With its cold and often stormy weather, winter presents many safety challenges both indoors and out. Being prepared and following simple safety tips can help you stay safe and warm this season.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Brr, it’s cold outside, so bundle up before you head out to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Dress warmly in layers of windproof clothing to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Remember mittens or gloves, a scarf and a hat that covers your ears. Don’t forget to treat your feet: warm socks and waterproof boots will keep your feet dry. When you start to feel cold, and certainly if you’re shivering, go indoors.
With the cost of home heating so high, many of us are trying to conserve energy by reducing the heat. Accidental hypothermia can occur even indoors with a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees. Infants less than one year of age should never sleep in a cold room and should be dressed in warm layers to prevent loss of body heat.
Warning signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion and slurred speech. Infants with hypothermia may appear to have very low energy and bright red, cold skin.
Frostbite is another cold weather concern and is especially dangerous because it often happens with little warning. Victims may feel no more than a ‘pins and needles’ sensation in the hands and feet. Numbness can occur so quickly that the victim, unaware of being frostbitten, may remain outdoors, increasing his or her chances of permanent damage.
When there’s snow on the ground, homeowners and building owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks and a path to their door. While no one wants to be snowed in, shoveling isn't for everyone. And if you aren’t up to the task for health reasons, remember, a neighbor, a teenager or an enterprising team of adults will likely knock on your door soon, offering to do the job for a negotiable fee.
Anyone who shovels should know the warning signs of heart trouble, which include a heavy sensation in the chest or an acute chest pain which may travel down the left arm, accompanied by shortness of breath or a feeling of indigestion. If you experience these symptoms, stop shoveling at once and consult a physician.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Can Poison or Kill
As temperatures drop and fuel expenses rise this winter, the Westchester County Department of Health cautions people to heat their homes only with the gas or oil-burning systems that are built into their homes. To avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t use portable wood stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, kerosene heaters or ovens to heat your home.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that is produced by this fuel-burning heating equipment. As they burn, these fuels release carbon monoxide, an odorless, invisible and toxic gas that is difficult to detect. For safety’s sake, install at least one carbon monoxide detector near the bedrooms in your home. A second detector near your home's heat source is also a good idea, as this will provide you and your family with extra protection against carbon monoxide poisoning. You should also make sure you have smoke detectors that work.
During the winter months, many homeowners insulate and seal windows and doors to prevent drafts. This can be dangerous since proper ventilation is the key to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Prolonged use of a gas oven in a tightly sealed area can reduce your supply of oxygen and generate carbon monoxide levels that can be fatal.
The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be mistaken for flu symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, sleepiness and dizziness are all early warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage and even death. Individuals who suspect that they have been exposed to carbon monoxide should seek fresh air immediately and call a physician.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Resources
Home Heating Assistance for low Income Residents
Residents who are eligible can receive financial help to heat their homes this winter. To find out more about eligibility, call United Way's 2-1-1 or the Department of Social Services HEAP unit at 995-5619. You may also check your eligibility by going to www.myBenefits.ny.gov. Applications can be downloaded from the county's Web site at www.westchestergov.com/heap.
Heating Safety Tips (Generator safety and Portable Space Heaters)
Danger labels are required on all portable generators manufactured or imported on or after May 14, 2007.
If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY. The carbon monoxide from generators can kill fast.
Follow these safety tips to protect against CO poisoning.
NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is extremely dangerous and presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.
Portable Space Heaters
Portable Space Heaters/Generator Resources