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Red Cross offers tips to stay safe as life threatening cold blasts Iowa Volunteers help eight families in 24 hours following home fires and burst water pipe

Millions of people from the Midwest to the Northeast are facing extremely cold temperatures, high winds and heavy snow over the next few days. The American Red Cross is watching the storm and is prepared to respond if necessary.

In the past 24 hours, volunteers with the Red Cross serving Greater Iowa assisted eight families affected by house fires and a water pipe that burst at an apartment building in Cerro Gordo County. Since December 20, 2013, 50 Red Cross volunteers have assisted 25 families in Jefferson, Warren, Polk, Clarke, Woodbury, Greene, Dallas, Black Hawk, Dickinson, Appanoose, Iowa, Fayette, Monroe, Wapello, Humboldt, Cerro Gordo, Buchanan and Davis counties.

The National Weather Service predicts potentially life threatening cold this weekend, especially Sunday night through Monday night, with wind chill values of 30 to 50 degrees below zero. Heating systems are running at full force and many people are resorting to other sources to keep their homes warm.

To avoid fire danger, you should remember the following:

· Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

· If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.

· If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

· Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.

· Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

To stay safe during this winter storm the Red Cross recommends taking these steps:

· Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.

· After the storm, be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. It is physically strenuous work, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

· Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.

· Watch for symptoms of frostbite, including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

· Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.

· Avoid frozen pipes - run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.

· Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.

· Download the American Red Cross First Aid App for quick, expert advice on what to do in case of an emergency. This free app is available on the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores. See all Red Cross apps at redcross.org/mobileapps.

This storm is already affecting millions of people and could result in the cancellation of Red Cross blood drives in those areas impacted by the weather. Despite the storm, hospital patients across the country will still need blood. If you are in a region unaffected by the storm, please consider making an appointment to donate blood or platelets.

· Appointments can be online at redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

· To give blood, someone must be at least 17 years of age, meet weight and height requirements and be in general good health. Donors should bring their Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID with them. Some states allow 16-year-olds to give with parental consent.

The work of the American Red Cross is made possible by donations. Donations can be made by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions can also be sent by mail to a local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross via P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

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