American Red Cross warns of dangers of extreme cold, offers safety tips as below zero temperatures hit St. Lawrence County
Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 2:30 pm

Winter storm warnings and dangerously cold wind chills in the North Country have prompted the Red Cross Central New York Region to offer some winter safety tips.

They give advice on keeping warm, staying safe, and on giving blood when blood stocks are traditionally low.

• Wear layers of lightweight clothing. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

• Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

• Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.

• Don’t forget your pets. Bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have shelter to keep them warm enough and that they can get to unfrozen water.

• Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.

• Avoid frozen pipes. Run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.

• After a storm, be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

Heating systems are running at full force and many people are resorting to other sources to keep their homes warm. To avoid fire danger, you should remember the following:

• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

• If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable, such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs, at least three feet away. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.

• If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

• Use generators correctly. Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.

• With a generator, the safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, rather than trying to hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can lead to disaster.

This storm is already affecting millions of people nationwide and could result in the cancellation of Red Cross blood drives in those areas impacted by the weather. Despite the storm, hospital patients across the country will still need blood. Please consider making an appointment to donate blood or platelets.

• Appointments can be made online at or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

• To give blood, someone must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds to give with parental consent.