Brutally cold temperatures engendered by winds pushed south by the northern polar vortex are expected to fall as low as 35 to 60 degrees below zero today and in the coming month.
Brutally cold temperatures engendered by winds pushed south by the northern polar vortex are expected to fall as low as 35 to 60 degrees below zero today and in the coming month. (Photo provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

PUTNAM COUNTY — When in an emergency, you know who to call - and they always respond. Police, EMS, and Fire personnel rush to the scene whenever that call goes out, for whomever is in need of assistance. As the temperature dips to dangerous lows today and in the days ahead, keep the county’s first responders in your thoughts, and heed their advice.

“I would like to advise people that when the temperatures drop, please use caution when extra heating sources are used,” Sheriff Brian Siefker writes in an email. “And, be sure that they are safe to use. Using space heaters or other open flame heaters can be very dangerous and can start fires very easily. When using electrical heating sources, make sure that they are in well working order, so an electrical fire does not start, and ALWAYS make sure your home is equipped with smoke detectors.”

When speaking with Putnam County EMS Director Mike Klear, he offered similar advice, saying, “Be careful when you start looking at alternative heat sources. Make sure you’re using safe heat sources that are made to be used in a residential home, with at least three feet of clearance surrounding them.”

“When it gets so cold, sometimes we look for alternative heat sources. The stove or the oven, that’s not a good option. Never turn that on for heat. If you get to that point, you need to leave and go somewhere else. Or, have someone come and get you.”

And, continue to use caution when traveling. When asked if there is one thing he wished area drivers would do when traveling under poor weather conditions, Siefker responds, “The one thing that I could convince drivers to do in wintry conditions, is travel at a safe speed for the road conditions.”

“During bad weather, drivers seem to be in a big hurry. They need to slow down, allow extra distance between moving vehicles, and slow down when going around curves, over bridges and when approaching intersections.”

According to Siefker, his office sees a lot of vehicles that slide off of the road and into a ditch or utility pole this time of year. The damage is typically minor, but can be avoided entirely by using just a little extra caution and slowing down. Even if the accident itself is minor, should weather conditions become as bad as predicted, a small incident can quickly turn into a real emergency.

“The slips and falls, and the accidents - the one thing we’re concerned with Wednesday’s and Thursday’s weather is the wind chill,” Klear says. “People can get hypothermia and frostbite very quickly. Again, the best thing is to just stay inside. But if they feel like they have to go out, to dress up in many layers, and have everything covered up.”

“Even if they think they’re just going to be running real quick to the grocery story, or going to visit a neighbor next door…If you’re going to be walking, have that cell phone with you. Sometimes we walk out the house to do stuff quickly, and we don’t always grab that. But if they have [a cell phone], and they fall and slip and cannot make it into the house, they can call and we can get help on the way.”

Getting there quickly, as always, is extremely important.

“I would like people to know that emergency responders are doing the best that they can do to assist people on an emergency call,” Siefker wrote. “Please give first responders courtesy when they are responding, move over when you see an emergency vehicle approaching you.”

Klear agrees saying, “Between motor vehicle accidents, and then slips and falls, and the normal health-related issues…As far as what we’re seeing on the road. When we get a lot of snow or ice, obviously if you can stay off the road and not travel, that’s best. If you do have to be out there, slow down and give yourselves a lot of room to stop. That’s the big thing - slow down.”

“The other thing is too, we’ve got a lot of volunteers responding. Pay attention to them when they’re responding in their vehicles. We want to keep them safe. We don’t have any firemen that are in a firehouse. Our volunteer EMS is the same. They drive to the station, and then they get into their EMS. Sometimes they even go to the scene directly.”

“When you see those lights, get off the side of the road. That’s the biggest thing.”

As a final thought, Klear adds a reminder to check on the elderly in your life daily, if not multiple times a day. “Just that communication with them, asking ‘How are you doing?’ and keeping track of them. That’s very important,” he says.