Cold weather precautions

Health Precautions For Cold Weather Conditions

When winter temperatures significantly drop below normal, staying warm and safe is vitally important. Extreme cold temperatures are often associated with a winter storm leaving residents without power and causing dangerous road conditions. Heating systems during cold weather normally work “overtime” and sometimes become faulty without warning. When these situations occur, many people resort to using space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm; however, their use increases the risk of household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause serious or life threatening health emergencies. Although anyone can be affected, infants, children, the elderly and those with health conditions are particularly at risk. In addition, household pets should not be kept outside during cold weather conditions. Extreme cold can vary across different areas of the country, but near freezing or below freezing temperatures are considered “extreme cold.” The following information should be considered when preparing for cold weather conditions.

PLAN AHEAD FOR EMERGENCIES (lists not all inclusive)

Emergency Supplies

  • Batteries
  • Blankets and extra clothing
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight or battery powered lantern
  • Battery powered radio and clock
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Snow shovel and rock salt
  • Alternative heat source (example: fire wood for fireplace)
  • Special need items (example: diapers, medication)
  • No-cook/refrigerated food items, water, etc.

Preventive Measures

  • Listen to weather forecasts
  • Conduct annual chimney cleaning and inspection
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (battery operated) and test them regularly
  • Install an indoor thermometer and outdoor thermometer, if possible
  • Insulate water lines to prevent freezing
  • Keep small children, pets, the elderly and those with health conditions indoors
  • Have reliable transportation and a mobile phone if possible
  • Do not use candles if possible
  • Never use charcoal/gas grills, camp stoves or generators indoors
  • Do not store gasoline indoors
  • Use space heaters safely and ensure proper ventilation if they are needed
  • Avoid using extension cords for space heaters and other portable equipment
  • Never warm up your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open

Outdoor Safety Tips

  • Dress warmly by wearing layers of loose clothing with hat, gloves, scarf and insulated shoes
  • Limit outdoor exposure including daily exercise routines
  • Know outdoor temperature and the effect of wind chill factors on the body
  • Keep walkways free of ice and snow to prevent falls
  • Avoid the use of alcohol
  • Notify someone of your whereabouts when you go out
  • Avoid prolonged time outdoors of infants, children, the elderly, those with medical conditions and pets

Cold Weather Health Problems and Emergencies

Frostbite: a medical condition caused by the cold freezing of body tissue. Frostbite most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. First signs of frostbite include redness or pain in any skin area followed by a white, waxy or grayish-yellow look to the skin. A person who is experiencing frostbite must be moved indoors immediately. Avoid rubbing parts of the body that appear to be frostbitten. This condition is serious and requires immediate medical attention.

Hypothermia: a medical emergency that is caused by prolonged exposure to the cold. Hyperthermia develops when a person’s body temperature falls below normal. Persons affected by hypothermia may shiver uncontrollably, become lethargic, appear confused or disoriented and not realize what is happening. Other signs of hypothermia include puffiness of the face, memory loss, slurred speech, decreased respiratory rate, irregular pulse and apparent exhaustion. If someone is hypothermic, call 911 immediately. Persons experiencing hypothermia should be taken to a warm location, have wet clothing removed and wrapped in warm dry clothing until medical assistance arrives. A warm non-alcoholic beverage can be given to a person who is conscious. Call 911 for medical help immediately.

Safety Tips To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that can be fatal. The following safety tips will prevent CO poisoning:

  • NEVER use portable generators or gasoline-powered equipment inside your home or garage, car port, etc.
  • Never use gas or charcoal grills in the house, garage, etc.
  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector for your home
  • Make sure inlets and outlets for your furnace are free of snow
  • Make sure your car’s exhaust pipe is clear. Never heat your car up in the garage, even if the garage door is open

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting or loss of consciousness. Take everyone, including pets out of the house and call 911 from outside the house if you think there is a CO exposure.

Taking preventive action and knowing what to do if exposed to extreme cold is important to stay protected and safe. For more information, contact the Department of Health at (203) 622-7836.

TO REPORT ONLY EMERGENCIES – For all Police, Fire and EMS emergencies, dial 911.

Emergency Helplines – Utilities:

Aquarion Water Company                                                                        1-800-732-9678

Northeast Utilities                                                                                     1-800-286-2000

CT Natural Gas Company                                                                         (203) 869-6900

Local Non-Emergency Phone Numbers:

Town of Greenwich –                                                                 (203) 622-7700

Greenwich Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health           (203)-987-1001/622-7838

Greenwich Fire Department non-emergency                                                                   (203)-622-3950

Greenwich Police Department non-emergency                                                                (203)-622-8003

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Service

– American Medical Response (AMR)                                                                  1-800-379-7700

Department of Parks and Recreation Tree Division                                                       (203)-622-7824

Greenwich Chapter, American Red Cross                                                                     (203)-869-8444

Greenwich Department of Social Services                                                                       (203) 622-3800

Connecticut Poison Control                                                                                            1-800-222-1222


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