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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Freezing Temperatures - Staying Healthy and Safe Advice

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
MEBrady@co.pg.md.us     @PGFDPIO

Freezing temperatures apparently will usher the week prior to our 2018 New Year and beyond this year.  We would like to remind everyone that staying warm in your home without keeping "Safety First" is one of the leading causes of residential fires.  Cold weather also could be unhealthy if you venture outdoors unprepared.

The Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department (PGFD) is reminding everyone that home fires are more prevalent in cold weather than in any other time of the year. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires.  This reminder involves the safe use of space heaters, general heating safety tips, hypothermia and frostbite prevention.

Stay Safe

The civilian, career and volunteer men and women of the Fire/EMS Department want to remind everyone that fire safety and prevention are especially important during times of cold temperatures.  “Temperatures drop and fires increase,” said Prince George's County Fire Chief Benjamin M. Barksdale.  According to NFPA statistics space heaters account for about one third of the home heating fires yet more than 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths.  The Winter Residential Building Fires report released by USFA in 2010, reports an estimated 108,400 winter residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.  Most notably, cooking and heating are the top causes of fires during cold weather. 



“The winter season brings the highest number of home fires than any other time of year,” said Fire Chief Barksdale. “Each winter season, home fires increase in part due to cooking and heating fires. Fire safety and injury prevention must not be lost in an effort to stay warm. Stay warm and do so safely.  Safety First ensures everyone goes home.” 

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department recommend the following safety tips for space heaters. 





Electric Space Heaters




• Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). 



• Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. 



• Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. 

 

• Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater.



• Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.  Turn off at night or whenever you sleep. - - Never use an extension cord with space heaters - plug directly into wall socket.

Using a kerosene heater???  Never refuel indoors.  Remove the kerosene heater outdoors, turn off and wait for it to cool down before refueling and only use the correct type of fuel.

General Heating Tips     

•    Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using.  Clear away any clutter from these heating devices, at least 3 feet away.

•    Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces, never use ignitable liquids to start a fire and do not overload your appliance.

•    The 3-foot rule also applies to furnaces and fireplaces.  No combustibles items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.

•    Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface.  Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after they have been discarded.

Finally, ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are working by pushing the test button on the front cover.  If you do not hear an audible warning, replace your alarm with a new 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature alarm.  Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. A working CO detector will protect you and your family from deadly "silent killer" fumes that may be building up in your home.  Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family. 
Residents of Prince George’s County can contact our "Safety First" smoke alarm program by calling 311.  A firefighter will install a working smoke alarm in your home free of charge. 

 For additional safety info from the United States Fire Administration,
  
Stay Healthy

With colder temperatures in the forecast for this week, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS and Health Department are joining in a common voice to remind our residents to avoid serious health problems that can occur due to prolonged exposure to cold weather. The two most common conditions are hypothermia and frostbite.

 “All residents must take precautionary actions as a primary defense against injuries and illness resulting from extreme cold weather conditions,” said Chief Barksdale. “When exposed to cold weather, our bodies lose heat faster than it can produce it, resulting in bodily injury, illness, and even death.”

The Fire/EMS Department advises all residents to check on your elderly relatives and neighbors to ensure they have adequate heat and protection from the cold.  Limit the amount of time your pet spends outside.  Bring your pets inside when outdoor temperatures are freezing cold; pets can also contract hypothermia very quickly.

Hypothermia is one of the serious health problems that can be caused by exposure during cold weather.  If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, immediately seek medical attention.

In mild cases the symptoms include:

•    Uncontrollable shivering
•    Pale and cold skin

Other more serious signs include:

•    Confusion or sleepiness
•    Slurred speech
•    Shallow breathing
•    Weak pulse
•    Stiffness in the arms or legs
•    Or, poor control over body movements

In the case of serious symptoms, contact the victim’s doctor or call 911.

The homeless are a particular concern when there are freezing temperatures.  If you know of a homeless person that could use an offer of assistance to protect themselves from hypothermia, consider contacting the Homeless Hotline at 888-731-0999.

In any case where hypothermia is suspected, until help arrives or the person is seen by a doctor, move the person to a warm room, warm the body with dry layers of blankets or clothing, and give warm beverages.

Frostbite refers to actual freezing and subsequent destruction of body tissue which is likely to occur any time skin temperature gets much below 32F.  The areas most likely to freeze are toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.

Individual at risk for frostbite include those with impaired circulation, the elderly, the very young and anyone who remains outside for prolonged periods.  The danger increases if the individual becomes wet.

Symptoms of frostbite include:

•    Gradual numbness;
•    Hardness and paleness of the affected area during exposure,
•    Pain and tingling or burning in affected area following warming; and
•    Possible change of skin color to purple

NEVER MASSAGE OR RUB FROSTBITTEN AREAS AS THIS MAY CAUSE FURTHER DAMAGE TO THE SKIN.

Follow these tips to weather the winter in a healthy way:

•    Cover your head.  You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
•    Wear several layers of lightweight, loose fitting clothing.  The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
•    Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from direct, extremely cold air.  Cover your ears and lower part of your face as well.
•    Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.  The close contact of fingers helps to keep your hands warm.
•    Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
•    Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.


Finally, areas of water may start to freeze over during this cold spell.  Never venture out onto frozen bodies of water.  Consider these areas to be thin ice and avoid at all costs.  This information includes pets as many humans get themselves into trouble venturing out to retrieve pets that have fallen into freezing water.  All frozen areas of water should be considered “thin ice” and “extremely dangerous.”