Emergency room officials remind Northlanders of the dangers of ice-related slip and fall accidents

By KBJR News 1

December 30, 2013 Updated Dec 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNNCOW.ocm) - When relatively warmer temperatures graced the Northland on Thursday, Saint Louis County snow removal crews got busy clearing the streets of the slushy winter mess before the deep freeze set in.

Highway Division Superintendent Kevin McConnell says this season's ample snowfall had put them behind on clearing the sidewalks, which would also need serious attention before they turned to ice on Sunday.

"We're still trying to [clear] most of the sidewalks that we maintain. We haven't even hardly had a chance to do that," said McConnell.

The importance of keeping public and private sidewalks and walkways ice–free, or as close to ice–free as possible, is something that people like ER Physician Lynn Howard can't stress enough.

Howard says ice–related slip and fall accidents are a daily occurrence during the winter season.

"...all the time, every day," said Howard. "When you're little, you can slip and fall and be fine. But when you get older, you slip, fall, and break something. You just have to be careful."

A big part of being careful, says Howard, is being prepared.
Salting sidewalks is a popular method of melting and removing ice, but isn't always effective in extreme cold.

To dencrease your chances of falling, have winter–appropriate boots with good traction.

You can even add traction of your own, "like Yaktrax, that you can put on the bottom of your shoes," said Howard. "They work really well."

If you live alone, having a charged cell phone with you when you go outside to get the mail can be the difference between life and death if you fall and can't get back up.

Howard says it's especially true for the older generation, a good portion of whom are on blood thinners that can turn a simple cut into a serious situation.

"If you hit your head it can be disastrous," said Howard.

But arguably the most effective way of ensuring your safety in this season of cold and ice, according to Howard, is living up to the "Minnesota nice" motto, and checking in on your neighbors.

With New Year's just around the corner, Howard also urges people to not underestimate the dangers of drinking during extreme cold snaps.

If you or your friends decide to drink, Howard says make sure that you watch them not only make it to their door, but make it inside their house.

Dave Anderson