Staying warm to be top priority
MICHIGAN CITY – The National Weather Service forecast says it all: “Potentially life-threatening cold temperatures are expected by midweek, especially from late Tuesday through early Thursday.”
The service is calling for an “excessive cold risk” all week, with that risk “elevated” on Monday, “extreme”on Tuesday through Thursday, and “limited” on Friday and Saturday.
With the extreme cold forecast ahead, local and state officials are reminding residents to stay warm, and warning them about safe and unsafe ways to do so.
The Michigan City Fire Department reminds residents that several warming centers will be open this week, and anyone needing transportation to a warming center may call the Michigan City Police non-emergency number at (219) 874-3221.
For those planning to just bundle up and stay in, the MCFD and Indiana State Fire Marshal are warning about the use of “alternative” forms of heating your home.
“Nearly half, 48 percent, of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February,” according to Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson. “Heating equipment fires accounted for 15 percent of all reported home fires from 2012-16, the second leading cause behind cooking.”
With temperatures dropping and staying for the next week, MC Fire Chief Randy Novak advises using caution with space heaters and other non-traditional forms of heating, and reminds everyone to check their smoke alarms.
“Strongly consider other options before using alternative heating,” Novak said. “Add insulation or other heat-capturing barriers to window and doors. Wearing warmer clothes and adding blankets will also help with comfort. If you must use space heaters or other forms of alternative heating, take precautions.”
Greeson agrees, saying, “Space heaters may save a few dollars during the heating season, but they can be dangerous when used improperly.”
With the coldest air of the year moving into Indiana this week, he says exercise caution when using alternative heat sources.
“I’ve seen too many instances of improper use of a space heater leading to a tragedy,” Greeson said. “One preventable death is one too many. It is up to all Hoosiers to spread awareness about the potential dangers of space heaters.”
If you must use space heaters, use common sense, Novak said. “Space heaters should always be kept away from loose or flammable objects such as clothing, curtains, bedding and furniture.”
GetPrepared.in.gov also offers a few tips for properly using space heaters:
• Keep at least a 3-foot perimeter around space heaters. The extra distance lessens the chance of something catching fire.
• Turn off space heaters when leaving the room and before going to sleep.
• Plug the space heater directly into an electrical outlet. Only one space heater should be plugged into an electrical outlet.
As for other forms of alternative heating. Novak said candles or appliances, such as a stove or oven, should never be used to heat a home.
And fireplaces should be regularly cleaned and inspected by a certified professional, such as a chimney sweep. Gas fireplaces should have properly working ventilation with a functioning carbon monoxide detector nearby.
“Creosote deposits build up quickly in chimneys and can easily catch fire,” Novak said. “Keep anything flammable away from fireplaces, and use only paper or kindling to start a fire. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case the fire grows too large or out of control.”
Fires should always be extinguished and space heaters unplugged before going to bed or leaving the home for any period of time, he said.
Greeson encourages people to consider other options before space heaters. Some tips to stay warm include:
• Wear thick, warm clothing including socks, slippers, sweaters and long underwear.
• Caulking windows can stop drafts and decrease heat loss from the house.
• Staying active while indoors can help increase body heat. Some activities to consider are dancing, cleaning, working out and simply walking around.
And while you’re staying warm safely, Novak reminds residents that working smoke alarms are important, especially in the winter when alternative heating sources are being used.
“Space heaters account for one-third of home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association,” Novak said. “Test your smoke detector to make sure it works. Even if it responds correctly, if you don’t remember the last time you changed your batteries, do it today.
“If you don’t have a smoke detector, buy one and install it,” he said. “If you don’t have the funds, contact the Michigan City Fire Department to see if one can be provided.”
Last year Indiana had more than 70 fire-related deaths, and in a lot of these cases there was not a working smoke alarm in the home, the chief said. “Smoke alarms are proven to save lives.”
—From staff reports
Sheriff’s Department warns of brutal cold
Residents of Northwest Indiana and La Porte County are accustomed to winter storms, lake effect snow and cold temperatures, but the projected forecast for later this week will be much different, authorities warn.
Meteorologists are predicting extremely cold temperatures and wind chills, possibly the coldest it’s been in some 20 years, according to Sgt. Derek Allen of the La Porte County Sheriff’s Dept. “The temperatures and wind chills will be at dangerous levels,” he said.
The sheriff’s department reminds residents to be prepared, plan accordingly and utilize services available to them.
Warming centers will be available at the following locations:
• La Porte City Hall, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 801 Michigan Ave.
• La Porte Hospital, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., 1007 Lincoln Way
• Fire Station 2, 115 E. Shore Drive
• Center Township Trustee, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1700 Lincoln Way, Suite 6
• The Pax Center, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., 605 Washington St.
• La Porte County Public Library, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 904 Indiana Ave.
• Michigan City Police Station, 24 hours, 1201 E. Michigan Blvd.
• Michigan City Fire Administration Building, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 2510 E. Michigan Blvd.
• Michigan City Senior Center, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 2 on the Lake
• Michigan City City Hall, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 100 E. Michigan Blvd.
• Michigan City Public Library, during regular business hours, 100 E. 4th St.
• Keys to Hope Community Resource Center, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1802 Franklin St.
Allen also reminds residents to check on the elderly and anyone with special needs.
Motor vehicles should contain plenty of fuel and some of the necessary winter essentials such as an ice scraper/snow brush, gloves and other winter clothing, blankets and jumper cables, just to name a few.
And do not leave your vehicle unattended and unsecure as they are being warmed. “Thieves prey on these opportunities to take motor vehicles or any valuables contained within,” Allen said.
Lastly, keep yourself and your loved ones safe. The temperatures and wind chills will be at dangerous levels.
The severe cold is also dangerous to pets, and residents are reminded not to leave your animals unattended outside, Allen said. If you need assistance, contact the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter at 326-1637.