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    Winter Preparedness

    Winter Preparedness

    To help everyone get ready for the drop in temperature, the National Weather Service posted useful winter weather tips on its website. To properly prepare for an impending winter storm, it is important to know the difference between winter storm warnings, watches and advisories.

    According to the NWS, a winter storm warning means snow, sleet or ice is expected and people in the area should take immediate action. A warning means confidence is high that a winter storm will produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain and cause significant impact to the region.

    A winter storm watch means that snow, sleet or ice is possible and you should be prepared. Confidence is medium that the winter storm may produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain that may have significant impact.

    A winter weather advisory means that wintry weather is expected and people should exercise caution. Light amounts of wintry precipitation or flurries will cause icy conditions and could affect travel if precautions are not taken.

    However, the meanings of warnings, watches and advisories are relative to the region in which they are issued. For example, the amount of snow that belies a winter storm warning in Georgia is much lower than in Iowa, according to the NWS.

    The NWS defines freezing rain as rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a layer of ice on plants, roads, sidewalks and power lines. Sleet is rain that freezes into ice before reaching the ground, causing roads to become slippery.

    Wind chill is a measure of how cold a person feels due to the combined effect of wind and cold temperatures. Higher wind speeds in cold weather hasten the loss of heat from the body. The wind chill index is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin. It’s important to remember that animals also feel the effects of wind chill, and to properly clothe pets in winter. As the internal body temperature falls, hypothermia can occur. Warning signs of hypothermia include confusion, shivering, difficulty speaking, sleepiness, and stiff muscles.

    The NWS suggests people make extra preparations before a winter storm, by stocking the home, car, and office with emergency supplies.

    An emergency supply kit in a car should include: a cellphone charger, ice scraper, first aid kit, jumper cables, spare tire, flares, sand or kitty litter, snow shovel, flashlight, a warm blanket or emergency thermal blanket, water, and healthy snacks.

    For the home or office, stock up with a flashlight and/or candles, batteries, a battery-powered radio, water, non-perishable food items, a first aid kit, a space heater, a fire extinguisher, firewood.

    If you have to drive, drive slowly. All snow and ice should be cleared from the car before driving, including from the roof. If your car begins to skid, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go,while steadily breaking. Do not attempt to use the gas pedal.

    If stuck in your car, stay inside, run the engine for several minutes per hour, crack the window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning. Exercise occasionally (think jogging in place or jumping jacks, nothing strenuous) to keep blood circulating and stay warm.

    Even after the blizzard or storm, precautions must still be taken. Melting snow can cause flooding, partially cleared roads can be icy or blocked, and creeks and rivers can overflow. Heavy snow can knock down power lines or cause gas leaks. The weather service says it is important to stay informed on such conditions, and report any hazards you may see to the appropriate authority. Black ice is caused by the refreezing of melted snow or ice. Potholes also are common after winter storms.

    For the full lowdown on Winter Preparedness visit nws.noaa.gov/os/winter.

    A Safe & Merry Holiday Season

    A Safe & Merry Holiday Season

    The holiday season is the most joyous time of the year, but amidst all the excitement and festivities, it's important to remember to put safety first. One small accident can completely ruin the holidays. We've compiled a list of tips for you and your loved ones to stay healthy and safe this holiday season.

    • Icy or snowy roofs can be slippery, so put up outdoor decorations with care. In the home, make sure decorations do not block doorways or congest hallways. This could impede a person’s ability to make a quick escape, or harm the firefighters attempting to get in the house.
    • Never use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with any potentially flammable item. When displaying a natural tree, cut about two inches off the trunk and place the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand.
    • Most residential fires occur during winter. Practice fire safety, especially if you keep a real Christmas tree in your home, or make use of a fireplace or space heater. Have an emergency plan in place that everyone in the home is familiar with.
    • Change the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and examine your fire extinguishers. A small extinguisher should be kept in or near the kitchen, and a larger one in the garage. Make sure the first aid kit is fully stocked.
    • Holiday season is the start of flu season. Wash hands often to help prevent the spread of germs. Everybody 6 months and older, who is in good health, should get a flu vaccine each year.
    • Schedule your annual medical and dental exams and screenings. Get your routine vaccinations. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives.
    • Bundle up. Wear appropriate winter clothing for your lifestyle and activities- light, warm layers, gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots.
    • Manage stress. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out, overwhelmed and out of control. Some of the best ways to manage stress are to find support, connect socially and get plenty of sleep.
    • Overpasses and bridges can be icy. Car safety kits that include a flashlight and batteries, flares, blanket, first aid kit, tire chains and jumper cables are critically important this time of year.
    • Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. If you've had an alcoholic beverage, give the keys to a sober driver, or call a taxi or car sharing service.
    • Buckle up every time you're in a car, no matter how short the trip and encourage passengers to do the same. Always buckle your children in the appropriate car seat or booster for their age, weight, and height.
    • Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, and other objects out of children’s reach. Protect them from drowning, burns, falls, and other potential accidents, by safeguarding the home and keeping a watchful eye on them in a new space.
    • Prepare food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate foods promptly.
    • Eat healthy and stay active. Eat fruits and vegetables which pack nutrients and help lower the risk for certain diseases. Try to be active for at least 30 minutes per day.

