Preparing for winter weather
Southwestern Virginia’s location in the mid-Atlantic typically favors us with the variety of four seasons balanced with generally mild winters and warm summers. Still, the onset of winter can bring special safety concerns, and simple precautions can increase the safety of everyone during the winter season.
- Before the coldest weather sets in, have all home heating systems checked. Clean your wood stove or fireplace chimney yearly and replace any loose bricks and mortar promptly. Know where all the shutoff valves and switches are.
- Before you use a portable heater, check for frayed cords and never bypass the grounding feature of a three-pronged plug. Heaters should have an automatic shutoff if they overturn. Avoid using a portable heater near curtains, furniture and other combustibles.
- Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is poisonous to breathe. Winter is a peak time for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning as fuel-burning devices can release the gas if not operated properly. Deadly levels of CO can quickly build up as the gas emitted by these sources can linger for hours, even after the generator or grill has been shut off. Operate all gasoline-powered devices such as generators outdoors and never bring them indoors.
Your first line of defense against a CO emergency is early detection. Make sure to install CO alarms on every level of the home and in every bedroom.
Depending on the level of exposure, initial symptoms of CO poisoning such as headache and weakness may resemble viral illness. If you suspect that you are experiencing CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Leave the home and seek medical attention.
- Severe winter weather can cause power outages, so keep extra energy supplies in an easily accessible place. Emergency supplies should include candles or a lantern, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight with fresh batteries and a supply of unexpired food that needs no cooking or refrigeration. (Don’t forget your pets!) If the power fails for an extended period, turn off all electrical appliances, keep your refrigerator and freezer door closed, draw curtains to preserve heat and turn water on to a trickle so pipes won’t freeze.
- When snow arrives, watch for slippery patches when walking outside. Do not overload your arms because it can make it difficult to keep your balance. Remove snow with caution and avoid doing too much physical work at one time. Work slowly and rest often to avoid sore muscles, falls and heart attacks. Use a sturdy snow shovel and when shoveling, lift with your leg muscles rather than your back. Complete heavy work before eating a meal. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol while working because smoking decreases the flow of blood through your body and alcohol increases the chances of overexertion.
The safety of our residents and their loved ones is very important to us. If you haven’t already prepared for severe winter weather, the best time to do so is now.
Roanoke City & Alleghany Health Districts
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