You’re Living Dangerously Without Knowing It
We’re entering the deadliest time of the year. According to statistics, cold weather incidents claim more than 100 times as many lives as hot weather incidents do.
During December, January, and February, injuries are more common and deaths spike by as much as 30 percent.
Don’t fall victim to winter’s dangers. Follow these easy steps to protect yourself and the ones you love.
Winter Weather Creates Real Hazards
Cold is a big killer during the wintertime. When you go outside, dress for the weather. Wear warm layers with a water-resistant, wind-proof outer layer. Wear gloves and a hat. Pay attention to your body temperature. If you begin to feel cold, if your toes or fingers start to feel numb, or if you begin to shiver, go inside to get warmed up.
High levels of exertion in the cold weather can be dangerous. Working up a sweat can actually lead to a chill and trigger hypothermia. If you have a heart condition, doing strenuous activities in the cold can put you at higher risk of a heart attack, so use your common sense and be careful.
Ice- or snow-covered sidewalks often lead to falls and injuries. Wear shoes with good traction and pay extra attention when walking in dangerous conditions.
Fatal Car Crashes Are Up This Time of Year
The first step to safe winter driving is keeping your car in good repair. If you haven’t already winterized your car, now is the time to do it. Check your tires to see that the treads are in good repair. Good tread gives you much greater control during driving – especially important during slippery winter conditions. If the treads are worn down, it’s time for new tires.
Make sure that your windshield fluid is full and that your cooling system has an adequate mix of antifreeze. Early winter is also a good time to have your car tuned up. Have a mechanic check to make sure that your battery and all your belts are in good condition.
Take good care of your car during the winter. Top off the fuel tank whenever it gets below half full. This will prevent ice from forming in the fuel lines.
Following these steps can prevent breakdowns, which are especially dangerous and uncomfortable in the cold weather.
Winter driving conditions lead to accidents. If you are in an accident, you may find yourself stranded in the cold until help can come. That’s a hazardous situation. It puts you at risk of exposure, hypothermia, or worse. You can lower your risks by keeping an emergency kit in your car. It should contain a flashlight, an ice scraper, jumper cables, a blanket, hand-warming packs, bottled water and energy bars, and a small first aid kit at a bare minimum.
Winter is More Dangerous At Home, Too
The biggest hazards in your home during the winter are carbon monoxide poisoning and fire, both of which can result from the improper use of space heaters, fireplaces, or wood-burning stoves.
During a winter power outage, staying warm is imperative. But back up heaters of all kinds need to be used properly or they become a hazard.
If you have a wood-burning stove, check it over carefully at the start of the season to make sure it is safe to use. Cracks in the structure or blocks in the piping can make your stove dangerous. Make sure the stove is clean and in good repair before you start a fire in it, and always burn dry firewood – no trash or green wood.
An electric space heater is a safe way to heat a room, as long as you give it its space. Keep the area around the space heater clear for a three-foot radius. And don’t store things on top of the heater. Make sure you purchase a space heater that has been reviewed by Underwriter’s Laboratory (look for the UL label) and that will shut off automatically if it gets knocked over.
An indoor kerosene heater is nice because you can run it even during a power outage. But it is also the most dangerous heating option in terms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you use the proper fuel for your heater and closely follow the manufacturer’s ventilation instructions for the space in which you want to use your heater.
In you have a fireplace, see to it that the chimney is cleaned before you begin using it for the season. Make sure the damper is open before lighting a fire, and use a fire screen to keep sparks from flying into the room.
The start of winter is also a good time to have your furnace serviced. If your furnace is not in good repair, it could fail and leave you in the cold. Worse, it could start a fire in your home.
Finally, if you haven’t checked your home’s smoke alarms recently, do it right now. And install a carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide is clear and odorless. An alarm will warn you if the levels in your home are getting dangerously high. Most importantly, it will wake you in the night if carbon monoxide levels go up. Most people sleep through CO poisoning, and that can be fatal.
Winter is the deadliest season of the year, but with a little planning, precaution, and common sense, you can be sure that you and your family will come through the season safely.