WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — With temperatures expected to dip well below freezing as Christmas approaches, now is a perfect time to prepare for the colder temperatures.
KSN has compiled these tips to make sure you’re not caught off guard by the coming cold and to make sure you and your family still have a merry Christmas.
Preparing Your Home
Outside your home: You should have already detached any hoses from outdoor faucets, and if you have an automatic sprinkler system, it should have already been flushed. If you still haven’t done either, you should do so as soon as possible to avoid potentially expensive damage. Water can expand as it freezes, leading to cracks, even in metal pipes. With sprinkler systems, you may not discover there is a problem until spring, when you turn the system back on.
Inside your home: Open up cabinets under sinks to allow warm air in. This is especially important for basement cabinets or sink cabinets along the exterior walls of your home, which may get more exposure to the cold. Turn faucets to a slow drip, especially at night, to help keep them from freezing. If you think your pipes have frozen, you need to turn off your main water line as soon as possible.
Windows: For drafty windows, several manufacturers make a clear film that can be placed over window frames to create a barrier to keep cold air out. You can also use rolled-up old towels around drafty windows and the bottom of doors to keep cold air outside.
Furnace: Make sure your furnace has a clean filter and that you are regularly servicing it. It should be serviced at least once a year. In a deep cold snap, it will be working much harder than it would during mild to normal winter weather, so making sure it is well-maintained is very important. If it has been over a year, it might be a good idea to see if someone can service your system before the cold weather hits. However, don’t be surprised if everyone is booked up, as this can be a busy time of year for HVAC professionals.
Heaters/fireplaces: If you use space heaters, make sure they have been safety rated to the latest standards. Always plug your space heater directly into a wall socket, and never use an extension cord or power strip, as they are not designed to handle the electrical load. Keep the space heater clear of all combustible materials, blankets, paper, and anything that could potentially ignite when exposed to heat. Never use a gas space heater or camping stove, or gas oven to heat a room. Never leave a space heater or fireplace unattended, including when you go to sleep. Make sure your house is equipped with not only smoke detectors for all floors but carbon monoxide detectors as well.
Prepare for the worst: Make sure you have an emergency kit for your home that includes a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, blankets, a change of clothes including shoes, a whistle, nonperishable food that is easy to prepare, and a gallon of water per person, per day for at least 4 days and a first-aid kit.
Preparing For Travel
Emergency kits: You will want to make sure there is an emergency kit inside your car, much like the one you should keep in your house with the items listed above. You should also consider including a small mirror that can be used to reflect light should you be stranded in an area that makes it difficult to be spotted. The kit should also include jumper cables, flares or reflective triangles, a phone charger, an ice scrapper, and cat litter or sand for added traction should your vehicle get stuck in the snow.
Leaving town: If you plan on traveling out of town, make sure your vehicle has been serviced and all of your fluids topped off before leaving. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and balanced and the treads aren’t too worn. Plan ahead. Make sure other people know where you will be going and what times you should be expected. check the weather at home, your destination, and your route to know what to expect, you can check road conditions in Kansas at Kandrive.org (WICHway), which also has links to surrounding states’ road condition pages.
Check your car: Before leaving anywhere, make sure you have at least half a tank of gas so you can keep warm should you become stranded. Just make sure your tailpipe is clear of the snow to avoid possible carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting with your engine running.
AAA suggests you get your car checked by a mechanic to see if it will be able to make it through winter.
“It can really make a difference, especially if you get your battery and your tires checked out. Just check all of the main systems in your vehicle that can really help you avoid a breakdown and ending up on the side of the road,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman.
Keep an eye on your tires as well.
“Typically, in winter, tires gradually lose air pressure. So it’s very important to keep checking your tire pressure throughout the winter, and then just overall systems in your vehicle make sure that you have good antifreeze,” Steward said.
For a complete list of what is recommended in your emergency kit for your home or vehicle or for other preparedness tips, visit Ready.gov.
Minimize Exposure To Cold
Dress up: Avoid going out in the cold weather if possible. However, if you have to venture out, make sure you wear layers of loosefitting clothes under your winter coat and pants. This creates layers of warm air that help keep your body warm. Wear gloves or mittens and a warm hat, as the majority of body heat is lost through the head. Wear insulated, waterproof boots or shoes with thick socks that can absorb moisture. Stay dry. Wet clothes lead to faster body heat loss.
Know the signs of frostbite: Frostbite can set in faster than most realize. Depending on the temperature and wind chill, it can take anywhere from 30 to just 5 minutes for the process to begin to exposed skin. Signs of frostbite are loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes, white or grayish-yellow skin, and firm or waxy skin. If you are developing frostbite, get to a warm room and soak in warm, but not hot, water, and do not massage yourself or use a heating pad to warm yourself back up.
Know the signs of hypothermia: Hypothermia begins when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms can include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If someone is exhibiting those signs, get them to a warm room and start warming the core of their body first, including their chest, head, and neck. Keep them wrapped in warm blankets, including the head and neck, and give them warm liquids.
In cases of frostbite or hypothermia, you should always seek medical attention.