15 ways to stay safe when Winter Storm Harper hits Northeast Ohio

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

With Winter Storm Harper barreling down on Northeast Ohio and threatening significant snow and subzero temperatures this weekend, the American Red Cross has steps you should take to ensure you can enjoy the winter weather, while remaining safe.

HEAT YOUR HOME SAFELY

outside-winter-safety-tips-twWith wind chill this weekend potentially being as low as -30 degrees, homes all across Northeast Ohio will certainly have their heating sources working to their full potential. While it is nice to be warm and cozy inside of our homes, it is also important to heat our homes safely.

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 your follow 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 or oven to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

For more home fire safety information, visit the Red Cross home fire safety campaign page.

STAY SAFE DURING WINTER WEATHER

  • Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.heating-en
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water. Click here for more tips to keep your four-legged friends safe this weekend.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

WINTER TRAVEL SAFETY

With Winter Storm Harper possibly bringing a foot or more of snow to Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross recommends everyone to remain safe by staying off the roads. However, if you must leave your home during the storm, here are some tips to keep you safe while you travel:

  • 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 snow plows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

BE RED CROSS READY

To help you and your family prepare for Winter Storm Harper, download and review the Red Cross’ winter storm safety checklist.

DOWNLOAD APPS

North Dakota and Minnesota FloodsYou can also 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 and more are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps

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.

Winter is coming: Tips to protect your home and family this winter

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

As the calendar turns to November, in Northeast Ohio we know this means winter in coming. With snow and bone-chilling cold just around the corner, it is important to plan ahead to ensure that you are winter ready.

Here are some tips from the American Red Cross to help you prepare before the cold and winter storms arrive:

North Dakota and Minnesota Floods

Protecting your family:

  • Winterize your vehicle before the winter storm season to decrease your chances of being stranded.
  • Have a mechanic check your battery, antifreeze, wipers and windshield washer fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster and oil.
  • Install good winter tires.
  • Service snow removal equipment before the winter storm season to ensure they are in good working condition.emergency prep kit
  • 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.

Protecting 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.

Don’t forget your furry friends:

  • Do not leave your companion animals out in the cold, bring them indoors. Ensure you have supplies for cleaning up after your companion animal—large plastic bags, paper towels and extra cat litter.
  • Create a place where your other animals can be comfortable in severe winter weather. Horses and livestock should have a shelter where they can be protected from wind, snow, ice and rain. Grazing animals should have access to a protected supply of food and non-frozen water.
  • Be aware of potential for flooding when snow and ice melt and be sure that your animals have access to high ground that is not impeded by fencing or other barriers.
  • Ensure that any outbuildings that house or shelter animals can withstand wind and heavy snow and ice.

Use the American Red Cross Emergency App for weather alerts and to let others know 10846-005.jpgyou are safe if severe weather occurs. Find this and all of the Red Cross apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

To learn more about what you should do before, during and after a winter storm to keep you and your family safe, visit redcross.org for additional winter storm safety tips.

Cold Weather Injuries Are Not Cool

By: Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross Volunteer

North Dakota and Minnesota FloodsWinter is beautiful, provided you are inside looking out.  If you are outside, and can’t get in to get warm, you better be prepared.  Hypothermia, frostnip and frostbite are all possibilities, and all can be serious.

Hypothermia is the medical emergency that can result from losing body heat faster than it can be replaced.  Your normal body temperature is 98.6°F; but you can start to notice signs of hypothermia when your temperature falls below 95°F.  Typical causes are being inadequately clothed or exposure to extreme cold temperatures, like icy water. Avalanche victims often suffer hypothermia if not rescued quickly.

First aid varies with the severity of the frostbite, but generally, if the hypothermia is mild:

  • Call for help immediately
  • Move the person inside a tent or dry shelter to prevent further wind damage.
  • Remove wet clothing
  • Place the victim in a sleeping bag and cover their head
  • Do not allow them to sit or stand
  • If alert, a person may be given warm drinks like soup or hot chocolate – no alcohol or caffeine.
  • Build a fire to warm they gradually until a heated ambulance arrives.

