Albany officials offer winter safety tips

Basic guidelines for keeping you and your family safe

ALBANY — Thanksgiving is almost here, and even in southwest Georgia temperatures are getting cooler. So break out the sweater and toboggan cap and be aware that winter winds bring real dangers.

Ron Rowe, assistant chief with the Albany Fire Department, says cooking incidents are the No. 1 cause of residential fires.

“With more people coming by with holiday activities, it’s easy to get distracted from your cooking,” Rowe said. “If you have to leave things cooking on the stove, just take something with you from the kitchen — like a spoon or a pot holder — just something to remind you of what you were doing.”

Cold weather also brings out the space heaters, Rowe said, but over months of inactivity they may have gathered dust and lint inside, creating a real fire hazard. Rowe recommends having the heaters inspected by someone qualified before putting them to use. Rowe also warns of placing space heaters too close to people or to furniture.

“The heaters shouldn’t be any closer than three feet to anything flammable,” Rowe said. “When people put them too close to the bed or other furniture, the heat can dry out the fabric and start a fire.”

For homes with gas heat or gas appliances, Lorie Farkas with Albany Water Gas and Light, highly recommends at least one smoke detector and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors as well.

“It’s a silent killer,” Farkas said of carbon monoxide. “It’s colorless and odorless and can poison you when you’re sleeping.”

Farkas stressed the importance of having central heat and air systems cleaned twice each year — in early spring and fall — by a qualified technician and learning to recognize the “rotten egg” smell added to natural gas as a safety measure.

“In everyone’s September bill we include a blue ‘scratch and sniff” card to help them recognize that smell,” Farkas said. “If you smell it at home or at a friend’s house it could mean that there’s a gas leak.”

Almost everyone knows to let their faucets drip during freezing winter nights. Jim Vaught, deputy director of Albany-Dougherty Emergency Management, says you should also keep half a tank or so of gasoline in your gas tank to keep the fuel line from freezing up. That’s part of what Vaught outlines in his suggestion to be prepared, develop a plan and stay informed, in order to keep you and your family safe and mobile at any time of the year.

Included also in Vaught’s “prepare” segment of safety readiness is taking the time build a “kit,” especially for traveling, with blankets and warm clothing and three days of supplies. Planning is important too, Vaught says, so that group or family members each know what to do if separated in an emergency. Finally, keep a weather radio around, listen to the news and otherwise stay informed if something bad should happen, he says.