Disaster Preparedness and Cold Weather | New

What constitutes extreme cold and its effects may vary in different parts of the country. Even in areas unaccustomed to winter conditions, temperatures near the freezing point are considered “extreme” cold. Anytime temperatures drop significantly below normal and wind speeds increase, heat can leave your body faster. These weather conditions can cause serious health problems. Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can lead to health emergencies for sensitive people such as homeless, stranded people, who live in a house that is poorly insulated or has no heating.

When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge. Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm, so you may have to deal with power outages and icy roads. Cold-related problems can also occur inside your home. Remember, the cold doesn’t have to be extreme to be dangerous. Many homes will be too cold due to a power failure or because the heating system is not suited to the weather conditions. If people use heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of home fires increases as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Plan ahead and be prepared for the cold. There are steps you can take ahead of time to be safer in your home and in your car. In addition to the items in your regular emergency supply kit, include the following:

• Another way to heat your home during a power failure; dry firewood for a fireplace or wood stove, kerosene for a kerosene heater, furnace fuel (coal, propane or fuel oil). Do not use barbecue / charcoal grills inside your home.

• Electric space detector with automatic shut-off switch and non-incandescent elements

• Blankets

• Matches

• Multipurpose dry chemical fire extinguisher

• First aid kit and instruction manual

• Battery operated flashlight or lantern

• Battery operated radio

• Clock or battery watch

• Additional batteries

• Non-electric can opener

• Cat litter or rock salt for pouring over ice or snow to aid traction and melt ice

• Special items such as diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications, etc.

• Foods that do not need to be cooked or refrigerated, such as breads, crackers, cereals, canned foods and dried fruits. Don’t forget about pet food if you have pets.

• Water stored in clean containers or purchased bottled water (1 gallon per person per day) in case the water lines freeze and break.

• Medicines that family members or pets may need

If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you can’t get them indoors, provide them with adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water. Remember that eating well-balanced meals will help keep you warm. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, they cause your body to lose heat faster. Instead, drink hot, sugary drinks or broth to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, see your doctor.

For more information, contact the Palestine Resource Center for Independent Living (PRCIL) at 903-729-7505.