With frigid temperatures finally upon us, Montana Red Cross urges Montanans to take adequate precautions as they head outdoors. Although most Montana residents assume they know how to protect themselves, the fact is that every year people fail to heed winter weather warnings and end up injured or worse.
“As with any severe weather event, preparation can be the difference between life and death,” says Rod Kopp, CEO of Montana Red Cross. “When very cold temperatures predominate, everyone should be prepared for the worst, especially when they head outdoors”.
Montana Red Cross recommends having the following items on hand all winter long:
- At least a 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and non-perishable food;
- A flashlight, battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries;
- A well-stocked first aid kit;
- A 7-day supply of medications and medical items; and
- Supplies for babies and pets.
- Listen and watch for critical information from the National Weather Service.
- Bring pets inside. Move other animals and livestock to sheltered areas.
- Stay inside. If people must go out, wear warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers.
- Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep emergency supplies in vehicles.
- If possible, the Red Cross also asks that everyone check in on their neighbors, especially those requiring special assistance and those living alone.
- Additional information on what supplies to have and what to do before, during and after a winter storm is located at .
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FROSTBITE AND HYPOTHERMIA
Frostbite and hypothermia are cold-related emergencies that may quickly become life or limb
threatening. Preventing cold-related emergencies includes not starting an activity in, on, or around cold water unless you know you can get help quickly in an emergency. Be aware of the wind chill. Dress appropriately and avoid staying in the cold too long. Wear a hat and gloves when appropriate with layers of clothing. Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay active to maintain body heat. Take frequent breaks from the cold. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold. Get out of the cold immediately if the signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear.
Frostbite is the freezing of a specific body part such as fingers, toes, the nose or earlobes. Signals of frostbite include lack of feeling in the affected area; skin that appears waxy, is cold to the touch, or is discolored (flushed, white or gray, yellow or blue).
What to do for frostbite:
- Move the person to a warm place.
- Handle the area gently; never rub the affected area.
- Warm gently by soaking the affected area in warm water (100–105 degrees F) until it appears red and feels warm.
- Loosely bandage the area with dry, sterile dressings.
- If the person’s fingers or toes are frostbitten, place dry, sterile gauze between them to keep them separated.
- Avoid breaking any blisters.
- Do not allow the affected area to refreeze.
- Seek professional medical care as soon as possible.
Hypothermia is another cold-related emergency. Hypothermia is life-threatening. Hypothermia is caused by the cooling of the body caused by the failure of the body’s warming. The goals of first aid are to restore normal body temperature and to care for any conditions while waiting for EMS personnel. Signals of hypothermia include shivering, numbness, glassy stare; apathy, weakness, impaired judgment; loss of consciousness.
What to do for hypothermia:
- CALL 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
- Gently move the person to a warm place.
- Monitor breathing and circulation.
- Give rescue breathing and CPR if needed.
- Remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
- Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting dry clothing on the person. Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used when first wrapped in a towel or blanket before applying. Do not warm the person too quickly, such as by immersing him or her in warm water. Rapid warming may cause dangerous heart arrhythmias. Warm the core first (trunk, abdomen), not the extremities (hands, feet). This is important to mention because most people will try to warm hands and feet first and that can cause shock.
You can help people affected by disasters like severe winter storms, as well as countless other crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org/montana, call 1-800-ARC-MONT (1-800-272-6668), or mail a check to American Red Cross of Montana, 1300 28th Street South, Great Falls, MT 59405.