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Winter is back and it's colder than ever
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By Member Joyce Shry
January 30, 2019

Coupled with snow, dry air, sickness, and everything else that comes with winter, it's shaping up to be pretty rough. A little bit of preparation ahead of time makes a world of difference later.

Bundle Up – Heat is the key to surviving winter emergencies. Heating yourself is more efficient than heating your entire home. The biggest winter-specific risks are hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, and getting lost.

Body heat is one of your most important assets. One of the most important things you can remember in any cold survival situation is to take advantage of your body heat — keep it trapped against your body so it can’t escape. Keep it protected from the outside cold that’s trying to steal that precious thermal energy. This is why clothing layers are so important. The value of multiple layers and insulation isn’t the material itself. The real value is trapped air pockets between those layers and around your body that warm up and keep you comfortable.

Since heat is so important, things that reduce your heat are the most threatening —exposure to the elements, wind, and skin contact with water (including sweat). Almost everything that touches you is trying to take your heat. The difference comes down to how conductive each thing is, which determines how rapidly it can steal your heat.

Hypothermia is when your body’s core temperature drops below 95 F, which causes your vital systems to shut down. This happens when your body loses heat faster than it’s produced. Hypothermia is most likely at freezing temperatures, but it can happen in cool temperatures. Hypothermia is about your internal temperature dropping.

Frostbite is more about your external cells. Frostbite occurs when skin or body tissue is damaged from freezing. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts that are furthest away from your heart, like your fingers, toes, cheeks, ears, and nose. Without internal heat to fight back against the external cold, the cells lose the battle.

Don’t travel if you can help it. Don’t go out in nasty winter conditions if you don’t have too or if you lack a basic winter car kit. If you must go, give yourself more time, drive more defensively, and gradually accelerate so you don’t spin out and slow down to a roll before the red light or stop sign.

If you are stranded in your car, stay in your vehicle if it is safe to do so. The most important issues are heat, water, and being found/helped. Protect your heat! Minimize the number of times you have to go outside. Bundle up and get out the emergency blankets. Take advantage of trapping and protecting your body heat. Be creative when insulating yourself. If you’re sleeping in the back seat, use your floor mats to create extra insulation between your body and the cushions, which are mostly air. Roll up the floor mat to use as an insulating pillow if you have to rest your head against the cold window.

Keep your feet off the floor. The foot wells are one of coldest parts of the vehicle. Run the engine for a few minutes every hour. This ensures it will start after the storm, lets you generate some heat, and listen to weather reports. Clear snow from your tailpipe so dangerous fumes don’t build up inside. Don’t ever fall asleep with the engine running. Make your vehicle noticeable. Turn your hazard lights on. Honk your horn. Keep your cell phone in a pocket close to your body, because electronics and batteries perform poorly in cold weather.

Winter and extreme cold present unique survival challenges. Taking a little bit of time to learn valuable skills may save your life. Keeping up to date with the latest weather information is a great way to stay safe and help those around you. No one can stop the onset of winter. However, if you follow these suggestions, you will be ready for it when it comes.

Attachment WinterStorm_InfoSheet_061418.pdf  (881k)
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