State Officials Offer Safety Tips for Winter Weather

winter-weatherWith snow and frigid temperatures moving into the area, state officials are reminding residents to stay safe during winter weather.

The Indiana State Department of Health says to be prepared for slick conditions when walking outdoors. They recommend removing snow and ice as soon as possible to keep steps and walkways safe, but to use caution when shoveling or using a snow blower.

Since shoveling can put a lot of strain on your heart and muscles, the State Department of Health has a few tips to avoid potentially serious injuries. Before you start shoveling, warm up your muscles by stretching and doing a few exercises. Dress in layers and cover your head and neck. Avoid shoveling right after eating a large meal or smoking. Take your time; shovel heavy snow in layers and take frequent breaks to stretch and drink water. Use a shovel that’s comfortable for you, and push the snow instead of lifting whenever you can. Otherwise, lift with your legs, not with your back, and don’t throw snow over your shoulder or to the side.

Most importantly, if you have a history of heart disease, ask a doctor before shoveling, and stop immediately if you feel dizziness or tightness in the chest. Health officials say snow blowers bring their own hazards, including finger and hand lacerations as well as finger amputations, if the user isn’t careful.

Additionally, take steps to keep pets safe by limiting their time outside if possible, to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Animals who must stay outdoors should have sufficient shelter, and owners should make sure their water doesn’t freeze. Consider using straw to provide a covering on the ground, since blankets can retain moisture and make animals even colder.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Division of Fire and Building Safety urges residents to stay safe inside their homes, especially when using space heaters and other alternative heating sources. Space heaters should be kept at least three feet away from flammable objects like clothing, curtains, and furniture. Fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected on a regular basis by a certified professional, and a working carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher should be kept nearby. Always put out fires and unplug space heaters before going to bed or leaving the home.

State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson says to consider other options besides alternative heating, such as adding insulation to windows and doors, wearing warmer clothes, and using more blankets. Greeson also recommends checking smoke alarms to make sure they work and changing their batteries regularly.