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EMSA offers cold-weather tips to keep you safe

BY LARA O'LEARY Modified: December 10, 2012 at 10:23 am •  Published: December 10, 2012

Colder temperatures are expected to affect Oklahoma in the next few days. EMSA medics advise Oklahomans to prepare and know what to do when temperatures drop to dangerous levels inside and outside the home.

EMSA advises Oklahomans to stock up on their medications and medical equipment needed before the colder weather blankets the State. Elderly loved ones need to be reminded to keep safety in mind over heating bills.

People who live in poorly heated homes risk getting accidental hypothermia when the weather is cold. Even mildly cool temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celcius) to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celcius) can trigger the condition.

Homes can have inadequate insulation, or people with low incomes and little savings may keep temperatures in the dangerous range as they try to keep heating bills down. Some illnesses and medications place a person at risk because they affect the way the body handles cold temperatures. Illnesses that may blunt the response to cold include:

* Slow thyroid (hypothyroidism) or other disorders of the body's hormone system.

* Stroke or other disorders that cause paralysis and reduce awareness.

* Severe arthritis, Parkinson's disease, or other illnesses that limit activity.

* Any condition that curbs the normal flow of blood.

* Memory disorders.

Certain medicines also increase the risk of accidental hypothermia. They include drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, or nausea, and some over-the-counter cold remedies. Ask your doctor how your medicines affect body heat. In addition to some medication, alcoholic drinks lower the body's ability to retain heat.

In winter, heating and lighting usage in the home can be taken for granted. Here are a few safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

• Have your heating system, water heater and any other fuel-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

• Keep portable heaters, smoking materials and candles away from bedding, curtains or other combustibles.

• Wood stoves or fireplaces should be installed according to existing building codes and manufacturer's instructions.

• Check the chimney and stovepipe frequently during the heating season for creosote buildup and clean when necessary.

• Use only proper fuel in the stove or fireplace.

• Keep combustibles such as curtains, chairs, firewood, etc., at least 3 feet away from any stove.

• Use a metal container with a tight-fitting lid for ash removal.

• Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.

• Operate a portable electric heater at least three feet away from upholstered furniture, drapes, bedding and other combustible materials. It should only be set on the floor.

Winter Weather: Take Steps

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

Heat Your Home Safely

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember these safety tips:

Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.

Do not burn paper in a fireplace.

Ensure adequate ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.

Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use — don’t substitute.

Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never cover your space heater.

Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.

Never leave children unattended near a space heater.

Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.

Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.

If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.

Store a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher near the area to be heated.

Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.

Cook Safely

Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors — the fumes are deadly.

Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Plug in appliances to the generator using individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords.

Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet because of the risk of electrocution.

Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.



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