Bartow County Emergency Management Agency Director Johnny Payne tells how to ready for snow and prevent fires as the mercury drops.
Payne warned of the dangers surrounding a topic recently thrust into national headlines through the Christmas Day fire in Connecticut claiming the lives of five family members. Investigations have revealed the source of the fire were embers removed from the fireplace and left inside the home.
"If you clean out a fireplace, do not set [the ashes] in the house or on a wooden deck. Make sure they are in a metal container and put them outside on the ground," Payne said. "Personally, back when I was a firefighter, I know one instance where someone put them in a metal container, they sat there for a week on the carport. There were still live embers in there and when they threw them out they like to burn the woods up and their house with it."
For proper disposal of fireplace debris, remove the ashes using a metal container, commonly referred to as a coal hod, and douse the embers with water.
Payne also recommends checking fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Do not leave electric space heaters running or candles burning through the night. Lastly, for home preparation Payne suggests keeping on hand at least three days worth of food and water in the case of an emergency.
Likewise, when on the road precautions can be taken to avoid potentially fatal situations. On Wednesday, rescuers in New Mexico pulled a family of three from a trapped SUV after spending nearly two days in their vehicle. Caught in a blizzard, the SUV slid off an embankment and was quickly covered in three to four feet of snow; they survived on snacks and bottled water.
"You can survive, just make sure you have blankets, a first aid kit and stuff like that packed in your car," Payne said. "When you're going on a trip, have plenty of fuel in the car, know what the weather is where you're going, pack blankets and water, make sure you have jumper cables or a jumper battery, and food like power bars -- or something like that -- and water."
Another key, said Payne, is to make someone else aware of travel plans and what route will be taken.
Outside of physical safety, Susan Simonton of Simonton Financial Associates advises the creation of a "grab-and-go" file, an easily accessible collection of personal documents and items which can be reached quickly when fleeing the home.
"This is a very good time of the year to do some disaster planning. Do you have a grab-and-go file? Cash, insurance policies, tax records, family photographs, heirlooms, key-contact information -- if the sirens go off and you have to leave in a hurry," Simonton said. "We can't think of tornadoes being in only a certain time of year and this is the time of the year we have more house fires. So many people get in trouble still trying to gather together things that are important, and if all those things are in one place, it could save someone's life."
Lastly, Simonton urges homeowners and renters to make an inventory of items within the home. Through video or photos, visually cataloging household items, brand names and serial numbers can aid the process of insurance claims in the event of theft, fire or natural disaster.
"Make an inventory of your home -- videos or photographs of your possessions. Keep one copy in that grab-and-go file and another copy that is somewhere else, a safety deposit box or a relative's home, because telling an insurance company what was in your home can be very difficult," Simonton said.
For more information on preparation, visit www.ready.gov.