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It's a winter wonderland

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:02 PM

Winter has hit the Firelands area. The Huron County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) reminds all citizens to take the time to be prepared and protected in the event of severe winter weather.

“We just try to warn people to get prepared the best they can,” EMA Director Bill Ommert said. “Winter is a beautiful time with all the scenery, but I know what it causes.”

Huron County residents endured a particularly difficult February this year, with sub-zero temperatures and a blizzard forcing school closings and crippling businesses.

The first significant snowfall of this winter occurred Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, leaving a few inches on the ground and forcing most area schools to delay the start of classes.

Ommert said the National Weather Service is predicting more snow than normal and colder than normal temperatures.

“That’s at this point,” he said. “But that’s subject to change.”

The winter can pose serious issues.

“In July, if your furnace goes out, you might sweat, but if it goes out in January, you’re in serious trouble,” Ommert said. “And there are ice storms, which are the worst. Ice can take down power lines.”

And tornadoes are even possible in winter.

“Remember last year, around Christmas, there was a severe thunderstorm with lightning and rain,” Ommert said. “Yes, tornadoes can happen any month of the year.”

Be prepared. No matter the incident, have enough food, water and supplies to sustain every member of the household for 72 hours. Store the kit in an easy-to-carry container, such as a backpack or duffle bag. Be sure to include:

n Bottled water (at least one gallon per day per person)

n Non-perishable packaged or canned food and manual can opener

n Battery-powered radio and extra batteries

n Flashlight and small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)

n Candles and matches

n First Aid kit and prescription medicines (drugstore may be inaccessible or closed during a storm)

n Change of clothing and hygiene items

n Pre-moistened towelettes, napkins, paper towels

n Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows

n Special items for infants, the elderly or disabled

n Disposable eating utensils (paper plates, plastic cutlery)

Home protection tips: Remove dead tree branches. Ice and snow, combined with winter winds, can cause limbs to snap, creating a hazard to homes, cars, and passersby. Clean gutters. Snow and ice can build up quickly, especially if your gutters are clogged with leaves and debris. When thawing begins, the water has nowhere to drain and can back up under your roof and eaves, causing wall and ceiling damage. Consider buying screens to keep your gutters debris-free.

Check your homeowner’s insurance policy to make sure coverage is adequate.

During extreme cold weather, power outages or blizzards, wrap water pipes with newspapers or blankets; each provides additional insulation and can help prevent the pipes from bursting. If you have water pipes on the outside of your residence, surround the pipes with bales of hay so the outside pipes do not freeze. Never set the thermostat below 55 degrees when your home is unoccupied.

During the winter, drain pipes if your power goes off or if you plan an extended stay away from home.

To drain, turn off the water heater and main water supply. Open all faucets in the house and drain the system by keeping the valves open. Drain all toilets by holding the lever down until the tank empties. If well water is used, the pump’s electric switch should be shut off and the pressure tank and system should be drained.

Make sure auxiliary heaters and fireplaces are adequately maintained and serviced. Many fires related to auxiliary heating sources are preventable through simple maintenance.

Before installing a wood-burning stove, check with local fire officials for codes and proper installation techniques. Do not store kerosene in a non-approved container or in your home. Be sure to keep alternative heat sources from flammable materials (walls, curtains, etc.).

Winter fire safety tips: One of the best ways to protect you and your family from a house fire is by having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. By providing early warning of a fire, smoke detectors add additional seconds that can make the difference between life and death.

Install a smoke detector on each level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Test the detectors once a month and change the batteries at least once per year (a good reminder is when we set our clocks backward an hour every October). Develop an escape plan with two ways out of each room. Practice your fire escape plan with your family and include a night-time drill. Don’t use your oven or stove to heat your house. Smoking-related fires are the number one cause of fire fatalities in Ohio; make sure all cigarettes are properly distinguished. Keep matches and lighters up high and out of the reach of children.

Heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths in American homes and the biggest fire culprit from December through February. Here are some specific fire prevention tips to keep in mind when heating your home:

n Portable and other space heaters: Portable and space heaters can be fueled by electricity, natural.

n Gas, liquid or solid fuel: All must be kept at least 3 feet from anything that can burn, including furniture, bedding, clothing, pets and people.

Space heaters should not be left on when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep. Children and pets should be supervised when space heaters are in use.

If you are using a kerosene heater, make certain the wick is cleaned and adjusted according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Review operating and safety instructions. If you have a liquid-fueled space heater, use fuel recommended by the manufacturer. Never use gasoline or any other substitute fuel because the wrong fuel could cause a serious fire. When refueling, turn off the heater and cool it down before adding fuel. Ensure everyone is aware of the high fire hazard associated with drying clothing or placing combustibles over heaters.

n Fireplaces and wood stoves: Be sure to annually replace the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors. Prior to the start of winter, have your chimney inspected by a professional and cleaned if necessary. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause chimney fires. To reduce the buildup of creosote in your chimney, you should burn only dry, seasoned wood and avoid slow burning, smoky fires.

Always use a fireplace screen. Light a fire using only a small quantity of paper and kindling. Never use flammable liquids to kindle a fire. Create a 3-foot safety zone around your stove. Keep furniture, clothing and anything else that can burn at least 3 feet away. Never leave small children in a room where a wood stove is in use. Wood stove users should dispose of ashes in metal containers with tight-fitting lids and set the container only on a non-combustible surface. Never dispose of ashes in a trash container.

Winter health and safety tips: Winter’s various dangers to people can occur suddenly, like a heart attack while shoveling snow, or slow and stealthily like carbon monoxide poisoning. Hypothermia and frostbite are always a concern, especially for the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.

The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Aging offer these vehicle safety tips to help keep you and your family safe this winter season:

Winterize your vehicle. Get a tune-up to save wear and tear on its battery. Consider buying snow tires or chains for the tires, as your travel dictates. Chains would be best on glare ice.

Check the radiator for its coolant level and check the sturdiness of hoses and belts.

Refer to the vehicle manual to see if a lighter grade of motor oil is recommended for winter driving.

Check and replace all burned out headlights, tail lights and turn signals.

Ensure each tire’s treads are  1/16-inch deep for adequate traction.

Ensure the brakes are in proper working order.

Keep a bottle of window washer fluid in the trunk and ensure wiper blades are in good working order.

Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow. Poisonous gases filter into your vehicle if the pipe is clogged.

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