Being prepared for winter weather

County EMA director provides tips for residents to stay safe

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

While the weather has been a little warm and quite rainy for winter, the season began on Tuesday, Dec. 21 and will last until Sunday, March 20. Residents are likely to soon experience colder weather and even snow — so, it’s important to prepare before that time comes.

Those who already have emergency kits at home shouldn’t have to add anything, but it’s a great time to pull them out and check the items inside, according to Fayette County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Melissa Havens.

“It is a great time to pull those bags out and check them for out-of-date items and add fresh batteries,” explained Havens via email.

As previously reported, emergency/disaster kits are all different depending on the household’s needs, but essential items should be included.

Items to consider having: one gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable but healthy food, a manual can-opener, a first-aid kit, flashlight, radio, extra batteries, filter masks (in case of air pollution), plastic sheeting, strong tape, paper towels, wipes, three days worth of clean clothes, jacket or coat, a bucket—toilet paper—garbage bags with ties, blankets, identification and insurance information, some cash and at least a three-day supply of medications.

Those with children may wish to add activities to keep them occupied or extra items needed to take care of babies. If there are pets in the house, consider them too when choosing items such as pet food, an extra leash and collar.

”Something additional to do for winter weather is prepare an emergency kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full,” wrote Havens.

There are other steps that can be taken in addition to checking emergency kits.

“Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing safely. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights. And always keep your cell phone charged,” wrote Havens.

It’s best to be prepared ahead of time just in case a furnace goes out or a household has no active heat.

”We typically don’t get hit with a winter storm without advance warning. Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storm,” wrote Havens. “You should always have a plan for 72-hours to take care of yourself, including a power outage in winter. When winter storms hit, emergency responders are going to be tied up responding to a variety of incidents and will not be readily available to address issues like no heat… Residents need to be ready to keep themselves warm as best they can in a safe manner. Plan ahead.”

Planning ahead is also important for keeping water lines from freezing.

“There are simple steps you can take to prevent water lines from freezing, such as letting your faucet slowly drip. I would advise that folks reach out to a licensed plumber for further suggestions. They can do that now, before the weather gets colder,” she explained.

When it comes to EMA, there are two main ways the entity responds in winter emergencies:

”First is the additional accidents on the roadway opens the door to an accident involving a hazardous material. This would require my response to the scene, and working with the spiller, Ohio EPA, and local responders to safely and appropriately remedy the situation,” wrote Havens. “The second would be a power outage.

“Power outages in winter are always a challenge. My hope is that our residents will plan and prepare ahead of time on how they will stay warm, and what they will eat, should their power be out due to a winter storm. We do work with the American Red Cross to open shelters as needed in these situations, but there are things we have to consider when opening a shelter.

“First, we cannot just flip the lights on and be open. It takes roughly 4-hours to open a shelter. There is a lot of work that goes into opening it, and then we must meet inspection requirements before allowing anyone in.

“Then, and this is especially an issue in the winter, we must get people from their homes to the shelter. In most cases, it is actually much safer to have them stay home and take care of themselves rather than to have additional folks out on the roads when no one should really be out. If I were to arrange for buses to pick-up these people, we are still going to be taking a risk being out on the roads in the bus. Bus drivers are not invincible, and buses still slide on ice just as much as cars do. You have to weigh the risk versus the benefit and decide if it is worth it.

“Many times, it may just be a matter of throwing extra blankets on the bed, putting extra clothes on, and going to bed for the night.”

When there is a power outage, it tends to be worked on quickly.

“AES (formerly DP&L) works very quickly and efficiently to get our power restored. Just a few years ago, we had 29 electric poles snap off on one of the coldest nights of the year. By 8 a.m., 50% of those out had their power restored. By noon, another 25% was back up and running. A few short hours later, the rest were restored. Sometimes it is just a matter of being patient,” wrote Havens. “Fayette County residents are resilient. They have a history of being able to take care of themselves, and checking in on neighbors when the need arises. I truly appreciate that about our community.”

For local updates, Havens explained residents can use Nixle by texting their zip code to 888-777, download the Fayette County’s Sheriff’s Office app by searching “faycoso” in their app store, and tuning in to WCHO 105.5 FM or WVNU 97.5 FM on the radio.

Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.
County EMA director provides tips for residents to stay safe

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]