Parents' Guide to Winter Storm Prep and Safety
A strong blast of winter weather is headed for North Texas, and now is the time to prepare. The National Weather Service is calling for a wintery mix of snow and freezing rain Wednesday night into Thursday across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Dangerously cold wind chills are also expected, with below zero and single digits possible Thursday and Friday.
After last February’s big freeze and mass power outages, it’s understandable to be a little uneasy about the forecast. But thankfully, this cold plunge isn’t expected to last as long as last year’s storm.
Still, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place.
Take these tips from MedStar on what a winter weather plan should include:
- Make sure that you have important phone numbers, including for your health care providers, pharmacy, and veterinarian.
- Assure you have enough medication for several days on hand.
- If you rely on medical devices in your home, have a backup plan in case you lose power for an extended period of time, such as a backup generator or battery pack and backup oxygen bottles.
- Have a communication plan for your family.
- Know how to get reliable information during the storm.
- Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power.
If the power does go out, be very cautious of carbon monoxide.
During last February’s winter storm, Cook Children’s treated 13 patients for carbon monoxide poisoning in one night. Sam Selby, D.O., worked the overnight shift in the emergency department on Feb. 15, 2021 and saw families use propane or diesel-burning engines that are meant for outside use with adequate ventilation.
In this Checkup Newsroom article, he described families using generators inside or too close to their homes or garages to keep warm. Generators emit fumes and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning prevents your blood from being able to bind to or carry oxygen. You suffocate while you are still breathing,” Dr. Selby explained.
Here are some additional ways to keep your family safe during this time:
- Don’t use anything such as a BBQ grill or propane tank to heat your home.
- Don’t run a vehicle inside of a garage attached to your home.
- Don’t heat your home with a gas oven or stovetop.
- Don’t burn charcoal inside of your home.
- Do seek medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do ensure the carbon monoxide detectors in your home are properly functioning and installed in areas that will wake you if it alarms.
- Do check for local resources, such as warming shelters, to keep your family safe.
The best bet during winter weather is to stay off the roads.
If you have to travel, have a plan in place to keep yourself and your child safe.
Proper car seat use is one of the most critical ways parents can keep their young children safe when driving during inclement weather conditions.
“The injuries we see from car wrecks are because parents are making the same mistakes over and over with car seats,” explains Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s.
She reminds parents to keep children calm and quiet when traveling, whether that means playing their favorite music, letting them bring a safe toy, or talking with them before leaving home.
“Children can read your emotions,” she said. “If you’re uptight, they will be able to sense it.”
More to consider before getting behind the wheel:
- Don’t strap your children into their car seats with their heavy coats on. In a crash, padding from a coat or thick layers will flatten out, leaving room under the car seat harness. This increases the risk of a child slipping through the straps and being thrown from the car seat. Instead, dress your child in thin layers. Once buckled up, slip the coat on backward with the sleeves on the child’s arms. This way, the coat acts as a blanket and doesn’t affect the fit of the harness.
- Give yourself extra time to get where you are going. And don't forget to account for traffic.
- Pack an emergency bag for your car. It’s a good idea to have blankets, warm clothing, hats, and gloves available in case you become stuck in winter weather. You’ll also want to have nonperishable snacks packed away.
- Avoid overpasses if possible. Plan out alternate routes to your destination and avoid high traffic areas when possible.
- Give yourself enough space from the car in front of you to gradually brake. When weather conditions are poor, give yourself double the time it normally takes to come to a complete stop.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when the body is exposed to cold temperatures and loses heat faster than it can produce it. A person is considered hypothermic when body temperature drops to 95°F (35°C) or lower.
Hypothermia symptoms for infants:
- Bright red, cold skin
- Very low energy
Victims of hypothermia can include babies sleeping in cold rooms.
Hypothermia symptoms for older children and adults:
- Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person's heat regulation systems are still active.)
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Confusion and memory loss
- Drowsiness or exhaustion
- Slurred or mumbled speech
- Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
- A slow, weak pulse
- In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse
Want to know more about winter weather safety?
Check out these articles from Checkup Newsroom contributors: