Winter is here and with freezing temperatures ahead, keep your family, pets, and home safe with these tips.
If you need to travel, use caution and wear proper clothing, hats, and gloves.
VDOT encourages you to keep an emergency supply kit in your car with these automobile extras:
- Jumper cables
- Flares or reflective triangle
- Ice scraper
- Car cell phone charger
- Cat litter or sand (for better tire traction)
Residents should also have an emergency kit at home with items like water, non-perishable food, a weather radio, a flashlight and extra batteries.
Freezing temperatures spell extra hardship for “backyard dogs,” who often go without adequate food, water, shelter, or veterinary care. If you see companion animals left outside without shelter from the elements and are unable to help, note their location and alert authorities immediately. (For information regarding what constitutes adequate shelter, click here.)
The following steps can go a long way toward helping animals survive cold weather.
- Bring them indoors: Companion animals should always live indoors. Dogs who are kept chained up outside and “outdoor cats” often go without adequate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. They’re no better equipped to survive freezing temperatures or extreme weather conditions than humans are, they suffer terribly from frostbite, and they can die from exposure.
- Gear up: Coats will keep dogs comfortable in cold weather (just be sure to remove wet jackets the moment dogs return home), secure harnesses can help prevent them from getting loose on walks, and booties will protect their sensitive paw pads from the frozen ground. Keep walks short in cold weather, especially for shorthaired dogs.
- Don’t forget birds: During extreme winter weather, provide birds and other wild animals with access to an emergency water supply by filling a heavy nonmetal water bowl (tongues can freeze to metal) and breaking the surface ice at least twice a day.
Good Samaritans who see companion animals kept chained or penned outside 24/7 or without adequate shelter from the elements should note the animals’ exact location and alert local law-enforcement authorities immediately. Anyone who leaves animals outside to suffer in severe weather may be prosecuted.
If you plan to use space heaters, keep them properly maintained to avoid fires. Consumer Reports offers the following safety tips:
- Place the heater on a hard, level, and nonflammable surface. These appliances are intended to sit on the floor, not on a table.
- Establish a 3-foot kid- and pet-free zone around the heater, and never put a space heater in a child’s room.
- Keep the space heater at least 3 feet away from combustible materials, such as furniture, bedding, and curtains. A taller heater may need to be even further away.
- Don’t use a heater in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans, or matches.
- Turn it off when you leave the room or go to bed.
- Unplug the heater when it’s not in use by pulling the plug straight from the outlet. Check the cord for damage periodically, and don’t use the heater if the cord is frayed or worn.
- Don’t plug another electrical device or an extension cord into the same outlet as a heater—that can cause overheating.
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every bedroom, and test them monthly.
Additionally, residents are urged to take precautions to protect their homes from a water pipe freezing or breaking:
- Insulate your pipes and replace wet insulation.
- Cover or wrap outside faucets and keep wrapping dry.
- Eliminate drafts from cracks, windows, or doors near your pipes.
- Cover or close foundation vents.
- Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
- Check your meter box cover and keep it securely closed. Add an extra layer of insulation with a hay bale or bag of leaves.
- Install trailer skirts on mobile homes.
If freezing temperatures are predicted:
- Let a rapid drip of both hot and cold water run from any faucets against an exterior wall and the faucets furthest from where water service enters your house.
- Leave cabinet doors open under the sink, so room heat can reach pipes.
- Locate your shut-off valve so you can turn your water off if your pipes break. It may be located outside where the water supply enters your home, inside the garage or near the water heater.
Winter’s freeze may hit in spite of your best efforts, so if your pipes do freeze…
- Call Public Utilities o cut your water off at the meter.
- Turn your water off at the shut-off valve. When they thaw, pipes may break, losing precious water and costing you money!
- NEVER try to thaw frozen pipes with an open flame or an electrical current!! It’s dangerous and could cause damage. Call your plumber.
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