PEARL – The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency urges residents to prepare for dangerously cold wind chills tonight. The National Weather Service forecast calls for low temperatures in the teens with winds chills in the single digits for most of Mississippi tonight through Friday morning. There is also the possibility of light snow/flurries in the central and western part of the state with the chance for up to a half inch of accumulation on grassy areas in the southwest corner.
Residents should prepare for the possibility of problems with pipes that are not fully insulated or at risk to burst, and some threat for exposure and hypothermia for those who do not have proper warm clothing.
“This is some of the coldest air we’ve seen this year and some of the areas in our state that will see the coldest temperatures do not see these frigid temperatures on a regular basis,” said MEMA Director Robert Latham. “Our citizens need to take the proper precautions and please be sure to check on your family, friends and neighbors.”
There are counties across the state opening cold weather shelters for residents in need of a warm place to go. To find out if one is open in your area, contact your county Emergency Management Agency. For a full list of county Emergency Management Agencies, visit http://www.msema.org/local-ema/, or call 866-519-MEMA (6362).
These are some 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.
- Disconnect hoses and cover all exterior water faucets. Maintain a slight drip of interior water faucets.
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
- Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
- 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 55ºF.
- 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 frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- 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.
- 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.
- Antifreeze attracts animals and pets with its sweet taste and smell, but is deadly to animals and pets. Wipe up any antifreeze spills, and store antifreeze in a safe place.
The public is encouraged to follow updates from MEMA on Twitter, Facebook and at www.msema.org. You can also download MEMA’s free mobile phone app for Android or iPhone devices.