CINCINNATI — The forecast calls for an arctic blast to bring below zero temperatures and dangerously cold wind chills to the region.
The coldest of the temperatures are expected on Wednesday. The American Red Cross, AAA Auto Club and the Ohio Department of Aging offer tips to follow to stay safe in this bitter cold.
• Assemble an emergency kit that includes a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and extra batteries, extra blankets and warm clothing, food that you can open and prepare easily and plenty of clean drinking water (at least one gallon per person per day), in case water supply lines are compromised.
• Open cabinet doors under sinks on exterior walls of your home and turn faucets to a slow drip to help prevent pipes from freezing. Place rolled-up towels or blankets around drafty windows and doors to help keep the cold air outside and the warm air inside.
• Know where the main valves and switches are for gas, water and electricity, and ensure you or someone you trust can operate them should you need to shut them off.
• Have a plan for a safe, warm place to go and a way to get there, if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.
Heat your home safely
Many people resort to space heaters and other sources to keep their homes warm. Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in the country. To reduce the risk of heating-related fires, the Red Cross recommends these steps:
• Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets and rugs) at least 3 feet away from space heaters and other heating equipment.
• If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets — never into an extension cord.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
• Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
• Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
Stay safe during winter weather
• Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
• Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.
• Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
• Take pets indoors. If animals can’t go inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
• Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy-feeling skin.
• Don’t let the booze make a fool of you. Although alcoholic beverages might make you feel warm, they actually decrease your core temperature and can be dangerous during extreme cold.
• Protect your eyes. If you’re walking in the snow during the day, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare.
Care for your car
• Idling your vehicle for a minute or two in extreme cold is all that’s needed. Idling for 10 to 15 minutes could dilute the oil with unburned fuel, resulting in increased engine wear. And it wastes gas.
• Before parking the car for the night, shut off the electrical accessories — the heat, radio, interior lights — any power source that could be a drain for the battery. If you don’t have access to a garage, try parking with the hood as near a building as possible to be shielded from the wind. If the car doesn’t start after 15 to 20 seconds of trying, let the car sit for 2 minutes before trying again.
• Keeping the gas tank at half filled can help prevent a fuel line freeze.
• Shooting WD-40 into the locks can help prevent them from freezing overnight, but it can also gum up the tumblers. Some people prefer graphite, which is a dry powder that will not gum up, but that’s way more messy work. Consider buying a deicer and keeping it handy.