The Minnesota Winter Hazard Awareness Week topic for today is Outdoor Winter Safety. One of the most important aspects of spending time outdoors during the winter is to dress appropriately.

Wear a hat, 40 percent of body heat is lost from the head. Tight fighting mittens are better than gloves, and people should way layers of loose-fitting, water repellant, warm clothing. Polk County Deputy Tom Hibma said frostbite, frostnip, and hypothermia can all occur quickly if not properly dressed for the elements. “Most people are used to the winter weather that we have here and know the basics of winter safety,” said Hibma. “But it’s always good to be reminded of that. A lot of people have to work in it and a lot of people choose to play in it with lots of activities to do. One thing we’ll talk about is being dressed for the weather and keeping your skin covered. Frostbite can happen real quick in the temperatures we have here. The weather, wind, all of that together it doesn’t take long for your skin to freeze with either frostbite or frostnip. Hypothermia is also a concern. So, make sure you’re dressed for the weather. Be prepared. Have plenty of warm clothing on and in your vehicles as well.”

It is especially important to be mindful of frostbite for children as they often want to play outside all day.  Sledding and ice skating by children should also be monitored as these activities can result in a trip to the emergency room. 

Additionally, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are available to answer questions throughout the winter about the condition of the ice on waterways around the county. However, Hibma said the most important reminder is no matter how the ice appears, it’s thickness, age, snow cover, the temperature, there is no surefire way to identify the strength of the ice. “A lot of people up here are used to going out on the ice. Ice fishing is popular especially on the lakes area of Polk County,” said Hibma. “You see a lot of bodies out there, houses, vehicles. Just be mindful that no ice is safe.”

Shoveling is also important to clear paths for neighbors, visitors, and emergency personnel while being mindful not to overdo it said, Hibma. “Shoveling is a big thing as well,” said Hibma. “Be mindful of not overexerting yourself. But also, be mindful of having the sidewalks cleared for wheelchair use, any visitors you might have, or even if we need to come to assist you in any way. It takes time if there is a lot of snow for us to get through from a sidewalk to a front door. That impedes us and can cost you precious minutes in an emergency.”  

Additionally, the Crookston Fire Department asks residents to adopt the fire hydrant in their neighborhoods to keep them clear of snow. It can take firefighters several minutes to clear ice and snow from a hydrant that hasn’t been maintained when responding to a fire, which can cause significant damage or injury.