Baby it's cold outside, and I'm not talking about the song. It might be warm where some of the readers are but for the rest of us, it is cold. Cold brings about dangers that are different from many of the dangers we face in the warmer months. Immediately we think of icy and snowy roads. There is more to winter risk than just slick roads and sidewalks, or as they say in Pittsburgh, “slippy” roads and sidewalks.
In the winter, the heat comes on and many homes are heated by gas or other fuels that burn in order to create the heat. There is an immediate increase in the risk of fire and carbon monoxide deaths. Many of the home fires today are from unattended candles, but the winter months show an increase in fires caused by heating appliances, Christmas decorations and deaths from carbon monoxide gas (CO). People start their cars and let them warm up in the cold weather. Many more people have remote control starters for their cars. Add into the mix an attached garage and death from CO is going to knock on a few doors this winter.
Damaged flues, chimneys and furnaces leak CO into the living space. It is odorless and colorless and by the time one feels any symptoms, it is often too late to do anything about it. A news story reported tragedy being caused by someone running a gas powered electric generator inside their basement instead of putting the generator outside.
A working thirty dollar combination smoke and CO detector could have saved the lives of those who were reported about in the news last year, and practically every year before, of death by CO poisoning. In fact, it is so expected that there is just the wait to see who will be the first victim this year. For those who just receive the Concealed Carry Report to those who are paid members of USCCA, our demographic spends a fortune on disaster survival education, long term food and water storage, firearms, ammo and training, and there is still the likelihood of overlooking the simplest of safety steps that could preserve life.
Last year we had long term power outages lasting days to weeks in many suburban communities of Pennsylvania. In Virginia, relatives went without power for three weeks. In Pittsburgh, store shelves were stripped of food after the big storms. A man who needed an ambulance was asked if he could walk down to an intersection because no one could get up to where he lived. It was reported there were ten 911 calls made over a span of two days. The man died.
Roofs were collapsing due to the weight of the snow. Trees and ice were responsible for most of the downed power lines. Chain saws could be heard all over neighborhoods for several days after the snows ended. Yards were riddled with wood chips and sawed up tree limbs as well as having big scars in the dirt from uprooted trees. Many roads were impassable and some others only had one lane cleared for travel. The system in place to handle snow removal and road clearing was insufficient to meet the demand placed upon it. Those who ignored the power of nature put themselves at risk. Some died.
One of the main problems causing winter related injuries and deaths is the slowness of human beings to make the transition in mental mindset from summer to winter thinking. A sudden heavy snowfall early in the season is more conducive to getting people's minds on safe winter driving habits such as having the winter tires on than a season that starts with just a few slick spots on the roads. People are used to that full traction of summer driving for months that lulls them into complacency. They need either a scare or heavy snow to slow them down.
It was directly witnessed by this author during the first few days of December when snow flurries turned into snow squalls in just a few isolated spots. People were driving on damp pavement one moment and on slick roads a second later. However, it was observed that many drivers still treated the slick road surface like it was dry pavement. That first loss of traction grabs a person by the hairs on the back of his neck and says to slow down Bubba, it's not summer any more. The problem is that first slide can lead to an accident.
Today, the temperature was in the twenties and very windy. People were out in lightweight jackets and many women were wearing dress clothes and dressy boots. Certainly there is the hope that those folks had a parka and boots in their vehicle, but it is unlikely. With the remote control starters for their cars, they feel they only need dress for the climate inside their vehicle. That kind of thinking will get them killed if there is a failure in the technology they rely on. Today, no cell calls were going through in an area that headed up into the higher elevations of Uniontown, PA. We kept getting the service message of the network being busy. There was no storm and the roads were dry. We had extra coats, food, medical supplies and water. We know to be ready now and not after the fact.
People who have a medical condition or walk with a cane are probably safer walking on slippery surfaces than those who are healthy and amble about without any issues. People in good physical shape just head out onto surfaces without a care in the world. I know this because I watch them fall down all of the time in the winter. Most have minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises after a quick slide down to the pavement. The point is that the one second it takes to look before stepping could have saved them the need for first-aid. I have noticed that people with much more to lose by falling in the winter take their time and pick their way carefully over slippery surfaces, and they use handrails. The back of one's head thumping against concrete because of just moseying along on ice with hands in pockets can be easily avoided.
