Cold weather safety tips as frigid air moves into our area

Winter Weather

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An arctic front has moved into Southern New England bringing the coldest temperatures to our area since January 2019.

The Pinpoint Weather Team is tracking frigid air all day on Tuesday, with the wind chill as low as 0 to -10 in the morning.

This type of weather brings an increased risk of your pipes freezing, and also the risk of fire from alternative heating sources like portable space heaters. It also poses the risk for hypothermia and frostbite.

When it gets really cold, many stay inside and experts are encouraging people to take important steps to keep their homes warm, and safe.

Experts say there are a few ways you can prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting.

Eric Peloquin, installation manager at Gem Plumbing and Heating, says to make sure your heat stays on overnight, and suggests heating your home to at least 70 degrees.

He adds that if you have an area of the house that has frozen before, it’s a good idea to let the faucets drip — even a small amount of water can help prevent your pipelines from freezing.

“Spending a couple of dollars to heat your house at night during an extreme weather event can save you thousands of dollars in the long run,” Peloquin reminds. “A frozen pipe, say on the third floor, could actually cause damage to every floor in the house.”

If your pipes do freeze, you can apply heat to them from something like a hairdryer or towels soaked in hot water to the affected area. Never use an open flame like a blow torch or kerosene heater. Be sure to call a licensed professional if you can’t locate or fix the problem yourself.

The American Red Cross has compiled a list of ways to prevent and thaw frozen pipes.

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People also like to turn on things like space heaters to try and increase the warmth at home, but those always come with a risk of danger if not used properly.

Sometimes when you get a space heater it’s a faulty or old one, so the device itself is to blame for a malfunction that ignites a fire, but most often, R.I. State Fire Marshal Timothy McLaughlin says it’s operator error when a space heater causes a problem.

“People buy them and we totally understand that, but people who use them, most people use them wrong,” McLaughlin said.

A space heater may seem simple to use, but McLaughlin says if it’s not used within the manufacturer’s specifications it can pose a risk: overloading the electrical system and causing an electrical fire, or putting items that can easily catch on fire near the running space heater.

“Plug it into a wall, not an extension cord, don’t put it near anything that’s combustible don’t put it on your bed, near curtains, put it out not even on a carpet,” McLaughlin explained.

If you do have to be outside in these temperatures, it’s important to watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness. It’s also important to watch for signs of frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, and waxy-feeling skin.

It’s also important to keep pets inside and to check on your elderly neighbors as well.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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