Brrrr! Extreme weather survival tips for your home, your car & you

Here’s a winter survival kit: we’ve compiled expert tips with advice for protecting homes, cars, and people in extreme winter weather:
Ice Dams, Burst Pipes, Broken Tree Limbs: Saving Your House From Winter – good article in The Hartford Courant.
Dealing with Ice Dams and other winter hazards – our blog post from last year.
Winter Fires – safety tips for the home – PDF from FEMA and the US Fire Administration.
Precautions for Extreme Cold Weather – from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Winter Hazard Awareness – the Minnesota Department of Public Safety offers tips for safety outdoors, indoors, and in your car.
Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety – from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including winter checklists and info on indoor and outdoor safety.
Working in the Cold – from the Canadian Center for Occupational Health & Wellness.
Winter driving tips from Car Talk .
Safe Driving and Good Car Maintenance Take Center Stage In Winter – from the Insurance Information Institute.
Icy Road Safety – tips, news, statistics, and links to current road conditions by state.
Driving Tips on Snowy & Icy Roads from How Stuff Works.

Snow shoveling and snow removal safety

Heavy snowfalls aren’t particularly unusual here in New England, we pride ourselves on our ability to deal with the white stuff. But hospital emergency room staffers would be the first to tell you: a seemingly simple task like snow shoveling can cause a lot of grief – every year, they see thousands of people with snow-removal related injuries ranging from back strain and hypothermia to heart attacks and amputations.
Snow shoveling can be a fairly strenuous activity and you should approach it the same way you would any vigorous activity. Take health factors into consideration and check with your doctor if you have any question about the suitability of this type of activity. If you have heart disease or have experienced a heart attack, or if you have elevated blood pressure or cholesterol levels, you should get someone else to do your shoveling. Other populations that should exert extreme caution before picking up a shovel: smokers, the elderly, and out of shape, sedentary types.
Here are some basic shoveling safety tips:

  • Dress for the task. Wear multiple light layers of water-repellent clothing. Cover your extremities. Wear a hat, warm socks and gloves.
  • Pick the right tool. Make sure you don’t use a shovel that is too big for you. Generally, smaller, lighter shovels are better than big ones. Many ergonomists recommend a curved rather than a straight handle. Space your hands apart when gripping the handle to maximize your leverage.
  • Before shoveling, start by warming up. Walk or perform stretching exercises for 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Pace yourself. Start slowly, don’t rush. Maintain a moderate, steady pace. Take occasional breaks.
  • Make your legs do the work. Keep your feet apart for balance and keep your shovel close to your body. Bend with your knees and lift with your legs, not with your back. Avoid lifting if pushing will do.
  • Avoid twisting your torso. It’s better to take a few steps to dump your load of snow than to twist and throw. Keep your feet pointed in direction you are lifting and throwing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated, but avoid caffeine and other stimulants that may increase your heart rate.
  • Stop immediately if you feel any sign of dizziness, shortness of breath, pain, sweating, or nausea. If you experience pain, particularly in your chest or arm, get it checked out asap – better to be safe than sorry.

Snow blowers are also a source of many winter trips to the emergency room – usually for injuries to the hands or fingers, including amputations. If you have a snow-blower, take a minute to review these snow-blower safety tips from Consumer Reports.

Healthcare Reform – changes in 2011

Many healthcare reform provisions are scheduled to kick in sometime in 2011 – some went into effect on January 1. Here are a few resources that outline changes scheduled to take effect in 2011 and what the changes mean to you and your family.