COLUMBUS — Forecasters the first major weather event of this winter – a polar vortex – would hit the Ohio region this week, and it pushed temperatures well below average for this time of year, with single-digit lows and negative wind-chill readings. The Ohio Department of Aging urged older Ohioans to plan ahead for this event, and asked all Ohioans to check in on older loved ones, neighbors and friends during this and other severe weather.
“Remember, extremely cold temperatures equal severe weather,” said Stephanie M. Loucka, director of the department. “Older adults’ bodies tend to adjust more slowly to adverse conditions, which places many elders at increased risk for serious injury and illness when the temperatures drop. A little preparation and regular checks can make them safer.”
All Ohioans should have a winter preparedness plan that enables them to remain in place for three days if they become unable to leave their homes due to weather conditions. Each household should have an emergency kit that contains, at a minimum, a battery operated radio, flashlight, extra batteries, a loud whistle or bell, food you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit.
Older adults may have a few additional considerations:
• A backup supply of daily medicines and the means to store them properly;
• Ready access to medical equipment and assistive devices (e.g., canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks, etc.) as well as spare batteries and non-powered options.
• A safe place to go if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home (e.g., public shelter, friend’s or neighbor’s house) and a plan for getting there.
• Instructions for rescue personnel to help you relocate safely and quickly in an emergency.
Your preparation should also include a plan for safely keeping the temperature in your home comfortable. Use only space heaters that have been tested and certified to the latest safety standards, and do not leave a space heater unattended. Never use a kitchen stove or any other appliance not designed to heat your home for that purpose.
Wintry precipitation, such as snow and freezing rain, also increases the risk of a potentially life-changing fall for older Ohioans. If you must go out in wintry conditions, wear boots or shoes that fit properly and have good traction. Bundle up to stay warm, but make sure you can see and move freely. Slow down and give yourself extra time to get where you’re going. Try to walk only on surfaces that have been cleared and treated for ice and snow. Use handrails whenever possible. When in doubt, ask for help.
Check on your neighbors
Before, during and after severe winter conditions, check in on older loved ones, friends and neighbors to ensure that they are okay and have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy.
• Do they need medical attention? Have they fallen? Are they staying warm enough? Are they taking their medicines as prescribed?
• Do they have safe food and water? Are they eating and drinking regularly?
• Is the temperature in their home comfortable? Do they have safe means to heat the home if temperatures continue to fall?
• Whom will they call if they need help? Do they have access to a phone that will work without power or landline service?
Be aware that confusion, disorientation and irritability can be symptoms of conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue. If someone appears ill or is injured, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Find help in your community
The Department of Aging works with the state’s 12 area agencies on aging to make sure that each community has a plan for assisting older adults during weather emergencies. Your area agency can also help you identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help you stay warm and safe this winter. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.
More emergency preparedness advice and resources are available on the department’s website: www.aging.ohio.gov/information/emergencypreparedness/
Follow the Ohio Department of Aging on Facebook and Twitter for more winter safety information and resources all winter long.