Bitter cold will be staying in the state for the next week, with temperatures near or below zero. There is also the possibility of wind chills that could lead to frostbite in 30 minutes or less. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is urging Hoosiers to take precautions against the extreme cold.
· Hoosiers should limit their exposure by staying indoors. Make trips outside as brief as possible.
· If spending time outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, and cover any exposed skin with a hat, scarf, and gloves.
· Check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance.
· Pet owners should be especially sensitive to their animal’s limits when outside. Bring pets indoors or ensure they have a warm shelter area with unfrozen water. Be aware of local ordinances regarding outdoor pets.
While the weather outside remains frightful, State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson reminds Hoosiers that space heaters and fireplaces are the most delightful when used correctly. Here are a few tips to safely stay warm during the cold weather:
· Appliances such as ovens should never be used for heating. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
· Do not close the fireplace damper too early while ashes are still hot. Doing so can force dangerous levels of carbon monoxide into the home.
· Keep at least a three-foot perimeter around space heaters at all times.
· Space heaters should be kept away from loose or flammable objects such as clothing, curtains, bedding and furniture.
· Only one space heater should be plugged into each electrical outlet. Never overload electrical outlets.
· Do not leave space heaters on in unoccupied rooms.
· If it is necessary to purchase a space heater, consider purchasing one with a built-in tilt sensor that automatically shuts off if tipped over.
· Refuel kerosene space heaters outside the home in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to let them cool down first if they were recently used.
· Use only dry, seasoned firewood to prevent build-up of creosote, which can prevent the chimney from venting properly.
· Avoid using flammable liquid to start fires in fireplaces or wood stoves. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case the fire gets out of control.
Hoosiers should carefully consider if travel is necessary during winter weather conditions. Use a variety of sources to make an informed decision. One of those sources is the Indiana County Travel Advisory Map. It’s updated with information from the county emergency management agencies and describes the conditions for a travel warning, watch, advisory and caution. The map is available online at http://www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory/, or on your mobile device by downloading the Indiana Travel Advisory app for iPhone (https://appsto.re/us/QHVw4.i) in the App Store, and Android (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.in.traveladvisory) in the Google Play Store.
In addition to the Travel Advisory Map, keep an eye on road conditions and closures across the state at trafficwise.in.gov. A source for monitoring weather conditions is National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov/.
Snow and ice are a major cause of power outages every year. Take the time now to develop a plan for a potential power outage. Citizens should look up their electric utility’s outage reporting phone number and add it to their cell phone contact list. Get ready by charging all cell phones, laptops and any other battery-operated accessories to ensure maximum battery life when without power. Most cell phones can be used to receive important updates on weather and power outages.
Other ways to prepare include:
- Identify the most insulated and interior room available and gather warm blankets, sleeping bags and layers to help family members stay warm.
- Wood-burning and gas-powered fireplaces may still be options. Only use if they have been properly inspected and are in working order. DO NOT use a cook stove, oven, grill, etc., as a source to heat a home.
- Rooms can be further insulated with blankets or other barrier materials over windows.
- Ensure that items in preparedness kits, for the home and especially for cars, are up to date.
- Gather medications and other needed items in case power goes out.
- Know how to determine if it is safe to travel and know where to go should the power go out. Identify now a friend or family member’s house, or a nearby shelter.
Hoosiers should also have essential items in the home in the event utilities are disrupted. Some supplies to gather ahead of time include:
- Food and water for three days (include one gallon of water per person, per day)
- Battery operated or hand crank all hazard radio
- Extra batteries for radio and flashlight
- Extra clothing, warm blankets, sleeping bags for insulation
- Special items (baby formula, insulin, medications)
Should the power go out:
- Notify the electric utility right away.
- Gather everyone in the most insulated and interior room available.
- Turn off and unplug most electronic devices to avoid a power surge. Leave one light on to know when the power has been restored.
- Check travel conditions before determining if evacuation is necessary. If leaving the home, take medications and other must-need items, along with extra clothing to a friend or family member’s house, or a nearby shelter.
- Consider taking the time to check on neighbors, especially those with medical conditions.
- Monitor weather conditions and updates on a charged cell phone.