Extreme temperatures may have significant impacts on infrastructure, including residential and business plumbing, municipal water mains, and human and animal safety. Precautions should be taken including checking in on the elderly, keeping pets indoors, and ensuring agricultural animals are indoors with ample food and have access to unfrozen water.
Keep space heaters in a safe location where they will not tip over. Alternative heating units should be well ventilated to ensure that the silent killer of carbon monoxide does not build up and become a hazard.
If plumbing lines are poorly insulated or are known to freeze, keep a constant flow of water by leaving a faucet or two slowly dripping. If pipes are located along the outside wall, open cabinetry to allow heat to circulate around the pipes if possible. Do not venture outdoors for any length of time without proper cold-weather attire.
COLD STRESS AND INJURIES
When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent damage or death may result. Hypothermia can occur when land temperatures are above freezing or water temperatures are below 98.6 degrees F/37 degrees C. Cold related illnesses can slowly overcome a person who has been chilled by low temperatures, brisk winds, or wet clothing.
What happens to the body: Normal body temperature (98.6 degrees F/ 37 degrees C) drops to or below 95 degrees F (35 degrees C); fatigue or drowsiness; uncontrolled shivering; cool bluish skin; slurred speech; clumsy movements; irritable; irrational or confused behavior.
What should be done: (land temperatures)
- Call for emergency help (911)
- Move the person to a warm, dry area. Don’t leave the person alone. Remove any wet clothing and replace with warm, dry clothing or wrap the person in blankets.
- Have the person drink warm, sweet drinks (sugar water or sports-type drinks) if they are alert. Avoid drinks with caffeine. (coffee, tea or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
- Have the person move their arms and legs to create muscle heat. If they are unable to do this, place warm bottles or hot packs under their arm pits, groin, neck, and head areas. DO NOT rub the person’s body or place them in warm water bath. This may stop their heart.
What should be done: (water temperatures)
- Call for emergency help. Body heat is lost up to 25 times faster in water.
- DO NOT remove any clothing. Button, buckle, zip, and tighten any collars, cuffs, shoes, and hoods because the layer of trapped water closest to the body provides a layer of insulation that slows the loss of heat. Keep the head out of the water and put on a hat or hood.
- Get out of the waters as quickly as possible or climb on anything floating. DO NOT attempt to swim unless a floating object or another person can be reached because swimming or other physical activity uses the body’s heat and reduces survival time by about 50 percent.
- If getting out of the water is not possible, wait quietly and conserve body heat by folding arms across the chest, keeping thighs together, bending knees, and crossing ankles. If another person is in the water, huddle together with chests held closely.
What happens to the body: Freezing in deep layers of skin and tissue; pale, waxy-white skin color; skin becomes hard and numb; usually affects the fingers, hands, toes, feet, ears, and nose.
What should be done: (land temperatures)
- Move the person to a warm dry area. Don’t leave the person alone.
- Remove any wet or tight fitting clothing that may cut off blood flow to the affected area.
- DO NOT rub the affected area, because rubbing causes damage to the skin and tissue.
- Gently place the affected area in a warm (105 degree F) water bath and monitor the water temperature to slowly warm the tissue. Don’t pour warm water directly on the affected area because it will warm the tissue too fast causing tissue damage. Warming takes about 25 – 40 minutes.
- After the affected area has been warmed, it may become puffy and blister. The affected area may have a burning feeling or numbness. When normal feeling, movement, and skin color have returned, the affected area should be dried and wrapped to keep it warm. NOTE: If there is a chance the affected area may get cold again, do not warm the skin. If the skin is warmed and then becomes cold again, it will cause severe tissue damage.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
With both hypothermia and frostbite, you are more at risk if you are older, overweight, have allergies or poor circulation. Other factors that raise the risk are smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, and taking medications such as sedatives.
HOW SHOULD I DRESS?
- 3 layers with increasingly larger clothing items
- The layer of clothing next to skin should be a type of material that dries quickly and allows moisture to be wicked off into the next layer. Examples: silk, thinsulate, polypropolene, for those who do not get cold easily or are relatively inactive cotton long johns are acceptable. (Remember cotton does not dry quickly and if it gets wet, it can cause you to chill.)
- 2nd layer should be from material that absorbs moisture and still maintains warmth. Example: wool can absorb up to 5 1/2 times its weight in moisture; cotton blend for those less affected by the cold.
- 3rd layer should be a material that provides a wind break and is water resistant. Example: Nylon
- When selecting socks, follow the same procedures as selecting clothing. First layer should be a material that allows moisture out but no moisture in (silk, thinsulate, gortex). Outer layer should contain some type of wool or wool blend.
- Hats – 20% to 50% of your body heat can be lost through an uncovered head.
- Skin which is exposed can be protected by applying petroleum jelly or any lanolin based lotion.
SECRET TO DRESSING FOR COLD WEATHER: KEEP IT CLEAN, AVOID OVERHEATING, WEAR IT LOOSE AND IN LAYERS, KEEP IT DRY.