Health officials urging Mountain Empire residents to be prepared for cold weather

J. H. Osborne • Dec 4, 2012 at 11:50 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Health officials from across Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee are urging the public to get ready for winter weather.

“It will get cold eventually,” Sullivan County Regional Health Department Director Gary Mayes said Tuesday. “We want our citizens to be prepared.”

Mayes was among representatives of several agencies at a kickoff for “Ready ME — Ready Mountain Empire,” a joint campaign that urges area residents to “get a kit, make a plan, stay informed” this winter.

Steve Davis, western region emergency planner for the Virginia Department of Health said winter storms can cause loss of life.

“The National Weather Service calls winter storms ‘The Deceptive Killers,’” Davis said. “All it takes is one heavy snow that sticks around for several days or an ice storm that knocks out power to remind us that being prepared ahead of time just makes sense. Remember, it is up to you to recognize winter weather threats, develop an action plan, and be ready when severe winter weather strikes. Your safety, and that of your family, is up to you.”

Davis outlined some steps to help prepare your home and family for winter weather threats.

•Make a plan. Together with your family, write down your emergency plan. Decide on a meeting place outside of your neighborhood in case your family is separated and cannot return home because of closed roads. Choose an out-of-town relative or friend to be your family’s point of contact for emergency communications.

•Get a kit, including these basic supplies: three days’ worth of food that will not spoil; three days’ worth of drinkable water (one gallon per day per person); a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries; one change of clothing and shoes per person; a first aid kit; prescription medications; emergency tools; flashlight and extra batteries; extra set of car keys (in case you have to be evacuated from car and it is later towed); cash and a credit card (ATMs won’t work in a power outage); special items for infants, the elderly, the disabled, and pets; your written family emergency plan.

•Stay informed. Before, during and after a winter storm, you should monitor local media for information and instructions from emergency officials. Be aware of winter storm watches, warnings and road conditions.

•For outdoor activities, dress for the season. Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers may be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellant and hooded. Always wear a hat or cap on your head since half your body heat can be lost through an uncovered head. Cover your mouth with a scarf or ski mask to protect your lungs from extremely cold air. Mittens snug at the wrist are better than gloves because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.

•Be mindful if physical exertion is necessary outside. Cold temperatures put an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a vehicle, increases your risk of a heart attack. To avoid over exertion problems, remember to stay warm, dress warmly, and slow down when working outdoors. Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion. If you feel chest pain, stop immediately and seek help. Sweating may lead to a chill and potential hypothermia.

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