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Preparation Is Key to Dealing with Winter Storms, Says Poirier

Nov 30, 2017 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey

Bellingham Deputy Fire Chief/Emergency Mgmt. Director Mark Poirier

written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Staff Writer

The calendar has turned to December and in three weeks winter will officially arrive. Mark Poirier, Bellingham’s Deputy Fire Chief, who also serves as the town’s Emergency Management Director, is ready for what could be a challenging season, and he has some helpful tips for dealing with Old Man Winter.

Poirier emphasizes that the key to success in dealing with winter emergencies is simply planning ahead. “Prior to a storm’s arrival, I talk with all of the town’s department heads about preparedness, whether it’s for snow, hurricanes or even tornadoes,” Poirier said. “I discuss planning with the police and fire chiefs, the Department of Public Works, Town Administrator Denis Fraine, the School Superintendent, the five Selectmen and the Senior Center Director.”
Poirier defines preparedness as having ample supplies (water, food, and batteries for radios, flashlights and phones), vehicles that are fueled, generators that are up to speed, and chain saws that function properly.

The 51-year-old Poirier lists five safety concerns that Bellingham residents need to consider, and he offers tips for fire prevention, winter driving, carbon monoxide exposure, holiday decorations and pet welfare.

  • Test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Practice fire drills with children and have a meeting place.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that could burn, and turn them off when leaving the room or sleeping.
  • Buckle up. Basic car safety encourages the use of seat belts and car seats at all times. They’re one of the best defenses in a crash--and it’s the law.
  • Use extra caution in areas that ice up quickly, especially intersections, shaded areas, bridges and overpasses.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car that includes blankets, a first-aid kit and jumper cables.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and that your car always has a full tank of gas when the weather is poor.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Gas or charcoal grills can produce carbon monoxide­­—use only outside. (Poirier says there have been calls to the Fire Department for inside grill use that generates carbon monoxide and smoke. “Just don’t do it,” he says.)
  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Repair or replace before using.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Use only one extension cord per outlet.
  • “Christmas is a wonderful time of the year; however, safety should be a top priority, and it’s imperative to be safety-conscious,” Poirier said.
  • Do not leave your pet outdoors when temperatures drop below freezing. Dogs need outdoor exercise, but do not keep them outdoors for lengthy periods of time during very cold weather.
  • Wind chill is a threat to pets, even those protected by shelters. Outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to retain body heat. The entrance of the doghouse should be turned to face away from prevailing winds, and the entrance should be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.
  • Pets that spend a greater amount of time outdoors in the winter need more food. Maintaining warmth depletes energy. Routinely check your pet’s water dish to ensure that the water is fresh and not frozen.
Poirier emphasizes that there are two phone numbers of importance—911 and 211. “Use 911 for emergencies only,” he said. “Use 211 for updates on storms and related issues. The information available at 211 is news solely within Massachusetts. Code Red is an informational call strictly for Bellingham residents, informing them of a specific issue. For example, a road closure may be identified because of a downed tree or wire.”

Poirier again stresses that emergency planning is all about being prepared. “Take storm warnings seriously and heed all advice of public safety officials,” he noted. “Let’s plan for the worst and hope for the best.”





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