As more inclement weather moves into the area, the Tennessee Volunteer Region of the American Red Cross is urging families to take appropriate actions to be prepared for hazardous conditions.
The majority of winter-related incidents are caused by events related to heavy snowfall, high winds and freezing rain.
People can become homebound without utilities or other services, motorists can become stranded in vehicles, and walking and driving conditions can become hazardous.
The Red Cross recommends that families prepare for the possible negative effects of winter weather in a number of ways, such as avoiding travel when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit inside the vehicle.
Officials also urge residents to listen to a weather radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service.
Residents should also remember to bring pets and companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas, and make sure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow drifts, ice or other obstacles.
Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, residents may incur a higher heating bill. However, by keeping the temperature at a higher level, residents can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
Go to a designated public shelter if power or heat goes out during periods of extreme cold.
Prevent frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.
Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
If a residence does lose power, the Red Cross suggests:
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. First, use perishable food from the refrigerator. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours.
Then use food from the freezer. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours, 24 hours if it is half full, as long as the door remains closed.
Use non-perishable foods and staples after using food from the refrigerator and freezer.
If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for freezer items.
Keep food in a dry, cool spot, and keep it covered at all times.
Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
Turn off or disconnect any appliances, and equipment or electronics that were in use when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
Residents are also advised to keep one light on while the power is out so that they will know when power is restored.
Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic lights will be out and roads will be congested.
And perhaps one of the most serious dangers residents face when power is lost is keeping people out of harm's way while using a generator, officials said.
Experts recommend people use an alternate heating and lighting source wisely in order to avoid a house fire, which includes making sure space heaters are not left unattended and kept far away from flammable objects.
Generators should never be operated indoors, including a basement, garage, carport or near any window.
The Red Cross also advises residents not to use candles. Instead, people should make sure they have working flashlights and extra batteries on hand for power outages.
Use a generator correctly -- follow directions carefully. Never operate a generator indoors, including a basement, garage, carport or near any open windows.
For more information about how to prepare for a variety of emergencies, visit redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm for a full spectrum of specific preparedness tips.