ST. LOUIS – The bitterly cold weather the St. Louis area is experiencing could lead to situations that put people’s health and safety at risk.

Assistant Chief of the Eureka Fire Protection District Scott Barthelmass says one big issue during frigid weather is people using alternate heat sources to try and stay warm. Barthelmass says from space heaters to fireplaces to even ovens, people are doing all they can to stay warm.

Barthelmass says people should never use an oven as a heat source. It can be dangerous on multiple fronts including the emission of carbon monoxide. He also says space heaters have to be used safely. This includes making sure they are three feet away from anything that can catch fire. Having fires in a fireplace is okay, but Barthelmass says chimneys must be clean or they could become a safety hazard that could lead to a fire. 

Another big issue in these frigid temperatures is injuries that can happen from exposed bare skin. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Eureka Fire Protection District William Stamberger says it can take less than 30 minutes for frostbite to potentially set in on exposed skin when it comes to the extreme cold that the area is experiencing. Stamberger says people should make sure the most vulnerable parts of their body are covered like their hands. 

Barthelmass and Stamberger also emphasize the importance of being ready in case people get stuck in their cars on the road during winter weather or if they slide off the roadway and have to wait a while for help to arrive. They say people should have a kit in their car with things like extra clothes, a blanket, and a shovel in case people need to dig themselves out of the snow. Rock salt is also helpful to have in order to melt ice if necessary.

Bottom line, Barthelmass and Stamberger say try to be prepared, think ahead, and focus on safety as people in the area all try to cope with these extremely cold temperatures.