Patch: Boston EMS Provides Winter Safety Tips
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December 19, 2012
Jennifer Mehigan

The following column was provided by the Boston Emergency Medical Services department.

For many of us, when we think winter, we think ice skating on the Frog Pond, sledding with the kids on the neighborhood hill, sipping hot chocolate and watching the snow fall. These are the parts of winter that we all enjoy. Then there’s shoveling the sidewalk and digging out the cars after a storm, slipping on icy steps, downed trees and power outages. The more we prepare for problems and bad weather, the safer we’ll all be.

At Boston EMS, our crews are ready for any call. And there are several things people can do to keep themselves and their families safe this winter:

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and poisonous gas that develops when things burn. Problems occur when that gas gets into the air and people breathe it in. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches, vomiting and can become serious quickly. We often find that several people in one household or building are feeling the same way and there’s no other obvious cause.

  1. If people have the symptoms above, call 911 and immediately get fresh air
  2. State law requires buildings have working CO detectors on every level
  3. CO detectors, like smoke detectors, should be checked annually and batteries replaced
  4. Have your heating unit checked only by a licensed professional
  5. Never use your oven for heat 

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it produces it. The most common causes are prolonged exposure to cold-weather or cold water. Children, the elderly and those with medical problems are the most at risk since they often have difficulty regulating their body temperature.

When going outside to work or play in cold weather, wear layers of comfortable and warm clothing, including hats and gloves:

  • Do wear a waterproof layer on the outside and protect your ears, hands and other extremities;
  • Do wear warm boots or footwear that protect your feet;
  • Do drink plenty of warm, non-alcoholic fluids;
  • Do take occasional breaks and go inside to get warm;
  • Once inside, don’t delay removing cold, wet clothing 

More winter safety tips:

  • Make sure you always have a well-stocked Winter Home Emergency Supply Kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a manual can opener;
  • Check on your neighbors, particularly the elderly who may need assistance during or after a storm;
  • To avoid injury, we would also urge those with Cardiac issues to ask neighbors to help with chores such as shoveling heavy snow, as this can be dangerous;
  • On nights with freezing temperatures, we ask that residents alert the City when they see homeless people. We want to reach out and urge these people to go to a shelter. Extreme cold can be very dangerous. Please call the Mayor’s 24-hour Hotline at 617-635-4500;
  • During storms, we urge that people not drive as road conditions worsen;
  • Check weather reports and listen to authorities, they will have the most updated information;
  • Alert the City to down power lines, down trees or icy conditions;
  • Call 911 if you need emergency assistance


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