    Driving Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

    Driving Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

    Over the river and through the woods... It's not so simple to get to grandma's house these days. With the holiday season well underway, now is the time to prepare for roadtrips to visit loved ones, long or short. Follow these road safety tips to make this holiday season one to remember for all the right reasons.

    • Walk around the car and make sure all lights work - the headlights (high and low beam), brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and even interior lights.
    • Ensure the windshield washer reservoir is full - If the temperatures will be freezing during your journey, use a better quality “winter” wiper fluid with de-icer in it.
    • Ensure windshield wipers are operational and work smoothly and replace worn wiper blades.
    • Check the front and rear window defrosters are operating.
    • Even if you check your tires monthly, check them again before your trip. Use a penny to check the tire tread depth. When inserting an upside-down penny into the tread, the raised tread should cover the top of Lincoln’s head. If not, the tread may be too worn and the mechanic and/or the tire shop should take a look at your tires. Don’t forget to check the spare tire.
    • When the temperature outside drops, so does the air pressure in your tires. Ensure each tire is inflated to the pressure listed on your vehicle’s door-frame, NOT the air pressure listed on the tire itself. Check the pressure when the tires are “cold,” and not after they have been driven on for a while.
    • Double check that you have emergency items and other necessities, such as: an ice scraper, small snow shovel, blankets, sand or kitty litter, jumper cables, flashlight with spare batteries, water and food, first aid kit. This may seem obvious, but also bring the vehicle's owner manual.
    • Allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Rushing or attempting to keep a tight schedule on a long trip is a common factor in unfortunate incidents.
    • Insist everyone wears a seatbelt and the little ones are buckled up in a car seat or booster seat.
    • Avoid distracted driving, including: talking on the phone, texting, eating, fiddling with the GPS, or checking your phone.
    • Drive the speed limit, but be mindful of icy or otherwise unpleasant weather conditions.
    • Always drive sober. If you consume an adult beverage, hand the keys over to a driver who was not drinking or find another ride home, such as a taxi or ride sharing service.

    The holidays are a special time of year, filled with memorable evenings and quality time. It is important to remember the roads are more congested than usual with many others also visiting their family members. Being mindful and patient of others, as well as taking all the necessary safety precautions will make this festive season a happy and safe one.

    Home Fire Prevention & Safety Guidelines

    Home Fire Prevention & Safety Guidelines

    No doubt, the recent wildfires in California and their aftermath have homeowners and renters across the country wondering how to best prepare their homes in case of fire. Fires are strong, deadly, and move quickly, engulfing everything in their vicinity. If you're at a loss as to how to defend your home against fire, read on for a checklist of home fire safety.

