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Posted: January 8, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Don’t be left out in the cold, prepare for winter weather

As a wave of arctic air rolls across the United States, Georgia faces bone-chilling temperatures and the possibility of snow. Because Georgia is not usually prone to extreme snow and ice, even small amounts can cause severe problems.

"With recent temperatures at or below freezing and a chance of snow this week, I strongly urge Georgians to prepare now for winter weather," said Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Charley English.

Dozens of Americans die each year due to exposure to cold weather. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service consider winter weather a "deceptive killer" because most deaths relate indirectly to these storms. In fact, 70 percent of ice and snow-related injuries result from automobile accidents. Extreme cold can also cause frostbite, which damages body tissue, and hypothermia, which occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Both can cause serious injury or even death.

Be ready when severe winter weather threatens. A key part of preparedness involves having a Ready kit that contains the supplies individuals and families need to survive for a minimum of three days. It contains bottled water, non-perishable foods for your family and pets, sleeping bags or bedding, extra clothes, medicine, flashlights, a battery-powered NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, and a manual can opener.

It is also wise to consider having at least two emergency supply kits, one full kit at home and a smaller kit in your vehicle.

For your car, you should have some extra water and non-perishable food, warm blankets, extra clothes and gloves, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, first aid kit, and a bag of abrasive material, such as sand, salt or cat litter, for added traction if you get stuck on the road.

For a complete list of items or to create a custom personal profile that will detail all of the supplies, contact numbers and meeting places for you and your family, visit www.ready.ga.gov.

Also, have a mechanic fully winterize your vehicle, keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid condensation or ice in the tank and fuel lines, and check tire pressure, battery voltage, belts and hoses, spark plugs, and fluids, such as engine coolant.

Make sure your pets have a warm, dry place to stay, with plenty of food and water. In addition, make sure your home is well insulated. Put weather stripping around your doors and windows, insulate pipes and allow faucets to drip a little during below freezing weather to avoid frozen pipes and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

If you don’t need to go out, stay home. If you must drive, slow down, don’t tailgate, and keep both hands on the wheel. If you lose control, don’t slam on your brakes. If you start to spin, steer in the direction of the spin until your vehicle comes to a stop.

The mission of GEMA is to provide a comprehensive and aggressive all-hazards approach to mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and special events. For more information about GEMA, visit www.gema.ga.gov. To learn how to prepare for winter weather and other disasters, visit www.ready.ga.gov.

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