With a winter storm about to bring snow, dangerously low temperatures and wind-chills to the state, Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd is urging residents to be sure to prepare for the extreme weather.
"Dress in layers, have an emergency kit in your home and car, don't over-exert yourself when shoveling snow and make sure to check on elderly neighbors and relatives," said O'Dowd. "Exposure to extreme cold, for even short periods, can have major health consequences."
During extreme inclement weather, it also is important to check on seniors and people with disabilities. "Frigid temperatures and snowstorms may prevent or delay caregivers from getting to their client or family member, right away," said Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez. "It's important to have one or two backup plans in place to ensure that any health or prescription needs are met during a weather event."
The following is a list of tips to stay safe, healthy and warm:
- Dress in layers while outdoors and remember to wear a hat to help retain body heat. If you get wet, change into dry clothes as soon as possible
- Be sure you eat and stay hydrated if you are going to be outdoors in the extreme cold. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can accelerate the loss of body heat
- Use rock salt or other chemical de-icing compound to keep walkways, steps, driveways and porches as ice-free as possible. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks and other surfaces around the home
- If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold
- When using a snow blower, read the owners' manual and follow all safety guidelines
- If you will be outdoors in the sun for an extended period, remember to use sunscreen and sunglasses, particularly if you are at higher altitudes
- Stock your car with emergency gear, such as cell phone, jumper cables, flashlight, sand or kitty litter for extra traction, ice scraper and small shovel, and flares and other warning devices. For long car trips, carry food, water, extra blankets and required medications
- Have at least a half tank of gas in your car to keep the fuel line from freezing
- In advance of the storm, charge all electronic devices
It's best to stay inside, but those who need to be outside should dress warmly to avoid Hypothermia and Frostbite. Hypothermia is a drop of normal body temperature from 98.6 degrees to 95 or lower that requires emergency medical care. It can be especially dangerous for the very young and older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, irrational behavior, weakened pulse, shortness of breath and unconsciousness.
Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. Symptoms include: white or grayish-yellow skin areas, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and numbness.
For more information on Frost Bite and Hypothermia please visit: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/frostbite.asp
In case of a power outage, make arrangements to move to a heated location. Senior centers and libraries are typically used by municipalities as heating centers. Residents should contact their municipality or county for information on heating centers in their area. You should also call your utility to determine repair schedules.
Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when power is restored, turn on the faucets slightly to prevent pipes from freezing, and use only safe sources of alternate heat, such as a fireplace or small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heater. Remember to always follow manufacturer's guidelines. For more information, please visit: http://ready.nj.gov/plan/winter-home.html
New Jersey 2-1-1 has more information on cold weather preparedness, including county resources at: http://www.nj211.org/coldweather09.cfm.
The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) works closely with the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center regarding storm predictions and forecasts. The NJOEM website contains links to the County OEM social media pages and alerting systems. Online resources for weather information include: