Keep yourself, pets and home safe amid bitter cold


Temperatures and windchill are expected to get bitterly cold over the next several days, so Oneida County Health officials and other local and state agencies are advising residents to take precautions to remain safe in the extreme cold.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will dip into the single digits — and below — on Friday and Saturday. Heavy winds will then push the temperature even lower, with wind chill values of minus 35 degrees below zero possible.

Such extremes can be dangerous for people, pets and even homes.

“Being prepared is your best defense against extremely cold weather,” said Oneida County Director of Health Daniel W. Gilmore.

“Prepare yourselves, your vehicles, and your homes. If you have outdoor pets, prepare now to provide them warm shelter and check in with elderly neighbors and relatives.”

Extreme cold

Hypothermia and frost bite are concerns when weather temperatures dip this low, and it does not take long for someone who is exposed to the temperatures to be affected. If you must be outside, bundle up. Try to leave as little skin as possible exposed. Use warm, dry clothing such as hats, scarves, mittens/gloves, water resistant jackets and boots. Layering clothes also helps.

Hypothermia is extremely dangerous and needs medical attention. Signs of hypothermia include exhaustion, shivering, confusion, and slurred speech in adults. For babies, signs include having low energy and/or bright red, cold skin. If you notice these signs, take person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, medical attention is needed immediately.

Try to help warm the body by getting into a warm location, removing any wet clothing, use warm drinks and layers of dry blankets, towels and other cloths.

Frostbite is freezing of the skin and underlying tissue. It can be permanently damaging if severe. Signs of frostbite include red skin initially which turns to white or grayish-yellow skin, numbness and/or skin that feels usually firm or waxy.

If you or someone you know is believed to have frostbite, seek medical care immediately. Until medical care is available, get the person into a warm room. You can use warm water on the affected skin and do not rub, massage, or use the affected area. Do not use electric blankets, heating pads or hot water, for example. The skin may be numb and could be burned.

The Health Department recommends having a winter survival kit in your vehicle when traveling. This kit should include jumper cables, ice scraper, car cell phone charger, blankets, and water. Also check your tire pressure, antifreeze levels and make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas.

Pets and animals

According to Kyla Jacobs, executive director of the Anita’s Stevens Swan Humane Society, taking care of pets in the cold is not necessarily about keeping them warm, so much as keeping them dry.

“You’re going to want to keep everything dry and refreshed,” Jacobs explained.

If your pets are going to be outside in the cold, Jacobs said it is important to keep an eye on them and their supplies. If they have an outdoor home, she recommended using straw as bedding instead of blankets, because blankets can hold moisture.

“Ensure that you’re changing out water frequently, and make sure it’s not frozen,” she stated.

Jacobs said to be very mindful of your pet’s feet in the cold, and to limit exposure as much as possible. She also recommended using pet-safe salt for your walkways.

If you want to provide shelter for any stray animals or feral cats, Jacobs suggested putting out an igloo-style dog or cat house.

Home safety

“There is an increased risk of home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning this time of year as residents use space heaters, portable heating sources, gas furnaces, and fireplaces to heat their homes,” said] Edward Tase, Jr.,president of the Firefighters Association of the State of New York.

“We encourage New Yorkers to take proper precautions when they heat their homes this season.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, accounting for more than two of every five fires, as well as the vast majority of deaths and injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment. 

Homeowners should keep space heaters a safe distance from combustible materials, such as curtains, bedding, and upholstered furniture. To prevent CO exposure and poisoning, avoid the indoor use of unvented gas-burning appliances, unvented gas or wood-burning stoves, and unvented fireplaces. 

“Homeowners should check that all heating equipment is functioning properly and that furnace and dryer vents are clear of ice and other debris,” said President Tase.

“As we turn up the heat, it is crucial to ensure that there are working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the home and outside of sleeping areas. These devices can be the difference between life and death. We want all New Yorkers to be fire-safe this winter and remember— if there is a fire: get out, stay out, and call 911.” 


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