Friday, April 19th, 2024
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Winter Safety Tips

Tips for avoiding fires, frostbite and accidents during the winter months.

Winter is a time of unpredictable weather and holiday hazards. It is important to stay informed throughout the season, so we sat down with Millersville University’s Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Paul Hill, to provide us with his top winter safety tips.   

What should we be aware of during the holiday season when it comes to fire hazards and fire safety?
Holidays often mean open flames, candles, flammable decorations, etc. Beware of overloaded electric circuits caused by connecting multiple surge protectors, multi-plug outlets or using too many lights or decorations on one circuit. Try to use artificial greenery and other decorations that are made of flame-resistant materials. Also, be sure to keep your tree watered. Check out the video below for a perfect example of why Christmas tree watering is so essential. I really love this video having been a career firefighter previously, definitely a wow factor if you ever get to use it in a presentation! 

What are some tips for safe driving in the winter?
You need to adjust to changing weather conditions. Slow down based on road conditions and increase your following distance. At UPS, they practice a 4-6 second following distance for speeds up to 30 mph and 6-8 seconds for speeds over 30 mph to allow for reaction time and stopping distance.

What are the signs of frostbite?
Signs of frostbite include pins and needles sensations, cold and numb skin, skin discoloration (red, gray, white, blue), stinging or burning sensation and blistering, to name a few. 

What are some ways to prevent frostbite?
You can use hand or foot warmers, though they only last for a certain amount of time.  The best prevention is wearing appropriate clothing from an appropriate material. Wool is the best material for keeping warm in the cold. It is natural, retains heat, wicks moisture away from the skin, but retains it for additional insulation.   

Also, winter wear should be somewhat loose fitting. This allows it to retain heat and form a layer of warmth around the skin. Tight fitting items can decrease capillary blood flow, limiting circulation of warm blood, and can also increase conduction of cold from surrounding material and atmosphere. 

What should you do if you believe you have frostbite?
If you think you have frostbite, get out of the elements and immerse in warm water or in warm areas such as armpits. Avoid hot water or dry heat because it can increase tissue damage and decreased sensation may prevent you from noticing. Additionally, avoid rubbing the affected area because that may also worsen tissue damage because of friction. Make sure to seek medical treatment if frostbite is suspected. 

What items should you have on hand in case of a power outage in cold weather?
Preparation for power outage: have flashlights and fresh batteries, keep extra blankets around, dress appropriately and layer as needed. Make sure your generator (if available) operates properly prior to being needed. Also, have extra fuel available, stock extra non-perishable food and maintain adequate supply of wood if you have a fireplace. 

What do you believe is the most important winter safety tip?
In 2021, winter weather caused the most deaths of any weather event type, according to the NOAA. Of the winter deaths, the majority are caused by vehicle accidents.  However, those numbers pale in comparison to the number of deaths from the flu and other types of illnesses. My top safety tip would be to wash your hands and use sanitizer frequently to prevent the spread of common winter illnesses. 


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