Snow and or severe cold can be potentially life threatening, and every year we see cold and snow related deaths. Everyone is potentially at risk during winter storms. The actual threat to you depends on your specific situation.
Related to ice and snow:
• About 70% occur in automobiles.
• About 25% are people caught out in the storm.
Related to exposure to cold:
• 50% are people over 60 years old.
• Over 75% are males.
• About 20% occur in the home.
• Frostbite – Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen.
o Warning signs:
Loss of feeling
White or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose.
o Caring for frostbite:
If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately!
If you must wait for help, slowly re-warm affected areas. Some pain is normal here.
If the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.
• Hypothermia – Low body temperature.
o Warning signs:
o Detecting and caring for hypothermia:
Take the person’s temperature. If it’s below 95°F (35°C), immediately seek medical care!
If medical care is not available:
Get the person out of wet or moist clothing, and wrap them in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Dress them in warm dry clothing if possible.
Begin warming the person slowly.
Warm the body core first. If needed, use your own body heat to help.
Do not give the person alcohol, drugs, coffee, or any hot beverage or food; warm broth is better.
Do not warm extremities (arms and legs) first! This drives the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.
• Wind Chill – The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the combined effects of wind and temperature. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill. (Note: In recent month, wind chill has been replaced by ‘FEELS LIKE’, but it is still the same)
If you are stranded during a Winter Storm…
1. Find shelter. If you cannot find shelter:
Prepare a lean-to, wind-break, or snow cave for protection from the wind.
Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
2. Try to stay dry.
3. Cover all exposed parts of the body to retain heat and protect from the wind.
4. Do not eat snow! It will only lower your body temperature and provide relatively small amounts of water. Melt it first.
• In a car or truck
1. Stay in your car or truck.
Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow / cold.
A car or truck is much easier for rescue crews or snowplows to find, greatly increasing your odds of survival.
2. Run the motor about ten minutes each hour for heat.
Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow to allow exhaust to escape.
Open a window a little for fresh air to help prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
3. Make yourself visible to rescuers.
Turn the dome light on at night when running engine.
Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door.
Raise the hood, indicating trouble, after snow stops falling.
4. Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers, and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
• At home or in a building
o Stay inside.
o When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc.:
Use fire safeguards.
o If there is no heat source available:
Close off unneeded rooms.
Stuff towels or rags in the cracks under the doors.
Cover windows, especially at night.
o Eat. Food provides the body with necessary fuel to produce its own heat.
o Drink. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Dehydration occurs more rapidly in cold, dry weather like we typically have in Colorado.
o Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.
Colorado sees it share of snow during the winter months. The best time to prepare for the next snow is now while the weather is mild and dry. Take an inventory of your winter supplies both for the car and the home and stock up on items that you need. Store shelves often go bare very quickly ahead of an approaching winter storm. Planning and stocking up well before-hand is best. Be prepared and the winter snows will be a lot less bothersome.
ARES Members Additional Preparation
All Adams County members are encouraged to monitor weather as they can change rapidly. Having the following equipment will make you more prepared and ready if/when a winter weather call-up is made:
NOAA All Hazards Radio
Back up Battery for your home station
Back up power for your HT’s
A AA Battery pack in case you cannot charge your ‘normal’ HT batteries
Keep your vehicle filled with enough fuel to be able to respond
Make sure your anti-freeze is properly mixed and filled to the appropriate levels
Have a winter survival kit in your vehicle, even if you are only driving around town, you may not need it, but you may come across someone who does
Take any other appropriate actions to make yourself ‘winter ready’