This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 18th October 2015
Winter will soon be upon us and for some parts of the country has already begun. Key elements to staying warm and safe revolve around the following:
Using heating equipment
— Make sure all your heating appliances (geysers, radiators, gas / electrical heaters, fire places) are serviced and tested before you use them. In case they’ve been in limited or sporadic use then too ensure they’re serviced and capable of prolonged use.
What are the top five areas to focus on safety in winter?
— Ensure proper ventilation for open flames.
— Extinguish all open flames or heating equipment using gas before sleeping or when not using the room.
— Have a safety shut off to all heating equipment (especially if it’s water based) and train others in the household on how to operate it.
— Never use equipment with patchwork or shoddy repairs. Taped wires, multiple extension cords, multiple joints in gas pipe are all hazards waiting to happen.
— Wear warm clothes in layers, especially children and elderly whenever they step outside. Most vulnerable parts of the body include hands, feet, ears, head and eyes. Protect them properly at all times.
— When inside a room don’t wear as many warm items as you would outside, turn up the heating instead. This ensures you don’t require even more items to stay warm the next time you step out.
— Watch your footing; take slow and firm steps especially on surfaces that are covered in water or frost.
— If water has been boiled for any purpose, be careful while carrying it, especially with children around.
Using a vehicle
— Service the vehicle and ensure that all equipment is functioning such as headlights, taillights, hazards, heater, defogger / defroster. Put anti-frost liquid in radiators and in wiper bottles.
— It takes more time to stop or slow down on slippery roads. Therefore, reduce speeds and brake early and be on the watch out for slippery roads
— Have something warm to wear kept inside the vehicle.
— In case of a breakdown stay inside the vehicle and to the side of the road. Standing outside exposes you to the cold as well as other vehicles that may lose control and hit you.
— Pets should be kept indoors or have protected shelters that can be insulated from the cold.
— Have plenty of food and water available for them at all times as they eat more to stay warm.
— Use plastic bowls for food and water as their tongues could stick to metal containers in low temperatures.
— Always wipe their paws when you’ve used chemicals or salt to defrost the ground that they may have used. The chemicals not only cause irritation to the paws but the pets ingest it when licking it clean.
— Be on the watch out for animals (dogs, cats) that may be taking refuge under your vehicle before starting it.
— The likelihood of finding help outside during extremely cold days and after dark diminishes; therefore, before stepping out ensure that someone knows where you are going and what the expected time frame for your return is.
— In areas that experience snow it is not uncommon to find hazards from fallen trees and electrical wires, therefore avoid standing or parking under trees heavily laden with snow.
— If you are unfam-iliar with a route seek guidance from a local before proceeding.
As with any adverse weather condition there’s always a need to be extra cautious even if one is accustomed to it. Situation year on year changes for the areas and must be respected to avoid falling prey to a hazard that could have been avoided altogether.