The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is asking residents to prepare themselves and their homes for a dangerous winter weather system moving into the state.
“Yesterday was the 20 year anniversary of the 1994 ice storm that caused millions of dollars in damage to north Mississippi,” said MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham. “Ensure that your emergency plans are in place, and ready to be activated. Check on your neighbors and those who are at-risk to make sure that everyone is safe.”
Ice and cold temperatures could cause power outages, problems with pipes that are not fully insulated or at risk to burst and very dangerous driving conditions. Two weeks ago, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and other emergency service officials reported more than 700 vehicle accidents occurred in central and south Mississippi from icy conditions.
State and local agencies are putting emergency plans in place for this winter weather event, and the State Emergency Operations Center in Pearl is activated. Staff from MEMA and several other agencies are monitoring the weather and preparing to take action when necessary.
Take time to go over these tips to keep your home, community, family, vehicles and pets safe:
· All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
· Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
· Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
· Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms. If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
· Make sure your family and neighbors know the risks, and find ways to communicate with them during the cold temperatures.
· Keep contact with elderly and at-risk neighbors and relatives. Make sure they have a safe, warm place to stay while the conditions remain cold and hazardous.
· Ensure community members have a fully-stocked emergency supply kit with items like food, water, medications, flashlights and extra batteries.
· Identify residents who are: shut-ins, elderly, families with small children, medical-care dependent, non-English speaking, low-income and have no transportation.
· Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
· Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
· Wear a hat. A hat will prevent loss of body heat.
· Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
· If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
· Do not travel unless absolutely necessary. Driving conditions will be hazardous.
· If traveling, let someone know your destination, your route and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route Antifreeze levels: ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
· Battery and ignition system: should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
· Brakes: check for wear and fluid levels.
· Heater and defroster: ensure they are working properly.
· Lights and flashing hazard lights: ensure they are working properly.
· Gas tank: Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
· Bring pets/companion animals inside during freezing weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.
· Warm vehicle engines attract outdoor animals and pets. To avoid injury to hidden animals, hit on your vehicle’s hood before starting your engine.
For detailed preparedness information, contact your county emergency management agency, or go to MEMA’s website at www.msema.org. The best way to get up-to-date information is to “Like” MEMA on Facebook, or “Follow” us on twitter.