Extreme cold causes concerns
Extreme cold raises concerns
WALKER — Are you prepared to weather the storm as the extreme cold continues to grip our area? Continued cold temperatures and rising propane costs are growing concerns not only for families but state and county officials as well.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced recently that Minnesota will receive an additional $15,814,434 in federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds for the Energy Assistance Program (EAP). The LIHEAP program in Minnesota helps low-income homeowners and renters pay heating bills through grant money paid directly to utility companies and heating fuel vendors on behalf of customers. If you need assistance with your fuel costs use the hotline set up by Governor Mark Dayton who has declared a State of Peacetime Emergency in Minnesota in response to the persistent cold weather and the increased risk households may run out of heating fuel, a situation that would pose immediate threat to public safety. This declaration activated the state’s emergency operations center housing a hotline for Minnesota residents with questions about the current propane situation or who are in danger of running out of heating fuel. Minnesotans can call 651-297-1304 in the metro area or 800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota.
In addition, consider the following home safety tips. People who use propane to heat their homes can take several steps at this time:
• Conserve energy as much as possible. Turn down thermostats and be aware of your propane use.
• Check in on your family members, neighbors and friends especially the elderly, those with very young children or functional disabilities.
• Call 911 only in a crisis.
• Use alternate heat sources safely. Types of alternative heating sources often seen include: portable electric heaters, liquid-fueled heaters, kerosene, waste oil and gas-burning heaters. Propane is most common.
• Solid-fuel heating: wood burning and pellet burning.
People often turn to alternative heat sources to stay warm when the temperature plummets. The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources. Any heating appliance with an open flame needs to be vented to the outside because the combustion process of burning fuel uses oxygen and also gives off carbon monoxide — a deadly combination inside of a home.
Carbon monoxide, commonly known as CO, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless toxic gas. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. When inhaled, CO interferes with the blood’s ability to absorb and transport oxygen; thus, it can be deadly. Propane appliances, like all other fuel-burning appliances, can present the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning if not installed, operated, vented or maintained properly. Even a small amount of CO is dangerous in enclosed spaces like your home, garage, vehicle, recreational vehicle or tent. It is a by-product of incomplete combustion that can be produced by any carbon-based fuel when there is a lack of oxygen.
Exposure to carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms such as: headaches, tightness across the forehead and temples, weakness, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, impaired judgment, loss of muscular control, watering and smarting of the eyes, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness
If you suspect carbon monoxide leave the area immediately, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
Other tips when using alternative heat sources:
• Keep anything flammable — including pets and people — at least three feet away from heating equipment.
• Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.
• Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
• Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
• Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.
• Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
• Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.
Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations, and nonprofit agencies. See the Stay Warm Minnesota webpage at http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/topics/resources/Stay-Warm-Minnesota for a list of resources. Contact Kerry Swenson Cass County Emergency Manager at 547-7437 or Jeri Seegmiller Cass County Public Health Emergency Preparedness at 218-547-1340 ext. 223 for more information.