Homeless, Elderly Most At Risk for Cold Exposure During Winter Months

It's cold out there. That much is true.

Some of us sit in our cars and wait for them to warm up before we head off to work. Others depend on the forecast for the day to determine how they will plan their afternoon or evenings.

Because no one wants to get outside and be underdressed or overdressed. Especially here in Oklahoma where the temperatures can vary almost by day.

But for some of us in Tulsa, it's a different story.

"While the cold and snow can be inconvenient or dangerous for all of us, some people are more susceptible to the weather," said Kelli Bruer, EMSA spokeswoman. "If they don't prepare properly, it can be life-threatening,"

As of Wednesday, EMSA has responded to four hypothermia/cold exposure calls so far this month. They said they expect more to start coming as temperatures continue to drop.

Bruer said she suspects the patients they have seen so far are homeless or with unreliable housing. She also said she expects to receive calls involving elderly or others with pre-existing conditions that maybe have housing, but not heated well.

According to a release from EMSA last week, people who live in poorly heated homes risk getting accidental hypothermia even in mildly cool temperatures of 60 to 65 F. Homes can have inadequate insulation, or people with low incomes may keep temperatures in the dangerous range to keep heating bills down.

Certain illnesses also can place a person at risk because they affect the way the body handles cold temperatures. They include:

Slow thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Stroke or other disorders that cause paralysis and reduce awareness

Severe arthritis, Parkinson's disease or other conditions that limit activity

Any condition that curbs the normal flow of blood

Memory disorders

EMSA also provided some words of advice for the public this winter.

Call your doctor or pharmacy and make sure you have three to five days' worth of any medications you may need. Also, reschedule any doctor's appointments.

Make sure you have plenty of food and water to last three to five days.

Check on elderly neighbors to ensure their housing and travel arrangements are adequate and medical supplies are sufficient.

And if you just have to brave the winter weather, be sure to keep your cellphone with you at all times. Don't forget to put plenty of gas in your vehicle and a road safety kit, in the event you may need it.

EMSA also wants to remind the public of their "heating stations," which double as "cooling stations" during the summer. You can also call AEP/PSO at 1-888-216-3523 to see if you qualify for heating assistance.

Heating Stations

The Salvation Army Center of Hope

102 N. Denver Ave.

Tulsa, OK 74103


Tulsa County Social Services

2401 Charles Page Blvd.

Tulsa OK 74127

8:30 am - 8:00 pm

Dennis R. Neill Equality Center

621 East 4th Street

Tulsa, OK 74120

Noon to 9 pm 7-days a week