GREENSBURG – Indiana residents are encouraged to keep safety in mind as Winter Weather Preparedness Week is currently being observed.
According to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Hoosiers should always monitor local radio, TV stations and social media for weather updates. The department also says it is also important to understand the differences between watches, warnings and advisories.
A watch indicates winter weather is possible; an advisory indicates winter weather will begin soon, but conditions are less serious than a warning; and a warning indicates sever weather will begin soon.
With the temperatures dropping, the IDHS says alternative heating sources are popular during the winter, but are also one of the leading causes of house fires in the United States. Indiana State Fire Marshal Stephen Cox is encouraging Hoosiers who are using alternative heating sources to practice proper heating safety and maintenance with the following tips:
• Home appliances, such as ovens, should never be used for heating. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Use only dry, seasoned wood in a fireplace or wood stove to avoid the buildup of creosote. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.
• Keep all flammable materials, such as draperies, blankets, bedding or upholstered furniture, at least three feet away from space heaters and other types of heating equipment.
Greensburg Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Wenning said their main concern is with portable and space heaters and plugging too much into one outlet.
“Our big concern is people potentially overpowering outlets,” Wenning said. “Do not overpower outlets, and also do not keep combustibles too close to space heaters.”
Wenning also said to have chimneys inspected.
If you decide to decorate for the holidays, Wenning said it’s possible to overpower outlets with Christmas lights as well. He said if you’re burning candles, just use common sense and do not leave them where children can reach them and do not leave them burning when you go to bed.
The assistant fire chief also said it seems like they have a few incidents as result of alternative heating each year.
“The biggest thing is to before you go to bed, take a walk around your home and look for any hazards like overpowering outlets or candles that are still burning,” Wenning said. “Also, if you don’t have one, make sure you have a working smoke detector. That is so important.”
As for power outages, according to the IDHS, if the power goes out, follow these tips until professionals can make repairs:
• Gather warm blankets, sleeping bags and clothing layers to help household members stay warm.
• Insulate rooms with blankets or other barrier materials over windows and doors.
• Know how to determine if it is safe to travel and know where to go should the power go out. Identify a friend or family member’s house, or a nearby shelter.
Lastly, when it comes to winter travel safety, the state department says Hoosiers should limit traveling during severe winter weather as much as possible. However, if they do have to drive, they should consider using a county travel advisory map, which can be found on the App Store of Google Play Store. This will allow users to see county travel statuses from emergency management agencies.
Additionally, drivers should create an emergency preparedness kit consisting of items such as blankets, non-perishable food, jumper cables and spare winter clothing.
Vehicles should also be taken to a mechanic for a thorough check before winter storms hit.
Through the Nixle program, Decatur County residents can receive updates and alerts from the emergency management agency, such as weather updates, road closures, and reports of accidents or other hazards by texting decaturco to 888777.