Baby, it’s cold outside. (And not in that kinda creepy way.) No, it’s cold outside in a typical weather sort of way, or an atypical weather sort of way, as we found last week. And whether you’re a Southerner dealing with snow for one of the few times in your life, or a Northerner who could stand to be a little less reckless, there are some elementary safety tips you should know when the white stuff hits.
Melt It The Right Way
Some people know to buy bags of road salt and salt their sidewalks before impending storm. This changes the melting point of water, and melts the white powder as it hits. It won’t melt it all, of course, except in a light fall, but it’ll melt a bunch of it, and that’ll make it easier to shovel later on (more on that in a bit). And in the absence of road salt, no: do not pour kosher salt on your driveway. It will not be effective or cost-efficient. Instead, wait until the snow falls, then scatter kitty litter or sand. This will provide traction over the powdery, slippery stuff.
Take Shoveling Precautions
Have a shovel? Good. You likely live north of the Mason-Dixon line, or possibly in the Washington D.C. Metro area. Some areas in the snow belt give out fines for not shoveling — in D.C., for example, according to DC.gov, the law requires “residential and commercial property owners to remove snow/ice from the sidewalks around their property within the first eight hours of daylight after a storm ends. If the sidewalks are not cleared within 24 hours after the end of a storm, commercial property owners may receive a $150 fine, and residential property owners may receive a $25 fine.” So get a’shovelin’.
But first, dress warmly — in layers you can remove as you get hot from the exertion, which will help you avoid frostbite (but don’t take the gloves off. Fingers are especially prone to frostbite). Then stretch. This will help you warm up for the task ahead. Try to push the snow, not lift it, and if you have to lift it, lift from your knees, not your back, and don’t fill your shovel all the way. If you have had any heart disease, by the way, get your butt back inside and call for an exemption to the law, or pay a neighborhood kid to shovel your sidewalk for you. Or just get a snowblower.
This is not the time to show off your new Manolo Blahniks. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 42,480 snow, ice, and sleet-related fall injuries that required at least one day away from work to recuperate. And those were just the falls involving work! The Snow and Ice Management Association recommends that, to avoid a nasty fall, you need to wear shoes that completely touch the ground, preferably with a heavy tread. The organization recommends walking consciously — “Instead of looking down, look up and see where your feet will move next to anticipate ice or an uneven surface.” They say to anticipate ice, especially black ice (which can look like wet pavement). Walk slowly. Plant your feet. Hold any available handrails firmly.
Beware Of What’s Above
Not the falling snowflakes — keep watch for the avalanches sliding off peaked roofs as the snow begins to melt. Also watch out for falling ice and icicles, which look pretty, but can be dangerous if they hit you right.
Take Care Of Your Car
Yeah, it’s a pain. But you have to clean all the snow off your car. That means you can’t just get away with the windshields and the driver’s side windows (um, guilty of that one a time or two). You need full visibility — that means ice-scraping all the windows and mirrors. In some states, according to Know the Laws of Your State: Snow Removal Laws, you can be pulled over and fined if it even looks as if you might not have full visibility.
But there’s another hazard you need to take care of: the snow accumulated on your roof, hood, and trunk. Get rid of it. It can fly off and cause a serious traffic accident. In fact, it’s illegal to drive with in some states, including New Jersey. Use a non-abrasive brush to avoid scratching your paint, and under no circumstances should you use the shovel (apparently, this has happened).
[If you do have to drive somewhere, be sure to check out our Security Tips For Parking Lots And Parking Garages.]
Snow and ice can be dangerous. But with some common sense precautions, you should be fine in the winter weather. Make sure to keep warm, drive safely (if you need to drive), and don’t hurt yourself shoveling (like 11,500 do annually, according to a paper published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine).