Residents Urged to Take Precautions for Record Cold
County Emergency Services:
Anyone in Montgomery County who is in an emergency situation and needs assistance to stay warm, can call the County’s Crisis Center Hotline at 240.777.4000 or visit the center at 1301 Piccard Drive in Rockville. The hotline and Crisis Center are staffed 24/7.
Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as the very young, seniors, those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated and/or without heat. Hypothermia can result form prolonged exposure to the cold. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body beings to lose heat faster than it can be produced. When the body’s store of energy is used up, the result is hypothermia. Because hypothermia can affect the brain, a person may not be aware that it is happening, and not take appropriate steps to prevent damage.
• Shivering, exhaustion
• Confusion, fumbling hands
• Memory loss, slurred speech
• For infants – bright red, cold skin, very low energy
What to do:
• If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency – get medical attention immediately
• If the person is unconscious and does not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing, call 9-1-1
Prior to medical care:
• Get victim into a warm room or shelter
• Remove any wet clothing
• Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head, and groin – using electric blanket if available, or use skin-to-skin- contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets
• Warm, non-alcoholic, beverages can help increase body temperatures if the victim is conscious
Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, typically the nose, ears, cheeks, chink fingers, or toes. Signs of frostbite include redness or pain in any skin area, a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness.
What to do:
• Get into a warm area as soon as possible
• Immerse the affected area in warm, but not hot, water
• Warm the affected area using body heat
• Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming
• Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes if at all possible
• Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow of massage it in any fashion
Try to stay indoors, and make trips outside as brief as possible. Limit outdoor recreational activity. Outdoor cold weather exertion puts extra strain on the heart.
• Wear hat, scarf, or mask to cover face and mouth
• Sleeves should be snug at the wrist
• Mittens are warmer than gloves
• Several layers of loose-fitting clothing should be worn under a heavy coat
If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace or space heater, be extremely careful.
• Only use combustion heaters if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space
• Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding
During cold winter weather, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Make sure there is adequate antifreeze. Never leave a person of any age alone in a vehicle. Have extra blankets in case of a breakdown.
Montgomery County reminds residents that Executive Regulation 10-10AM, Anti-Cruelty Conditions for Dogs, states that “a person must not tether a dog under circumstances that endanger its health, safety, or well-being including: unattended tethering of the dog during a weather emergency.” This law was enacted by the Montgomery County Council on June 25, 2002. Dogs spending a period of time outdoors must have access to shelter to properly protect them from the elements. The penality for this violation is a $500 fine.
Montgomery County also reminds citizens to be particularly careful with all pets during this time period of record cold. The best advice during periods of extreme weather conditions is to bring your pets indoors. Even animals that are accustomed to living outdoors can be susceptible to the dangers of cold weather. Livestock animals should have a place to get out of the wind; dry bedding should be provided to protect them from frostbite.
If you see an animal left outside that appears to be in danger, please call the Animal Services Division immediately at 301-279-8000.
Tips from veterinarians for cold weather care of a dog include:
• Provide a heated bed and shelter for dogs which cannot come indoors
• Avoid letting your dog eat snow – keep fresh room temperature water available at all times
• Keep food and water in a place where it will not freeze – preferably inside
• A dog’s ears and tail are susceptible to frostbite; check them after a dog has been outside for a long period of time
• Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol
• A dog licking the salt off the bottom of his paws can make him sick, so wipe his paws after he walks through a salted area
• Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather because a car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death