Winter has Minnesota in its grasp, so be prepared for ice, snow and cold. People with disabilities should always take extra precautions to stay safe.
Being prepared before heading out into potential bad weather strikes is essential. Almost all television stations and the National Weather Service also offer weather updates via smart technology.
Find your community’s resource for issues such as on-street parking bans and other snow emergency information. Many cities now have text, email, Twitter and Facebook notices of snow emergencies.
Be prepared at home. Many Minnesotans, especially those in rural areas, face the risk of losing power during a storm. Make a winter checklist and be ready for a week without access to food, water and electricity. Have sources for warmth, drinking water, canned food and a manual can opener. Stock up on breads, crackers, dried fruits and other foods that can be eaten without cooking. Pets and service animals’ needs also should be considered, by stockpiling needed pet food and water. Remember, many of your pets cannot cope without a heat source, as well.
Have a stock of prescription and non-prescription drugs and a first aid kit. Make sure flashlights and battery powered lanterns work, and extra batteries are on hand. To reduce the risk of accidental fires, avoid using candles. Home carbon monoxide and smoke alarms must be in good working order. Close off rooms that aren’t in use to conserve heat. Close drapes or cover windows with blankets at night. Stuff towels or rugs beneath cracks under doors. Be careful with space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces as those can cause burns, start fires or in some cases add to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Keep outdoor trips planned and as brief as possible. Cold weather and prolonged exposure to cold can trigger health problems and worsen pre-existing conditions. A hat, scarf or mask to cover the face, sleeves that are snug at the wrist, layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing and a water-resistant outer coat to stay dry and boots are best. Starting to shiver is a sign that it’s time to go inside and warm up.
Anyone with heart disease or high blood pressure should be especially careful of exertion in cold weather. Always follow doctor’s instructions on working in the cold.
Walking or wheeling on ice and snow can be extremely dangerous. Icy or snowy sidewalks are a huge barrier for everyone. A fall can cause serious and even fatal injuries. Stock up on salt, sand, clay cat litter or deicers for increased stability on sidewalks. Some cities use the See Click Fix program to report unshoveled walks. Other cities have grievance phone lines. Most cities have a set time, such as 12 to 24 hours after a snowfall, for a walk to be cleared.
All motor vehicles in Minnesota should be prepared with emergency supplies. Have a shovel, windshield scraper, cell phone and portable charger, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, water, snack foods, tow rope, jumper cables, emergency flares, help signs, road salt, sand, hats, coats, mittens, blankets, and a first aid kit. Have a metal can or tin, and put waterproof matches and a candle inside to melt snow for drinking water. Never eat snow as a water source as it will lowers body temperature.
Be cautious about travel and monitor weather conditions before leaving. If you have one always take your cell phone along. It is always a good idea to let a family member or friend know about a trip, and the expected arrival time. Never count on your vehicle to provide adequate warmth if you get stranded. Pullover to the side of the road and stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Use flashers and raise the hood if it isn’t too windy, raining or snowing.
Only run your automobile and heater for about 10 minutes per hour. Open a window slightly for clean air and make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow. This will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Persons who get stranded in a vehicle need to stay awake. Keep arms and legs moving as much as possible to promote circulation and to stay warm.
Limited home snow shoveling help is available for people with disabilities and senior citizens. Call the Senior Linkage Line 1-800-333-2433 or the Disability Linkage Line at 1-866-333-2466. Churches, neighborhood groups and Living at Home/Block Nurse programs are potential resources.
(Information for this article came from the State of Minnesota, Senior Linkage Line, Disability Linkage Line, Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Info websites. Visit www.minnesotahelp.info to find both linkage line websites and other useful information. Another good website is www.disability.state.mn.us/emergency-preparedness).