GFES offers tips for staying safe during wintry weather

EMT Tabetha Marcelle
Snowy weather crash in Montana
Posted at 5:03 PM, Nov 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-25 19:23:34-05

GREAT FALLS — Wintry weather brings a unique set of safety issues and challenges. We checked in with Great Falls Emergency Services who said this tends to be their busiest time of the year in terms of the number of calls they receive. They noted that they usually deal more with slip-and-falls as opposed to car crashes.

Tips for staying safe during wintry weather

EMT Tabetha Marcelle said, "Typically, people think more vehicle accidents are our main calls, but actually slips and falls typically are, especially with our older crew, getting out when it’s icy. They’re a little bit more at a disadvantage, so making sure they have proper footing and footwear, and not going out when it’s super icy.”

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2017, more than 20,000 workplace-related injuries were linked to ice, sleet, or snow that required employees to take at least one day off work. And in 2020, ice, sleet, or snow was responsible for an estimated 41.5% of weather-related workplace fatalities.

Tips to avoid slip-and-falls

  • Wear appropriate footwear: Shoes that provide traction on snow or ice are important. Rubber soles and boots or shoes with grip and texture can help keep you stable on ice and snow. Avoid plastic or leather soles.   
  • Keep your hands free: In cold weather, wear gloves to help keep your hands warm and out of your pockets. This way if you should fall you can better catch yourself using your hands or arms. 
  • Take smaller, shorter steps when walking for stability: In slippery conditions, walk slowly using small and shorter steps.
  • Step down, not out, from your vehicle: When getting out of a vehicle, swing both legs out and place both feet flat on the ground before getting up.  Using both feet will give you more stability than just one foot.

If you fall, try to allow your arms and hands to catch you. It is important to protect your head and if you fall backwards, tuck your head upwards. After the fall, check yourself for injuries. If you’re hurt or unable to get up, yell for help. If your cell phone is easy to reach, call for help on your phone. Do not try to get up by yourself as you could cause further injury by having another slip or fall.

As common as slip-and-falls are, EMS said not to underestimate the roads during this time of year, even if there is just a little snow on the ground.

EMT Chance Ostberg said, "You want to drive slow because with the ice, your stopping times can be a little slower, and you're going to slide a little more. Especially when you see emergency vehicles, you want to go to the right. If you come behind us and slam on your brakes, you can slide into one of us and hurt more people, and there can be bigger issues going on."

In the case of an injury, Ostberg said, "One of the biggest things, especially during this time of year, you want to keep them warm. You want to leave them where they’re at because it can cause some bigger issues. You want to keep them warm, keep them covered. If they’re in a vehicle, just try to keep them insulated, even if they are on the ground, cover them up.”

As for EMS themselves, they are also stocking up on extra equipment such as IVs, warmers, and blankets. They also noted how important it is they keep their trucks inside, so nothing freezes.

GFES and other first responders are expecting a busy next several months and are urging everyone to take caution and plan ahead. In the event of an injury, always call 911 first.