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The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers the following recommendations for cold weather situations. For more detailed information click on the links accompanying each section.
If you are using water that you think might not be safe to drink or prepare food, you should attempt to vigorously boil the water for at least one minute to prevent potential waterborne illnesses. Safe water would include store-bought bottled water, or uninterrupted city water. EPA Fact Sheet on Emergency Disinfecting of Water: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/pdfs/fs_emergency-disinfection-drinkingwater-2006.pdf
Don’t skate, slide, or sled on frozen ponds, creeks, rivers, or lakes. Although the water appears to be frozen, it may not be solid enough to support the weight of a person. Temperatures in Oklahoma are never cold enough to completely freeze recreational water.
Power outages present problems with food safety as well as with heating. If people at home or those in food establishments have had a loss of power for more than four hours, take the following precautions with refrigerated food products:
Keeping Food Safe After A Power Outage: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater/facts.asp
OSDH Video: Keeping Food Safe In A Power Outage: http://youtu.be/17xlXbI6yyY
Eat and Drink Wisely & Avoid Alcohol
Eating high-energy, well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic beverages -- they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages such as hot chocolate or sweetened coffee or tea to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Because of power outages in city utilities, be aware of the potential for sewage to back up into your home. If you do experience sewage problems remember that exposure to raw sewage can cause several infectious diseases. Try to avoid direct contact with sewage, and practice good hand washing and personal hygiene following contact.
Respiratory disease can be a significant problem when people stay together in crowded conditions. To help prevent respiratory disease, be sure to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and use good personal hygiene and thorough hand-washing practices to further reduce risk of transmission.
Health Habits For Prevention: http://sis.nlm.nih.gov/enviro/disasterrecovery.html
Slips and Falls
Everyone, especially the elderly, should avoid walking on ice. A short trip to the mailbox or to retrieve the paper could result in a longer trip to the hospital if you slip and fall. In Oklahoma, the ice is often nearly invisible (black ice) so caution should be taken after precipitation.
Preventing Falls: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html
Extreme Cold Exposure
Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite, hypothermia, or in extreme cases, death. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to extreme cold. Frostbite occurs when the skin becomes cold enough to actually freeze. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the nose are symptoms of frostbite. Hypothermia (low body temperature) can occur during longer periods of exposure when the body temperature drops below 95 F. A person will become disoriented, confused, and shiver uncontrollably, eventually leading to drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In severe cases, death is possible. The following tips can help decrease the risk of cold exposure:
· Wear layered clothing outdoors for better protection from the cold. Wear a cap to prevent rapid heat loss from an uncovered head. Cover exposed skin to prevent frostbite.
Home Emergency Kit: http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit
Winter Weather Precautions: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp.
OSDH Severe Winter Weather Precautions: http://youtu.be/NBLhTiP61Po
Worker Safety in a Power Outage (This page discussed feedback issues from improperly installed generators and the risk of electrocution) http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/workersafety.asp
Electrical Safety and Generators: Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/elecgenerators.asp
Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.asp
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