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Here Comes Winter Weather Season—Be Prepared, Ready for the Unexpected

By Florida Department of Health, Office of Communications

November 14, 2014

Although November 30 will mark the end of hurricane season, Floridians should continue to be prepared for the unexpected. The arrival of Winter Storm Leon last January is a strong reminder to everyone across the state how important it is to have a preparedness plan and kit ready, regardless of the time of year. Now is the perfect time to restock your emergency supplies and review preparedness plans, or create them if you haven’t already, before the coming new year.

The Florida Department of Health also reminds Floridians not to forget these important health tips and concerns during the winter weather season:

Eat and Drink Wisely

Eating well-balanced meals is especially important during the winter season, and can help you stay warmer (yes, all areas in Florida can experience some very cold days and nights, so prepare!). Drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages may cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your health care provider.

Dress Appropriately for Winter Weather and Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Many parts of Florida experience winter-like weather, with cold temperatures often extending far south of Florida’s Panhandle.
  • Don’t forget to wear proper clothing while you are out and about. The right waterproof and windproof garments will keep you warm and safe from the elements.
  • Wear layers so you can adjust your clothing as temperatures often change drastically throughout the day. Dress so the inner layer allows sweat to escape, the middle layer insulates for added warmth, and the outer layer shields you from wind.

Stop crucial heat loss by:

  • Protecting your head, face and neck with hats and scarves.
  • Wearing waterproof, insulated gloves and boots.
  • Always use sunscreen, lip protection and skin moisturizer, especially during the winter weather season. In addition, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses.

Generator Safety

Portable generators can be a handy tool during a power outage, but they can also be dangerous if used improperly. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can cause serious health concerns including weakness, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death. If you have a generator at your home or business, be aware of these safety tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • NEVER operate a generator indoors or in attached garages, porches, basements or crawlspaces. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent life threatening carbon monoxide build-up in the home.
  • Generators should only be operated outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from doors, windows, vents or any other air intakes to the home. Generators should also be protected from direct exposure to rain, preferably under a canopy or carport or in an open shed.
  • If you feel dizzy or weak, get fresh air immediately. If your symptoms worsen, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The carbon monoxide alarm should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for carbon monoxide alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, CSA 6.19.01). The U.S. Product and Consumer Safety Commission recommends changing your Carbon Monoxide detector every five years, and the detector batteries every year.

Find Florida-specific data on Carbon Monoxide hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and deaths.

Heating Your Home Safely

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember:

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Do not burn paper in a fireplace.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.
  • Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use—don’t substitute.
  • Do no place a space heater within 3 feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never cover your space heater.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.
  • Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.
  • If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.
  • Store a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher near the area to be heated.

Learn More

The Department offers a number of tools to help families prepare for all types of disasters—the Florida Emergency Preparedness Guide is available in English, Spanish, Creole and Large Print at www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/emergency-preparedness-and-response/prepare-yourself/current-hazards/hurricane-info.html.

Additional information about preparing for Florida’s winter weather season is available on the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Web site at www.floridadisaster.org and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/.

The Florida Department of Health offers current health-related information on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook, sign in today!