STAY Safe in Extreme Cold

Those living in certain places of the world like the upper Midwest United States, Canada and Russia expect cold and snow as part of their normal yearly weather cycle. But a Polar Vortex has individuals living in these places and many others experiencing frigid temperatures thatCold Weather present even the most seasoned cold-weather dwellers with a need to plan more than usual for safety in extreme cold.

To help create the proper mindset, keep the word “stay” in mind for managing life in extreme cold temperatures (anything near or below freezing).

STAY Aware

  • Regularly watch local weather reports, especially paying attention to windchill temperatures and storm warnings.
  • Know the warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite and be educated on what to do should either occur.
  • Keep road conditions in mind at all times, and adjust driving speed accordingly since getting stranded in extreme cold is especially dangerous.
  • Check the condition of water pipes, doing what you can to keep them from freezing and breaking.
  • Know when going outside is a bad idea, and stay inside as much as possible.
  • Realize that cold affects the elderly and the very young more quickly and more severely, so make sure they stay out of extreme cold and check in on them often.
  • Don’t forget that extreme cold is dangerous for pets too.
  • Help road crews out, and avoid travel immediately after heavy snowfalls.

STAY Prepared

  • Have a week’s worth of food and water should weather conditions prevent a trip to the store.
  • Have a well-stocked Winter Home Emergency Supply Kit at home and a Winter Emergency Car Kit in trunks of all vehicles, and check them regularly to make sure they stay well-supplied.
  • Insulate pipes if freezing is a concern, and know what to do if pipes freeze .
  • Make sure all vehicles are properly winterized with gas tanks kept always at least half full.
  • Keep sunglasses handy when driving, especially when clouds clear and the sun starts reflecting off the snow.
  • Always travel with a fully-charged cell phone should you become stranded and need to call for help.
  • Let others know your specific travel plans (route, timing, etc.), so you can get help as soon as possible should your vehicle break down or get stuck in the snow.

STAY Warm & Dry

  • If you need to go outside, remember that the chances of hypothermia increase when clothing is wet.
  • Wear several loose-fitting layers, including water-repellent gear.
  • Keep in mind that sweating dampens clothes, and that wet clothing can lower body temperature and contribute to hypothermia.
  • Remove wet clothing as soon as possible, having spares available when you know you’ll be outside.
  • Remember to keep extremities covered as they are more susceptible to frostbite.
  • Don’t forget to cover your mouth also, since extreme cold can hurt the lungs.
  • Especially in extreme temperatures caused by windchill, cover every part of skin since frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes.
  • Be sure to dress in layers, which traps warm air that acts as insulation.
  • Wear a hat since 40% of body heat can escape through the head.
  • Keep hands warm and functional at the same time by choosing the proper gloves for use in extreme cold.
  • Make sure heating sources are adequately fueled and maintained at all times.

Prevention still remains the best solution for surviving extreme cold temperatures no matter where you live. When frigid arctic air decides to stick around for any length of time, STAY healthy and safe by preventing emergencies whenever possible and by knowing the best course of action when they do happen.

Cold Weather Safety

chainsaw winterWith the onset of colder weather in many areas comes the need to consider the safety of those whose jobs (construction workers, for example) expose them to cold environments on a regular and/or prolonged basis. In addition to those who work in cold environments, those who play (snow sports, for example) in such environments would do well to consider aspects of safety too.

When considering cold weather safety, understanding the factors, danger signs, preventative measures and emergency situations can prove immensely helpful in keeping individuals who are exposed safe and healthy.

Factors

When exposed to cold environments, realize that factors such as the actual temperature, presence of winds and humidity in addition to contact with cold water or surfaces all play a role in the safety of working or playing in cold environments.

  1. Temperature. Know the temperature and be smart about the length of time of exposure accordingly.
  2. Wind. Wind speed can decrease the actual temperature your skin actually feels exposed to, so know the wind chill too.
  3. Dampness. Add rain into the mix, and even a chilly environment feels colder. Being damp and cold can create unsafe conditions even when the actual temperature isn’t extreme.
  4. Contact. When coming into contact with a cold surface, realize that your body heat will transfer into that surface making staying warm a bit more difficult.

Just one of the above factors can cause unsafe conditions, but be especially aware of environments where multiple factors exist.

Danger Signs

Anyone spending a lot of time in a cold environment should also know the danger signs for when exposure becomes unhealthy. OSHA lists the danger signs of being over-exposed to cold environments to include the following:

  • Uncontrolled shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Clumsy movements
  • Fatigue
  • Confused behavior

Unfortunately, individuals experiencing these signs may not be aware of them, especially when confusion hits. For this reason, using the buddy system when working or playing in cold environments can be one of the best safety procedures to practice.

Preventative Measures

Fortunately, simply employing a few preventative measures keeps most individuals exposed to cold environments safe & healthy. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the following preventative measures when working and playing in cold environments.

  1. Proper clothing. In a word, this means layers. Start with a wicking layer followed by a layer to provide insulation and topped off with an outer layer to protect against wind and rain.
  2. Short breaks. Give your body time to warm up in warm, dry shelters periodically.
  3. Rest well. Rest allows the body to avoid exhaustion that can lead to lack of energy needed to keep muscles warm.
  4. Drink often. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and focus on warm, sweet beverages that provide quick energy.
  5. Eat heartily. Finally, a great excuse for consuming high calorie foods without guilt! Foods like pasta help stock the energy reserves needed for working and playing in cold environments.

Emergency Situations

Being prepared for staying safe in cold environments also includes knowing what to do if an emergency situation arises. The most common emergencies in cold environments include cold water immersion, trench foot, hypothermia and frost bite.

The following tips can help minimize damage and even same limbs or life in emergency situations involve exposure to cold environments.

  1. Call for help. Have access to emergency help when spending time in cold environments.
  2. Get dry. Replace wet clothing with dry clothing or blankets as quickly as possible.
  3. Create heat. Create muscle heat by moving limbs, or place warm water bottles or hot packs in arm pits, groin areas and neck and head areas if movement isn’t possible. Avoid heating too quickly though as this can lead to fatal situations.
  4. Be gentle. Especially when frostbite is suspected, use warm water to slowly warm tissue. Too much heat too quickly can actually damage the tissue.

Training & Education

The basics of cold weather safety outlined above will allow most people – those spending occasional time working and playing in cold environments – to stay safe. For those spending extended periods in cold environments, additional training and education beyond these fundamentals becomes necessary.

Take the time to get the necessary information – that which fits how much time you spend exposed as well as the type and extremeness of exposure – for staying safe while working or playing in cold weather environments.