Gwinnett Fire give tips on staying safe during the bitter cold

Press release from Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services

(Lawrenceville, Ga., January 3, 2018) – Weather forecasters are predicting prolonged below-freezing temperatures to start off the New Year.  Firefighters are urging citizens to be weather aware throughout the winter months and year-round.  Keep your home and family safe by incorporating the following safety practices.


Take a few minutes to protect your plumbing system in and outside the house from the freezing weather.

Outdoor Plumbing – Cover outdoor water valves and spigots when temperatures dip below freezing.  A fitted plastic or Styrofoam cover can be found at most hardware and home-improvement stores.  Tape and cardboard wrapped and sealed well around the spigot can be just as effective.  Disconnect the garden hose and drain the system before the cold-weather starts.

Indoor Plumbing – Wrap exposed water pipes in the attic, unheated basement or crawlspace.  Doing so will help insulate the pipes against freezing.  When temperatures dip below freezing, open the cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to expose pipes to the heat.  Drip the faucet overnight in order to prevent freezing.  For single-handle faucets, drip the warm (but not hot) water.  For two-handle faucets, drip both the cold and hot lines.  Remember to shut off the faucet when temperatures go above freezing.

What if the Pipes Freeze and Break – If able to do so, close the main water shut-off valve to the house.  The valve may be located in front of the house where you connect your garden hose, the basement near the water heater, inside the garage or occasionally in a more inconspicuous location like a utility closet.  Keep in mind that the repair of broken pipes on the customer’s side of the water meter is the customer’s responsibility.  Contact a plumber to make repairs.

For additional information on protecting water pipes from freezing, please click the following link:


Home Heating – Be sure to have all home heating equipment like the furnace, fireplace or wood-burning stove serviced annually by a qualified technician.  Put the fire out in the fireplace before leaving the room or when going to sleep.  Never use the kitchen stove or oven for warmth.  Remember that gas and charcoal grills and outdoor fireplaces should only be used outside the home.

Space heaters can be dangerous if not used properly.  Keep plenty of space around the heater and remember to turn the heater off if you leave the room for an extended period of time or when going to sleep.  Never place combustibles such as clothing, furniture or bedding close to the space heater.

Use flashlights to see in the dark during temporary power outages.  If using candles, remember to keep them out of the reach of children and pets and away from high-traffic areas in the home.  Blow out candles before leaving the room or when going to sleep.  Always use sturdy candle holders and place candles on uncluttered flat surfaces.  Consider the use of flameless candles or battery-powered flashlights whenever possible.

Be sure to install and maintain working smoke alarms on every level of the home and in each of the bedrooms.  Develop a home fire escape plan and practice fire drills regularly.  Have a collapsible fire escape ladder upstairs and keep a portable fire extinguisher close at hand.  Get out fast and stay out!  Never go back inside a burning building.  Call 9-1-1 from outside the home and wait for firefighters to arrive.


Staying Warm – Bundle up to protect yourself from the cold by wearing layers of warm clothing and be sure to adequately cover your hands, feet and top of your head.  A scarf or toboggan cap will help keep your ears and nose from being exposed to the bitter cold.  If possible, limit time outside in the cold and take plenty of breaks to go indoors where it’s warm. Be sure to check on the elderly and those who live alone.  Exposure to the cold may cause hypothermia or frostbite.


The warning signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.  Treat a person by warming the body slowly.  Replace wet clothing with dry warm clothing and plenty of warm blankets.  Avoid giving the person alcohol or caffeinated drinks.


Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by exposure to extreme cold.  If signs of frostbite are observed, be sure to seek medical attention immediately.  Warm the body slowly by wrapping with warm blankets.

Consider safety precautions for small (outdoor) pets; bring pets indoors, if at all possible.  The improper use of heat lamps for pets should be avoided due to the potential fire or injury hazard to animals.

Stay off The Ice! – The prolonged cold temperatures could cause a thin sheet of ice to form on open bodies of water.  Avoid any frozen body of water such as a lake or pond.  The ice will not be thick enough or strong enough to support the weight of a child or small pet.  Post warning signs around frozen bodies of water.  Simply put, stay off the ice!

Downed Power Lines – Avoid contact with downed power lines.  If you lose power don’t go outside in the dark to investigate.  Contact with an energized electrical line may cause severe injury or even death.  All downed power lines should be considered “live.”  Report downed power lines to the fire department and the appropriate utility company.

Drive Safely – Reduce your speed when traveling on the roadway during the winter months and allow extra time to reach your destination.  Watch for patches of black ice when temperatures dip below freezing.  Keep a blanket, flashlight and first-aid kit in the car.  Be sure to have your car engine winterized before the cold-weather starts.


If you lose power and decide to use a portable generator, remember to keep the generator outside – a safe distance away from the house.  Generators may cause carbon monoxide poisoning if not used properly.  Never use generators inside a basement or garage.  The generator should be placed outside in a properly ventilated area.  Use only the amount of power necessary to maintain essential appliances and lights.  Install a carbon monoxide alarm inside the home near the sleeping area.

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