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Nov. 9, 2012
Northwest Missouri State University, along with the National Weather Service (NWA), the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and local emergency managers are joining forces to promote Wednesday, Nov. 14, as Winter Awareness Day in Missouri.
“As the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are starting to drop, it’s just a subtle reminder that winter weather is just around the corner,” said Lt. Mike Ceperley, emergency management coordinator for Northwest. “Winter Awareness Day reminds everyone that extreme cold temperatures are nothing to take lightly during the upcoming months. We can’t stop winter storms or extreme cold from coming, but we can take a few moments to make sure we are properly prepared for their effects.”
Northwest and emergency management organizations across Missouri remind residents that extreme cold temperatures are a danger during winter months. Prolonged exposure to the cold can cause frostbite, hypothermia or, in extreme cases, death. In fact, excessive cold is one of the leading weather-related causes of death across the country. Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to extreme cold. Freezing temperatures also cause damage to crops and property.
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 – or low body temperature – can occur during long periods of exposure when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A person will become disoriented, confused and shiver uncontrollably, eventually leading to drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. In severe cases, death is possible.
Wind chill is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss on the human body resulting from the combined effect of low temperature and wind. As winds increase, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, driving down both the skin temperature and eventually internal body temperature. While exposure to low wind chills can be life threatening to both humans and animals alike, the only effect that wind chill has on inanimate objects, such as vehicles, is that it shortens the time it takes the object to cool to the actual air temperature.
Emergency management personnel also emphasize that it is important to keep extra supplies in your home and car during the winter season. Items you may want to have include non-perishable food, medical supplies, batteries and emergency heating supplies.
Travel in winter can be extremely dangerous as well. Emergency management groups recommend canceling travel if winter weather is expected to occur, and if you must travel, make sure you plan ahead. Make sure other people know your travel plans and know how to contact you. Travel in convoy with other vehicles if possible.
Also, keep a survival kit in your vehicle that includes non-perishable food such as can goods or candy bars, extra clothes and blankets, a battery-powered radio, a shovel and sand. If stranded, the best thing to do is to stay in the vehicle. Tie a bright colored cloth to the antenna so rescuers can find you. Run the engine occasionally for heat making sure to keep the exhaust pipe clear. Open windows occasionally for fresh air.
Severe winter storms also can cut off your supply of electricity and other winter fuels. It is important to have an alternative heat source available. Do not use charcoal indoors as it gives off large amounts of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and deadly gas. Using alternative heat sources can also be a fire danger. Be very careful because if conditions are bad, the fire department may not be able to get to you. Make sure your smoke alarms are working and have fresh batteries. It is also a good idea to have carbon monoxide alarms in your home adjacent to sleeping areas.
Working in cold weather puts a tremendous strain on the body, even for people in good shape. Take frequent breaks and don't overexert yourself. Dress properly for the conditions and wear several layers of lightweight clothing. Air is trapped between the layers to help keep the body warm. Protect the extremities, such as the hands, feet and ears as they are the most susceptible to frostbite. Wear a hat as a large percentage of the body's heat is lost through the top of the head.
For more winter weather tips, contact the University Police Department at 660.562.1254, or visit the National Weather Service online at www.weather.gov or the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency at sema.dps.mo.gov.
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900
Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468