Winter Watch: Area firefighters ready for cold weather emergencies

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Due to the extreme cold, health officials are warning people to stay indoors. Two huge concerns: hypothermia and frostbite.

First responders in the Metro West Fire Protection District say some folks may think they can tough out the dangerously cold temperatures but they cannot and should not.

Matt Coppin, a firefighter and paramedic with Metro West, says it’s important not to expose one’s skin in the cold.

“It's not a matter of being uncomfortable but a matter of your safety,” he said.

Firefighters say whenever it gets extremely cold outside, crews see an increase in calls.

“When you experience someone stumbling, their speech is not clear, or they are confused, that's a sign that it's a true emergency and it’s time to call 911,” Coppin said.

EMTs and paramedics are responding to cold-related injuries like frostbite and hypothermia. Coppin says being exposed to the elements and cold for even five minutes can be problematic.

Authorities are also encouraging people not to venture out onto the ice. However, they say their fire trucks are equipped to handle an ice rescue if the need arises during the winter months.

“It never fails. I see footprints or you can tell that a sled has been on there and it makes me nervous and it makes me feel we avoided an incident when we see that,” Coppin said.

At St. John’s Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur, doctors say they see more patients during this time of year and encourage everyone to limit their time outdoors.

“Try and stay as bundled up as possible, keeping your hands, your toes, and much as possible can to stay dry and covered,” said Dr. Patrick Kane, St. John’s Mercy Hospital. “Things to watch for—especially in the cold, for frostbite—will be pain, tingling. Once you get to that numbness that’s where you worry but the idea is to get out the cold.”

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