COUNTY EXECUTIVE LATIMER REMINDS RESIDENTS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS DURING POWER OUTAGES AND COLD WEATHER
Westchester County Executive George Latimer cautions all residents to take this holiday weekend’s below-freezing temperatures seriously when they leave home, and for those who have lost power to heat their homes safely and follow the Health Department’s food safety guidelines.
Latimer said: “We want everyone to celebrate safely. If your holiday plans involve a road trip, prepare for the unexpected. With temperatures dropping into the teens this weekend, allow extra time for travel, keep blankets in your car in case of a breakdown, and always keep your cell phone charged. Before you go out, bundle up in layers, and make sure to wear a hat and gloves. If you have lost power, heed the Health Department’s advice to avoid mishaps and don't be afraid to ask for help.”
Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, offered this advice to feed your family safely after a power outage:
- Keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible. Do not assume refrigerated foods are safe. If food is still fully frozen, it is safe to use.
- Foods that have warmed to room temperature for more than two hours or have come into contact with flood waters should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out.
- During a prolonged outage, these foods are potentially hazardous if not stored below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and should be discarded: meat, poultry, seafood, cold cuts, hot dogs, eggs, cream, sour cream, yogurt, milk, custards, puddings, soft and shredded cheeses, cut fruit, cooked vegetables, pasta, casseroles, unbaked cookie and bread dough, gravy, creamy salad dressings, fish sauces, hoisin sauce, opened spaghetti sauce and garlic in oil.
- After disposing of spoiled food, disinfect the refrigerator to avoid further contamination. Discard any cans of food that are rusted, dented or opened.
- If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again.
- Storm clean-up can produce a great deal of garbage, which invites insects and rodents. Store your garbage in watertight, rodent/insect-proof containers with tight-fitting covers.
The County’s Department of Emergency Services and Health Department offers more guidance for residents and business owners to stay safe without power, including:
- Never run a generator in a basement, garage, porch or carport. Generators produce carbon monoxide that can quickly be lethal indoors. Only operate a generator outdoors and away from open windows.
- Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Overloading your generator can damage it and any appliances connected to it. Fire may result.
- If your generator has a detachable fuel tank, remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
- Avoid tragedy: never use a natural gas or propane stove or your kitchen oven to heat your home.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using alternate heating sources like space heaters and wood burning stoves and never leave children or pets unattended near them. Never place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding, on top of furniture or near water, and never cover your space heater.
- If you use a fireplace, wood stove or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure to adequately ventilate to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide build up in your home.
- Leave a light on to let you know when power has been restored.
- Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns instead of candles, as candles are a fire hazard.
Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, said: “If you must spend time outdoors, take frequent breaks to warm up inside. Know and recognize the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.”
Hypothermia happens when a person exposed to cold loses heat faster than it can be produced. Warnings signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. In infants, look for bright red, cold skin and low energy. If you see any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, get medical attention immediately.
Frostbite is an injury that causes a loss of feeling and color and most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can cause permanent damage. The risk is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.
At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get the person out of the cold or protect any exposed skin. Seek immediate medical care. Signs of frostbite include white or grayish-yellow skin, numbness or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. Victims are often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
Anyone in need of immediate shelter may contact the Westchester County Department of Social Services at (914) 995-3333 (during business hours) or (914) 995-2099 (after hours and on weekends).
Con Edison’s 24-hour hotline is 1-800-75-CONED (752-6633) and NYSEG's hotline service is 1-800-572-1131.