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Practical Advice

(608) 267-1591
Emergency Management Reference #02/01/07-1

Thursday, January 31, 2007 at 2:45 P.M., the National Weather Service issued a Special Weather Statement warning of a large arctic air mass that may bring daytime temperatures just above zero. The cold temperatures are expected to last through Wednesday, February 7. It is important to be reminded about some of the real dangers that come with such severe weather conditions.

A temperature of 5° Fahrenheit, combined with a 10-mile-per-hour wind can bring the wind chill factor down to 10 degrees below zero!! The wind chill temperature is a measure of how the cold actually feels on your skin. Temperatures and wind chills this low cross the line from discomfort to genuinely life threatening. The Dane County Department of Emergency Management along with the Department of Public Health of Madison and Dane County strongly urges people to be alert and aware of these dangerous conditions.

Cold Weather Precautions

• Monitor your food intake and physical output and maintain a regular diet to help your body better handle the severe weather conditions.
• Hydrate - Drinks with caffeine, sugar and alcohol take longer for your body to absorb and do not hydrate as well. Water is usually the best choice.

• People should be aware of the amount and intensity of their physical activity, both indoors and out. Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts additional strain on the body, especially the heart.
• If you have to go outside, wear appropriate clothing that will adequately insulate you from the cold and provide protection from the wind.
• Older adults, those in fragile health and smaller children can be more readily affected by the cold than the average adult.
• Check on loved ones and neighbors, especially those in fragile health, preferably by telephone.
• Never leave children or pets alone in vehicles. Temperatures in vehicles can drop rapidly.
• Pets can be greatly affected by the cold and should not be exposed longer than they have to be.
• Large animals need to be kept out of the wind and have a dry place to lay down. Water supplies should be checked to avoid freezing and diets should be adjusted to increase energy content by 5%.
• Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas. Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.
• Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that kills more than 500 Americans every year. Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or near a window. Also, make sure you have installed a carbon monoxide detector in your home to alert you and your family to this "silent killer."


FROSTBITE occurs in stages; from tissue numbness to the actual freezing of body tissue. It usually strikes the fingers, toes, ears and nose first. Skin color will change, affected areas will go numb and possibly feel frozen on the surface. DO NOT SQUEEZE OR RUB FROSTBITTEN TISSUES. This is a serious condition and you should seek immediate emergency medical assistance to treat frostbite.


HYPOTHERMIA is the general cooling of the whole body over time reflected in a reduced core body temperature; the body is not able to keep itself warm. Elderly adults and the frail of health are highly susceptible to hypothermia. Signs and symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, feelings of numbness, drowsiness, exhaustion, confusion, memory lapses, slow or slurred speech, slow breathing and pulse rates, failing eyesight, poor coordination and possible unconsciousness. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult a medical professional for emergency treatment. Hypothermia is a life threatening condition.

For additional information regarding winter awareness and preparations, visit the Dane County Emergency Management ( ) and Wisconsin Emergency Management websites. ( )

Madison / Dane County Public Health :

For additional information regarding winter weather, visit the National Weather Service's Milwaukee / Sullivan Forecast Office at:



  • J. McLellan, 608/267-2542
  • Jeff Golden, 608-267-2583