As Winneshiek County residents are trying to stay warm and safe in this bitter cold the next two days, the Winneshiek County Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition members want to remind you of a few tips.

People who aren't dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures or who have reduced blood circulation are especially at risk for frostbite. It takes less than five minutes with the wind chill factor and subzero temperatures to any areas of unexposed skin to have frostbite. Hypothermia or low body temperature is also a potential for anyone not dressed properly when outdoors in subzero temps. If in need of a warming center, contact Decorah Police Department at 563-382-3667 for assistance.



Space heaters

According to Steve Vanden Brink, Decorah Fire Department public information officer, "You should use a three-feet rule at a minimum, keeping the area clear where the heater is being used. If not, things can get out of control quickly. A blanket draped over a space heater takes just a few minutes to ignite, and spread to surrounding furniture. Make sure the heaters cannot be tipped over and are plugged directly into an outlet."

Vanden Brink added, "Using multiple heaters in the home also increases the electrical load of the homes."

Homes with poor wiring are at risk of electrical fires that can start in the outlets or other parts not immediately noticeable by the homeowner. Keeping young children away from the as well to prevent burns.

Do not use your oven or stove to provide heat to your home, as they are not designed to be used as a home heating device.

The consequences could be deadly -- federal data shows space heaters caused a third of home heating fires, and four out of those five are fatal.

With the drifting snow and the cold, exhaust vents of furnaces and water heaters may become blocked. This can cause malfunction of these appliances.

In addition, carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a concern if there improper functioning furnaces or clogged vents. This can lead to death.

If a home's carbon monoxide detector goes off, residents should contact a local heating contractor, liquid propane or gas supplier.

"If you feel ill, leave the house immediately and call 911. Do not try to investigate it yourself. Carbon monoxide is deadly non odorous gas that can kill you," said Steve Vanden Brink.

Make sure you have properly working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

For residents with fire hydrants in their neighborhood, local fire departments ask for assistance in clearing snow from the fire hydrants.

"If you can manage to clear a three-foot circle around the fire hydrant and a path to the road, this would help everyone in your neighborhood in case of a fire," said Vanden Brink.

"Stay safe and if you have any questions, call Winneshiek County Public Health (WCPH) at 563-382-4662 or Vanden Brink at 563-382-3472," said Nancy Sacquitne of WCPH.