Monday, 14 December 2015

Who upset Queen Elsa? Severe cold weather preparedness

A number of parts of the world are experiencing particularly cold weather conditions at present.  In some areas, even brutally cold weather is not unexpected.  In others, even moderately icy conditions can be a significant hazard .  With that in mind, a post on cold weather preparedness seems worthwhile.

Before the ice sets in

Some long term preparation prior to winter is sensible.  New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defence recommends having chimneys inspected annually and cleaned when necessary.  The same agency recommends having your home properly insulated and caulking doors and windows against cold air.  The International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO) suggests fitting out a particularly well insulated room (ideally without windows) as a living room for your family.

Additional supplies should be laid in.  You might want to consider buying emergency heating equipment (like a kerosene heater), and ensuring you have adequate supplies of fuel for both your standard and emergency means of heating.  Remember to consider means of ventilation to prevent toxic fumes building up.  You might also want to consider acquiring a generator, and if you have livestock or pets, consider whether you have enough food for them.

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Water pipes are at particular risk during freezing temperatures.  They can be protected by wrapping them in insulating material (layered newspaper if necessary) and then wrapping them in plastic.  Ensure you are able to close the main water valve if necessary.

The ICDO strongly recommends also ensuring that your car carries a spade, snow chains, a torch, spare clothes and other emergency supplies.

During a cold snap

When a below-zero snap is imminent, drain the water and central hearing pipes to reduce the risk of damage should they freeze.  Move livestock to shelter (whether this is a treed area or a building) and ensure they have sufficient feed and water.  While undertaking activity, ensure that you eat regularly and drink ample fluids.  Avoid coffee and alcohol which tend to dehydrate you.

Avoid opening doors and windows in your house for as long as possible, so as to retain warmth as long as possible,.

If you need to travel, exercise such are as the conditions require.  It may be prudent to stick to main roads, ensure others are aware of your movements, and if necessary fit tyre chains.  Keeping a full fuel tank will prevent ice in the fuel tank and lines, and ensure that the battery and antifreeze levels have been checked.  The Jordanian Civil Defence Directorate particularly recommends keeping a safe distance from the car in front.

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If things go wrong

Monitor yourself and others for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  Frostbite requires medical attention and may be indicated by numbness and paleness in the fingers, toes, ear lobes, and nose.  Hypothermia is suggested by severe shivering, loss of normal cognitive skills and apparent exhaustion.  Medical care is needed, but in the first instance the sufferer should be made warm and given a warm non-alcoholic drink.

Where your water pipes have frozen remove any insulation and wrap them in rags.  Turn the taps on and begin to pour warm water over the pipes from whatever appears to be the coldest point.

If you have been in your car and become stranded, remain in the vehicle.  Ventilate it by opening a window on the sheltered side.  It may be safest not to run the engine if you are trapped in snow, as a blocked- or partly blocked exhaust  pipe may lead to buildup of carbon monoxide fumes.  Keep your limbs, hands and feet moving and avoid sleeping because of the risk of frostbite.

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Following a cold snap

If you are able, check for people in your area who may be in difficulties and if necessary alert the authorities.  If the electricity has gone out, check that the system at your house is in working order before restoring power.

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