For severe hypothermia, consider the situation life-threatening and seek medical assistance immediately.  Do not rub the person’s extremities, as that my cause ice crystals in the blood to rupture skin cells.  Even if the person’s pulse drops to 2-3 beats per minute, they may still be revived with expert treatment. Do not initiate CPR.

Frostnip is the least serious of the three, but must be treated properly. It occurs when noses, cheeks, ear lobes, fingers or toes are exposed to freezing temperatures and the top layer of skin freezes. The skin becomes white in color and feels hard to the touch.

First aid consists of:

  • Gently rewarming the affected area by holding it against non-freezing skin elsewhere on the person’s body or that of the rescuer.
  • Do not rub the skin for fear of rupturing the ice crystals in the cells.
  • Do not use hot water bottles, etc. that are drastically warmer than the skin’s normal temperature.
  • Frostbite can be caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures or by contact with extremely cold objects. During frostbite situations, the tissue temperature dips below the freezing point and normal blood flow is obstructed. Symptoms of mild frostbite include slight pain, while severe frostbite can occur with no pain, or possibly a burning sensation resulting in visible blisters.

First aid is similar to hypothermia above. In addition:

  • Loosely cover the affected area with a sterile dressing.
  • Place gauze between fingers and toes to absorb moisture.
  • Again, do not rub the affected areas.

Prevention is obviously preferable to any of the above.  Keep all extremities protected when out in the elements, including your eyes if winds are extreme.  For more first aid hints, consult the Red Cross First Aid app available for both Android and iOS devices, or consider taking a Red Cross sponsored first aid class.

Frozen, But Not in a Disney Princess Sort-of Way…

True story: One frozen January day in 2013, I went to check on my parents’ home while they were out of town. As I entered the house, it was immediately clear that something was very wrong. I could still see the steam from my own breath even as I walked in to the living room. And there was a rushing sound coming from the back of the house, like I was standing at the observation deck overlooking Niagara Falls.
In their absence, my parents’ furnace had gone out and one of the pipes in the upstairs shower had burst in the frigid temperatures. Water was cascading through the ceiling of the kitchen, pouring out of the cabinets, raining through the overhead light fixture. The carpet in the dining room, just through the arched doorway, was soaked 4-feet out from the pool of water standing on the linoleum.
Everything had to be replaced.
Being prepared and informed may help you and your family avoid the messy and often expensive issue of frozen pipes. With today’s below freezing temperatures already causing concern, here is some information and suggestions around how to thaw  water pipes in the home if they do freeze and what you can do to prevent the problem.
frozen-pipe-ice.jpg
Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem:
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, kitchen cabinets – or bathrooms when the furnace has been not working for who-knows-how-long. Pipes that run against exterior walls (like my parents’) that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Here’s what you can do right now:
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
To Thaw Frozen Pipes
  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
Preventing Frozen Pipes today or tomorrow (or anytime this season):

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
Future Protection:
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.

Let the Annual Weather Games Begin

May the forecast be ever in your favor….

If you like snow and cold, you are REALLY in luck this week. According to our partners at the Weather Channel, Northeast Ohio is in for some outstanding winter weather with snow giving way to freezing temperatures and then back to an icy, wintery mix over the next 10 days.

But we’ll leave the forecasting to the professionals.

Let’s chat about some things that you and your family can do to prepare for the winter weather that is upon us. But first, please remember your friends and neighbors – especially those who may have functional or access needs – and check on them. Help them get prepared as well, if you are able!

m16540227_wintershoveling

Smoke Alarms Installed Ahead of Holiday Cooking Time

With the holiday season in full swing we can not stress enough the importance of…

SMOKE ALARMS.

Let’s face it, winter in NEO is C-O-L-D! It’s prime time for home fires, between holiday cooking and trying to stay warm. And that’s why our Operation Save-A-Life program is so vitally important.

We applaud the volunteers and fire department personnel of Olmsted Twp. who braved our first real cold snap last Saturday to install smoke alarms in one Olmsted Township neighborhood. Through their work, we were able to install more than 320 smoke alarms in 130 homes!

(Click on the photo below to view our album on Flickr!)

Olmsted Twp Fire Walk

If you or someone you know need smoke alarms installed, please visit www.redcross.org/neoosal and click on your county to learn more about this free program.