Tuesday 20 August 2019

Winter ready: how to stay safe when temperatures plummet

Top tips for keeping yourself, your pets, your home and car safe during cold spells of weather

Maila Blaquier, from Argentina attemps to keep warm in a cold St Stephens Green. Picture; Damien Eagers
Maila Blaquier, from Argentina attemps to keep warm in a cold St Stephens Green. Picture; Damien Eagers
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

AFTER the 'Beast from the East' in 2018, the return of the dreaded weather warning for snow and ice is enough to send many into a panic.

With a generally mild climate and moderate amounts of sunshine, snow storms and sub-zero temperatures are something that many people aren't equipped for until it happens.

We've compiled some expert tips on how to keep safe and healthy when winter arrives.

Motorists

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is asking drivers to take the time now to ensure their vehicle is roadworthy and ready for wintry conditions.

Experts from the RSA and Insurancemycars.ie have issued the following advice to drivers;

  • Ensure tyres are roadworthy, inflated to the correct pressure and the thread depth is above the legal minimum of 1.6mm.
  • Vehicle lights are clean and working properly.
  • Windscreen wipers are not worn and there is de-icer in their windshield washing fluid and it is advisable to have an ice scraper handy
  • Be familiar with any safety assist features on their vehicle e.g. ABS, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Traction Control which help in the event of a skid.
  • Carry a number of essentials in the boot of the car including a high visibility vest, appropriate footwear in case you need to leave your vehicle e.g. boots and a hazard warning triangle.
  • Do not put freezing water or boiling water on your windscreen when trying to de-ice your car
  • Rather than running down your driveway with the kettle in the freezing cold, a top-tip is to put some hot water in a zip lock bag, tie it up and use it as a make shift ‘hot water cloth’ to rub along your windscreen, windows and side mirrors.
  • Always check road conditions before embarking on any journey – even one that might be short in distance
  • In snow and icy conditions slow down, use all controls delicately and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Avoid over steering and harsh braking and harsh acceleration. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends
  • Use dipped headlights at all times, and fog lights in heavy snow to ensure you are seen by other motorists (but don’t forget to turn them off afterwards).

Pedestrians/cyclists

Pedestrians are advised to;

  • Be seen. Wear bright clothing but ideally wear a high visibility jacket, reflective armband or reflective belt.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. Walk on the footpath, not in the street. Walk on the right hand side of the road, facing traffic if there are no footpaths.
  • DO NOT underestimate the danger of ice. Many slips and falls happen in places people regard as safe and secure, typically outside their front door, on the door step, on the path or while getting out of the car.
  • When you approach a footpath or roadway that appears to be covered with snow or ice, always use extreme caution.

Cyclists and Motorcyclists are advised;

  • Motorcyclists / Cyclists should not compromise their safety by their ‘need’ to travel in icy/snow conditions. Cancel your journey or take alternative transport.
  • Visibility is reduced in snowy conditions so cyclists should wear a Sam Browne Bandoleer belt or high visibility vest and ensure the lights on your bike are working correctly.
  • Motorcyclists should avoid wearing a dark visor in any bad light conditions.
  • Remember other road users may not ‘expect’ you and could therefore comprise your safety

Protecting your home

Managing Director of Insuremyhouse.ie, Jonathan Hehir, said that it's during cold spells of weather that having adequate insurance cover comes into play.

"There’s no doubt that there will be people throughout the country who will have to make a claim as a result of this extreme weather snap," he said.

29/1/19 Snowfall at Glencree in the Dublin mountains. Picture: Arthur Carron
29/1/19 Snowfall at Glencree in the Dublin mountains. Picture: Arthur Carron

"But how big the claim needs to be - or more importantly, how much damage is caused to their property, can sometimes be lessened by taking a few simple safety precautions."

Top tips for keeping your home safe;

  • Make sure that water pipes and water tanks in the attic are insulated with good quality lagging
  • Turn on taps regularly to make sure there’s a period flow of water through them
  • If you’re going out for an extended period of time put your heating on a timer if possible – or perhaps ask a friend or neighbour to turn the heating on for an hour
  • Know where the stopcock that turns off the water is located and make sure it works
  • If a pipe bursts, turn off the water at the stopcock, switch off central heating and any other water heating installations and open all taps to drain the system
  • Check the exterior walls of your home for holes- even small holes where cable wires or phone lines enter your home can be an entry point for freezing air. Purchase a tube of foam insulation and close them up. Then, use weather stripping to remedy any cracks around your doors
  • Keep your gutters clean- full gutters increase your chance of having ice form on your roof. Set aside some time to clean your gutters out before the freezing temperatures get here
  • If you have outdoor plumbing fixtures you should also tend to these to ensure they don’t freeze – drain outdoor taps and shut off water to these if possible, disconnect garden hoses.

Pets

2018-03-03_lif_38962307_I1.JPG
Five year old Jane Argue from Maynooth plays in the snow with her dog Daisey at St Mary's quadrangle at Maynooth University. Photo:Frank Mc Grath
 

According to the ISPCA, if the temperature outside is too cold for you to stay outdoors, the same may be true for your pets.

If you are unsure how well your pet will adapt in colder weather, speak to your veterinary practitioner for advice.

Below is some advice on how to keep your pets happy and healthy during cold weather from the ISPCA;

  • The ISPCA recommend you opt for shorter, more frequent walks especially on cold days. If your dog is comfortable wearing a jacket or jumper, have a dry one on-hand. A wet jumper will make your pet colder, so check it regularly or make sure it’s waterproof.
  • If you are walking your pet at night, always wear high-vis or bright colours so you can both be seen. Bring along a torch, because even in the dark you have to clean up after your dog.
  • When out for a walk, keep pets away from frozen lakes or ponds to prevent them from falling through the ice.
  • When you come in from a walk, check your dog's paw pads and between the toes for cracked skin, bleeding, or salt.
  • Try not to shave your dogs fur during winter. If your dog coat needs regular grooming, simply trim to minimise the amount of snow, ice or salt crystals that get caught in his or her fur.
  • When looking for de-icing products to use at home, look for pet-friendly ones. Check the ingredients—those with propylene glycol are safer than most. Anti-freeze is extremely toxic to pets if ingested, but it tastes good to them.
  • Ensure pets have access to unfrozen water, extra food, and good shelter at all times.
  • Make sure pets stay a safe distance away from open fires and heaters so they can’t burn themselves.
  • All horses, ponies and donkeys need a purpose-built shelter or cosy stable this time of year.
  • Small mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs require special attention during cold winter months, especially if they are kept outside. Outdoor hutches or shelters should be covered to ensure they are waterproof and there are no drafts.

Staying healthy

As part of a government campaign to be 'winter ready', the HSE have reminded people that everyone should be extra careful during a cold spell, especially older or more vulnerable people.

"Elderly people should not venture outdoors in severe weather if possible. The public are asked to make a special effort to keep in contact with their neighbours and relatives, particularly those living alone," a HSE spokesperson said.

Health advice on keeping well and warm;

  • Keep warm, eat well and avoid unnecessary travel
  • Call on elderly relatives and neighbours and ensure they have sufficient supplies of food and of any prescription drugs they may need
  • Ensure that older people have sufficient fuel supplies to maintain adequate heating in their homes
  • If travel services or roads are disrupted due to bad weather, you may need to change planned visits to hospital or other health centres for appointments or even a planned operation. If severe disruption occurs, some health services may have to change their operating times.
  • If your water supply is disrupted due to severe weather, you will find health advice on drinking water supplies on the website www.hse.ie
  • In icy weather, wear well-fitted shoes with non-slip soles if you have to go out but try to limit walking during the cold weather
  • Eat regular hot meals and drink plenty of fluids, this will keep you warm and will give you energy to keep active
  • If you have a fall, even a minor one, make sure you visit your doctor for a check up

Fall prevention

"Emergency Departments around the country can be busy in severe weather, dealing with sprains and fractures as a result of slips and falls on icy roads and footpaths," a HSE spokesperson said.

"Emergency Departments around the country can be busy in severe weather, dealing with sprains and fractures as a result of slips and falls on icy roads and footpaths.

"While both young and old present to Emergency Departments as a result of falls on ice, as we get older a fall can result in broken bones, a loss of confidence, loss of mobility and fear of leaving the home. Many falls can be prevented and by making small changes we can reduce the chances of falling."

  • Leave a low energy light on at night time, preferably one with a high light output
  • Use a non-slip shower or bath mat
  • Make sure wires or cords from lamps, telephones etc. do not trail where you walk
  • Arrange furniture so that you can easily move around all your rooms
  • Keep the floors clear from papers and books etc. that could cause you to trip
  • Remove rugs or use non-slip tape or backing so rugs will not slip Consider installing hand rails on both sides of the stairs

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