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Facing the Deep-Freeze: Safety Tips for the Family, House & Car

The forecast is calling for temperatures as low as 17-below on Sunday and Monday nights so the time to plan ahead is now.

Credit: The Weather Channel
Credit: The Weather Channel

As we head toward no-man's land -- double-digit sub-zero temperatures that could set records -- thoughts turn to keeping the family, house and cars safe. Downers Grove Patch has gathered these tips from online experts that might help:

In the house…

  • Open doors below sinks. Allowing warm air to reach the pipes -- especially those in which a sink is located against an exterior wall -- can keep pipes from freezing.
  • Keep a small stream of lukewarm water running from each faucet -- including those in the tub or shower. This is especially important if pipes are located in an exterior wall or under a concrete slab.
  • If a pipe freezes and you know where freeze is located, use a hair dryer set on low to try to thaw it out. Blow the air stream back and forth until the water starts flowing again. Never thaw a pipe with a torch or open flame.
  • If you cannot get to where a pipe has frozen, shut off the main water valve and place a portable heater at the point where the pipes come into the house. It will take some time, but experts say the pipes will eventually warm up.
  • A thawed pipe may leak or freeze when it's unfrozen. If this happens, turn off the water at the master shut-off valve. You'll likely need a plumber to do the repair work unless you feel confident you can fix it yourself.
  • Keep the thermostat set at the same temperature day and night. Yes, heating bill will be higher, but it will be less expensive than repairing a burst pipe.
  • Never use a gas oven or clothes dryer to warm the house. Carbon monoxide poisoning is deadly and hard to detect because it's odorless and colorless. State law requires that all houses have a carbon monoxide detector for this reason.
  • Keep your drapes and blinds closed at night to reduce heat loss; open them during the day to allow for natural warmth caused by the sun.

Staying safe outside... 

  • Keep head and face covered, choose mittens over gloves, wear layers of loose-fitting clothing to keep heat trapped.
  • Know the symptoms of frostbite: numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin. Signs of hypothermia include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. 
  • Do not touch metal surfaces with uncovered hands – flesh will freeze immediately to the surface.
  • Keep the pets indoors. Let dogs out just long enough to do their business. Small animals will freeze very quickly because of their low body weight and lack of physical protection.

When it comes to the car...

  • Keep the gas tank filled so fuel lines don't freeze and so, in case of an emergency, you can wait for help with enough fuel to stay warm.
  • Stock an emergency kit for the car, just in case. The kit should include jumper cables, flashlights and batteries, snow brush, ice scraper, small shovel, blankets, extra clothing, nonperishable food, energy bars and bottled water.
  • Weak antifreeze can, indeed, freeze. Experts recommend the cooling system be flushed out and new antifreeze put in every two years.
  • Make sure your battery is strong. If it's four years or older, you could have problems starting your car, especially if it sits outside. Check that the connections are secure. A poor connection can prevent the battery from getting fully charged.
  • Make sure the tire air pressure is at the proper level. When the temperature drops below 0, tires can lose up to a pound of pressure, making them unsafe and causing unnecessary wear and tear.
  • Don't wash your car. The residual water could freeze your doors, windows, and trunk. If doors or locks get frozen, use an alcohol-based spray made specifically to open frozen cars; do not use hot water.
  • Extreme weather can freeze washer fluid, turning it to slush on your windshield. Keep the windshield as warm as possible by turning the defroster on to the warmest temperature setting and highest fan speed. Dirty windshield wipers should be cleaned with mineral spirits and a paper towel.  

Sources: American Red Cross, Allstate Insurance, foxnews.com, www.620wtmj.com, www.carcare.org, www.popularmechanics.com, howstuffworks.com


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