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  • Winter Driving - Preparations include tires, emergency kit, common sense

    The Weather is Fickle... Now more than ever, you hear "This is the coldest winter I can remember." NASA recorded the coldest temperatures in Earth's History recently.

    Some of you might be thinking “Big deal!” And yes, many of our readers have been dealing with the cold for a long time (especially you Midwesterners & Noreasterners) long enough that this won’t be your first rodeo with the snow and ice and everything that comes with this time of year. On the other hand, with the Dakotas being hit with unprecedented snow fall, freak snow in the Middle East, recent snow in places like San Diego (really!) and Southern Texas (yep!) some winter and snow driving considerations are in order for everybody this year.

    If you’re among those unfortunate souls who park their cars outside nightly, you might be disheartened if you look out your window. If you are in a garage, you might be digging out.

    It is important to review a few safety tips before heading out into that marvelous white winter wonderland.

    The following come from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

    Be prepared

    While some of this might be harder with snow falling, each is doable.

    • Check tire pressure and tread depth.
    • Check the battery, exhaust system, heater and defroster. Make sure the terminals are tight and free of corrosion. Check hoses and belts for cracks.
    • Check your antifreeze. If it’s 2 years old, get it flushed and refilled.
    • Change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
    • Check your windshield wipers, blades and wiper fluid.
    • Keep your gas tank at least half full.

    Emergency Kit

    After a recent ice storm, some Texans spent hours trying to dig their vehicles out with a compact disc case, a plastic red cup, the end of a broom handle and a wooden kitchen spoon. It is important o be weather-ready even in areas not accustomed to snow and ice (Heck, we've had snow and ice in San Diego of all places recently!)

    Besides an ice scraper, here’s what should be in your vehicle emergency kit:

    If locks freeze, heat the key.

    Photo of Winter vehicle Emergency Pack Winter Emergency Preparedness Kit - Value Pack

    Other ideas:

    Safe driving

    There are precautions you should take before leaving home and precautions to take on the road. Here are some.

    • Check driving conditions and weather reports.
    • Remove snow from the vehicle’s windows, lights, brake lights and signals.
    • Let someone know your destination, route and expected time of travel.
    • Drive below the speed limit, be cautious of black ice and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicles ahead of you.
    • Brake early and slowly.
    • Do not use cruise control on ice or snow.

    If stranded

    You’ve slid off the road, or you’ve been in an accident, or your beloved vehicle has become stuck or is no longer working. Here are some precautions to keep you safe until rescuers arrive.

    • Stay in your vehicle.
    • Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm.
    • No cellphone? Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
    • Light a flare or turn on a flashlight.
    • Keep the overhead light on when the engine is running. Keep windows cracked.
    • Keep the exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Use floor mats or seat covers for added warmth if you forgot to pack blankets. If you must leave your vehicle, secure a rope to yourself and the vehicle to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.

    Other Winter related articles:   Brrr… Winter Safety and Warmth & Winter Weather

    Emergency Window Punch & Seat Belt Cutter

  • Frostbite

    People who aren't dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures or who have reduced blood circulation are especially at risk for frostbite. Sound like common sense? It is, but people often overlook the simplest ways to stay safe and healthy... Avoid Cold Stress and Cold Related Injuries - Learn how to recognize frostbite and what to do about it:

    • Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing.
    • Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes.
    • Seek medical care if you think you have frostbite.

    Ice-FloodFrostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

    Recognizing Frostbite

    At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness

    A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.

    What to Do

    If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. Because frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure, first determine whether the victim also shows signs of hypothermia, as described previously. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.

    If (1) there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and (2) immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

    • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
    • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
    • Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
    • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For example, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
    • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
    • Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

    These procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be evaluated by a health care provider. It is a good idea to take a first aid and emergency resuscitation (CPR) course to prepare for cold-weather health problems. Knowing what to do is an important part of protecting your health and the health of others.

    Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems. Read about Hypothermia.

  • Be safe in winter weather.

