For Immediate Release
KDHE Office of Communications
TOPEKA- Today is Winter Weather Awareness Day. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment offers the following preparedness tips that lead to a safe winter season at home and when traveling in hazardous winter conditions.
Car Kit - Kansans are encouraged to prepare their vehicles for a winter emergency in the event they find themselves stranded while traveling. KDHE recommends making a car winter safety kit ahead of time. A basic winter car survival kit in your vehicle can include: cell phone, flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, sand, a first aid kit, jumper cables, ice scraper and road flares. A more comprehensive car safety kit can be found online at http://www.kdheks.gov/beh/download/Winter_car_safety.pdf.
Celebrating - When celebrating during the holiday season, outdoor winter weather and alcohol consumption can become a dangerous combination. While alcohol already affects a person’s decision making, cold temperatures add the risk of hypothermia. When consuming alcoholic beverages is a part of the festivities, Kansans should plan ahead and take a cab home. Last year in Kansas there were two parked vehicle deaths associated with alcohol and cold weather (2011, Kansas Vital Statistics). Hypothermia warning signs include shivering, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. These warning signs can become difficult to recognize if alcoholic beverages have been consumed.
CO Poison - Carbon monoxide poisoning is another danger during the winter months. As temperatures fall, people spend more time indoors and the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning becomes more of a risk. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, poisonous gas that can collect in a home, car or garage and can come from a variety of sources, including water heaters, gas or kerosene space heaters, gas boilers, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, charcoal or gas grills, fireplaces, generators and wood stoves, vehicles and yard equipment with gasoline powered engines.
“Carbon monoxide is most likely to accumulate during winter months, when a heating system is in use and a home has been sealed and insulated against the cold,” said Tom Langer, Bureau of Environmental Health Director. “A family’s best defense is to install a working carbon monoxide detector.”
Temperatures - Kansans should also be prepared to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards, including falls. During the 2010-2011 winter, there were 2,012 falls related hospital discharges (HD), making up half of all injury HD during that time period (52.1%). Almost half (46.9%) of these fall HD occurred among those 80 years and older and 65.5 percent occurred among females (12.22.2010-3.19.2011, Kansas Hospital Discharge Database, Kansas Hospital Association). Kansans can help protect their loved ones from falls by removing snow and ice from sidewalks, laying sand and helping elderly friends and neighbors.
More information on severe weather planning and weather conditions can be found at http://www.kdheks.gov/cphp/index.htm.