January was a particularly cold month across the United States, with February not promising much relief. Across the nation, the colder weather has contributed to multiple deaths- and in places one might not expect. Atlanta began dipping into freezing temperatures in December, causing multiple deaths due to hypothermia that continued into the new year. The majority of these individuals were homeless, who were likely not equipped for the colder temperatures that so rarely happen in the state of Georgia.
Indiana saw temperatures as low as -19F, breaking their previous low record of -5F set in 1979. Texas received snow flurries that caused multiple accidents across the state. In one Texas city alone, more than three dozen vehicle crashes were reported in a 24-hour time period.
Within the first week of January, Wisconsin had reported at least six cold-related deaths. Usually a colder area of the nation, most residents are accustomed to winter weather. However, when temperatures are extremely cold it puts everyone at risk of hypothermia if they remain outside for too long. According to Marc de Moya of the Medical College of Wisconsin, “When human core temperatures drop from the normal 98.6 degrees to 95, mild hypothermia sets in which includes shaking and shivering. As body temperatures continue to drop, people can get disoriented and their speech can slur. They can fall into unconsciousness.”
Unfortunately, the dangers of extreme weather don’t just affect the homeless or those who are outside. Individuals who have shelter with a limited heat source often struggle to keep warm in such cold temperatures. These individuals consist of a number of demographics of people, including the homeless and those living in poverty, but can include individuals whose furnaces simply quit working properly or those who choose not to run their heat source regularly enough to heat their home.
During a deep freeze like the one our nation is experiencing now, many heating and cooling businesses are booked solid with calls of improperly functioning boilers and furnaces. According to Steve Lewis, president and CEO of Ambient Edge, “The colder temperatures force the units to work harder, highlighting issues or simply pushing the unit to its breaking point. That’s why it is so important to have your unit serviced yearly, because many of these issues can be fixed in advance of having a major problem on your hands.”
It is often difficult to tell from the outside of a home or building whether the individuals living there have a properly functioning heat source. In extreme conditions, it is best for neighbors to keep an eye out for one another, especially for those who live alone or who are elderly. Encourage the homeless population to seek shelter indoors during this cold snap, and consider carrying an extra blanket with some emergency gear in your vehicle in case of a breakdown. It’s much better to be prepared and not need something, than not be prepared and regret it.
Feature Image Source: dailystar.co.uk