BITTERLY COLD temperatures and fresh snow arrived last weekend, offering a stark reminder of how some things are truly beyond human control.
Simply stated, it is not safe to do many routine things when the weather stops being routine. Cold weather can injure or kill those who don’t recognize the dangers.
Weather forecasts for this week call for more snow and more extreme cold. So, at the risk of repeating the obvious, there are several common-sense reminders that everyone should keep in mind about how to stay safe while dealing with cold temperatures, snow and ice.
Travel routes this week will occasionally be snow covered. Some roads that look clear will still be slick. If snow is falling, visibility will be limited. It will make sense not to travel if it’s not necessary.
Vehicles need to have good batteries. Worn tires make it difficult to stop on clear roads, but compound problems when ice or snow are present.
A working and fully charged cell phone and an acute awareness of the dangers are the best defenses against a tragedy.
Motorists who become stranded must make sure they can stay warm until help arrives. Blankets, extra coats, gloves and hats should be kept in emergency kits. Water, food, flares and flashlights also should be on hand.
Fuel tanks should be fairly full, so that a vehicle in a ditch can be started occasionally to provide warmth. Occupants must check frequently to make sure snow or frozen dirt doesn’t clog tailpipes or cause exhaust fumes to come into the passenger compartment.
If possible, stay inside and stay warm. Anyone who needs to venture outdoors should dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. For those who work outside, it will be important to take breaks and watch out for signs of danger. The signs of frostbite include pale fingers, toes and spots on the face. Exposed skin also can be numb.
Hypothermia, defined as a lowering of the body’s core temperature, can cause shivering, drowsiness and memory loss. Wet clothes can speed the loss of body heat. So can wind chill, as the wind draws away warmth that is generated by the body.
Indoor safety also is important. Many people use space heaters or other devices to provide extra warmth in extreme conditions. Heaters need to be in good condition and ventilated well. They should only be used in areas where they are not at risk of falling over and no flamable materials are nearby.
It also is important to have operating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, especially near bedrooms so that occupants can hear if an alarms sound during the night. If batteries have not been changed recently, this would be a good time to handle that chore.
Staying in contact with isolated neighbors, family and friends is especially important during extreme weather. People who live alone, the elderly and those with health issues can become chilled quickly. They may need groceries delivered or paths cleared.
None of these safety tips are especially arduous, especially when considered in view of the possible consequences when temperatures plummet.
This too shall pass. Winter is only scheduled to last another five weeks.