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Staying Safe in the Winter

If you’re a Wisconsin native or have a few Midwest winters under your belt, you may think you have winter driving, and safety all figured out.  But anyone can benefit from hearing a few more tips and tricks to help you and your family stay safe with dangerous low temps, icy roads, and those late-March storms that seem to take everyone by surprise. Follow along below to hear tips you may be missing for winterizing your home, car, and navigating life safely in the winter.

Driving during cold months means being ultra-prepared for the worst to happen.  The recent news story of Virginia drivers being stuck on I-95 after a snowstorm serves as a good reminder to have proper provisions and tools in vehicles at all times to keep yourself safe while traveling.  The biggest tip is to never leave your car with less than half a tank of gas.  Here’s a quick list of a few other resources that may be helpful to have in your vehicle:

  • Florescent flags or markers if you get stuck
  • Shovel and ice scrapers
  • Flashlights
  • Winter gear including gloves, hats, boots, and blankets
  • Extra phone charger and battery pack
  • Empty gas canister

Having these items in your car can help keep you safe if something bad does happen.  But remember, there are ways to avoid having an accident.  The biggest tip and one you’ve heard in the past is to slow down when driving and give the road your full attention.  That means staying off your phone, not fiddling with the radio, and not trying to play a specific song.  Taking it slow also means giving yourself plenty of time to reach your destination.  Leave early enough that you’re not rushing to make up time on the road, putting yourself and others at risk of dangerous driving.

Besides keeping your car prepped and ready for unexpected weather, you can play a crucial part in keeping your home and workplace safe during the winter.  Below are a few tips that you may not have heard before that can help you stay secure and healthy:

Check the weather! Before leaving your home, check the forecasted weather and decide if you should even leave your home.  Make sure you keep your home’s temperature regulated and you’ve dressed appropriately for the weather.

Bring different shoes!   You should be wearing winter boots while traveling, especially if there’s snow and ice along your commute.  Bring extra shoes with you to cut down on tracking in ice and snow that can quickly lead to big puddles of water and endanger others.

Keep your hands free!  This means wearing gloves instead of stuffing your freezing fingers into pockets, making multiple trips rather than carrying bulky items, and asking for help if needed carrying heavy objects.

Follow the penguin!  What does this mean?  Walk as penguins do!  When your walkway is icy, keep your toes pointed out, knees lose, use short steps, and take it slow.  This walking style can help keep you safe and lower your impact if you happen to slip on the ice.

If an accident happens, you need to call for help.  That’s when Southwest Health is there! It can feel like an intimidating task if you’ve never called 911 before.  But don’t let that stop you from getting the help you deserve!  In the few short seconds between making the call to 911 and connecting with the dispatcher, collect your thoughts.  The emergency dispatcher will answer the phone, “911, what’s your emergency?”  Here’s what you need to have ready to answer:

  1. What services do you need? 911 dispatch handles calls for police, fire, and medical emergencies, so let them know if you need an ambulance or police.
  2. What’s the address? It seems simple enough unless you are hunting in the woods or lost. “Uncle Bob’s tree stand,” for example, won’t help the EMS. But something as close as possible will be sufficient.
  3. What’s the nature of the emergency? Here are a few examples: “My car slid off the road and hit the guardrail.” “My friend slipped on ice, hit their head, and I don’t want to move them.”

Now what? The emergency dispatcher may keep you on the line if there are any changes that you need to report; try to give them any additional information after they have dispatched the ambulance or police to help the crew when they arrive. Keep in mind that all EMS crews are there to help you. From the moment Southwest Health EMS arrives, you or your loved one will be in the hands of a highly trained professional. Once they do come, EMS or police will begin asking a lot of questions. Some things you can have ready to help them include:

  • Name, age, and date of birth of the person who needs help.
  • When the event or symptoms began.
  • Is there any relevant medical history? These may include a history of seizures, heart problems, asthma, etc.
  • Are there any allergies to any medications or foods?

If you need to be seen immediately for care you can go to the hospital to be seen right away.  But do you know if your injury or issue is warranted to go to the emergency department?  Below is a quick guide you can use to help you determine if the urgent care or emergency department is the place to be seen.  Just a quick reminder, if you call 911 and are taken in the ambulance, you will automatically be taken to the emergency department.

Urgent Care is for minor conditions, such as earaches, sore throats, and urinary tract infections. You see, we understand getting sick doesn’t always happen on a 9 to 5 basis, so neither should getting well again. Think of Urgent Care as your doctor’s office when your doctor’s office is closed.  You don’t need to be a Southwest Health patient to utilize our Urgent Care, and all ages are welcome.   Southwest Health’s Urgent care is available Monday through Friday from 5 pm to 10 pm and on weekends and holidays from 8 am to 8 pm. No referrals or appointments are needed.  Patients are evaluated in our Triage Room adjacent to our Emergency Department. If lab work is done, other than for mono, throat culture, or urine sample, the visit is automatically elevated to an Emergency Department visit.  Urgent care is the place to come for:

  • Insect bites
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Earaches, sore throats, and coughs
  • Minor infections, rashes, and burns
  • Sprains and strains
  • Urinary tract infections

Southwest Health’s ER offers the latest technology plus two fully-equipped trauma rooms. Steps away, our doctors have access to the tri-states most advanced medical imaging technology, including new in-house wide-bore MRI and new low dose CT machines.  Call 911 in case of a medical emergency. Or, come immediately to the Emergency Room if you experience any of the following conditions:

  • Bleeding
  • Broken Bones
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Poisoning
  • Seizures
  • Severe burns
  • Severe pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden paralysis or slurred speech
  • Suspected overdose of medication

Whether it’s urgent or an emergency, the most important thing is that you receive care when you need it. At Southwest Health, our Urgent Care is in our Emergency Department. So, if you come into Urgent Care, and it turns out to be an emergency, you’re already in the ER–with highly experienced ER physicians–no ambulance needed.

Accidents are bound to happen.  Being prepared and knowing the services that are available to you can help ease any winter-related anxiety.  If you’ve experienced several Wisconsin winters, you may think you know everything there is known about staying safe.  But the truth is, over-confidence may cause you to get hurt, whether you’re driving too fast, not paying attention to the weather, or thinking that you can just run outside quick and grab something from your vehicle. Please stay safe and remember our tips the next time you’re planning a trip!


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