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Updated: Tuesday, 22 Jan 2013, 7:19 AM EST
Published : Tuesday, 22 Jan 2013, 6:59 AM EST
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The New York Statewide School Health Services Center has sent us the guidelines for school closings and outdoor activity due to the cold weather.
For more information-check out the NYSSHSC website.
GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOL CLOSURE DUE TO COLD WEATHER
This document was authored by Cynthia DiLaura Devore, MD, FAAP and reviewed and approved for use by the Monroe County Public Health Department and the NYS Chapter I AAP/Monroe County Medical Society Committee on School Health and Sports Medicine.
COLD WEATHER INTRODUCTION:
Severe climate conditions where temperatures and wind chill dip into certain extreme ranges can cause medical concerns for the safety of children. Four areas of focus that will help to decrease the risk of injury to children from severe weather include:
• Considering school closure for significant weather extremes,
• Educating parents through newsletters and mailings,
• Modifying bus arrangements and outdoor activities to accommodate weather emergencies, and
• Involving the principal and nurse in monitoring temperature extremes that might place children at risk for medical complications throughout the school day.
Frostbite can occur on exposed skin in about 30 minutes in adults in the range of wind-chill of -25F 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. These are factors in helping you to make a decision about closure.
It is important to keep in mind that there is a difference between risk assessment (based on public health risk) and risk management (based on public relations). The National Weather Service will begin to issue media ADVISORIES when wind chills of -15F are predicted and WARNINGS when wind chills of -25F are predicted.
CONSIDERATION FOR SCHOOL CLOSURE:
1. No one should be outside with unprotected skin with wind-chill factors in the range of - 40º F. If there is such a thing as a medical reason for closure, this would be a probable medical indication for school closure and suspension of outdoor activity, including all interscholastic outdoor sports, even cold weather sports.
2. Injuries can occur sooner and at higher temperatures. As we are approaching wind chills of –25ºF, it may be time to consider either closure or later arrival especially for elementary children, or in districts where there are many dual working parents where children may be left on their own, or longer walking distances or waiting times at bus stops to give the sun a chance to rise and warm the air a bit. Anticipation is obviously not an option in every situation, such as predictions of worsening weather conditions overnight or over the course of the day.
3. When wind chills are of -25ºF are predicted, the bus garage might be placed on a cold weather alert where back up drivers are called to be on hand for emergencies, and drivers are alerted to call dispatch sooner for assistance if road conditions or traffic cause unusual delays. In districts that contract out for services or do not have bus service, attention to emergency back up plans should be strongly considered.
4. Family reminders should begin and be frequently repeated at wind chills in the minus numbers. Websites might have advice for safety in extreme conditions.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITY IN EXTREME COLD
1. When wind-chills are below 20ºF dipping into the teens, consider whether to suspend outdoor activities, including outdoor sports, physical education, clubs and playground/recess, because the length of time the children would be outside in these instances is increased. If children go outside, staff needs to be sensitive to children who are not properly clothed, who become wet, or who report they are cold or feeling pain or numbness.
EXCEPTION: Those activities that are specific to cold weather, such as downhill or cross country skiing, may be scheduled as long as frequent warming breaks and adequate hydration occur, and students are properly clothed for and annually educated about the dangers associated with such temperature extremes.
2. The school nurse and principal should have a copy of the wind chill chart in each school (available through the National Weather Service at http://www.weather.gov/os/windchill/index.shtml or the Monroe County Public Health Department at www.MonroeCounty.gov >> Public Health >> Alerts& Warnings), and they should work together daily to determine when the conditions are too risky for safe outdoor fun. When using temperature and wind chill charts, the reference to the freezing of flesh is exposed
flesh, not protected flesh. Extra clothing in the health office is useful.
3. No child should be allowed to remain outdoors for an extended time unless your staff can be reasonably assured that all students going outdoors at temperature extremes are adequately clothed. This means that all body parts especially subject to frostbite are covered (feet, hands, ears, noses).
CONSIDERATIONS FOR EDUCATING FAMILIES:
Parents are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their children are properly clothed and not allowed to remain outdoors in extreme weather conditions of any sort. However, sometimes weather conditions change without much advance warning, and the medical concern is that children are vulnerable in certain situations even with the best intentions of their potentially unwitting parents. Educational reminders on websites and in newsletters on safety for children in extreme weather conditions and having teachers and/or nursing staff do reviews on cold weather safety with the children can be useful. Topics to be addressed on websites or in newsletters might include:
1. If students 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.
2. In these instances, the student should see the school nurse to be warmed, given dry clothing, and evaluated for frostbite.
3. Families should be reminded of the absolute necessity to monitor their children’s (even teens’) outer wear everyday during extreme weather conditions.
4. 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.
5. Parents should avoid leaving a child completely unattended before pick up and should discuss with the 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.
SAMPLE INFORMATION TO PARENTS ABOUT COLD WEATHER PRECAUTIONS
At this time of year, it is a good idea to talk with to children about cold weather safety. Extra care is needed, especially in younger children, to be sure that frostbite does not occur.
• It is important to check your children’s, even teens’, outerwear 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.
Explain danger signs and risks of when to seek help:
• the child gets cold or wet, especially boots or gloves
• the child feels pain or numbness anywhere especially hands, feet, ears, or nose
• the 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
• the child thinks they may have frostbite which behaves like a burn and requires medical attention.
Teach your child about your cold weather plan even if you are not there to help them. Be sure they know
• 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
Stay warm and safe. Happy winter!
CONSIDERATIONS FOR MODIFYING BUS ARRANGEMENTS:
During temperature extremes, the bus system needs to be as tight as possible, so that bus breakdowns will not pose an added risk of needless exposure. In the event of a breakdown in extreme weather, for example, perhaps two buses should be immediately dispatched if possible: one to pick up the children on the disabled bus, and a second to continue the run of the remaining children who may be standing outside. For contractual situations, prior plans and assurances for severe weather accommodations would be important. Dispatch should have names of any child with a significant medical condition who may need emergency evacuation should prolonged delays occur. In districts where there is no transportation, extra attention to walking conditions is critical to the decision making process.