Agencies Partner to Issue Cold Weather Health Advisory

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

SPOKANE, Wash. – Feb 4, 2014With a wind chill watch in effect and the potential for dangerously low temperatures today, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), City of Spokane and Spokane County are issuing thishealth advisoryto 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.”
The National Weather Service issued a wind chill watch Monday, forecasting wind chill readings 2 below to 17 below zero for tonight and 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, the City of Spokane administers a Warming Center Program, providing a warm, safe place for individuals who cannot get a shelter bed between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Currently, warming center beds are available at the Salvation Army Community Center, 221 E. Indiana, serving single men; the Salvation Army Family Resource Center, 204 E. Indiana, which serves families with children and couples; Crosswalk, 525 W Second Ave, for youth ages 13-17; and the Hope House Shelter, 111 W. Third Ave., which serves single women.
Preparing for extreme cold

  • Stock up on emergency supplies for communication, food, safety, heating, and car. 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 fireplace, 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 Fahrenheit 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.
Spokane County also reminds residents to avoid frozen pipes by knowing where their main water shutoff valves are, disconnecting outside hoses, insulating pipes, and sealing openings in basements around the foundation, windows and doors.
Remember also that winter weather patterns can trap air pollution – especially from wood stoves and fireplaces – near the ground, where it can build-up. This air pollution may threaten people’s health, especially those who have a lung condition like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or with heart disease. Again, residents are encouraged to stay indoors.
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.