Tips to Keep You Safe in This Weekend's Extreme Cold Conditions

How to dress for the weather, watch for signs of frostbite, keep pets safe, heat your home and protect your car from cold

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An arctic airmass will move into the region Friday, and there's plenty to you can do to be prepared for the extreme cold that will make it feel around 30 degrees below zero.

To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, follow these tips:

First, you want to make sure you have enough heating oil to get through the cold weather. If you don’t, you may have to pay for an emergency service call on the weekend, and it may be difficult to even schedule one.

Never use your oven for heat and never bring charcoal or gas grills indoors. They are a carbon monoxide hazard.

Consumer Reports offers some safer, more affordable heating options for those concerned about the cost to keep warm this winter.

When it comes to space heaters – remember liquid or gas-fired portable space heaters are illegal in Massachusetts. If you’re using an electric space heater, don’t place it near curtains or other flammable materials. And turn them off before you go to bed.

There is a risk of frozen pipes over the next couple of days. Here's what to know:

  • Keep your heat at a normal level all day and you can  leave your faucets open with a slight drip to prevent your pipes from freezing.
  • Leave your kitchen and sink cabinet doors open if the pipes behind the doors can freeze. That allows the heat from your home to circulate in those areas and reach the pipes.
  • Pipes in your unheated spaces like garages and basements should be insulated.
  • Check for open windows, air vents and window drafts near water pipes.
  • Seal any leaks in the basement foundation where cold air may enter.
  • And make sure you know where the main water shut off valve is in your home. If a pipe bursts, shutting the valve will minimize damage. You should also protect your water meter from icy drafts and freezing temperatures.

If you are going to be away during these extreme temperatures, have someone check on your house. 

As temperatures get set to take a nosedive outside, there are things to do to make sure you stay safe.

The city of Boston on Wednesday shared these tips on dressing for the weather and watching out for the effects of the cold:

Dress for the weather:

  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens over gloves; layering works for your hands as well.
  • Always wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.  
  • Dress children warmly and set reasonable time limits on outdoor play.
  • Restrict infants' outdoor exposure when it is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia:

  • Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If you or someone you know shows any of these symptoms, contact a healthcare provider immediately. If symptoms are severe, call 911.

Keep your pets safe:

Here are some things to keep in mind not just for this arctic blast, but for the remainder of winter, according to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, which says it's too cold for pets outside if it's too cold out for you:

  • Prepare your dog for the elements. If you have a longer coat dog, let it grow out for the winter; it will provide warmth and protection from the cold. For shorter coat dogs, sweaters, coats and booties can go a long way to protect your pooch.
  • Wipe off your dog’s paws and stomach. Sidewalks are treated with a number of chemicals. These chemicals can irritate your dog’s paws, and can be poisonous if ingested. When coming in from the cold, clean and dry your dog’s stomach to keep them healthy!
  • Keep outdoor trips quick. Bathroom breaks or walks, keep it short and sweet and keep your pets indoors as much as possible.
  • Never leave your dog alone in a cold car. Many Massachusetts residents are aware that it’s illegal to keep an animal in a hot car, under the same law it’s ALSO illegal to keep your animal in a cold car (Ma. Ch. 140, Section 174F.  (a) A person shall not confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold). When going out, leave your animals at home.
  • Pay attention to your pet’s grooming and health. An animal with a matted coat cannot keep him or herself warm! Long-haired pets especially during heavy periods of shedding, need extra help maintaining a healthy coat. Senior pets also suffer from increased arthritis pain in the cold, so check with your veterinarian on how to keep your pet comfortable.
  • Check under the hood. Cats love to warm up underneath the hood of a car, as the residual heat from the engine burns off. Unfortunately, this method of warming up can have dangerous consequences, such as severe burns and other grave injuries. Always pound on the hood of your vehicle and do a quick visual check before starting the engine.

Heating your home:

The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services provides these tips on how to heat your home safely:

  • Keep space heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, and anything else that can burn.
  • When purchasing a space heater, select one that’s been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Intertek (ETL). 
  • When using fireplaces, wood Stoves, and pellet Stoves, open the dampener before lighting a fire; use only dry, seasoned wood; don’t use flammable liquids to start the fire; and keep a three-foot “circle of safety” around the fireplace or stove free of anything that can burn.
  • If you have a furnace, water heater, or oil burner with a pilot light, keep the three-foot “circle of safety” clear of anything that could catch fire, and don’t store gasoline, painting supplies, or other flammable solvents in the home.
  • Create and practice a home escape plan that includes two ways out of every room, and everyone should be able to open the doors and windows along the way in case of a fire.

Protecting your car:

AAA Northeast has some tips to protect your car starts in the coldest weather of the season:

  • A strong, fully charged battery is important – if your vehicle battery is more than five years old it may need a replacement.
  • If you don’t drive often, drive the car for at least 30 minutes this week. It won’t fully charge the battery but it will help.
  • When you first get in the car make sure all the lights and other accessories are off.
  • Turn the key to the “on” position and wait a couple of seconds, then crank the engine.
  • If the engine doesn’t start in 10-15 seconds, stop, rest and try again.

In case you have an electric car, follow these tips:

If you own an electric car, cold weather range can be reduced up to 50 percent. To maximize range in cold weather:

  • Warm the battery while it is plugged in, so it will accept a charge more efficiently. During cold weather preconditioning also increases your EV range because the battery will be warmed up to its best operating temperature.
  • Warm the vehicle cabin while the car is plugged in.
  • Depending on the vehicle, the seat heaters may be more efficient than the heater.
  • Drive at moderate speeds.

Get more tips for extreme weather from the National Weather Service here.

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