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Extreme Cold Weather Information for People and Animals

Extreme Cold Weather Information for People and Animals

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There is always particular concern for children, seniors, and homeless individuals during periods of extreme cold. A Hypothermia Alert is issued when the actual or forecasted temperature, including wind chill, falls below 20 degrees creating a hazardous situation in which hypothermia and frostbite are likely. Children engaged in outdoor activities should be carefully monitored by a responsible adult. Neighbors, friends or family members should check on the elderly, especially a senior living alone.

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There are a variety of sheltering opportunities for the homeless. Facilities, such as libraries, recreation centers, and senior centers are open during their regular hours for use by anyone needing an escape from the cold. Public shopping centers are also available as warm locations during their hours of operation. Outreach program providers encourage individuals who are homeless to seek shelter. Emergency and transitional shelters will allow homeless individuals to stay inside until temperatures improve, and/or return to a shelter early from daytime activity programs.

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In Montgomery County, Maryland the Interfaith Works Empowerment Center, located at 8106 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring is also open during the day. For additional information on Montgomery County services contact MC311 by calling 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, or through the website address which is available to receive emails 24/7.


For timely severe weather and emergency notifications

Go to and sign up for Alert Montgomery. Warnings and emergency updates will be sent directly to your cell phone (text), landline phone, computer (Twitter & Facebook) and/or email address. The service is free, but text charges may apply, so check with your cell phone carrier before selecting text alerts.


Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as the very young, seniors, those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated and/or without heat. Hypothermia can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. When the body’s store of energy is used up, the result is hypothermia. Because hypothermia can affect the brain, a person may not be aware that it is happening, and not take appropriate steps to prevent damage.

Warning Signs

Shivering, exhaustion Confusion, fumbling hands Memory loss, slurred speech Drowsiness For infants – bright red, cold skin, very low energy

What to do

If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency – get medical attention immediately If the person is unconscious and does not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing, call 9-1-1.

Prior to medical care

  • Get victim into a warm room or shelter.
  • Remove any wet clothing.
  • Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin – using electric blanket if available, or use skin-to-skin-contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels or sheets
  • Warm, nonalcoholic, beverages can help increase body temperatures if the victim is conscious

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Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, typically the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes. Signs of frostbite include redness or pain in any skin area, a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness.

What to do

  • Get into a warm area as soon as possible
  • Immerse the affected area in warm, but not hot, water
  • Warm the affected area using body heat
  • Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator for warming
  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes if at all possible.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it in any fashion


Outdoor Safety

  • Try to stay indoors, and make trips outside as brief as possible.
  • Limit outdoor recreational activity.
  • Outdoor cold weather exertion puts extra strain on the heart.
  • Wear hat, scarf or mask to cover face and mouth
  • Sleeves should be snug at the wrist
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves
  • Several layers of loose-fitting clothing should be worn under a heavy coat


Indoor Safety

  • If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace or space heater, be extremely careful.
  • Never use generators, grills, camp stoves or similar devices indoors, inside a garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Only use combustion heaters if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space
  • Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding
  • Do not use an extension cord


Vehicle Safety

  • During cold winter weather, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Make sure there is adequate antifreeze.
  • Never leave a person of any age alone in a vehicle.
  • Have extra blankets and supplies in case of a breakdown.


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Animal Care

The best advice during periods of extreme weather conditions is to bring your pets indoors. Even animals that are accustomed to living outdoors can be susceptible to the dangers of cold weather. Livestock animals should have a place to get out of the wind; dry bedding should be provided to protect them from frostbite.

If you see an animal left outside that appears to be in danger, please call the Animal Services Division immediately at 301-279-8000.

Tips from veterinarians for cold weather care of a dog include:

  • Provide a heated bed and shelter for dogs which cannot come indoors
  • Avoid letting your dog eat snow – keep fresh room temperature water available at all times
  • Keep food and water in a place where it will not freeze – preferably inside
  • A dog’s ears and tail are susceptible to frostbite; check them after a dog has been outside for a long period of time
  • Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol
  • A dog licking the salt off the bottom of his paws can make him sick, so wipe his paws after he walks through a salted area
  • Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather because a car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security


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Barbara Michaluk, Realtor

Phone 240-506-2434

Email:  /  Web:

Authorized Leisure World Specialist / Senior Real Estate Specialist /
Internet Marketing Specialist / Certified E-Pro / Certified Staging Agent

Weichert Realtors / 3816 International Dr / Silver Spring, MD 20906

Authorized Leisure World Specialist     Barbara Michaluk Graduate Internet Marketing Specialist Barbara Michaluk Senior Real Estate Specialist   

Comment balloon 1 commentBarbara Michaluk • December 12 2017 11:05PM


This is very thorough, great information! Thanks for sharing 

Posted by Sharon Kowitz, Cary, NC Relocation Specialist ~ Buying or Selling (CRS-SRES-ABR-GRI-E-Pro-CREN Fonville Morisey Cary, NC) about 1 year ago