Extreme cold temperatures spur action to help those in need

Freezing temperatures late last week and this week forced area businesses and support groups to continue efforts in helping those in need avoid cold weather health issues.

Butler County homeless shelters said when temperatures reach “dangerous” levels like those forecast for this week, those staying there are permitted to remain indoors, rather than being forced to leave as is the normal policy.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he’s opening the department’s lobby at night for those seeking a warm place to sleep.

He said people are allowed to sit in chairs in the lobby, but they must leave in the morning when the lobby opens to the public. After those leave the lobby, they typically walk to church food pantries, Jones said.

In previous years, during extreme cold spells, Jones said the department has collected coats and blankets and given them to those staying there. Those who enter the lobby are not checked to see if they have warrants, he said.

Three times within the last week or so, Jones said he has encountered homeless people either sitting in Butler County fast-food restaurants or the jail’s lobby. He has talked to them and asked where they sleep. He was told vacant garages and porches.

He said some of the homeless are either addicts or recovering addicts and they told him they can’t stay in homeless shelters because they don’t have IDs.

The MidPointe Library System, with branches in Middletown, Monroe, Trenton, West Chester and Liberty Twp., rarely closes because of weather and is open to those seeking to get out of the winter weather, said Cari Hillman, public relations manager.

Alexandra Carpenter, trauma program manager at Atrium Medical Center, said the “biggest” way to reduce the possibility of cold weather health issues is to wear the right clothing and dress in layers. It’s also important, she said, to make sure the outer layer — coats and shoes — are waterproof.

Once clothes get wet, she said, that increases the chance of hypothermia. People should change into dry clothes as soon as possible, she said.

Carpenter said some of the early signs of hypothermia include extreme shivering, rapid breathing and heart rate, slurred speak and lack of coordination.

Here are some tips for keeping warm while you’re inside:

  • Set your heat to at least 68-70. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using. Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms, and keep the basement door closed. Place a rolled towel in front of all doors to keep out drafts.
  • Make sure your house isn't losing heat through windows. Keep your blinds and curtains closed. If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out.
  • Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.
  • When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pajamas, and use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat.
  • Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don't eat well, you might have less fat under your skin. Body fat helps you to stay warm.
  • Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Alcoholic drinks can make you lose body heat.
  • Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.

Here are some other tips:

  • Dress for the weather if you have to go out on chilly, cold, or damp days.
  • Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps to keep you warm.
  • Put on a hat and scarf. You lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered.
  • Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it's snowy.
  • Change your clothes right away if they get damp or wet.

Early signs of hypothermia:

  • Cold feet and hands
  • Puffy or swollen face
  • Pale skin
  • Shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
  • Slower than normal speech or slurring words
  • Acting sleepy
  • Being angry or confused
  • Later signs of hypothermia:
  • Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
  • Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Blacking out or losing consciousness

How to prepare your car

  • Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze level; check tire tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
  • Keep gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
  • Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include: cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries; blankets; food and water; booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction); compass and maps; flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries; and first-aid kit.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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