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Tips to stay safe during bad weather conditions

2/14/2014, 6 a.m.
Home owners in the Chapel Lake subdivision and across metro Atlanta lost electricity during the Feb. 11 and 12 iwinter storm that blanketed the area in ice and snow.

With two severe winter events two weeks apart, county officials are offering tips to weather snow and ice the next time they hit.

Here are a few from DeKalb interim CEO Lee May and the DeKalb Emergency Management Agency officials:

In a vehicle:

  • Always avoid driving in icy conditions. If you must drive, drive slowly as there may be unexpected patches of ice. Have blankets and winter wear in your car in case you get stuck for long hours in your vehicle.
  • If your car crashes and cannot move, do not leave your car. Call for help immediately. Be visible and tie a colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
  • Stay in the vehicle and run the motor for 10 minutes each hour for heat. Open the car window a little for fresh air and to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Ensure that your vehicle has at least half a tank of gas to prevent the fuel line from freezing.

In your home:

  • Exercise safety and use proper ventilation when using alternative heat sources, such as fireplaces and electric heaters.
  • Do not use your oven to heat your house. Do not bring grills, generators, kerosene heaters, and other outside heating devices inside to heat your home because they emit poisonous carbon monoxide.
  • If you have no heat, close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels in cracks under doors and cover windows at night.
  • Keep pets inside and ensure their food and water are not frozen.

To protect plumbing and pipes

  • Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Detaching the hose allows water to drain from the pipe, otherwise a hard freeze can burst either the faucet or the pipe.
  • Insulate pipes or faucets in unheated areas. If you have pipelines in an unheated garage or cold crawl space under the house, wrap the water pipes before temperatures plummet.
  • Hardware stores carry heat tapes that can either be wrapped or run lengthwise on exposed pipes. If you use a heat tape, use a GFI outlet and be sure to unplug it when it’s not needed.
  • Find the house master water shutoff valve. It may be near the water heater or washing machine. More likely it’s where the water line comes into your house from the street. If a pipe bursts anywhere in the house, turn off this valve.
  • Leave a thin stream of water flowing from a bathroom faucet during the worst of a cold spell. Running water has a lesser chance of freezing but it may increase your water bill.
  • If a pipe freezes and you don’t want to call a plumber, do not try to thaw it using a torch with an open flame. This is a fire hazard, and it also could melt pipe solder or burst the pipe. 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.

Outdoors

  • Dress appropriately for cold weather conditions by layering clothing. Try to stay dry and limit time outdoors.
  • Exercise caution when walking on sidewalks and walkways. Ice may have formed on these surfaces and may cause a fall hazard.
  • Do not approach downed wires. They may be an electrical hazard. Call 911 to report downed wires.
  • If stranded, build a fire for heat and to attract attention.

In general

  • Ensure that you have an adequate supply of prescription medication on hand in case you cannot leave your house for a few days.
  • Check on elderly neighbors, friends and family members.
  • Sign up for DeKalb County’s high-speed notification system, CodeRED. This emergency notification system has the ability to quickly deliver time-sensitive messages via voice, email, and text to targeted areas of the county during emergency situations or disasters.
  • To sign up, visit www.dekalbcountyga.gov and follow the link to the CodeRED Community Notification Enrollment page.
  • Those without Internet access should call DeKalb Emergency Management at 770-270-0413 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to register via phone.