Monthly Archives: January 2014

Staying safe on the go: winter travel tips

Here in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton just announced that all of Minnesota’s public schools would be closed Monday, Jan. 6. Why? The coldest temperatures in a decade are forecast to descend on much of Minnesota. Lows are expected to reach minus 30 degrees with wind chills predicted as low as minus 50 degrees in some parts of the state.

If you and your family have to venture out into the cold over the next few days, here are some great tips, compiled by Children’s Injury Prevention team.

Before You Go:

Pack a winter survival kit.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommends keeping the following items in your car at all times during the winter months:

  • Metal coffee can, candles, and matches to melt snow for drinking water
  • Brightly-colored bandana or fabric and/or a whistle to alert others of your location
  • Pencil/Paper – or even some crayons and games to keep kids occupied
  • First Aid Kit
  • A battery-powered or crank-powered light; replace batteries yearly
  • Large plastic bags and safety pins to keep your feet dry and insulated
  • Snacks such as energy bars or other non-perishable foods

When possible, drivers should also make room in their vehicles for a shovel, extra warm clothes, jumper cables, tow chains, blanket or sleeping bag, and a container of sand, salt, or cat litter for traction.

Dial 511, visit www.511mn.org, or download MN DOT’s 511 app to your smart phone to check road conditions before you go, and always call ahead to your destination so someone knows when to expect you.

If you do get stranded, don’t panic. Stay with your car and don’t keep it running if your exhaust pipe isn’t totally clear of snow.  If you do keep the car running, open a window slightly to reduce your family’s risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lastly, COMPLETELY clean off all of your windows of snow and ice before you drive.

On the Road:

Keeping your family safe while on the road in icy and wet conditions takes a little extra planning. The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends the following tips when you’re behind the wheel:

  • Turn on your headlights and ALWAYS wear your seat belt
  • Turn off your cruise control – if you hit a patch of ice, your cruise control will cause your wheels to spin faster, putting you in higher danger of losing control of your vehicle
  • Stay at least 5 car lengths back, and be aware of snow plows as they turn frequently, sometimes with little or no warning
  • Be comfortable with your vehicle’s braking system; never pump anti-lock brakes; instead, apply firm pressure and steer in the direction you want to go
  • Using a lower gear can help slow your car down
  • Make turns as square as possible; reducing the length of the arc on turns can prevent your car from sliding around corners

At your Destination:

As you and your family get out of the car, be aware of traffic passing nearby and be aware of the conditions under your feet. Assume there’s ice underneath the snow and take precautions so you don’t fall.

  • Point your feet out slightly like a penguin to increase your center of gravity
  • Bend your legs and walk flat-footed
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets; your arms can be used to help keep your balance
  • If you do fall, try landing on your side or bottom and don’t brace your fall with your knees, wrists, or neck; relax your muscles as you fall to reduce injury

And if you’re planning on going on frozen water, please stay safe and understand the conditions of the ice.  The DNR has great tips on what to consider if you’re headed out on the lakes.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Check out these links on other winter driving and safety tips:

MN Department of Transportation

Minnesota Safety Council

MN Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Have an active winter: Stay safe with these tips

Minnesota winters bring with them plenty of opportunity for fun in the snow and on the ice, especially when kids are home from school during winter break.

Follow these tips to help keep you and your family safe during the cold winter months.

Before venturing outside, be aware of conditions that may cause frostbite (freezing of skin exposed to cold temperatures) and hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature).

Wear the right clothes
Wind, moisture and contact with cold surfaces can all contribute to body heat loss, so dressing appropriately is important to avoid frostbite or hypothermia.

  • Waterproof coat, snow pants and boots will help keep moisture out and warmth in.
  • Cover exposed skin as much as possible with gloves, a scarf and long socks, and be sure to wear a hat that covers your ears.
  • Dress in layers and avoid materials like cotton that soak up moisture.

Be sure an adult is nearby when kids are playing outside and make sure everyone goes inside regularly to warm up.

Sledding

  • Never sled in an area where there is traffic.
  • Wear a ski or bike helmet. A light stocking cap can fit under most helmets while still fitting appropriately.
  • Sleds that you can steer tend to be safer than disks, flat or roll-up sleds or toboggans.
  • Choose hills free of trees, ponds, ice, fences, ditches, and large bumps.
  • Take turns; wait for others to sled and get out of the way before following behind.
  • Always go feet first down the hill.

Skiing and snowboarding

  • Wear a helmet approved for skiing, goggles and other appropriate equipment, such as wrist guards.
  • Go on hills appropriate for your skill level.
  • Remember skiing and snowboarding are sports; you should stretch to warm up your muscles beforehand, eat well and stay hydrated.

Skating
Choose to skate on groomed ice rinks like the ones you find at arenas or parks rather than lakes or ponds when possible. If you do go out on open water, check with the Department of Natural Resources to make sure the ice is thick enough. No matter where you skate, follow these tips:

  • Wear a properly-fitting helmet and other safety gear to protect your head and joints from injury if you fall.
  • Make sure your skates fit right and are laced up tight.
  • If you skate outside, avoid ice with cracks, slush, and darker area of ice – these are all indicators that it’s not safe.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety also has information on winter safety, which is available here.