Firefighters, doctors warn of sub-zero dangers

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan 6, 2014) -- Sub-zero temperatures will make make Hoosiers uncomfortable this week, but they'll also make for a lot of potential dangers.

Firefighters will have one of the toughest jobs during central Indiana's cold weather. Crews out fighting a fire on Tuesday were already experiencing the effects of the cold.

"We had a couple of air tanks, as they were trying to change the bottles, they (got) moisture on them and then the connections (froze)," Captain Rita Reith said.

Reith hoped that people would stay inside as much as possible, since her crews will likely get a lot of weather-related calls.

"These cold temperatures can sap your energy really quickly. So it's important to have additional companies dispatched to the scene, (to) make sure you have additional manpower to rotate crews in and out," Reith said.

Reith expected the biggest mistakes to be heating improperly, with space heaters in dangerous places or appliances like your oven, going out in the cold without the right gear and slip and falls.

Similar fears were being expressed in Emergency Rooms, like the one at St. Vincent where Dr. Patrick Maier expected to be busy.

"I know our numbers will increase," Maier said.

He said you can get frostbite in just 10 or 15 minutes, with the first sign being numbness that won't go away. You should get to a doctor if you suspect it. Even worse, you could get hypothermia.

Maier said people who are sick or have diabetes, along with the elderly and kids, are at the highest risk.

That's why both Maier and Reith said looking out for each other and being careful is key this week.

"People know what to do with the heat, the tough part with the cold is people keep on pushing through and think, 'Oh, I can just tough it out,'" Maier said.

"If you don’t have to be outside, please don’t, because the fewer injuries that we can respond on the next couple of days, the better for us. We want everybody to stay safe and warm," Reith said.