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Letter from the Chief: Winter Weather Woes

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dear Neighbors,

We've been lucky this year with wintry weather; it really hasn't been an issue until this week! Severe winter weather can lead to health and safety challenges. You may have to cope with;

. Cold related health problems
. Household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning
. Frozen Pipes or power failures
. Unsafe driving conditions from icy roads or roads that aren't cleared

Although there are no guarantees of safety during winter weather emergencies, you can take actions to protect yourself. You should have a disaster plan. Being prepared can help reduce fear, anxiety and losses.

Serious health problems can result from prolonged exposure to the cold, the most common of which are hypothermia and frostbite. To prevent these, be sure that when you are outdoors you are dressed weather appropriate (this includes wearing clothing to prevent body heat from escaping and covering exposed skin). You should also avoid over-exertion as it will cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothes and cold weather will cause you to lose body heat quickly. The first sign of hypothermia is shivering, so be sure to head indoors if you begin to shiver. Early signs of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling, and numbness.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, half of all home fires occur in December through February and 905 people die in winter home fires every year. Space heaters and candles are leading contributors to home fires in colder weather. Be sure to keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from a heat source like a space heater, wood burning stove, or fireplace. Never leave the room with a candle burning. Carbon Monoxide, (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled, and is another problem in colder weather. Never use your oven to heat a room, and in case of a power failure, be sure to keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away as possible from your house. Every level of your home should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed, and you should test them monthly. More than one-third (37%) of all home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms, while almost one-quarter (23%) resulted from fires in homes in which smoke alarms were present but did not operate.

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing. Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

There's usually nothing you can do about the roads once snow and ice have taken over, but you can prepare your car. AAA recommends preparing your vehicle for winter by making sure it goes in for regular maintenance, and be sure to have the radiator, antifreeze, oil and wiper fluids levels checked. Also, be sure to keep the gas tank nearer to full to avoid ice in the tank. Last February, motorists driving home on the LIE found themselves stranded on the roads due to the weather. Be prepared by having blankets, water, and non-perishable snack items in your car in case you should get stuck. Should you get stuck on the roads, do not leave your car as it is your best protection from bad weather. Run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

By following these tips, you can better prepare yourself and your home for the inevitable cold ahead.

Stay Safe!
Dan McConnell
Chief of Department




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