With the current extreme cold weather in Province of Alberta, we at Siksika Health Services and Siksika Emergency Services would like to take this time to provide some information about just how serious this can be, and some tips to stay safe.
With the low temperatures we are currently experiencing, frostbite and hypothermia are risks we need to watch out for:
Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissues underneath freeze. Signs of frostbite include:
loss of sensation in the frozen area
cold, pale “wax-like” skin
Frostbite can progress to deep frostbite, where an entire hand or foot can freeze, and affects the tissues deeper down. This may appear as white, waxy skin that turns greyish blue, and feels cold and hard to the touch.
The most hazardous effect of cold weather is hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition where the body’s temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia may progress from mild to severe if not recognized. This can cause an individual or a worker to become disoriented, less alert, and less attentive to the job or task at hand.
The symptoms and effects of hypothermia occur in the following order:
Hypothermia may be brought on by lack of adequate clothing, wet windy environments, falling into cold water, or any situation in which the body cannot maintain its core temperature. Unfortunately, individuals or workers affected by hypothermia may be unaware of their condition and may even resist help. If an individual or a worker is suspected to be suffering from hypothermia, aid should be administered even if they refuse.
Here are some tips to stay safe while outside during extreme cold temperatures:
Wear layered high visibility clothing. Three layers are most effective:
Inner layer absorbs body moisture and keeps it away from the skin. Long underwear of wool or Gore-Tex material (non-flammable). Socks should be of wool, nylon blend or Gore-Tex material as well
Second layer is insulation. Wool, synthetic insulation or waterfowl down are appropriate. Should be flame retardant if outer layer is removed.
Outer layer protects from wind, moisture and dirt. This layer must be removable to prevent over-heating and should be flame retardant.
Since most of the body’s heat loss is from the head and neck area, keep those areas covered to conserve body heat.
Fire retardant hardhat liners and high collar outerwear should be worn in winter months.
Mittens, gloves and boots should have insulated liners that are removable so they can be dried daily.
An extra pair of dry gloves and socks should be kept with you.
Sunglasses may be necessary to protect the eyes from snow glare.
Traveling During Extreme Conditions:
Only travel if absolutely necessary.
Plan your trip. Tell someone your plans, route, destination and time of arrival. Arrange to check in occasionally during your trip so that you will be missed if something happens.
Dress or pack according to the weather conditions, even if you don’t plan on going outside.
Keep your vehicle well maintained and with as full a tank of gas as practical. This includes ensuring you have a good battery for your vehicle. Have an extension cord in your vehicle as well in the event you need to plug your vehicle in once you get to your destination.
Do not try to drive until the vehicle window has been cleared of snow, ice, and condensation so you have full visibility. Also, clear your roof, hood, headlights and tail lights so you can see and be seen while driving.
If stranded, stay with the vehicle.
If stranded, beware of carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from insufficient ventilation of the passenger compartment. Open your downwind window to ventilate, especially when using a portable heater in the passenger compartment. Keep your exhaust system leak free to prevent asphyxiation. Try to keep the tailpipe clear of snow.
Plan ahead. Depending upon communication resources and the potential for quick rescue, the following listing of equipment that may be helpful if you become stranded include:
High energy foods (candy bars, peanut butter & crackers, etc.)