Since winter in Massachusetts can bring extremely low temperatures and wind chills, everyone should take precautions to minimize the dangers presented by severe cold weather:
Before Extreme Cold Weather
- Be aware of the weather conditions by monitoring the media.
- Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity.
- Have a well-stocked Emergency Kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable food.
- Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half-full. Carry a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can & waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshields scraper, shovel, sand, towrope and jumper cables.
During Extreme Cold Weather
- Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. Also consider your pets.
- Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
- Wear a hat, mittens (rather than gloves) and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
- If electricity is lost for an extended period of time, a snowbank in your yard can become a makeshift freezer for food.
- Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissue that is frozen. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.
- Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.
- When utilizing alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, ensuring everyone knows how to use it properly. Test smoke alarms.
- If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
- To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past. This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze. Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.
- If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, starting where they are most exposed to the cold. A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.
- Be a good neighbor. Check with elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to ensure their safety