Fire officials offer cold weather safety tips

RIVERDALE — The weather outside is frightful but protection from the elements can be delightful, given the right equipment.

Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Capt. Walter Barber offered cold weather safety tips to residents, including what to carry in a survival kit.

“When you travel, make sure you have a survival kit that includes but is not limited to items such as a first-aid kit, shovel, non-perishable food, extra clothing, sleeping bag, flashlight, jumper cables and a fully-charged cell phone or spare battery,” he said.

Also, while spending time outside, Barber said to limit exposure to the cold.

“If you go out, dress in several layers,” he said. “If possible, wear a waterproof or windproof outer layer and make sure you wear warm socks, shoes and gloves or mittens to protect your fingers and toes.”

Barber said ears and noses should also be covered because they are susceptible to frostbite. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

“Dress children in layers and limit their time in the cold,” he said. “Regularly check in on elderly relatives and make sure their homes are properly heated.”

Pets, too, need special care during the winter.

“Watch your pets carefully,” said Barber. “De-icing products and products like anti-freeze can cause serious problems for paws and pets due to prolonged exposure and ingestion. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.”

It may sound odd but sunscreen should also be used during the winter for skin protection.

“We don’t get much snow here but when we do, the sun’s reflection off snow and ice can cause sunburn,” he said. “If you are overexposed to cold, don’t warm frostbitten extremities by rubbing. Warming should be done gradually and carefully.”

When traveling, Barber said drivers should use caution around ice.

“Beware of black ice,” he said. “Be extra careful around water that may appear to be frozen. The ice on creeks, lakes and ponds may not be able to support the weight of a person.”

The dangers aren’t limited to the outdoors, either.

“If you use an electric heater or blanket, make sure they are UL rated and keep them away from combustible materials such as paper, diapers and linens,” said Barber. “Make sure they are unplugged when not in use. Check smoke detectors and change batteries when needed. Check or install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.”

Call 911 in an emergency and access www.ccfes.org for more information on weather-related or other safety topics.