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With its cold and often stormy weather, winter presents many safety challengesboth indoors and out. Being prepared and following simple safety tips can help you stay safe and warm this season.
Keeping Your Home Safe And Warm
Follow these safety tips from CDC, the National Fire Protection Association, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent injuries and deaths related to heating your home.
Surviving A Winter StormTo survive a snow or ice storm, follow these safety tips from Extreme Cold: A prevention guide to promote your personal health and safety, a publication of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health (see "Safety Resources" for more information about this booklet).
Clearing Snow And IceClearing snow and ice from driveways and sidewalks is hard work. To prevent injuries, follow these safety tips from the National Safety Council, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and other prevention organizations.
Driving Safely In Winter WeatherSnow, ice, and extreme cold can make driving treacherous. These safety tips from CDC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Safety Council can help make winter car travel safer.
Walking In A Winter WonderlandWalking in icy, snowy weather can be dangerous, but these tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can help make your trek safer.
The Problem: Who Is Affected?
Many injuries occur each winter as people try to keep their homes warm and get around in cold, stormy weather. Home Fires December, January, and February are the leading months for home fires and associated deaths in the United States. About one-third of the 3,250 home-fire deaths in 1998 occurred during these three months. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home-fire deaths in the U.S. and the leading cause during December and January. Hypothermia Each year, more than 700 people die of hypothermia (low body temperature) caused by extended exposure to cold temperatures both indoors and out. About half of these deaths are among persons age 65 and older; men in this age group are more likely than women to die from hypothermia. Risk factors for hypothermia include older age; alcohol abuse; homelessness; poverty; mental illness; chronic diseases such as hypothyroidism; dehydration and malnutrition; and prolonged exposure to materials that promote heat loss (e.g., water, metal).
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Each year, more than 200 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning. (CO is produced by fuel-burning motor vehicles, appliances, and heating systems.) In addition, several thousand individuals are treated in emergency departments for CO poisoning. The risk of CO poisoning increases during the winter, as more people run furnaces and space heaters and use fireplaces. Deaths from CO poisoning also occur when people sit in an idling vehicle with the doors and windows closed. One CDC study found that motor-vehicle-related CO poisoning exposures increase during winter months and that death rates from CO poisoning in stationary motor vehicles are highest in states with colder average winter temperatures. During just two days in January 1996, 22 people in New York City died from CO poisoning because their exhaust pipes were packed with snow, and CO backed up into the vehicle.
Driving-Related Injuries and Deaths
In 1998, 131,000 motor vehicle crashes occurred during sleet and snowy conditions. Of these crashes, 30,000 resulted in injuries; more than 600 resulted in deaths. Snow Blower Injuries
Snow blowers (or snow throwers) are the fourth leading cause of finger amputations associated with consumer products. These machines cause more than 5,300 emergency department visits and 1,000 amputations each year. Nine deaths related to snow blowers have been reported since 1992.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) View AAOS's fact sheet on snow-shoveling safety at http://www.aaos.org/wordhtml/press/snowshov.htm or call 800-346-2267.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)CDC's National Center for Environmental Health offers Extreme Cold: A prevention guide to promote your personal health and safety, which provides important tips for preparing your home and car for winter, surviving winter storms, and preventing and treating hypothermia and frostbite. On the web at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/programs/emergenc/prevent/cold/cold.htm Or call the NCEH Health Line, 888-232-6789.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) On CPSC's web site, www.cpsc.gov, you can search for information about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning and using space heaters safely. CPSC's phone number is 800-638-2772. For TTY, call 800-638-8270.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NFPA has seasonal fire prevention tips for consumers and families. Visit their web site at http://www.nfpa.org/education or call 617-984-7275.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) NHTSA offers winter driving and walking safety tips. On the web, visit http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/hot/winter/winter2.html
National Safety Council (NSC) NSC has fact sheets on preparing your car for winter, surviving cold weather, and shoveling snow safely. Visit http://www.nsc.org/lrs/lib/facts.htm or call 800-621-7619.
The data and safety tips in this fact sheet were obtained from the following sources:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Power Snow Thrower/Blower Safety. Available at www.aaos.org. Accessed December 10, 1999.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Snow Shovelers Can Prevent Back Pain (news release). Available at http://www.aaos.org. Accessed December 10, 1999.
CDC. Carbon monoxide poisonings associated with snow-obstructed vehicle exhaust systems. Philadelphia and New York City, 1996. MMWR 45(01);1-3.
CDC. Extreme Cold: A prevention guide to promote your personal health and safety. Atlanta: CDC; 1996.
CDC. Hypothermia-related deaths--New Mexico, October 1993-March 1994. MMWR 44(50);933-5.
National Fire Protection Association. Safer Home and Hearth--Home Heating and Holiday Safety Advice. Accessed December 10, 1999.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 1998. Washington, DC: NHTSA, October 1999.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Safe Walking in a Winter Wonderland. Available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/Winter/winter.htm Accessed December 10, 1999.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Winter Driving. Available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/hot/winter/winter2.html. Accessed December 10, 1999.
National Safety Council. The Scoop About Show Shoveling. Available at http://www.nsc.org/lrs/lib/fs/health/snowshov.htm Accessed December 10, 1999.
National Safety Council. Winter, Your Car, and You. Be Prepared! Available at http://www.nsc.org/lrs/lib/fs/driving/winter.htm. Accessed December 10, 1999.
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. One Million Snow Throwers Equals One Million-Plus Reasons To Think Safety. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nasd/docs5/ou98010.html. Accessed December 10, 1999.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: President urges Americans to be alert to a senseless killer (news release). September 23, 1993.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet. CPSC Document #4466. Available at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/466.html.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC and NKHA Stress Kerosene Heater Safety. CPSC Document #5052. Available at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5052.html.Back to the Top