event.

He wrote:

“While efforts should be made constantly to reduce fire destruction to a minimum, in pursuance of a well-established precedent, one week is set aside each year during which the urgent need of preventing fires is forcibly stressed.

“If every individual will adopt and practice the simple precautionary measures advocated as fire prevention safeguards, fire hazards and their consequences will be materially reduced.”

Make Calvin proud, and use caution to avoid unnecessary fires.

For more resources, visit the American Red Cross Home Fire Safety page for videos, tips and mobile apps to help you safeguard your family.

On October 6, volunteers from the Red Cross, Parma CERT, Hope World Wide Ministries and the Parma Fire Department held a Sound the Alarm home fire safety and smoke alarm installation event. The volunteers installed 171 smoke alarms making 61 home safer.

To view photos from the Parma Sound the Alarm event, visit our Flickr page. Furthermore, to learn more about home fire safety and to request a smoke alarm, visit the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Home Fire Campaign page.

44422565744_da06a1da48_z

44232526955_9b50d6928c_z

Some like it HOT, 3 Ways to Stay Safe in this Week’s Heat

summer-heatSome like it HOT.

But with this week’s toasty Northeast Ohio temperatures, it’s important that you keep three key things in mind to beat the heat: stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed. And don’t forget about your friends and neighbors, check on those most at-risk at least twice a day.

Stay Cool

  1. Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
  2. Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.

Stay Hydrated

Your body may sweat more in these temps, which means you will be losing fluids.

  1. Drink more water than usual.
  2. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more fluids.
  3. Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.

Stay Informed

Download the free Red Cross First Aid app to learn more about how to treat heat related illnesses – like heat cramps or heat stroke.

For more information on at-risk populations, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/