Here we are in the heart of winter with some cold temperatures looming in the distance. We are going to talk some common sense cold weather tips to be aware of with the arctic freeze approaching.

First of all in your home. Be really cautious about using space heaters both in your home, the man cave, the she shed, or even in your garage. Make sure they are not left unattended. Make sure they are not placed near flammable liquids or materials. If you’re using propane or LP heaters, make sure the room is properly ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. That goes for fish houses too since we are talking winter. If you start to feel nauseated, light headed or have the onset of a headache, get some fresh air and call 911 if needed. This is also a great time to remind everyone about the importance of CO and smoke detectors in your homes, sheds and fish houses or wherever you spend some time indoors.

Now for those of you that will venture outdoors for some exercise. Remember to take some extra precautions. Throw some hand warmers in your pockets. Dress in layers so that you can add or subtract your winter attire based on the changing temperatures and your activity. Cover your face as much as possible to avoid frost bite. Wear mittens instead of gloves to help keep your hands warmer. Ice cleats are a great addition to have if you’re walking on slippery surfaces such as ice. Just remember to take them off before you venture back into the house because they do a number on your hardwood or linoleum floors.

Speaking of ice, if you are venturing out onto the frozen ponds, lakes or rivers, make sure you throw on the ice picks. Keep them around your neck so that if you fall through the ice they are right there for you to use. I also recommend you wear a float coat or PFD. It doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in and your body to start shutting down. It starts with the fine motor skills leaving, followed by gross motor skills and then suddenly you lose all of your energy. So if you do fall through, the key is to get out quickly. Kick your legs and sweep your arms to get up onto the ice. Once on the ice, stay small and spread out and crawl your way to better ice. Crawling spreads your weight over a larger area versus standing up right away and putting your weight focused in a smaller area. Having the ice picks and float coat are “survival multipliers” if you find yourself in a bad situation.

If you’re going to get out on the snowmobile, ATV or UTV, dress for the weather. A helmet is a great way to keep your face and head warm and protect you from that head injury should you crash or fall off. Let your friends and family know where you’re headed and when you plan on being back. Alcohol and motorized vehicles and speed don’t mix well. Be a responsible rider and stay safe.

As we close out this month’s column, let’s not forget about the importance of slowing down on the winter roads. Conditions might not be the same over the hillcrest or around that corner. Make sure your tires, wipers and engine are ready for the winter. Make sure you’re prepared for a breakdown or a mishap if you’re involved in a crash. Have that winter survival kit in your car. Have a charged cell phone and a charger for it with you too. Drive cautiously, carefully and attentively. Leave the aggressive driving to NASCAR and get to your destination safely. Stay healthy and safe and we will see you next month.

Troy Dunn is the Rice County sheriff. Reach him at tdunn@co.rice.mn.us.

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