Precautions urged during frigid temperatures, warming shelters are open

The Weather Channel has forecast single-digit and below zero temperatures for several nights in Guernsey County during the next two weeks with daytime highs only in the 20s. Officials are recommending residents take special precautions during this time to avoid property damage, illness and injuries.
The Weather Channel has forecast single-digit and below zero temperatures for several nights in Guernsey County during the next two weeks with daytime highs only in the 20s. Officials are recommending residents take special precautions during this time to avoid property damage, illness and injuries.

With nightly low temperatures forecast by The Weather Channel to range from -3 degrees on Friday to 20 degrees with everything in between, and daytime highs only in the mid to low 20s, officials are encouraging people to follow simple safety tips.

From freezing pipes and potential power outages to long-term exposure outdoors, the low temperatures create a risk for property damage and potential injuries or illnesses.

The first concern for most homes is freezing water pipes.

"With the low temperatures expected over the next several days, wrap your pipes if they tend to freeze," said Guernsey County Emergency Management Director Amy McCance. "If you are unable to do this, let them drip slowly."

The Hartford Insurance Company also recommends people turn faucets to a trickle to help prevent pipes from freezing before leaving home. Individuals can also wrap pipes in towels or newspapers to help prevent them from freezing.

Other tips to help prevent pipes, especially those along exterior walls, from freezing include:

  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.

  • Close blinds to keep in the heat.

  • Set the thermostat to at least 55 degrees.

  • Keep the garage door closed.

  • Close off unused rooms with no plumbing to avoid wasting heat.

Homeowners should check their heating systems and replace furnace filters, as a dirty filter can cause furnaces to stop operating. They should also inspect and clean all fireplaces and chimneys if possible.

Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.

If you do not have a working smoke detector, install one. Test batteries monthly and replace them twice a year.

Also, install a carbon monoxide detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check or change the battery when you change your clocks in the fall and spring.

Keep grills, camp stoves and generators out of the house, basement and garage to prevent carbon monoxide exposure. If necessary, locate generators at least 20 feet away from the residence.

People should learn the symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

Leave your home immediately if the CO detector activates and call 911.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people be prepared for weather-related emergencies including power outages by stocking food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers.

Ensure cell phones are fully charged and have battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio and lamps available.

Extra items to have on-hand include extra batteries, a first-aid kit, extra medicines, baby items and cat litter, sand or salt for icy walkways.

Be ready to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill.

McCance said warming shelters are available at The Salvation Army this week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Freedom House Shelter for the homeless has 10 male beds and 4 female beds currently available. Check in time at the shelter, 710 N. Fourth Street in Cambridge, is from 8 to 9 p.m. daily.

Individuals should avoid long-term exposure outdoors for themselves and pets. If that's not possible, they should take precautions.

Amy McCance
Amy McCance

"Limit your outside time, including your pets. Bring them inside," said McCance. "If you must go outside, dress in warm layers and cover your skin."

The CDC recommends a windproof coat, mittens or gloves, hats, scarves and waterproof boots when working outside. The also advise to work slowly when doing outside chores.

People can take a buddy and an emergency kit when they are participating in outdoor recreation, and always carry a cell phone.

Carry extra cold weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, a change of clothes and a thermos of hot liquid, if possible.

The CDC also recommends taking breaks in warm locations, such as inside a vehicle or other sheltered or heated area.

If you cannot bring pets inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink. Also, keep pets well fed with food that will not freeze.

Be aware that cold temperatures can lead to illness and injury

"Pay attention to warning signs and symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related illnesses and injuries," said CDC officials. "Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers."

Immediately report signs and symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries to a supervisor or medical personnel. Tell your supervisor if you are not dressed warmly enough while working outside.

According to the CDC, these weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems:

  • Hypothermia — When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination, confusion, or disorientation. Hypothermia affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well.

  • Frostbite — Many parts of the body are prone to frostbite, including your fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Frostbite happens when a part of the body freezes, damaging the tissue. Warning signs of frostbite include numbness or tingling, stinging, or pain on or near the affected body part. Avoid frostbite by being aware of the weather and wearing protective clothing such as warm gloves, insulated shoes, and warm hats.

  • Trench foot — You can get trench foot when your feet are wet and cold for too long. Moisture causes your feet to lose heat, and this can slow the blood flow and damage tissue. Trench foot can happen when it is as warm as 60 degrees. Keep feet warm and dry.

If travel is necessary, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions and avoid traveling when the National Weather Service has issued advisories.

If you must travel, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.

"Unfortunately, our county still has areas of limited cell phone service," McCance said. "When traveling, keep an emergency kit in your trunk."

The emergency kit should include non-perishable food and water, warm clothing, boots, blankets, a shovel, cat litter for traction, a flashlight, reflective material, a snow scraper, a phone charger and jumper cables.

"Stay connected and check on your friends, family and neighbors to ensure they arrive at their destination safely," said McCance.

A motorist who becomes stranded in their vehicle should follow these safety tips after calling 911 to report being stuck:

  • Make your vehicle visible to rescuers. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna, raise the hood (if it is not snowing), and turn on the inside overhead lights (when your engine is running).

  • Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area. Stay with your vehicle unless safety is no more than 100 yards away.

  • Keep your body warm. Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers. Huddle with other people if you can.

  • Stay awake and stay moving. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve circulation and stay warmer.

  • Run the motor and heater for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Precautions urged during frigid temperatures, warming shelters are open