Winter Safety: Tips for Snow Removal and Cold Exposure

man shoveling snow

Winter has fully arrived in Eastern Connecticut — making it important to understand that shoveling snow requires proper precautions to prevent health consequences. By adopting safe practices and remaining vigilant about potential hazards, you can navigate the season safely and comfortably.

Protecting Yourself from Overexertion:

Shoveling is strenuous: Recognize that clearing snow is a physically demanding activity, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions. Don’t underestimate the strain it can place on your cardiovascular system.

Pace yourself: Avoid attempting to tackle the entire snowfall at once. Take frequent breaks, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to catch your breath and rehydrate. Listen to your body and stop if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness.

Warm-up and cool down: Don’t shovel on an empty stomach or immediately after waking up. Engage in light stretches and movements to warm up your muscles beforehand. Similarly, after shoveling, take some time to cool down gradually before entering a warm environment.

Ensuring Proper Attire:

Layering is key: Opt for multiple layers of clothing to trap and retain body heat. Choose breathable base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a windproof and waterproof outer shell. Don’t forget your extremities – thick socks, waterproof boots, gloves, and a hat are essential.

Avoid cotton: Cotton absorbs moisture and loses insulating properties when wet. Opt for synthetic or wool materials that wick away sweat and keep you warm even if they get damp.

Cover vulnerable areas: Pay particular attention to protecting your ears, nose, fingers, and toes. These areas are susceptible to frostbite due to their limited blood circulation.

Recognizing and Addressing Cold-Related Emergencies:

Hypothermia: Be aware of the warning signs of hypothermia, such as shivering, slurred speech, confusion, and drowsiness. If you suspect someone is experiencing hypothermia, seek immediate medical attention. Move them to a warm environment, remove wet clothing, and cover them with blankets.

Frostbite: Tingling, numbness, and white, waxy skin are indicators of frostbite. Seek medical attention promptly. Do not rub the affected area, as this can worsen the injury.

Additional Safety Measures:

Choose your shovel wisely: A lightweight, ergonomically designed shovel can significantly reduce strain on your back and shoulders.

Push, don’t lift: Whenever possible, push the snow instead of lifting it. This minimizes the risk of back injuries.

Stay hydrated: Even in cold weather, dehydration can impact your health. Regularly sip warm fluids to maintain proper hydration levels.

Check on vulnerable neighbors: Be mindful of elderly residents or individuals with disabilities who may require assistance with clearing snow.

Power Down: Your Guide to Staying Safe When the Lights Go Out

gas generator in garage with gas cans

When the power goes out, and you’re left in the dark; a trusty generator can save the day. However, before firing up this powerful machine, remember that generators, while helpful, require careful use and caution. Neglecting safety can lead to serious health hazards and even death.

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer

One of the biggest threats posed by generators is carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas produced by combustion. Inhaling CO can be deadly, silently sneaking into your home through open windows or doorways, replacing oxygen in your bloodstream, and robbing your body of vital energy.

Safety Tips:

  • Never run a generator indoors, in garages, basements, or any enclosed space.

  • Place the generator at least 20 feet away from your house, downwind if possible.

  • Install battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors in your home, near bedrooms and living areas.

  • Test your CO detectors monthly and replace batteries regularly.

  • If you experience dizziness, headache, nausea, or weakness, seek fresh air immediately and call emergency services.

Electrocution: Shocking Dangers

Generators generate electricity, and that means potential for shock. Improper use can lead to serious injury or even death.

Safety Tips:

  • Only operate the generator on a dry, level surface.

  • Keep the generator dry and avoid running it in rain or wet conditions.

  • Do not touch the generator with wet hands.

  • Use properly grounded, heavy-duty extension cords specifically designed for outdoor use.

  • Never connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. This can back feed electricity to the grid, endangering utility workers and others.

Beyond the Generator: General Power Outage Precautions

While safety during generator use is paramount, don’t forget additional precautions while the power is out:

  • Fire Safety: Use flashlights or battery-powered lamps instead of candles. Keep fire extinguishers close at hand.

  • Food Safety: Refrigerated and frozen food may spoil quickly. Keep coolers on hand and pack them with ice to preserve perishables.

  • Medical Needs: If you rely on medical equipment requiring electricity, have a backup plan in place, such as battery-powered devices or alternative care arrangements.

  • Communication: Stay informed about the outage and potential restoration times through battery-powered radios or online sources accessible on your phone.

Remembering these safety tips and general precautions can help you navigate power outages with confidence and keep yourself and your loved ones safe. When darkness descends, let common sense and caution guide your way until the lights come back on.

Bonus Tip: Invest in a generator transfer switch installed by a qualified professional. This allows you to safely connect your generator to your home’s electrical system, providing backup power without the risk of backfeeding.

Stay safe, stay informed, and remember, even when the lights are out, knowledge is your brightest power source.

Learn more about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from the CDC.

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