There is no need to fear winter or any condition or event that can bring harm, but there certainly is good reason to give diligence to the current environmental dynamic one is going into or suddenly finds himself in. Summer has its own set of threats just as winter does. Some are the same while others are purely related to the current temperature and other weather conditions. The point is to adjust quickly into wintertime thinking. Don't wait for the blizzard for motivation to finish doing those last couple of things around the house that need to be done before winter. Don't wait for the TV weatherman to predict a snowstorm before putting the winter treads on the vehicles. Buy some rock salt now instead of having to rush out during the storm, and don't expect to find a new snow shovel in a store within a hundred miles of that winter storm that sneaked in.
Is the car turning over slowly in the mild cold? Then get the alternator and battery checked before it turns frigid. A weak battery that causes the engine to crank slowly in the cold will just up and fail in the frigid temps. Put a heavy winter coat, boots and blanket in the back of the vehicle for each person who will be riding in it. Do it even if everyone already has a heavy coat and boots on most winter days. Redundancy is not a bad thing when it comes to preparedness.
Is your carry weapon in a holster on your belt or in a pocket? Have you considered the extra time it takes to get to the weapon under winter garments? What about those gloves? Can you draw the weapon, manipulate it and fire it with them on? If you fall on your gun you need to thoroughly check it out. Guns are tough, but something bent out of shape can cause a a failure to fire or a catastrophic failure.
Not that this article covered every single thing about transitioning into the winter safety mindset, but there certainly is one additional thing I'd like to mention and that is the sport of hunting and the act of shoveling snow. Every year the news reports deaths from heart attacks of those, almost always men, who overdid it while hunting or shoveling snow, and that doesn't even begin to mention lost fingers to snow blower accidents.
In Pennsylvania, whitetail deer hunting is still extremely popular. A report one year stated that the first day of deer season in Pennsylvania is the largest force of armed people gathered in one region than any other place on the planet. There was an estimated two million hunters in the woods with rifles on opening day. However, just about every year some poor fellow who doesn't get out much during the rest of the year thinks he can hike up and down these hills on a frigid morning to bag a buck with a big rack. The same type who spends most of his time being sedentary also thinks he can handle the extreme stresses of shoveling snow. Unfortunately, their hearts argue otherwise.
Sometimes we are certain we have all of our defensive and survival plans and tactics lined up and packaged neatly only to find out that the mundane and the routine is the killer hiding in the closet. Take a few minutes to discuss winter safety and the need to alter some of the defensive plans to suit the change of the season with your family. My family certainly doesn't want to see yours on the news because of tragedy.
As you've no doubt noticed, winter is right around the corner. So it's a good idea to make sure your home is buttoned down and ready to face the cold ahead.
Properly winterizing your abode may only take a few minutes, and can save you some serious money in heating costs, as well as protection of your investment. These days, we're guessing that sounds pretty good.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Put Up Your Storm Doors and Windows
It may seem like a pain to haul them out of the attic or basement, but if you have storm doors and windows don't forget to install them. If you don't have them, it might be worth getting an estimate, because the simple act of installing a storm door can decrease energy loss through the opening by 45%.
Look for Energy Star-certified models if you are buying new. And don't forget to make sure your storm windows are securely fastened — they don't do much good if you accidentally leave them in the “up” position. It can also help to put plastic film over windows on the inside of your house. The kits are cheap, easy to install, and may surprise you with how invisible the plastic becomes after going over it with a hair dryer (as directed).
2. Dodge the Drafts
One of the most important things you can do when getting ready for winter is to make sure you seal up your home as tightly as possible (at this point, don't worry about sealing indoor air pollutants in with you — it's much better to seal up tight, and later judiciously vent by opening a window or turning on a fan). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy use, and that can add up quick.
And drafty rooms are uncomfortable, too. Get draft snakes for leaky doors or windows, or — better yet — install weatherstripping. Caulk up any cracks, holes or worn seals. Use the incense test: carefully move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in.
