Winter weather can create hazards; be careful

Winter weather can create hazards; be careful Governor Bill Janklow has declared Oct. 25-29 as Winter Weather Preparedness Week.

The purpose of the special week is to provide the public with the information they need to properly prepare for adverse winter weather.

The South Dakota Division of Emergency Management provides the following information for the people of South Dakota to prepare for the season ahead.

If you must go outside

Avoid overexertion. Cold weather itself, without any physical exertion, puts an extra strain on the heart. If you add to this the strain of heavy physical activity such as shoveling snow, pushing an automobile or even walking too fast or too far, you risk damaging your body.

Dress warmly in loose-fitting, layered, light-weight clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat. Protect your face and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from very cold air. Wear mittens instead of gloves � they allow your fingers to move freely in contact with one another and will keep your hands much warmer.

Watch for frostbite and other symptoms of cold-weather exposure. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, tip of the nose or ear lobes. If such symptoms are detected, get medical attention immediately. Do not rub with snow or ice � this does not help the condition and in fact will make it worse. The best treatment for frostbite is the rewarming of the affected tissue.

Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol causes the body to lose its heat more rapidly � even though one may feel warmer after drinking alcoholic beverages.

Keep yourself and your clothes dry. Change wet socks and all other wet clothing as quickly as possible to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

Signs of overexposure

When the body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it, a condition call hypothermia begins to develop. The symptoms become very apparent, and include:

* Uncontrollable shivering

* Vague, slow, slurred speech

* Memory lapses; incoherence

* Immobile, fumbling hands

* Frequent stumbling; lurching gait

* Drowsiness

* Apparent exhaustion; inability to get up after rest.

If a person shows any signs of overexposure to cold or wet and windy weather, take the following measures � even if the person claims to be in no difficulty. Often the person will not realize the seriousness of the situation.

* Get the person into dry clothing and into a warm bed or sleeping bag with a "hot" water bottle (which should actually be only warm to the touch, not hot), warm towels, heating pad, or some other such heat source.

* Concentrate heat on the trunk of the body first � that is, the shoulders, chest and stomach.

* Keep the head low and the feet up to get warm blood circulating to the head.

* Give the person warm drinks.

* Never give the person alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers or pain relievers. They only slow down body processes even more.

* Keep the person quiet. Do not jostle, massage or rub.

* If symptoms are extreme, call for professional medical assistance immediately.

Your car and winter safety

Carry a safety kit with you when you drive in the winter time. That can include a first aid kit, a warm blanket, a flashlight, matches and candles, raisins, peanuts, chocolate (foods that give quick energy), a windshield scraper and brush, a shovel, paper towels, a knife, booster cables, a few coins for a pay phone and a pole and bright piece of cloth if you have no antenna.

If a blizzard traps you in your car, don't panic. Stay in the vehicle. Do not attempt to walk in a blizzard. Disorientation comes quickly in blowing and drifting snow. Being lost in open country during a blizzard is extremely dangerous. You are more likely to be found in your car and will at least be sheltered there.

Avoid overexertion and exposure. Exertions from attempting to push your car, shoveling heavy drifts and performing other difficult chores during strong winds, blinding snow and bitter cold may cause a heart attack � even for persons in apparently good physical condition.

Beware of carbon monoxide. Run the engine, heater or catalytic heater sparingly and only with a window rolled down for ventilation. Make sure that snow has not blocked the exhaust pipe. Keep a down-wind window slightly open for fresh air. Freezing rain, wet snow and wind-driven snow can completely seal the passenger compartment.

Exercise by clapping hands and moving arms and leg vigorously from time to time, and do not stay in one position for long. But don't overdo it. Exercise warms you but it also increases heat loss.

Take turns keeping watch. If more than one person is in the car, don't all sleep at the same time. If alone, stay awake as long as possible.

Tie a bright cloth to the antenna and raise it high so rescuers can find you. Also turn on the dome light at night to make your car more visible to working crews.

For more information and other winter weather safety tips, contact Ben Taylor, Clay County Emergency Management director, or the South Dakota Division of Emergency Management in Pierre.

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