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News Release    

February 13, 2007      

For Further Information Contact:
William R. Steinhaus, County Executive
(845) 486-2000

Winter Safety Precautions

Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus urges all county residents to take the appropriate winter safety precautions as the county braces for the first large impact storm of the winter season.  “It is important that all county residents are prepared to safely handle the storm and its resulting impact.  Remember SAFETY FIRST – USE COMMON SENSE!”

The Department of Health reminds residents that winter weather brings the danger of frostbite and hypothermia.  “Extremely cold temperatures often accompany a winter storm.  Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems," according to Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH.  "Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected."   

Be alert for signs of frostbite.   Skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then it turns white or grayish-yellow. Frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch.   If you suspect frostbite, move to a warm area and cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub frostbitten skin.  Get to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.

Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and the elderly.  Watch for symptoms of hypothermia including:  inability to concentrate, poor coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, exhaustion and uncontrollable shivering, followed by a sudden lack of shivering.   If the person's body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, get emergency medical assistance immediately! Remove wet clothing, wrap the victim in warm blankets and give warm, non-alcoholic, decaffeinated liquids until help arrives.

Winter storm conditions and cold waves are the deadliest types of weather. Cold temperatures put an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack. To avoid problems, remember these tips:

1. Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
2. Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion.
3. If you feel chest pain -- STOP and seek help immediately.

The Department of Emergency Response has prepared a complete checklist for winter safety.  With the impending winter storm, Assistant Director John Murphy points out the following highlights from the checklist:

Loss of Electricity

- If you lose electrical service, call your utility to determine area repair schedules. 
- Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
- To help prevent freezing pipes, remember to turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
- If your home often loses power during storms, consider filling your bathtub with cold water to give you a ready supply.
- Those people who receive Home Delivered Meals from Dutchess County Office of the Aging have “Storm Boxes” that have been pre-delivered.  They should use those if they do not have other food.

Loss of Heat

- If your heat goes out during a winter storm, you can keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
- Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturer's instructions.
- Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a cap.
- Eat well-balanced meals.

Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:

- DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
- Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation – open a window slightly.

If Your Pipes Freeze

- Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.

Finally, do not drive unless necessary. If you must travel, make sure you car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods and brightly-colored cloth to use as a distress flag. Keep your gas tank full to prevent gasoline freeze-up.  Keep cell phone batteries charged and keep your cell phone with you whenever traveling. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location. Make sure someone knows your travel plans.

Listen to your local radio stations about program cancellations.

For additional information about winter safety, visit  Exercising proper caution is the key to a successful winter safety strategy.   “Our departments have developed a complete winter safety checklist that will help county families enjoy the winter season safely,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.


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