As freezing rain continues to fall over much of the state this week, the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma offers the following helpful information for dealing with the bad weather:
Assembling a preparedness kit
• Water: The Red Cross recommends that each person store one gallon of water per day for at least three days.
• Food: Store at least three days of non-perishable, nutritious food that requires little or no water or cooking to prepare. Don't forget to store a manual can opener with non-perishable food items.
• Medications: Be sure to include a week's supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Also keep a list of all medications and dosages, allergies, doctors' names and nearby hospitals.
• Weather radio: Keep a battery-powered weather radio in your kit. Don't forget to include extra batteries.
• First aid supplies: Injuries are a common occurrence during a disaster. Be prepared to treat yourself and others.
• Personal documents: Ensure you have all necessary records with you - ID, passport, birth certificate, insurance policies. Also keep an extra set of eye glasses, contact lenses, hearing aid batteries or other personal items you may need.
• Contact information: Keep a list of family phone numbers and addresses as well as a copy of your out-of-area emergency contact.
• Map: Include a detailed map of surrounding areas. Become familiar with alternate routs to and from your home.
• Money: Following events like an ice storm, banks and ATMs may be closed. Keep small bills and change on hand to buy necessary supplies like water.
• Clothing: Keep an extra set of warm clothes and sturdy shoes to ensure you're equipped to evacuate if needed.
• Sanitary supplies: Include extra toilet paper, feminine supplies, personal hygiene products, bleach and other personal products you may need.
• Pet supplies: Make sure to assemble things your pet will need in a disaster, like food, leashes, medicine, etc.
• Tools: Keep an adjustable wrench in your preparedness kit to turn off your gas if necessary. Other tools may include a manual can opener, plastic sheeting, garbage bags with ties and duct tape.
Safety at home
In the last month, the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma has helped more than 30 families who have lost their homes to fires. During cold weather, the number of house fires increase because people often try to heat their home through dangerous alternative methods. Here are some tips:
• Be careful with candles - do not use candles for lighting if the power goes out. Use flashlights only.
• Burn only wood in fireplaces, never paper or pine boughs. Inspect fireplaces and wood stoves yearly. Use a sturdy fire screen with fires.
• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace unattended. If using a space heater, follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to safely use the heater. Place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.
• Don't overload your electrical outlets.
• Check smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button and replace batteries as necessary.
• Use generators correctly - never operate a generator inside your home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to your home's wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
Dealing with the cold and ice
• Stay indoors as much as possible.
• If you must go outside, several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
• Understand the hazards of wind chill, which combines the cooling effect of wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin.
• As the wind increases, heat is carried away from a person's body at an accelerated rate, driving down body temperature.
• Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks.
If you get stuck in your car
• Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.
• Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.
• Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.
• Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.
• As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.
• Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.
Preparedness kits, first aid kits and more are available at the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, 601 NE 6th St., Oklahoma City. For more information about dealing with events like an ice storm, go to the American Red Cross Web site. Individual Red Cross chapters can be found using the zip code locator on the site.