3. Install a Smart Programmable Thermostat
Most households spend a whopping 50% to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so minding the thermostat is one of the fastest ways to save. For every degree you turn the heat down, you'll save between 1% and 3% off your heating bill.
A programmable thermostat makes this effortless, and you can save even more by customizing the program to your lifestyle. They're easier than programming a VCR, and the average family saves $180 a year with one — yet they only cost around $50 and are a quick to install.
4. Check Those Filters
Most manufacturers suggest changing or cleaning furnace filters once a month during heating season, so mark that on your calendar. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use.
Unfortunately, most people don't know that those disposable fiberglass filters you get at hardware or drugstores trap a measly 10% to 40% of debris. Much better are electronic filters, which trap around 88%, or even higher. The good news is discount models start as low as $50.
5. Give Your Heating System a Tune-Up
Just as cars need periodic tune-ups, so does HVAC equipment. Save up to 5% on heating costs with a properly cleaned and maintained system.
Many utilities offer free annual checkups — if you request them before peak heating time. Your heating contractor or manufacturer may offer a service plan as well.
6. Winterize Your A/C and Water Lines
The last thing you want to do is leave water in your cooling systems or hoses to freeze. So drain them, and make sure you don't have excess water pooled in equipment. If you have box air conditioners, take them out of windows and store them away. If your central A/C has a water shut-off valve, go ahead and turn that off. If you are in any doubt about what to do, consult with your equipment's manual, or on the company website, or call a representative. Similarly, make sure any garden hoses are drained and stowed away. Turn off exterior water spigots and address any leaks.
7. Boost Insulation
If you want to save more money on heating this year, see if you can boost your insulation. You may be able to insulate exposed hot water pipes, for example, or get a jacket for your water heater (you can also save money by turning that down). Make sure the floor of your attic is insulated, and the ceiling of your basement.
If you're feeling ambitious, check behind power outlets to see if there's any insulation in your walls. If you want to invest in saving money later, it may be worth it to get an estimate to have insulation blown in by a pro.
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For some seniors staying at home, their week-to-week agendas may involve doctor’s visits, maintaining the home, and other errands around town. Seniors living at home may need special attention during the winter months to ensure there are no safety hazards and that they’re prepared for unforeseen events.
1. Stay Warm and Prevent Hypothermia
Some seniors may want to turn down the heat in their homes to reduce their energy bill, but this can be hazardous to their health. Their bodies are not as capable of regulating heat as younger peoples’ bodies; therefore, it’s important to help them realize the importance of staying warm during the winter.
What this looks like is ensuring that they are dressing warmly while around the house as well as outdoors. Wearing sweaters, hoodies, thermals, thicker socks, and a hat if necessary can help. If they’re going to be working outdoors, they need to make sure they’re not staying for too long. The National Institutes of Health defines hypothermia as “having a core body temperature below 95 degrees.” Generations Senior Living recommends keeping their home at a minimum of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. If a senior has a fireplace or space heater and would like to use those as well, make sure they’re safe to use, and the senior understands proper operation. If monetary heating assistance is needed, they may be able to qualify for government assistance or enlist the help of relatives or friends.
2. Avoid Home Fires
The American Red Cross reports that home fires are most prevalent during December and January. It may be easier for seniors to forget that they’ve left their stove on or a space heating. Try to remind and check-in with them when possible. If you walk into their home, do you hear any beeping? If so, their smoke detectors may be in need of new batteries or complete replacement.
There are several smart ways seniors can help reduce the risk of kitchen fires. Seniors should learn how to use the timer on their stoves, set a reminder on their phone, or even consider purchasing an automatic shut-off device like the Fire Avert Safety Device. If a senior uses a fireplace for additional heat, be sure to keep up maintenance and have it checked by a professional if necessary.
3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
As a colorless, odorless gas, we can’t detect carbon monoxide on our own; that’s why it’s essential to ensure seniors have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. You can purchase these as standalone devices or as part of a full home security system. For placement, it’s recommended to install a carbon monoxide detector in the garage and in each bedroom.
