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Red Cross: Check on Elderly, Disabled Neighbors During Extreme Cold

The below-average, sub-freezing temperatures mean taking extra precautions in how you dress, heat your home, and go about your everyday life. There are some in our community who have a harder time than others in dealing with the cold. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.

For the elderly, disabled, and those with special needs, the cold weather means it's harder to get to the pharmacy, shovel snow, or run to the grocery store. Joann Moore, the spokesperson for the Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross, says now is the time to be a good neighbor, by getting out and knocking on the doors of your elderly neighbors to make sure they’re coping well.“First of all, I would recommend that you check in with them quite often to see if they do need help, [to see] if the heat is on. That’s one of the most important things, I think, because elderly people, and people who are very young, are very susceptible to hypothermia,” Moore said.

She said it’s important to make sure that the home is heated to 70 degrees or warmer in at least one room where the elderly can spend most of their time. Also, she says the cold weather means the elderly are less likely to leave their homes for the things they need.

“See if they maybe need help in getting to the grocery store, if they have adequate food at home, if they have their adequate medicine,” she advises.

Moore also recommends making sure your elderly friends and neighbors are using space heaters correctly, by keeping the heaters on a hard, level, non-flammable surface, and far away from carpets, rugs, bedding, drapes, pets, or children. She says this time of year, the Red Cross responds to a big increase in fires, many of which are started from space heaters.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.



· All heaters need space! Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, fireplaces and stoves.

· Place portable space heaters on a hard, level, nonflammable surface. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets, near bedding or drapes, and keep children and pets away. Look for a model that shuts off automatically if the space heater tips over. Do not use heating equipment to dry wet clothing.

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

· Never leave portable heaters, wood burning stoves or fireplaces unattended. Turn them off before leaving or going to bed.

· Keep the fire in the fireplace by using a glass or metal screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.


· Eliminate drafts. Use either insulating tape or caulking strips to surround windows and door moldings. Cover your windows with plastic sheeting. If you have storm windows or storm doors, get them up to keep the cold out.

· Make sure heat vents aren’t blocked by furniture.

· Turn down the thermostat.

· Close off any rooms that aren’t in use and close heat vents or turn off radiators in those rooms.

· Insulate your light switch and outlet plates with foam pads. Cold air can seep into the house through them.

· Use heavy curtains to keep cold air out. Open them during the day to let the sun help warm your home and close them at night. Use fabric snakes or old carpets in front of windows and doors to help eliminate drafts.

· Turn off vent fans in the kitchen and bathroom when they are no longer needed.

· Set ceiling fans to blow air down.


· Dress in several layers of lightweight clothing. Don’t forget gloves or mittens, and a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.

· Wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry and to maintain footing in ice and snow.

· Don’t forget pets – bring them indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.

· Check on people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.