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Are you ready for winter?

Published: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 1:31 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 3:28 p.m. CST

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PRINCETON — It’s time to take the lawn chairs and picnic baskets out of car trunks and replace them with ice scrapers, shovels and other winter preparedness gear, according to Kris Donarski, coordinator of the Bureau County Emergency Services Disaster Agency (ESDA)

Donarski said it’s important for people to plan ahead and be prepared for winter driving and winter outdoor activities.

“The best time to prepare for bad weather is now, before it happens,” Donarski said.

With that preparation goal in mind, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) have joined forces to promote the month of November as Winter Preparedness Month in Illinois. The agencies are encouraging Illinois residents to get prepared for the extreme cold, snow and ice of winter, before those days actually get here.

There’s no getting around the fact that cold winter weather is coming, IEMA Director Jonathon Monken said.

“In Illinois, it’s a question of when snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures will hit, not if they will occur,” Monken said. “Getting caught unprepared may not be just inconvenient, it could be dangerous. Now’s the time to take a few minutes to put together your home and vehicle emergency supply kits and review the steps you should take to stay safe during hazardous winter weather.”

Donarski agreed, saying people don’t plan on getting stranded or being in an accident due to icy roads, but those things can happen. Even in short trips to the store, there could be accidents or car problems, she said.

There is also the factor that each year there will be new drivers who are experiencing winter roads for the first time, as well as travelers driving through the area who may not be familiar with the area roads or conditions, Donarski said. Even experienced drivers need to refresh themselves on good winter driving habits, she said.

Her recommendation is that when it’s time to turn back the clocks each fall, it’s also time to prepare for winter by getting a winter emergency supply kit prepared for the home and vehicle, Donarski said.

People need to remember that not all winter weather accidents, injuries and even fatalities are vehicle-related, National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Chris Miller said.

According to the NWS, there were eight deaths, nationwide, related to extreme cold temperatures in the 2012 calendar year. All of the 2012 cold-related fatalities occurred outdoors, including three deaths in Illinois, Miller said. Since 1995, 134 fatalities related to cold temperatures have occurred in Illinois, making it the second-leading cause of weather-related deaths in Illinois in the past 18 years.

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, also warned Illinois residents to take the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves, and their health, against the coming winter weather.

“There are several dangerous health conditions that can occur in winter weather,” Hasbrouck said. “It’s important to watch for signs of being too cold or over-exertion. Hypothermia, when a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, can occur both outdoors and indoors and can be fatal. “

Continuing, Hasbrouck said frostbite, when skin becomes stiff and numb, can cause tissue damage. People should also watch for signs of overexertion, such as chest pain, when shoveling snow.

“You should know the warning signs of dangerous cold weather health conditions in order to stay safe and healthy during the winter,” Hasbrouck said.

To help Illinois residents prepare for winter, the IEMA. the NWS and the American Red Cross have developed a winter weather preparedness guide that covers winter weather terms and tips for staying safe at home, in the car and at school. The guide is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov or by calling 217-785-9925.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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