Environment & Weather
Hypothermia and older adults: Tips for staying safe in cold weather PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Kim Calvin   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:31

Frigid weather can pose special risks to older adults. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid hypothermia—when the body gets too cold—during cold weather.

Hypothermia is generally defined as having a core body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and can occur when the outside environment gets too cold or the body's heat production decreases. Older adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia because their bodies’ response to cold can be diminished by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and by use of some medicines, including over-the-counter cold remedies. Hypothermia can develop in older adults after relatively short exposure to cold weather or even a small drop in temperature.

Someone may suffer from hypothermia if he or she has been exposed to cool temperatures and shows one or more of the following signs: slowed or slurred speech; sleepiness or confusion; shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs; poor control over body movements; slow reactions, or a weak pulse.

Here are a few tips to help older people avoid hypothermia:

  • Make sure your home is warm enough. Set the thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Even mildly cool homes with temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees can lead to hypothermia in older people.
  • To stay warm at home, wear long underwear under your clothes, along with socks and slippers. Use a blanket or afghan to keep your legs and shoulders warm and wear a hat or cap indoors.
  • When going outside in the cold, it is important to wear a hat, scarf, and gloves or mittens to prevent loss of body heat through your head and hands. A hat is particularly important because a large portion of body heat can be lost through the head. Wear several layers of warm loose clothing to help trap warm air between the layers.
  • Check with your doctor to see if any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking may increase your risk for hypothermia.

Because heating costs can be high, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has funds to help low-income families pay heating bills through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Applicants can call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project at: 1-866-674-6327, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or go to the LIHEAP website http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/liheap-brochures. NEAR is a free service providing information on where you can apply for help through LIHEAP. The Administration for Children and Families funds the Energy Assistance Referral hotline.

The NIA has free information about hypothermia, a fact sheet, Hypothermia: A Cold Weather Hazard and a brochure, Stay Safe in Cold Weather. A fact sheet in Spanish, La hipotermia: un peligro del clima frío, is also available. These and other free publications on healthy aging can be downloaded from the NIA website or by calling NIA’s toll-free number: 1-800-222-2225.

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on health, research and aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health

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Last Minute Precautions to Protect Your Home from Arctic Blast PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Tami Fillyaw   
Monday, 06 January 2014 13:47

An arctic blast is dropping temperatures in the U.S. to lows not seen in years.  According to the National Weather Service, 140 million people across the United States will shiver in temperatures of zero or lower. As temperatures continue to drop, and snow and ice threaten nearly half the nation, the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) recommends some last minute precautions that will help keep families safe and comfortable:

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Damage from frozen pipes is the second most common cause of insurance claims in America. The average homeowner will have to spend thousands to repair damage from a frozen, leaking pipes.

·         FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.

·         DOME: Place an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots also reduce the likelihood of the water in your homes pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak. You can purchase one for under $2 from your local home improvement store.

·         DRIP: By allowing a slow drip from your faucets, you reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture.

Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed when air in the attic is warm enough to cause snow and ice on the roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly. Pools of water then become trapped under layers of ice that seep under your roof covering (tiles or shingles) into the attic.

·         Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; this includes any holes created from installing light fixtures or ceiling fans.

·         Keep gutters and downspouts clear to allow melted snow and ice to flow away from your home.

·         Don’t use salt or other minerals to melt the snow on your roof. These are very damaging to roof shingles and tiles not to mention gutters and downspouts.

Check Your Insulation

Doors and windows are just some of the places that you should ensure are well insulated before the temperatures start to drop.

·         Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping.

Winterize Outside Your Home

·         Lay down a layer of deicing sand/salt to minimize the buildup of ice during the storm.

·         If you have time, clean your gutters so water doesn’t back up and freeze.

·         After blizzard conditions pass, lay down layers of deicing sand/salt to melt the snow and ice. Once it begins to melt you can chip away at the layers with a snow shovel to move it off of steps and walkways.

