Safety precautions urged as extreme cold hits area

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- With extremely low temperatures expected this week, the Penn State campus community is urged to take safety precautions. 

The National Weather Service is predicting extreme lows tonight (-5) and Tuesday (4), and a Wind Chill Warning is in effect for the area from 10 p.m. tonight (Jan. 6) to 7 a.m. Jan. 8. 

Penn State faculty, staff and students are urged to stay indoors and remain mindful of hazards that could endanger their health. Temperatures reaching below zero are typically considered as “extreme cold,” and prolonged exposure can lead to frostbite or hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well.

Here are some tips for staying safe in extreme cold:

-- Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove any wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, nonalcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
-- Watch for signs of frostbite, including loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
-- If heading outdoors, wear warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Change immediately out of wet clothing, which loses insulating value and transmits heat rapidly. Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves, a hat to prevent loss of body heat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
-- Eat well-balanced meals to stay warm. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages that cause the body to lose heat more rapidly. Drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to maintain body temperature.
-- Be mindful of those who may need special assistance such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
-- Use fireplaces, wood stoves and other combustion heaters only with proper ventilation to the outside.
-- Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously to prevent pipes from freezing. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
-- Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold.
-- Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. Travel during the day, don’t travel alone, keep others informed of your schedule and stay on main roads.
-- If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car.
-- Keep pets inside, they also can suffer from extreme cold.
-- Listen to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio or local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).

For additional information on staying safe in cold weather, visit the sites of the American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For a video from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center on staying safe in cold weather. 

With the potential for delays or cancellations on campus, individuals can stay informed by using Penn State's PSUTXT emergency messaging systemFacebook pageTwitter feed and news website. Local television and radio stations also will inform the public.

Learn about more resources for staying informed during winter weather emergencies.

Last Updated January 06, 2014