Keeping safe during the cold days of winter

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The winter cold, such as we have experienced this week, bites and is uncomfortable. It can also be dangerous, for those who are vulnerable such as the elderly or families struggling to make ends meet. No doubt, there are some of these people living in your neighborhood.
At a minimum, we all need to do our part to look after one another when sub-freezing temperatures pose a danger to people and property. Hypothermia, frostbite and other hazards are a concern in these conditions and precautions are advised to ensure the safety of individuals and property. Although temperatures are expected to moderate mid week, the winter cold is expected to visit again by the end of the week with some snow in the forecast.
Some things that you can do to keep yourself and others safe are:
• Check on older or disabled relatives, friends and neighbors to make sure they are keeping warm safely and have sufficient food and water.
• Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half full. Carry a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshield scraper, shovel, sand, towrope and jumper cables.
• Limit time outdoors. Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young.
• Be sure to consider your pets and limit their time outdoors, as well.
• Dress warmly and stay dry. Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Wear a hat, mittens, and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Keep babies and older adults dry and in warm rooms.
• Eat and drink healthy. Well-balanced meals help you stay warmer. Drink warm fluids to maintain a healthy temperature. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages cause you to lose heat more rapidly.
• Avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. Hypothermia signs include shivering, exhaustion, slurred speech and — in infants — bright red, cold skin. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately and get to a warm place. Slowly warm the affected areas as you await medical assistance.
• Have sufficient heating fuel for your home. Check your heating supply, whether it’s oil, propane, wood, wood chips, etc.
• Heat safely. If you lose your primary heat source, use only safe alternate sources like a fireplace, wood stove or space heater and ensure they are ventilating properly.
• Ventilate to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. If you use a generator, ensure it is used outside, away from open windows, doors or air intakes. Exhaust from a generator or heating source such as gas logs can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home. Carbon monoxide is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. CO poisoning can mimic flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Higher levels of exposure result in disorientation, drowsiness, unconsciousness and death. If you experience these symptoms, leave the home and contact help. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Ensure all heating vents are clear of snow or other obstructions. Blowing snow can block heating vents. Blocked vents can lead to CO buildup in the home.
• And as the old Boy Scout motto goes, be prepared. Have a well-stocked winter home emergency supply kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water and nonperishable food.
Looking out for one another is not asking too much. In fact, it may be one of the easiest things we can do to extend kindness and be a bit more neighborly in these utterly turbulent, divisive times. We should all resolve to be better members of our community. And while these frigid days are the starkest reminder of what our role could (or should) be, let’s endeavor in the year to come to show the same compassion and kindness during the other, warmer weeks of the year, too.

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