Remembering to turn off the car when parking in the garage, cutting off the stove, and space heaters at the appropriate times are important for keeping seniors and their home safe.
4. Reduce the Chance of Falls and Injuries
With winter comes cold weather and slippery surfaces that can pose a challenge for seniors with mobility or health issues like arthritis. You can reduce the chance of falls by making sure their home is optimized for safety. This means checking rugs for tripping hazards, making sure that they have non-slip shoes, and even updating bathrooms and living areas to make getting around easier and safer. Falls tend to happen most in bathrooms — this can be one place to start checking for any hazards and overall accessibility.
5. Prepare for Inclement Weather & Power Outages
We can predict the weather, but we can’t be certain of weather events. That’s why preparation is key. Does the elderly individual have any flashlights, lanterns, water, food, a radio, portable battery chargers, and other items in the event of a power outage? Be sure to stock up on those things for them so that they can be more prepared. We recommend checking in on seniors when severe weather strikes or even inviting them to stay with you or a friend.
6. Check Their Vehicles
For active seniors who are still driving, make it a routine to keep their vehicles checked and in proper maintenance. How are the tires? Do they need new windshield wipers? How are the oil and antifreeze levels? Another device that will come in handy is a cell phone car charger. Additionally, having a medical alert system with built-in GPS monitoring and fall detection would be beneficial. There are a number of medical alert pendants and wristlets available through providers.
7. Keep the Wintertime Blues at Bay
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the elderly are at a greater risk for developing depression.” Sometimes seniors living at home alone don’t have relatives or friends stopping by on a regular basis, and this can lead to loneliness creeping in and spurring on depression. To help a senior avoid depression during the winter months, check in with him or her, even if it’s by phone, on a regular basis. If possible, stop by to talk and offer a helping hand. It really is amazing how a little love and attention can strengthen and warm the heart — even on the coldest winter days and nights.
The Fargo-Moorhead area of northwest Minnesota was hit hard this week by something no one expected in early October: 14 inches of snow. It caught residents completely by surprise. Few had winter survival kits in their cars, putting many stranded motorists at risk. Homes were just as unprepared, as power went out across the region.
No one died, but the possibility certainly wasn’t out of the question. It’s time to start thinking about how to survive a blizzard.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has some great tips for preppers, including how to survive a blizzard. With winter storms just around the corner for the rest of the country, it’s never been a better time to review.
Being outside during a blizzard can be lethal. It’s not the cold so much as the disorientation. High winds and heavy snow reduce visibility, which increases the chance of becoming lost. That when things get deadly.
If Shelter is Available
* Stay dry
* Cover all exposed body parts
* Determine if there is some way to make the shelter visible to others
If Shelter is Not Available
* Build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for wind protection
* Make a fire for heat and to attract attention (this might be impossible, but the takeaway is that warmth will prevent hypothermia)
* If a fire is created, place rocks or other heat conductors around it to absorb and reflect warmth
* Melt snow for water
* Don’t eat snow, it lowers body temperature and invites hypothermia
* Find a way to attract attention to initiate a rescue
* Stay in the vehicle, as it provides shelter and an easy way to be spotted by help
* Run the engine for about 10 minutes each hour for warmth
* Open the window a crack to keep air circulating in order prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
* Clear the exhaust pipe of any obstruction to keep fumes from entering the cab
* Move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously from time to time for warmth
Tips for Attracting Attention
* Turn on interior or exterior lights while the engine is running
* Honk the horn if help is close
* Tie a piece of cloth (eye-catching colors work best) to the antenna
* Once the snow stops, raise the hood to signal help is needed
How to Survive a Blizzard Inside
Houses offer a false sense of security during blizzards. Heavy snow and harsh winds can knock out power, shutting down heating systems. Structures may collapse. Ice may cement doors closed. Help could be hours or days away. Travel can be impossible.
