Safety On Ice – Don’t Let This Advice Slip By


In southeastern North Carolina’s moderate climate, icy weather is not a common problem. Which, ironically, might make dealing with it all the more difficult.

Because many of us have relatively little experience navigating icy surfaces, we at Medac see a significant increase in injuries from slips and falls when the temperature dips below freezing.

At Medac, we’re here not only to help you after injuries happen, we want to help you avoid them in the first place. Here are some safety tips for you to keep in mind until spring has sprung.

Walk This Way

  • Dress appropriately for warmth, but be sure your clothing and accessories do not interfere with your vision or ability to hear what is going on around you.
  • Approach all surfaces with caution, and be especially aware of dark, wet surfaces. A thin layer of ice may be nearly invisible, and appear to be a wet spot or shadow. It’s wise to assume it is icy.
  • Try to walk in cleared or designated walkways; it’s dangerous to take shortcuts through ice and snow. Opt for grassy edges around snow and ice wherever possible for better traction.
  • Body positioning is important and can help you maintain balance. Try these tips:
    • Bend slightly at the waist.
    • Walk flat-footed, with your center of gravity directly over your feet.
    • Do not put your hands in your pocket. Instead, extend your arms to your sides for balance.
  • Go slowly in order to increase your reaction time should you begin to slip. Take short steps, or even shuffle your feet.
  • Avoid carrying a load (including a heavy backpack) as that will affect your sense of balance.
  • Use aids where possible, such as hand railings on stairs and the car door when exiting a vehicle.

Step Up To Safety

It’s important to keep any stairs to your home free of ice— for yourself and others. Even if you plan to stay indoors until the thaw, you need to keep your path clear should you need to leave in case of emergency, or should emergency personnel need to get to you.

Perhaps the best method is applying rock salt to your steps. It can prevent ice from forming, and melt ice that is already there. Rock salt is larger and less expensive than table salt, but you may use table salt or Epsom salt if you have that on hand.

Other methods don’t actually thaw the ice, but they can improve traction. These include applying sand, kitty litter and the product Oil Dry to icy steps.

While it might seem tempting to pour hot water on the steps, don’t do it. Even though it will clear the ice at first, the water will quickly refreeze, leaving you with a thin layer of ice and maybe even a false sense that you have solved the problem.

So take these simple steps for stair safety during the winter: Keep a shovel and/or broom handy to take care of loose snow, and have some rock salt on hand.

Paths To Prevention v. Roads To Recovery

Driving in wintery conditions presents plenty of challenges. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Always buckle up.
  • Drive slowly. You need additional reaction time in snow or ice.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. This can help you maintain traction.
  • Increase the normal following distance of 3-4 seconds to 8-10 seconds. You will need the increased distance to stop safely.
  • Do not use cruise control on roads that are wet, icy or sandy.
  • Know how your brakes respond. The best method for braking is to put the heel of your foot on the floor and apply steady pressure to the brake pedal using the ball of your foot.
  • Don’t stop if you don’t have to. If possible, time stoplights so you can slow and roll when it changes.
  • Don’t try to apply extra gas to get up hills. It will likely cause your wheels to spin. And don’t stop on the incline if you can avoid it.
  • Never warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area, including a garage.
  • Should your car get stuck in the snow, be sure you have cleared the tailpipe before starting the ignition. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and it can quickly build up, with fatal consequences.
  • Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full so the line doesn’t freeze up.
  • The best tip is this: Stay home if you don’t have to go out.

So here’s to being safe and healthy through the coldest months. Should you need us, however, Medac provides excellent medical care without an appointment at four convenient locations. Our Military Cutoff, Porters Neck and Monkey Junction locations are open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and the Shipyard Boulevard location is the area’s only urgent care that is open until 11 p.m.