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Cold Weather and Ice Safety

 

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Abington, MA
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The Cold Season is Here!

ICE SAFETY

As temperatures drop, and bodies of water throughout the area begin to freeze over, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has issued information regarding safety precautions to be taken on our frozen lakes, rivers and ponds. 

“Before we experience a tragedy that is unfortunately too common this time of year, it is important that we remind everyone, particularly children, of the dangers of unsafe ice,” said MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz.  “As lakes, ponds, streams and rivers throughout the Commonwealth freeze over, ice conditions may be very uncertain.  People may be a bit impatient to venture out on the ice for skating, hockey, ice fishing and other winter sports. We highly recommend the use of recreational skating areas provided by the Commonwealth and your local communities.  It is very important to exercise precaution and common sense.”

Always check with your local police, fire or park department to ensure that safe ice conditions exist. However, due to the uncertainty and constant changing of ice conditions and the dangers presented, many departments will not endorse the safety of lakes, ponds, streams or rivers.  The strength and thickness of ice should be known before any activity takes place.

  • Never go onto the ice alone.  A friend may be able to rescue you or go for help if you fall through the ice.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash.  If a pet falls through the ice do not attempt to rescue your pet, call 9-1-1 or go for help.
  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. As ice ages, the bond between the crystals decays, making it weaker, even if melting has not occurred.
  • Beware of ice covered with snow. Snow can insulate ice and keep it strong, but can also insulate it to keep it from freezing. Snow can also hide cracks, weak and open ice.
  • Slush is a danger sign, indicating that ice is no longer freezing from the bottom and can be weak or deteriorating.
  • Ice formed over flowing water (rivers or lakes containing a large number of springs) is generally 15% weaker.
  • Ice seldom freezes or thaws at a uniform rate.  It can be one foot thick in one spot and be only a few inches thick 10 feet away.
  • Reach-Throw-Go.  If a companion falls through the ice and you are unable to reach that person from shore, throw them something (rope, jumper cables, tree branch, etc.). If this does not work, go for help or call 9-1-1, before you also become a victim. Get medical assistance for the victim immediately.
  • If you fall in, try not to panic. Turn toward the direction from which you came.  Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, working forward by kicking your feet.  Once out, remain lying on the ice (do not stand) and roll away from the hole. Crawl back to your tracks, keeping your weight distributed until you return to solid ice.


Extreme Cold Weather

Since winter in Massachusetts can bring extremely low temperatures and wind chills, everyone should take precautions to minimize the dangers presented by severe cold weather:

Before Extreme Cold Weather

  • Be aware of the weather conditions by monitoring the media.
  • Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity.
  • Have a well-stocked Emergency Kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable food.
  • Make sure your car is properly winterized.  Keep the gas tank at least half-full.  Carry a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can & waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshields scraper, shovel, sand, towrope and jumper cables.

During Extreme Cold Weather

  • Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young.  Also consider your pets.
  • Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing.  Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear a hat, mittens (rather than gloves) and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities.  Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • If electricity is lost for an extended period of time, a snowbank in your yard can become a makeshift freezer for food.
  • Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissue that is frozen.  Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately. 
  • Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases.  The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.  If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.
  • When utilizing alternate heating sources, such as your fireplace, wood stove or space heater, take the necessary safety precautions.  Keep a fire extinguisher handy, ensuring everyone knows how to use it properly. Test smoke alarms.
  • If you lose your heat, seal off unused rooms by stuffing towels in the cracks under the doors. At night, cover windows with extra blankets or sheets. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or one that has frozen in the past.  This will keep the water moving so that it cannot freeze.  Learn how to shut off your water if a pipe bursts.
  • If pipes freeze, remove insulation, completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes or wrap them with towels soaked in hot water, starting where they are most exposed to the cold.  A hand-held hair dryer, used with caution, also works well.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check with elderly or disabled relatives and neighbors to ensure their safety

 

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