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Cold Weather Safety

Worcester, MA (January 7, 2015) - Winter, and cold temperatures, are here. Be ready! Dress appropriately, limit outdoor activity and check on neighbors who may be susceptible to extreme cold. If your home uses propane or oil, make sure you have enough. Worcester has a No Heat/Frozen Pipes hotline: (508) 929-1300. Please call the Information Telephone Service 2-1-1 for non-emergency weather-related questions.

If you need a place to get out of the cold during the day, the Worcester Public Library and the Worcester Senior Center are both open to the public:

  • Senior Center is open 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
  • Library is open 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM most days, 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM on Wednesdays

Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. To keep yourself and your family safe, you should know how to prevent cold-related health problems and what to do if a cold-weather health emergency arises.

The City of Worcester's Division of Public Health is urging residents to consider the following safety tips to avoid health emergencies:

Cold Weather Reminders:

  • When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors.
  • Make any trips outside as brief as possible, and remember these tips below to protect
    your health and safety, especially at bus stops as kids prepare to go to school.
  • Check on your elderly family/neighbors often.
  • Drink non-caffeinated fluids. Dehydration occurs more quickly in cold, dry weather. Be sure to keep yourself well hydrated, especially if you are exerting yourself.
  • Cover exposed skin and watch for frostbite. In extreme cold, frostbite can happen in under a minute. The symptoms of frostbite include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
  • Keep pets indoors. Pets suffer in the cold just like humans, yet they have little means to protect themselves.

Dress Warmly and Stay Dry:

  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.
  • Use thermal underwear, undershirts, track suits, sweaters, snowsuits, boots, hats, gloves and scarves.
  • Be sure that your outer layer is tightly woven and windproof.
  • Wear wool - It is a popular material for cold because it will keep you warmer than cotton when damp or wet.
  • Wear mittens over gloves - layering works for your hands as well.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

When Traveling:

  • Don't rely on a car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down.
  • Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.
  • Carry and Emergency Supply Kit in the trunk.
  • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Heat Your Home Safely:

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and does 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 3 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.
  • Keep dryer vents clear of snow and ice.
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