When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. The Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management reminds area residents to take precautions to protect life and property during the winter weather, including checking on elderly, taking care of pets and livestock, protecting plants and exposed plumbing.
Here are some tips to help you prepare:
- Keep warm, stay inside if possible.
- If you need to go out, dress in layers and wear hats, gloves and an appropriate coat.
- Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body.
- Observe heater safety: never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water; keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes; never leave children unattended near a space heater.
- 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.
- Housing: Indoor pets should have their bed or crate placed in a safe and warm place that is away from drafts. Outdoor pets should have a well insulated house that is wind and waterproof resistant and elevated off the ground so wind and moisture can’t seep inside. Install a door flap to protect against drafts and gusts of wind. Extra blankets and straw will also help to increase your pet’s warmth. Room and floor heaters should be kept away from your pet as they are an obvious fire hazard and can cause serious injuries as well.
- Food & Water: Make sure to provide fresh, clean water for your pet every day. Outdoor pets need to consume 25 to 50 percent more calories than usual because the cold weather tends to deplete their energy. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian to make sure what is right for your pet.
- Cars are Refrigerators: A car can act as refrigerator in the winter. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during the winter months as they will freeze to death.
- Cats and Cars: Keep your cats indoors during the winter. Not only can outdoor cats freeze, they sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars to stay warm. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. Give an outdoor cat a chance to escape by banging loudly on the car hood before starting your car.
- Warmth: If you have a short-haired breed of dog, consider getting him / her a sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly to keep them warm. Never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter months as a longer coat will provide more warmth.
- Antifreeze: Dogs and cats are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol. A tiny lick can kill your dog or cat so make sure to check your car for leaks on your driveway or gutter. Keep containers tightly closed and clean up spills immediately. Check your local retailer for "pet safe" antifreeze.
- Rodenticides: Rat and mouse poisons are commonly used during the winter months. Place them out of reach as they can cause fatal bleeding or kidney failure in your pet.
- Bring potted plants inside or store in garage near interior wall to provide extra warmth and protection from wind.
- For cold-sensitive outdoor plants, put down extra mulch and consider covering with a cloth fabric of some kind to shield the plants from wind and frost. Don't use plastic because when the sun comes out, it could "bake" your plants.
- Water plants before freeze hits to keep them from going into stress.
Protect Your Car:
- Take time to have your battery’s charge and cold cranking amps checked Check your batteries for corrosion.
- Never use wiper blades to clear ice or frost as this damages the blades.
- Use a scraper or can de-icer. Make sure all windows are clear for best visibility.
- Never warm up your car in a closed garage, carbon monoxide poisoning is possible.
If driving is absolutely necessary under icing conditions, remember:
- Tap lightly on your brakes to improve control when stopping
- Release some air from your tires to improve traction.
- Allow extra travel time; it might take two to three times longer to reach your destination.
- Drive your car in a lower gear if necessary.
- Keep warm blankets or sleeping bags and a bucket of sand or cat litter (to pour under tires to get traction when stuck) in your car.
Source: The Austin Office of Emergency Management