Refresh winter driving skills, heat home safely, expert urges

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After the first significant snowfall of winter, the American Red Cross of Eastern New York is reminding residents affected by storm-related emergencies that help is available if needed.

“With the threat of snow and cold temperatures...it’s more important than ever to be vigilant when it comes to personal safety and staying warm,” said Kevin Coffey, regional CEO of the American Red Cross Eastern New York Region. “This is the time of year we see an uptick in home fires, and we want people to be careful.” 

Coffey offered the following tips to help residents stay safe and warm:

Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information on snow storms and blizzards from the National Weather Service;

Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain, snow or dense fog;

If travel is necessary, make sure you have a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle which includes: shovel, blanket, flashlight, water, snacks, first aid kit, extra batteries, sack of sand or cat litter;

Keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing;

Bring pets inside during winter weather;

Make sure coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and warm clothing are available for all household members, along with extra blankets.  

Practice proper home heating safety. Heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires. Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces. Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.  

If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.  

Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.

Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs;

It is critical that households have working smoke alarms and that families practice their fire escape plan.

In the event of a power outage, use flashlights for light, not candles, and keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and if in doubt, throw it out. Your refrigerator will keep cold for about 4 hours. If the freezer is full, it will keep its temperature for about 48 hours.

Have coolers on hand and surround your food with ice in the cooler or refrigerator to keep food cold for a longer period of time.

Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment and any appliances, equipment or electronics to avoid damaging them when the power is restored.  

If someone is planning to use a generator, never use it indoors, including in a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or other area, even with ventilation. Generators put off carbon monoxide fumes, which can be deadly.  

More information on emergency preparedness can be found at www.redcross.org/prepare or on the Red Cross Emergency App.

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