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Cold weather emergency preparedness reminders

Bitter cold temperatures and low wind chills (25-50 degrees below zero) arrived Friday and are lasting through New Year's Day, so here are some considerations for providers serving vulnerable people.

Overall, it would be a good idea to review your emergency plans and your continuity of operations plans for a power and/or heat outage.

In addition, here are some key planning elements to review:

• Verify you have current names and contact information for key staff identified to execute your emergency plan.

• Ensure your buildings are safe and the heating system is working as designed.

• Check that the backup emergency power sources are in place and working; consider testing them before you need them.

• Verify you have current emergency contacts for heating issues, e.g. power company emergency numbers, furnace repair emergency numbers.

• Review your criteria for when you will choose to keep residents in your building and when you would activate your emergency evacuation plan.

• Finally, be sure you have information on how to contact your city or county emergency management agency if needed.

• It is important to keep in mind that older adults are particularly vulnerable to the health risks that can come with cold weather. Hypothermia—a dangerous drop in core body temperature—can occur when it is too cold outside, when inside temperature falls and stays below 68 degrees or when the body is unable to produce the heat it needs to function. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions are especially susceptible to hypothermia, even after relatively short exposure to cold weather or a small drop in body temperature.

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