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Holiday Safety: Winter Tips

Holiday Safety Winter Safety Week

Do you know what to do in the event of a downed power line? What are the signs of Hypothermia? Is your fireplace ready for the winter? What should you do if you get caught in a winter storm in your car?

Check out our helpful reminders, and make sure you and your family are ready for this years winter dangers.

With the colder months of the year now upon us, Main-Transit Fire Department has a few safety tips for you and your family to keep in mind. Fire prevention and safety is our mission, make it yours as well!

Children and adults are attracted to either ice in a pond or out on Lake Michigan during the winter months. It is fun to walk on, run and slide across and to go snowmobiling on. Unfortunately, the risks are underestimated. If you see someone who has fallen through the ice, DO NOT WALK out to them, you may become another victim. Instead try to reach them with a tree branch, rope, a shovel, anything that you can place between you and the victim and have them grab onto it and then as quickly as you can get help!

Another common winter hazard is power lines being downed due to ice storms or high winds. Wires should always be considered LIVE AND DANGEROUS and must be avoided. Please notify the Fire Department and Commonwealth Edison immediately, and it will be handled from there.

Winter not only brings snow, but also cold weather. Remember to dress appropriately, bundle up, but don’t overdue it. If you are going to be indoors, open up your coat to avoid overheating yourself. Hypothermia or low body temperature can be very serious. Warning signs include uncontrolled shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech, and apparent exhaustion. If you can, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees F, immediately seek medical attention. Do not try to warm the person up too fast. Remove wet clothing, and wrap warm blankets between legs and under arms to start. Do not try to give any type of alcohol, coffee, or drugs. Cold weather can present a lot of problems. With a little planning, preparedness, and some common sense, we can all avoid many of these problems and try to enjoy the winter cold season.

If you have to shovel your walks, try not to over do it. If you feel yourself getting tired and weak, it’s time to go inside and take a break. The snow will still be there when you get back!

During the winter months, your car may decide to become stubborn and break down. In which case, it is always wise to have the following items in your car. A car phone, flashlight, first-aid supplies, extra clothes/blanket, cat litter or sand in case your car gets stuck, and jumper cables.


It is also a nice gesture to check on the elderly person living next door during the winter and summer months. Just to make sure they have everything and they are not in any kind of difficulty. Just knowing someone is out there -Helps.


Be sure all decorative lights, indoor and outdoor bear the label of an independent testing laboratory. Replace any light sets that have cracked or frayed cords or have loose connections. Do not overload outlets or run extension cords under carpets, across doorways, on or under heaters, or behind furniture. Unplug all decorative lights before leaving home or going to bed.


Keep fire where it belongs - in the fireplace! Make sure you have a screen large enough to catch flying sparks and rolling logs. Clean your chimney regularly - creosote build-up can ignite your chimney, roof and the whole house! Have your chimney inspected annually for damage and obstructions. Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container. Cardboard boxes and paper bags can quickly catch fire. Only burn materials appropriate for a fireplace, never burn trash or paper, burning paper can float up a chimney and onto your roof or into your yard.


Furnaces should have regular maintenance to operate properly. Annual cleaning, inspection are recommended. As mentioned before, have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Don’t use the oven for heating!


Space heaters need their space! Keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. When buying a heater, look for a thermostat control mechanism and a switch that automatically shuts off the power if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables! Don’t dry or store objects on top of your heater.

Safety is a top consideration when using space heaters. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, causing more than 300 deaths. An estimated 6,000 persons receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.

When buying and installing a small space heater, follow these guidelines:


  • Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. Make sure the heater has the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) label attached to it.
  • Choose a thermostatically controlled heater, since they avoid the energy waste of overheating a room.
  • Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
  • Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.
  • When buying and installing an electric space heater, you should follow these general safety guidelines:
  • Electric heaters should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. If an extension cord is necessary, use a heavy-duty cord of 14-guage wire or larger.
  • For portable electric heaters, buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over.

Always put candles in non-tip candleholders before you light them, and do not burn candles near decorations or displays. Keep candles well away from curtains, and never put candles in windows or near exits. Never leave a room with a candle burning or within reach of small children.

"WINTER STORMS… The Deceptive Killers"
Every year winter storms and below zero temperatures give rise to weather-related emergencies. Winter storms are considered deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Everyone is potentially at risk, however the actual threat to you depends on your specific situation. Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia. The cold weather can present serious problems. A little careful planning, preparedness and common sense can help prevent may of these problems and make your winter a lot safer.

Sometimes winter storms are accompanied by strong winds creating blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow, severe drifting, and dangerous wind chill. Strong winds and ice storms can knock down trees, utility poles, and power lines. Communications and power can be disrupted for days while utility companies work to repair the extensive damage. Even small accumulations of ice may cause extreme hazards to motorists and pedestrians.

Heavy snow can immobilize a region and paralyze a city, stranding commuters, stopping the flow of supplies, and disrupting emergency and medical services. Accumulations of snow can collapse buildings and knock down trees and power lines. The cost of snow removal, repairing damages and loss of business can have large economic impacts on cities and towns.

Rain drops that freeze into ice pellets before reaching the ground constitute sleet. Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stock to objects. However, it can accumulate like snow and cause a hazard to motorists. Rain that falls onto a surface with a temperature below freezing causes it to freeze to surfaces, such as tires, cars and roads, forming a coating or glaze of ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause a significant hazard.


Extreme cold often accompanies a winter storm or is left in its wake. Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia and become life-threatening. Infants and elderly people are most susceptible. Pipes may freeze and burst in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat. If your pipes freeze this winter, DO NOT use a propane torch to thaw them out! You could set your home on fire by accident! Thaw them out slowly, a hand held hair dryer works best.


Wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by combined effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Be aware that animals are also affected by wind chill.


Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of your nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. If the person is showing sings of hypothermia, however, warm the body core before the extremities.


Warning signs - uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion.

Detection - Take the person’s temperature. If below 95 degrees, immediately seek medical care (Call 911).

If medical care is not available, begin warming the person slowly. Warm the body core first. If needed use your own body heat to help. Get the person into dry clothing, and wrap them in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee, or any HOT beverage or food; warm broth is better. Do not warm extremities (arms and legs) first! This drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.



  • Stay in your car or truck
  • Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold
  • Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat
  • Open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked
  • Make yourself visible to rescuers
  • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine
  • Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door
  • Raise the hood indicating trouble after snow stops falling
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm


Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm!
Have your vehicle fully checked and winterized before the winter season begins


  • Blankets/sleeping bags
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Knife
  • high-calorie non perishable food
  • Extra clothing to keep dry
  • Bag of sand or kitty litter
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Compass and road maps
  • Booster cables
  • If you own a car phone, remember your can use it to call for help!

Wear loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air insulates. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded. Wear a hat. Half your body heat loss can be from the head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves. Try to stay dry.


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