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Prepare for winter weather

Contest urges residents on to safety

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@henryherald.com

McDONOUGH — Henry County residents have a chance to win a trip to a luxury resort and learn about staying safe during dangerous winter weather conditions, courtesy of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

GEMA Director Charley English said a contest is being held until midnight Dec.16 as incentive for residents to be prepared for the cold season. The Ready Georgia campaign is hosting a giveaway on its blog. All state residents who read "Are you ready for Winter?" and answer the question in the comments section will be entered into a drawing to win the grand prize of a two-night stay at Lake Blackshear Resort and Country Club and a weather radio.

Six other radios will also be given away.

Winter Weather Awareness Week ends Friday so officials are using this opportunity to remind Henry County residents how to prepare for freezing, often dangerous temperatures.

The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as “deceptive killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the weather, said English. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.

"Most residents still remember the winter storm in January 2011 that shut down transportation in parts of the state for five days, eventually affecting 70 percent of Georgia," he said.

Snow and ice may be pretty but they can also wreak havoc with infrastructures and resources.

“Snow can be a lot of fun and can create some beautiful scenery in Georgia, but it also has the potential to knock out power and communications services and make the roads dangerous,” said English. “Preparing for winter weather is simple, inexpensive and important because it can help you avoid potentially life-threatening situations.”

Ready Georgia offers these tips to help residents prepare, plan and stay informed about severe winter weather:

• Prepare a ready kit of emergency supplies for home and car. Include a three-day supply of nonperishable food, water, a flash light with extra batteries, a NOAA Weather Radio, adequate clothing and blankets, as well as additional supplies for unique family needs such as medication.

• Ensure proper home insulation by placing weather stripping around doors and windows, allowing faucets to drip during cold weather to prevent freezing and opening cabinet doors to let heat reach uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

• Winterize all vehicles and keep the gas tanks at least half full to prevent the fuel line from freezing.

• Plan to stay inside, if necessary, for at least three days. If trapped outside during severe weather try to stay dry, cover all body parts, periodically move limbs to keep blood circulating and, if possible, build a fire.

• Avoid traveling by car in icy conditions. Drivers who get stuck should stay with their cars. Leave the overhead lights on when the engine is running to make it easier to be spotted by rescuers.

• Plan for pets to come inside and store adequate food and water for them.

• Create an emergency communications plan so family members will know who to contact if separated during a storm. Designate at least one out-of-town contact that all family members can call.

• Listen to a NOAA weather radio and monitor commercial radio, television and the Internet to stay informed.

• Learn about the terms used to describe winter hazards such as freezing rain, sleet, winter weather advisory, winter storm watch and winter storm warning.

• Know the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes. Extremities may have a white or pale appearance and may lose feeling. The most susceptible areas of the body are the fingers, toes, earlobes or the tips of noses. Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and exhaustion. People with suspected frostbite or hypothermia should get medical attention immediately.

For more information on preparing for winter weather and other disasters, contact a local emergency management agency, download the Ready Georgia app or visit www.ready.ga.gov or www.gema.ga.gov.