Disasters and Public Health, Second Edition - Chapter 20: Winter Storms

Elsevier, Disasters and Public Health, Second Edition, 2016.
Clements, B., Casani, J.

This chapter discusses the public health preparedness aspects of preparing for and recovering from severe winter storms. The definition and effect of winter storms are very dependent on the usual weather conditions of a community. Physiologic response to severe winter weather is a spectrum of minor illness through to death. In addition to weather, there are a variety of physical and social cold injury risk factors. These include age, physical or mental impairment, and the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs. Cold temperatures can also exacerbate chronic conditions such as respiratory and cardiac disease. Public massages regarding safe behavior and reducing exposure can be valuable during a storm. Prevention of secondary effects such as carbon monoxide poisoning from seeking alternative heat sources is also critical. Loss of utilities and essential services can complicate response activities and increase health risks.