* When using heat sources that require ventilation (a fireplace, for example), make sure snow and ice is not preventing proper exhaust
* Close off unused spaces to focus heat in used areas
* Close cracks in doors and windows with towels or rags
* Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, and remove them if perspiration kicks in
How to Survive a Blizzard in Any Situation
No matter the situation, there’s one golden rule to hold above everything else: Avoid overexertion.
From the NOAA:
“The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia. Take Red Cross Cardiopulminary Rescue (CPR) and Automated External Defi brillator (AED) training so you can respond quickly to an emergency.”
A story recently broke about a family of six people in Nevada that survived extremely cold temperatures for forty-eight hours after crashing their vehicle. The adults were praised for doing everything right in keeping their children and themselves alive. I am so happy with the outcome of this story, there are so many times that these types of stories end badly. My purpose of this article is to go over some basic skills on how to survive in cold weather that could save your life and the lives of family if you ever find yourself broken down in the cold with no nearby resources or aid.
Winterize Your Car
The most important thing that you can do is to winterize your car. Winterizing your car requires you to put together a survival kit to keep in each car. This kit will be different for each car and part of the country. The kit you keep in Florida isn’t the same one that I keep in Utah. The size of the kit also depends on how many people travel in the car. Before I get to a kit list, I want to echo the advice of professionals: never let your gas tank get below half during the winter months. You never know when you will be stuck and want to be able to run your heater on and off. My cousin was stuck in a canyon last week for more than 10 hours because of a snow storm. You just never know when this will happen.
The first rule of surviving any event is do not panic. Panic will lead to poor decisions; poor decisions lead to bad outcomes. Panic will not get you any closer to your goal of getting out safely.
Assess any injuries that may have occurred, and provide the needed first aid. I strongly recommend taking a Red Cross CPR and First Aid class if you don’t have any training in these areas. It is well worth the investment.
Stay with your vehicle, no matter what. This will provide you shelter from rain, snow, sun and wind as well as make the search easier.
If you are trapped in a snow storm, make sure you clear all the snow away from your exhaust pipe. If you run your car with the exhaust pipe buried, you will kill yourself with carbon monoxide. You may have to clear the exhaust pipe regularly if it continues to snow.
If you are in a group, keep everyone close together. Their body heat will help to keep each other warm. You also shouldn’t wander off by yourself. No one is ever to be alone.
Do not start a fire inside your vehicle. I know this sounds like common sense, but people have done it.
To create more heat inside your car, heat rocks in a fire and then bring them inside the vehicle.
If you don’t have a vehicle, you can heat rocks in a fire and then bury them just below the ground which you will then lay on. The rocks will provide heat where most people lose it.
If you suspect that someone you are with has hypothermia, it is important to get their body temperature back up to normal levels. To do this, you may have to crawl into their sleeping bag with them. If their cloths are wet, then they must be removed immediately. They are better off naked inside a sleeping bag with you then fully dressed in wet clothing.
If someone’s fingers or toes are starting to get extremely cold, you need to warm them up. This means putting their hands or feet under your armpits until they are warm.
If frost bite has occurred then DO NOT warm the extremities up. Warming them up will only bring on extreme pain that you are not prepared to handle. If the feet are involved, do not remove their shoes or boots. Chances are that their feet will swell and you won’t be able to get the shoes back on.
If you have a cell phone, leave it on during the day and shut it down at night. People will be searching during the day and will attempt to ping your phone. They usually do not search at night, so do not waste your battery.
Always tell someone your travel plans. Let them know where you are going, how long you plan to stay, and what routes you will be taking to and from your destination.
Learn to use your signal mirror. These mirrors can send reflections for miles and will get people’s attention.
These are just a few tips for surviving in an emergency. Survival is like anything else in life — it requires practice. You’ll need to practice using your stove, lighter, and signal mirror. You’ll want to know the ins-and-outs of these devices before you actually need them.
Use these tips effectively, and stay alive in cold weather.
If winter weather is getting you down, try out these cold weather hacks to keep you nice and toasty even during the coldest winter storms. Repurpose things on hand or find super cheap items to use for these winter hacks. Learn how to de-ice your car and outdoor steps naturally, keep the chill out of your home with household items, and other little tips and trick to keep you warm and cozy this season.