Safety experts warn residents about the dangers of home heating, urging caution when using fireplaces, space heaters or other heating sources. (Staff Photo by Jim Zachary)
ATLANTA — As a wave of arctic air rolled across the United States, Georgia is in the midst of bone-chilling temperatures, dangerously cold, below-zero wind chill values and icy roads, officials said this week.
Because the state is not usually prone to winter weather, extreme conditions such as these can cause major problems. As the result, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA) has urged residents to use extreme caution.
According to a GEMA news release, the National Weather Service refers to winter storms as “deceptive killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the weather. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold. Also, severe frostbite injuries may result from a brief (20 to 30 minutes), ill-prepared exposure to the single digits to teens temperatures and below zero wind chill factors forecast through Wednesday afternoon.
“With the unusually frigid temperatures we have, it’s important now to stay safe and warm,” said GEMA/Homeland Security Director Charley English. “Bundle up, protect pipes, pets, and livestock, check heaters frequently, and follow official instructions regarding local driving conditions.”
GEMA’s Ready Georgia campaign offers these tips to help residents prepare, plan and stay informed about extreme cold:
• Stay Informed about Winter Weather
• Listen to NOAA weather radio or monitor broadcast stations, official websites, or download the Ready Georgia app for current information.
• Know the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite occurs when your body tissue freezes. Your extremities may have a white or pale appearance and may lose feeling. The most susceptible areas of your body are the fingers, toes, earlobes, or the tip of your nose.
Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and exhaustion. If you suspect you have frostbite or hypothermia, get medical attention immediately.
GEMA warns residents to avoid prolonged exposure to cold. If you must be outdoors, dress properly, limit the time spent in sub-freezing weather.
Other precautions include:
• Dress in layers for insulation and to stay warm.
• Wearing gloves and a hat will help retain body heat.
• Stay dry. Wet clothing and shoes will cause quick heat loss from your body.
GEMA says be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning when using alternate heat sources. Never use portable generators, camp stoves and grills inside your home or garage; they should only be used outside. Keep them at least 20 feet away from your home’s windows, doors and vents.
When using equipment such as space heaters, GEMA says to check to make sure they have been approved for use indoors and are turned on at a safe level away from furniture, carpet or anything else flammable.
People who depend of electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time, the news released stated.
Individuals should also learn how to keep food safe during a power outage.
Families are encouraged to make a ready kit of emergency supplies for their home. Include at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food, water, a flashlight with extra batteries, a NOAA Weather Radio, adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm, as well as additional supplies for the unique needs of your family, such as medications.
Instructions also include keeping extra ready kit items in vehicles, in addition to the basic essentials, consider adding an ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction and jumper cables.
Ensure proper home insulation by placing weather stripping around doors and windows, allowing faucets to drip during cold weather to prevent freezing and opening cabinet doors to let heat reach uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls, GEMA instructed.
The press released encouraged Georgia residents to winterize vehicles and keep gas tank at least half full to prevent fuel lines from freezing and check exhaust system for leaks to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
GEMA suggested staying inside as much as possible. If trapped outside, try to stay dry, cover all body parts, periodically move limbs to keep blood circulating, and, if possible, build a fire.
Winter storms are often accompanied by power outages. “Always exercise caution when using alternative light and heating sources. Use flashlights during power outages instead of candles to prevent the risk of fire, and keep plenty of extra batteries on-hand,” the statement added.
GEMA said to void traveling by car in icy conditions. If you must go out and do get stuck, stay with your car. Leave the overhead lights on when the engine is running so you can be seen.
Residents were also encouraged to plan for pets to come inside and store adequate food and water for them.
“Create an emergency communications plan so family members will know who to contact if separated during a storm. Designate at least one out-of-town contact that all family members can call,” the statement concluded.