Winter Storm Preparedness
Amy Movius, MD
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
We are on the threshold of a major winter storm, one accompanied by frigid temperatures. Many people will be hunkering down and riding the storm out at home. Essential workers and others will have to venture out. Everyone needs to be prepared to stay safe from hypothermia and frostbite.
It is recommended that people stay off the roads if possible during a major winter storm. However, it is still important to be prepared for the possibility of power loss at home. The following lists necessities for such an event:
- Have a back up heat source such as a wood stove or generator.
- Emergency supplies to have on hand include extra blankets, flashlight, matches, first aid kit, manual can opener, show shovel and rock salt.
- Drinking water, nonperishable food, and medication to last a few days are essential.
- Dress in several layers and wrap in blankets to conserve heat.
- If you are worried your environment isn’t warm enough, go elsewhere (friends, neighbors, shelter) until your home is safe again.
People who must venture out in their cars need to be especially careful. Anyone involved in a car accident or breakdown can be very susceptible to hypothermia/frostbite. If you must drive, first and foremost, go slowly and let someone know where you are going and what route you are taking. In addition, follow the guidelines below.
- Be sure your vehicle is in good working condition for storm driving.
- Have emergency gear with you at all times. This includes a cell phone, flashlight, jumper cables, sand or kitty litter (for tire traction if needed), ice scraper, small shovel, blankets, warning devices such as flares.
- Extra warm clothing and hand warmers in your emergency supplies may also be useful.
- If you are taking a longer trip bring some drinking water, food, and any medication as well.
- IF YOU GET STUCK ON THE ROAD, place a flare in front and in back of your vehicle. While awaiting rescue, stay inside with a window slightly open for air circulation. Also, wrap yourself in blankets and run the heater for a few minutes each hour.
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature is abnormally low. It can happen to anyone though some people are more susceptible to it than others. The poor, elderly, those with substance abuse problems, and children are groups particularly at risk. Hypothermia can happen suddenly or more gradually, and is affected by how cold it is, how long a person is exposed to the cold, and each person’s general health.
Hypothermia can kill. The first sign is often some confusion or sleepiness which might not be obvious. Slow/slurred speech can follow as well as excessive shivering or NO shivering at all. Hypothermic people will have slow and clumsy body movements. If you think someone is hypothermic, seek medical attention immediately. If this isn’t possible, move them to a warmer location, wrap them in blankets or lie close to them. Do not rub someone with frostbite or hypothermia - this will cause more damage.