·         Turn off and drain all of your outdoor plumbing including hose connections, pool connections, sprinkler systems, etc. After you’ve turned off the water, leave faucets in the “on” position and remove any plastic components.

Have Emergency Kits in Your Home and Car

In case the power goes out, you should have flashlights, batteries, a three-day supply of food and water for everyone including pets, a battery-powered radio and a first-aid kit.  Make the same emergency kit for your car but add blankets and a distress flag.  Be sure to keep tow and tire chains in your trunk as well.  If you have time, consider buying a generator for your home, which will help keep your power, heat and security alarms running as well as help prevent frozen pipes.

For more information on weathering winter this season, visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org or www.flash.org

 
Governor Quinn Announces Continued State Response to Extreme Winter Weather PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Brooke Anderson   
Monday, 06 January 2014 09:57

Reminds Residents to Stay Safe and to Check on Their Neighbors

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced measures that will continue to be taken by Illinois state agencies in response to the ongoing extreme winter weather affecting more than 90 percent of the state. He also urged residents to stay safe and warm and to check on their neighbors during the bitter cold and snowy weather.

"This winter storm will be one for the record books, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe and warm until it passes,” Governor Quinn said. “State crews continue working around the clock to keep residents safe and to respond to any emergency situations that may occur. I urge everyone to keep close tabs on their neighbors and families, stay inside as much as possible, limit their exposure to the cold temperatures, dress in layers and keep pets indoors.”

The National Weather Service forecasts historically cold temperatures throughout Illinois following the heavy snow that has blanketed much of the state. High winds will drive wind chills to 35 to 45 degrees below zero through Tuesday. Because of the record-setting cold, Governor Quinn urges residents to take advantage of the state’s more than 100 warming centers, including Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices throughout the state, which are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or the Illinois Tollway Oases, which are open 24 hours a day. To find a warming center near you, call the IDHS hotline at (800) 843-6154 or visit keepwarm.illinois.gov.

Heavy and drifting snow has made travel extremely hazardous throughout the state. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has nearly 3,700 employees and 1,755 trucks deployed statewide to address the winter weather on state routes, while the Illinois Tollway has 200 staff and 182 snow plows on duty in response to the weather. The Tollway has also doubled the number of Zero Weather Road Patrols it provides to assist customers stranded in their cars during the severe weather. The Zero Weather Road Patrols will continue into Wednesday, January 8, or until the temperature or wind chill rises above zero. Motorists are urged to only travel if absolutely necessary and to give road crews plenty of room, keep their gas tanks at least two-thirds full, and have a complete emergency kit in their vehicles. For roadside assistance anywhere in Illinois, call *999.

Road condition information is available by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368), Illinois Tollway information by calling 1-800-TOLL-FYI or online at www.gettingaroundillinois.com and click on the “winter road conditions” icon.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is in close contact with local emergency management agencies and prepared to provide assistance if needed. They advise residents to stay home and off the roads if at all possible due to the extremely dangerous cold and snowy conditions. IEMA also advises every household to have a disaster preparedness kit that will help residents stay safe for at least three days. The kits should include a battery-powered NOAA weather radio; a flashlight; extra batteries; non-perishable food; water; a first-aid kit; extra medications; and special items needed for babies, disabled or elderly family members and pets. If you must travel, a vehicle preparedness kit should include a cell phone and charger, flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, snack foods and water, blankets, extra warm clothing, gloves and hats, sand or kitty litter, shovel, windshield scraper, booster cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, and a tool kit.

To reduce the chance of frostbite or hypothermia if you must venture outdoors, the Illinois Department of Public Health advises residents to stay dry and wear several layers of lightweight clothing; cover your head; wear mittens rather than fingered gloves; wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks; and cover your ears and lower face. Residents should seek immediate medical attention for any severe weather related health issues.

