Hypothermia Related Deaths on the Rise

It is a fact that every winter people in the US still lose their lives due to exposure to the elements and the cold. Many of those lives are being needlessly lost for reasons that are preventable. A recent CDC report shows that from 2003 until 2013 the total number of Hypothermia related deaths in the USA was 13,419 and the numbers are rising.

The most at risk segment of our community are the older, more vulnerable people. Over half of the cold related deaths in the country are people who are over 60 years of age. A significant proportion of these deaths occur in the home as a result of lack of power and heat. Surely in 2014 in America these deaths can be prevented? Is it really OK for large numbers of people to die at home due to the cold every year? The other big risk factors are alcohol, drugs and mental illness. Which all contribute to reducing the ability to make sound judgement of risk and to reduce the capacity of an individual to be prepared.

Another significant proportion of winter deaths are caused by vehicle accident and breakdown and also people being caught out and dying due to exposure to severe weather. 

Again these fatalities can be markedly reduced if people are prepared and precautions are taken. A Guide to Survival (from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Weather Service Warning and Forecast Branch, November 1991, NOAA/FEMA/The American Red Cross), recommends that a safety kit, weather scanner, good preparation and thoughtful planning can help mitigate the risks posed by the dangers of cold weather.

Each family needs to take some time out to prepare an emergency plan for winter and to put together a survival kit in the event that they are caught without power or for if your vehicle gets caught in a storm. The American Red Cross  Lists the following as a minimum to be included in a survival kit for the home:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Map (s) of the area
  • Emergency Blanket

The Emergency Blanket also know as a Mylar Blanket or “Survival Blanket”, is a critical item for keeping people safe in extreme conditions and its use is not widely understood. Basically made by vacuum depositing a thin layer of pure aluminium vapor onto a thin plastic film, which results in a metalized polyethylene terephthalate or MPET sheet. The end product is a very light, thin sheet that can be used to wrap around a person and ensures that there is a consistent reflection of over 90% of radiated heat back onto the body. This can be the difference between surviving the night or succumbing to the effects of hypothermia.

Former Army Engineer and owner of the Gold Standard Outdoor Company, Tony Dickson, says "A Mylar thermal blanket can literally be a life-saver IF it is used correctly".

Emergency blankets were originally developed by NASA and are now an integral part of any survival, first aid, emergency, hiking or outdoor sports kits. These items can kept in your car glove compartment, back pack, first aid kit at home, in the office, boat, RV or motorbike. It is an incredibly cost effective insurance policy should an emergency situation arise, should you have a loss of power or you get caught out in bad weather. Every family member should have access to one of these little blankets should the need arise.

Cold weather kills because it causes the condition known as hypothermia (which is when the body's core temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism and body functions) the blanket, if used correctly can radiate over 90% of your body-heat, back into your body. This massively reduces the likelihood of the potentially deadly onset of hypothermia.

The materials are very light, which means they can rip easily and they are very flammable. If however you use them as instructed they are very effective. A Gold Standard Outdoor Company customer, Sally, grew up in Alaska and knows the value of having warm blankets in a vehicle. Sally said she always keeps a pack of Emergency Blankets in the car (enough for each family member) just in case they get caught out in the winter. Sally has been caught in snowstorms before and wants to make sure her family is safe and warm should it happen again.

Mr Dickson recommends keeping some at home and making sure there is some on hand for parents, grandparent and kids as well, "If the power goes down and you are caught out, this little blanket maybe the difference between life and death", he says.

Lets hope for a warm winter, but plan for the worst case scenario. Make sure you have a Survival Kit set-up for your family and especially for older or more vulnerable people in the community. You can buy emergency  blankets direct from Amazon

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