Snowstorms and extreme cold

Winter snowstorms increase a risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks caused by excessive effort. They may lead to the extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, strong wind and last from several hours up to several days. During this time, communication may be paralyzed, while electricity, gas and hot water supplies might be interrupted. The effects of harsh winter weather can be most severe for the elderly, small children and the sick.

Before

• Determine the risk of a snowstorm in your area. Remember that an extreme winter weather may cause shortages of electricity, gas, water, heat, food and many different services for a long period of time
• Prepare your home for the cold by insulating and sealing all openings. Get to know how to prevent pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, get spare batteries. Conduct regular chimney sweeps
• Pay attention to weather reports and warnings about frost and snowstorms
• Collect supplies in case of being forced to stay at home for a few days without electricity. Remember the specific needs of each person, including medications. Don’t forget about animals’ needs
• Provide an emergency power at home
• Always have an easy access to a personal evacuation backpack with content that may help you to survive a minimum of 3 days without external supply
• Equip a car with starter cables and a flashlight. Keep the fuel tank full
• Familiarize yourself with the signs and basics methods of treatment of frostbite and hypothermia

During

• Stay in the building and dress warmly. Check if all openings in the house are closed (windows, doors)
• During heavy snowfalls, avoid highways, if possible. If you get stuck in a car, stay inside
• Limit the time you stay outside. If you have to go outside, wear several layers of warm clothing. Beware of the first signs of frostbite and hypothermia
• Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Use power generators only outside and away from windows. Never heat a house with a gas stove or oven
• Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid excessive effort when clearing the snow
• Monitor the first signs of frostbite and hypothermia and warm up immediately
• Take care of your neighbors. Older people and small children are more exposed to the extreme cold
• Be careful while moving in snowy and icy terrain. Pay attention to ice icicles and snowdrifts on building roofs
• Attempt to use a public transport
• Avoid further journeys.

However, if you’re forced to do so, follow the guidelines below:
o Prepare your car for travel
o Listen to radio messages about current weather conditions
o Tell someone where you’re heading to and what route you chose
o Travel during the day and if possible always with someone
o Take a well-equipped evacuation backpack along with you

If you’re stuck on the road:
o Stay in the car, don’t seek for help by yourself unless it’s in a visible distance
o Mark your car so that it would be visible for the rescuers – bright fabric on the antenna, flashing “headlamp” light
o Don’t leave the lights on to avoid discharging the battery
o Check if the exhaust pipe is free of snow
o Cover yourself with a blanket or a sleeping bag
o Start the engine from time to time to warm up the interior
o To keep warm, passengers should sit as close to each other as possible
o From time to time, perform simple movement exercises to stimulate circulation: clap your hands, move your limbs, change body position to maintain proper blood circulation
o Avoid excessive effort – snow clearance or pushing a car in such conditions may cause serious health problems
o If there is more than one person in the car, take turns sleeping
o Pay attention to the signs of frostbite or cold

After

Severe hypothermia – extremely low body temperature. A temperature below 28 degrees is an emergency and can lead to death
Symptoms: chills, exhaustion, cold upper and lower limbs, weak arms and legs, disorientation, memory loss, fuzzy speech and sleepiness
Actions: head to a warm room or a shelter. Firstly, warm up the middle of the body – chest, neck, head and groin. Keep the victim dry and wrapped in warm blankets, including the head and neck

Frosting – causes a loss of sensation and change of color around the face, fingers and toes
Symptoms: numbness, white or greyish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin
Actions: head to a warm place. Soak limbs in a lukewarm water, add increasingly more warm water as time goes by. Use body heat to warm up. Don’t massage or use a heating pad (blanket or electric pillow)

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