The Illinois Department on Aging encourages relatives and friends to make daily visits or calls to senior citizens living alone. Senior citizens should dress in layers, both indoors and outdoors, make sure they got plenty to eat and drink, have extra medications in the house and let someone else shovel the snow.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture advises residents to keep their pets indoors or ensure they have a warm shelter area with unfrozen food and water. Check frequently on any animal that remains outside.

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Tips on Protecting your Home from Ice and Bitter Cold PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Holly Anderson - State Farm   
Monday, 06 January 2014 09:32
Mother Nature has blasted the area with cold and snow and it’s only going to get colder by Monday. State Farm is already receiving claims on Frozen Pipes but there is still time to prevent others from getting hit with damage. Below are facts and tips for prevention.
The snow and cold can also bring Ice Dams to a home.  An Ice Dam forms when the temperature in your attic is above freezing causing snow on the roof to melt and then refreeze in dropping temperatures.  The pools of water behind those dams can cause leakage then into your home.  See tips on how to prevent this below.
Frozen Pipes:
  • One-eighth-inch (3 millimeters) crack in a pipe can spray more than 250 gallons of water a day -- ruining floors, carpets, furniture and irreplaceable personal belongings.
  • Pipes can freeze anywhere due to exposure from cracks or holes in siding or because of pipes being placed in outside walls with inadequate insulation.
  • When it’s especially cold where you live, let the hot and cold faucets drip overnight and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
  • Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl space or attic.
  • Seal leaks that allow cold air inside.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • If you are going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home….no lower than 55 degrees.
Ice Dams:
  • Prevent warm, moist downstairs air from infiltrating the attic by appropriately insulating your attic’s floor and using a dehumidifier to control water vapor. Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic.
  • Research shows keeping the attic air temperature below freezing when the outside air temperature is in the low 20s can reduce the occurrence of ice dams. Provide good attic ventilation to replace warm air in the attic with cold outside air. Consult a professional for the best way to avoid ice dams and water damage in your home.
  • Do not routinely remove snow from the roof or attempt to “chip away” the ice of an ice dam. It will likely lead to shingle damage.
  • Do not install large mechanical equipment or water heaters in attics, especially in cold climates. Not only do they present an unwelcome fire hazard, but they’ll also increase the temperature in your attic.
  • Do not use salt or calcium chloride to melt snow on a roof. These chemicals are very corrosive and can shorten the life of metal gutters, downspouts, and flashings. Runoff that contains high concentrations of these chemicals can damage nearby grass and plants.

 
Governor Quinn Announces State Preparedness Measures Ahead of Winter Blast PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Brooke Anderson   
Monday, 06 January 2014 09:31

Governor Urges Residents to Stay Inside, Safe and Warm Ahead of Forecast Snow and Cold; Check on Neighbors

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced measures being taken by Illinois state agencies to prepare for the extreme cold and additional snowfall that is forecast for the next several days. He also urged residents to follow recommended winter safety procedures and to check on their neighbors during the bitter cold and snowy weather. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to keeping all Illinois residents safe and warm this winter.

"As we head into this extreme winter blast, state of Illinois personnel and emergency crews are working around the clock to help people stay warm and safe, while keeping roads open for those who must travel," Governor Quinn said.

“During this bitter cold and snowy weather, Illinois residents should stay inside as much as possible and limit their exposure to the cold temperatures. Don't forget to dress in layers, check in on friends and family who may need additional assistance, and bring pets indoors. Residents can also take advantage of our warming centers if necessary," the Governor added.

Residents are urged to take advantage of the state’s more than 100 warming centers as temperatures dip to dangerous lows. These include Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state, which are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or the Illinois Tollway Oases, which are open 24 hours a day.  To find a warming center near you, call the IDHS hotline at (800) 843-6154 or visit keepwarm.illinois.gov.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway have their crews working around the clock to keep roads clear and passable. Motorists are urged to drive defensively and safely, travel only if absolutely necessary, slow down, and buckle up. In addition, a new state law prohibits motorists from talking on all but hands-free mobile phones while driving.

Other roadway safety tips to remember:

  • Don’t crowd snowplows – an operator’s field of vision is restricted.
  • Allow extra time for travel during the winter months.
  • Watch out for black ice on roads that appear clear but can be treacherous. Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas - all are prone to black ice, which is often invisible.
  • Pull over and dial *999 for emergency roadway assistance.

Check travel and road conditions routinely before any trip. You can get road condition information by calling 1-800-452-IDOT (4368), Illinois Tollway information by calling 1-800-TOLL-FYI or online at www.gettingaroundillinois.com and click on the “winter road conditions” icon.

The Illinois Tollway expects to double the number of Zero Weather Road Patrols it provides around the clock to assist drivers stranded in their cars along the 286-mile Tollway system. The Zero Weather Road Patrols provide roadway assistance when temperatures and/or sustained wind chills are below zero.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will continue to monitor the winter weather conditions throughout Illinois and stands ready to activate emergency state resources if necessary. IEMA also advises every household to have a disaster preparedness kit that will help residents stay safe for at least three days. The kits should include a battery-powered NOAA weather radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable food, water, a first-aid kit, extra medications and special items needed for babies, disabled or elderly family members and pets.

If you must travel, IEMA and IDOT recommend you equip your vehicle with an emergency supply kit to keep you safe in case you are stranded along the road.  A vehicle preparedness kit should include a cell phone and charger, flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, snack foods and water, blankets, extra warm clothing, gloves and hats, sand or kitty litter, shovel, windshield scraper, booster cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, and a tool kit. Always keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to help prevent the vehicle’s fuel line from freezing.

Before you depart, check weather and road conditions along your route and provide your planned route to a family member or friend. If conditions are dangerous, postpone travel until road conditions improve. IEMA and the National Weather Service have developed a Winter Weather Preparedness Guide that contains many more tips about winter weather safety.  The guide is available at the Ready Illinois website at ready.illinois.gov.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) advises residents to be vigilant regarding two health conditions caused by cold winter weather that can lead to serious injury or death – hypothermia and frostbite. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk for these conditions.

Symptoms for hypothermia, a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, include forgetfulness; drowsiness; slurred speech; change in appearance, such as a puffy face; weak pulse, slow heartbeat; very slow, shallow breathing; and in extreme cases, coma or a death-like appearance. If you notice these symptoms, wrap the person in a warm blanket and seek immediate medical attention. Do not give a hypothermia victim a hot shower or bath.

Frostbite typically affects exposed areas of the face, ears, wrists, hands and feet.  Frostbitten skin is whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb rather than painful.  If you notice these signs, warm the affected part of the body gradually with blankets, other warm wrappings or warm parts of your body like your armpits, and seek medical attention immediately. Do not rub frostbitten areas. To reduce the chance of frostbite, stay dry and wear several layers of lightweight clothing; cover your head; wear mittens rather than fingered gloves; wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks; and cover your ears and lower face.

The Illinois Department on Aging is encouraging relatives and friends to make daily visits or calls to senior citizens living alone. Older people are more susceptible to the cold, so seniors should set their thermostats above 65 degrees. Those particularly vulnerable are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition, or who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease.

Tips for senior citizens to best handle cold temperatures:

·         Dress in layers, both indoors and outdoors.

·         Keep active. Make a list of exercises and activities to do indoors when you can’t get out.

·         Eat well and drink 10 glasses of water daily; stock up on non-perishable food supplies, just in case.

·         Keep extra medications in the house. If this is not possible, make arrangements to have someone pick up and deliver your medications.

·         Do not shovel snow or walk in deep snow. Plan now for someone else to shovel the snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could cause a heart attack; sweating can lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture advises residents to bring their pets indoors or ensure they have a warm shelter area with unfrozen food and water. Check frequently on any animal that remains outside.

Extreme cold temperatures are dangerous and can be deadly. Since 1995, more than 130 fatalities related to cold temperatures have occurred in Illinois, making it the second-leading cause of weather-related deaths in Illinois in the past two decades.

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