Emergency Response:Winter Safety in Dutchess County

Winter Safety in Dutchess County

Emergency Response
Dana Smith, Commissioner


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Dressing for Cold Weather - Info Graphic from weather.com/safety
Source:NOAA / NWS Weather.gov/Safety


Plan ahead for winter safety!

Being prepared for a winter emergency is as easy as one, two, three!

Develop a Family Emergency Plan - Be informed about plans at your workplace, and anywhere you and your family spend time.  Ready.gov can help you develop a family plan should disaster strike

Stock Up on Emergency Supplies - During an emergency, electric, heat, air conditioning or phone service may not work. Make sure you’re covered -  download this checklist from Ready.gov (.pdf)

Be Aware - Local radio and television stations provide official up-to-date information during an emergency.


Safety first for kids

Remember these tips when you go out to play.


  • Avoid long periods of exposure to severe cold.  You increase the risk of frostbite or hypothermia.
  • Dress in layers of clothing and wear a hat and mittens.
  • Take warm-up breaks.
  • Get inside if you start to shiver, feel tired, or if you lose feeling in your nose, fingers, toes or earlobes. These are signs that you might be experiencing hypothermia and frostbite.


Help your neighbor

If your neighbor is elderly or dependent on life-sustaining or health-related equipment make plans now to ensure their needs are met during severe winter and power outages.


  • Help them stock a home disaster kit.
  • Check on them after a storm or power outage.
  • Make sure they register as a special needs customer with their utility.
  • Notify local emergency responders such as the fire department.
  • Have a list of emergency numbers readily available for them.

Fire safety


Be aware of fire risks - Stay alert and Put the Freeze on Winter Fires (.pdf)


Kerosene heaters


Follow these safety tips when using kerosene heaters:


  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
  • Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool.
  • Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
  • When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.


Wood stoves and fireplaces

Make sure you are using your wood-burning stove, fireplace and heater safely.


  • Always keep a screen around an open flame.
  • Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors.
  • Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation.
  • Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
  • Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup -- and then clean it.
  • Test your fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, regularly.
  • Plan an escape route with your family should a fire happen.

Carbon monoxide poisoning


Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas created by car exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys that claims about 1,000 lives in the United States each year.


Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness.


If you experience the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning get into fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical help. 


  • Never run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
  • Never use charcoal to cook indoors.
  • Never use a gas oven to heat your home.


Health risks during the winter




People work or play outdoors during the winter can develop frostbite and not even know it.  Watch for these danger signs:


  • Skin may feel numb and become flushed (red). Then it turns white or grayish-yellow.
  •  Get to a warm area. Cover affected area with something warm and dry.
  • Never rub frostbitten skin
  • Get the person to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.



Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia.  Be aware of these symptoms:


  • Inability to concentrate; confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Uncontrollable shivering, followed by a sudden lack of shivering
  • Seek emergency medical assistance if your body temperature drops below 95 degrees.
  • Remove wet clothing, wrap yourself in warm blankets and drink warm, liquids until help arrives.

Physical exertion


Risk of a heart attack increases with activity like shoveling, clearing debris or pushing a car. You should:


  • Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
  • Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion.
  • If you feel chest pain -- STOP and seek help immediately.



How can I protect my home?

Get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:


  • Have your heating system (including chimney flues) checked by a professional annually.
  • Inspect and flush your water heater.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. Keeping more cold air out.
  • Clean gutters. Frozen water in gutters can damage your home and pose a safety hazard.
  • Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors.


Protecting water pipes


  • Locate and insulate pipes near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic.
  • Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL approved).
  • Make sure you know how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst.
  • Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
  • Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • Let hot and cold water trickle at night from faucets located on outside wall.
  • Open cabinets to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes near outer walls.
  • Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees (Fahrenheit).
  • Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing or to shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
  • Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame or torch.
  • Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.


What if I lose power?


If you lose electrical service during the winter:

  • Turn off or unplug lights and appliances until service is restored.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.


Electric generators


Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:


  • Before installing, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. Have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Run generators outside, downwind of structures. Never run a generator indoors. Install carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Remove detachable fuel tanks before refilling. Fuel spilled on a generator can cause an explosion
  • Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Overloading your generator can damage it and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Keep children away from generators at all times.


Winter safety on the road


If you must drive during a winter storm – preparation is key!


  • Stock your car with blankets, a shovel, flashlight and batteries, extra warm clothing, tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods and brightly-colored cloth to use as a distress flag.
  • Keep your gas tank full to prevent gasoline freeze-up.
  • Keep batteries charged if you have a mobile phone or two-way radio
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated and have adequate treads.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans.
  • Listen to  local news reports or call law enforcement agencies for the latest road conditions
  • Keep your vehicles clear of ice and snow (this includes your hood and roof)
  • Have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle, before winter arrives: battery, wipers and windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, ignition system, thermostat, lights, exhaust system, flashing hazard lights, heater, brakes, defroster, oil level


What do I do if I become trapped in my car?


Here are some tips to follow:


  • Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow.
  • If you have access to a mobile phone or two-way radio contact emergency services.
  • Stay in your car and wait for help to find you.
  • Run your engine for short periods of time to stay warm.
  • Keep your window open slightly to allow circulation.
  • Turn on the dome light at night when you are running the engine to signal rescuers.
  • Hang a brightly colored piece of cloth or piece of clothing from your car.
  • Move arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.


Dress appropriately


  • Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
  • Always wear a hat or cap on your head.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Mittens provide more warmth for your fingers versus gloves.

How can I protect my pets?


Winter is a time we should pay close attention to the safety of our pets:


  • Ingesting anti-freeze can be fatal for your pets. If you spill some, soak it up immediately.
  • Pets that live outdoors should be fed a bit more in the winter (they need the extra calories to stay warm). Always have fresh water (consider a bowl that prevents the water from freezing).
  • Pets can get frostbite easily on the ears, tail and paws – be aware of the temperature..
  • Check your pets paws to make sure that ice or road sale is not building up between the toes.
  • Keep your pet on a leash around open water or unstable ice. Hypothermia can set in quickly and the dog may be unable to get out of the water.
  • Honk your car horn to make sure that an animal has not found a warm spot under your hood.

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