Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

The week between Christmas and New Year’s follows no particular routine. People take the week off to spend time with family or travel on a winter vacation. Workers take vacation time now because, if they don’t use their earned leave, they will lose it. Schools are closed at every level, and day care takes a break, too. The television networks report that viewer attention is at its lowest this week. This also is the week that retailers can make their yearly profit margin in after-Christmas sales. Perhaps that is the routine after all: personal time and commerce battle it out again!

Although holiday weather this year has been more appropriate to Halloween than Christmas, we know that winter weather will get here – eventually. Fairfax County and the American Red Cross offer the following tips for winter preparedness. Dress appropriately, and in layers, if you are going to be outside. Wear a hat, preferably one covering your ears, because most body heat is lost through your head. Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves. Waterproof, insulated boots will keep your feet warm and dry, and help maintain your footing in ice and snow.

Build an emergency supply kit for your home. Include a least a three-day supply of food that won’t spoil (don’t forget to include a manual can opener), and one gallon of water per person per day. You also should have a battery-powered radio and a flashlight, both with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, and a plan for those with special needs, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, and the medically frail. It’s not a bad idea to put together a small emergency supply kit for your car, too. Your kit should include items such as a cell phone, blankets or sleeping bags, water, high calorie foods that don’t require cooking or refrigeration, a flashlight with extra batteries, and a first-aid kit. A small snow shovel and a tarp might come in handy, too.

Pets should be kept indoors during winter months. If your pet is housed outside, be sure that his shelter is insulated or heated, is elevated off the ground to prevent moisture accumulation, and has a door to keep out wind, snow, and rain. Dogs lose their sense of smell in the cold, so make sure they stay on leash when outside. Snow and salt should be removed from pets’ paws immediately. Cats, house pets, and wildlife may climb into vehicle engines for warmth during cold weather. (Years ago, our cat lost part of her ear to a car engine. After that, she always seemed to have a quizzical expression, but we were lucky.) Be sure to check under the hood before starting your vehicle and honk the horn to startle any animals seeking shelter there.

Finally, Fairfax County residents can register to receive emergency alerts by e-mail, pagers and text messaging on your cell phone through the Fairfax County Community Emergency Alert Network, or CEAN. To learn more and register for alerts, log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cean.