O'Fallon Progress

These tips will help keep you safe for the rest of winter

Greg Witenosky, son of O’Fallon’s Progressive Property Network, uses a blower machine to keep snow from accumulating on the driveway and sidewalks Thursday, Jan. 6.
Greg Witenosky, son of O’Fallon’s Progressive Property Network, uses a blower machine to keep snow from accumulating on the driveway and sidewalks Thursday, Jan. 6. rkirsch@bnd.com

When temperatures drop, you need to take steps to protect not only yourself, but your pets and elderly friends and relatives, who are more at risk during extreme conditions. Here are some tips to stay safe during the rest of this winter.

Road Safety

Drifting snow, wet and icy road conditions, and freezing cold temperatures can disrupt travel and drivers should allow extra time when making travel plans, according to the Illinois State Police.

Allowing extra travel time is one way to prepare before getting behind the wheel to ensure individuals don’t struggle with rushed or hasty driving. The ISP advised motorists should reduce speeds and drive at safe distances too.

“When crashes occur during extreme weather conditions, we encourage motorists to exchange insurance and driver information to keep motorists safe and the roads clear, unless medical attention is required,” Lt. Timothy Tyler, ISP District 11 Interim Commander, stated in a press release.

Motorists can file crash reports at the nearest ISP District within 10 days.

It is a good practice to have a blanket, flashlight and first aid kit handy in vehicles in case of emergencies or if motorists experience car trouble and have to wait for roadside assistance during cold temperatures.

Other winter weather safety tips to consider when driving include:

▪ Anticipate reduced visibility and watch for black ice when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and curves.

▪ Avoid abrupt steering and braking, and avoid tailgating by keeping a safe distance between vehicles.

▪ Advise others of travel itineraries.

▪ Avoid unnecessary and sudden lane changes.

▪ Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing.

▪ Always wear a safety belt, and keep a charged cell phone handy.

Road condition information can be obtained by contacting the Illinois Department of Transportation at 1-800- 452-4368 or at gettingaroundillinois.com.

Check on elderly

When temperatures and wind chills drop, the elderly can be caught off guard, according to AgeSmart Community Resources, a Belleville-based adocacy group.

“These (below zero) frigid temperatures are especially dangerous for the very old. Sadly we have seen recent deaths related to the cold weather,” Joy Paeth, CEO, said in a press statement.

Older people are more susceptible to losing body heat at a quicker rate because their bodies have a harder time adjusting to severe temperatures.

That makes it important for those with elderly relatives, neighbors or friends to check that their homes are warm and that plenty of food, drinks, blankets and emergency supplies are on hand.

Tips for older people during the winter include:

▪ Keeping homes at 68 degrees or above.

▪ While inside, wear long underwear under clothes, as well as long sleeve shirts, socks and slippers.

▪ When outdoors, even if only for a short time, use hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and layers of loose clothing to prevent exposed skin because frostbite can happen in minutes.

▪ Check with doctors to see if any medications can cause hypothermia.

For more information call AgeSmart at 1-800-326-3221.

Protect pets

Keeping pets inside is important during this time of the year, especially when temperatures drop below 30 degrees, said Dana Strunk, owner of Cats Only Pet Resort & Spa in Shiloh.

“In the winter, cats get under car hoods to keep warm. They should be brought inside,” Strunk said.

Drivers should look under the hood and undercarriage of their vehicles to visibly check that no animals are using their vehicle as a safe haven from the cold, or the American Veterinarian Medical Association recommends honking your car horn before starting the engine.

AVMA also says to “never leave your pet(s) in your vehicle, whether it is cold or hot out.

“Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather, but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing temperatures,” the AVMA advises.

If you can’t keep your pets indoors, the AVMA recommends providing a dry, covered, warm shelter with blankets to shield pets from wind.

Diane Ehlers, manager and veterinary technician at Four Paws Animal Hospital in O’Fallon, said it’s rare to see severe weather-related cases at her clinic, but it is still more common than people realize.

Ehlers said it’s important to keep pets hydrated, “even if they are outside in a shelter,” she said. “And check water sources often, because they could freeze over and make it hard for your pet to stay hydrated.”

You can also bundle up your pet using products for pet owners that include boots for dogs with sensitive feet, and sweaters for short- or single-coated breeds.

Also, be careful when putting salt on your driveways and sidewalks.

“Using salt or ice melt are usually pet safe, but if you are unsure, it’s stated on the bag,” Ehlers said.

And don’t use heating pads with your pets. “It may burn your pet,” Ehlers said.