(Reuters) - As dangerously cold temperatures and massive snow totals have gripped the United States in the past few days, federal and state agencies have issued tips for how people can stay safe and warm during the winter.
The following guidance was provided by agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Residents of areas expecting severe weather should stock plenty of supplies in case the power goes out or the furnace stops working. Keep items such as candles, blankets and batteries along with extra water and food handy and keep laptops and cell phones charged.
When the temperature drops into dangerously cold ranges below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius), avoid going outside to shovel snow or to remove ice from sidewalks and driveways. Wear several insulating layers and a water-proof outer layer if you must go outside.
When traveling by car, plan ahead by keeping a full gas tank. Apart from food and water, useful items to take include blankets, extra clothes, jumper cables, a compass, flash light and sand or cat litter for traction in the car.
When a vehicle stalls or gets stuck in snow during dangerous cold, occupants should remain inside rather than risking disorientation. Run the engine of a stuck vehicle for about 10 minutes each hour after checking that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe. Open the window slightly for fresh air.
Animal welfare groups recommend keeping pets inside during severe weather. When walking a dog, use a leash and make sure it has ID tags. Dry off dogs after they have been outside to remove salt and antifreeze from their fur, legs and paws.
Advocates for the elderly advise making frequent checks on elderly neighbors and family members and volunteering to run errands for them so that they do not need to venture outside. They recommend thermostats in homes with elderly occupants be set to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) as older people are susceptible to hypothermia even when the temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius).
Sources: National Institute of Health, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the American Association of Retired Persons.
Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool