“In Illinois, it’s not a question of if, but rather
when will snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures occur,” said Acting
IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “Being unprepared for winter
weather is not only inconvenient, but it can be dangerous. That’s
why we are encouraging all Illinoisans to take a few minutes to put
together your home and vehicle emergency supply kits and review the
steps you should take to stay safe during hazardous winter weather.”
In terms of weather, 2019 has been a record-breaking year in
Illinois. The new year brought a Polar Vortex that crippled most of
the Midwest, including blanketing Illinois with life-threatening
temperatures for several days. According to the NWS, the coldest
temperature on record occurred this year (January 31) when the
mercury dropped to negative 38 degrees near Mt. Carroll in Carroll
County. The previous record of negative 36 degrees was set in 1999.
From 2008-2018, there were 788 fatalities related to cold
temperatures in Illinois, which is more than heat (227), tornadoes
(23), floods (38) and severe storms/lightning (17) combined. In the
United States, about 700 deaths occur each year from hypothermia.
Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk of hypothermia.
“There are several dangerous health conditions that
can occur specifically in winter weather,” said Illinois Department
of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “It’s important to watch
for signs of extreme cold. Hypothermia, when a person’s body
temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, can occur both
outdoors and indoors and can be fatal. Frostbite occurs when your
extremities (fingers, toes, nose, and ears) are exposed to cold
weather. The skin may become stiff and numb leading to severe tissue
damage. Also, watch for symptoms of chest pain when shoveling snow
which can be associated with overexertion. Know the warning signs of
dangerous cold weather health conditions in order to stay safe and
healthy during the winter.”
Unfortunately, no matter how low the temperature
dips, many Illinois workers will face the frigid elements to do
their jobs. Cold weather is never pleasant, but by taking some
precautions, workers can minimize the dangers.
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“Freezing, snowy weather is a fact of life in Illinois during the
winter, and some people feel they can tough it out,” said Illinois Department of
Labor Director Michael Kleinik. “But if you’re required to work outdoors, you’re
tempting fate by not dressing properly on frigid days.”
Caution and self-awareness are the keys to cold weather safety. Workers should
know the signs of hypothermia, not push their bodies to an extreme, layer
clothing and make sure they have plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
“The signs of danger initially may be subtle but once they hit, they can hit
like a snowplow,” said Mitch Rogers, administrator for Memorial Health System’s
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Services in Springfield.
Preventative maintenance is also a good idea. Rogers suggests people who must
work outside regularly in the winter weather consider scheduling a physical exam
before that winter work begins.
To help Illinois residents prepare for winter, IEMA and the NWS developed a
winter weather preparedness guide that covers winter weather terms and tips for
staying safe at home, in the car and at school. The guide is available on the
Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.
“Preparing well in advance of winter weather is really the best way to cope when
snow, ice and cold temperatures affect us,” said Chris Miller, Warning
Coordination Meteorologist with the NWS office in Lincoln. “Now is the time to
prepare your vehicle and house for winter conditions. Make sure you have
blankets, non-perishable food, boots, extra clothing and other items in your car
in case you are stranded or waiting for a tow. At home, make sure you have
enough essential items to ride out a storm, or if you are without power, for at
least three days.”
For more information about winter weather preparedness, including the Weathering
Winter guide from the Illinois Department of Public Health, visit the Ready
Illinois website at www.Ready.
[Illinois Office of Communication and
2019-20 WINTER PREPAREDNESS GUIDE - PDF