COUNTY—In light of the bitter cold snap that's sent recent temperatures into the single digits, the American Red Cross has issued tips to keep warm this winter.
For starters, wearing several light layers of clothes will help insulate against sub-freezing temperatures. Gloves and hats also help to trap heat and shield against the cold.
With temperatures below freezing, it's important to recognize the warning signs of hypothermia.
Those venturing outside should be on the lookout for confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
The Red Cross advises those observing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
In addition to hypothermia, winter wanderers should also keep a weather eye for signs of frostbite.
Symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, and numb or waxy-feeling skin.
To avoid frozen pipes, the Red Cross recommends running water – even as little as a trickle – maintaining a consistent thermostat day and night, and opening cabinets to let warmer air from the house reach pipes near sinks.
Maintaining safe heating practices is important as well to prevent both the risk of fires and inhalation of poisonous gasses such as Carbon Monoxide (CO).
Residents should not heat their homes with a stove or oven, warns the Red Cross.
Additionally, use of space heaters and fireplaces should be monitored with care.
Space heaters should be placed on hard, level, nonflammable surfaces away from rugs, blankets, bedding or other incendiary materials.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends at least a three-foot clear operational area surrounding a space heater.
Such heating implements should be plugged directly into a wall outlet and not into an extension cord.
Those heating their homes with a fireplace should ensure they have a glass or metal screen in place large enough to detain sparks and rolling logs from entering the room.
Fireplace flues should also be inspected for proper operation and cleared of obstructions to allow for appropriate ventilation.
Flues should be left open until embers have completely burned out.
Additionally, space heaters should be turned off and fire places completely smothered before leaving the room or going to sleep at night.
If a home loses power, Red Cross recommends generators be operated outside - “never inside the home including in the basement or garage” - where they can receive proper ventilation, lest CO poisoning ensue.
While inspection and battery replacement of smoke and CO detectors should be performed regularly, it is especially imperative to do so in the winter months when alternative heating sources are in operation, cautions the NFPA.
The American Red Cross has two phone apps available for download to aid Pennsylvanians this winter.
The Red Cross Emergency App provides “instant access to weather alerts for [a resident's] area and where loved ones live,” states a release
Additionally the release states, the First Aid App grants the user “Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator...in case you encounter any mishaps.”
Both are available to download for free from app stores and online at www.redcross.org/apps.
It is also advisable to bring pets indoors over the winter.
Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania State Director of the Humane Society of the United States said in a Governor's Office press release, “We encourage the public to help to keep the dogs of Pennsylvania safe and warm this winter by reporting animal neglect to the local humane society police officer, local or state police. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them.”
During such chilling times, pets should be brought inside or provided with a warm shelter where they have access to unfrozen water.
Governor Tom Wolf's Office reminds residents this is the first winter since the state passed more stringent animal protection laws and animal cruelty punishments.
The law reminds residents that animals cannot be tethered outside in temperatures above 90 degrees or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for periods longer than 30 minutes.
Tethered animals must also be in a space free of “excessive waste,” on a lead longer than three times the length of the animal or ten feet, and secured by an appropriate collar.
This means no tow or log chains, no choke pinch, prong or other chain collars.
“Additionally, animals must be provided sanitary shelter that allows the animal to maintain normal body temperature and keeps the animal dry all year,” states a release from the Governor's office.
Cited in said release, Tullo stated, “Continuous tethering can cause severe physical damages such as cracked and bleeding paws, frostbite and hypothermia.”
—Information from a release was used in this story.