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Staying safe in extreme cold

1/30/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

SUMMIT COUNTY — Taking preventive action is the best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions, according to Summit County Public Health, which is urging residents to minimize exposure. Residents are urged to use common sense and stay warm to avoid cold-related problems, including hypothermia and frostbite. Health officials also remind residents to remember to check in on vulnerable neighbors, family and friends. 

Summit County Public Health offers the following tips:

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into indoor air space.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors — the fumes are deadly.
  • Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies, including extra food and water.

Alternative heating sources such as portable generators, kerosene heaters, propane gas stoves and ovens heated with gasoline all have been used as heat sources indoors, which can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Here are some tips to stay safe:

√ Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window.

√ Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.

√ Don’t burn items in a stove or fireplace that isn’t properly vented.

√ Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.

√ Don’t place a portable heater within reach of children or pets, and don’t use a power strip or extension cord. Look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label and carefully read instructions before use.

√ Install CO detectors in your home and replace batteries as required. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and dial 9-1-1.

√ Seek immediate medical attention by calling 9-1-1 if you suspect CO poisoning and are experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning. Early symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. CO poisoning is treatable.

If you do have to go outdoors, utilize these tips to protect yourself:

  • Dress warmly, layer your clothing and stay dry.
  • Wear a hat, scarf and mittens to keep all skin surfaces covered.
  • If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly and avoid overexertion.
  • For even short trips in the car, take along a blanket, flashlight, first-aid kit and extra warm clothes, and most importantly, your phone.
  • Keep your headlights clean and working and have plenty of windshield wiper fluid.
  • Be patient when traveling and do not tailgate — it takes longer to stop with reduced traction.
  • Avoid using cruise control in winter conditions, as it might cause a car to hydroplane or skid trying to maintain speed.
  • If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car.

For additional information, contact Summit County Public Health at 330-923-4891 or visit www.scphoh.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter.

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