AUGUSTA – With the recent frigid temperatures and more cold days ahead this winter, Maine CDC Director, Dr. Sheila Pinette, is warning people about the dangers associated with extremely cold weather and sudden power outages that could impact their health and safety.
During extreme cold weather, the two most serious health concerns are frostbite and hypothermia. Signs of frostbite include: numbness and tingling to exposed areas of the body, color changes to the skin (pale, whitish yellow blue), and lack of sensation.
Frostbite can be avoided by covering your face, chin, nose, ears, head, fingers and toes with hats, mittens, scarfs, and wool socks that provide adequate insulation. You should also cover your mouth and face with a scarf, and avoid prolonged outdoor activities, as frostbite may occur with little awareness.
Hypothermia happens when a person’s core body temperature is lower than 95 degrees, which can be prevented by having adequate clothing, shelter, and sources of heat, and avoiding wet clothing if you are outside.
Individuals with medical or life support devices should have extra batteries for medical equipment and assistive devices. Notify your utility company, local fire department and police if you need assistance
Neighbors should do safety checks on their elderly neighbors and those that are ill. These individuals are at an increased risk due to extreme temperature changes.
Here are a few additional recommendations for cold weather preparedness:
Make sure you have a well-stocked Winter Home Emergency Supply Kit. This kit should include a flashlight with extra batteries, bottled water, portable radio and lamp, non-perishable foods, a can opener and first aid kit
Do not leave your pets outside for extended periods of time.
If using an emergency generator, always operate emergency generators outdoors and away from any open window. Ensure you have working smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors.
Food may spoil if you lose power, so a good rule is “when in doubt throw it out,” especially if the outage lasts for more than 6 hours (food should be stored in a refrigerator that is less than 40 degrees and a freezer that is less than 0 degrees.)
For many on fixed incomes, staying warm during the cold winter months can become dangerous. Folks with qualifying incomes may be eligible to receive help to pay for the high cost of heating oil and propane. A local Community Action Agency (CAA) administers fuel assistance programs in each county. For more information, please visit 211 Maine for a referral to a local CAA.