Whether it’s an incoming polar vortex or just an extended cold snap, extreme cold temperatures can chill you to the bone. And as the thermometer outside continues to drop, it’s not just important to stay warm – you need to stay safe, too. Having the right homeowners insurance and auto insurance can give you peace of mind. But so can knowing what to do when below-zero temperatures hit. So follow these tips to ensure you and your family stay safe during the harsh winter weather.
Polar Vortex and Extreme Cold Safety Tips
- Only travel if you have to. In extreme cold, you shouldn’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary. Staying inside will reduce your chance of getting frostbite or risking uncertain road conditions. If you do need to leave the house, be sure to brush up on best practices for winter driving safety. If you drive, make sure you have a flashlight with fresh batteries and a full tank of gas. Carry extra blankets, clothes and a well-stocked car emergency kit with food and water in case you get stuck or stranded. Taking public transportation? Keep moving around to stay warm at the stop while you wait.
- Dress warmly. If you have to leave the house, wear several layers of loose-fitting clothes. The air trapped between each sweater or coat can retain your body heat and help keep you warm. It also helps to wear clothing that’s made of wool, which can hold in more heat than an item made from cotton. A synthetic fabric like polypropylene can also wick moisture away and hold heat.
- Protect your extremities. Keep your earlobes, fingers, toes and the tip of your nose covered when you go outside. These areas have the highest risk for frostbite if they aren’t properly protected. To keep your fingers warmer, opt for mittens instead of gloves.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. There may be a lot of snow to move outside, but only shovel if you have to. That’s because vigorous exercise in cold weather can put extra strain on your heart. Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice on working outdoors, especially if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. Read more tips for how to safely shovel snow.
- Take it easy on ice. If you venture outside, watch out for ice – which can cause you (or others) to slip and fall. Rock salt loses its effectiveness below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so use ice melt on surfaces like sidewalks, stairs and driveways. You can also spread sand on your walkways to provide a little more traction. If you’re on the move, go slow and take short steps or shuffle for stability. You can also try a slip-on winter traction device over your shoes.
- Know the signs of frozen pipes (and how to stop them). Your pipes are more susceptible to freezing and bursting in extreme cold. This can cause messy (and expensive) water damage to your home. To reduce the chance of damage, let cold water drip from your faucets and open the cabinets below your sinks. Add some extra protection by covering your pipes with insulation. Get more tips in this related story on preventing frozen pipes.
- Watch over babies, pets and the elderly. Babies have a harder time maintaining their body temperature than adults, so it’s best to keep them bundled up and away from extreme cold. It’s more difficult for the elderly to regulate their temperature, too. So check in with your older neighbors and family members to make sure they’re staying warm. And don’t forget about protecting your pets in these frigid temperatures.