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Know who to call in case of bad weather

By Ed Brock

When winter storms wreak havoc it's important to know who to call for emergencies, great and small.

For a tree through the roof or burst pipes, one of the first people homeowners call should be their insurance agent. Most agents have 24-hour emergency service lines, said Sharon Bentley with the Rob Bentley State Farm Insurance Agency in Morrow. For State Farm agents the number is the same one for the agent.

After calling the agent to report the damage, Bentley recommends taking some steps to mitigate the damage.

"That would encompass putting a tarp of the roof in case of a tree falling," Bentley said.

Don't worry about making sure the burst pipes are covered, Bentley said. Just call and get the work going or at least get some estimates.

Getting several estimates on tree removal and other work is very important.

"The problem you have when there is a big storm people will try to milk you," Bentley said.

Some people like to take pictures, too, Bentley said.

To report a power outage, call the Georgia Power statewide outage hotline at 888-891-0938. Outages can also be reported online at www.southernco.com/gapower.

Cable customers can report service interruptions to their cable provider. Comcast customers can call 1-800-COMCAST. Customers can also report outages through the company's Web site at www.comcast.com.

If possible, call 1-866-620-6900 to report telephone outages.

Natural gas service generally isn't affected, Atlanta Gas Light spokesman Nick Gold said, meaning natural gas customers can have the benefit of still being able to cook, bathe with hot water and use their gas fireplace even when the power goes out.

Atlanta Gas Light now refers people to independent heating and cooling companies for most maintenance problems, Gold said, but to report a gas leak call (770) 907-4231.

Outside the home, people with an emergency of any kind such as traffic accidents, the number to call is 911. When doing so it's important to provide the right information, Clayton County 911 Operations Supervisor Kristy Rohm said.

"What we need first and foremost is the location," Rohm said.

Along with giving the road on which the accident has happened, callers should give the name of any nearby crossroad, business or landmark. The number of cars involved and the color of the cars are also important to relate to the 911 operator.

Some tips from the American Red Cross on how to stay safe in a winter storm include staying indoors when possible and only using flashlights for light during power outages, not candles that can start fires.

People who must go outside should wear layers of clothing and walk carefully on snowy or icy sidewalks. Drivers who get stranded should stay with their cars, tie a brightly colored cloth on their antenna and start the car to use the heater every 10 minutes.