Here are suggestions for staying safe in severe winter weather in your car and at home:
Motorist, vehicle safety
— Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35 percent less starting power than in summer. At minus 20, battery power drops 50 percent. If your battery is more than three years old, have a load test performed at most auto supply stores.
— Park your car in the garage. If you have no garage, put a tarp over the hood or park protected from prevailing winds. To keep doors from freezing shut, place a plastic trash bag between the door or window glass and the frame.
— Keep the fuel tank at least half-full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up.
— To avoid frozen door locks, buy a lubricant available in most auto supply stores. If your lock freezes, heat your key with a pocket lighter but remember to wear gloves or hold the key with pliers. Or, fill a plastic jug with hot water. Hold it against the door panel or lock area.
— Do not throw hot water on the car. It, too, will freeze and you run the risk of cracking glass.
— If you become snowbound, stay with your vehicle. It provides excellent shelter from the cold and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. If you can start your engine, run it only enough to keep warm. Make sure the exhaust pipe is snow-free. Keep emergency supplies in the car, such as a cell phone, boots, hats, gloves, blankets, a "coffee can heater," flashlight and reflective triangle.
Home safety, comfort tips
During cold weather, residents need to take actions to prevent problems:
— Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
— Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
— When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing because the temperature of the water running through it is above freezing.
— Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
— If going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees.
To thaw frozen pipes
— If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Locate the suspected frozen area of the water pipe. Likely places include pipes running against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
— Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
— Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.
Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open-flame device. A blowtorch can make water in a frozen pipe boil and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in homes present a serious fire danger, as well as a severe risk of exposure to lethal carbon monoxide.
— Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
— Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
– Sources: American Automobile Association, American Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency