Here are some helpful tips to help you cope with the snow and the cold at home, in your car or when caring for your pets.
- Limit your time outside as much as possible. If you must go outdoors, dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness, and frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness and waxy feeling skin.
- Watch for ice, and wear sturdy snow boots.
- Salt and shovel your sidewalks as the snow is still falling, if possible, and help neighbors unable to clear their own walkways. See tips on safely shoveling snow here.
AROUND YOUR HOME
- Have safe emergency heating equipment in your home, as well as a flashlight, portable radio and three days' worth of food in case the power goes out.
- To prevent frozen pipes, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission recommends letting your hot and cold faucets drip overnight, and opening cabinet doors to allow heat to reach uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
- Locate the water shut-off valve in your home in advance of a water emergency, so you know where to go if a pipe bursts, DC Water spokesperson Pamela Mooring advised.
- Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
- If you're going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home at no lower than 55 degrees.
- Don't place a space heater within three feet of anything combustible.
- Program your local utility contact information into your cell phone now, before you need them.
Important Utility Numbers include:
-- Dominion Virginia: 1-866-366-4357
-- Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E): 1-877-778-2222 or 1-800-685-0123
-- Pepco: 1-877-737-2662
-- SMECO: 1-877-747-6326 or 1-888-440-3311
-- Washington Gas: 1-800-752-7520
-- Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC): 1-800-828-4002
STAYING SAFE ON THE ROAD
- Bad weather is the cause of more than 1.5 million vehicle crashes in the country each year, according to study by the Federal Highway Administration. Stay home when possible and be extremely careful if you have to drive during adverse conditions.
- If your car battery is three years old or older, it is more likely to fail as temperatures drops, according to AAA. Never attempt to charge or jump-start a battery that's frozen -- it may rupture or explode.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Don't leave your car unattended while you warm it up -- authorities say that's a common cause of car thefts in the winter.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated. Cold weather will often reduce tire pressure.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid freezing your car's gas lines.
- If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
- Wintry weather can contribute to the deterioration of your windshield wipers. Worn blades streak and impair vision, critical during winter months. AAA says wiper blades should be replaced every year.
- Keep your washer fluid topped off with winter formula fluid so it won’t freeze. Many of your car’s fluids should be checked once a month.
KEEPING YOUR PET(S) SAFE
- Keep your pets inside. Dogs and cats left outside can freeze, get injured or become lost.
- If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang on the hood of your car before starting the engine to give them a chance to escape.
- The ASPCA suggests wiping your dog's legs and stomach down when he or she comes in from snowy or icy conditions. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze and other chemicals when licking their paws.
- Never leave your pet inside a car unattended.
HELPING THE HOMELESS
- If you see someone in the D.C. area who needs shelter or warmer clothing, call the following numbers:
-- The District: 202-535-7252
-- Arlington County, Va.: 703-527-4077
-- Prince George's County, Md.: 888-731-0999
-- Maryland Crisis Hotline: 301-662-2255
-- Montgomery County, Md.: 240-777-4000
-- Fairfax County: 703-691-2131
Find more hypothermia hotlines and ways to help the homeless here.
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