With cold weather, we can help keep each other safe

Itís really cold. The dogs and I walked two whole blocks on a recent night; a suspect display of Iditarod race potential for sure.

Iíve also heard on the radio that Phoenix has had a string of nights with low temperatures in the 20s and that it might be snowing in San Diego. Itís been well below zero here in Mancos every night, and itís said to be much colder in Gunnison, with a five-day forecast of freezing fog to boot.

In response to this weather, I often find myself sitting by the pellet stove. In addition to providing life-sustaining warmth, there are other reasons I like using the stove, especially with pellet fuel being produced in Colorado, a recycled product made from beetle-killed trees. However, despite the renewable fuel we burn, I know our house does not come anywhere near qualifying for any sort of energy-efficiency certification. For older homes such as ours, keeping the place warm is no small task.

For many people, cold weather contributes to discomfort beyond pesky drafts Ė aches and pains grow. In addition to physical maladies, frigid air temperature can make for stressful situations Ė such as having to deal with an unexpected loss of a primary heat source in the middle of the night. Beyond inconvenience, loss of heat can quickly lead to a true crisis situation in periods of extreme cold.

Preparing your home for cold weather is a good practice, and itís never too late to do it. Online resources include the U.S. Department of Energy (http://energy.gov) and the Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency (http://fourcore.org), which is a local agency.

If you need shelter, you can get help at Bridge Emergency Shelter, 601 N. Mildred Road in Cortez, and at Volunteers of America Community Shelter, 1055 Avenida del Sol in Durango. People who need food can have meals at Graceís Soup Kitchen, 110 West North Street in Cortez, and Manna Soup Kitchen, 1100 Avenida del Sol in Durango.

Axis Health System also maintains behavioral health-crisis services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our crisis services can be reached by at 247-5245 in La Plata and Archuleta counties and 335-2255 in Montezuma and Dolores counties.

As friends and neighbors, we also play an important part in helping keep each other safe. Knowing CPR and first aid is important, as is getting trained in mental health first aid. If you are interested in scheduling an MHFA training for a group, or to find out how to register for an upcoming MHFA training, call Liza Fischer, Axis Health System MHFA training coordinator at 259-2162.

As a final thought in response to the cold, here is some fundamental wisdom a friend from Crested Butte (another really cold place) shared with me this week: ďTaking care of one another ... I really believe thatís what weíre put here to do.Ē As the mercury has plunged once again, Iíve become a fast believer in those words.

Mark White is director of quality for Axis Health System. Reach him at mwhite@axishealthsystem.org or 335-2217.