Westchester County Health Department and Public Safety Department Offers Safety Tips
With bone-chilling temperatures and a snow storm all in the forecast for this weekend, County Executive George Latimer is urging residents to be prepared for what Mother Nature will be dishing out.
Cold temperatures, high winds, icy surfaces and snow-covered roads all pose safety hazards, and Latimer said residents should take precautions to stay safe. Stocking up on necessary supplies, dressing warmly when going out and avoiding travel on snow-covered or icy roads are some simple steps people can take.
While the weather forecast is subject to change, the current predictions from the National Weather Service call for Westchester to be hit with freezing temperatures and a wind chill feel of below zero. Snow is projected for Sunday night into Monday.
Latimer urged residents to check on their elderly and frail neighbors this weekend and heat their homes safely.
Latimer said: “Wintry weather can further isolate those who are homebound and frail, so it is a good idea to be neighborly. Remember also to take precautions to keep yourself and your family warm and safe in these arctic conditions.”
Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said the Westchester County Police will deploy extra Patrol and Emergency Service Unit officers Sunday night and Monday to assist motorists who might get stuck in snow and close roadways if needed due to weather conditions.
Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, said: “Before you go out in this extreme cold, dress yourself and your children appropriately in a hat, glove and multiple layers. When driving, keep blankets in your car in case of a breakdown. If you must spend time outdoors, take frequent breaks to warm up inside. Know and recognize the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.”
Hypothermia happens when a person exposed to cold loses heat faster than it can be produced. Warnings signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. In infants, look for bright red, cold skin and low energy. If you see any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, get medical attention immediately.
Frostbite is an injury that causes a loss of feeling and color and most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can cause permanent damage. The risk is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.
At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get the person out of the cold or protect any exposed skin. Seek immediate medical care. Signs of frostbite include white or grayish-yellow skin, numbness or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. Victims are often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
To avoid hypothermia and frostbite:
- Dress warmly in layers.
- Be aware of the wind chill factor.
- Work slowly when doing outside chores.
- Take a buddy and an emergency kit when you participate in outdoor recreation.
- Carry a cell phone.
Anyone in need of immediate shelter may contact the Westchester County Department of Social Services at (914) 995-3333 (during business hours) or (914) 995-2099 (after hours and on weekends).
Latimer said the county’s Department of Emergency Services and Health Department offers a broad range of practical advice to help residents prepare for a major winter storm and stay safe when one occurs, including:
- Avoid tragedy: never use a natural gas or propane stove or your kitchen oven to heat your home.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using alternate heating sources like space heaters and wood burning stoves
- Never place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding, on top of furniture or near water, and never cover your space heater.
- Never leave children or pets unattended near a space heater, fireplace or wood burning stove.
DES Commissioner Richard G. Wishnie said, “The tragic and devastating fire in the Bronx that killed 17 people was caused by a faulty space heater. It reminds us that the winter season brings an increased fire risk from the use of space heaters, fireplaces and other heat sources. We urge everyone to take the necessary precautions to ensure that any such device is being used properly and safely.”
If the power goes out:
- Call the local utility company to inform it of the power outage. Con Edison’s 24-hour hotline is 1-800-75-CONED (752-6633) and NYSEG's hotline service is 1-800-572-1131.
- Leave a light on to let you know when power has been restored.
- Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns instead of candles, as candles are a fire hazard.
- Limit opening the refrigerator and freezer doors as much as possible.
- Do not operate electrical generators indoors (this includes the garage) as it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use them outside in a well-ventilated area, far away and downwind from your home.
- If you use a fireplace, wood stove or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure to adequately ventilate to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide build up in your home.