With dropping temperatures and freezing nights ahead, DeKalb County and Brookhaven officials are providing tips to help residents have a safe and warm winter.
Officials emphasized that residents throughout DeKalb County should start preparing now for more freezing weather; already the county has opened emergency warming centers for multiple nights through October and November with more expected to be scheduled.
“Temperatures are expected to continue to dip below freezing and now is the time to prepare for chilly weather,” stated Brookhaven’s Emergency Management Supervisor Sergeant Matthew Murray.
First, it is important to use a safe source of heat during winter, stated officials.
“Always exercise safety and use proper ventilation when operating alternative heat sources, such as fireplaces and electric heaters,” said DeKalb County officials. “Do not use an oven as a heat source. Do not bring grills, generators, kerosene heaters, and other outside heating devices inside to heat a home, as they emit poisonous carbon monoxide.”
Murray said homeowners should make sure fireplaces and furnaces are in proper working order as well.
“Get chimneys and furnaces cleaned and review heater safety with your family,” said Murray. “Cold weather and loss of power leads to use of indoor heaters that can increase house fire risks. Teach your kids how to be safe around space heaters and give that chimney and furnace a little attention in advance so they don’t break or fail when the need arises.”
On days when the temperature drops below freezing, DeKalb County officials recommend taking the following steps to protect pipes from bursting:
- Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses to prevent a hard freeze from bursting either the faucet or the pipe.
- Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas such as garages or crawl spaces by wrapping them.
- Know the location of the house master water shutoff valve in case of burst pipes. It may be near the water heater, washing machine or located where the water line enters the house from the street, stated officials.
- Leave a pencil-lead-thin stream of water flowing from faucets during the worst of a cold spell. Running water has less of a chance of freezing.
- If a pipe freezes, do not try to thaw it using a torch with an open flame. “This is a fire hazard, and it could also melt pipe solder or burst the pipe,” stated officials. “The safest tool is a hair dryer with a low heat setting. Wave the warm air back and forth along the pipe, not on one spot.”
Murray urges residents to have an emergency safety kit ready and be prepared for potential power outages.
“Prepare a 72-hour kit consisting of the essentials to handle the initial brunt of a power outage,” he said. “Add coats, extra socks, hand/foot warmers, blankets, and long sleeve shirts to your kit. Also include extra non-perishable canned goods, a battery-operated radio, canned heat, and disposable eating utensils. Have extra flashlights and batteries in supply and try to keep candle use to a minimum to lower the risk of accidental fires. Residents should also stock up on fuel and get an alternative heat source which is especially important in older homes and areas prone to power outages. Consider alternative heat sources like firewood or a generator in case the electricity goes out. Those who already have generators should make sure they are in good working order.”
Homeowners should also be aware that if it is too cold for people to be outside, then it is too cold for pets to be outside unprotected, officials stated.
“Pets should be kept indoors and always have access to water that is not frozen,” said officials.
Officials also recommend getting the contact information of elderly or disabled neighbors who may need help during cold weather days.
Finally, officials stated that those with cell phones should consider using websites and apps such as Smart911, CodeRED, and Brookhaven Alert. “These free services are one way to get notifications from state and local authorities about weather, traffic and emergencies,” said Murray.
Visit smart911.com, dekalbcountyga.gov/weather, and brookhavenGA.gov/emergencyman for more information.