Feb. 9, 2007
OSWEGO COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT OFFICE ISSUES SAFETY TIPS FOR EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS
Fulton - As Oswego County residents cope with extreme cold and dig out from heavy lake-effect snows, County Director of Emergency Management Patricia Egan urges people to use caution when operating snowblowers. There have been at least six instances of finger amputations due to snowblower accidents over the past few days in Oswego County.
“Read your owner’s manual and follow the instructions,” she said. “Also, never leave your snowblower running and unattended. Make sure the discharge chute is not aimed at passing motorists or pedestrians. And never put your hands into the discharge chute or augers to clear stuck snow and ice.”
Egan said there are several safety concerns that people should be aware of during harsh winter weather.
“Carbon monoxide is a huge issue during heavy snowfall,” said Deputy Fire Coordinator Dan Dunn. “The exhaust from various heating units can get blocked or clogged causing a build-up of carbon monoxide in the house, which can be life threatening.”
“Keep your eye on dryers, stoves, furnaces, vehicles running in the driveway, open vents, and generators, etc.” said Dave Edwards, Chairman of the County Fire Advisory Board.
If the power happens to go out, and you need to use a generator, make sure you never keep the generator in your home. Dunn says to place the generator outside and make sure that it is not on the deck, porch, under the porch, or in the garage. Always keep a generator out in the open.
Dunn also advises that proper fuel be used in in-house heaters.
“There are different grades of kerosene and you should make certain that you are using the right kind,” he said. “If you have any questions regarding your fuel grade, contact your local fire department. If you can’t reach them, then call 911.”
When you have checked your heating units and know you are safe, then you should begin the rest of your snow removal. At this rate of snowfall, clearing off your roof should be your next priority.
“An average roof can hold around five feet of snow,” said Robert Trump, a contractor from Pulaski, “but you should start shoveling off the snow when it reaches four feet. Commercial buildings and trailers have flat roofs, making the probability of collapsing much greater. Therefore, the snow should be removed much sooner.”
“As the snow and ice continues to build up, homeowners should think about safety before trying to clear the snow from their roof,” Egan said. “Clearing roofs is a dangerous task. But if you think safely and work safely, you’ll get the job done.”
When possible, Egan said, homeowners should use long-handled snow rakes or poles to clear the snow from rooftops. “If you must use a ladder, make certain that the base is securely anchored,” she said. “Ask a friend, neighbor, or adult family member to hold the ladder when you climb.
“Know where the snow is going to fall before you clear the area,” she continued. “Make certain not to contact electrical wires. And if possible, do not attempt to clear the roof alone.”
“A couple of years ago, the county ended up with numerous explosions and some fatalities,” Edwards said, “due to homeowners shoveling the snow off their roofs onto propane equipment and causing leaks. Propane lines aren’t the only thing to watch for, you should be careful not to hit any utility wires.”
Heavy exertion such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car can increase the risk of a heart attack. “To avoid problems, you should stay warm, dress warm, and slow down when working outdoors,” Egan said. “Take frequent rests to avoid overexertion. If you feel chest pain, stop and seek help immediately.”
She also cautioned people to dress for the season. “Wear loose, lightweight warm clothing in several layers,” she said. “Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.”
Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellant, and hooded. “Always wear a cap on your head since half your body heat could be lost through an uncovered head,” Egan said. “Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.” Mittens, snug at the wrist, are warmer than gloves.
“There’s no pain associated with the early stages of frostbite, so people should be aware of these danger signs,” Egan said.
First, the skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then it turns white or grayish-yellow. Frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch.
“If frostbite is suspected, move the victim to a warm area,” Egan said. “Cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub it! And get the victim to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.”
Egan also encouraged people to update their Family Disaster Plans and their Disaster Supplies Kits. “Always have on hand flashlights and extra batteries, and an AM/FM radio with extra batteries,” she said. “Have extra food and water on hand, including high-energy food such as dried fruits or candy and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration. Make sure you have enough supplies in your kit to be able to survive for at least three days in case you cannot leave your home.”
More information on winter safety and Family Disaster Planning is available from the Oswego County Emergency Management Office at 315/591-9150 or at www.oswegocounty.com/emo.
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