New Yorkers Urged to Get Ready for Winter
“Safety First” Is Seasonal Message; Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The New York State Office of Emergency Management Office (NYS OEM) today reminded New Yorkers that while the official start of winter is still eight weeks away they should begin preparations now to ensure their safety at home and on the road during the season ahead.
“Winter is a time for many sporting and cultural activities, but winter-like weather also poses many challenges,” said OEM Director Andrew X. Feeney. “Winter storms can surface anywhere at this time of year. And those storms may bring with them treacherous driving conditions and frigid temperatures. Recent history has seen severe weather and heavy snows strike during the fall, especially around the Great Lakes, in the North Country and in the Catskill Mountains. Individuals and families should have a plan in place to know what to do for any emergency.”
The Director issued this advice as part of NYS OEM’s annual winter preparedness message in advance of New York State’s observance of Winter Weather Awareness Week, which runs from this Sunday, October 24, through October 30. The winter season officially begins December 21.
Feeney said, “Think safety first.” He urged homeowners and landlords to have their heating systems checked now by professionals to ensure they are working as fuel-efficient and safe as possible throughout the winter heating season to avoid the perils of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer. Accidental poisonings claim about 400 lives each year in the United States. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be produced by such common items as home heating systems, obstructed chimneys and automotive exhaust. The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other cooking and heating items when used improperly during the winter months. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. Feeney said that if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning,
ventilate the area and get to a hospital.
“Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using heaters and stoves to ensure these devices are properly installed and vented,” he said “Homeowners should have their fireplace examined by a professional, including their chimney flue, to make sure there is no build-up of creosote which is a common cause of chimney fires.”
The OEM Director cautioned that generators should never be run indoors and to open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater. People should never use charcoal to cook indoors and never use a gas oven to heat the residence.
State Fire Administrator Floyd A. Madison said that a new state law, known as Amanda’s Law, went into effect in February 2010, requiring that carbon monoxide alarms be installed in all new and existing one and two-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings and rentals that have fuel-burning appliances, heating systems or attached garages. Homes built before Jan. 1, 2008, will be permitted to havebattery-powered alarms, while homes built after that date will need to have the alarms hardwired in.
“Most carbon monoxide poisoning incidents happen during the winter months, mainly because of the increased use of fuel-burning appliances and heating systems,” Madison said. “The only safe way to detect this gas is with a carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide alarms save lives.”
Feeney urged motorists to have their vehicles thoroughly inspected before the start of the winter driving season, including their tires, wipers and exhaust systems. “As the weather turns colder, never run a motor vehicle in a closed garage,” he said.
Motorists are advised to make sure their vehicles are stocked with survival gear such as blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, battery booster cables, some quick energy foods and a brightly-colored cloth to use as a distress flag in the event of a breakdown.
Winter conditions also present challenges for drivers throughout the State. “When a storm is forecast,” Feeney said, “Ask yourself: Do I really have to drive? If the answer is yes, give yourself extra time, plan your stops, clean all the snow off your car, be extra alert and always match your speed to road conditions.”
He said people should be aware of local weather conditions by tuning to local television and radio stations or the NOAA Weather Radio and then plan activities accordingly. The best way to get emergency information, Feeney said, is from NY-ALERT, the State’s all-hazards alert and notification system. To subscribe to this free service, visit http://www.nyalert.gov
For more information on how individuals can be better prepared for emergencies and for the winter months ahead, visit http://www.semo.state.ny.us.
For more information on carbon monoxide, visit the Office of Fire Prevention and Control website at http://dos.state.ny.us/fire/COtoolkit.htm .
Please contact the Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services at 716-938-2212