Frostbite in minutes: How to keep students and pets safe in the cold

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – On winter days when temperatures dip into the single digits, school playgrounds are likely to stay snow-covered and empty. Yet, local school administrators said it takes a lot more than single-digits to actually call a snow day.

“Our number one priority, and the number one priority of any school district, is the health and safety of the students,” said Craig McCarthy, Northview Public School Assistant Superintendent. “We don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way, that’s staff and students.”

In order to call a snow day, McCarthy said Kent County superintendents need the temperature to stay at negative-20-degrees for several hours. If that sounds cold, McCarthy said a few years ago, their benchmark temperature to designate a snow day was negative-30-degrees.

“On days where you’ve got really bitterly cold temperatures, but we may not have snow, you have to remember too that buses have to be able to start and be able to run,” said McCarthy.

When temperatures are between zero and 10-degrees, principals determine whether or not to let students outside for recess.

However, if you have to go out or work in this kind of chilling weather, remember to bundle up: Kent County Health Department officials said frostbite can nip you in a matter of minutes. The same goes for our furry friends.

“If it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for them outside,” said Sara Ybema, Humane Society of West Michigan veterinary technician. “Keep them inside as much as possible, keep your walks with your dogs to a minimum; if you are going to go outside make sure they’re properly warm.”

Ybema told said make sure to remove any snow or salt from your animals’ paws. Then, when you are indoors, keep pets stimulated with toys, like a food puzzle.

Ybema also warns drivers to check your car before you start the engine.

“If you park outside or park on the street where there are animals that have access to your garage, before you start your car, please give a good bang to the hood of the car: it’ll hopefully rouse any cats that are in there before you start your car and injure them in any way,” said Ybema.

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