“Make a car survival kit:” Some tips on staying safe when wind chills become dangerous

MILWAUKEE -- Cold temperatures can quickly become dangerous. Staying in heated areas is the easiest way to protect yourself during periods of extreme cold.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory for Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Counties until 10 a.m. Thursday, January 5th. A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds would combine to generate low wind chills -- resulting in frostbite and leading to hypothermia if precautions weren't taken.

wind-chill

You should consider visiting public buildings like malls, libraries and community centers if your home is insufficiently heated. Call 211 for information about resources specific to your area.

Officials say the most vulnerable when it comes to the bitter cold are children, the elderly, and of course, the homeless. On average, there can be 200-250 people living on the streets in Milwaukee.

Always check on elderly relatives and neighbors throughout the season, and especially during extreme temperature events. Colder weather can put the elderly at higher risk for health problems.

You can stay safe all winter long by following these health and safety tips:

  1. Be Prepared:
  • Have furnaces checked annually before winter to ensure they are working efficiently and safely.
  • Pay attention to local news and weather reports. If you know of someone who may not be aware of weather warnings, including individuals with hearing loss, share the information with them.
  • Create a cold-weather preparedness kit for your family that includes:
    • Candles and matches
    • Hand-cranked or battery-operated flashlight and radio
    • Cellular phone
    • Extra batteries
    • Blankets or sleeping bags
    • Extra clothing
    • High-calorie non-perishable food
    • Extra food and water for pets
    • First aid kits and any medications you require
    • Tool kit

2. Stay safe at home:

  • Heat your home with devices approved for indoor use, and ensure they are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or fires. Never use wood-burning or coal-burning grills, camp stoves, or other outdoor devices indoors. Remember to keep flammable materials such as newspapers or clothing away from portable heaters.
  • Make sure that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
  • Be prepared for power outages in your neighborhood. This can be due to wind or ice. Have blankets and warm clothing on hand to keep you warm. A preparedness kit is good to have around.

3. Stay safe outdoors:

  • When heading outdoors, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing and ensure that exposed skin is covered, including your fingers, nose, and ears. Keep children indoors.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of both frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can occur within minutes when unprotected skin is exposed to very cold temperatures, causing the affected area to appear white or grayish-yellow in color and feel firm or waxy. Hypothermia is life-threatening, and occurs when the body temperature drops too low, causing shivering, drowsiness, clumsiness and confusion. Both require immediate medical treatment.
  • Do not touch metal surfaces with uncovered hands. Flesh can freeze instantly to a surface.
  • If you have pets, bring them inside and ensure trips outside are brief.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the body to lose its heat more rapidly – even though one may feel warmer after drinking alcoholic beverages.

4. Stay safe when traveling:

  • Make a car survival kit that includes blankets, sleeping bags, extra clothing and high-energy foods.
  • Ensure that your vehicle’s fuel tank is at least half-full and that the battery is charged.

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