Winter safety brings to mind harsh
temperatures and frigid precipitation among other things. As those in temperate
climates settle into the ensuing months of these conditions, it’s important for
our Marines to maintain a strong consideration for the safety of themselves,
their fellow service members, family, friends, and others. Snow and ice make
driving (and walking!) exponentially more hazardous than in warmer months, and
freezing temperatures expose individuals to cold-related injuries such as
hypothermia, as well as illness and other conditions. The USMC encourages its
members to remain mindful of the unique conditions of the winter months, and to
practice safety with these things in consideration.
Avoid driving in these conditions, if possible. If driving is required, be certain that your vehicle is properly equipped (preferably through prior preparations), and exercise cautious driving practices in terms of speed and awareness, as the conditions dictate.
Shoveling snow is an extremely strenuous activity that requires a surprising amount of care. Those with heart conditions or poor physical condition should avoid doing so, if possible. Make certain to push snow with your shovel, as opposed to lifting it. If lifting is required, only do so with small amounts, and be certain to lift with your legs.
Using a snow blower can make clearing your property a much more efficient process, although it also represents its own hazards. It’s important to be smart when using these types of tools. Turn off the blower immediately if it jams; keep your hands away from any moving parts; only refuel when the blower is turned off; and do not consume alcohol before or during use of the snow blower.
Keep in mind that even covered skin can be vulnerable to frostbite, so the best preventative measure is to avoid extended exposure to extremely cold conditions.
Frostbite manifests itself as superficial damage (skin turns white, waxy, or grey-yellow in color and becomes numb), and progresses to a deep frostbite, where the skin becomes entirely numb, may blister, and even turn black in color.
If frostbite occurs, or it’s suspected, get indoors immediately and seek first aid. Clothing that could restrict bloodflow should be removed and sterile gauze or medical wrap should be inserted between fingers and toes to prevent them sticking together. Elevation may help and minor, superficial frostbite can be submerged in warm (100-105 degree) water.
Hypothermia occurs when body temperatures drop dramatically, and symptoms which include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, shallow breath, irregular heartbeat, loss of coordination, and others may indicate this injury.
If hypothermia is suspected, move indoors immediately and call for medical attention. Remove any wet clothing and use blankets, towels, and other materials around the victim to promote warmth and dry conditions. Handle the individual carefully, keep them in a horizontal position, and keep their head covered to perserve body heat. If necessary, be prepared to perform CPR.