Spokane Regional Health District, City of Spokane and Spokane County warn community about dangers of exposure to cold conditions

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539 or

SPOKANE, Wash. – Dec. 29, 2014 With the coldest weather of the winter season so far expected today through Wednesday, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), City of Spokane and Spokane County are issuing this health advisory to warn the community about the dangers of exposure to cold conditions. Exposure to cold temperatures can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone, including animals, can be affected.
"When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors," said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD health officer. “To avoid hypothermia and frostbite, make any trips outside as brief as possible, and remember that by preparing for winter emergencies, the risks of weather-related health problems can be reduced.”
Today, the National Weather Service issued a special weather statement, as well as a wind advisory, for southwest Washington, forecasting wind chill values of 15 to 25 degrees into Wednesday.
Extreme cold presents a dangerous situation that can result in health emergencies in susceptible people, such as those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated or without heat. In an effort to reduce risk to Spokane’s vulnerable population this winter, the City of Spokane is partnering with the Salvation Army to activate a central warming center for drop-ins when temperatures hit 32 degrees and lower, like they will this week.
The Salvation Army Community Center at 222 E. Indiana serves as the single warming center for homeless individuals and accommodates single adult men, single adult women and families with children. Hours of operation are 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. The site is available in addition to homeless shelters located throughout the city, allowing more people to get out of the cold.
Preparing for extreme cold

  • Stock up on emergency supplies for communication, food, safety, heating, and transportation. Check out these winter weather checklists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Listen to the radio or television, or follow social media channels, for winter storm forecasts and other information.
  • Have appropriate cold weather clothing available.
  • Make sure fireplace functions properly.
  • Fill your vehicle’s gas tank before temperatures start dropping.

During periods of extreme cold
When residents must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.
Here are other tips to keep residents safe during extreme cold temperatures:

  • If an individual must go outdoors, wear several layers of loose fitting, light weight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear mittens rather than gloves. Wear a hat. Cover mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from extremely cold air.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia
    • Signs of frostbite include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or numbness.
    • Signs of hypothermia include slurred speech, disorientation, uncontrollable shivering, stumbling, drowsiness and body temperature of 95 degrees or less.
  • If a resident becomes trapped outside, get out of the wind and stay dry. Build a lean-to or snow cave if nothing else is available. Do not eat snow; it will make you too cold.
  • Do not drive unnecessarily.

Spokane County reminds those living in unincorporated areas of the county to also prepare for the extreme cold and take appropriate steps to protect themselves, their property and their pets/livestock. Make sure pets/livestock have protected shelter and check their food/water frequently to make sure they have plenty and it is not frozen. The Spokane County Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) may have gently-used dog houses available; contact them at (509) 477-2532.
The agencies also reminds residents to avoid frozen pipes by knowing where their main water shutoff valves are located, disconnecting outside hoses, insulating pipes, and sealing openings in basements around the foundation, windows and doors. Find a helpful video from City of Spokane here.
For more local emergency preparedness info visit the health district’s page dedicated to emergency preparedness. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips or follow them at @spokanehealth. For more info on the city’s warming shelters, click here. You can also get the latest news and information on and @spokanecity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.