How to keep an eye on neighbors and loved ones during extreme winter weather

Across the country, Americans are preparing for a brutal holiday weekend of cold and muggy winter weather.

Unprepared extreme weather can be very dangerous, and taking care of neighbors and loved ones during extreme weather conditions can be important.

Extreme weather puts the elderly, children, people with disabilities and pets at risk.

Here are some tips for caring for others during this time:

Know the danger signs of hypothermia, frostbite
Hypothermia and frostbite can happen not only when someone is exposed to the cold outside, but also indoors, for example, when a home is poorly insulated, has no heating or pipes freeze and burst, according to the National Weather Service.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing weather — which can result in a loss of feeling and color in affected areas such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says that at the first signs of redness or pain on the skin, get the person experiencing such conditions out of the cold or protect exposed skin.

Signs that might indicate frostbite include: a white or grayish-yellow skin area; skin that feels unusually firm or waxy; and numbness.

Since a victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out, the CDC recommends seeking medical care when signs arise since frostbite can permanently damage one’s body.

If traveling is not an option, warm the affected areas using body heat, immerse the person’s body in warm water or move the person to a warmer location. Do not walk on or massage affected body parts, the CDC warns.

Hypothermia is when the body is exposed to cold temperatures and begins to lose heat faster than it can produce.

According to the CDC, hypothermia is often experienced by elderly people with inadequate food, clothing or heating; babies in cold bedrooms or others who are outdoors for long periods of time, including unhoused people.

The warning signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness, the CDC reports. In infants, hypothermia will show itself through a child’s bright red, cold skin or by having very low energy.

“If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately,” the CDC warns.

If the power goes out
Older adults and people relying on life-sustaining medical equipment such as ventilators or mobility devices, may need assistance during power outages, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Extreme winter weather can knock out heat and power, so it’s important to know who around you might need assistance in the event of an outage, or how to help, FEMA advises.

Consider finding a community location for neighbors to move to, or retrieve an alternative power source, such as a portable charger or power bank.

FEMA also reminds people to never use a generator indoors.

Safety indoors and outdoors
The CDC recommends people check on friends and neighbors frequently, especially the elderly or disabled, to ensure their homes are adequately and safely heated. This includes ensuring fireplaces and wood stoves are properly vented, and space heaters are placed away from objects that may catch on fire.

Never heat a home with a gas stovetop or oven, FEMA cautions.

Cold weather also places extra strain on the heart, according to the CDC which recommends those with heart disease or high blood pressure follow doctor’s orders about performing hard work out in the cold like shoveling.

Finally, you can create a winter survival kit to keep at both home and in autos. The National Weather Service and the CDC recommend kits include warm clothes, boots, blankets, flashlights, non-perishable snacks, water and medication.

Precautions to take
Colder weather can cause a range of health problems but you can be ready for them.

Keeping warm is important – always keep the main rooms in your home, such as the living room and bedroom, heated. Warm clothing and a hot meal can also help prevent the most vulnerable people falling ill this winter.

It can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, and depression.

Also, anyone who is invited to get the flu vaccination should do so.

There are a few easy precautions you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe during a spell of particularly cold weather:

wear warm clothes – layers are best, including a hat
if outside in icy conditions, wear boots or shoes with suitable grips
make sure you have enough food and medicines
check the weather forecast regularly
take care outdoors, especially if roads and pavements are icy
take regular hot drinks and food
heat all rooms used during the day – living room to around 18 to 21°C (65 to 70°F) and the rest of your house to at least 16°C (61°F)
if you can’t heat all your rooms, make sure that you keep one room warm throughout the day
if you use an electric blanket check what type it is – some are designed only to warm the bed before you get in and should not be used throughout the night
never use an electric blanket and hot water bottle together as it could cause electrocution
service boilers and appliances annually by a registered engineer to protect from the dangers of carbon monoxide
keep in contact with trusted callers, friends and relatives should you need help and keep your mobile phone charged
You should also find useful information and advice on the following pages:

Staying warm in winter
Avoid slips and falls in icy conditions
If you’re worried during the winter and need help, contact or speak to a friend, relative, trusted caller or health professional. They will make sure that your needs or concerns are brought to the attention of someone who can help.

Extreme Tempatures
Extreme temperatures can be particularly hazardous for children, the elderly and those with special needs and pets. To protect yourself, your family and your neighbors, please familiarize yourself with the following terms and symptoms.

Extreme Cold

Stay safe this winter by learning more about hypothermia and frostbite, and carbon monoxide poisoning including who is most at risk, signs and symptoms, and what to do if someone develops these conditions. In cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, which can lead to serious health problems. When the weather is extremely cold, try to stay indoors. If you must go outside, dress properly. If you believe someone is having a medical emergency call 911 or call a medical professional.

Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing
Wear mittens instead of gloves
Wear water-repellent clothing
Wear a hat
Make sure small children, infants and the elderly stay warm. They are much more vulnerable to the cold weather.
Take advantage of public libraries, and heated stores and malls.
Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
Drive with care and plan your trip. If cold, snowy or icy conditions exceed your ability or your car’s ability, don’t travel.
Safe Heating Tips

If your heat does not work or you have no heat contact your building owner.
Electric heaters can be hazardous and should be used with extreme caution to prevent shock, fire and burns. Follow the usage instructions carefully and keep clothing and blankets clear of any heating elements.
Be very careful in using fireplaces, making sure flues are clear. Proper ventilation is essential and charcoal should not be used.
Gas ovens and burners should never be used to heat your home.
Learn about PG&E’s safety action center
For more information and resources, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Winter Weather site.

What to do if someone has hypothermia, frostbite or carbon monoxide poisoning?


If a person’s temperature is below 95°, get medical attention immediately.
Get the individual into a warm room or shelter.
Remove any wet clothing.
Warm the center of the body first (chest, neck, head and groin) using an electric blanket, if available, or skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets.
Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature (only if person is conscious), but no alcohol!.
Continue to keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket even after body temperature increases.

Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water or warm the affected area using body heat.
Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all (can cause more damage).
Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming (affected areas are numb and can easily be burned).
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Consult a healthcare professional immediately to administer oxygen.
Extreme Heat

When temperatures are high, we want everyone to stay cool, hydrated and informed. Although nearly everyone is uncomfortable in high heat, some people are more vulnerable than others. Seniors, people who work or exercise outdoors, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible. Check frequently on your neighbors if you know they have health concerns. Pet owners are also advised to keep an eye on their companions during these hot days.

Stay Cool
Stay out of the sun, limit outdoor activity and physical exertion
Seek out air-conditioned buildings
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and wide-brimmed hats when outdoors
Lower body temperature by using cold compresses, misting and taking cool showers, baths or sponge baths.
Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of water
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks as these can promote dehydration
Eat light meals
Stay Informed
Keep your friends, family and neighbors aware of heat safety
Learn about PG&E’s safety action center
Seek Medical Attention for Heat Exhaustion
Be mindful for the following symptoms of heat exhaustion and to seek medical attention for:

Profuse sweating and muscle cramping
Body temperature of 105 with hot, dry skin
Confusion or unconsciousness
Protect Your Pets
Be aware that pets are also vulnerable to high heat. Pet owners are reminded to:

Never leave pets in a car
Be alert for any sign of heat stress, including heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting and deep red or purple tongue
Offer a cool place to rest
Call animal control or police immediately if you see an animal in distress in a car
If you think your pet is experiencing heat stress consult a veterinarian immediately for evaluation.

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