HELP! I’m stuck in the Freezer!

When I said, ‘Help! I’m stuck the freezer!’ did you think I was stuck in the freezer section of the refrigerator? How would I even fit in there? Maybe curled up into a little ball. Nah, I still wouldn’t fit. Or maybe you thought someone tried to kill me and they stashed my body in the big freezer they keep in the garage like they do in the movies.

No! That’s not what I meant. I’m talking about a big walk-in freezer that restaurants and supermarkets have. And why am I stuck inside one? Well, technically I’m not. But my characters are.

I had to do some research on what would happen if someone got trapped in a walk-in freezer for several hours. ‘They have walk-in freezers in the future?’ I hear you ask. Well, our course! How else do we keep food frozen?

My main concerns for the characters were dying from hypothermia or lack of oxygen.

The first obstacle they needed to tackle was hypothermia. The temperature is -18°C and they need to maintain a body temperature of about 37°C to remain healthy. This is unlikely when they are stuck in a freezer. But there are some things they can do to slow the loss of body heat in the hope they’ll only contract mild hypothermia.

When we breathe and perspire, we lose heat but there’s not much we can do about that. Heat can also be drawn from our bodies by contact with cold surfaces and the freezer is covered in cold metal. So we can use the cardboard packaging from the meat and frozen foods as a buffer between the metal floor and shelves. We just put a couple layers under our butts.

We can also lose heat through the skin that is exposed to the cold. To reduce the amount of cold escaping our bodies, we can fashion a covering out of the plastic found in the freezer. There are often plastic curtains over the doors as well on the food packaging (the bulk stuff, not like a bag of peas). Covering as much of our bodies as quickly as possible will insulate us from the cold and limit the amount of heat radiating away from our bodies. This will also help prevent frostbite. Let’s keep rugged up as much as possible.

Once I left my characters as warm as possible, I turned to the problem of oxygen. I found out that oxygen isn’t even nearly the biggest problem. Too much carbon dioxide is. If the concentration of carbon dioxide is greater than 5% it becomes fatal.

The air we exhale is 15% oxygen and 5% carbon dioxide with every breath, so in a small space this will soon become an issue. My characters will only be able to survive a few hours before the effects of the carbon dioxide is evident. It could cause headaches, dizziness, tiredness, pins & needles or tingling, and can increase the heart rate and elevate blood pressure. Not to mention the difficulty of breathing! And it can then result in coma, convulsions, asphyxia and death.

There’s not much we can do about this except hope that we’re found quickly. I don’t suggest doing a lot of exercise to keep warm because we will exert carbon dioxide even faster. So just sit down in your cozy little cardboard and plastic coverings, and chill out until someone comes along.

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