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Safety tips during the Extreme Cold Weather and Red Cross Responds to 30 Fires in the Past Week

The weather is turning dangerously cold for residents of Chicago and Northern Illinois. As temperatures will continue to drop for the rest of the week, the American Red Cross has winter safety tips:

Out in the Cold

  • Be aware of the wind chill. Avoid staying in the cold too long.
  • Wear layers of clothing to stay warm, along with a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet warm and dry. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures. Take frequent breaks from the cold.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Get out of the cold immediately if the signs of hypothermia and frostbite appear.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.

    At home:
  • Bring family pets indoors. If that’s not possible, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Prevent frozen pipes. Open cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around water pipes. Let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes.
  • Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home. Keep a glass or metal fire screen around the fireplace and never leave a fireplace fire unattended.
  • If using a space heater, place it on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. Turn the space heater off when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep children and pets away from the space heater and do not use it to dry wet clothing.
  • If the power goes out, use generators correctly. Never operate a generator inside the home, including the basement or garage. Do not hook up a generator directly to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment needed directly to the outlets on the generator.

On the road:

  • Stay off the road during severe weather, if possible.
  • Carry an emergency preparedness kit in the trunk.
  • Keep the car’s gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

EMERGENCY APP People should download the free Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to safety tips for winter weather and power outages. The app can be found in the app store for someone’s mobile device by searching for “American Red Cross” or by going to

Despite the frigid temperatures, disaster responders with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois responded to 30 fires from Monday, January 21 to today across the 21-county region including fires in Joliet, Rockford, Niles, Lombard, Dolton and 12 of those fires happening in Chicago. The Red Cross helped 135 people including 81 adults and 54 children affected by the fires.

Additional information about these incidents, if available, may be obtained from the local first responding agency/fire department.

Responding volunteers are members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon any time of the day or night.

The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day in Chicago and northern Illinois. The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information

HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP: The Red Cross depends on financial donations to fund our relief services. Help people affected by disasters big and small like Hurricane Michael and the California wildfires, or local home fires affecting Illinois residents by visiting, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.

DONATE BLOOD: The Red Cross also has a critical need for blood and platelet donations to help meet patient needs. The Red Cross asks eligible individuals to make an appointment today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross 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 Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.  

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