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The "Red Cross Report" is a publication of the American Red Cross of Rhode Island. These newsletters are now available online in Portable Document Format (pdf) for quick viewing and printing. Click Here to read the latest.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
American Red Cross Says Safety First
Post Blizzard Safety Tips

While our international disaster workers continue to provide relief to victims of the tsunami half a world away, the American Red Cross is also busy assisting people affected by disasters here at home.

Since the beginning of January, the American Red Cross has responded to large and small disasters across the country. There have been mudslides in California, floods in the Midwest and tornadoes in Arkansas. These disasters, along with this weekend's winter storms, forced many families to rely on their local Red Cross chapters for help.

In the last 48 hours, severe winter storms hammered cities from the Midwest to the East Coast. Power outages and road closures in Massachusetts forced 92 people on Cape Cod to seek shelter with the local American Red Cross. The Red Cross provided warm meals and refuge from the cold.

In Western New York, conditions over the weekend were decidedly "blizzard-like," with sustained winds of at least 35 mph and heavy snow limiting visibility to a quarter-mile or less. As travel in affected areas remains difficult, and until people are able to return to their homes safely, the Red Cross will keep its shelters open or on stand-by to ensure that everyone has a safe place to stay and hot meals to eat.

Every day across the country, American Red Cross chapters are prepared to respond and provide much-needed shelter, food and clothing to people that have been affected by inclement winter such as single-digit record lows and other wintry weather hazards. By working closely with local relief partners and other emergency response officials, the Red Cross helps to prepare against natural hazards that can affect a family's personal property and cause major disruptions to businesses and property.

"Each and every day in your local community, Red Cross chapters help victims of residential fires, floods, tornadoes, storms and other emergencies," said Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the American Red Cross.

Consider Safety First when digging out from the Blizzard of '05. "Some simple precautions can keep you and your family safe while you're out on the road - and when you brave the cold," says American Red Cross, RI Chapter spokesperson Robin Erickson.

Safe Travels
With snow and ice blanketing the Northeast, the American Red Cross reminds motorists to take extra care around travel. Acording to the U.S. Department of Commerce, about 70 percent of automobile accidents resulting in death are ice-or-snow related.

Before you head out, be ready by assembling and carrying the items listed below in case.

Winter Travel Survival Kit

  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Booster cables
  • Fire extinguisher (5 lb., A-B-C type)
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Bottled water and non-perishable high-energy foods, such as granola bars, raisins and peanut butter.
  • Compass and road maps
  • Shovel
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • Flares
  • Extra clothing to keep dry
  • Sack of sand or cat litter (for tire traction)
  • Tow rope
  • Knife

Erickson also reminds people to carry a charged cell phone. "Plan long trips carefully and travel during daylight hours. Let others know your travel route, destination and expected arrival time. Keep your gas tank at least half full and give yourself some extra time to reach your destination." If you find yourself on the roads during bad winter weather, keep the following information in mind:

Winter Travel Tips

  • Keep an ear tuned to the radio for the latest road conditions.
  • Drive with your headlights on.
  • Keep all your windows clear of snow for visibility.
  • Don't drive faster than you can see ahead.
  • Leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road.
  • Remember bridges and overpasses usually freeze before other roads. Use caution.
  • Make sure you are buckled up.

The RI Chapter also reminds people to watch against the cold.  Before you head outside, use these tips to make sure you have everything you need to protect yourself from the extreme winter weather we are experiencing.

Protect Yourself from Freezing Temperatures
When you prepare to go outside in severe cold weather, please remember the following:

  • Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.
  • Dressing in warm layers helps you retain heat. You can remove layers as you need to, if you become too warm.
  • Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.
  • Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
  • Hypothermia is a serious condition. Warning signs for detecting severely low body temperature are memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, exhaustion, and uncontrollable shivering. People generally suffer from hypothermia after being over-exposed to extremely cold weather, dangerous wind chills, ice and snowstorms, freezing rain or sleet Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia that can be a serious medical condition: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.
  • 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.
  • Get out of wet clothes immediately and warm the core body temperature with a blanket 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.

Heat Your Home Safely
If families turn to alternative heating sources out of necessity or to avoid the rising cost of oil and gas, take the following precautions:

  • Do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
  • Have your chimney connections and flues inspected by a professional and cleaned if necessary prior to the start of every heating season. Use a sturdy screen when burning fires. Burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs.
  • If you have a portable generator and the power goes out, always plan to keep the generator outdoors-never operate it inside, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Connecting a cord from the generator to a point on the permanent wiring system and back feeding power to your home is an unsafe method to supply a building with power.
  • Create a disaster supplies kit Get together lifesaving items in both your home and vehicle. Go to for a list of materials and to purchase a kit.
  • Make sure alarms are working properly and replace batteries as necessary.
  • Don't overload your electrical outlets. Be careful of extension cords that present hazardous walkways.

For more valuable information on preparing for cold weather, contact the American Red Cross, RI Chapter or visit Find detailed reports on the weather in your area at or find details on winter storms at or

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of local disasters by supporting the RI Chapter.  Mail a check to 105 Gano St, Providence, RI 02906, call 831-7700 or donate online at

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