CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency has outlined important steps to take when the temperatures become dangerous.
Before an Extreme Cold Emergency
- Be aware of the weather conditions by monitoring the Media.
- Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity.
- Have a well-stocked Winter Home Emergency Supply Kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable food.
- Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half-full.
- Carry a Winter Survival Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can & waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshields scraper, shovel, sand, towrope and jumper cables.
During an Extreme Cold Emergency
- Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. Also consider your pets.
- Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
- Wear a hat, mittens (rather than gloves) and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
- If electricity is lost for an extended period of time, a snowbank in your yard can become a makeshift freezer for food.
- Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damage to body tissue that is frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately. Slowly rewarm the affected areas as you await medical assistance.
- Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care. If medical assistance is not available, slowly warm up the person, body core first, wrapping them in a blanket or using your own body heat. Do not warm the extremities first, for this drives the cold blood towards the heart and can lead to heart failure. Do not give the person alcohol, coffee, tea or any hot food or beverage. Warm liquids are best.
- When utilizing alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, ensuring everyone knows how to use it properly. Test smoke alarms.
- If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
- To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of hot and cold water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.
- Check with elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to ensure their safety.
Protect Your Pets
Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to both sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to retain body heat.
The floor should be elevated a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The entrance of the doghouse should be turned to face away from prevailing winds, and the entrance should be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.