As concerns rise over severely cold temperatures, safety tips offered

With concerns rising about what Gov. Dannel Malloy has warned could be “severely cold temperatures” safety tips are being offered to keep yourself and your pets warm. Temperatures could be in single digits tonight and as low as zero on Friday.

The state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is reminding Connecticut to keep pets indoors and never use an oven for heating purposes.

These are just two of the state agency’s tips for extreme cold and winter storms. Connecticut is expected to get hit by a major snowfall tonight, dropping up to 10 inches of snow on the southwestern part of the state.
Then on late Friday into early Saturdays, temperatures are predicted to go below-zero in the region.

Here are the cold weather and winter storm recommendations by the state agency:
• Take all pets indoors.

• Never use your oven for heat.

• Never bring charcoal or gas grills indoors (they are a carbon monoxide hazard).

• Use electric space heaters with extreme care; avoid placing them near curtains or other flammable materials, and turn them off before going to bed.

• Make sure all portable heat-producing appliances are unplugged when not in use (irons, hair devices, etc.).

• Use candles only as a last resort, and never leave candles unattended.

• Keep dryer vents clear of snow and ice.

• Check to make sure you have enough heating oil to get through the storm.

• Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.

• Locate the main water shut-off valve in your home and mark it for quick identification. Learn how to turn it off, and educate others in your household. If a water pipe bursts, shutting your home’s main valve quickly will minimize flooding and property damage.

• Leave kitchen cabinet doors open if pipes are subject to freezing. This will allow heat to reach the pipes.

• Don’t use an open flame to thaw pipes. If your pipes do freeze, use a hair dryer or rags soaked in hot water to thaw lines.

• Insulate pipes in unheated spaces like garages, basements, and crawl spaces. This will help prevent frozen pipes, avoiding property damage and the costs of repairs. Additionally, insulating hot water pipes will decrease your wait time for warm water.

• Protect your water meter from icy drafts and freezing temperatures. Most frozen meters are caused by drafts from an open basement door or window.

• Double check your property for drafts as the cold weather sets in. Seal openings in the basement foundation wall where cold air may enter. Stuff holes with insulation and fix broken window panes. A tiny opening may cause exposed pipe or the meter to freeze.

Under the state’s severe cold weather protocol, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security activates its web Emergency Operations Center communications network — an internet-based system that allows local, regional and state emergency management officials and first responders to share up-to-date information about a variety of situations and conditions.

The system is used to monitor capacity at shelters across the state, enabling 211 to act as a clearing house to assist in finding shelter space for those who need it. Local officials, working through the center, can alert 211 and the state when they open temporary shelters or warming centers.

Department of Social Services coordinates with 211 and the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, as well as working with existing vendors to resolve transportation issues for people needing shelter during the period of severe cold.

Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, meanwhile, has teams who specialize in working with homeless people to locate those who are at risk, spread the word about the 211 system, and encourage everyone to take advantage of the safety of shelters. The agency is also working with shelters to assess and meet the needs of individual clients during this cold snap.

— Susan Shultz contributed to this article.

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