State helps residents survive winter
Winter has arrived in full force, blanketing the ground with snow and sending thermometer readings to new depths.
Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management publishes tips for how to survive the harsh season whether one is working outdoors or just trying to stay warm at home.
The agency recommends storing enough drinking water to last five days in the event of an emergency that cuts off running water to the home. It suggests keeping enough non-perishable food for that length of time as well. Homeland Security recommends keeping extra batteries for flashlights, and a battery-operated weather radio. Families with infants should stock formula, diapers, bottles and pacifiers.
To make the winter more bearable, Homeland Security suggests having on hand rock salt and kitty litter to add traction to ice-covered paths. At its website, beready.iowa.gov, the agency asks people to insulate their pipes to prevent them from freezing. This can be done by wrapping them in layers of old newspapers and covering the newspapers to keep the moisture out. The website suggests letting faucets drip to prevent them from freezing.
Caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows are also recommended. Homeland Security suggests installing storm windows and covering them with plastic from the inside.
During a blizzard
Should a blizzard hit the area while one is indoors, the agency recommends conserving as much heat as possible by lowering the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. If pipes freeze, remove the insulation around them and wrap them in rags. Open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold.
If one has to go outside during a blizzard, Homeland Security recommends wearing loose fitting, layered and lightweight clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant.
Mittens are warmer than gloves because fingers create warmth when touching.
Before shoveling snow, the agency recommends stretching to warm up the body. People with heart conditions should be especially mindful of taking frequent breaks from shoveling because cold weather puts additional strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Breaks should also be used to change wet clothing, since wet clothing loses all of its insulating value.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Something people should watch out for in these cold winter months is frostbite, which is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can be permanently damaging. Symptoms of frostbite include loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance of the extremities such as fingers, toes, nose and earlobes.
Hypothermia is another reaction to cold temperatures, occurring when the body temperature drops below 90 degrees. Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion.
If someone is already suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, Homeland Security suggests warming the person slowly and seeking immediate medical attention. It recommends warming the person’s trunk, then arms and legs because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put the person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket.
Do not give a person with frostbite or hypothermia caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause the heart to beat too fast. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart. Both can hasten the ill effects of cold body temperature.