Last year, the state of Georgia was hit with unusually cold weather. In the month of January, temperatures frequently dropped below freezing. Nationally, people referred to this as the “polar vortex,” a particularly cold weather front which has caused bitter low temperatures throughout the East coast. Such cold is not only unpleasant, but also potentially dangerous.
In the month of January alone, more than $75 million worth of property damage in the state of Georgia has been attributed to the brutally cold temperatures. Extremely cold temperatures like the ones Georgia has seen over the last month can cause internal damage to property, often in the form of water damage caused by leaking or burst pipes. As many as 34 of Georgia’s state facilities reported damage caused by burst pipes after the January 28, 2014 winter storm rolled through.
The Georgia Department of Administrative Services’ Risk Management division has several suggestions on how to deal with the cold weather and effectively protect property from damage:
- Temperatures under 20 degrees are considered “threatening,” and you should begin exercising caution when temperatures drop to or below this level
- Pipes located in attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls are most susceptible to freezing temperatures, and should be monitored carefully during cold times
- Pipes located near electrical outlets often have much more cold air flowing towards them
- When building a new house or construction, pipes should ideally only be placed near warm spaces, and should be kept away from “attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls.”
- A plumber can potentially re-route pipes and place them near warmer areas, which is an especially appealing option in older houses or facilities
- If pipes cannot be moved, you can place more insulation onto them to protect them. Different forms of pipe insulation can be bought at most hardware stores
- If pipes are exposed to cold air through any holes in the walls, these holes should be filled up and protected as best as possible
- Turning on a faucet during extremely cold times can help break the pressure that pipes have. Even just allowing the faucet to drip a small bit can prevent the pipe from bursting.
- If a pipe has already burst, it is important to call a plumber and to immediately turn off the water flow at the main water valve.
- For those going on vacation or leaving their homes, it is important to keep your house at a moderate temperature. If a house is too cold, it may be more susceptible to freezing pipes.
And remember to take care of yourself as well as your property when the temperature drops below freezing!
Is your emergency plan for your home and your work prepared, and is it up to date? Do you know what to do in case of an emergency at work? Is your home one of the 50+% in the U.S.A. that has no emergency plan? Do you know what steps to take to start an emergency plan? Here are just a few guidelines to help you prepare your home or office in case of an emergency.
For additional tips and ideas, check out Ready Georgia.
Supply Checklist for Severe Weather emergencies:
- Do you have a stored water supply of at least 3 gallons per day per person?
- Do you have a 3 day non-perishable food supply for your family?
- Do you have a manual can opener, batteries, flashlights and a NOAA alert radio?
- Do you have a fully stocked First Aid kit?
- Are you prepared for a cold weather emergency if the power goes out?
- Are you familiar with your local community’s or agency’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes and locations of emergency shelters.
Fire & Medical emergency preparation for your location or home:
- Are there two ways out of your home or office?
- Have you established a meeting point once you have evacuated?
- Do you have a First Aid kit?
- Are emergency phone numbers posted at every phone?
- Do you know who has First Aid training at your location?
- Do you have a fire extinguisher? If so, does your family know where it is and how to use it?
- Is your home located in a flash-flood-prone area? To find out, contact your county planning department.
- Have you planned or practiced a flood evacuation route with your family?
- Do you know what items you want to take with you during an evacuation?
- Do you have emergency contact numbers in case roads are flooded in your area or at your location? Have you identified that out-of-town family member or friend who will serve as the family contact in case your family is separated during a flood?
- Have you identified potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the flood strikes?
- Have you identified that out-of-town family member or friend who will serve as the family contact in case your family is separated during a flood?
This is just a short list of items to consider as you begin to develop your emergency preparation plan. A few minutes of preparation can save a life or make you far more comfortable in case of an emergency situation.
Brought to you by Department of Administrative Services Risk Management Services Division
Reduce Your Chances of Heat Stress Injuries
Summer temperatures are on the way, and with this season’s warm weather comes the potential for heat-related injuries. Employees who work in outdoor settings and other severe environmental conditions are at a higher risk for heat-related illnesses and should exercise greater caution by taking appropriate protective measures. You should recognize the hazards and symptoms of heat stress disorders, identify ways to prevent them from occurring, and take corrective actions if these symptoms occur.
Managers and supervisors need to use the following P.A.S.T. steps to prevent heat-related injuries: Plan, provide Access to Water, provide Shade for break areas, and provide proper Training to prevent heat related injuries. Although summer heat is the largest cause of heat distress, it may also occur when workers are exposed to confined areas such as pipelines, shipboard spaces with limited ventilation, or any confined area involving welding or cutting. Heat can increase the risk of injuries as it may result in sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Burns may also occur as a result of accidental contact with hot surfaces or steam.
Symptoms: The major heat stress injuries and illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. The initial symptoms are mild and usually involve headaches, thirst and tiredness. The symptoms of heat stress disorders are very slow to start, but increase in intensity if precautions are not taken. The six main factors involved in causing heat stress include humidity, clothing, air movement, activity level, temperature and radiant temperature of the surroundings. Adjusting to these factors and/or controlling them reduces the chance of heat stress.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion are heavy perspiration, fatigue and weakness, muscle and body ache, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, confusion, loss of consciousness, and vomiting (with or without loss of consciousness). Heat stress can quickly move to heat stroke, a life-threatening medical emergency, when the body’s natural cooling system breaks down and causes the body’s core temperature to rise and overheat the brain. Some of the symptoms of heat stroke are immense thirst, severe headaches, disorientation, dry/hot skin (no sweating) and possibly collapse. Workers who are overweight, 65 years of age or older, suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure, and/or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat are at greater risk of heat stress and should seek and follow medical advice.
Treatment and Prevention: Workers should avoid exposure to extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity when possible. When these exposures cannot be avoided, workers should take the following steps to prevent heat stress:
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton. Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing.
- Gradually build up to heavy work. Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
- Until you acclimate to the high temperatures, take frequent cool down breaks in extreme heat and humidity. Take breaks in the shade or a cool area when possible.
- Drink plenty of fluids (water, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) frequently. Drink enough water that you never become thirsty. Approximately 1 cup every 15-20 minutes.
- Avoid carbonated beverages (soft drinks – Coke, Pepsi, etc., tonic, seltzer and sparkling water) as these drinks only increase dehydration and give a false sense of being properly hydrated.
- Avoid alcohol the evening before the work shift, and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar as they can lead to dehydration even before heat exposure.
- Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.
- Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.
If your co-worker or employee appears to be suffering from heat stress disorder, remove him or her from the heat and provide a cool, shaded place to rest. If they become disoriented or non-responsive, call for medical attention immediately.
Remember, there is no better cure than prevention
Let’s work together to make Georgia a safer place to work!