The safety of our students and staff is the basis for any decision to close schools due to weather-related conditions. Key factors that are considered include current and projected weather conditions; road conditions; and, at times, temperature and wind chill factors. As you know, sub-zero temps are not uncommon during our long Western New York winters!
The general guideline provided by health officials about when to consider closing schools due to wind chill is a sustained minus -25 degrees. Driving conditions due to blowing snow and poor visibility, as well as the ability to get buses running on time, must be considered as well.
The Centers for Disease Control offers a summary of helpful hints on its website: Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter. In addition, please take time to read the following tips on how to protect your children from the cold, whether they are waiting for a school bus or playing outside on a sunny, cold winter day.
What are severe climate conditions? How can a child’s risk of injury be decreased?
Severe climate conditions where temperatures and wind chill dip into certain extreme ranges can cause medical concerns for the safety of children. It is hoped that the following information will help to decrease the risk of injury to children from severe weather.
What is frostbite?
Frostbite can occur on exposed skin in about 30 minutes in adults in the range of wind-chill of -25°F and in as little as 10 minutes in adults in the range of wind-chill of -40ºF. It takes less time for children. Frostbite can also occur in children even before temperatures and wind chills dip into these extreme numbers; it just takes a little longer. Temperatures are usually predicted in ranges. Wind chill temperatures anywhere in this range of -25 to -40 ºF coupled with other factors, such as long walking distances, delayed wait times, uncertain bus dependability, and a lack of emergency backup, can be dangerous.
What are the danger signs of frostbite? When should you seek help?
- Your child gets cold or wet, especially boots or gloves
- Your child feels pain or numbness anywhere especially hands, feet, ears, or nose
- Your child senses they have waited longer than five minutes when you have alerted them temperatures have dipped into the teens, especially on a windy day
- Your child thinks they may have frostbite which behaves like a burn and requires medical attention
The National Weather Service will begin to issue media ADVISORIES when wind chills of -15°F are predicted and WARNINGS when wind chills of -25°F are predicted.
What should I know about cold weather safety & what can I do to prevent associated risks?
At this time of year, it is a good idea to talk with your children about cold weather safety. Extra care is needed, especially in younger children, to be sure that frostbite does not occur.
- If children are allowed outdoors in extreme weather, they must tell an adult if they feel cold, or if they feel pain or numbness and/or if they see a color change in any part of their body, or if they become wet, especially boots and gloves. In these instances, the student should see the school nurse to be warmed, given dry clothing, and evaluated for frostbite.
- Monitor your child’s (even teens’) outer wear everyday during extreme weather conditions. Warm jackets, hats, scarves, boots, and an extra pair of dry gloves in their pockets will protect them during extremely cold temperatures.
- Develop an emergency plan and teach your children your emergency plan in case you are not home before the bus comes to pick them up. If a bus is delayed, they need to know where, when, and how to get help if they think they are waiting outside for a bus longer than they should or if they sense danger. Tell your child that if you are not home while they are waiting outside for the bus, how long they may wait outside, where to go in the event the bus is delayed, and what the dangers and risks of extreme weather are.
- Children should be instructed not to remain outdoors for longer than five minutes by the clock in extreme temperatures, and should know to come in sooner if they are cold, feeling pain or numbness in their hands, feet, ears, or noses, or if their clothing, especially boots or gloves, becomes wet.
- Avoid leaving your child completely unattended before pick up and discuss with your child what to do in an emergency or bus delay if the parent has already left for work. For instance, parents should arrange for a place for their children to go in the event the parent needs to leave a child before the scheduled bus arrival.
- Interested individuals can visit the Centers for Disease Control website for more information at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/
Be sure your child knows:
- When to ask for help,
- Where to find safe shelter in an emergency, and
- How to protect themselves with proper winter clothing and an understanding of danger signs.