By JOSH NEWTON
While the local weather has been unusually mild for the fall season, emergency preparedness officials know Oklahomans could see big changes in a short period of time.
Now is a good time to prepare for wintry weather, they say.
One of the most important aspects to consider when getting ready for the season is safe heating operations.
Tahlequah Fire Chief Ray Hammons said homeowners should have their chimney flues cleaned at least once a year, and more often if needed to prevent buildup.
“Smoke detectors are very important in the winter months especially, as heating units are being used more often,” said Hammons. “Make sure batteries are good and that smoke detectors are placed in all the bedrooms and hallways; all appropriate rooms.”
accelerants should not be used in wood-burning fireplaces or stoves, Hammons said; instead, newspaper or kindling can help start fires more safely.
“If you have wood-burning stoves, just make sure your dry kindling and paper is stored away from the fire,” said Hammons.
Electrical heaters should be UL-certified – look for a label indicating this – and should be checked for frayed cords. When in use, the heaters should be on a hard, flat surface, Hammons said.
Hammons also suggests residents consider sources of light other than candles.
“It’s just best to try not to have candles, but if you must, make sure they are sitting on a hard surface,” said Hammons. “Even if the candle is in a glass container, once they burn down to the bottom, that glass can crack and break. Make sure you have battery operated flash lights and lanterns available, and be very careful about using lanterns or other items that put off carbon monoxide.”
Items with combustible engines – including generators – should never be operated inside a structure, Hammons said.
“Be sure that if limbs and power lines are down, you don’t try to feed your home with a generator that is powered back into your house that a licensed electrician hasn’t hooked up,” he said. “You could inadvertently feed electricity back into a line that people are working on, or back into your house and cause a fire.”
Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management Director Gary Dotson believes homes and vehicles should be stocked with emergency supplies during the winter months.
“Be sure to keep some reserve food in stock at home,” said Dotson. “After the last few ice storms we’ve had, we recommend a minimum of three days’ worth of supplies stored at home for each person. Plus your pets, of course, will need supplies and proper bedding.”
Cars should be stocked with blankets, drinking water and snacks. Hammons suggests drivers also have cell phones, flash lights and other tools that might come in handy if drivers become trapped on an icy or snow-packed road.
Dotson said it’s important to keep an eye on weather forecasts and road conditions throughout the winter months.