    Snow, Ice, Cold, Strong Winds, and Wind Chill...Winter Storms

    To find winter_wonderlandadditional materials on winter safety, try the following Web sites:
    NWS: www.nws.noaa.gov
    FEMA: www.fema.gov
    The Deceptive Killers
    The dangers of winter weather and suggests life-saving action YOU can take. With this  information, YOU can recognize winter weather threats, develop an action plan and be ready when severe winter weather threatens. Remember...your safety is up to YOU.
    Why Talk About Winter Weather?
    • Each year, dozens of Americans die due to exposure to cold. Add to that number, vehicle accidents and fatalities, fires due to dangerous use of heaters and other winter weather fatalities and you have a significant threat.
    • Threats, such as hypothermia and frostbite, can lead to loss of fingers and toes or cause permanent kidney, pancreas and liver injury and even death. You must prepare properly to avoid these extreme dangers. You also need to know what to do if you see symptoms of these threats.
    • A major winter storm can last for several days and be accompanied by high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall and cold temperatures.
    • People can become trapped at home or in a car, without utilities or other assistance.
    • Attempting to walk for help in a winter storm can be a deadly decision.
    • The aftermath of a winter storm can have an impact on a community or region for days, weeks or even months.
    • Extremely cold temperatures, heavy snow and coastal flooding can cause hazardous conditions and hidden problems
    Heavy Snow
    Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, closing airports, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. Accumulations of snow can cause roofs to collapse and knock down trees and power lines. Homes and farms may be isolated for days and unprotected livestock may be lost. In the mountains, heavy snow can lead to avalanches. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages, and the loss of business can have severe economic impacts on cities and towns.
    An avalanche is a mass of tumbling snow. More than 80 percent of midwinter avalanches are triggered by a rapid accumulation of snow, and 90 percent of those occur within 24 hours of snowfall.
    An avalanche may reach a mass of a million tons and travel at speeds up to 200 mph.
    Injuries Due To Ice and Snow
    • About 70% result from vehicle accidents
    • About 25% occur in people caught out in a storm
    • Most happen to males over 40 years old
    BLIZZARD:
    Winds of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow reducing visibility to less than
    ¼ mile for at least 3 hours.
    BLOWING SNOW:
    Wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing snow may be falling snow and/or
    snow on the ground picked up by the wind.
    SNOW SQUALLS:
    Brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may
    be significant.
    SNOW SHOWERS:
    Snow falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time. Some accumulation is possible.
    SNOW FLURRIES: 
    Light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation.
    Ice: 
    Heavy accumulations of ice can bring down trees and topple utility poles and communication towers.
    Ice can disrupt communications and power for days while utility companies repair extensive damage.
    Even small accumulations of ice can be extremely dangerous to motorists and pedestrians. Bridges and overpasses are particularly dangerous because they freeze before other surfaces.
    Winter Flooding
    Winter storms can generate coastal flooding, ice jams and snow melt, resulting in significant damage and loss of life.
    COASTAL FLOODS:
    Winds generated from intense winter storms can cause widespread tidal flooding
    and severe beach erosion along coastal areas.
    ICE JAMS:
    Long cold spells can cause rivers and lakes to freeze. A rise in the water level or a
    thaw breaks the ice into large chunks which become jammed at man made and
    natural obstructions. Ice jams can act as a dam, resulting in severe flooding.
    SNOW MELT:
    Sudden thaw of a heavy snow pack often leads to flooding
    COLD:
    Wind Chill is not the actual temperature but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature.
    Animals are also affected by wind chill; however, cars, plants and other objects are not.
    Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20° Fahrenheit (F) will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip
    of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.
    Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. It can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Take the person’s temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately!
    If Medical Care is Not Available, warm the person slowly, starting with the body core.
    Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure. If necessary, use your body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is the first food to offer.
    Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants
    and elderly people are most susceptible. What constitutes extreme cold varies in different
    parts of the country. In the South, near freezing temperatures are considered extreme cold. Freezing temperatures can cause severe damage to citrus fruit crops and other vegetation. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat. In the North, extreme cold means temperatures well below zero.
    See suggestions for Winter Safety Products

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