County offers cold weather resources and tips
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 11:56

Government Center hosts weather shelter

by Nicole Rodman

    Last week, Dundalk — along with most of the country — experienced record low temperatures.
    While, for most people, the cold is an inconvenience, extremely low temperatures can be deadly.
    Last Tuesday, the body of 28-year-old Daniel Cedillo was found behind Logan Elementary School.
    According to a preliminary medical examiner’s report, Cedillo succumbed to hypothermia.
    With temperatures bottoming out — and plenty of winter yet to come — Baltimore County is offering resources and tips to keep county residents stay safe  and warm this season.
  

One way Baltimore County is striving to keep people warm is by encouraging the homeless to take advantage of one of the county’s emergency shelters.
    The Eastside Family Shelter, at 9100 Franklin Square Drive, is open to men, women and children who need a place to stay temporarily.
    For women and children, the Hannah More Shelter, at 12041 Reisterstown Road, is also available.
    Families who need a place to sleep can also visit the Night of Peace Overnight Shelter at 7509 Windsor Mill Road.
    Finally, for men, the Westside Men’s Shelter, at 55 Wade Ave. in Baltimore, is also open.
    From November through March,  those who cannot find a bed during extremely cold weather can take advantage of a freezing weather emergency shelter at the North Point Government Center on Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue.
    The shelter opens on nights when the temperature drops to 32 degrees or lower and no beds are available at any other county shelters.
    Officials also encourage those who need to warm up during the day to visit any one of Baltimore County’s public library branches or senior centers.
    For more, or to find the closest available shelter, call 410-853-3000, option 2.
    While extreme cold is a danger to area homeless people, low temperatures can pose a threat to anyone, most notably older adults, children and people with chronic health problems.
    County officials recommend that residents keep a check on those most vulnerable to the cold, especially infants and the elderly.
    Since cold weather can strain the heart, those with heart conditions or high blood pressure should take care when exercising or working in extreme cold.
    All residents should also take care when walking in icy areas, as slipping could occur.
    County officials also urge residents to stay warm by drinking warm beverages or broth. Alcoholic drinks and caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they cause the body to lose heat more quickly.
    Those venturing outside should be sure to wear several layers of clothing as well as a hat and scarf to cover the face and mouth, sleeves that are snug at the wrist (so as to keep out cold air), mittens (which are warmer than gloves), a heavy coat and boots.
    Also, pet owners should remember to bring pets indoors and limit their time outside during extreme cold.
    With more people staying indoors in close quarters during freezing weather, cold and flu is more easily spread.
    To this end, county officials urge residents to get a flu shot if possible, wash hands frequently and avoid close contact with people who have the cold or flu.
    For more information, visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/health.
    Another risk that rises during cold weather is the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
    CO is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is produced as the result of incomplete combustion of fuels such as oil, gas, coal or wood.
    CO can also be produced by common household appliances such as clothes dryers, water heaters, space heaters, ovens and furnaces.
    Generators also emit high levels of CO and should never be used indoors or outdoors within 15 feet of doors, windows or vents.
    A deadly gas, CO poisons the body by depriving it of oxygen.
    Symptoms of CO poisoning can start off fairly mild and flu-like and may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, confusion and irritability.
    As CO poisoning  continues, symptoms become more serious and may include vomiting, unconsciousness and, eventually, death.
    The only way to detect CO gas is by having CO alarms in the home.
    CO alarms are designed to detect the presence of CO in its early stages, before symptoms would occur in adults.
    Last month, ten Dundalk residents at homes on Manor Road and St. Monica Drive were taken to area hospitals after suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning.
    Officials determined that, in both cases, a malfunctioning furnace was likely to blame. Neither home had a CO alarm.
    “CO alarms save lives,” Baltimore County Fire Chief John Hohman explained in a press release. “Every home that includes a fuel-burning appliance has the potential to generate carbon monoxide, and every home should have alarms to detect carbon monoxide.”   
    Under Baltimore County law, all rental units with fuel-burning appliances or heating systems must have CO alarms.
    If a CO alarm does go off, residents are advised to dial 911 and leave the home immediately.
    For more, visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/fire/safety%20education/carbonmonoxide.html.