The massive winter storm that dumped almost two feet of snow in the Midwest is moving eastward and the American Red Cross has steps people can follow to stay safe during the storm.
The snow, sleet and freezing rain is moving into the upper Great Lakes, Central Appalachians, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions over the weekend and people who may be in the path of the storm should prepare now. These are steps they can take to get ready:
- Pack a kit with a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food for each person in your household. Find out what other items you should include by visiting the Red Cross winter storm safety information.
- Make sure you have a flashlight and extra batteries on hand as well as a battery-powered or hand-crank radio to stay informed about the storm.
- Check to make sure you have sand, rock salt or kitty litter on hand to keep walkways and steps less slippery.
- Get the warm coats, gloves, mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets ready, as well as warm clothing for everyone in your household.
The severe winter weather has already caused the cancellation of as many as 80 blood drives in 12 states, resulting in a shortfall of more than 3,100 units of blood and platelets unable to be collected due to the storm. More cancellations are possible as the storm moves eastward. The cancellations come on top of the more than 7,100 blood donations that went uncollected during the blizzard that hit the Northeast earlier this month.
The Red Cross encourages those who live in areas unaffected by the storm to schedule a time to give blood or platelets. There is a particular need for eligible donors with O-positive, O-negative, A-negative and B-negative blood types. To schedule an appointment to give blood, people can call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org
A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
If you are in the path of this storm and must go outside, wear layered lightweight clothing to keep warm. Gloves (or mittens) and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.
If traveling, try to avoid driving during the storm. If you have to drive, plan to arrive at your destination before the storm hits. Watch weather predictions for your entire route so you know what to expect along the way. Make sure you have an emergency preparedness kit in the car, and keep your car's gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing. Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If you do get stuck in the snow:
- Stay with the car. Do not try to walk to safety.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running to help rescuers see the vehicle.
- Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
- If the power goes out, use flashlights to provide light. Do not use candles for lighting. Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water. Other tips include:
- Prevent frozen pipes - when the weather is very cold outside, open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep the thermostat set to a consistent temperature.
- Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.
- Use a sturdy fire screen around fireplaces when in use. Burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs.
- Use generators correctly –never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
- Check smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button and replacing batteries as necessary.
- Don’t overload your electrical outlets.