NORFOLK (NNS) -- Much of the continental U.S. has experienced a milder than average winter, but that's no reason to get complacent. The month of February often packs a big winter punch, and it's not too late to prepare. The Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN) offers tips to help Sailors and their families get ready for inclement weather.
One of the most important things to do before winter weather strikes is to prepare the vehicles. A NAVSAFECEN "Safe Tips" factsheet entitled "Winter, Your Car, and You" states that the first order of business is a winter checkup that includes inspecting the battery, the ignition, breaks, wiring, hoses, and fan belts; changing and adjusting the spark plugs, ensuring tires have adequate tread, and checking the antifreeze level.
An emergency situation can arise without much warning, so it's important to keep a winter survival kit in the trunk at all times. Essential supplies include a working flashlight and spare batteries; a first aid kit; an ice scraper and snow brush; non-perishable, high energy foods such as nuts and granola bars; and blankets.
For stranded motorists, these items could mean the difference between life and death. However, it's also important to note that it is usually a good idea to stay put in the vehicle when stranded. Don't leave the car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and you are certain that leaving the car will improve your situation. Never leave the car while blizzard conditions continue.
Many make the smart choice not to drive during winter storms, but there are still other risks associated with extreme cold weather and snow and ice. NAVSAFECEN has an entire factsheet dealing with the dangers of shoveling snow. Recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield looked at hospital emergency admissions in Michigan after a blizzard and found that the number of people suffering from cardiac-related conditions skyrocketed 59 percent during the first 24 hours of the storm. This is because people were shoveling snow and many of those people were unaccustomed to strenuous activity.
When you do go out to shovel the driveway, it's important to take it slow. Drink plenty of water, because dehydration also stresses the heart. Dress in layers, and wear a hat. Much of the body's heat is released through the head. Don't ignore chest pain or tightness. Assume the worst if it strikes and call an ambulance or have someone take you to the emergency room.
Finally, even those who choose to ride out the storm indoors with a cup of hot chocolate may face risks. Space heaters can pose a significant fire hazard. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns consumers to only use those space heaters that have been certified by a national testing laboratory. Place heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface such as a tile floor. Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and drapes, keep it away from children and pets, and never leave it unattended.
For more information about winter safety, visit www.public.navy.mil/navsafecen.
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