Always ready to serve, no matter what the weather, Los Alamos Fire Department offers winter weather safety tips. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY BENJAMIN STONE
LAFD EMS Division Chief
Winter storms can cause a community to see an increase in car accidents, falls, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks from overexertion. Storms bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds. As we recently experienced, winter storms can last for several days, cause havoc on heat, power and communication services, but they also place our community members at higher risk.
Here are some tips to remember:
- Know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time.
- Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing.
- Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
- Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for the County’s emergency notification system; code red. https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/B5B7BFCA53CA
- Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Do not forget the needs of pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
- Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.
- Learn the signs of, and necessary treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.
- Have a stock of ice melt.
- Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
- Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
- Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.
- Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.
RECOGNIZE AND RESPOND!
- Overexertion can occur when you walk briskly against a strong wind, shovel the walk, push a car out of the snow. Exertion causes a high demand on the heart to pump more oxygen around the body. If the heart has a blockage in the heart, the reduced blood flow coupled with an increased demand could result in a heart attack. Many of us have blockages we are not aware of.
- Be careful about exerting yourself outdoors in winter. Pushing an inch of snow is one thing, but shoving heavy, wet, deep snowfall is very risky.
- Know your limits, do not push yourself beyond what your body can handle.
- Consult with your physician regularly prior to needing to shovel snow.
- If you feel any symptoms like chest pain or abnormal shortness of breath, activate 911.
Falls are the number one cause of trauma in Los Alamos.
- Walk slowly and carefully. Wear boots or other slip-resistant footwear.
- Use special care when getting in and out of vehicles. Use the vehicle for support if you need to do so.
- Watch for slippery floors when you enter any building or home.
- Try to avoid carrying items or walking with your hands in your pockets; this can reduce your ability to catch yourself if you lose your balance. Instead, carry a backpack if you have one.
- Watch out for black ice.
- Tap your foot on potentially slick areas to see if the areas are slippery.
- Walk as flat-footed as possible in very icy areas.
- Avoid uneven surfaces if possible. Avoid steps or curbs with ice on them.
- Use ice melt to reduce the chances of slipping.
- Remember: Ice and snow mean “take it slow!”
- Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.
- Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin
- Actions: Activate emergency services. Go to the emergency room.
- Hypothermia is unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
- Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness
- Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.
- Consider evaluation by an Emergency Physician.
For more information visit:
CDC Winter Prevention Guide: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp
Winter Driving Tips: https://one.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/tips/winter/index.html
Winter Storms…The Deceptive Killers: www.nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/resources/Winter_ Storms2008.pdf
Winter Weather Watches, Advisories, and Warnings: www.weather.gov