Red Cross offers cold weather safety tips

OKEECHOBEE — With the recent freezing temperatures, staying warm has become something of an actual task for Floridians over the past week. The American Red Cross (ARC) supported cold weather shelters and warming centers located in Palm Beach, Martin, Collier, St. Lucie, Indian River, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.

The Okeechobee shelter located at Douglas Brown Community Center, 826 N.E. 16th Avenue, was opened at 7 p.m. Thursday night and was planned to be on lock-down by 10 p.m.

The ARC shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and, supports military members and their families.

The ARC is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

The ARC suggests the following cold weather safety tips:

• Wear mittens instead of gloves; they provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.

• Make sure you’re wearing a hat that covers your ears.

• Dress in layers so you can remove a few layers if you get too warm.

• Recognize the signs of hypothermia – confusion, dizziness, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion, severe shivering, and slurred speech.

• Get out of wet clothes immediately and warm the core body temperature with a blanket.

• Drink warm fluids like hot cider or soup while avoiding caffeine or alcohol.

• Follow your doctor’s order regarding any strenuous exercise outside if you have cardiac problems or high blood pressure.

In a statement of conjunction to the ARC provided safety tips, Okeechobee County Public Safety Director/Fire Chief, Ralph Franklin recommends, “When using a fireplace, make sure that the fire screen is in place and no combustible materials are near the fireplace. Make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order.”

The ARC suggests the following fire safety tips:

• General safety: Keep flammable items at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, never smoke in bed and keep sources of fire (matches and lighters) away from children.

• Cooking: Keep flammable items like towels and clothing away from the stove.

• Portable heaters: Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and get training from the fire department on how to use it. Keep blankets, curtains, furniture and other flammable items away from heaters. Plug heaters directly into a wall socket and unplug when not in use.

• Electricity: Never overload electrical outlets and avoid running cords under carpet and furniture.

• Smoke alarms: Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including sleeping areas. Test and dust the smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries yearly. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.

• Fire escape drills: Make a fire escape plan with two exits out of every room. Practice the plan twice a year. Identify an outside meeting place to gather after escaping. Teach children that firefighters are people who can help.

• In case of a fire: Follow your escape plan. Crawl low under smoke. Feel closed doors; if the door is hot, use your second way out. Go to your outside meeting place and then call for help. Remember to get out, stay out and call 9-1-1.

Emphasizing the importance of safety practices when using portable heaters, Chief Franklin stated “make sure it is equipped to turn off if tipped over, and keep the heater away from any combustible materials.”

For more information in regards to the Okeechobee cold-weather shelter, contact the Okeechobee ARC chapter at 863-763-2488 or Okeechobee County Division of Emergency Management at 863-763-3212.

American Red Cross

For up-to-date information, people can download the all-inclusive Red Cross Emergency app which combines more than 35 emergency alerts to help keep the user safe. There is a special mobile app – Monster Guard – designed for kids, that teaches them to prepare for emergencies at home by playing an engaging game. Users can find the apps in smart-phone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to

If you wish to help people affected by disasters like wildfires/floods/tornadoes and countless other crises, you may make a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the ARC to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local ARC chapter, or to the American Red Cross at P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

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