    1. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector once a month. Having a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector that doesn't work will do you no good. Testing them monthly to ensure they're in working order is simple, quick, and vital to your family's health and safety. Replace batteries once a year, carbon monoxide detectors every five years and smoke alarms every ten years. 
    2. Check your fire extinguisher once a month. Fire extinguishers have a life of 15 years if they are not used or damaged, so it's easy to place it in the cabinet and forget about it, but testing it is as simple as looking where the needle falls on the gauge. If it's in the green zone, the extinguisher is good to go, but if the needle falls anywhere else, it needs to be serviced or replaced. Check the body of the fire extinguisher closely for any damage, such as cracks, rips, tears, and dents. 
    3. Clean heating and cooling vents once a month. Vents are likely to collect a lot of dust, creating blockage, and hazards. Clean the dust away every month to ensure safe air flow and make sure furniture is not blocking any of the vents. 
    4. Check wires once a year. Frayed wires are a huge fire hazard, and often overlooked as they are out of sight and out of mind. Go around the house once a year and check the wires of all your appliances. If any appear to be worn or frayed, call a professional to fix the wiring. Duct tape is not your friend in this case. 
    5. Clean debris from gutters and roof once a year. Gutters and roofs collect a lot of stray debris, from leaves to branches to tennis balls to any toys your kids decide are airborne. Do it yourself or call a professional service. Along the same lines, if you see an object resting on a power line, call the local electric company immediately.
    6. Check your circuit breaks once a year. Make sure everyone in the house knows where to find the circuit breaker, how to operate it, and that every breaker is properly labeled. 
    7. Clean your heaters once a year. Your house most likely has a furnace, and depending where you live, probably a fire place as well. Both need to be cleaned every year and freed from any debris that may be around them. While you can probably tackle furnace maintenance on your own, it is recommended to call a chimney sweep for the fireplace. 
    8. Review your family escape plan twice a year. Make sure everyone in your household is on the same page when it comes to an escape plan, especially if you have children in the home. Outline ways to escape from every room in the house, addressing any special needs that a family member may have. Decide on a place outside the house to meet (perhaps near the mailbox, on a neighbor's front porch, or a swing set, somewhere which is far removed from any hazards occurring in the house). Go over this twice a year to keep it fresh in everyone's minds. Additionally, go over basic fire safety, such as touching door knobs to feel if they are hot if there is a fire in the home, stop-drop-roll if your clothes catch fire, smothering fire with a blanket or sheet, sealing vents to keep smoke out, etc. Make sure everyone is comfortable calling 911.
    9. Check your windows and doors once a year. It is important to check every door and window to ensure they are in working order. Do the locks and bolts work as they should? Do windows latch? Do windows open?
    10. Check your medications once a year. Ensure medications are kept safely away from the reach of small children and dispose of expired medications, taking special care with medications that have special disposal instructions. 
    11. Check your first aid kit once a month. Having a well-stocked first aid kit on hand can help prevent minor injuries from worsening or stem the effects of major injuries. First aid kit inclusions will vary from household to household, depending on your lifestyle, but there are some basic items which should be in all kits. Restocking it and checking for expired items monthly is vital. 
    12. Practice fire safety at all times. Especially important if you have children in the home, establish guidelines and boundaries around the stove, oven and grill. 
    13. Store all flammables safely. If you have any flammable liquids in your home, store them somewhere safe, out of the reach of children and far away from anything which may ignite them. 
    A fire in one's home is a situation no one wants to imagine, but one for which you must be prepared. Following these guidelines will help lessen the chance of a fire in your home, and should a fire occur (as we can't prevent all accidents and disasters), everyone in your home will know what to do and where to go.

    Keep Your Babies Safe with These Tips

    Keep Your Babies Safe with These Tips

    A recent British study revealed that almost a quarter of parents do not feel they know how to administer infant or child first aid. While 21% of parents have been in a first aid situation involving their children, only 31% felt confident in doing so. 38% were so insecure in their skills they worried their child would die, 20% thought their child would suffer lasting injury and 11% were unable to act, freezing completely. Children, especially infants, rely on their parents for every need. In addition to learning basic first aid skills, which every parent should do before having a baby, and taking refresher courses every two years, it is wise to take all precautions to safeguard the home. Here are some recommendations for ways to protect children within the home: 

    1. Cabinet locks: once babies start crawling, they immediately go for any low cabinets, so it is necessary to keep them locked and shut. 

    2. Outlet plugs: tiny fingers love poking into electrical outlets, which are conveniently low to the ground. Stick outlet plugs into all electrical outlets to keep inquisitive fingers out of harm's way. 

    3. Corner protectors: harmless before, corners become a major safety hazard with children in the home, perfect for bumping little heads when learning to stand. 

    4. Furniture brackets: children love to climb, sometimes up furniture that can easily tip. The best way to protect children from this is to install brackets that will hold furniture to the wall. 

    5. Gate: there are some areas of the home young children should not enter alone, for instance, up or down the stairs, in the kitchen, or in the bathroom. To ensure young children do not wander into potentially unsafe areas of the home, installing a baby gate is necessary. 

    6. First aid kit: no matter how well you prepare, accidents happen. It is vital to have a first aid kit handy for these instances, to be able to quickly and calmly attend to your little one's needs. Shockingly, the poll found that while 84% of parents make an attempt to childproof the home, not even half keep a first aid kit in the home. 

    As noted by the study, taking a small amount of time each day (they recommend one minute per day studying first aid) is all that is needed to feel confident and comfortable in protecting children from the dangers of the home.
    In addition to studying first aid, it is important to minimize risks within the home, and be prepared with the proper knowledge and materials in case an emergency happens.