Icy Blast: How to Stay Warm and Protect Your Home

Taking preventive action is your best defense against extreme cold-weather conditions, but knowing what to do in case of emergency is just as important

With an icy blast of arctic air set to sweep the Northeast this Valentine's Day weekend, millions are bracing for what forecasters warned could be the coldest temperatures in over a decade.

The polar vortex is expected to send temperatures plunging into the single digits. Wind and other factors will translate to 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit lower then the actual temperatures at times, according Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist at Accuweather.com.

The frosty air will be hazardous for those spending time outdoors. Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, hypothermia and frostbite.

Such low temperatures can also cause unprotected pipes in homes to burst and create deadly black ice on roadways.

Though taking preventive action is your best defense against extreme cold-weather conditions, knowing what to do in case of emergency is just as important.

Below are 10 cold weather safety tips to help protect you and your family this winter season:

Dress in Warm Layers: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven — preferably wind resistant — to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton.

Know Signs of Hypothermia: Uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion are all signs of hypothermia. If your body temperature is below 95 degrees, get medical attention immediately. The CDC advises to warm the center of the body first — chest, neck, head, and groin — using an electric blanket, if available. Or, use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets. Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give a victim of hypothermia alcoholic beverages, the CDC warns.

Guard From Frostbite: The National Weather service says you should cover exposed skin, but do not rub the affected area in an attempt to warm it up. Place hands under your armpits and get indoors as quickly as possible. Once indoors, don't walk on a frostbitten feet as you could cause more damage. Get in a warm, not hot, bath and wrap your face and ears in a moist, warm, not hot, towel. Drink plenty of warn liquids.

Avoid Exertion: Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, the American Heart Association says consult with your doctor about shoveling snow or performing other strenuous work in the cold. If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

Fire Safety: If you're using a space heater, place it on a level surface and keep it at least three feet from anything flammable, including furniture, draperies, rugs and papers.

Freezing and Bursting Pipes: Let faucets drip to prevent freezing water from causing pipes to burst. Leave cabinet doors open around pipes to ensure they receive warmth from the air flowing through your home. The Department of Homeland Security advised homeowners to learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts. Keep your house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves, according to the Insurance Information Institute. A temperature lower than 65 degrees might not keep the inside walls from freezing.

Fill 'Er Up: Keep your gas tank near full to prevent ice from forming in the fuel lines.

Black Ice: Black ice forms when the temperature is 32 degrees or colder outside and since cars can't gain traction on ice, AAA says it's even more dangerous than snow. Drive only if it is absolutely necessary and pack essentials listed on the CDC's car emergency checklist. on hand an emergency . If you must drive, travel during the day preferable with a passenger. Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. And never slam on the brakes. 

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Each year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Keep these devices at least outdoors, in a well ventilated area, at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents. Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide, Ready.gov says.

Man's Best Friend: Bring pets inside. If it's too cold for you, it's probably too cold for your pet. Exposure to winter's dry, cold air can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin. The ASPCA says to massage petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going for a walk to help protect it from salt and other chemical agents. Thoroughly clean your pups paw and belly after the walk. Chemicals from ice-melting agents is a lethal poison for dogs and may be licked off of paw paws.

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