Agencies issuing precautions for those frigid temperatures

STEUBENVILLE – Advice for surviving the bitter cold temperatures this week has been issued by the Steubenville and the Jefferson County health departments along with a safety request from the Steubenville Fire Department and pet suggestions from the Hancock County animal shelter.

“Prepare your home and car in advance for winter emergencies and observe safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather so you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems,” urged Steubenville Health Commissioner Patty Reda.

“Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face indoor hazards. Many homes will be too cold – either due to a power failure or because the heating system isn’t adequate for the weather. When people must use space heaters and fireplaces to stay warm, the risk of household fires increases, as well as the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning,” Reda noted.

“Ohioans are urged to check on their neighbors as temperatures across much of the state are expected to dip into the negative double-digits. Ohioans should get in touch with friends, family and loved ones, and help spread the word about how to stay safe in the extreme cold,” Reda added.

“Use fireplace, wood stoves or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space. Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors because the fumes are deadly. And, never leave lit candles unattended,” Reda said.

Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Bruce Misselwitz advised area residents to keep as much heat as possible inside your home.

“Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather. Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously and eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer,” suggested Misselwitz.

“If you must go outside dress, warmly and stay dry. Wear a hat, scarf and mittens. And, avoid frostbite. If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Avoid walking on ice or getting wet. Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping or skiing. Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses and bridges if at all possible. If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car,” remarked Misselwitz.

Misselwitz also urged residents to use caution when traveling by listening for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.

“Do not travel in low-visibility conditions. Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses and bridges if at all possible. If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you. And, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late,” said Misslewitz.

“Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave. Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur. Don’t rely on a car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down. And, always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions,” Misselwitz said.

“When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it. Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water,” Misselwitz advised.

“Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures,” he added.

Steubenville Assistant Fire Chief Mike Taylor called for area residents to use simple precautions during as the artic air moved through the area.

“This most recent snow and cold will impact all of us, but Ohio firefighters are asking for assistance in keeping the community safe.This is an especially dangerous situation for us as firefighters and that translates to an impact on community safety,” commented Taylor, who also serves as the vice president of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters.

“Just a little bit of prevention on citizens behalf will go a long way in helping us keep you and your neighbors safe. Those simple precautions include clearing snow from around fire hydrants to allow firefighters better access. Clear a path to your front door. Make sure your house address numbers remain visible and are not blocked by snow. When driving, make sure to leave room for emergency vehicles to pass go right for sirens and lights,” Taylor stated.

“Use portable heaters and space heaters only in the approved manner. Make sure any candles are used free from any combustibles and are extinguished prior to leaving the home or going to bed. Check on elderly friends and neighbors and lend them a hand. Dress appropriately when outside by layering, layering and more layers. Have a winter emergency kit inside your car including: jumper cables, wiper fluid, first aid kit, blanket, gloves, a flashlight or flares and some salt or kitty liter for traction. And. only shovel snow if you are medically and physically able,” said Taylor.

“Severe weather impacts firefighters, making for many challenges including the need for more personnel at emergency scenes. Cold and icy conditions may also hinder response times as firefighters contend with adverse road conditions. but despite the challenges of the weather, Ohio firefighters are ready to respond. With the help of the community, we can make sure we all weather the storm,” concluded Taylor.

The Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation is encouraging everyone to take important steps to keep their pets and other animals alive, warm and safe during this dangerous weather event.

“Taking a few simple steps for your pet during this time could literally mean the difference between life or death for that animal. The first step is keeping dogs and cats inside. It may not be easy, but please try. A garage or basement, even unheated, can suffice for temporary shelter until the thermometer rises. Companion animals have a slim chance of survival in sub-zero conditions. If all indoor options fail, you can make an outdoor shelter for cats, using storage containers and straw. Dog houses also should be lined with plenty of straw, not blankets. Keep checking food bowls to keep from freezing. And, consider moving any shelter onto a porch or position up against your house. Also, please call our shelter at (304) 387-4102 if you are looking for straw. We have a limited supply on hand to help pet owners,” said Marjie DeFede, the shelter media director.

DeFede said pet owners should clean up spilled antifreeze, windshield de-icer or any other winter driving products. All are lethal to dogs and cats.

“Don’t shave your dog or cat. Their longer coat provides extra warmth. Increase your dog or cat’s food intake. Extra calories help them to stay warm too. If you are having trouble with food expenses for your pet, please also contact the shelter for assistance resources. Just like in the summer, do not leave your dog or cat alone in a car during the winter. Your vehicle can quickly turn into a refrigerator and cause the animal to freeze to death,” stated DeFede.