Prepare Now for Serious Health Challenges Posed by Winter Weather
NASHVILLE – Snow, ice and sub-freezing temperatures of winter weather can come with little or no warning, creating minor problems for some and major tragedies for others. The Department of Health is working with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security to remind residents about the importance of planning and preparation to avoid weather-related problems in homes, outdoors or on the road this winter. The three departments urge individuals to prepare with a sense of urgency, because winter weather can be unpredictable and even deadly for those who don’t have a winter emergency plan.
“We all need to be ready for power outages, being stranded on the road or being personally prepared when a winter storm hits,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “We can’t just hope someone else will arrive to help. There may not be anyone else available to assist us until it’s too late. We all need to have emergency plans and kits in our homes and vehicles, and to be prepared to keep warm and have food and water for ourselves and loved ones for several days.”
“The right time to get ready for any emergency is right now,” said TEMA Director Jim Bassham. “You can’t wait for the ice and snow to fall and then decide to get your emergency resources in place. Take the time now to get an emergency plan and resources together for you and your family so you’re ready when severe weather hits, whether it’s a tornado, flood or ice storm.”
“We want all motorists to be safe. Before you hit the road, prepare for emergency situations and be sure to have an emergency safety kit in your vehicle,” said Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons. “Take a cell phone and charger with you so you can easily call *THP for assistance from the Tennessee Highway Patrol.”
Here are some suggestions on planning and preparing for winter weather:
• Keep at least a half-tank of gas in your vehicle at all times, and be sure you have an emergency kit in the vehicle. This should include candles and matches; a blanket; food such as energy bars and water; a small shovel; flashlight with fresh batteries; first aid supplies; a charger for your cell phone; ice scraper; gloves and extra clothing.
• Before traveling, have a mechanic inspect your vehicle to ensure it is road-worthy for winter. This should include a check of the battery, the anti-freeze and tires. Also ask for a check of the exhaust system; a leaky exhaust system could cause dangerous carbon monoxide to enter the passenger compartment.
• Always tell someone your travel route and when you will arrive and return. Better still, if you don’t have to drive, stay at home or use public transportation.
• Routine inspections can help prevent home heating system failures in cold weather. Change your return air filters to ensure efficiency and make sure vents are not blocked by furniture.
• Carbon monoxide can kill. It is a colorless, odorless gas that comes from burning things. If your home heating system fails and you use a generator, do not operate it in the house where dangerous carbon monoxide fumes can accumulate. Follow all product instructions and use caution to prevent build-up of dangerous fumes when using kerosene heaters.
• Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and are working properly.
• Never use an outdoor grill indoors for cooking or warmth, as these grills put out significant amounts of carbon monoxide and increase fire danger.
• Teach children to stay a safe distance away from candles and fireplaces.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips on winter health and safety, including checklists to help you prepare for winter weather at www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/index.asp. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has resources for winter weather preparedness at www.ready.gov/winter-weather.