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Protect yourself in extremely cold weather

As we enter the time of year when we can expect extremely low temperatures and wind chills, it makes sense to take precautions to minimize the danger.

Ahead of the bitter cold predicted for the next few days, state officials are offering cold weather safety tips:

Make sure you always have a well-stocked winter home emergency kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a manual can opener.

Minimize outside activities, particularly for the elderly and very young. Also, consider your pets.

Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Cover your mouth.

Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.

Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity.

When utilizing alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, keep a fire extinguisher handy. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets.

Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.

Check with elderly or relatives and friends who may need additional assistance to ensure their safety.

To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.

If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, starting where they are most exposed to the cold. A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.

Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half-full. Carry blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), nonperishable foods, windshields scraper, shovel, sand, towrope and jumper cables.

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