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PRESS CONTACT INFO

ROBIN ERICKSON
Director of Communications

PHONE
(401) 831-7700 x101
E-MAIL
[email protected]

Friday, January 9, 2004
Tips on Staying Safe in Cold Weather

In the last 15 days the American Red Cross of RI has been called to the scene of 10 fires, providing emergency food, clothing and shelter to 53 Rhode Island residents.

"Now's the time when our disaster volunteers are the busiest. With the freezing temperatures, people start getting creative with warming their homes," says Nick Logothets, Interim CEO and Director of Emergency Services for the American Red Cross of RI. "Just before Christmas a man tried to thaw the frozen pipes at his home with a blow torch. Needless to say his home was destroyed and our volunteers provided him with emergency food, clothing and shelter to tide him over. Incidents like this happen every year."

Frozen pipes, broken boilers, carbon monoxide leaks, poorly maintained space heaters and burning candles left unattended are some of the triggers of cold weather related emergencies that the RI Red Cross responds to every year. Keeping a watchful eye and maintaining heating sources will significantly cut down on these types of accidents. For your personal safety, the Red Cross recommends the following health and safety tips for use in cold weather.

Exposure to cold can cause injury or serious illness such as frostbite or hypothermia. The likelihood of injury or illness depends on factors such as physical activity, clothing, wind, humidity, working and living conditions, and a person's age and state of health. Follow these tips to stay safe in cold weather:

  • Dress appropriately before going outdoors. The air temperature does not have to be below freezing for someone to experience cold emergencies such as hypothermia and frostbite. Wind speed can create dangerously cold conditions even when the temperature is not that low.
    • Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing conditions. Each layer should serve a specific function.
      • The inner layer manages moisture;
      • The middle layer provides insulation from the cold; and
      • The outer layer protects you from the wind and precipitation.
    • Avoid overdressing or overexertion that can lead to heat illness.
    • Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
    • Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.
    • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to help avoid hypothermia or frostbite by keeping your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
       
  • If you get wet, get out of the wet clothes immediately and warm your core body temperature with a blanket and/or warm fluids like hot cider or soup. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol if you expect you or someone you are trying to help has hypothermia or frostbite.
     
  • Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
     
  • Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white, or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.

To learn more about signals of and how to care for cold- or heat-related problems, take a First Aid, CPR, and AED course from www.riredcross.org.

  • Holiday traveling and winter can be a dangerous combination. Allow extra time when traveling. Monitor weather conditions carefully and adhere to travel advisories.
     
  • In preparation of a winter storm, assemble a disaster supplies kit containing:
       First aid kit and essential medications.
       Battery-powered NOAA Weather radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
       Canned food and can opener.
       Bottled water (at least one gal. of water per person per day
       to last at least 3 days).
       Extra warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat.
       Assemble a
    Disaster Supplies Kit for your car, too.
     
  • Have your car winterized before winter storm season.

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