PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
February 12, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Christie Administration Recommends Residents Prepare for Next Winter Storm

With the National Weather Service calling for another round of snow, sleet, ice, wind and rain for New Jersey, Commissioner of Health Mary O'Dowd encouraged New Jersey residents to prepare for possible power outages, hazardous conditions, and to pace themselves when shoveling snow.

"With heavy wet snow forecasted to fall in many areas of the state, I am urging residents with heart disease or high blood pressure to follow their doctor's advice before shoveling snow or performing other strenuous outdoor activities in the cold, as these individuals may be at increased risk of a heart attack or other physical problems," noted O'Dowd.

The Commissioner also encouraged residents to check on family and neighbors who are at risk for cold related injuries including the elderly and those with disabilities or medical conditions.

Tips for proper snow removal include:

  • Ease into shoveling and warming up as if you are exercising. Don't over-exert yourself, take your time and don't lift more snow that you can handle. Shoveling snow can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically
  • Do not shovel while eating or smoking
  • Push snow-rather than lift it-if possible
  • Use your legs and not your back to lift snow
  • Don't pick too much snow up at once, if the snow is wet and heavy, use a small shovel, or only fill one-fourth or one-half of a large shovel
  • Don't work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break. If you feel tightness in your chest stop shoveling immediately and call for medical assistance if symptoms persist

"With the calls for a long-duration storm starting early Thursday and continuing into Friday, residents should be prepared for possible power outages. If you have a portable generator, it's important not to operate it too close to a home or inside a garage, basement of any enclosed space, dangerous - and possibly fatal - levels of carbon monoxide, (CO) can accumulate.

CO exposure can lead to headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability at low levels. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death.

The following safety tips should be followed when using generators:

  • Never run a generator within a basement, garage or any enclosed or partially enclosed structure as this will lead to a dangerous and often fatal accumulation of carbon monoxide
  • Never position a generator too close to your home's windows and doors.
  • Use battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms. Test and change the batteries at regular intervals
  • Never connect a generator directly to your home's wiring unless your home has been wired for generator use. This can cause backfeeding along power lines and electrocute anyone coming in contact with them, including lineworkers making repairs
  • Always plug appliances directly into generators
  • Use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords. Make sure extension cords are free of cuts or tears and the plug has three prongs.
  • Ensure your generator is properly grounded
  • Never overload a generator. A portable generator should only be used when necessary to power essential equipment or appliances
  • Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting it down
  • Keep the generator dry. Operate it on a dry surface under an open structure
  • Have a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby
  • Never fuel a generator while it is operating and wait until it is cool to the touch

If you are using a generator and suspect CO poisoning take immediate action including:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if an individual is not breathing, is unconscious or unresponsive, or having seizures or convulsions
  • Exit the home/building/enclosed space immediately
  • Contact your local fire department

Residents should remain inside during the storm. Those who have to be outside for extended periods should dress in layers and wear a hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf. Most body heat is lost through the top of the head, so always wear a hat. Mittens are better than gloves, because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.

For more information on staying safe in cold weather, and on frostbite and hypothermia, please visit: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp, and http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/frostbite.asp

The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management offers the following websites to prepare for storms and other emergencies.: http://www.nj.gov/health/er/documents/njoem_emergencies.pdf