GROTON, Conn. - New England winters vary from year to year, one year can be mild with very little snow and the next could see many feet of snow. It is always crucial to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Besides making sure you have a snow shovel and some sand or ice melt for those slippery spots, there are other things to consider. The rest of this article includes information and tips on how to stay safe this winter.

What should you keep in your vehicle?

A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench, and tripod jack

Jumper cables

Tool kit and a multipurpose utility tool

Flashlight and extra batteries

Reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth to make your vehicle more visible

First-aid kit with gauze, tape, bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, non-latex gloves, scissors, hydrocortisone, thermometer, tweezers, and instant cold compress

Nonperishable, high-energy foods, such as unsalted nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy

Reflective vest in case you need to walk to get help

Drinking water

Compass

Car charger for your cell phone

Fire extinguisher

Duct tape

Rain poncho

Additional items for cold weather include a snow brush, shovel, windshield washer fluid, warm clothing, cat litter for traction and blankets

Every vehicle should have an emergency supply kit located in the trunk. Kits should be checked every six months, and expired items should be replaced to keep it up to date. It’s also a good idea to keep family and emergency phone numbers, including your auto insurance provider and a towing company, in your phone.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Winter can be a prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn on their heating systems and warm their cars in garages. So as the weather turns colder, it's important to take extra precautions. Open the garage door prior to starting your vehicle in the garage.

Use caution when operating space heaters, wood stoves and gas logs. Ensure the space is well ventilated and clear.

TIP: Install a battery-operated or battery backup carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near each separate sleeping area in your home. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall and replace the detector every five years.

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Every year, over 400 people die in the U.S., and 50,000are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

If alarm sounds move to fresh air and call 9-1-1.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often described as “flu-like”-headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

Some additional tips include:

• Have your furnace, water heater and any other gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year

• Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors

• Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year, and make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and well after the fire is extinguished

• Never use a gas oven for heating your home

• Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent; fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in just minutes, even if doors and windows are open

• Never run a car in a garage that is attached to a house, even with the garage door open; always open the door to a detached garage to let in fresh air when you run a car inside

For more information visit the National Safety Council Carbon Monoxide Fact page https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/other-poisons/carbon-monoxide

Snow removal

Nationwide, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year.

It can put some people at risk of a heart attack. Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a significant strain on the heart.

Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. This condition is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.

• Push the show rather than lifting it. If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel

• Lift with your legs, not your back

• Do not work to the point of exhaustion

• Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 9-1-1 if you're experiencing any of them; every minute counts

• Do not shovel after eating or while smoking

• Take it slow and stretch out before you begin

And let’s not forget about snow blowers tips!

In addition to possible heart strain from pushing a heavy snow blower, be safe with tips from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, including:

• If the blower jams, turn it off

• Keep your hands away from the moving parts

• Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space

• Add fuel outdoors, before starting, and never add fuel when it is running

• Never leave it unattended when it is running

Brrrrrr… Watch for Frostbite!

Even skin that is protected can be subject to frostbite. It's the most common injury resulting from exposure to severe cold, and it usually occurs on fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chin.

If caught early, it is possible to prevent permanent damage. If not, frostbite can cause tissue death and lead to amputation.

Superficial frostbite affects the skin surface, while the underlying tissue remains soft. The skin appears white, waxy, or grayish-yellow and is cold and numb.

If the condition progresses to deep frostbite, all layers of the skin are affected and the outcome likely will be more serious. The skin will become completely numb and blisters may form, and eventually, the skin tissue dies and turns black.

If you suspect frostbite:

• Move the victim out of the cold and into a warm place

• Remove wet clothing and constricting items

• Protect between fingers and toes with dry gauze

• Seek medical attention as soon as possible

• Warm the frostbitten area in lukewarm water (99 to 104 degrees) for 20 to 30 minutes only if medical care will be delayed and if there is no danger of the skin refreezing

• Do not use chemical warmers directly on frostbitten tissue

• Protect and elevate the frostbitten area

Brrrrr…Hypothermia Too!

Hypothermiaoccurs when the body's core temperature drops below 95 degrees. Hypothermia is most associated with exposure to extreme cold, but it can also occur at higher temperatures if a person becomes chilled from being soaked with rain or submerged in water.

Severe shivering, one of the first signs of hypothermia, is beneficial in keeping the body warm. But as hypothermia progresses, shivering gives way to drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, shallow breathing, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and eventually, unconsciousness and death.

If you encounter someone suffering from hypothermia:

• Check responsiveness and breathing, and call 911; except in mild cases, the victim needs immediate medical care

• Provide CPR if unresponsive and not breathing normally

• Quickly move the victim out of the cold

• Remove wet clothing.

• Warm the victim with blankets or warm clothing

• Only if the victim is far from medical care, use active rewarming by putting the victim near a heat source and putting warm (but not hot) water in containers against the skin

• Do not rub or massage the victim’s skin

• Be very gentle when handling the victim

• Give warm (not hot) drinks to an alert victim who can easily swallow, but do not give alcohol or caffeine

These steps are not a substitute for proper medical care. Be sure to seek medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia as soon as possible.

Connecticut Media Group