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Take Precaution Against Cold Weather, Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
A Carbon Monoxide detector.

Ohioans are being urged to take preventive action against the upcoming extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold—either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn't adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it can prevent your body from getting enough oxygen. The gas is colorless and odorless and can be hard to detect without proper detectors. Carbon monoxide is produced with burning of any carbon-containing materials, like gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal, or wood.

Follow these important steps to protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Do not preheat/start your car inside a closed garage, as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure your home or living area has CO (Carbon Monoxide) detectors, and that they are working.
  • After storms, make sure nothing is blocking the outside stack or vents for your dryer, stove, furnace, and/or fireplace to ensure adequate ventilation.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
  • Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.
  • Learn how to best help older Ohioans in your neighborhood with these tips from the Ohio Department of Aging.

If you must go outside

  • Dress warmly and stay dry.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and mittens.
  • Avoid frostbite.
  • If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly.
  • Avoid walking on ice or getting wet.
  • Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car.

Be cautious about travel

  • Listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
  • Do not travel in low visibility conditions.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you.
  • If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
  • Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.
  • Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur.
  • 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.

Know the risks of extremely cold temperatures

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

Learn more about how to avoid, spot, and treat frostbite and hypothermia.