Winter Fire Safety tips from Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services

PSA from Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services

In the light of potential winter weather moving in over the next couple of days, Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services is putting out tips on“Staying Safe During Bitter Cold Temperatures”  

(Lawrenceville, Ga., December 6, 2017) – Firefighters are urging citizens to prepare for the onset of cold weather and below-freezing temperatures.   With the temperatures getting colder and the potential for snow and icy conditions on the rise, the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services is offering important tips for staying safe and warm.  The primary concern during the winter months is a loss of heat, power, gas utility and telephone service.   It’s always a good idea to stock up on essential supplies in the home such as non-perishable food items, bottled water, warm blankets and routine maintenance medications.  Be sure to post important numbers by the telephone such as utility companies and emergency responders.

Every household should have an emergency preparedness plan and a winter weather kit that includes items such as:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Battery-powered NOAA weather radio and a portable AM/FM radio (These may be your only link to the outside world in the event of a disaster or winter storm).
  • Extra food and water such as non-perishable/high-energy foods and snacks that don’t require refrigeration or cooking.
  • Extra medications.
  • Extra baby items, if there are infants or small children in the house.
  • First-Aid supplies.
  • Blankets, sleeping bags and extra clothing for warmth.
  • Remember to charge cell phones ahead of time, especially if you know that inclement weather is possible in your area.
  • If you have a fireplace, gather and store extra firewood in a dry-sheltered area.
  • Remember to have all home heating appliances (furnace, fireplace, and wood-burning stove serviced annually by a qualified technician.        

If not used properly, home heating devices such as wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters can increase the potential for an accidental fire to occur.  Have all home heating appliances serviced annually by a qualified technician.  The fireplace provides warmth, but can be dangerous if not properly used or maintained.  Build a small fire in the fireplace, just enough to heat the room, but don’t depend on the fireplace to heat the entire house.  Be sure to open the damper to vent the smoke while the fireplace is in use.  Extreme caution should be used, especially if the fireplace or wood stove has not been serviced.  Kerosene heaters should only be used in a well-ventilated area.

If using space heaters, remember to leave plenty of room between the heater and anything that could catch on fire.  Space heaters should be placed at least 3-to-4 feet away from combustible materials, such as drapes, bedding, furniture and clothing.  Only use space heaters that are approved by an independent testing laboratory and offer built-in safety features.  Put the fire in the fireplace completely out and turn-off space heaters before going to sleep or when leaving the house.  Never use the oven or stove in the kitchen to heat the home.  Portable generators should be used outdoors in a well-ventilated area.  Be sure to place the generator a safe distance away from the house.  Never use a generator inside a garage or basement.


Carbon Monoxide (CO) is created when fuel burns incompletely, and is often called the “invisible killer” because it’s a poisonous gas that’s invisible and odorless.  When home heating equipment is not installed or working properly, the risk of higher levels of CO increases significantly.  Remember to use portable generators outdoors in a ventilated area and always idle the car in the driveway, a safe-distance from the house.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have launched a new online toolkit to help fire departments educate the public about the risks of CO poisoning in the months ahead.  Install a Carbon Monoxide Alarm near the sleeping area and prevent CO emergencies by having all gas appliances serviced annually.


The prolonged cold temperatures could cause a thin sheet of ice to form on open surfaces or bodies of water.  Avoid any frozen body of water such as a lake, creek, ditch, pond or stream.

The ice will not be thick enough or strong enough to support the weight of a child or pet.  Post warning signs around any frozen bodies of water.  Avoid contact with downed power lines.  If you lose power at home, don’t go outside in the dark to investigate.  Contact with an energized electrical line may cause severe injury or death.  All downed power lines should be considered “live” orenergized.  Report downed power lines to the Fire Department by calling 9-1-1 and the appropriate utility company.  Limit time outdoors in the cold.  Prolonged exposure to cold may cause hypothermia or frostbite.  Wear multiple layers of clothing and remember to cover your hands, face and ears whenever possible.


The warning signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.  To treat a person for hypothermia, remember to warm the body slowly.  Replace wet clothing with dry warm clothing.  Wrap the person with warm blankets and provide a warm soup broth.  Be sure to avoid giving the person alcohol or caffeinated drinks.


Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by exposure to extreme cold.  Frostbite causes a loss of sensation (feeling) and a white, pale or ashen appearance to extremities, such as fingers, toes, earlobes and the tip of the nose.  If signs of frostbite are observed, be sure to seek medical attention immediately.  Warm the body slowly by wrapping with warm blankets.  Follow the same treatment measures for hypothermia and only give warm soup broth if the person is conscious and alert, and has no breathing difficulties.


Consider safety precautions for all animals.  Remember outdoor pets should be moved inside or to a sheltered area, if at all possible, during bitter cold temperatures.  The improper use of heat-lamps to warm pet areas should be avoided due to the potential fire hazard or injury to the animal. Supply pets with adequate food and water during the cold.


Residential fires are typically on the increase during the cold weather months, due to the use of home heating equipment, cooking and festive holiday decorations.  As in any season, firefighters suggest having a working Smoke Alarm on every level of the home and in each of the bedrooms.  Develop a Home Fire Escape Plan and practice Fire Drills regularly.  Keep a portable Fire Extinguisher close at hand and have a collapsible Fire Escape Ladder upstairs.

For additional information on home fire safety, please contact the Gwinnett Fire Community Risk Reduction/Education Section at 678-518-4845 or e-mail

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