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Health Matters: Winter Storm Safety Tips

Article submitted by the Public Health Department with some tips for the beginning of the winter storm season.

The following was submitted by the Needham Public Health Department:

This has been a very unusual winter so far! We have been hit with extreme temperature fluctuations, from the mild 60s to the low 30s. This winter season has just begun, and we need to remember that it is very important to be prepared. This article talks about some important safety tips to follow in preparation for a winter storm.

Winter storms are deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the actual storm. The major causes are automobile or other transportation accidents, exhaustion and heart attacks caused by overexertion, hypothermia or asphyxiation from improper heating sources.House fires occur more frequently in the winter due to lack of proper safety precautions when using alternate heating sources, like unattended fires and space heaters. As with most potential disasters: preparedness, monitoring the media and common sense can minimize the danger to you and your family.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) suggests that everyone should have emergency supplies which would prepare you to survive on your own for at least three days. Here are some suggestions to help you in preparation for a storm at home:

  • Have sufficient heating fuel, as regular sources may be cut off. Have emergency heating equipment and fuel (a gas fireplace, wood burning stove or fireplace) so you can keep at least one room livable. Be sure the room is well ventilated.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows tokeep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide insulation.
  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture.
  • Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing.
  • Know how to shut off water valves.

Everyone should have a winter emergency supply kit handy, in case a bad storm hits and you are at home. Here are some items to include in your home kit:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio with extra batteries (or power crank shaft)
  • First-aid kit
  • Essential prescription medicines
  • Non-perishable Food
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Water (one gallon per person/per day)
  • Baby items
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Develop a Family Emergency Plan

MEMA also recommends developing a family emergency communication plan in case family members are separated from one another during an emergency (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), and have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the ‘family contact’.

After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance than across town. Also, calling outside the area will be easier than calling into a disaster area. Make sure everyone knows the name, address and telephone number of the contact person. Sometimes an emergency could impact your neighborhood or small section of town. Decide on an alternate meeting area for family members. Be familiar with the Emergency Plans at your children’s school and your place of business. This should help reassureeveryone’s safety and minimize the stress associated with emergencies.

One more cool tip: Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing in advance for winter emergencies and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

For more ideas on how you and your family can prepare for emergencies, you can check out the following website: http://www.ready.gov/. To view a list of Health Department past articles,visit our website at www.needhamma.gov/health.

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