In addition to sometimes getting stuck out in the very cold temperatures for long periods of time, emergency responders say an extended blast of winter can complicate their jobs in a number of ways. Even routine medical calls can be more difficult when the mercury drops to near zero. Frozen steps and walkways can make it more difficult to transport patients who are often not prepared for the conditions they will face when they leave their homes.
Fire fighters are another class of emergency workers who can struggle in the extreme temperatures. When Altoona Fire crews were recently out most of the night battling the Altoona Hotel fire, the near zero temperatures made the firefighting effort difficult in number of ways. In addition to ice coating everything and making the supply of water for firefighting more difficult to maintain, the frigid temperatures also took a toll on the firefighters.
Moving from extreme heat to cold is only part of the problem. Slipping and falling because of all the ice at a fire scene is another danger. A lot more attention has to be paid to making sure all of the emergency equipment is in good working order when the temperatures drop. Firefighters and EMT's say when people depend on you for life saving actions, cold weather breakdowns are not an option.